Do-Re-Mi Fantasy is an excellent, fan-translated platformer for the SNES, even if it’s lacking the subtle quality that makes the difference between outstanding and merely very good. The graphics are well done, very cute (if that’s not your thing, better avoid this one), seven overworlds, each with their own theme and each with around five or six levels. There’s quite an attention to detail when it comes to the animation, which can be seen for example in the lovely and hilarious cutscenes that advance the plot. All in all it’s very enjoyable and fun to play, even if has no real hooks to sink into your brain and remain there lodged for all time.
Here’s the original translation patch by Gajin Productions, the newest version of that one and the update by RPGone, which is the most complete patch of all three.
Gate of Thunder is an excellent shoot’em up for the PC-Engine that reminds me of the classic R-Type games (okay, it’s not much younger than those, but they were the ones I played first). The game sports a wide range of levels, enemies and bosses, all with excellent animation, even if most of the stuff feels slightly like stuff I’ve seen in other shoot’em ups and nothing gives you the vibe of real uniqueness. That said it’s all high quality, very well executed. If you want a good and demanding game, Gate of Thunder won’t disappoint.
The most recent animated series of the Fantastic Four sports excellent animation and has probably the best characterization of all animated FF series to date (only Johnny is still annoying as fuck). It’s still doesn’t work for me. Some of the reasons are obvious, again they tried to inject rather weak humor through annoying neighbors, others are more subtle. There are many small, even minuscule ridiculous and preposterous elements spread over the series, that aren’t instantly obvious, but in time will cumulate to the feeling that the writers either didn’t liked the series at all or were just plain stupid. Advanced, yet incredibly stupid aliens, an A.I. that is completely annoying and useless, enemies that don’t really have a reason to act and the habit of the characters to fall out of their role to act stupid for plot related reason.
If the narrative/characterization had been as good as the animation, this could have been excellent, but as it is, it’s just mediocrity under a shiny surface. Shame, really.
Aygar is about a certain kind of mythological creature that is far to prevalent in modern fantastic culture, but the book still manages to tell a great story. I’m not saying what kind of creature, but even the most slow-witted reader will have figured it out after reading only a little.
Aygar, the main character, is a mix of charm and ruthlessness. He’s the narrator of the story, a rather unreliable one. Seeing things through his eyes makes one realize much slower that he also has another side. It’s odd, this is my second read of Agyar and I’d completely forgotten how evil he could be. Thing is, both aspects of him are real, not one a surface to hide the other. He’s both, sometimes kind and nice, sometimes completely cold-blooded and nasty.
What I remembered of my first read were the tragic elements and the love story. This time I think I’ll remember the redemptive parts much better, how Aygar for the first time in a very long time looks upon himself and doesn’t like what he sees. Somehow the book doesn’t feel very tragic anymore, but this only improves it. Sometimes you really can get different things out of a book when you read it at different ages.
And don’t forget to read the prologue again, afterwards. Very clever and satisfying.
Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison has probably the most ridiculous setup I’ve seen for some time. An alternate universe where genetic manipulation became reality after the discovery of genes and a flaw in genetically manipulated tomatoes makes it a carrier for a deadly virus that kills big chunks of the human population around the globe, resulting in all kinds of magical creatures coming out to reveal themselves, since humans don’t pose much of a threat anymore.
And humans fear tomatoes and genetic engineering is outlawed, which is probably the high of stupidity. Which makes it hard for me to dislike the enemy of this first book, who is a big, public figure who secretly does genetic research. Good for him, at least someone has the balls to still do it.
The book is clearly part of the urban fantasy tradition whose most famous series/character is Anita Blake. Harrison’s hero is similar, a strong female character who still has some issues (she fears her flat mate, a female vampire). I actually liked the book, despite the fact that the setting is so absurd and the book is not really that self-contained (something I loath). You’ll need to read the sequels to get the full story. Still, I liked it, in the end I’m just a sucker for this genre.
This collection by Susan Palwick collects eleven of her stories. I’m a bit torn about whether I liked reading them. The common structure of her stories is that the main character is powerless and living in a world that is always threating them to some extend. It can be a very subtle dystopic setting like in Going After Bobo or the people who you love (Gestella) or even life itself, grounding you down, like in Jo’s Hair. Some of the characters learn to survive, some grow and some fall prey to whatever lurks around.
The stories aren’t depressive, if I’ve given that impression, but they force a certain viewpoint on the reader, which made them rather uncomfortable reading material for me. We all go through your lives with a certain point of view, emphasizing certain facets of the real world, downplaying others or even going so far as trying to exorcise them completely. Palwick stories exhibit a POV that just doesn’t mingle well with mine. In the end, while most of the stories were well written and clever, many of them did make me want to kick the main characters for acting the way they did.
Still, when the stories worked for me, like the titular The Fate of Mice or Going After Bobo and GI Jesus, they are great. I just wish more of them were to my liking.
The final Bonk game on the PC-Engine brings some new gameplay elements, yet still manages to be the less enjoyable than the first two games. Bonk can now change his size, from really big (which is just a gimmick and doesn’t add much to the gameplay, apart from the fact that you run around with a supersized Bonk) to very small (which allows you to venture into some passages that can’t be accessed in normal or supersized mode). There are even more mini-games, accessible in the levels or after beating each level.
The big step backwards is the level design, which has the same thematic problems I mentioned when speaking about the second game, but which adds some gameplay problems as well. Bonk 3 adds very big levels to the mix. While this could have easily been a strength, it turns out exploring them isn’t much fun and more confusing than they should be (a weakness of many western computer platformer with big levels as well). In the end you wish the levels were smaller and tighter, like in the earlier Bonk games.
The sequel to Bonk’s Adventure is a game that doesn’t bring any big alterations, but changes things on a very small scale. Somehow the controls seem a tick better, the level design a tick more compelling, the bosses much more distinct, which all adds up to a game that is, by a small margin, more enjoyable than it’s predecessor.
Things I still don’t like: the levels lack a unique theme, they all have some distinct touches here and there, but in comparison with other games, they still feel like too many elements of earlier levels and even the first game are recycled again and again without adding substantially new content to make it stand out.
This came in a box with four other movies (Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, Twilight of the Dark Master, Golgo 13: Queen Bee and Bio Hunter). So far, one excellent movie and one really awful. Psycho Diver is not as awful as TotDM was, but it’s nowhere near any value of good. It’s about people who can dive into the minds of people and do therapeutic work there.
As neat as the concept is, nobody of the people who worked on the movie seemed to have any idea what to do with it. Maybe because it’s an adaption of a novel by Japanese writer Baku Yumemakura and the source material went over the heads of those involved making the movie.
The main character of the movie, a pyscho diver, feels more like a detective straight out of a noir movie than someone who has the right skill set for handling mental landscapes. The movie also throws in a cult, psychic powers, violence, blood, an obligatory sex scene and an awful voice over by the main character.
Like I said, it’s not as awful as TotDM was, but it’s still a mess. The plot is harebrained, the movie never makes any of the characters appealing, the writing huddles between average and bad and while the animation of the characters is okay, the backgrounds and scenery is very plain and boring.
This recent CGI animated movie, that stars a nicer Tinker Bell than her counterpart in the Peter Pan movies, has two big meme as a payload, one progressive and one rather ancient.
The one I like is the story about the new girl on the block that among all these wonderful sorcerers and wizards discovers that engineering is equally or even more powerful than all the magic. For a movie aimed at teenage girls it seems unusual modern.
The meme I like less is that about the girl that is born into one of many castes and who learns, after rebelling and trying to break out of her destined role, that conformity and acceptance brings happiness. Even if I happen to like the caste in this case (the engineers of the fairies), it still takes away the personal freedom of Tinker Bell to chose who she wants to be. Even if it’s not intentional, it isn’t the best message you can add to a kids movie.