Sunday, August 30, 2015

Anime review: Jojo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders - Battle in Egypt

Picking up directly where the mid-season break left off, the Egypt arc of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure sees Jotaro Kujo and the rest of the Stardust Crusaders facing down the last remaining loyal followers of Dio. Most notable among these foes are the Nine Egyptian Gods, foes whose Stands prove among the most intimidating and powerful the heroes have encountered yet. And at the end of the journey, in mansion deep within the heart of Cairo, awaits the main villain himself, Dio Brando. Yet, the Stardust Crusaders have a few cards up their sleeve, revealing clever and previously unseen applications of their Stands, a few assists from the Speedwagon Foundation, and a new ally in the form of the temperamental and selfish Iggy, a scrappy dog who wields the Stand known as The Fool.

This second half of the Stardust Crusaders anime feels more tightly-wound, its narrative more focused. From the moment the heroes set foot in the Egyptian desert, there is a sense of urgency about their journey that was no so prevalent in the first season. The stakes are also higher, with these new villains challenging Jotaro and company in battles of wits or other indirect means, while those that do fight them outright play host to some of the series’ stranger but more memorable Stands.

The voice work is superb, all around. While the core has the obvious task of carrying the show from one episode to the next, the villains who appear for only two episodes at a time leave a lasting, often humorous impression. As is only appropriate, Dio’s presence commands as much attention as they show can offer Stardust Crusaders chief villain. The final confrontation between Jotaro and Dio is among the most intense and rewarding endgame battles in any anime of this episode count I’ve come across.

Meanwhile, the vast majority of Dio’s loyal henchmen and women receive ample screen time as well. Some of the fights feel perhaps a bit more drawn out than necessary, but by and large, it is to the series’ benefit, as practically zero of the finer details are left out from the manga version, and the battles are not resolved in too quick a time frame that would negate the drama and intensity. Each member of the main cast undergoes significant maturation since the outset of their journey, and it’s wonderful to see just how naturally this is conveyed. Later episodes play at viewer’s emotions with masterful technique, as there are callbacks to the earliest moments of the Stardust Crusaders’ quest, as well as a severe gravity of present events as they unfold.

The animation budget seems to have received a considerable boost since the first half aired, which in and of itself gradually improved in quality from the airing of its first episode to its twenty-fourth. While most characters stick to a particular color palette for their clothing, scenes where the Stand fights become especially intense warp to more psychedelic colors, a nice nod to manga author Hirohiko Araki’s tendency to present variations on the previously-established appearances of characters. The soundtrack is catchy, moody, and always appropriate, with rock influences playing in subtly as Stands clash and the Stardust Crusaders scour Egyptian streets for any clues that might lead them to Dio.

Stardust Crusaders does offer a definitive conclusion to its own arc, and does provide a satisfying endgame for the three story arcs thus far. However, there is still plenty of money to be made by David Production should they choose to animate Diamond is Unbreakable and other later arcs of the manga, and I have no doubt they would do a similarly stellar job adapting the stories of Josuke Higashikata, Giorno Giovanna, Jolyne Kujo, and so on. It has been many years since an anime left as strong an impact on me as Stardust Crusaders has managed, but I believe it is safe to say that David Production has made one of the greatest adapted anime series of all time. In so far as I am concerned, Stardust Crusaders has earned its place among the company of Neon Genesis Evangelion, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, and Unicorn Gundam as one of the most impressive works of its medium.

My rating: 9.75 (out of 10)

My rating for the Stardust Crusaders series as a whole: 10 (out of 10)

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Comic Book review: Black Science, Volume Three: Vanishing Pattern

The final act in the first arc of Rick Remender’s Black Science continues to thrill with wildly inventive hodge-podge realities and a more pinpointed take on the established narrative style than was seen in the previous two volumes. As volume two concluded, we were made privy to the fact that Grant McKay was in fact alive, despite having been led to believe he had perished beneath the crushing weight of clockwork machinery. And smartly, this third volume makes an early objective of explaining just how the scientist, pioneer, and previously deadbeat dad cheated death. The explanation is brief, yet befitting the tale that has been woven through the previous installments, and simultaneously provides some concrete footing for the answers that are revealed before this third volume’s climactic finale.

If there is one theme that rings constant through volume three, dubbed Vanishing Pattern, it is a story of redemption – specifically, the redemption of Grant McKay in the eyes of his children and unlikely comrades. There are still misunderstandings among the exploration team, and selfish actions that lead to physical confrontations. But the emergence of a father who actually cares about his children and the chance to see them reach home safely is a rewarding payoff having understood Grant to have previously been a cheater, a liar, and a workaholic who was absent for the majority of his children’s formative years. It may not a complete hero’s journey, but it is refreshing to see him act the part of a decent human being, not only taking responsibility for his poor judgment in the past, but also taking the role of leader more seriously.

Meanwhile, Grant’s children appear to have a greater stake in the story as a result of their placing faith in their father. While Nate received a healthy amount of time in the spotlight during Black Science’s second volume, his elder sister Pia takes center stage for a couple of chapters in this third volume, standing up to a couple of key characters who would dare to try and tell her to sit back and let the adults make decisions on her behalf. While it is true that the cast has been thinned a decent amount since Black Science’s first chapter, the dynamics played off among the current band of misfits feels the most natural and manageable yet. Grant still does not trust Kadir, and Kadir may not be out to prove himself a hero to anyone, but it is that very uneasiness between the two most action-oriented males of the party that makes their relationship so perfect.

Vanishing Pattern sees the party visit but one lone world, whose situation is worse than ever. In this reality, the counterparts to Grant, Shawn, Rebecca, and the other cast members concocted some form of virus that spread across the planet – a planet where Roman Praetorians make use of jetpacks, wrist-bound flamethrowers, and other space-age tech in their quest to punish those who allied themselves with the scientists who damned their world. As is the case with nearly every encounter made across the various planes of reality the main cast has made, the initial run-in with these royal warriors turns violent quickly, and they slowly but surely begin to unravel the mysteries of what went so horribly wrong in this world, while simultaneously deducing the pattern of events that has led them to this place and time.

As random as the Pillar’s jumps appeared to have been, there is, in fact, a pattern that is revealed, as well as an intended vector. Volume three does not answer all of Black Science’s lingering questions, but it does clear up a few key mysteries prevalent during this first act. The art style is, once again, superb throughout, with terrifyingly gorgeous decayed cityscapes splashed across full pages, and the high-flying action of jetpack chases expressed with incredible intensity. The oranges and reds of blood and fire clash violently against the dull and darkened interior of this world’s facilities, wonderfully symbolic of the death and destruction that has been wrought upon this reality, as well as how starkly out of place the exploration team is as strangers in yet another strange land. The finale is, yet again, a cliffhanger – one that excels in shock and horror, yet feels a very appropriate tail-end to this more intensely-focused portion of Black Science’s grander narrative.

My rating: 9.25 (out of 10)

Xbox 360 review: Shadows of the Damned

Shadows of the Damned is, in many ways, simpler in design than some of the more well-known Grasshopper Manufacture games. The story tells of Garcia Hotspur, a leather-jacket wearing and tattoo-decorated demon hunter who is brimming with hardened attitude, on a journey into the depths of hell to rescue the soul of his beloved Paula. Garcia is accompanied by Johnson, a demon who has renounced his hellish nature at the cost of losing his body and being reduced to a flaming skull. Johnson is both tour guide and weapon to Garcia, transforming from a simple torch to three different firearms – pistol, machine gun, and shotgun – each of which receives appropriate, fun and inventive upgrades as the plot progresses.

From the earliest moments of the game, the dynamic between Garcia and Johnson proves among Shadows of the Damned’s highest points. Johnson always has a timely quip to lend to the narrative, and even pokes fun at Garcia’s reading skills during one of the optional storybook segments which offers further exposition to the game’s handful of boss characters. Shadows of the Damned is less reliant on pop culture references than other Suda51 creations like No More Heroes or Lollipop Chainsaw, and the majority of humor therein is quite crude. As such, the delivery sometimes falls flat, but the game never shies away from a fast-paced and intense balls-to-the-wall presentation.

Shadows of the Damned presents a wonderfully cohesive vision of hell that strings together environments that are twisted mockeries of earthly planes within impossible spaces, while sprinkling in fairy tales of the boss characters’ falls to damnation. There are occasional, if not relatively small areas to explore or travel back to in search of an upgrade gem, but by and large, Shadows of the Damned follows a very linear progression through each of its stages. It does offer a solid variety of fun and wildly different gameplay elements that pop up from time to time, including a turret segment and a bowling minigame. The weak link among these is a side-scrolling shoot-‘em-‘up segment reminiscent of a particular stage in Grasshopper Manufacture’s 2D action platformer Black Knight Sword, but here, it feels not only awkwardly pasted in, but more of an annoying hurdle than a clever spin on the established familiar third-person shooter gameplay.

On the subject of the three firearms at Garcia’s disposal, they each bear grounded designs that become increasingly alien and appropriate given the game’s netherworld setting. Red gems upgrade the rate of fire, ammo capacity, reload speed, and so forth for each, as well as the quick-time melee responses for Johnson’s torch form. Each of the firearms performs well in taking down enemies that require particular strategies to be defeated, and overall, these three weapons handle in a manner that is equally balanced between familiar standards of the shooter genre and fresh gameplay variety, and are thus highly intuitive. Much as these guns do well at felling foes, they also serve to solve a number of short-lived but mildly thought-provoking puzzles.

Tunnels filled with shadowy mists that connect portions of some of the game’s levels, as well as moving floors and staircases, incorporate a dash of adventure gameplay. At times, ammo for particular weapons can be sparse, though Garcia can always count on a demon-human hybrid mutant with a hillbilly accent to offer up his wares at a small price at least once per level. The soundtrack is rockin’ from start to finish, with mellow industrial tunes reminiscent of Silent Hill dipping in frequently – fitting, not only due to the game’s narrative direction and themes, but also because the soundtrack was scored by Akira Yamoka.

Shadows of the Damned is not a particularly difficult game, nor is it a particularly lengthy one. There will be learning curves associated with chase sequences at a mere two or three junctures, but beyond those momentary hurdles, players should have no trouble blasting their way through the hordes of hell to reach Garcia’s beloved Paula. The boss fights each present a new strategy, and are enjoyable across the board, though they certainly do not leave as lasting an impression as the boss encounters in Grasshopper Manufacture’s action entries of No More Heroes or Killer is Dead. Perhaps Shadows of the Damned clocking in shy of the ten hour mark is just as well, given the rather straightforward tale that is spun along the way, and the moderate amount of replay value it offers.

My rating: 7.25 (out of 10)

Monday, August 17, 2015

Comic Book review: Divinity

Divinity is my first exposure in any capacity to Valiant comics, and while I typically don’t tread too far from Marvel and the occasional Image series, I found its premise of a Soviet cosmonaut returning after a thirty-year mission with godlike powers to be compelling enough to gamble on a purchase. It is clear from the outset that, while we as readers are being fed the background information regarding the Soviet Union’s role in the space race and their advanced engineering methods, narrator and main character Abram Adams no longer perceives these events in a set sequence as his fellow earthlings do. From the first page, Divinity provides a very strong showing of the defining traits of its pivotal character and his impressive powers, as he rescues a man from injury in the Australian outback, and transforms other individuals into their true selves, whether these new forms involve regaining their youth or becoming wild animals.

Abram Adams has the power to create and manipulate – as well as, presumably, destroy – in the blink of an eye, and the events between the beginning of his training for the bold 1960s journey to the stars and his sudden return to modern day Earth are sprinkled in at a gradual but appropriate pace. Even with fringe science designs for both the rocket and space suit, the wonder and terror of what lies unknown far beyond our own blue planet is weaves a compelling plot that is quite convincing within this fictional retelling of history. There are difficult choices to be made, even before the mission begins, and – for better or worse – the ramifications of these will stay with Abram for the rest of his days.

Where Divinity's quality falls short is through its insistence on shoehorning other Valiant heroes into what was otherwise a great standalone origin story. Perhaps if Abram had a brief encounter with one of the heroes, it would have served its purpose in assimilating him into Valiant’s preexisting comic book universe more smoothly. Instead, the entire second half of this graphic novel sees Abrams portrayal shift from main character to primary objective of X-O Manowar, Ninjak, and couple of other previously established heroes who act as anything but in their attempt to contain Abram after no obvious threat was posed from him. These characters invade the narrative in as harsh a manner possible, and from that point on, the story is about their first encounter with Abram, their perceptions of him as an inexplicable danger, which robs the second act of nearly all the aspects that made the previous half such an enjoyable read.

I understand that any comic label that is larger and has more budget to work with than the indie scene wants to bring all of their properties together and coexist within the same space of fiction. But an origin story needs to be just that – the origin of one important character or team. Divinity has a truly commendable first two chapters, but manages to get so steeped in the much during the latter half that it simply loses its fun factor. It’s true that the Marvel Now! properties did feature cameos by Tony Stark and Beta Ray Bill early on in their runs of Guardians of the Galaxy and Nova respectively, but these inclusions never warped the entire presentation or focus of their stories in the way that Divinity’s invasion of heroes does. Despite an open ending with the possibility for many more stories involving Abram and the people he impacted in the Australian outback, the conclusion of his story for this first trade paperback collection is, bluntly put, lazy and unsatisfying.

My rating: 6 (out of 10)

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Comic Book review: Guardians of the Galaxy & X-Men: The Black Vortex

Following up on the previous X-Men/Guardians of the Galaxy team-up, this latest mini-crossover sees Star-Lord, Rocket Raccoon, Drax the Destroyer, Gamora, and Groot, with Captain Marvel and Agent Venom in tow, cross paths with two teams of X-Men: the modern day team, led by Storm, and the time-displaced youthful versions of Jean Grey, Iceman, Beast, Angel, and Cyclops, who were largely at the center of their last encounter. This time, the premise is heavier on the cosmic fanfare typical of Guardians comics. An ancient artifact known as the Black Vortex has fallen into the hands of Star-Lord’s nefarious father J’son, and so Peter Quill and his now-girlfriend Kitty Pide decide to steal it from him, not understanding the extent of its powers, but knowing that J’Son only intends to make use of it for his own selfish, evil ends.

This trade hardcover collects significantly more issues than a typical Marvel release – mind you, it’s not as thick a graphic novel as the likes of much larger crossover events like Infinity, but a little more than twice the size of a regular single trade release. Included are Guardians of the Galaxy & X-Men: The Black Vortex Alpha #1, Guardians of the Galaxy #24-25, Legendary Star-Lord #9-11, All-New X-Men #38-39, Guardians Team-Up #3, Nova #28, Cyclops #12, Captain Marvel #14, and Guardians of the Galaxy & X-Men: The Black Vortex Omega #1. While it is a breath of fresh air to have characters like Captain Marvel, Nova, and even Ronan the Accuser steal the spotlight for a bit, their time on center stage is very brief, and this ties into The Black Vortex’s most prominent problem: there is simply too much going on in this storyline.

At the outset, accounting for the Guardians, present day X-Men, and their youthful X-Men tagalong companions, there are sixteen heroes on the playing field, pitted against J’son, his loyal team of Slaughter Lords, Thanos’ Inhuman son Thane, and Ebony Maw. And they only add more characters from that point forth, granting most of the characters only one major moment of heroism. In a similar vein, there are nearly a half-dozen subplots that the story jumps through, some of which are meant to round out narratives set in motion quite some time ago, such as where Thane disappeared to after he escaped Earth in Infinity, and the romance between Peter Quill and Kitty Pride. On their own, each of these smaller stories are decent, but when they get tossed into the already complicated mix that is The Black Vortex, many of them ultimately feel like distractions from the main plot.

That main plot, of course, being concerned with the mystic and dark powers that the Black Vortex can bestow upon anyone who willingly submits themselves to it. Almost immediately following its acquisition by Peter and Kitty, there is an involved debate over whether or not the heroes should take advantage of it. While some of the more level-headed characters are opposed to taking such a huge gamble with an unknown artifact, and Drax thinks it should simply be destroyed, the Slaughter Lords descend upon them, weapons drawn. In the heat of the ensuing battle, Gamora, Beast, and Angel all submit to the Black Vortex, upgrading to incredibly powerful versions of themselves, albeit at the cost of being detached from mortal concepts of time, space, and morality.

While this second crossover of the two teams certainly leans closer to the territory of Guardians of the Galaxy, it is written with the intent that it is easier to access for any readers that might not have a wealth of familiarity with the cosmic misadventures of Star-Lord, Drax, Gamora, Rocket, and Groot. The tradeoff for this, however, is that the writing style is dumbed down considerably, to the point where it is somewhat boring dialogue throughout for anyone who has been following along with the Guardians comics as of late. Iceman is fun during the moments that he is allowed to get in a few quips, and Nova’s standalone comic is still up to the quality I’ve come to expect from his current ongoing series, but when all is said and done, the heroes who see the best payoff in terms of noteworthy character development from The Black Vortex are Star-Lord, Kitty Pride, Cyclops, Gamora, and Beast. The rest of the cast fills in the gaps - Storm and Captain Marvel championing mentor and leader roles, while X-23, Agent Venom, and Rocket are conveniently absent or simply forgotten about for the majority of this tale.

My rating: 6 (out of 10)

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Comic Book Update: “I am as far beyond mutants as they are beyond you!”

I’m going to be altering the format with which I handle comic book/graphic novel reviews from this point forward. While I certainly feel there is a benefit to seeing the visual artwork and layout of the graphic novel format within a video review, the comments sections of my YouTube videos have, over the course of the last year or so, become increasingly populated by lazy, rude, and overly demanding individuals. As such, comic book reviews going forward will be adopting a format similar to my video game and anime reviews. With perhaps rare exceptions, I still expect to review individual volumes of a longer running storyline, as opposed to the entirety of that storyline. However, when the end of the year ‘Top 5 Comic Books of 2015’ list is posted (alongside my ‘Top 5’ lists for video games and anime) it will list my best-of-the-best selections for this year as the sum of its parts – or, at the very least, the extent of what has been released before the end of December 2015. In short, my comic book reviews are not going away, they are simply seeing a format change that will be more in line with the style I have already established for my video game and anime reviews.

With that order of business taken care of, what follows is the current list of upcoming reviews. Keep in mind that I have no concrete date in mind for the posting of these reviews, only that they will be coming sooner rather than later. From the Marvel Now! line, I’m still following along with Nova and Guardians of the Galaxy, and while the latter won’t see its fifth proper installment released until later this year, I recently finished the second crossover with the X-Men, titled The Black Vortex. I also picked up the first volume of Angela: Asgard’s Assassin, as I rather enjoyed how they opted to introduce her character in the Guardians of the Galaxy run, and am hopeful that a solo series of her own can garner a solid balance between Marvel’s cosmic and fantasy realms. It certainly doesn’t hurt that she kicks all kind of ass on her journeys of self-discovery.

I also recently finished Thanos: The Infinity Relativity, the second of three original graphic novels by Jim Starlin, focusing on the Mad Titan himself, as well as plenty of other familiar cosmic Marvel faces. And I continue plugging away at the magnum opus that is X-Men: Age of Apocalypse, a series which, frankly, has no right holding up as well as it does in this day and age (it continues to blow me away, in the best ways possible). In a similar gamble to Black Science, I decided to pick up Divinity from Valiant Comics (a label with which I have no prior knowledge of), as it too dabbles in the territory of fringe science and men playing gods. Meanwhile, the third volume of Black Science is en route to me as I write this, and in all likelihood, I will power through this latest release on the day it arrives on my doorstep.

While I typically wait for the trade paperback releases of comics to purchase them, some of the current Marvel Secret Wars/Battleworld storylines proved too appealing for me to pass up, and so I am currently reading X-Men ’92, Inhumans: Attlian Rising, Guardians of Knowhere, Age of Ultron vs. Marvel Zombies, Armor Wars (2015), and Age of Apocalypse (2015). Currently, X-Men ’92 is my favorite of the bunch, but Age of Ultron vs. Marvel Zombies is proving a surprisingly solid read as well. I’m only one issue into Age of Apocalypse, so I can’t properly gauge that series as of yet, while Inhumans: Attilan Rising, despite being one of the more wildly inventive offerings from the bunch, has not yet left as strong an impression on me as most of the other series. Perhaps it will prove a slow burn. Either way, I certainly appreciate the fact that these storylines will all be limited runs, and that Marvel isn’t pretending that the Secret Wars/Battleworld mish-mashing of different places and times in their history is in anything but temporary. On a side note, I have been reading the main Secret Wars series on loan from a friend, and it is easily one of the better crossover events in recent history – possibly a better read than Infinity, depending on how these upcoming later issues play out. More likely than not, I’ll end up purchasing the Secret Wars trade paperback before year’s end.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Wii U review: Splatoon

Each time you boot up Splatoon, the celebrity Squid Sisters of the game’s fictional realm will list off the maps currently in rotation for both ranked and unranked playlists, capping their announcement with warm wishes that every inkling girl and boy “stay fresh!” And that is exactly what Splatoon brings to the table – a fresh hybrid of third-person shooter combat, sandwiching platform and action elements between its other major design point of painting the stage in neon ink colors. At its core, Splatoon is a team-oriented shooter where the objective is not so much offing enemy team members, rather attempting to cover as much of the map as possible in your team’s respective color. With perhaps a slight hint of Super Mario Sunshine playing into Splatoon’s inspiration, and certainly more than a small dose of Jet Set Radio, this spunky, upbeat I.P. is a welcome addition to the Wii U, as well as to the online gaming community for the way it manages to shake up so many staples of the shooter genre with simple tweaks.

The novelty of all this, of course, would wear thin rather quickly if the game suffered from lag or connection issues. While this was certainly a fully merited concern prior to the game’s release given Nintendo’s often less-than-stellar performance of online components of Wii titles like Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Splatoon has – against all expectations – the best connection record of any multiplayer online game I’ve ever managed to get my hands on. The two or three times I encountered any form of lag were during the first weeks following Splatoon’s launch, and they were marginal, at worst, lasting only a brief few seconds. Occasionally, the game will be unable to connect to matches during server maintenance periods, but these roadblocks are short-lived and only to be expected. And the frequency with which new, free content such as additional maps, weapons, and game modes are trickled into the mix is more than sufficient compensation for these segments of downtime.

Painting the town orange or purple or lime green or whatever your team’s assigned color is remains a constant across the entire experience, though ranked matches do introduce both ‘king of the hill’ and ‘capture the flag’ variants in the forms of Splatzones and Tower Control, with more game modes on the way. Single player has players navigate short but increasingly creative and visually appealing stages as they battle enemy Octolings in order to rescue captured cute and yellow Zapfish. This story mode does not boast the most complex narrative, nor does it last more than a few hours, but the sheer variety of environment designs, thoughtful strategies regarding boss battles, and overall fun factor make it worth diving into. A one-on-one local multiplayer mode is also included, wherein players compete to pop balloons for the most points, but is significantly less meaty and also less enjoyable than the other main modes.

Splatoon does have a couple of significant drawbacks, however. The single player mode, while short and sweet, offers up blueprints for new weapons for those who do a little bit of exploration. The Amiibo functionality for this game works the same way, offering remixed versions of select single player stages with different weapons loadouts, and rewarding players with some of the game’s coolest costumes as well as a couple of extra armament options. However, if you did not purchase these Splatoon Amiibo, you are fresh out of luck, unless Nintendo decides to release these as paid DLC items in the future.

The other big hit against this original I.P. is the fact that, within any given multiplayer playlist, there are only two maps in rotation at any given time. Matches are fast, lasting only three minutes each, and you’ll see a lot of the same environments in rapid succession. Throwing a couple more maps in rotation at a time would have circumvented this issue entirely, though the game does switch up the maps that are in rotation quite frequently, which slightly eases the blandness of being dropped into Blackbelly Skatepark six times in a row.

While Splatoon may not boast an abundance of multiplayer maps, the selection it does offer includes design variations that are greatly appreciated, and work well with the different game modes. The rises and dips of Blackbelly Skatepark provide a reasonably sized outer ring for players to quickly propel through in squid form before taking to two legs and entering the firefight-focused center. The Kelp Dome is one of the game’s larger maps, and allows for players to shoot down from a catwalk on opponents below, albeit at the risk of being more greatly exposed to return fire. Port Mackerel and Arowana Mall provide more traditional symmetrical settings, while the winding ramps and square arena of Saltspray Rig host matches that can drastically shift at a moment’s notice.

Unranked matches will net you experience points regardless of whether you win or lose, while ranked matches only reward experience points to winners and subsequently move your letter ranking up or down based on performance. Leveling up grants you access to new weapons or variants of previous ones with alternate stats and loadouts. Much like the game’s clothing items, these weapons cost experience points to claim as your own.

However wildly different two weapons might be, they will always offer pros and cons, so as to keep the entire experience balanced. As a result, the weapons players choose are bound to be the ones they enjoy and are most confident with. While the roller covers a large area, it has minimal range, and is generally ill-suited for fighting other players. The brush splatters paint rapidly from side to side, but handles in an unusual manner, and drains ink rather quickly. Likewise, building up your charge meter to unleash brief but very powerful and broad range of the Killer Wail plays to a much different audience than the timed free-roam invincibility of the Kraken.

Clothing items grant you bonuses such as the ability to conserve ink, a slightly improved buffer when under enemy fire, faster respawn times, and so forth. These are attributed at random upon earning a set amount of experience points while donning a particular shirt, hat, or pair of shoes in battle. These skills do not carry over from one article of clothing to another, however, the sea snails that are earned as rewards for participating in Splatfests – Splatoon’s poll-based tournaments in which Team Cat is pitted against Team Dog, Team Marshmallow against Team Hot Dog, and so forth – can be exchanged for extra skill slots, or to re-roll slots on pieces of clothing which already have these slots filled up.

Gibberish inkling vocals add a further level of depth to the wonderfully-crafted soundtrack. The game’s musical offerings draw inspiration from electropop, J-pop, punk, and even rock sounds that border on the thrash range. Combine this with the spunky and colorful character models, and a nautical reimagining of Tokyo’s Shibuya Crossing as the hubworld menu, and you have a recipe for a truly unique and endearing property. Splatoon is a sensory bombardment at every turn, but never to an overwhelming degree. Above all else, Splatoon is exceptionally weird, fun for players of all skill levels, and a welcome break from the familiar.

My rating: 8.75 (out of 10)
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