Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner M∀RS (PS4)

Right after I took a dive into the world of Zone of the Enders, I thought it natural to immediately play the sequel, The 2nd Runner, to wrap up the remaining story threads. For the best possible experience, I played The 2nd Runner MRS, a 2018 updated release for PS4 with enhanced graphics, VR support and surround sound. This version not only felt great to play on modern hardware, it felt like a vast improvement over the original Zone of the Enders as well.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Stubs - Captured

Captured! (1933) Starring: Leslie Howard, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Paul Lukas, Margaret Lindsay, Arthur Hohl, John Bleifer, William Le Maire Directed by Roy Del Ruth. Screenplay by Edward Chodorov. Based on the short story "Fellow Prisoners" by Sir Philip Gibbs in Liberty (13 Sep 1930). Produced by Hal B, Wallis. Run time: 72 minutes. US Black and White. Drama, War.

In the years before America’s involvement in World War II, a subject Hollywood still returns to, the Great War was World War I, the war to end all wars. Films like Wings (1927) and Hell’s Angels (1930), set their melodramas against the epic of the war, concentrating in both films on the early air corps that were new to the conflict.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Zone of the Enders (PS2)

As a fan of the Metal Gear series, I inevitably came across the title Zone of the Enders. While this 2001 mecha game did sell well enough to warrant a sequel, Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner, it’s best known for coming bundled with the demo for the highly anticipated Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty in its initial release. As such, it developed a reputation as “the free game” that came with a full-priced demo, but still attracted a cult following of its own. I’ll admit that part of my attraction to this game was the fact that Hideo Kojima produced it, but a good amount of it was just to see what Zone of the Enders actually was. When I finally got my copy of the game, which, of course, came without the famous MGS2 demo disc, I played it at the first opportunity. I could definitely see the potential in the series, but this first game is definitely rough around the edges.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Batman: Year One

Of the many writers who have penned Batman stories over the decades, Frank Miller is one of the more interesting ones, if only for singlehandedly writing some of the most famous (The Dark Knight Returns) and most infamous (All Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder) takes on the character. One of the highlights of his career, however, is Batman: Year One, published in 1987 with artwork by David Mazzucchelli, a story that was considered the official origin story of Batman until 2013’s Zero Year. I actually read this story myself for a comics class in college, though it was a version where they inexplicably recolored the original artwork. Though this story would get an animated film adaptation in 2011, I didn’t view it until a 2020 Toonami broadcast, after which I wondered why I didn’t watch it sooner.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD (PS3)

Prior to the release of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 in 2015, developer Robomodo released a digital-only remaster of the first two games (in theory), Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD, in 2012. After playing through the recent remaster of the first two games by Vicarious Visions, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2, I remembered I still happened to own a copy of Pro Skater HD, which has since been delisted, on my PS3 hard drive and wanted to see how well it held up (or didn't) after eight years. After going through the game again, I remembered more of the game’s shortcomings and why I didn’t really like it when I first played it.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 (PS4)

Following the disastrous release of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 back in 2015, the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series was officially over, as the contract between Tony Hawk and Activision had expired. Because of this, I was surprised (in a good way) at the announcement of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2, which aimed to remaster Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 with some quality-of-life changes to bring the series into the modern era and introduce it to a new generation of players. This announcement led me to go back and replay the original games for comparison to the remaster, followed by what turned into a rather lengthy retrospective on the franchise as a whole. Since the remaster was handled by Vicarious Visions, the team behind Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, my hopes were high, and thankfully this remaster delivers on that and more.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 (PS4)

We’ve established by this point that we’re fans of the Tony Hawk games, particularly up to Underground 2. From that entry onward, however, the series would continue a downward spiral of popularity going into the release of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 in 2015, the same year the deal with Activision expired. We later bought the game at a steep discount just to see how bad it really was, but wouldn’t go through a full playthrough until more recently. Having played every game from Pro Skater to Proving Ground, I can say without a doubt that Pro Skater 5 is truly the worst Tony Hawk game I have ever played.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Tony Hawk's Proving Ground (PS3)

Following the release of Tony Hawk's Project 8 in 2006, another annual installment to the Pro Skater series came in 2007 in the form of Tony Hawk’s Proving Ground, offering the premise of a more customizable story mode to create a more unique experience. Notably, Proving Ground would also be the final game in the series developed by Neversoft, after which the series would be further developed under new studio Robomodo while Neversoft would exclusively develop the Guitar Hero series until their closure in 2014. Despite the game representing this particular milestone for the Pro Skater series, it didn’t exactly go out with a bang.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Tony Hawk's Project 8 (PS3)

After the release of Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland in 2005, a new game known as Tony Hawk’s Project 8 came out the following year, however it would also be the first one released on the then-new PlayStation 3, as a launch title for the system. Around this time, the Pro Skater series also took more of a shift towards realism, seemingly as a way to take advantage of the next generation of hardware. While the effort put into the title was certainly ambitious, I found it rather disappointing, both on its own merits and especially in comparison to previous games in the series.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Tony Hawk's American Wasteland (PS2)

Following the release and success of Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 in 2004, the annual releases continued with Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland in 2005. Rather than following in the same footsteps as Underground 2, this entry sets itself apart by featuring an open world, a first for the series, as well as setting itself within the confines of the Los Angeles area. While it pulls this aspect off successfully, the game is overall a bit of a mixed bag when compared to its predecessors.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Tony Hawk's Underground 2 (PS2)

Following the success of Tony Hawk’s Underground in 2003, a sequel was released in 2004, simply titled Tony Hawk’s Underground 2, which saw a much wilder take on skating culture. This was actually my first exposure to the Pro Skater series as a whole, even if I wasn’t the one playing it, and so this is the entry I am most familiar with. As a result, I will admit to having a small bias towards this game, and so would rank the game higher if I were to place it on a tier list, however I felt that it was not to the point that it would interfere with writing an impartial review. After going through the game again, while it has its issues and is generally a lot more crass, it still stands as one of my favorite entries in the series for its sheer fun factor.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Mulan (1998)

Mulan, based on a Chinese ballad known as the Ballad of Mulan, was a film I had seen at least once when I was a kid, albeit on home video. Though it had been years since I had seen the 1998 movie, I remember liking it at the time, however I had sometimes considered re-watching it in order to pay more attention to the story and see if my opinion on it had changed. That opportunity came when a live-action remake of the movie was announced by Disney, though I would not actually jump on that chance until recently, in the wake of the remake’s release on Disney+ (for the low, low price of $30 on top of the regular subscription) in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. After viewing the 1998 Mulan again, I though it not only managed to hold up well after 22 years, it was a lot better than I remembered.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Tony Hawk's Underground (PS2)

Note: This review contains spoilers for Tony Hawk's Underground

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 set a precedent for later games in the series to go more open-world, however the next entry, Tony Hawk’s Underground, takes this a few steps further. Rather than playing as one of many professional skaters, this time the game is about you, the player, trying to become a professional skater, even introducing a story mode to the series. Though times have changed since the game’s release in 2003, their first attempt at a story-driven Pro Skater game was handled surprisingly well and still somewhat resonates to this day despite some mechanical flaws.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 (PS2)

Following the success of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 in 2001, the inevitable Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 was released in 2002. This particular entry, however, experimented with a number of brand-new mechanics that would reshape the direction of the franchise for some time. While the effort was admirable, the first outing in this new direction was a bit rough and it shows.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 (PS2)

Following the success of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, Activision launched the Activision O2 label for its extreme sports titles, which included Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 among other stylistically-similar games. Around this time, the Pro Skater series and its ilk also began moving over to what were next-gen consoles at the time, including the PlayStation 2. After playing the first two Pro Skater games in anticipation of an upcoming remaster, I decided to continue exploring the series once again in order to keep the momentum going. Though not without flaws, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 features a number of improvements over the previous game and makes the transition well to the PS2 era.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 (PS1)

In further anticipation of the upcoming Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2, here we continue from the original Pro Skater game and into its sequel, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2. Though the Pro Skater series had begun running on an annual release schedule, this game takes the concepts introduced in the first and expands upon them in a number of areas, creating a more solid experience from a technical standpoint, though it’s not without its flaws.