From the Editors Desk
Fall is upon us! The nights are longer, the leaves have abandoned us and the turkeys are being lined up for slaughter. Store shelves are being filled with this years hottest new video games. Why there’s even a new console launch this year! The fall has always been a special time of year for gamers and there’s a lot to look forward to this year. In just a few days Zone of the Enders HD Collecton will be released and I’ll be trying my best to get my grubby hands on a copy. (For you the reader ZOE HD will already be out!)
Be sure to check out Shintai’s article about QTE’s. I found it to be a very entertaining piece and one of the best items featured in the magazine so far. All in all I’m feeling this will be a particularly strong issue of the magazine! As always you can get a hold of me at email@example.com let me know what you think of this issue, alert us to any typos or if you’ve got anything you wish to submit or wish to see covered I’m always interested in your feedback and suggestions.
Editor in Chief
Mondo Cool Monthly
Ps2 2.4g Wireless Controller
Kaiser’s Media Pyramid
S.H.Figuarts Kamen Rider 1 (the first version)
Films and Animation
Cardcaptor Sakura Collection 1 Review
Black Rock Shooter
Golgo 13 Part 3
Shiki Part 1
God of War III
Phantasy Star Portable
Double Dragon Neon
Cherry Tree High Comedy Club
Metal Sonic Hyper-drive
QTE's. No Thanks!
While I don’t “hate” the God of War series, there are two things about the series I despise. Firstly, that the series has gotten as popular and as much praise as it has gotten. I don’t think this is a bad series but I don’t understand why people suck it off so furiously, calling it a “revolutionary action game” to which I call bullshit since Devil May Cry did everything God of War did 4 years earlier and did it much better. Secondly, FOR POPULARIZING QTEs!
Before getting into why QTEs suck, I just want to preface this by saying not ALL of them are terrible. There are mainly two different kinds of QTEs, cutscene ones and contextual ones. My main beef lies within cutscene QTEs and not contextual ones. The biggest difference is that a contextual QTE is something you can anticipate and therefore doesn’t cheaply punish the player for something they couldn’t foresee. Resident Evil 4 and 5 make good use of this actually. When an enemy grabs you, you know what to do, just start going nuts with your analog stick until he lets go. This happens every single time you’re grabbed and is not a surprise that you need to perform an action in order to free yourself However cutscene QTEs, something that the God of War series decided to have and for some inexplicable reason, other developers decided to shove into their games, are absolutely terrible.
Now I get it, I really do. I understand what this mechanic is attempting to accomplish, immersion. When you’re watching a cutscene, you’re simply watching events unfold. Therefore the logic is that QTEs make you feel more immersed into what’s going on as opposed to simply watching. However, this simply doesn’t work. Immersion comes from many factors in a video game. You could be engrossed in the plot, charmed by the characters, enchanted by the atmosphere, humming the music, engrossed in the game mechanics, many reasons. If anything, QTEs serve to BREAK immersion due to their unpredictable nature. You could, say, be really into a speech by the antagonist, but then mid-speech he decided to chuck a knife at you where you need to press A to dodge and then you die. Now, it’s no longer about the content of the cutscenes anymore, but rather, oh, now I have to watch out for stupid prompts I wouldn’t normally be able to anticipate. There’s also the issue not being able to enjoy the coolness of certain cutscenes because you’re looking out for the prompts. God of War 3 addresses this somewhat by having the prompts appear on screen according to where the button is on the controller, which helps but still has you focusing more on the prompts rather than what’s going on, on screen.
However I think the biggest and fundamental issue with QTEs is the simple fact that players are being punished unfairly for something they can’t anticipate. Now while you can somewhat gauge depending on what’s going on in the cutscene that a QTE is going to happen, but that’s most likely because you already died because of one in an earlier cutscene. However even if you KNOW it’s coming, that doesn’t mean you know what to press. It’s even worse in certain games where if you fail, the game changes the button prompt to trip you up. This is infuriating. In some games it’s worse than others because some, like Resident Evil 4 for example, you’ll just have to rewatch a cutscene or something, which is in and of itself really annoying for sure, however some games make you repeat a portion of a fight or the fight entirely. This is just all kinds of terrible.
Usually I try to conclude by supplying the other side of the argument, but I really don’t think there’s any defending QTEs. They add nothing to games other than to simply annoy players and to punish them unfairly for failing to do something that is mostly unpredictable. Part of what makes games fun is that when you fail, you can learn from your mistakes and get better, however failing at a QTE and then succeeding never feels like you’re getting better at the game, it just feels like some idiotic obstruction has been lifted.
By: Jerry Terrifying
If you’re a long time listener to the Mondo Cool Cast you may have heard some of the heated debates about save points. I wanted to get this in print and out there as it’s still an issue in this current generation. I recently played through God of War III and was surprised to see the familiar old save points spread throughout the game for some reason.
What’s the big deal about save points? Anyone that has actual responsibilities, is in a relationship or occasionally has real life pop up on them unexpected has surely found themselves in a situation where they need to stop playing a game immediately which isn’t a problem if the game you’re playing allows you to save at any point in a menu. However if you’re 5, 10 or 15 minutes away from a save point it starts to become problematic. Depending on the nature of the situation you might not even care about your game progress or you may simply leave the system on and take care of whatever has sprung up. I personally don’t like to leave electronics on as I’m always worried about wear and tear on the hardware as I rack up countless hours of game time on all of my consoles.
This issue is more prevalent in older games which makes me wonder if there were technical or coding reasons behind the genesis of the save point. Games from the PSX/Sat/N64 generation seem to be more than capable of allowing players to save at any point in the game from a menu. Many Role Playing Games allow players to save while on the map at any point but limit players to saving at save points while in dungeons or towns. This more often than not has spurred many a back tracking quest to get to the entrance of a dungeon, which is a minor annoyance but an annoyance all the same. I’ve heard it argued that this is done to increase difficulty of the game or to keep players from abusing multiple saves. I would argue that the difficulty of the game really isn’t affected in a significant way by save points and that it only introduces a bit of tedium and annoyance. While I understand that saves can be abused in some cases it’s entirely up to the player to abuse save states. If you have an issue with abusing save states, don’t. It’s a personal choice and you shouldn’t be concerned with other players
When dealing with handhelds this problem has essentially vanished. The DS and 3DS simply go into a sleep mode when the system is closed and the PSP will go into sleep mode if you slide the power switch up quickly. I love these sleep modes and use them nearly every time I’m playing a game on those systems. When emulating games on the Wii Virtual Console you simply need exit the game and it will save exactly where you’re at and upon resuming the game the temporary save point will be deleted automatically. While save states have been a staple of emulators since emulators were a thing it’s nice to see this feature implemented on a modern console. This is an awesome feature especially with Virtual Console games that originally had password saves.
While I’d ideally like to be able to make a save at any point in every game a soft save like in the Virtual Console is a pretty close second. Ultimately one of the things I and many other gamers like about video games is the sense of control over those virtual worlds and controlling your save data is an extension of that control. At the very least I’d like to be able to walk away from a game any and every time real life sneaks up on me and that I think we can all appreciate.
PS2 2.4G Wireless controller
By: Jerry Terrifying
I’m no stranger to cheap bootleg Chinese products. Historically these cheap knock offs have been of such low quality that they’re simply not worth your time or money. However the past few years I’ve have had some really amazing experiences with cheap Chinese junk. So when I was looking for a wireless controller for my ps2 I kept running across these super inexpensive controllers on eBay but couldn’t find any reviews or information on them. I scrounged out $10 wing wangs and took the plunge.
I’ve owned a backwards-compatible PS3 since January 2007 a few months after launch. Let me tell you right now I love that thing and the convenience it offers. As it ages though I grow more and more worried about it dying as it’s a launch model system. Ideally I’d like to buy a PS3 Super Slim and shelve this bad boy for the collection. For now though I’ve decided to ease its workload and start playing PS2 games on my PS2.
Problem is all current gen consoles have spoiled me and I don’t want to go back to wired controls if it can be avoided. Also I’m worried about my PS2 getting yanked off its shelf as I sit across the room. Ten dollars and a few days later my PS2 2.4G Wireless Controller arrived in the mail.
The packaging was simple. A thin white cardboard box and a bit of bubble wrap around the controller and wireless receiver. The receiver plugged into the controller port with a nice little snap. The receiver has two LEDs one showing it’s getting power and the other showing it’s receiving a signal. The controller itself feels very solid and for the most part feels just like an actual Playstation controller. The weight is almost exactly the same as a Dual Shock 3 and I’m fairly certain there isn’t any vibration function. Physically the only clue that it’s not an official controller is the sound the analog sticks make when you tilt them outward. When tilting the sticks up, down or towards each other they hit the plastic casing just like an actual Sony controller does. When tilted away it feels like they’re hitting something made out of metal on the inside of the controller.
In use the controllers perform very well. The only issue I noticed was the D pad needed to be pressed a little harder than I’m accustomed to. I tested out several games with the controller. Dragon Ball Z Budokai 3 handled perfectly although the issue with the D pad would make me wary of using this controller with any other fighting games that require perfect time. I also fired up Eternal Ring, a first person RPG from FROM Software, and it also handled perfectly. There was one quirk though, Eternal Ring doesn’t work with the analog sticks but for some reason the left stick acted as the d pad and the right stick had the face buttons mapped to it. Very weird. I tossed a few PS1 games at the controller and all were handled perfectly.
During my testing I sat the controller down for a few minutes while digging through games and it powered off even though the switch was still turned on. I thought I was boned and that my $9.70 investment was a waste. Eventually I figured out what the problem was. The controller will go into a sleep mode after a few moments and you need to hit the start button to turn it back on. A nice little power saving feature but due to the extreme inexpensiveness of this controller there was zero documentation and as I mentioned earlier there’s almost no information about this controller online.
Overall I’m very satisfied with this controllers performance. Of all the games I’ve tested with it they’ve all worked with the controller quite nicely. The build quality feels to be quite nice and sturdy. If you’re in the market for a wireless PS2 controller this might just be the controller for you.
Kaiser's Media Pyramid VI : Known as Kaiser's Media Pyramid III in the US.
By: James Kaiser
Hey hey hey it's your wacky pal Kaiser here digging out some more treasures to put on display in the luxurious Media Pyramid which is located in the wonderful Mondune Cool Desert. Stuff I'm showing off this month are things that can get pretty expensive which would turn any sane mans wallet into the wife’s pink cheap knock off purse. What does that mean? Probably some angry letters from feminists but oh well let's dive into the segment before I dig myself into a deeper hole.
Item number 1& 2: Cavest #1 and #2 Doujinshi (Japan, Japanese, Fan-made, Comic/Manga)
Let's start off this month with some Doujinshi (Fan-made Manga) based on characters from Caves schmup games. Cavest 1 and 2 are anthology comics with little gag stories like you would see in the newspaper but not as short. Unfortunately these comics are in Japanese only so I can't really read them but I can easily talk about the artwork.
The artwork is decent and respectful to the characters which they are paying tribute to so there really isn't anything bad I can say about it. The thing that shocked me about this doujin was that it wasn't pornographic which is a rare thing to see in the doujin scene (well for me at least). Yes you heard right 99%* of doujin comics are pornographic as us nerds to put it simply just like to see our favorite characters get it on with each other (might have to look at some of those in future installments).
Unless you live in Japan tracking down these books will be hard. I recommend contacting someone you know in Japan to look for them for you but I wouldn't recommend going out of your way for these and while they are indeed nice they aren't must haves.
Item number 3: Ghost in the Shell Soundtrack (Japan, Japanese, Vinyl Record, Video Game Soundtrack)
Our next item we are looking at has been mentioned before on the Mondo Cool Cast (Which you can catch live every Saturday night 10pm EST) where it was mentioned in the Kaiser's Bizarre segment which is a game where I get people to guess the price much like on The Price is Right.
This item in particular is the soundtrack to the PlayStation game based on the manga Ghost in the Shell on good old vinyl record. I'm mixed on the cover as the front cover looks very dare I say ugly however I am very fond of the gate-fold artwork which makes up for it with its very gorgeous art of The Major (the lead cyborg chick). Music on this album is actually pretty boring so I don't recommend obtaining this one if you want it for the music. It does make one heck of a collectable.
There are two different releases of this soundtrack on vinyl with a version pressed on black wax (the version that I'm showing off) and one version pressed on picture disc. The picture disc version has a different track list minus one track which also appears on the soundtrack I have.
Tracking this one down can get pretty tricky and pretty expensive as if you do manage to track one down you'll be dishing out $80+ YIKES!
Item number 4: Pop'n Twinbee Paradise Vol.2 (Japan, Japanese, VHS Tape)
Up next we have something from my infinite collection of VHS tapes which is related to the classic Twinbee series by Konami. The tape itself is volume 2 of the special Pop'n Twinbee OVA series. The video is just a collection of short stories like you would see in most cartoons on Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon.
What lead me to purchasing this item was the cover itself as I though it was oddly sexy and you know what they say “sex sells.” However the anime itself was fairly average which teaches me not to judge a book or in this case a video by its cover...or maybe not. I don't remember where I obtained this as I believe I was drunk at the time but I sure as hell remembered why I bought it in the first place so I wasn't that drunk I guess although it helps to get through the tape.
Item number 5: Sega Saturn Music Sampler (United Kingdom, English, VCD)
Final item for this month is a VCD which came bundled with the European release of the VCD card for the Sega Saturn back in 1996. This VCD is titled Sega Saturn Music Sampler and other than having Sega Saturn thrown onto the cover it has barely anything to do with the Sega Saturn.
What it does have to do with Sega Saturn (other than the logo) is this creepy advertisement where this dude walks into a room, gets greeted by topless women (woo a Sega ad with nudity), walks into a car where then a dude pops in Daytona USA into a unplugged Sega Saturn console and then the guys eye-balls pop out into some weird virtual reality device and proceeds playing Daytona USA while using the car to control the game (I wonder how much those periphery would've cost them). The craziness doesn’t end there as then we see the dude crash and for some odd reason he comes out of the wreck as Jesus Christ on a stretcher with the commercial ending with the guy who strapped him in saying “Reality always hurts.” All the ad was missing was the Sega scream which you would of seen in the Sega Genesis commercials.
The rest of the feature is nothing but music videos from bands like U2, Sting and The Cure hence why I said this VCD is barely in relation to Sega Saturn other than the logo and commercial. If you do want this for your collection of weird Sega oddities you will most likely find this bundled with the VCD card but it may be expensive as people like to really overprice this bundle. If you are patient you can find this with the VCD card for around $30 but seeing this for that price is pretty uncommon.
Well that's it for this edition and boy has this year flown as next issue we will be at the final edition for the year. How have you been enjoying this segment so far? Let me know via email at James.Kaiser@MondoCoolCast.com and hook me up with your sister, cheers.
*Statistics were done by the Super Icelandic Statistics Wizard Company from Iceland.
S.H.Figuarts Kamen Rider 1 (the first version)
By: Mitch Jarvie
So here we are ladies and gentlemen. Once again the whores are trying to take my virginity and stop me from becoming a true necromancer; well we won't allow that to happen will we? Hell no we'll stop them right in their tracks with a review of one of the first S.H.Figuarts; Kamen Rider 1, from the 2005 film adaptation of the original 1971 tokusatsu "Kamen Rider".
Right off the bat I was honestly taken aback by just how small the box for this figure was. It's a good few millimeters shorter than a DVD case but putting that aside the box looks really good, even better than the S.I.C boxes. While I admit that the dull, almost gray silver they used for most of the box is a fairly boring color, it just makes the explosions of white, red and metallic cobalt of Rider 1's body pop even more so, at least when he's displayed in his box.
Professional toy photographer at work here guys, back the fuck up!
The Figure Itself
If you're at all familiar with Kamen Rider then right away you'll notice the differences in color when compared to the 70s version. My guess is that they (the produces of the first) wanted to make Rider 1 and 2 more distinct form each other (since in the original they were almost identical) and honestly I'm fine with updating the iconic look as long as it at the least resembles Kamen Rider; and it most certainly does
You don't need to be a genius to spot the difference here.
The only thing I really don't like about the color scheme is the kind of red used for his scarf. Maybe it's more to do with the plastic used here but it just looks so dull and faded especially in person. Compare this to the scarf used for the showa era version of Rider, that scarf was different in that it was a clear piece of plastic with red paint applied and it looked much, much better. I know that's a very minor point to go on about but the scarf is an important part of the look of a Kamen Rider and it just doesn't look that good on this figure.
Can't remember what I was watching on youtube at the time.
Moving back to the positive I really, really love the compound eyes used here. They look absolutely fantastic, the rose colored plastic with the texture underneath looks great and very insect like. Sticking with the head sculpt the antennae are molded in a softer plastic, to prevent breaking from falling or any other kind of impact. Strangely they didn't continue this trend for many other rider figuarts (which has lead to a few horror stories regarding the Double figuarts) and speaking of this unique to this figure (or rather the first wave of figuarts) Rider 1's articulation is somewhat different from my other figuarts.
"No sir, I don't like it!"
For one he has swivel at the top of his biceps along with the standard figuarts double ball-jointed arms, giving him much better arm poseability than some of my other Rider figures. He also has the standard figuarts double-jointed elbows, allowing for proper flexin'. Moving down we can see that Rider-1 has an abdominal ball joint, allowing for him to do sit-ups like he's Rocky Balboa.
Wrapping up this figure are his legs and really there isn't much to talk about here, they're the standard figuarts legs with a pegged ball-joint on the hips, that fortunately isn't hindered by any sort of skirting like showa V3 or G3 and like most other figuarts he has the classic double jointed knees. His legs are different however, in that his shins are rotatable (for some strange reason) and they're die cast. Actually almost his entire lower legs are die-cast, giving this figure a great sense of weight and certainly making it feel worth the price. His feet are both an articulated joy and an aesthetic nightmare.
On one hand they're highly poseable, with a hinge joint allowing them to bend at an almost painful looking angle but come with the bonus of making him much more stable than many other figuarts (OOO I'm looking at you) but on the other hand, when viewed from the side they look weird with all the tiny holes in his feet still it's a small price to pay for such a solid looking, well designed toy, and one that was part of a first wave no less.
All in all, Rider 1 is a great introduction to the figuarts toy line and easily one of the best toys I own. 10/10 would buy again.
Film and Animation
Cardcaptor Sakura Collection 1 Review
By: James Kaiser
Cardcaptor Sakura is about a cute little girl named Sakura who finds a mystical book in her dad’s book collection in the basement. Being curious she opens the book to see magic cards in which she accidentally activates one (The Windy) that sets them loose all over Japan and possibly the world. What she also released was the cute little guardian named Kero the Cerberus who was sleeping in there for the past 30 years (rotten lazy mythical sun beast). The two must find a way to get the cards back but they are not alone in this journey as they are joined with Tomoyo who wants to film all her battles and forces her to wear magical girl costumes and Li who is a sword toting seal master from Hong Kong also joins them quite early on in the series.
This set contains the 35 episode complete uncut first season, which is a first outside of Japan. Cardcaptor Sakura is one of those episodic monster of the week kind of shows much like Sailor Moon (also done by Studio Clamp) and Power Rangers which may turn off some of the more mature viewers of anime. The show also focuses a lot on romance, family drama, friendship and fashion which is very girly yet oddly charming which is appealing to all sexes (all 3 of them).
If you grew up watching the Nelvana edit on TV back in the day prepare yourself to witness stuff that was edited out like same-sex relationships and an incestuous relationship involving Li and his cousin Meiling and yes the song Dueling Banjos did pop up in my head. While these topics may be seen as controversial I really see no reason why they were cut out of the TV edit as they were done very respectfully. A complaint I do have about the show itself is that some episodes (by some I mean 1 - 3) can be very hard to sit through as they simply drag on.
The artwork in Cardcaptor Sakura is very beautiful to look at with very lively characters, stunning locations and gorgeous flight scenes. The voice acting does a spot on job portraying the characters, very cute. The dub is in Japanese only so while it is a children’s show I don't expect them to really get into it as much. The people that will get a kick out of this set are people around their 20s (much like me) who grew up watching this on TV back in the day. Even if you didn't grow up watching this on TV I'm sure you will find this show enjoyable.
Each episode closes out on a bonus segment called Leave It To Kero in which Kero takes a look at the fashion that was used in the show, which makes for good fan-service for those who wish to be artists themselves. Speaking of fan-service in one episode I did notice a cameo of the puyo-puyo gems in one episode I love stuff like that. Can you spot the cameo? Give me a holla at James.Kaiser@mondocoolcast.com if you can.
A problem I did have with the DVD set is that the subtitles were horribly out of sync in some scenes, which was frustrating to get through as once one character stops talking the subtitles would appear 2 seconds later. First I thought the problem was with my DVD player but the same problem occurred when I played it on other players. Nothing much going on with special features as you only get textless credits, more than what I expected to be honest.
Overall I do feel very spoiled with this set but I can see it being a bit hard to get into at first if you didn't grow up watching this however I do recommend checking this one out anyway.
Title: Cardcaptor Sakura Collection 1
Genre: Anime/Animation, Action, Magical Girl, Childrens
Running Time: 875 minutes (35 Episodes)
Black Rock Shooter
By: James Kaiser
I've been looking forward to seeing Black Rock Shooter for quite some time now. Black Rock Shooter is part of Siren Visuals Noitamina line. The show revolves around a young girl named Mato Kuroi who just started middle school. She quickly makes friends with her fellow classmate Yomi Takanashi due to both being big fans of a book they have both read since they were little kids. Things were going smooth until Yomi invited Mato to her house where Mato gets picked on by Yomis other friend who is a girl in a wheelchair named Kagari Izuriha. This incident really upsets Mato but she tries her best to keep her friendship with Yomi together. While this isn't the only arc in this 8 episode series the bullying is a subject that is spread throughout the shows run and is something I can actually relate to.
The show also has a second layer to it that takes place in a post-apocalyptic dream world. The main character of this dream world is Black Rock Shooter. These segments of the show are where you'll see all the action. There is a deeper meaning to these scenes but saying any more would spoil things in the show that I would rather you see for yourself. What I can say without any spoilers is that the action is pretty good although it won't make any top 50 greatest battles lists but will satisfy your senses nonetheless. One thing that impressed me was that these scenes used CG and I was unable to spot it as it blended in very naturally with the 2D animation.
Unfortunately for all the fans who only watch anime with the English dub on you will find yourselves disappointed as Black Rock Shooter is only a subtitled release. The Japanese voice acting is very good and suits the characters really well but I wouldn't be surprised if this got an English dub in the future.
The cover artwork can mislead some people into believing that Black Rock Shooter is a fan service heavy show (the perverted kind of fan service). This is actually not the case and while the Females do wear black skimpy clothing in the dream world it really isn't the focus of the show.
Music used in Black Rock Shooter was the thing that drew me into the show to begin with as the main theme was a Hatsune Miku** track called Black Rock Shooter. I know that may be a silly reason to get into an anime, but hey, it worked for me.
The biggest problem I have with Black Rock Shooter is that some of the character development and plot points during the last half of the series feel a little bit iffy which left me very confused. Without spoiling the story the scenes that confused me involves a build-up to a villain that lead to nowhere and was completely forgotten and a twist that could have used some more development.
For those who are looking forward to skipping to the special features before watching the show (there are people who do this) you will be treated with a small but decent amount of extras. The extras include a 30 minute making of feature, TV spots and textless versions of the credits. While this show does have a big red MA15+* rating on it I didn't see anything you wouldn't be able to get away with in a M15+* rating.
Overall Black Rock Shooter was a very enjoyable show to watch and is definitely worth checking out.
* Kaiser note for international readers: M15+ and MA15+ are part of the OFLC (Office of Film and Literature Classification) which is the group who give our films and video games a classification in Australia. See http://www.classification.gov.au/Pages/default.aspx for more info (but don't expect to fall in love with this horrid group any time soon).
** See issue 4s Kaiser's Media Pyramid for more on Kaiser's obsession with her. (Editor’s note: It involves tiny fake boobs…so definitely check it out!)
(Mitch’s note: Damn Kaiser, that’s just, Kaiser.)
Title: Black Rock Shooter
Genre: Anime/Animated, Action, Fantasy
Running Time: 200 minutes (8 episodes)
Distributor: Siren Visual
Rating: MA15+ (Strong Fantasy Violence)
Golgo 13 Part 3
By: James Kaiser
Golgo 13 is an action packed anime about an ultimate badass hit man by the name of Bruce Togo and the jobs he is hired to do. Now if you purchased this set before getting any of the others and are worried that you'll get confused as to what the flamboyant hand-towel is going on? Don't be as the show takes a very episodic approach so you can jump in at any episode of the show. You can even start at episode 2 of disc 2 of volume 2 and that would still be a good starting point although the episodic nature would probably frustrate some viewers as I said in the Golgo 13 Part 1 review back in issue 4. Actually there was a multi episode plot in this volume during the first disc but it wasn't very long and it surprised me as it came out of nowhere. But still it would've been nice to see more story arcs that last more about 2-3 episodes.
The episodes in this volume are not as good as the previous volumes. While they are not terrible I did find them to be quite average with only a handful of episodes being really good. Most episodes felt like I was watching weird copies of past episodes but different at the same time sorta like how you get clone characters in certain 2D fighting games.
The action scenes were disappointing for the most part of the show in a way where I felt like I wasted my time watching the certain episode. Not to say there weren't any good action scenes in this volume there just weren’t many.
The English voice acting is still the same quality as in previous volumes, which is a good thing. There were some lines of dialogue that felt very ridiculous and sounded very out of place but awesome at the same time with my favorite one being “I faked it like I faked my hard-on!”
While the artwork looks very nice the character designs are very lazy in this volume. Most of the clients looked the same, which got very confusing. Another thing I noticed is that the lips don't match the voice acting in some scenes. While this may be a picky thing to say as this happens only happens in a few lines but once I noticed it, it annoyed me. A lot of female nudity in this one so if you are a fan of seeing this kind of fan-service break out the Vaseline. The nudity was quite well drawn although much like my complaint about repetitive character design all the women look the same even when nude.
Nothing really much going in the special features section as it is only the text free opening and closing which was included in the previous volumes of the show.
Overall the third volume of Golgo 13 isn't good but it's not terrible also although unless you are collecting all the volumes I wouldn't recommend this one so just check out the previous volumes instead.
Title: Golgo 13 Part 3
Genre: Anime/Animated, Action
Running Time: 320 minutes (12 episodes)
Distributor: Siren Visual
Rating: M15+ (Animated Violence, Sex Scenes, Nudity, Infrequent Coarse Language)
Shiki Part 1
By: James Kaiser
Shiki is a show about a small town named Sotoba a very tragic place indeed as the towns’ population is decreasing at a very steep rate. All the people who have died in the village all have one thing in common which is that they all have two little bites on them. Could the deaths be an epidemic spread by insects or could it be from something much more sinister and completely unbelievable had it not been experienced first hand?
The shows main characters are Toshio Ozaki who's a doctor working at the local hospital and Natsuno Yuuki an average school boy who wishes he could move into the city. The show switches between them so they both get about half the show each, which feels like I am watching two different shows at the same time. Some episodes give them their own full episode with each one showing the situation through their own perspective.
The story is a bit slow but not in a way that makes the show feel boring (minus the filler episodes) but in a way that successfully builds up suspense. Even though we know what the attacks were caused by we do get a sense of satisfaction when the main characters put the pieces together and figure out what the villagers were dying from. While some might see that as a spoiler it really is just the beginning of the problem as it leads them into trying to figure out how to defeat them (which you'll have to see to find out how they can defeat them...or if they can defeat them).
The animation in Shiki looks really nice and is very crisp but it can also look pretty creepy in some scenes like when they show off the vampires in the darkness. I'm quite fond of the detailing they put in the eyes from the colors of the young peoples eyes to the sheer terrifying nature of the vampires.
What I didn't like about the show was the first episode as it was very misleading in a bad way. The first episode gave me the impression that the show was going down the path of a generic fan-service filled comedy starring a busty red-headed 13 year old who looks like a 20-something playing a 13 year old like those teen movies from the 1990s. Second episode onwards is as far away from that as it possibly could be with it being a very dark, scary and serious show. I don't know if this dramatic tone switch was done on purpose but I can see it putting off people. Sadly while it is a very black sheepish episode I wouldn't recommend skipping it as you will be missing some key plot elements and once it's over you should find yourselves trapped in a hypnotic trance like a Fly in a Spider-web.
While I did enjoy the English dub there were some characters that were just plain annoying to listen to. While most of them appear in select scenes only, one of them has a whole episode all about them and was very rough to sit through. This character wasn't the only thing that made the episode rough it was also a filler episode. I was shocked to find this show included filler episodes, though there aren’t many.
Bonus features include TV spots, texless credit sequences and some audio commentary on a few episodes which I'm always a fan of.
Overall other than the first episode Shiki was a very enjoyable show to watch which I highly recommend you checking out.
Title: Shiki Part 1
Genre: Anime/Animated, Horror
Running Time: 300 minutes (12 episodes)
Distributor: Siren Visual
Rating: M15+ (Supernatural Themes, Animated Violence)
By: James Kaiser
The Raid (also known as The Raid: Redemption) is an Indonesian action film directed by Gareth Evans (Merantau) with a plot that can be described in only a few words. Police raid a building. Yep, that is what The Raid is all about but while the plot is very simple it certainly grabs your attention and gets the mind racing into thinking “Hmm I wonder what's going on in this building?” and by the time you put the movie into the movie player you will see what the movie is really about and that my friend is some really awesome action.
There is an old saying that goes like this “Action speaks louder than words” and this film takes that old saying but fist-pumps in some super bombastic steroids, a manly headband and a gun filled with awesomeness. Of the one hundred minutes of run time nearly 98% of it is all action that makes it feel like one big giant action scene.
Violence in The Raid feels like something out of a 1980s/1990s action film with loads of bullets spraying from the guns of what seems to be an unlimited amount of goons making me feel like I'm watching gun pornography ala Rambo 4. While not as brutal as Rambo 4 it does contain some sick stuff that would make you scream DANG! There are also some really good hand-to-hand combat scenes that are equally as violent and brutal as the gun action. I particularly liked the knife fights, very balls to the wall. I was disappointed during some scenes as they bring in a really blunt melee weapon but they cut away to the next scene right before the weapon hits and yet they showed people being carved up like thanksgiving turkey.
One other thing I would like to say about the action scenes is that it feels like I am watching a movie based on every single FPS (First Person Shooter) game out there with the action feeling like levels and the story feeling like cut-scenes. Seriously, every time they cleaned out a floor In the film I just burst out with the level complete theme from the old NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) game Kung-Fu.
The film quality was dark and gritty but looked very crisp and clean at the same time, which is an odd combination but worked very well with the films atmosphere. The film is in Indonesian so there are subtitles but they are put very low on the screen where it comes close to being cut-off from the screen which makes them hard to follow at first but you will get used to it after a few minutes. Wasn't a fan of some of the music used in the film as it sounded very goofy especially the rap song which was used in the menus and the credits.
Special features on The Raid are really neat. You get a making of feature and footage of the Q&A panel from the Toronto International Film Festival which was filmed at the world premiere.
There really isn't very much to say about The Raid as it's a very simple film to describe but simplicity works and it made for a brilliant action flick that the guys would absolutely love. The girls however would probably storm out of the room in disgust but hey they are missing out on something special. I highly recommend checking out this one.
Title: The Raid
Running Time: 101 minutes
Distributor: Madman / Eastern Eye
Rating: MA15+ (Strong bloody violence, Coarse language)
God of War III
By: Jerry Terrifying
God of War III is a button mashing action adventure game set in Ancient Greece. You guide Kratos to the top of Mount Olympus in a gruesome quest for vengeance. Along the way you will see many fantastic creatures and then gut or decapitate them while travelling through many exotic locations such as Hades and Mount Olympus.
If you’ve played any of the God of War games you’ve already got a good idea of what you’re getting into. As the series has progressed the game play has shifted away from puzzle solving to focus mostly on the combat and building up sweet combos. While there were a few really decent puzzles in GoW III most of them were fairly weak and felt like busy work. Kratos will gain some new weapons along the way though some of them feel redundant. Particularly Hades’ blades basically purple glowing chain blades that work like the default weapon. Each weapon does have a special magic ability tied to it. Hades’ Blades summon the soul of an enemy, the default blades summon Spartan shields and spears which are good for getting out of a jam.
The visuals are the real star of the game. God of Wars sense of grand scale really shines on the Playstation 3. Riding a Titan as it climbs up mount Olympus offers plenty of breath taking sights and the gore also stands out as being particularly amazing. While the plot of the series has never really been its strongest point the story in GoW III is the weakest of the main trilogy. The first two games do an excellent job of giving Kratos motivation to conquer the Gods. During this outing I just didn’t feel the urgency to take out Zeus.
My biggest complaint would have to be the lack of a New Game Plus mode. After beating the game you unlock a few alternate costumes that give Kratos new abilities. If you start a new game with these costumes trophies are disabled which took away any real motivation for me to keep playing. The costumes abilities aren’t that impressive, the story not compelling enough and the puzzles not interesting enough to warrant a back-to-back play through. While I’d definitely be down to play the game again some day it wasn’t as amazing as the first God of War that I played through twice back-to-back.
Should you play God of War III? Absolutely! It was a fun experience and the combat is tighter than ever. The lack of New Game Plus just kind of turned me off as I wanted to grab some more trophies but didn’t want to start from zero again. Perhaps I’m just spoiled with New Game Plus and unlockables in other games.
Developer SCE Santa Monica Studio
Publisher Sony Computer Entertainment
Phantasy Star Portable
By: Jerry Terrifying
Phantasy Star Portable is a dungeon crawler Sci Fi Action RPG. You create a character and partner up with Vivenne, a new type of CAST, to take out the remnant SEED that are stirring up trouble in the Gurhal system. Along the way Vivienne will discover exactly what it means to be a sentient being.
I first got a taste of Phantasy Star Portable when the demo hit the PSN years ago. I set up a character and explored everything the demo had to offer and well that was it. Cut to a few years later and I fired up that demo again while thinking about my next PSP purchase. The game was still fun to mess around with so I hit ebay and ordered up a complete copy for $10 wing wangs. The game let you load up your save from the demo, I did so, and jumped into the Gurhal system with both feet ready to blast and slash every SEED foolish enough to stand in my way.
While the game is definitely built around the concept of four-player co-op quite a bit of fun can be had on your own. The single player campaign tells a story that picks up about three months after the events of Phantasy Star Universe, which I haven’t played yet, and has a cameo featuring PSU’s protagonist. At any time you can go to a menu and continue the campaign mode or go to the multiplayer missions. Experience, items and everything carry over from each mode. I’ve taken advantage of this by going to the multiplayer missions and level grinding and hunting for better weapons and items. It would be nice to have some bros to play the game with but the game only supports Ad Hoc mode and I have as of yet been unable to find anyone to play with Via Ad Hoc Party. Some times it’s a real bummer not having any gaming friends in real life.
The PSP’s lack of a second analog nub has brought many a decent game to its knees but fortunately this is not one of those games. A shoulder button will snap the camera behind your character and even during the most intense fighting this does a great job of keeping everything on screen. Items are brought up during game play by pressing and holding the O button then you use the D pad to navigate to the item you’d like to use and release the O button to activate that item. It’s very effective for using healing items in the heat of combat or switching weapons. Being designed for co op there’s no pausing while out on a mission similar to how many online games work so the quick access menus are quite handy and easy to navigate swiftly. There are a ton of different weapons and items to be found. Not every class can use every weapon type. The CAST I use can use some energy blade type weapons and several types of laser pistols and rifles. I like being able to switch form melee to a ranged weapon and generally use this way badass energy gauntlet and a laser pistol at the same time. So I can run up and melee the crap out of dudes but also blast off a couple shots while keeping my distance.
Like most games there’s a warm up period where you have to figure out how everything works. Once you’ve got a good feel for the game you’ll be able to buy all sorts of customized parts for your CAST or clothing and armor for your organic characters. My character Mungo looks like a cross between a Cobra BAT and a ninja so in other words like a wicked awesome bad ass. I had played the game for several hours before really getting into the customization. The stores and missions are all selected from menus and much of the story is told with 2D artwork and the game engine running in the background. A few of the more important scenes are handled with cut scenes but these are few and far between. This however is just par for the course with most modern portable RPGs. The voice acting is also done very well.
Graphically the game looks very nice but you will notice a lot of the enemies show up again as palette swaps. The playable character as well as the AI controlled partner characters all look amazing. Some of the areas you travel to will look a little samey but I’d imagine if you were playing with friends and enjoying the grind you wouldn’t notice this as much as I did as my focus was 100% on the game.
Overall this was a great experience. While I hear that the sequel improves upon everything and even throws in online support it will also cost you quite a bit more. For the bargain bin prices a used copy of Phantasy Star Portable is going for you’ll get quite a bit of entertainment for not very many dollars.
Developer Sonic Team/Alfa System
Price Around $10
Double Dragon Neon
By: Jerry Terrifying
Double Dragon Neon is a side scrolling brawler loaded with tongue in cheek humor and 80s visual flair. You and a friend play as the Lee Brothers on a quest to rescue Marian from the evil Skullmageddon! How does the newest entry into the Double Dragon series play?
My first impression of the game was that it handled kind of slow but now that I’ve gotten into that it doesn’t seem to be as problematic as I first thought. The game play is also pretty good but there are a few issues I have with it. There’s a throw move but you have to deal a lot of damage and stun an enemy before you can throw them. Most games in this genre have throws so that if you’re surrounded you can quickly toss dudes around to keep from getting your butt handed to you. The L2 button is used for a dodging roll move but if you hit L2 with the punch button you do a sweeping kick or L2 and kick you do a flying knee attack. These are awesome attacks but I just don’t know if the commands for them are the best. These are all very minor complaints and shouldn’t deter you from buying the game though.
The game play really excels at character customization. As you beat the crap out of enemies occasionally a cassette top will pop up. These are used to assign different special moves and upgrade your characters stats. This combined with the harder difficulties gives you plenty of reason to keep playing the game. I found that the more I played the more I really got into it. I may not have been blown away by simply playing the demo, this is definitely a game you should give plenty of time before making a snap judgment. There’s also a High Five system in place. Using the right analog stick will make your Lee brother give five but as I’ve only played the game by myself I’m not sure if this is just something in there for the cool factor or if there are any affects from giving five.
The real highlight of this game is the sound track that is available for free. Give “Double Dragon Neon Soundtrack” a quick googling and you can grab it for any price you see fit. You can even grab it for free if you’re a cheapskate, like me. The humor though outshines the soundtrack. When smacking enemies around with a baseball bat your Lee brother will occasionally say “Hole in one!” or “Touchdown!” which cracks me up. There’s a level in space where you have to go out into the vacuum of space and your Lee brother will exclaim “the vacuum of space? Better hold my breath!” before inhaling deeply and proceeding to punch out in the vacuum of space. Even the continue screen is pretty hilarious. Skullmageddon is waiting to poke out your eyes and upon pressing continue the other Lee brother pops up and blocks the eye poke Three Stooges style. Nearly every Skullmageddon line I’ve heard is hilarious and charming. There’s also a reference to Bimmy Lee that isn’t to be missed.
Sadly I haven’t had the chance to play the game with anyone else. This is a two-player experience for sure and as of now there’s no online co-op. Fret not though a patch is “coming soon” that will add online co-op to the game. I will make sure to cover the online co-op when it’s available. I’m really looking forward to teaming up with Mitch and punching dudes.
Ultimately I had a lot of fun with this title. It took me a while to get there but I’m glad I did. For ten bucks I’d say it’s worth a shot if you’re a big fan of side scrolling brawlers.
Developer Way Forward
Cherry Tree High Comedy Club
By: James Kaiser
Cherry Tree High Comedy Club has you playing as Miley Verisse who has her sights set on gathering enough members to open up her own high school comedy club. She only has about a month to convince enough students to join or her opportunity to open one up will go up in flames. The game plays like a mixture of visual novel and point and click adventure games although you will not need a mouse as it plays with the keyboard only.
There are a total of six members you can recruit but you only need to convince two to beat the game. Once you have beaten the game you can carry over your stats and knowledge of the other people, which helps you beat your previous score, and to also get the perfect ending which requires you to recruit all six people. So the re-playability is quite high in this game.
Each day of the game consists of three stages, morning, afternoon and night. The morning stages normally has you spending time at school but on weekends and school holidays the mornings have you socializing. The afternoons also have you socializing in which you can do a variety of things like talking to the people you are trying to get to join your club, earning money by doing some work and leveling up your conversational skills by going to places like the cinema or the gaming arcade to name a few. The nighttime stage has you stuck in your own home due to having a curfew. What you can do during the nighttime stage is watch a movie that levels up your conversation skills and depending what’s on the TV it will level up a skill based on the genre of the show.
You can also choose to read a book to level up but unlike the TV you can choose the subject you want to level up on. Downside to this is that you have to buy the books with the money you earn. You can also choose to call a friend to help make your relationship better but you can only call them when they feel safe enough to give you their number. There are also the options to do some homework and make jewelry. Doing homework feels a bit useless in this game as you get nothing from it and making some lovely jewelry will help you earn some cold hard cash.
The game is also quite short with an average play through going for about 2 –3 hours but by going through the game multiple times to get the perfect ending takes around 6 – 8 hours. I had no idea what the skills did at first but I found out the hard way that the skills help you get your targets to like you a lot quicker.
Graphics are quite well made and the artwork is very cute with a moe look that may put off some people as it would appear as annoying looking to them. There is a little bit of laziness when the character portraits switch to the other side of the screen as the portraits are just mirrored making everything about them look weird. What I mean by that is that you see wording on clothing that are all reversed although this is just me being nit-picky and most likely won't annoy anyone other than me.
Characters in Cherry Tree High Comedy Club were very likeable although a tad bit generic with predictable personalities. This is not as bad as I make it out to be however this may be frustrating to some of the more experienced players of this genre. I really enjoyed the music as it was very up beat making me feel very energetic and overly excited.
There is one more nit picky thing I want to say before wrapping this baby up. The game is meant to be set in the USA however all the scenery looks like it is set in Japan right down to the schools, cherry blossom parks and maiden shrines. They might as well just called it America due to translation to make it seem homier but the game is obviously set in Japan. This is the thing that annoys me the most and makes me look like a whining weaboo by saying it.
While this game is fun I do see more experienced players of this genre to not enjoy it as much as people who are new to this genre. Although I sure as all heck enjoyed this one and I do recommend this one to the casual gamers who have yet to play a game like this.
Platform: PC (Digital Download)
Rating: PEGI 12+ (Bad Language)
Metal Sonic Hyper-drive
By: James Kaiser
Sonic the Hedgehog Re-production cart Zone ACT 4 : Metal Sonic Hyper-drive
So it's finally come down to this, another review of a Sonic the Hedgehog re-production cartridge. Now I'm not going to be reviewing a selection of these over three issues like I did last time as it's a bit too soon to start doing that again. Heck, I didn't want to review this game until Mondo Cool Monthly hit it's first anniversary, which is a way away. Yes the reason why I am reviewing this game so soon is because 6 games I had planned on reviewing for this issue had to be pushed back due to some technical difficulties. Those 6 games will still be reviewed in future issues (not saying the what games are though).
I know that I could have done a review of a game that I had on my review list which wasn't this one...But I couldn't hold in on what I have got to say about this game any longer. So let's kick off this sudden installment of this series with a hack that let's you play as Metal Sonic. This is Metal Sonic Hyper-drive.
Metal Sonic Hyper-drive is a Sonic hack which has you not only playing as Metal Sonic but also, Sonic the Hedgehog, Darkon, Sumari the Adventurer and Kirby. Which is absolutely incredible to see a mixture of these characters in a game like this. But how on Earth do all these characters find themselves in this situation? Well...Our story involves Dr. Robotnik capturing Sonic so no one could stop him from his evil plan of making a machine that creates dimensional portals. Meanwhile back at Tails’ Workshop, Tails is working on trying to rescue Sonic by building a Metal Sonic. Unlike the Metal Sonic they have fought in Sonic CD, Tails creates this one to be nice and warmhearted like Sonic. Although back at Robotnik's Egg Base Dr. Robotnik finds himself in a pickle when his dimensional portal machine goes haywire and starts dragging in heroes from other dimensions. The portals bring in, Darkon ( A Grim Reaper looking dude. Which is actually the Mascot of the team who did this hack.), Kirby (From the Kirby series), and Sumari( From a Chinese Famicom game called Sumari). Who all join up with Metal Sonic to take down Dr. Robotnik and restore everything to normal.
Each character has their own unique playing style so that you have a new experience each time you play which adds a lot of re-playability. The level designs look very menacing and cluttered which did worry me a little when I first saw them. However while playing them I had a lot of fun. Despite looking cluttered the levels are actually designed to not slow you down so you can fly though them without being paranoid. Unlike Sonic: The Lost Worlds which was a mess playing through. (See issue 3 for review of the game)
One thing you will notice is that there are very little 1-up boxes to be seen. While it seems like that would make the game more challenging they did add a new box that has a big “S” on it which gives you 50 rings. It is a nice thing to have but I'd rather just have a 1-up box as getting 100 Rings is fairly easy to do and it makes the game a bit easy. I found myself with 14 lives by the time I reached the third world from hitting the S boxes alone. The shields have also been altered to be more useful than what you would normally be used to. Instead of just having one shield around you at a time you can hoard them by collecting more while you have the shield activated. This increases the hits you can take before you lose rings.
A problem I do have with the game is that they cut out all the bonus stages during the main game. You can still jump in the ring when you reach the end of the level with 50 rings but it will only start up the next stage instead of taking you to a bonus stage.
The boss battles have actually been re-worked to be made harder than what you would see in the official Sonic games although beating the bosses may be easier or harder depending on which character you have picked. Now you actually don't fight Dr. Robotnik but instead you fight his Egg-Robo that appeared in Sonic & Knuckles. While it is cool to see Egg-Robo as a boss it does frustrate me a little that I can't fight Dr. Robotnik.
Metal Sonic Hyper-drive also has a difficulty setting which I found to be really original as I have yet to of seen one in a Sonic hack other than this one. The 2 difficulties are “Normal” and “Extreme” which can be picked straight off the main menu, which is very convenient. There is also “Mini Game Mode” which is just the bonus stage you play when you finish a level with 50 rings that greatly adds re-playability to the game. The music in Metal Sonic Hyper-drive is borrowed from other games like, Sonic the Hedgehog, Castlevania and even some 16-bit remixes of the 3D Sonic games and they sound pretty good.
I did come across some glitches in the game but not as many as I normally see in Sonic ROM hacks although they are still a pain to deal with. One glitch I had was fighting Egg-Robo in a tunnel and getting stuck in a wall which also launched me to an area that you shouldn’t be able to access. I didn’t see any graphic flickering or screen tearing like you would see in a bunch of these hacks.
OK it is time to see if I get something special when I connect this to a Sonic & Knuckles cartridge. For those new readers out there I do a thing where I connect the Sonic re-production cartridge to see if it will accept it as an expansion pack. Like how you can attach Sonic 1 – 3 onto it (See MCM issues 1 – 3 to see how the other ones did). Did I get anything special out of connecting Metal Sonic Hyper-drive to Sonic & Knuckles? Nope. All I got this time around was just Sonic & Knuckles booting up as a stand-alone game. I wonder if the next installment of this segment will bring a better result?
Overall I had a lot of fun with this one and I do recommend that everyone should play this one. Although the topic of playing a downloaded ROM may be unappealing to some readers so play at own risk.
Metal Sonic Hyper-drive
Platform: Genesis/ Megadrive
Price: $40 - $60 (Reproduction Cartridge)