Monday, July 28, 2014

TGLVideo Games: Tomodachi Life

Tomodachi Life
Nintendo 3DS
(Rated E for Everyone)

If you liked:
Animal Crossing, The Sims, Harvest Moon, basically any life simulator game

You run an island! That's...basically it. SO GO BUY IT!
Fill your island with people that you (or your friends) create, interact with them, watch them do hilarious stuff, and help them make important (and sometimes totally insignificant, but still funny) decisions in their daily lives! Help them get married (or not), have kids (or not), go on adventures/vacations, and play games with them. Or if you're a sadist, just watch them sulk in their own pathetic misery after they confess their love to a peer, get rejected, then vow to try again, only to get STOOD UP WHICH CAUSES THEM TO SPIRAL INTO A TERRIBLE DEPRESSION!!

Much like Animal Crossing: New Leaf, you start the game by naming your island. I chose to name mine "Bentario Island", because I'm unoriginal and full of myself. Instead of following the actions of one person, however, you are more of an overall observer of the entire island.
Anyone who has played a Wii, Wii U, or 3DS probably knows about the Wii Mii characters that can be used in games like Wii Sports. In this game, those Miis become the inhabitants of your island. Personally, since the first time I played the Wii, I've wanted them to give the Miis their own game. I mean why let you make your own little digital version of you if you can't use it for more than just the pre-packaged game?! But I digress...

While you don't actually move your character around and control their every move a la The Sims, you do have a large amount of sway over what your Miis do on the island. The Miis can hang out at the beach, carnival, coffee shop, park, (and many other locations unlocked by creating more Miis to fill your island, and by helping your Miis with their problems), perform concerts alone or together (and even give them different lyrics to sing), play games with you, go on vacations, fall in love, even get married and have little Mii babies! (Sidenote...DO NOT LET THEM HAVE BABIES!!) If you have friends who also have the game, you can scan/import them into your game without having to re-make them yourself. There is also a pre-built list of Tomodachi characters based on celebrities available for download right here!

Peanut Butter Gamer, a video game reviewer on YouTube I greatly enjoy, shared the code that users could scan to place the Mii he made of himself into their islands (bottom right corner) . Even with my personally created islanders, his has been the most hilarious to watch as he explores the island, searching desperately for companionship. (click his name above to watch his review of Tomodachi Life)
My Island:
When you create your first Mii, the game suggests you to make it look like you. I highly suggest this, as after you make them, everyone on the island then refers to you (the player) as "[your name]'s look-alike." (e.g. everyone calls me Ben's look-alike) But before we go on, I wanted to introduce you to just a few of my islanders.

Ben: My me Mii. The Mii of me...who is me. Not the Mii me, that's he. Just me as a Mii me. (okay I'll stop) He's a go-getting dreamer, according to the game's personality chart. (I should mention now, based on the small amount of choices you make, the personality they give your Miis is scary accurate!)

Annie V: I bought the game the day before my 1 year wedding anniversary, so I created Annie Versary, or as her friends call her, Annie V. Fun fact, her voice is eerily high pitched...

Mario and Luigi: Because why not?

Other Miis include: PBG (Peanut Butter Gamer), Pidgey (my pet bird, in Mii form), Lucy (my sister-in-law's cat in Mii form), Mara (my wife), Guy Manly (a cliche'd manly man) and Lady Woman (your basic feminine woman). 

As far as I've been able to see, there is no limit to how many you can make. As you fill out the apartment building, it expands to accommodate more Miis.

Unlike other world management / life simulation games that are topping their respective sales charts, Tomodachi Life adds something that definitely stands out for me: customized voices for each character that actually speak in English instead of some made-up language. They sound very cartoony, but it really adds to the charm. 
When I first got my 2DS, I purchased Animal Crossing: New Leaf, and was very excited to manage my city. Just as a brief sidenote, AC: NL puts you in charge of being the mayor of a town of cartoonish animals, assisting their needs, and building up the town, all  in real-time. The biggest killer of that game to me was that it tried too hard to be a "real" town, veering away from a fun video game, and more towards tedious work. Between paying off your home loan, and doing menial jobs for your feeble-minded townsfolk, and even being punished for going an extended period of time without playing the game, it really made it hard to want to go back. That said, this is where Tomodachi Life differs greatly. The game does pass in real time, just like Animal Crossing, offering a lot of different events at various times of the day. But in this case, it is less about feeling guilty for not playing, and more about letting your people live their lives, and interacting with them in between. I have yet to find myself saying, "Ugh, the townsfolk will be mad at me, because I haven't played in a while since I've been busy." After a little over a week of not playing, I picked the game back up, and the worst that happened was a character saying "Hi, Ben's look-alike! I haven't seen you for a while."

From the release of the first trailer, I adored the humor. From the goofy and bizarre lyrics of the songs they sing, to a group of Miis holding a "pity party" at the local cafe for a down-on-his-luck friend, (PBG asked Annie V out, but she was already dating Guy Manly. It was heartbreaking for PBG, who apparently has a taste for women who are always already taken) it is always hysterical. Whether the Miis are awake or asleep, there is always something to do to interact with them. And even just watching them play or spend time together is a treat in and of itself! I found myself just watching Ben and Mara play Wii U in Annie V's apartment for a few minutes, just because their interactions are so fun to watch.

You can draw on their faces while they're asleep...hehehe...

While that description may sound like the game is just one big soap opera, it definitely is not. Tomodachi Life can hit home with guys and gals of all ages! Because the game is based heavily around sharing content with other users, there are safeguards from being able to put in any dirty words/phrases etc. but unless you're a total perv-ball with nothing but a disgusting sense of humor, it won't affect your play even slightly. And if you are, this isn't your game.

I could go on and on and on with all the completely insane things that happen while playing this game, but I really wouldn't want to spoil the fun. A very cool feature added is the ability to take screenshots of both the top and bottom screen at any time with the press of a button. The controls are so simple that you can play the entire game with nothing but your touch screen, allowing the X and Y buttons to be used solely for taking screenshots. If you think you wouldn't use it, you'd be very wrong. I probably have well over 100 screenshots saved on my device because I wanted to be able to share everything I was seeing, but I'm still not going to, because it's all just too funny to give away! (Who knows, maybe I'll do a follow-up article with pictures...)
Since I like to push myself to be fair, here's what I was able to muster in the realm of complaints:
To be honest, the game doesn't have an enormous long-lasting appeal akin to console/PC epics such as The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, and Grand Theft Auto V, or even other Nintendo 3DS games like Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. What you get with this game is more similar to the experience shared with a Tomogachi or Digimon from the mid-90's. It's the kind of game you put down after a few weeks, then pick back up a month or two later because there's nothing good on TV, and you remember how charming it is. I guess what I'm saying here is not to expect 100+ hours of content here.

All said, if you have a Nintendo 3DS/2DS and a sense of humor that embraces crazy, pick up a copy. The hilarity is perfect for kids and adults. To be honest, I guess I wish that this game had come out on iPad/Android instead of a system that not many adults probably own, so a broader audience could experience it.

7.5 out of 10
The humor is wonderful, the gameplay packs a lot in, every time you turn on your system to play you'll experience something new. Not intended for the hardcore, but casual gamers will love it for a change of pace.

Monday, July 21, 2014

TGLM: Movie Lightning Round

Recently it has come to my attention that a certain friend/reader of mine (to protect his identity, let's call him...Dylan) thinks that I only review certain types of movies too exclusively for a blog about movies in general. So in order to respond in the most sarcastic and passive aggressive way possible, here is my first ever movie review lightning round, where I'll be reviewing a plethora of random movies of no particular genre or connection.

The Breakfast Club (1985) [R]
Starring: Emilio Estevez, Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson
If you haven't seen this, you're clearly in your teenage years, as you can't possibly be that old. It follows five high schoolers from different social cliques who end up bonding over their differences and hardships. It is a classic, and for a dang good reason.
Score: «««««

Clueless (1995) [PG-13]
Starring: Alicia Silverstone, Brittany Murphy, Paul Rudd
There are two things I adore about this movie: The first is that while watching, you find yourself saying "Hey! Its *insert actor name*! I didnt' know he/she was in this!" Second, the product placement in this movie is absolutely disgusting, but in a hilarious way. At one point, lead character Cher is narrating while walking through the cafeteria, looks down and comments about a delicious Snickers bar. For no reason. LOVE IT! Its stupid fun, basically the 90's answer to the Brat Pack movies of the 80's.
Score: «««

That Thing You Do (1996) [PG]
Starring: Tom Hanks, Liv Tyler, Tom Everett Scott
The movie chronicles a one-hit-wonder band in the 1960's, and follows their meteoric rise to fame, and equally speedy descent. This is one of my favorite Tom Hanks movies, made even more surprising that he writes, directs, and stars in it. A solid comedy/drama with some great music to back it up. I. Am. Spartacus.
Score: ««««

O Brother Where Art Thou (2000) [PG-13]
Starring: George Clooney, John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson
Inspired by Homer's epic poem "The Odyssey", and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, it follows three chain gang convicts in the 1930's who escape their bondage, and quest towards a mysterious treasure, all while running into unique "Odyssey"-inspired characters. The music is memorable, the acting is phenomenal, and the story is fresh and unique. An absolute must-see.
Score: «««««

The Fall (2006) [R]
Starring: Lee Pace, Catincau Untaru, Justine Waddell
This movie is not only different, but somewhat hard to describe without spoiling things. A broken and depressed 1920's movie stuntman is confined to a hospital bed, where he bonds with a fellow patient in the form of a young girl. The movie flips between two settings: His grim, dreary hospital room, and the gorgeously colorful imaginative world that he spins for the girl within the story he tells her throughout the movie. I was extremely surprised at how much I liked this movie. The colors and settings are beautiful, and the story very much tugs your heartstrings.
Score: ««««

Girl, Interrupted (1999) [R]
Starring: Winona Ryder, Angelina Jolie
This movie sucks. Its one of the worst movies I've had the displeasure of laying my eyes on. It tells the story of a young author's time in a mental institution as she befriends another inmate. The acting was atrocious, borderline laughable, and when it came time for the main character's monologue where she flat out said "Maybe I'm just a girl...interrupted" I actually threw my head back and laughed. I get what it's going for, but it failed miserably. If you want a good mental institution movie, watch "One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest". Burn this crap heap of a movie.
Score: «

Field of Dreams (1989) [PG]
Starring: Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones, Ray Liotta
If you're young and haven't been exposed to it's glory yet, I'm sure you've still heard "If you build it, they will come". Yeah, that's from this movie. A farmer hears voices that convince him to build a baseball field in his backyard, where ghosts of former baseball players come to practice and play ball. The story is quite different, and the movie as a whole is just fantastic.
Score: ««««

Oldboy (2003) [R]
Starring: Min-sik Choi, Ji-tae Yu, Hye-jeong Kang
Quick note: this NOT the American version starring Josh Brolin. This is the Korean movie of the same name/plot that was remade in America. The premise is great, and it has one of the coolest action sequences I've seen in ANY action movie. That said, this movie sucks. It has a strong foreign and cult following, but I thought it was rubbish. The plot moves at a snail's pace, and makes zero sense, and the ending is just...ugh. If you're interested for the sake of hearsay, go for it. But whereas sex and violence in movies don't usually bother me, things get uncomfortable in this movie. Yeesh.
Score: ««

Charlie Bartlett (2007) [R]
Starring: Anton Yelchin, Robert Downey Jr., Kat Dennings
An over privileged teen who has dreams of fame becomes a psychiatrist to fellow students, and comes at odds with the principal over the means of his practice. It'll make you laugh, sigh, and say "aww". Chances are no matter who you are, there's a character for you to relate to. While I don't like Kat Dennings, you should still check this out.
Score: «««

Everything Is Illuminated (2005) [PG-13]
Starring: Elijah Wood, Eugene Hutz, Boris Leskin, Mikki the dog
Based on the book of the same name, Jonathan, a young Jewish man, takes a trip to Ukraine in order to locate the woman who saved his grandfather's life during World War II. The movie is very quiet, and powerful. The cast of characters is small, but their interactions are wonderful. This is one of my favorite performances by Elijah Wood.
Score: «««

Something Borrowed (2011) [PG-13]
Starring: Ginnifer Goodwin, Kate Hudson, John Krasinski
It's your typical romantic comedy. Girl is with guy, viewer wants girl to end up with different guy before the impending wedding. Hilarity ensues. I do enjoy the occasional rom-com though, and this movie had some decent acting, fun humor, and plenty of clever moments. It is based on a book, and the after-credits scene sets up for a very entertaining sequel that never came. Check this out if you need a pick-me-up.
Score: ««

The Other Boleyn Girl (2008) [PG-13]
Starring: Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Eric Bana
Yes, I have actually seen this movie start to finish, and it SUCKS. I do like history movies, but this is awful. I've never liked Portman in anything she's been in (a lot of people like her in V For Vendetta, but I didn't even like her in that). Scarlett Johansson is forgettable, and Eric Bana is just typical Eric Bana. Not awful, but definitely not Oscar-worthy. For a 2 hour movie, it honestly felt like 4 hours to me.
Score: ««

Random reader we've passively named Dylan, I hope this sates your sass for a while. Stay beautiful.

Monday, July 7, 2014

TGLVG: Dynasty Warriors Gundam Reborn

Dynasty Warriors Gundam Reborn
(Playstation 3, rated E)

The Dynasty Warriors series draws a lot of flak due to its repetitive combat, and the fact that almost every game in the Warriors series is near identical in terms of gameplay. Those who don't like it have no need to pick up any game in the series, but those who like the games tend to love them.

A Brief History:
Dynasty Warriors 2 (Playstation 2, 2000)
Dynasty Warriors:
The Dynasty Warriors games take place in ancient China, in the Three Kingdoms era. No matter which of the (literally) hundreds of characters you choose, you're dropped onto a battlefield littered with inferior grunts who die in one or two hits, and basically just kill as many as you can while completing objectives, and seeking out the more boss-like General characters. With this simple formula, developer Tecmo Koei has released no less than 20 games branded with the "Dynasty Warriors" name (not counting the 8+ Samurai Warriors, Dynasty Warriors Gundam 1-3, Warriors Orochi 1-3, Warriors of Troy, and the upcoming Wii U title based in the Legend of Zelda universe, Hyrule Warriors).

Mobile Suit Gundam (TV, 1979)
In 1979, the anime "Mobile Suit Gundam" premiered in Japan, telling the story of a war fought using giant robots called Mobile Suits. Among these are the ultra powerful Gundams. This has since spawned 15+ separate (but interconnected) TV series, not counting the movies both related, and unrelated to the shows. The franchise is so popular in Japan that they even have cafes and stores dedicated solely to gigantic fictional fighting robots, including a massive full scale replica of the original gundam. (Why I haven't moved to that area yet is beyond me...)

Put those together and you get a recipe for least in Japan. While well known, neither of these series have been nearly as successful in the states.

Describing this game in one sentence is not only easy, but fun to do:
Use your giant fighting robot to destroy other giant fighting robots by the thousands.

Hack, slash, hack, slash.
As mentioned above, the Dynasty Warriors series has lost considerable popularity within the United States due to its repetitive combat. While in combat, your character has a light attack, heavy attack, and special (called Musou attack in the Dynasty Warriors series). The combat consists of combining light and heavy attacks in different combos, in order to lay waste to the enemy.

While the combat may sound rather dry, levels get considerably more entertaining as you learn new combos, and upgrade your character with different special skills, and as you learn to master the super mode for each character.

One new feature in this game that has never been included in Dynasty Warriors games in the past is the addition of massive boss characters 3-4 times the size of the player. These, along with the grunt soldiers littering the battlefield, serve to keep the player on their toes when you think you're safe.

One thing I've found frustrating in my years of enjoying the Dynasty Warriors games is that the difficulty between each game is a rollercoaster ride. DW2 and 5 featured some of the easiest battles, while DW3 and 6 tended to overcompensate the difficulty, making level 1 a pain in the rear even on the easiest difficulty.

That said, this game definitely strikes a fair balance between easy and impossible. Each level lets you choose Easy/Medium/Hard, so you don't have to lock yourself down to one difficulty throughout the whole story, in case you're having trouble on a particular level.

The game is very heavy in terms of 2 player co-op as well. This can be played locally in split screen mode (for both Story mode and side missions), or online with friends through a unique "S.O.S." system. This system works in such a way that if you're struggling to beat a level, you can put out an S.O.S., calling other players to aid you in the battle, giving it much more of a war-type feel.

For Gundam fans, this game introduced something not yet seen in the previous three Dynasty Warriors Gundam games, the inclusion of playable Mobile Armors. In the Gundam universe, Mobile Armors are behemoths, typically standing 4 or 5 times the size of a typical Gundam. When unlocked, they can be played in almost any level, so they aren't just confined to one or two missions. When I first got my hands on a Mobile Armor, it felt exactly how I though it would: ridiculously overpowered. With one special attack, I was able to clear over 100 enemies from the battlefield. It. Was. Awesome. Unfortunately, the novelty of these Mobile Armors doesn't last forever. After a few missions where you're so overpowered that your health doesn't even slightly budge, it is pretty easy to get bored of the Mobile Armors. They also tend to suffer when fighting enemy commanders, who have significantly more health than your average grunt. The Mobile Armors are intended to clear out the hundreds of grunts with ease, but don't fight one-on-one battles very well.

Gundam shows are, to me, similar to James Bond movies: Everyone has their favorite, and its mostly based on what you grew up with. For me, I got into Gundams in the mid-1990's with a show called "Mobile Fighter: G Gundam". But no matter what show (if any) you got into first, every single one of them is represented, with their own individual story modes, and with many new intertwining stories that combine all of the show's characters.

With well over 120 playable Mobile Suits, along with downloadable content, 6 full story modes, and 15+ side-story modes, the game has an immense amount of content. If you've ever been on the fence about trying a Dynasty Warriors game in the past, this one is a great place to start.

I'm usually not the type to have graphics be a make-or-break decision for me, but in this case I wanted to mention them briefly. This game was released late last year in Japan, shortly after the release of the Playstation 4, and yet it remains a Playstation 3 exclusive title. That said, the graphics are, for a PS3 title, beautiful.

Every Gundam looks totally unique, and is covered head to toe in detail. Certain points in each map will allow you to turn the camera in such a way that you can get a better look at your Gundam, and I suggest you do so, because every one of them is quite a sight to see.

The other problem that many Dynasty Warriors games have is that, since they're all about large scale battles, the amount of characters on screen can bog things down to the point of becoming practically unplayable. Of all the DW games I've played (and I've played almost every one), this game is by far the smoothest, cleanest one of all, which shocked me most in 2-player split screen, where it would usually be bogged down the most. Frankly, the game is beautiful all around.

The Bad News...:
There is one thing I was not aware of when I purchased this game, that took me a long time to get over, and that quite frankly still annoys me quite a bit: All voice acting in the game is Japanese, and was not localized for America/Europe.

Now before any anime purists get all up in arms about sub vs dub, here's something to consider:
A point of pride for the Gundam series has always been deep, emotional stories, coupled with characters that you actually care about. While cutscenes are easy enough to keep track of, since English subtitles are provided, when the battle commences, it's incredibly difficult to stay involved in the action, while being invested in the story through the dialogue boxes, AND reading the objectives that appear on screen. Now take all of that, add a second player, and two dialogue boxes at once that take up a large chunk of the screen, and you can get very lost very quickly. I do hope they release a patch or update in the future that adds English dialogue, as it would make everything flow a LOT better, but I don't have my hopes up.

-120+ mobile suits to unlock, and just as many, if not more pilots.
-Absolutely zero slow-down during crowded fights, everything runs as smooth as silk.
-Great split-screen co-op, allows two players to enjoy the story together.
-Only Japanese dialogue, English is only seen in (sometimes poorly) translated subtitles.
-Doesn't break any grounds of Dynasty Warriors gameplay.
-Exclusive to Playstation 3, and only via download. No hard copies, no new gen support.

7.5 out of 10
The Japanese-only dialogue is the biggest hindrance, and the gameplay is exactly what you'd expect from a Dynasty Warriors game, but the whole package is still an extremely fun play, especially for the lower price of $40. Check it out on the Playstation Network!

Bonus Level:
Want some more Gundam fun? Check out the hilarious Game Grumps playing an older Gundam game: "Gundam Battle Assault 2" HERE!