Castlevania Season 1 (Netflex Series) Review

Now that Konami has abandoned many of it’s iconic video game series for Pachinko machines, the future of many beloved series have been put into question. Castlevania, one of the oldest and largest of these series may not have much of a future in video games but perhaps in other media. Netflex has produced an animated series based on the video games (particularly Castlevania 3: Dracula’s Curse). But is it even worth it, will the series suffer the same fate as other movies and TV shows based off of video games?

Likes:

  1. The animation is pretty solid. It has a bit of an anime vipe to it but I wouldn’t call it anime either. It’s sort of the same style as The Boondocks. They got the setting of gothic medieval Europe down really well too. It’s a very bleak and dark show, which is good for a Castlevania series.
  2. Considering this is only four episodes long, they did a good job at establishing the characters and their motivations. I would say this is more true for Trevor Belmont and Dracula than some of the other but as they are the two main players in the series, I think other seasons could develop them and the other characters further.
  3. Richard Armitage did a great job voicing Trevor Belmont. He was one of the things I really liked about the Hobbit series, and has such a great voice.

Dislikes:

  1. Speaking about the voice acting, the accents on many of the side characters were confused. Even then, it’s rather nick-picky as the geographical area isn’t clearly defined in the series.
  2. The season as I said earlier, is only 4 episodes long with a total run time of 88 minutes. I wonder why didn’t they just have it be a movie? I was definitely wanting it to be longer. Hopefully further seasons will be.
  3. I don’t know if the sound mixers forgot to compress Dracula’s dialog or what, but he was much harder to hear than the other characters.
  4. While the soundtrack wasn’t bad by any means, it was rather disappointing that they didn’t take any musical ques from the video games, which has some of the best video game music ever created. So don’t be expecting Vampire Killer or Bloody Tears to be playing.
  5. They didn’t break any candles or find pork chops inside the wall.

Likes and Dislikes:

  1. The action is really over-the-top, gory and fun. But there weren’t nearly enough action scenes in my opinion. Maybe it just comes down to me wanting more, which isn’t a bad thing. It felt like one episode only had one minor fight scene which is kinda disappointing.
  2. (Spoilers) Dracula isn’t even the main antagonist in the series, I would say that would be the Bishop and Priest of the church. The thing that bothered me is that slamming on a church for hypocrisy and backwards thinking is done so many times its become a cliche. The thing I did like is later in the show, a demon talks with a Bishop in the church and tells him that it was the hypocrisy and wickedness of the Bishops and Priests that made them lose the favor and protection of God. I liked how it was priestcraft and not the church itself that was evil. It is shown later that there were Priests in the city that was worthy enough to make holy water to fight the demons. So thank you for subverting the expectation and not using the “church is bad” cliche.

Awkward Walk-In Meter: 4/5

This is rated TV-MA which is the equivalent of R. The show is really gory and bloody. You’d expect blood in a show about vampires but it’s pretty extreme.  Demons are shown in graphic detail ripping people apart and leaving a gory mess everywhere. There is also a considerable amount of language including a bunch of F bombs. It’s rather light when it comes to sexual content but the violence and language is enough that you better keep the kids away.

Overall: If you’re a big fan of shows like Vampire Hunter D, you’ll fit right in. While it wasn’t a masterpiece by any means, it was a enjoyable show none-the-less. If you’re a fan of the Castlevania games, I would also recommend checking it out. Just be mindful that this show is not for kids and if you don’t handle gore very well you probably shouldn’t see it.

Mass Effect Andromeda Review

600 Years Through Dark Space

The only experience I have with the Mass Effect series is when I downloaded the demo for Mass Effect 3. I played a couple minutes of it, had to put it down, then it was lost to memory until now. I’m not saying it was a terrible experience. I remember being fairly busy at the time. I was interrupted with something family related and just forgot to pick it back up. Mass Effect Andromeda’s story starts as the story of Mass Effect 2 concludes but before Mass Effect 3 starts. A rather creative approach as a lot of us, at this point, know how fairly hard it would be to continue after Mass Effect 3 . This way, Bioware basically has a clean slate to keep this franchise going. If only it was successful. I purchased the game on release day and before I could pop it in my PS4 to enjoy, it was already being torn apart by reviewers. A lot of which, if not all, were avid fans of the previous installments. Maybe this was just a case of nostalgia and longing for the glory that once was. The very case that plagues the Final Fantasy franchise. Having practically no experience of what Mass Effect really was about, I harbor no expectations and biased opinions towards the latest installment of the series and perhaps I can provide a different insight.

Minutes into the game and I am already annoyed. Aside from minor mission bugs that truthfully, weren’t game breaking in my case, we have dialog, and all kinds of animation issues that start. That’s when I started to truly think about why this game is being ripped apart online.

Dialog:

The majority of which is very cheesy and, for a lack of better description, lifeless. The kind that brings a new and different appreciation for fan fiction authors (not all, but most) out there. Now couple that with lackluster voice acting and you have a recipe for a “skip every scene” button mash.

Animations:

One of the first things you’ll most likely notice is the glaringly awkward animations. Be it your Ryder taking a stroll, jumping, dodging bullets, or just plain talking, its flaw is prominent. At times, my pathfinder runs like a discombobulated clay doll with extremities flailing about seemingly broken. At first, it was actually quite hilarious. But after the 3rd, 4th, 20th time it occurred, it was no longer as well received. It shouldn’t have been from the start but it had amusement value then. Still, the worst of it all was the facial animation. Games like these that offer character customization, play into the vanity of us gamers. At least for me, I try to make my characters as good looking and least comical as possible. I understand that looks are subjective but unless it’s on purpose, most of us want a decent looking character. I will have to look at him or her the duration of my time in the game. First, you are provided with meager options on the customization. With what was provided, I tried my best to create a decent looking pathfinder in a decent amount of time. My Ryder somehow came out with a perpetually surprised look. His eyeballs were ready to pop out of their sockets at any given time. Kinda hard to take him seriously especially in solemn, somber scenes. Why even give the option of customization when you’ll just end up distorting and disfiguring us?

Gameplay:

Andromeda offered multiple classes to choose from that one can either customize according to play style or just settle for presets. Each class had its own passive and active skills, both defensive and offensive. I had a blast disposing of those that refused to be nothing more than a pebble in my shoe in fun and creative ways. It complimented the plethora of weapons Andromeda provides quite well. Where its lacking is armor. There are only a few to choose from and you can upgrade them to max. You’ll need points that can be earned through missions(main and side), exploration, and discovery to upgrade your weapons and armor, so choose wisely where you allocate these points. The combat itself was average but I wasn’t expecting it to be breath taking so it did its job. There isn’t much more to say really. One aspect I had nothing to gripe about.

Story:

The potential for something amazing exists in Andromeda. I mean, quite literally, there’s a new galaxy for it. You travel over 600 years through dark space trying to escape the threat of extinction in Mass Effect 2. You awake from cryostasis to find yourself at war with a genocidal alien race. You are tasked with the title of Pathfinder and all the responsibilities that comes with it. It is your burden to find a new home for the thousands of humans and aliens alike that boarded this expedition. You’re in a monumental adventure, making history, and you would think that your decisions would actually matter. Outside of the main story line and even in some cases, within in it, it doesn’t. Colonists are being plagued by deserters turned bandits in a recent uprising. You, the Pathfinder, finds a path to quell the injustice and you receive a very forgettable display of gratitude. And if that wasn’t insulting enough, such tasks and requests are duplicated in the rest of the habitable planets in the galaxy. There is no real consequence to the decision you make despite the game’s effort in urging you that there is. You do your valiant grandeur. Speak your eloquently moving speech. They move on indifferently, in most situations,  and so do you to the next rehashed, reskinned call for help. I’ve noticed differences in dialog, so there’s that. Perhaps these adventures would be more meaningful and colorful if you brought along people to share the fun with. Well, you can have up to 6 characters that you can cycle through to form your party of 3 and go pathfinding. Each have their own unique backstory dictating their interactions with your Ryder’s decisions. Given the right response, sex, and preference, you can even have romantic relationships with them. Some of their conversations between each other can be humorous while others, annoying. I didn’t have any favorite and experimented with different combinations especially when doing their own personal quests to earn their utmost loyalty and still came out with generic results.

Replayability:

I suppose sense of ownership and responsible expenditure saw to it and made sure I at least finished the game getting as much as I can out of my investment. But at some point I had to tell myself that the fun was exceedingly fleeting when it was there and the rest resembles a Saturday morning chore. Some games rely on their replayability values through grinding for the best armor and the best weapon to own everyone that looked at you funny. And even in that same monotonous grind fun can be found if implemented correctly. A modicum amount can be found here and I feel like I’m being generous with that. It does have online multiplayer function. But it has microtransaction temptations and nothing you accomplish there can be transferred to your offline file. It might as well be its own separate game.

Overall:

Andromeda was fun–sometimes. But it was overwhelmingly disappointing; mind you I came in to this game with no expectations so that’s saying something. Don’t rent it, don’t buy it. If you must, I’d say wait for that huge price drop and hope that they had fixed the abundance of flaws (I’d list more but they do go on) that is littered throughout the game.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Review

It seems that everyone has been playing this game or at least have been bombarded by memes, secrets videos and the like. So I don’t know how much more I could add to the conversation. But I have had people tell me this is what they wanted so I will go ahead and give my two cents.

Some disclosure, I played the Wii U version as I didn’t want to bother waiting until now when the Switch starts to be more available and I really needed to justify my Wii U purchase as I bought it solely for two games, Smash Brothers and Zelda. So I will not be reviewing the Switch as many other reviewers have done. So lets dive into this!

Likes:

  1. The real star of this game is the world of Hyrule. No game has fully realized a place since Skyrim. The map is not only massive but it is diverse. Each area is distinct and different from the rest of the map. A lot of open world games tend to take a copy paste approach to the world design to save time. Nintendo really used the game delays to their advantage and made a spectacular world. It is a place you want to spend time exploring and discovering little secrets hidden across the kingdom of Hyrule. There is no doubt that this game will become the definitive representation of Hyrule. Every part of the world is beautiful in its own unique way and there will be moments where you finish climbing to a hill or tower, see the area and have your breath taken away by the beauty of it all.
  2. Most Zelda games have been built around some sort of gameplay gimmick (such as time-traveling, sailing, dimension hopping, or motion controls) this was really a return to the very roots of the Zelda franchise: exploration. The gimmick in Breath of the Wild is exploration and open ended gameplay. This game accomplishes that spectacularly. You start in one area that is closed off and acts as the tutorial for the rest of the game. Once you leave this area, you are free to do whatever you want. There is only one real goal in the game and that is to destroy Ganon.  Everything else is optional. Granted this things are highly encouraged to do since the side quests and shrines are designed to help you get stronger and ready to fight Ganon. But many speedrunners have gone to fight Ganon with nothing more than 4 hearts and a stick. You could even ignore the main quest and spend hours looking for ingredients and recipes to become a master chef. The game rarely forces you to go into a linear path and no one person will approach this game the same.
  3. As big as the world is and the freedom the game gives you, it is a major shock how stable this game is. Even great open-world games still have many bugs and glitches as QAing games like this is really difficult. But Nintendo did a great job in making this the most stable open-world game I’ve ever played. There were only a few times where I had major frame-rate drops but otherwise they were only brief and not game crashing. You don’t see NPC walking into walls or fall through the floor. While that means there may not be as many funny glitches that many Bethesda games are known for, there are plenty of other funny moments in the game that makes up for it.
  4. With a game this open-ended, you’d think that the story is nothing more than an afterthought. But the story is one of the best in the series. One of my favorite quests was looking for areas on the map that will help Link recover lost memories. Doing this will unlock cutscenes that give backstory to Link, Zelda and many other major characters in the game. The Zelda in this game is one of the best portrayed in all the games, even Skyward Sword. But aside from the memories, the world itself tells many stories as to what happened to Hyrule 100 years ago. For example, there were times where I’d stumble upon several decayed guardians (the spider robots seen the marketing material) with rusted swords in the ground, a display of a battle long ago. It’s an additional testament to the world design and how well thought out it was.
  5. You will get your money’s worth with this game. I played over 105 hours to beat the game and there is still plenty of things I can do. There are 4 main dungeons, 120 mini-dungeons (shrines), 900 korok seeds, several armor sets and upgrades for them and plenty of side quests. By far the biggest Zelda game yet.

Dislikes:

  1. There are a handful of gyroscopic puzzles that use the control’s gyroscope to solve. These are frustrating above all other puzzles in the game. The controls felt off and I hate it when Nintendo tries to force motion controls into my zelda games (it was tolerable in Twilight Princess but frustrating in Skyward Sword). Again, there are few of these and they are completely optional.
  2.  The rain. The fact that it rains in the game is totally fine, but there are drawbacks when it rains. One, climbing cliffs is practically impossible when it gets wet from the rain. Ok, so lets make a campfire and wait it out, oh wait, the wood gets wet and you can’t make a fire. So you’re stuck on a cliff edge and have to wait 5 real life minutes before the rain stops (if it does at all). I might be able to forgive this if it only happens a few times in the game, no, it happens all the time. So much so that it almost feels like the weather programmers deliberately coded the rain to come when you’re climbing something. I wouldn’t care if the game allowed you to wait it out like Skyrim does. But you have to build a campfire to do that and it’s impossible to do during the rain. It sucks you out of the game when you have to sit there and wait for the rain to end before you continue your adventure.
  3. Speaking of weather, lightning can be annoying as well. Because not only is mother nature precision aiming death bolts at you, it’s also raining. The solution is to equip non-metal gear but the problem is that most of the best weapons in the game are steel. So there were times when I was caught in a storm without any wooden weapons which makes it hard when you get ambushed. However, there is a set of armor that makes you immune to electricity that changed everything. Then I would run into a group of enemies just more lightning struck and laugh as my enemies are destroyed around me. But unless you know where said armor pieces are and have the materials to upgrade them, you won’t being having fun in the lightning storms until late in the game.
  4. It took me a while to get used to the controls, as a Zelda veteran, the control scheme for most of the games have been fairly consistent since Ocarina of Time. The controls are very different in this game and it was quite a learning curve for me. But after several hours and accidentally whistling while sneaking I managed to get the hang of it. The interface on the menus weren’t the best either has you had to sort through a bunch of crap to find the items you wanted to cook.
  5. I don’t know why Zelda insists on doing stealth segments. Half the reason why I swore off stealth games for so long was because of crappy stealth from Zelda games. Hyrule Castle in OoT, Gerudo Fortress in MM, Forsaken Fortress in WW, the list goes on. While the stealth in this game is improved from the last games, it’s still frustrating when your forced to do it during certain moments in the game.

Both Liked and Disliked:

  1. The gear durability system is mostly hated by fans. While I do like how the game forces me to try out different weapons, I think it could have been improved. I would have liked to have seen a durability bar on the gear so I know how much use it has left, being able to repair weapons, or doing a quest-line allowing you to make unbreakable weapons (The Master Sword while technically unbreakable, loses its charge after prolonged use, which is the exact same problem). For a game that encourages agency in it’s gameplay and exploration, I think it should allow you to use the weapons you like. At the very least, they should have increased the durability of all gear as they always seems to break quickly and at the worst possible moment. I also found myself not using my good weapons out of fear of them breaking. Again, this is not as bad later in the game when you expand your inventory and good weapon drops become more regular.
  2. These is easily the hardest Zelda game in recent memory. The game is especially brutal at the beginning of the game where there are several enemies that can one shot you. It can be really frustrating for new players. However, much like Dark Souls, the game rewards you for overcoming the odds. You really get a sense of accomplishment when you go back to an area that gave you trouble and totally wipe the floor of those pesky blue monsters. Near the end of the game I finally got courageous enough to take on Lynels (which are the hardest enemies in the game) and felt awesome dodging their attacks, shooting them in the face and stabbing its back while its trying to buck you off. So if your struggling with the game, keep it up and you’ll git gud.

Overall:

If you love open world games, you cannot do better than this game. The world and player choice are the best anyone can offer. This is definitely a worthy title for the Zelda franchise. Is it my favorite Zelda game? I don’t know if I can really say that as it’s very different from the other Zelda titles. Majora’s Mask still holds a piece of my heart (pun intended) since it was the game that got me into the series. But this is definitely the best 3D Zelda title since then. Unless you already have a Wii U, I would just play the Switch version. The differences aren’t big enough to say one is better, but the Wii U is dead at this point and there’s no point in buying one for Zelda alone.

Horizon Zero Dawn Review

Come for the Game Play, Stay for the Story

Humanity has reverted back into a primitive, tribal way of life. Lush vegetation has conquered tattered ruins of what was once our thriving cities. Mechanical beasts that resembles creatures of prehistoric times roam the lands. This is Earth now and we follow Aloy, a charmingly strong-willed red head, on her journey to understanding her existence and how she fits the mold of this world, with the many faces she’ll meet along the way. Some less memorable than others. But I’m more forgiving in this regard as your main focus is the development of Aloy. The ones that truly matter and affects her the most are well done. I’d be more disappointed if none of the characters you meet added the least bit of color to your adventures. To date, I don’t know of any console game that is as visually stunning as Horizon Zero Dawn especially if you have a system that can run it in its rendered 4k.

     The story may be at first, slow, but the aesthetics of the environment that the game walks you through is distracting enough that you really won’t notice. After about 2 or so hours in, the story picks up, piling on more questions to the questions you already have to grip your curiosity. It is an open world and, as such, offers many distractions. The game however, delivers enough sense of urgency that you are compelled to stay focused and not wildly distracted like you would be in oh–Skyrim, for instance. Depending on one’s efficiency, that main quest line can be finished in 30-40 or so hours.

     Of course there are dangers lurking beyond that hill cresting the sunset; most of which will be machines. Perhaps some bandits roaming the trails looking for their next meal. Fear not, Aloy is trained in range combat with various bows, slings, traps, wires, and ropes along with a spear should the fight come close. A wide enough array of strategies can be employed against different types of enemies. What worked for your current adversary may not dent your next challenge. You can approach situations stealthily if a more frontal assault is not to your style. There are plenty of patches of tall grass to ambush unsuspecting robotic lizards from. It is refreshing and keeps the game from going stale too soon out of sheer repetitiveness–something that plagues a lot of action RPG’s of late. You can even arm yourself with weapons torn off from certain enemies.

     Usually, games with aesthetics of this caliber, fall short on either combat system, or story telling. Guerrilla games exceeded expectations, if not lived up to the hype, with this game; especially for their first title that is not their usual genre. But it’s not all praises and accolades for Horizon Zero dawn. The game offers little to no incentive at all in terms of replayability. Everything can be achieved in this game, from the plethora collections of data logs entry to enrich oneself in deeper lore of this world, to sidequests, ultimate equipments, and trophies in the first play through. Unless you want to just have another go at the story line to see how NPC’s would react through different dialogue options but that is really nothing a quick “save and reload” trick couldn’t remedy. That is not to say, you can’t continue your adventure after the main story line. By all means go out and hunt more challenges. Parcour your way above mesas and cliff tops and take a moment to enjoy and immerse yourself in Horizon Zero Dawn’s breath taking vistas, if nothing else.

     So, buy or rent? This one really boils down to personal choice. I’ve come to love collecting the games I play. This may have been influenced by the fact that I work a lot and my time is stretched thin between that, family, and life in general. I like the convenience of having my copy, digital or otherwise, ready to pop in for some play whenever I get a bit of free time. As I’ve mentioned before, the main story line itself can be done in 30-40 something hours. If you have a long 3-4 day weekend saved up, you can easily binged play through this. But with a quality this good, best to make room for it in your shelf.