Thursday, 11 January 2018

Nintendo Direct Mini - January 2018

Nintendo Directs are always big news, no matter what the subject of them includes. However, what if one was to never get officially mentioned until it dropped, leaving the gamers in such a frenzy due to cryptic teases that the hype levels exceed that of E3 presentations? This last week in a nutshell. And it wasn’t helped by a load of rumours and leaks back in December either.

This Direct Mini was short and to the point. Starting with a remaster of a popular Square-Enix game. The World Ends With You: Final Remix brings the original DS game to Switch, with new content and the touch controls intact. There’s also traditional controls added for playing on the TV, which I assume many people will want to be doing. My experience with this game is limited to Traverse Town in Kingdom Hearts 3D, but I can certainly see myself going for this since the original has received a massive amount of praise.
Hyrule Warriors Definitive Edition brings all the content from the WiiU and 3DS games – both paid and free – into one ultimate version of the game. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze also gets in on the action, adding Funky Kong with what looks to be an overpowered surfboard. With Fire Emblem Warriors releasing to favourable reviews, having Hyrule return with an ultimate edition makes sense, as does bringing over the Donkey Kong game that few people would have played.
Kirby Star Allies releases March 16, and brings with it two new copy abilities. Artist allows Kirby to paint useable items into the field, while Spider can shoot webs to trap enemies. Mario Tennis Aces is sure to excite Mario Sports fans, as it looks to be returning to more technical days of old. Plus it includes a story mode, which hasn’t been seen for a long time, so the wait for more info to see whether this’ll swing a hit or miss the ball is going to be a long one.

Other games include PAYDAY 2 bringing a timed-exclusive character with it when it launches on February 27, SNK Heroines Tag Team Frenzy bundling a lot of SNK female fighters into a new 2D fighting game, Fe and Celeste being confirmed for the Switch, and Dark Souls Remastered. Also Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana. And a Dragon Quest Builders demo is available to download right now.
Updates to games include Super Mario Odyssey getting an online mode – though not the way you think. Balloon World brings Hide-It and Find-It gameplay to every world, where people hide balloons within the world, and other people have to find them, with a thirty second timer for both hiding and finding. It also brings with it new outfits and new filters for the snapshot mode.
Pokkén Tournament Deluxe has a paid pack coming that will be distributed in two waves. The first bringing Aegislash as a playable ‘mon with Mega Rayquaza and Mimikyu as supports, while the second brings Blastoise to the arena with Mythical ‘mon Mew and Celebi as supports. Mario and Rabbids Kingdom Battle brings DK to the action in a new story.

As I said, it was short and to the point, bringing with it some surprises and a few new additions for the Switch. And it really feels as though the 3DS is just going to be dwindling along in the Switch’s shadow during this year, since everything was for the Switch. The update to Mario Odyssey sounds promising, and The World Ends With You coming to Switch sounds like a perfect idea. I’m going to be trying out the Dragon Quest Builders demo, and no doubt I’ll also be trying one for Hyrule Warriors if it does come. Kirby Star Allies is a definite purchase for me when it comes, but that’s all that interests me from this Direct.
Since everything was to the point, it didn’t feel as though it was dragging on, and even the things I have no interest in had some good trailers. In other words, the Direct was a good one, unless you surpassed hyper mode and found yourself in souring insanity, then nothing short of Super Smash Bros. 4 Switch [or SSB5], Metroid Prime 4 and Pokémon Generation 8 for games with the Virtual Console and everything about what the Online Service will give us could impress. Joking, of course, but the hype really was starting to get annoying.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Rewrite: Sonic Forces [Thoughts]

This is a bit of a surprise, one not announced in the Monthly Update. This series of posts is called Rewrite, where I take a story and – while keeping within what it set up – rewrite it to make it flow better, or to at least make better sense of certain points. For the first one, I thought a recent game would work best, and so I tackle Sonic Forces.

The story of Forces felt as though it just played out for a reason for the levels to be played. However, it tried to go beyond the usual platformer type story for something an action-adventure game might have instead. But it failed for a reason. In trying to be big, it didn’t understand how to do so in the right way. As such, the whole conquered world story just feels like a sub-plot that… Really doesn’t seem to go anywhere, at least until the scenes of ‘the bad guy is defeated so everything is back to normal despite nothing having really changed’ ending that Sonic games seem to have favoured recently. And that’s not counting throwing characters into the story despite having little relevance or bearing on the plot itself. And to start with, the character who regressed the most.
Tails has been said to have given up after Sonic’s capture and ‘death’. Why then, was he shown for the first time as not even fighting at all? I can understand what they were going with – best friend is taken out of the picture and you feel bad for that happening – but something appears to be missing. Think of that scene this way. If Tails was fighting and had called in to Sonic for help, Sonic gives that help, but then the threat of Infinite comes. Sonic and Tails fight together, and when it looks as Sonic is losing the fight, Tails tries to get him away. Infinite knocks him back, and takes Sonic away. Tails tries again to rescue Sonic, but is again knocked back. With Sonic gone, Tails feels he has failed Sonic, and that in turn closes him off from helping others in case he fails them too.
The whole idea of the Phantom Ruby and Infinite I felt needed a bit more of an explanation. Yes, cartoons get away with loads of stuff – such as virtual reality where you can move across entire cities despite not actually leaving the room – but it isn’t the what I have a problem with. The powers of the Ruby seem to be made up on a whim of the writers. It can create illusions of others. Then it somehow allows gravity to change. It has actual attack properties. It can create giant balls of fire to drop down from the sky. There doesn’t seem to be any rules to it. So, the Phantom Ruby allows illusions to be created that can attack but can’t be touched by others. However, these illusions can only be used within a certain distance of the Ruby. Such a simple rule that has many applications. And with Infinite, it’s a case of just being a robot specifically created to protect the Ruby with self-preservation properties. When Eggman uses it to attack others, he doesn’t expect it to get damaged. But when Sonic, Avatar, and Classic get in on some action, it’s self-preservation properties come into effect and it runs from the fight.
Which then brings us to the Avatar. The idea I have for him is borrowing a bit from Infinite’s actual backstory, in the fact that this Avatar is part of a squad who Infinite is attacking. With only Avatar left, Infinite taunts the Avatar into attacking, which misses. Infinite knocks Avatar out with an attack, again seeing him the same he did with Tails in this version of the story. Beaten and broken, and no longer a threat. However, unlike Tails, Avatar wakes up in the resistance base’s infirmary wanting to get back into the fight. And get back to the fight Avatar does.
All other characters are pretty much fine. Silver comes from the future to stop the latest threat from turning the world to ruin. Knuckles heads down to the surface to offer his help, having seen the power play at hand. The Chaotix are hired to go under cover and find out about Eggman’s plans, and where his attacks are going to be. And Sonic is the same as ever, just a guy willing to stop Eggman from his latest evil plans. Amy I feel only goes for the adventure when she has a personal stake in it. Adventure had her helping a bird being attacked, and Heroes she was in it for her friends, same as Adventure 2. Since there’s a lot more help here, I feel she’d take a different approach in helping. So while the story doesn’t use her, she’d still be around the base.

In terms of gameplay, several elements of that are also changed slightly. All bosses except the final one are against Infinite, using one of the four villain illusions for his attacks. The final boss itself is changed to resemble an actual level, and the main addition is Tails and Classic are teamed up in more than just story. See, the reason Classic is even here is to get Tails fighting again. Happy to see a Sonic, Tails then travels with Classic for most of the time. To make the ending hit just that bit more, have the two teamed up in gameplay, making the final farewell that bit sweeter.
For the plot itself, after Avatar wakes in the infirmary, the city they are in needs defending, with Vector calling in to say they’ve seen a whole lot of robots marching to the city. At this point, it has only been a month after that first scene instead of six. The idea being that Eggman hasn’t conquered the world, but is in the process of doing so. Having first captured the capital and lesser defended areas, his plan is to take the last piece of the region – the city where the resistance is located.
Meanwhile, Tails is out in the jungle, having found Omega. The reasoning for moving Omega out to the jungle is to highlight the differences between the main resistance and Team Dark. Episode Shadow would be different, in that Team Dark have an operation in place to storm Eggman’s fortress. Omega had gone on ahead, with Shadow as the rear guard. However, Omega was found within the base and reprogrammed to attack Shadow. With Omega deactivated, Shadow captures a vehicle to escape from the base. The vehicle gets shot down in the jungle – where Team Dark’s base is – but Shadow has to leave Omega behind and run for it, as Infinite uses a Shadow illusion to attack the real Shadow. Since Tails had left the resistance, he had met up with Shadow, where he had offered to find Omega after hearing this story. Team Dark operates as a single entity, with no contact with the resistance at all. They make quick, hard strikes against Eggman, and return to the shadows so they can’t be found. Tails is working on Omega when he gets attacked by water, with Infinite appearing and confronting Tails. Tails tries to fight, but Chaos manages to hold him down. Tails closes his eyes, wishing Sonic would save him just as he should have done Sonic. When he opens them again, Classic is stood looking at Tails and Chaos is gone. This opens the first boss battle, with Chaos reappearing to help in the fight. Infinite’s self-preservation coding makes him run, and Classic helps Tails with Omega.
The resistance has put a group together to test the defences at Green Hill, and after seeing data that Omega had started to download, Team Dark plan another mission to get into Eggman’s fortress. As that plan is executed, Avatar’s team gets sent to the Chemical Plant to shut it down. However, they find that a new Death Egg has been constructed up in space, and a mass production of Death Egg Robots is happening. That leads to an attack on the Death Egg itself.

Sonic reenters the picture during the Death Egg attack, when the energy field holding him glitches out. Released, he runs away looking for an escape, but Infinite catches up to him, and a Zavok illusion appears to attack. Sonic attacks Infinite enough for Zavok to disappear, and when Infinite goes to attack Sonic himself, Avatar appears. Sonic radios to the resistance from Avatar’s communicator, and the plan is laid out to Sonic. The Death Egg Robots are about to be sent out, with Sonic and Avatar being nearest to the weapon controls. All but three of the robots are destroyed, and Knuckles says that those robots are more important at the moment.
Tails and Classic have downloaded the data that Omega had started on, and the information about the Phantom Ruby is revealed. Shadow intends to use the data for his own purposes. Rouge has information about an attack happening by the resistance at Green Hill. With Tails saying that maybe he should return to them. But to do so he needs to prove he is willing to help them again.
The attack on the pyramid of Green Hill takes place, with Classic and Tails watching it happen. Sonic gets called to the Chemical Plant after the attack to finally shut it down, while Avatar is to return to the base for a meeting about a big attack. Thus commences the shutting down of the Death Egg Robots that attack the region. The first is being used as a guard against attack in the capital. Avatar destroys it but gets caught in a fight against Infinite, who has summoned Metal Sonic for attack. Infinite is beaten back again, and Avatar gets tasked to the jungle to attack the second robot. Avatar isn’t able to beat it, so Sonic gets tasked to fight it. Tails overhears Sonic at the Chemical Plant, and struggles to believe it as real. He also feels that failing a friend who still lives is worse than knowing they’ve been killed. With the second robot defeated, the third is at the city, heading to destroy the place the resistance are. Sonic and Avatar beat it, and as Tails and Classic head through the city the two groups meet. Tails struggles to say it, but he confesses he failed Sonic. Sonic says that by continuing the fight, he hadn’t failed at all.

The final push includes a fight against Infinite again, but this time with a Shadow illusion. Sonic at first believes this to be the real one, but when the real one emerges to attack Infinite, the story comes out. Then, the final attack on Eggman’s fortress comes into play. To make sure no surprises are waiting, Classic and Tails are sent to the Death Egg to destroy it. Once it does, numerous teams enter the city, and Avatar has a new squad. When he sees Infinite, Avatar follows, instructing the others to carry on without him. Both are then warped to Null Space. Null Space in this version being an illusion of red covering the whole city, where taking a step forward will get you attacked. Deciding their speed will help them avoid the attacks, the two rush through the capital and catch up to Infinite. A single attack returns the world to normal, and it is clear Infinite had been using the full power of itself to maintain that illusion as it is unable to call another one to attack. Forgetting about it’s self-preservation coding, it attacks the two but is defeated. The Ruby pops out from its casing, and Avatar is about to destroy it when Eggman swoops in and claims it. The two head through the Fortress’ tower to the top, where Eggman has installed the Ruby into the base itself. The dome breaks free from the tower, and it turns into a walking robot. Both Sonic and Avatar chase after it and charge into the robot to topple it. The Ruby is now fully powered into the base, and creates an illusion that merges a Death Egg Robot to the base. A shuttle crashes into it, causing a glitch, allowing Sonic and Avatar to jump inside. The first part of the boss fight involves running up through the red inside of the robot and up to the base itself, avoiding attacks. The second part is within the base itself, and Sonic, Avatar, and Classic – who charged in from the top with Tails during the first part – all hit the Ruby which had moved with the first two strikes. The Ruby starts to show signs of strain, and the Death Egg Robot illusion disappears. Eggman, sensing defeat, controls the base robot to run away. However, the four catch up and land the final blow to shatter the Ruby. Eggman using his Egg Pod to try and make a quick getaway, but Avatar uses his grappling wire to hit the engines, which overloads them and sends Eggman flying away out of control. Classic starts to fade, and Tails realises that his wish must have been granted by the Ruby, which means now that it has been destroyed, Classic can no longer stay. The ending is roughly the same, but with it taking place fully at the capital instead of moving back to the resistance base. Sonic and Tails head out to another adventure – which is fixing something I found strange about the original. Tails felt bad about Sonic being captured. Surely after Sonic is back and the day is won, he’ll want to be hanging with Sonic again? Unless he still feels a bit awkward about the whole thing, but the story doesn’t seem to even suggest that. Avatar, along with his new squad, are heading out to tackle the last of the robots still around.

This version gives the Death Egg Robots a plot related reason to exist, where they were just there originally. As explained, it also gives some rules to the Ruby’s powers, and a better reason for Infinite’s defeats. It removes the idea that Eggman’s plan needs three days to execute, as well as the fact that plan was nothing but having the Ruby generate a boiling mass of light. Plans can change, but if the Ruby was charging that and constantly being used at the same time, then that’s some overpowered Ruby. I admit by changing the rules of the Ruby it spoils the idea that Mania is a prequel to Classic’s involvement in Forces, but the focus of this rewrite isn’t on Mania. However, as a footnote for Mania, the story of that game can still stand. It just means Eggman knew about the Ruby from a long time ago, but was unable to recreate it perfectly for future use.

Monday, 1 January 2018

January '18 Monthly Update [Network]

Happy New Year, everyone, and here's to a great 2018. And this year is going to be great for me, I will make sure of that. It's also going to be great for content updates, as I hope this month will prove.

First off, you'll have seen I've been quiet on the Power Rangers posts, having been missing the upload months I said they'd be done, and not even mentioning them last month. As I was writing the reviews the last two months - especially the Star Wars one - it made me realise where I'm going wrong in the Power Rangers posts. So rather than try and continue with the previous method, I've been working on modifying the latest post that should have gone up November [technically October] and it does seem to be working out. It's cut back on a lot of what I said I shouldn't be doing, and so the Look Inside the Morphing Grid post on Power Rangers Mystic Force and Operation Overdrive will be out this month.
Keeping with my blog, there is a very high chance of a Direct from Nintendo that should be bringing a lot of news with it. I'm also expecting this month to be when The Crew 2 gets a beta release, so both of those will be covered.
If a 2017 in Review post does come, this will be the month it comes. It won't come as two parts like the last time I did it, and it won't be full of things about the Switch, giving just enough about my year to be a good look at my 2017.

As stated last month, Pokémon: Shadow Boom will be brought over to WattPad, starting with the prologue on the original date it was first published six years ago, and that started this whole label off. Last year was the fifth anniversary of the label, and I don't really think I acknowledged that, aside from completing the rebrand from CDS to DarkRula. So what better way to celebrate the sixth anniversary than posting the first part of the first story ever started on the day it started. As explained last month, the entire story is going through a rewrite to expand on the story, trim some things down, aand give it a clear focus - which is something the earlier stories lacked.
Focusing on anniversaries, April will be the month when my third self-published book will be launched, and looking at what I plan for Shadow Boom, I think you know which date in April. The pre-release stuff will be starting next month for that third book, so be sure to look out for that in February.

Elsewhere, there's not much going on. However, this year is one where I want to push this label out more, get it recognised and build up a larger base of fans. Last year was the build-up to that, what with the rebrand, website overhaul, and self-publishing. This year I'm going to make better use of what I have and resources I can gain. If you are a fan already, I thank you for continued support. I might still be small, but every single thing helps. I hope 2018 is a great year to returning fans and new readers, and I can guarantee that this year is the one where DarkRula Media starts to shine brighter.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Star Wars: The Last Jedi - Spoiler Free [Review]

The first thing to really notice about The Last Jedi is that it sets quite a bit up within the first ten minutes. Then it decides to go further. What the trailers showed us and what we see in the film is different, though many suspected that it might be. Narrative structures teased in the trailers go to unexpected places, and there are plenty of unexpected things within the film.

The characters here continue from where they left off in Force Awakens, with Poe immediately being back in an X-Wing blowing things up. That trait gets focus here, and some development in his understanding of the larger plan of war happens. BB-8 is again a standout droid, giving some great character and getting into some action of his own. Leia doesn’t get a whole lot of focus, but has two standout scenes that make Carrie Fisher’s last appearance in a Star Wars film worth her inclusion. Finn and new player Rose team up on a mission, and each is given focus as a character and their new and growing relationship gets focus. Finn also again is questioning his purpose. On Ahch-To, Rey comes to grips with the Force, and has her work cut out in connecting with Luke. The story hinted at in Force Awakens regarding Luke and Kylo Ren gets its focus here, and depending on how you see Luke’s character at the end of Return of the Jedi, this character thread will either please or infuriate. Some will see it as natural progression. Some will see it as needless regression. I’m in the former of the two, since it only makes sense for Luke to react the way he does in the situation he found himself in. I’m saying no more on that.
Kylo Ren comes out even more conflicted than before, quite possibly, at the end of this film. At the end of Force Awakens he was bested by Rey, a person of no significance and untrained in the Force. Here, not only does he have the task of taking out the Resistance, he has Snoke calling him out for his weaknesses. We’ve heard in the trailers his line about putting the past behind you to allow you to move forward, but despite the fact he keeps telling himself he has, it’s clear that he certainly hasn’t, especially at the climax of the film. Phasma is again getting the short end of the stick here. The trailers show her in battle with Finn, but that’s all we really get from her. New guy DJ is an interesting character, and makes Finn think on his actions.

Away from characters, the planets themselves look great. We see more of Ahch-To, and get introduced to the Porgs that inhabit the planet. Canto Bight is certainly a great looking world, giving an upper-class society outside of any particular faction but profiting from both sides to keep the lives they lead. And Crait is a world we see little of, but still gives a sense of wonder. The set pieces we see happen on these worlds fit the places they are, and even the vastness of space gets a great opening action sequence. The musical cues here are perfectly tuned to the scenes they are a part of, and one particular set piece makes use of very little sound to pull off an impactful scene. Some familiar things will set off nostalgic feelings, such as original trilogy music pieces, and such things are used for impact within the action or plot. The entire basis of the film could be seen as Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi fused together, mixed around, entire elements changed up and new plot points added, to create something both familiar and new to a much better standard than what Force Awakens achieved. All plot points pay off, and just like Empire Strikes Back, the film ends with the good guys beaten back but not deterred in their overall goal. And despite this being the longest Star Wars film to date, everything feels well-paced and interest doesn’t get lost at any point.

This is probably too early to say, but at the minute the reviews are saying this is the best Star Wars film to date, and after the first watch – I’d agree with them. Nothing feels out of place and everything has a reason. As such, for Star Wars fans, it is an easy recommendation, as it is to anyone else who enjoys a good sci-fi/fantasy epic. However, since The Last Jedi continues straight off from where Force Awakens left us, Episode 7 is a must watch to understand several of the points raised in this one. And I’m pretty certain that Episode 9 will pick up where this one left off, so it will feel like one continuous story once the trilogy is complete. What Episode 9 chooses to showcase is anyone’s guess at the minute. One thing for certain though, is that there will be a duel of the fates to finish this trilogy off.