🌸The Tekkojima Iron Island Festival🌸

Made of cement, steel beams, and industry, the small island of Keihinjima doesn’t look like much. A mere twenty minutes away from Haneda airport, it is an artificial island created for iron manufacturing and recycling. Grey streets, warehouses, and shipping containers dominate the landscape. And the only pulse that can be heard is that of metal and the heavy machinery that works it in the warehouses spread across the island.

Despite this, in this unlikely place, the youth of Kaihinjima have decided to reclaim this space as one for art and expression. In 2016, the Buckle Kobo creative hub decided to transform their metal home into a melting pot for contemporary music, film, art, and expression.

With just a few sound systems and projectors, the empty warehouses transform into clubs, filled with sound, light, and people. And the empty streets suddenly have a new pulse.

Tekkojima Warehouse Club
With just a little light and sound, a cold and empty warehouse suddenly becomes the place to be.

The streets are lined with artisanal food and drink vendors, offering everything from cheese and avocado koroke to nutella latés. Performance artists roam the streets singing, dancing, and toying with various forms of expression. Paintings and art installations are aplenty. Some seek to please the eye, while others strive to express the sense of identity the people of Keihinjima have with metal work.


The Tekkojima Island Festival was a fantastic experience. Every year they have more and more artists showing up. Some of Tokyo’s most innovative and creative musicians, film makers, artists, and performers make an appearance. It is truly a wonderful thing to see, how a community can so drastically transform itself into something so colourful and lively.

I’ll let their promo video have the last word. If you’re ever in the area this time of the year, do yourself a favour and make an experience. It’s definitely one of the more authentic festivals out there.

 

The Hakone Open-air Museum/Little Prince Museum

Having recently reached the second year of my life in Japan I had developed a more refined taste for attractions and adventures. Well, perhaps not more refined, but rather more demanding. If you threw the word “island” at me paired it with just about any animal in front of it, I would probably be there faster than a salaryman slurps raamen, or an NKH man knocking at your door.

For some time now I have had my eye on The Hakone Open-air Museum. It’s an attraction located in the southern mountains of Kanagawa. It is roughly a 3-4 hour trip by train from central Tokyo. It is an open-air park in the midst of beautiful, lush mountains. There’s a great variety of sculptures and art installations all across the park.  If you appreciate sculpture or just artistic expression in general, this would definitely be a good go for you. As an added bonus, there’s a little Picasso art gallery in the middle of it, so if you’re a fan, you got two reasons to go. “But I want three!” I hear you ask. Well, just a short bus ride away, there’s a Little Prince museum which has sculptures and installations from the book, as well as photographs and excerpts of the author’s work.

The sculptures are the main focus of the Hakone Open-air museum. There’s a great variety of the themes, styles, and materials used. Sadly, no photographs are allowed in the Picasso museum, so you’ll have to find out for yourselves 😛

 

The Little Prince museum is a short bus ride away. Unlike most such museums which are just a giant box with cool stuff inside, this one is made to look like a little French villa. It’s adorned with roses and gardens along the way. There’s even a section of it that’s made out to look like a French street. There are statues of the characters strewn around the gardens. And once you go inside you can enjoy a vast variety of content. There are photographs of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. There’s detailed maps showing the flights he used to take across Africa, and the nature of his adventures. There are manuscripts, doodles, and illustrations. There are descriptions of both his early and later life. And all this along dark and intimate rooms and hallways painted in backdrops from his most famous book.

Again, sorry for the lack of photographs from the inside of the museum. Many of the rooms forbid it. It’s probably for the best, though. This is something better experienced than seen. If you’re ever in Hakone, don’t think twice. These two attractions are well worth the price of admission, and you’d be hard pressed to find anything quite like them anywhere else.

Bon Voyage!

Never Undo – Friday Song of The Week

Dear Chris and Listener,

This week I got something special for you lot. Morcheeba, one of my absolute favourite bands has released “Never Undo” for their upcoming album Blaze Away, which should be in stores June first.

They’ve been around since 1995, and have 8 solid albums under their belt. They’re a trip-hop electronic group which knows just how to blend the new with the enjoyable. Skye Edwards’s sensual, warm voice leaves you asking for little, while Ross Godfrey builds a groovy backdrop of rock, blues, and jazz for her to play with. All of this is doused with a masterful electronic touch.

I strongly recommend all their albums, each sounding very different from the next. I can not hype this band enough, they are truly one of my all-time favourites.

April tracks

Introduction by In Love With a Ghost

Lazy Bones by Jeremy Messersmith

Never Undo by Morcheeba

🌸All Hail The Iron Penis, or Kanamara Matsuri Festival🌸

Isn’t it awfully nice to have a penis?
Isn’t it frightfully good to have a dong?
It’s swell to have a stiffy.
It’s divine to own a dick,
From the tiniest little tadger,
To the world’s biggest prick.

Well, Japan definitely seems to think so. Vagina demons, penis black smiths, and lollypops. Ladies, gents, and other such creatures, today we look at the penis festival that is Kanamara Matsuri (Festival of The Steel Phallus).

 

This tradition started in 1969. It is an annual festival held near Kawasaki, Japan. Though it is on April first, make no mistake, this is no joke. Some serious penis tomfoolery goes down every year on this auspicious day.

The legend goes that a demon fell in love with a woman and lodged himself inside her vagina (as one does). She was a strong woman, a confident woman, and not the type to let a little pesky vagina demon get in the way of her happiness. So she found a man, married him, and come the nuptial night, the demon bit off the man’s penis (as one does). However, she was not deterred. She found herself another man, and went on to marry him as well. Come the nuptial night, however, the demon bit off the man’s bits again (as one does). Having had enough, the woman sought the help of the two blacksmith gods enshrined in Kanayama shrine, Kanayamahiko and Kanayamahime.

“Bites off me man’s bits, he does, filthy little demon dude,” she said.

“Most uncool, and heinous,” said Kanayamahiko.

“Most heinous, and uncool,” added Kanayamahime.

Together they fashioned an iron dildo of supreme godliness and craftsmanship. They gifted her the dildo, which she used to smash the demon’s teeth (as one does). The demon fled her vagina, and she was free to marry again without the worry of a demon biting off her man’s fun bits. And all lived happily ever after, except of course the demon (for he had no teeth), and the first two husbands (for they had no penises).

 

Now, I know what you’re thinking – “Vulgar nonsense!” Well, honestly, with the exception of a few comedic liberties, that is actually more or less the story. “LIAR!” you say; well, feel free to Google it yourself.

In the absence of vagina demons, these days the festival celebrates fertility, safe childbirth, and a protection from STI’s. It is a very light-hearted festival, nowhere near as serious as some of the other more popular Shinto celebrations. People wear penis hats, suck on penis lollies, and take turns petting giant stone and iron penises for good luck. It is always heavily attended, and a lot of fun. You can get all kinds of fun merchandise, such as penis towels, penis t-shirts, penis key chains, penis candles, or penis stickers, to round off your day.

 

For those of you with children, don’t be discouraged. This is not at all considered a lewd or adult celebration. There are children present, and it is considered very normal.

I absolutely recommend this experience as it is very fun and silly, but also a rare look at the bawdy aspects of Japanese culture and mythology that we don’t often get to see.

Let Me Out – Friday Song of The Week

Dear Chris and Listener,

Thanks for sending Gone Molly’s track my way. I do love me a good Irish sound, and I hold a special place in my heart for old folk songs. A good story, emotive voices, and just all the right vibes – the song had it. Cheers!

This week’s band needs no introduction. They aren’t below the radar by any stretch of the imagination. But the track I stumbled upon was simply too good and fresh not to share. I am talking about Gorillaz’ Let Me Out.

To anyone already familiar with Gorillaz you won’t be surprised when I say there’s a flawless blend of five or so genres in this track. There’s three sets of vocals taking turns on the wheel of the song, the percussion is constantly in motion between the verses and choruses. I love the Soul and R&B movements in the track, they contrast the heavier hip hop elements beautifully.

Their new album, Humanz, echoes the creativity and quality of some of their best stuff, like Demon Days. It’s great to see such creative and talented artists back on top of their game. I can’t wait until I see them this summer!

March List

“Let Me Out” by Gorillaz

Friday Song of The Week – Nostalgia

Dear Chris and listener,

I enjoyed The Gallant Gentleman’s track. It wandered pleasantly for a while and then it built up its spectacular climax.

It reminded me of my first time I listened to Post Rock. The first song I ever stumbled upon from the genre, and as luck would have it by its better practitioners, was Nostalgia by Mono. Mono is a Post Rock band from Tokyo, Japan formed in 1999. They’ve released nine studio albums in the seventeen years they’ve been active, of which I would definitely recommend Hymn to the Immortal Wind (2009) and For My Parents (2012). 

As most Post Rock songs, Nostalgia seems lost for a while. The musicians are searching in the dark for something that speaks back to them. They grasp a thin thread, and slowly they start weaving. The song builds up energy and tension as it takes you through the musicians’ psychedelic imaginations.

The link I’ve shared is a little on the quiet side, so I would suggest maxing out your volume controls. I would provide a better source, but this is truly them at their best, and well worth the risk of an accidental Skype message puncturing an ear drum.

I would recommend this song be listened to in a dark room with a slow heart rate, and an open mind.

Find Me” by Marcus D (Ft. Jun)

Hide” by FKA Twigs

I Am Here” by Funky DL

El Pescador” by Banda Magda

Empires” by Electric Swing Circus

Jungle” by Tash Sultana

Never Knew a Thing (Live)” by Kileza

Time of Extinction” (소멸의 시간) by Jambinai (잠비나이)

Hi-Lights” by Savlonic.

Common Ground” by Kognitif ft. The Mic Jordon

Believe” by Kenichiro Nishihara ft. Cise Starr

Gerudo Valley (Metal Version)” by Machinae Supremacy

Bloody Tears” by Naoto Shibata Project

Satting Sail Home (End Theme)” by Darren Krob

Ori and The Blind Forest (Main Theme)” by Gareth Coker

A Gallant Gentleman” by We Lost The Sea

Nostalgia” by Mono

American Gods: First Look

Ladies, gents, and other such creatures, draw your pentagrams, sacrifice your goats, and gather ’round your sabbath bonfires because we got ourselves a show to worship.

Creators Bryan Fuller and Michael Green have brought us Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. Blessed be they.

Creators
Our noble writer, Neil Gaiman, and two randoms.

For those uninitiated in the cult of Gaiman, American Gods is a new TV series based off of Neil Gaiman’s book by the same title.

Gods still roam the earth. Some are big, some are small, some are old, some are new. We start our show with our chief character, Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle). At first glance he’s a typical convict. He’s got the shaved head, the permanent scowl, the chiseled body. However, there’s more than meets the eye with this guy. He also appears to be very thoughtful and reserved. He listens more than he talks. His characteristics seem out-of-place with his introduced persona. The show has barely started and it’s already got me asking questions and wondering about the who and how.

Shadow Walk.jpg
Our main man, Shadow Moon. Yes, his mom was a hippie. How clever of you.

He’s set to be released from prison in 5 days. He’s looking forward to seeing his wife who he seems to love dearly. He’s anxious to prove to her that he’s a better man coming out than when he went in. He is terribly anxious something bad’s going to happen, a feeling that might just be enforced by the strange and surreal dreams he’s having. Say what you will about a man, but when you start dreaming of bison with flaming eyes, I draw the line – shit be cray.

 

Flaming Bison
When the acid kicks in.

Enter the rock star. On his way back from prison he has the terrible misfortune of having to sit next to Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane). If anyone ever gave Ian McShane the role of the devil it would look something a lot like this. He’s absolute charm, mischief, and entertainment. To say he’s perfect for the role makes “perfect” a poor adjective. He IS the role. He somehow happens to know a lot about Shadow’s personal life, but he keeps the “how” in the dark. He tries to persuade Shadow to work for him, though he’s not really specific about the type of work he has in mind. Shadow doesn’t seem to be too keen, but Mr. Wednesday’s nothing if not persistent, and nothing if he’s not sly. Our TV show takes off from there in a whirl of dynamic dialogue and the unraveling of what seems to be a fantastic world.

Americna-Gods-Odin
Our rock star of the show – Mr. Wednesday, played by the devil himself, Ian McShane.

Now, without giving more of the plot away, I will say this: the show’s got a lot to work with. Not only do we have a talented cast, but we have none other than Neil f’in Gaiman as a writer. We know what happens when TV is written by actual writers. Game of Thrones, anyone?

The idea of ancient deities roaming the modern world and how they come to terms with it is fascinating enough on its own. But more than that, the show looks at the idea of belief itself. What makes a thing real? What is the power of belief? In this day and age, with our rapidly changing world, what things do we believe in?

The visual style of this show caught me a bit by surprise. There’s a few scenes that introduce some visually curious elements and it seems to be an appetizer for what we’re going to get throughout the season. Bright colours, strong contrasts, over exaggerated violence. They set the tone for something vibrant. This strikes me as a show that’s not afraid to take a few risks, and that’s always encouraging. I’ll take something that tries to be bold and new over safe and worn to death any day.

The show snares your interest from episode 1 and has you asking more than a few big questions by the time the episode’s over. Well worth the watch. The stars might have just aligned for Gaiman’s adaptation.

Ghost in the Shell film review [SPOILERS]

 

ghost-in-the-shell-8

It was always going to split opinions. Making a live-action Ghost in the Shell out of a classic anime and casting Scarlett Johansson as the Major made a lot of people, including myself, quite sceptical. I went into the theatre bracing myself for the worst, but by the end of it I found myself breathing a sigh of relief. It certainly wasn’t without flaws, but it wasn’t ruined either. And in the age of terrible remakes and sequels, that’s saying something.

What makes a human, well, a human? This question is at the core of “Ghost in the Shell” and its universe as a whole. Major Mira Killian (played by Johansson)  is a first of her kind: a cyborg with a fully prosthetic body and a human brain. A killing machine created by Hanka Industries and employed by Public Security Section 9, the Major acts as a powerful weapon for the government. As she goes on a hunt for terrorist Kuze, the Major tries to remember the past and understand her own self.

Visually, the film is stunning. It does a great job of capturing an already established environment of Ghost in the Shell and adding its own unique details to it. The CGI is stellar (except for one small moment towards the end), the action sequences are exciting and the specific colour scheme of the cyberpunk genre has been preserved.

ghost-in-the-shell-2

They’ve also done a good job of staying true to the source material. Some scenes and shots that would not only resonate with fans of the original but also impress first-time viewers were recreated as close as they could without directly copying the visuals. Great references, even surprising but completely justified cameos show up in the film, which should evoke a big nod of approval from fans. The soundtrack keeps the pacing even though it doesn’t provide any memorable compositions. However, I was very happy to hear Kenji Kawai’s new take on his masterpiece theme at the end of the film.

Scarlet Johansson does a decent job as the Major. She was never an expressive character to begin with so Johansson’s monotone performance is justified. Another well represented member of Section 9 is Batou, played by Pilou Asbaek.  Batou’s stoic yet caring nature manages to come through in the limited screen time he gets.

ghost-in-the-shell-6

While the Major and Batou carry the film throughout, other members of Section 9 don’t get nearly any screentime at all. I was really interested in seeing Ishikawa, Section 9’s tech and computer expert, yet in the film he barely gets a frame. Togusa, the only fully human character among the unit practically gets two lines. It is Aramaki, though, the chief of Section 9, that I believe is completely misrepresented. His role as a tough leader, unafraid to wield a gun, works within the Hollywood tropes, yet is completely off from what he is in the manga, original films or the tv series. Having him speak Japanese while his team talk English to him and amongst each other also felt quite awkward.

Continuing in the vein of characters who don’t really fit within the narrative is Kuze, the hacker terrorist and the villain of the film. Played by Michael Pitt, Kuze is on the warpath to eliminate all those who have made him neither man nor machine; a broken being. And here is where my problems with the film arise. There are major spoilers coming your way so be careful if you choose to “ghost dive” past this point…

ghost-in-the-shell-3

SPOILERS AHEAD!

Let’s start with Kuze. Kuze is a combination of the Puppet Master from the 1995 film and Hideo Kuze from the second season of the tv series “Stand Alone Complex” (“2nd Gig”). He has Puppet Master’s purpose, which is to seek out the Major and merge with her as the next step in evolution, and Hideo Kuze’s childhood connection to the Major before she became a cyborg. And it’s precisely because he is a combination of those two characters with distinctly different purposes is why he fails at being either. He is a poor character whose motivations are never justified.

Kuze constructs a network, just like the Puppet Master who came from it. And just like the Puppet Master, Kuze asks the Major to join him at the end of the film in the scene that closely resembles the finale of the original. Yet it is never explained why, with Kuze basically saying “so we can be better than them”. The Major rejects by saying “I belong here”, a statement that is also completely unfounded. While wanting to belong to something in the real world (told, once again, through exposition) we never see why the Major would suddenly decide that her place is here and not with someone of her kind.

Cutter, the CEO of Hanka Industries that was responsible for both the Major and Kuze turns bad towards the end of the film for the sake of being bad. And once again, it might work in a conventional Hollywood story, yet sticks out like a sore thumb in a re-imagining of a philosophical masterpiece.

And since we’re on the topic of philosophy, here is the biggest issue of the film: the themes that Ghost in the Shell explores have been lost. Concepts and ideas are never taken far enough. The film beats you over the head with what the “ghost” and the “shell” mean .The meaning of “ghost” is even repeated 3 times within one line of dialogue early on  yet the film does nothing with it. The importance of memories as identification of self fall down the same drain as the idea of the soul. And even though the Puppet Master from the original was sort of present in the film, within Kuze’s character, the Puppet Master’s whole point of being a “living, thinking entity created in a sea of information” did not even get a mention. And the film’s Hollywood ending was a jarring error within a cyberpunk universe.

CONCLUSION

I think it was foolish of anyone to believe the Holywood reimagining of Ghost in the Shell could come close to the original in terms of meaning and significance. However, it more than holds up as an entertaining film and should be viewed as a good introduction its world and cyberpunk genre as a whole. Unfortunately, the big budget spectacle comes with a watered down plot. They tried to combine the original film and  tv series in one and, as a result, the film ends up not being strong in any particular direction. Nonetheless, I believe it succeeds at bringing the world of Ghost in the Shell to the new, wider audience and hopefully would encourage those who have not seen Mamoru Oshi’s 1995 film to… dive in.

Score: 7/10

Star Wars Battlefront Review

“I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.”

Journey to a galaxy far, far away…

This is Star Wars Battlefront, a game that revels in its own accuracy of being the most picturesque Star Wars game to date, along with very good sound design, and enchanting worlds to immerse yourself in. Yet, beyond the rusty exterior of its brilliant frontier; deficient substance takes this Star Wars game far, far away from what it should mean to be Battlefront.

“Just look at this…the ground, the vegetation, the California forest…oh wait there’s an AT-ST right there!”

Beauty On The Surface

Visuals
Let’s get the obvious out-of-the-way. This is the best looking Star Wars – no! This is the best looking video game I have played in years! From the shimmering and sheen of the ferns on the forest moon, to the finishing touches on the tutorial level (look off into the distance to see them!), this is by far got to be one of the most beautiful games I have ever played. The love DICE has for Star Wars is on open display. They’ve crafted the level of detail down to the finest of scratches from the original props themselves. Read my The Vanishing of Ethan Carter Review for more information on the technique behind the graphical prowess of both games. It’s hard to find any faults in Battlefront’s visuals. Aside from some repetition in the hallways of some maps, I’ll say it again, this is a god damn beautiful game. However, I can’t escape the feeling that too much effort went into making this game look like Star Wars, and they forgot about how a great Star Wars game should feel and play. All face value and not enough substance makes for realistic accomplishments of development milestones.

Sound Design
Sound design in Battlefront is Star Wars at its finest. Aside from the unbearable and hilarious voice acting of the heroes and villains, everything else is top-notch. Like the attention to detail in visuals, audio stays on target and immerses you in the ambiance. Blaster fire, vehicles, and sounds of the Ewoks running away from anyone nearby. The best sounds in the entire game come from thermal grenade explosions and the famous vehicle screams in the sky. This too helps to make Battlefront look and sound like Star Wars, but as I’m alluding to, it doesn’t cover up for the overcompensating in multiplayer the game provides.

“Don’t worry Lord Vader, I’ve got your back! Oh shit where did that impact grenade come from?”

Multiplayer

Keep It Battlefront Stupid
Star Wars Battlefront is simplified for a casual gamer, and tailored to your very excited Star Wars fan. However, I feel this approach to accessibility sacrifices proper game play design, class/ squad teamwork, adequate controls, and overall team balance. There’s no class system like in the former Battlefront games. Customization is limited to a few cards, weapons, and few appearance alterations. It is clear this game is attempting to reach as wide an audience as possible. And the game suffers in replay-ability and hopes to call fans back for new maps and game modes covering up for its lack of deep features and complexity. Games can be intricate and unique; that’s what makes them enjoyable and frantic. In scrapping god knows what from Battlefront 3, Star Wars Battlefront becomes quite stale and repetitive, and is simple to a fault.

Game Modes
Nine game modes span across only FOUR worlds. You can tell right away there is an obvious intent of the developers to recycle assets. The game modes offered are fun for a few rounds, I quickly lost interest in other game modes after about 20 hours of play. Walker Assault, Drop Zone, Cargo, and Supremacy being the most entertaining, while other modes like Droid Run or Blast seem to be unpopular and difficult to find people for matches. Many of these game modes are one-sided as unlocks are required to improve balance the more you play, and teamwork extends to dropping shields and blasting away at a Walker. While nine game modes sounds like a lot, and it is, only FOUR worlds speaks loudly to the consumer. But I’ll go on about this later towards the end of the review.

Game play Balance
For all of its wrongs, Battlefront does make a few rights. Game play is fun. Unlocks, and star cards make customizing your own soldier a battle of combinations in its own right, although these fun aspects of the game are hidden behind superficial customization such as pointless appearance unlocks, worthless emote unlocks, and a difficult to navigate user interface. With star cards you get a maximum of three cards per hand that allow you to pick and choose your load out that may include: a jetpack for a vertical advantage, or a star card that has limited amount of charges or uses. The ability to use a partner’s hand of cards allows you to use weapons and abilities to give your team an edge. Pretty soon I found myself just purchasing charges instead of purchasing what I really could use, better weaponry to counteract the unbalanced game play.

The release version of the game was quite unbalanced. Combat seemed to be most of the time who could land an impact grenade first, and exploit bad spawns with your barrage launcher. Spawns were also uneven, sometimes you’d spawn and get the jump on an enemy, and other times you’d spawn right into a metaphorical sarlak pit of enemies. One time I spawned as Princess Leia right in front of enemy storm troopers and only lasted about 10 seconds. DICE has since patched and made updates to balance, however my score reflects the release version of the game as that should be the final version!

“Spawn. Die. Repeat. Roll the DICE for a kill.”

Vehicular Man’s Laughter
Unbalanced combat falls to the ground and takes to the skies. There is a lack of rebel vehicles and support especially in-game modes that are dependent on vehicles and anti-vehicle weapons. Against all odd doesn’t really work well for rebels in the multiplayer arena. Anti vehicle weaponry is withheld to new players until later levels, which is counterproductive to the casual approach of the game.
Land vehicles like the AT-ST are fun to play while you can stay alive. Get in the right position and you can take out enemies from a far. However, I found myself dying quite quickly after spawning on Hoth. Even trying to hide behind a downed AT-AT couldn’t offer me any protection. It took awhile to find the vehicle pickup, and to be destroyed right after spawn was ridiculous.

Flying vehicles are equivalent to flying a Battlefield jet around in a death match map space. In the release version of the game, vehicles are too fast for the space you are given and controls are way to sensitive. If a game is made for PC, especially with the accessibility approach ever apparent, it’s surprising that flying vehicles are unnecessarily difficult to control. And that’s only the beginning. Speeder bikes for the forest moon of Endor are laughable. The controls are way too sensitive be default and using the mouse is a battle. Try steering a speeder bike and evading trees at the same time, hell I would crash into that tree myself! Controls and extra abilities from previous Battlefront games that made vehicles fun to use are gone.

Heroes & Villains!

You may be wondering about each character and how it affects game play. Well, as of release, picking the right Hero for the right game mode can result in long kill streaks. My longest streak lasted 20 kills with Luke Skywalker. Equally so with Darth Vader in the Beta. These characters are ridiculously good. But again, the game suffers unbalanced hero combat as players can dominate the field similar to a Call of Duty game. Time limits from the Beta should make a return.

Heroes
Luke Skywalker wields his Return of the Jedi light saber and wardrobe. He is the opposite to Lord Vader with similar powers to influence the battlefield. Han Solo shoots first with his DL-44. His attacks are: shoulder charge, lucky shot, and charged shot. Princess Leia is more of a team player hero, and can bring along with her Alderaan Body Guards, which is an interesting dynamic choice in battle. She can drop pickups and shields to support other players. This is really the most coordinated you’ll have to be during Battlefront if you are lucky to even be a hero, let alone see a hero pick up.

Villains
In contrast, Darth Vader is the most fun character to play. Carrying his red light saber and dawning his cape, he’ll show you the wicked powers of the dark side. He is the most daunting with his saber throw and force choke. Oh I cringe when I hear the sound of a thousand throat muscles constricting. Emperor Palpatine is the funniest of the character, no really. He is like a super villain out there. Shoot lightning from your fingers or spin through the air like that one time he did that in Episode III. Emperor also can spawn bodyguards to aid him in battle. He seems really out-of-place, but compliments Leia the only way DICE could. Boba Fett is quite powerful, and another good reason to bring back time limits for Heroes. His jet pack is stronger than any other unlock. He is able to fly around and can become an easy target, but can gather range kills staying back from the fight.

Singleplayer Has Lost Its Campaign

No campaign, just training, ai battles, and “survival” mode. What happened to EA’s directive of only putting games up for sale that have both singleplayer and multiplayer? For a game that costs $79.99 at retail value is unacceptable. Any sort of excuse for a singleplayer in Star Wars Battlefront feels rushed, and could’ve been way better. For brief moments we see cut scenes of small exposition for what could’ve been. As a fan of Star Wars, I know that story matters, and for a game that could’ve made a significant impact, it left out a critical piece of art. All that remains is the finest piece of junk in the galaxy.

Money Talks

I’ll have my next thousand words for you, but first, we’ll let these images do the talking to let your anger flow for the next paragraphs…

“God, is that what I think it is? OK going 3rd party for this. Got it for a decent $50.”

“Imagine what it costs for Australians. NO! It gets better!”

“………… …… ……. …….”

“No really…. ….. …… ….. … …”

Other Issues

Disconnect
Disconnection problems have been occurring since the beta. Keep in mind I’ve only had this problem with this game. An EA game of course. I couldn’t reconnect so much so that I’d just close up the game after at least 20 tries. You know normally you’d be able to connect effortlessly like with Battlefield, or hell, even in Titanfall, but this would boot you out after waiting 20 seconds in the pre match lobby. No, longer, even after the map loads! This was by far the most frustrating aspect of the game. And even DICE was like…ya you lost connection to “EA Servers” hey not us!

Beta and Release Sound Clipping
Another issue that occurred with an EA game was sound clipping. Once I got the sound clipping issue figured out, I could enjoy the music and the true breadth of sounds available. I had to raise the bit rate of audio output to the highest to remove the clipping issue. Why this would be like this in Beta and at release is beyond me. How could they have not heard this? View the sound clipping issue if you’d like in my Drop Zone Beta Game play video. Anyways I fixed it. I could peacefully try to tolerate everything, and try to enjoy the game.

“I find your lack of [content] disturbing”
On to the real light and dark of the matter. I find the game’s lack of… content… disturbing. I could talk for hours about this, but I like to start with this comparison as it shows two distributors for who they really are. Let’s compare Battlefront to a popular Valve title in Counter Strike Global Offensive (CS GO.) Which game has more maps? CS GO. Which game has more weapons? GS GO. Which game is multiplayer only? Both! Ah ha! And that’s when you really think to yourself well which game will have more longevity and community…obviously CS GO. Price tag for CSGO? $16.99 I think you know where I’m going with this one…

Seduced By The Dork Side
Oh and before I forget another obvious thing lets go into the price tags… for standard edition alone it will cost you $79.99 (CAN) for the base game, but wait there’s more! For $10 more at $89.99 you will get extra worthless content including a ridiculously overpowered and unbalanced weapon that will kill you in pretty much one hit. I’ve seen servers littered with this awp..i mean OP weapon. Next lets jump to the ULTIMATE EDITION which according to EA is “yeeeeee the most populahh” Jesus fucking Christ. You know, I’m supposed to be reviewing the game content in itself, but this is god damn ridiculous. You know what I’m reviewing? The price tag for the game content that should be there! Cough up $159.98 (CAN) for the base game, worthless unlocks you can get while playing the game, and a season pass ($69.99 CAN) we know absolutely nothing about! This game should be worth $49.99 max. This has to be malpractice in the gaming industry. This is unethical. This is, oh what the hell, you’ll buy it anyway eh? IT’S A TRAP!

Less Is More?
If the ol’ saying “less is more” is fundamental to the way Star Wars is, then EA has seduced fans into purchasing less for more. EA. It’s in the game……if you pay $159.98 that is. For a publisher that once had the slogan…”Challenge Everything,” they have fallen off the side of their flat earth on this flat world view they now have of the average consumer. It seems like ever since they released Battlefield Premium, they could slowly raise the price of add on content, and gouge us as if we’d never notice. No wonder this company has gathered so much distaste.


Return of The Review

Load up a map and you’ll fall in love with the world you’re in because the fan boy in you will love that it looks and sounds like Star Wars. It’s a love hate. Feel me, I enjoy this game. Battlefront offers enjoyment in small bursts, and is fun to play for awhile. But any enjoyment fizzles out, because really this game was rushed/ realistically put together to cash in with the release of The Force Awakens. There were several years before, in which this game could’ve used to become legendary, but instead the developers chose to focus on what would sell the game to the fan boys and suckers who would buy this game in a heartbeat. In no way can you say this game lives up to the hype and the quality of its predecessors, because any positive would be followed up with an over glaring negative. We like to think less is more in the original trilogy, well at least Star Wars Battlefront lives up to that.

Light
Beautiful environments
Quality sound design
Heroes and Villians are fun to play for awhile
9 gamemodes for different ways to play the game

Dark
Lack of content: only 4 worlds, no campaign,
Difficult PC controls for flying vehicles
Superficial customization
Balance issues, lack of teamwork required
Doesn’t live up to its predecessor, especially with modern standards for quality


 

Final Score 2.5 / 5

Buy it if you are a hardcore Star Wars fan!
Buy it from 3rd party for more respectable price, or later on sale if you can wait.
Don’t buy it if you have a distaste for EA, this will only fuel your hatred!

Ori and the Blind Forest: First Impressions

ori-and-the-blind-forest-wallpapersLadies, gents, and other such creatures, news be good! We have an awesome-ass game to review today! Ori and the Blind Forest is the subject of today’s ass kissery. This awesome little ball of luminescent fun is a 2D platformer. You’re Ori, a forest cat-like spirit, running through multiple levels, solving puzzles, and fighting enemies along the way with your little balls of energy.

Naru adopts Ori
Naru adopts Ori

The plot starts off on a stormy night when Ori is released into the world from the spirit tree, Nibel. An ape-like creature called Naru finds Ori and adopts him. They live together for a short while happily, until a cataclysmic event takes place. The tree of life releases a powerful light signal which was meant to summon Ori. However, living and growing up with Naru, Ori ignores the signal. On that night, a vengeful Owl called Kuro steals the light source from the life tree. The forest starts to slowly die, and Ori has to go on a quest to retrieve the light.

First things first. This game is absolutely GORGEOUS. It is a visual orgasm through and through. The colours, textures, effects are absolutely magnificent. Coupled with those, you have a really haunting and beautiful soundtrack by Gareth Coker. The combination of the visual and musical quality really immerses you into a fairy tale world of beauty and wonder. You can genuinely forget that you’re sitting in your chair playing a game, and you can just sink into the innocent and wonderful beauty the narrative delivers. I’m not one to usually rave about graphics, as I do generally feel that they don’t contribute all that much to games. But in this case, they are actually a part of the game. They enhance the immersive and poetic experience of the game. Unbelievably great job, 10/10!

Now, as for the actual gameplay experience, it is also very solid. It’s pretty standard as far as platformers go. You run around, jump over obstacles, fight the odd enemy, try and solve puzzles and tricky obstacles. The controls are pretty straight forward. You have your directional buttons, jump, and shoot. Nothing too fancy or difficult. You also use the mouse to target your enemies, which is also quite easy. Ori Main shot

 

What makes it stand out as a platformer is all the upgrades and nifty little mechanics. When you complete certain levels, you run into spirit trees, which more often than not will give you some kind of power up. The ability to break obstacles, do a double jump, climb and slide down walls, etc. While most of these mechanics are nothing new to the genre, when integrated effectively, they make the gameplay very enjoyable. Your path forward isn’t always clear, so a lot of times you have to experiment with what you can and can not do, and the ambiguity gives you the feeling that you’re exploring the world rather than just being guided through it, which is a big plus.

Unlocking abilities from the  spirit trees
Unlocking abilities from the spirit trees

There’s also nifty abilities which let you interact with the environment. One such is Bash Attack. Bash Attack allows you to use an enemy or an enemy projectile to give yourself a boost in any direction (which you control with the mouse). It also serves the dual purpose of redirecting the projectile attack, or pushing away the enemy. While in a lot of games like Devil May Cry and God of War this mechanic is nothing new, Ori does it in a way which feels FREE of a determined path. You can use the ability to do some really cool evasive tricks, you can do it to fling your enemies to their death, you can do it to get to some really high-to-reach places. You can do it to just evade attacks, or solve puzzles.

Ori uses Bash Attack to propel himself upwards
Ori uses Bash Attack to propel himself upwards
Ori uses an enemy projectile to make an impossible jump
Ori uses an enemy projectile to make an impossible jump

 

Again, this is a big plus for the game. I feel like I can explore this world at my own leisure. I can accumulate all these nifty abilities, and just go wondering around at my own pace. I don’t have to worry about following the guided path, accumulating points, or other trivial things like that. I can just immerse myself, and that’s a really big win for any gaming experience.

The leveling system is very simple and straight forward. You don’t have to be a big game buff to understand how it works. You have three different sets of skills: Offensive, Finding resources, Agile abilities. You pick which one you feel like you need at the time, and you just click. This contrasts greatly from games like Final Fantasy where you need 10 years of experience, a PhD, and an optimal combinations simulator to make the right decisions in your ability leveling.

Leveling up Ori's abilities
Leveling up Ori’s abilities

 

So there we have it. I’ve only beaten the first third of the game, so I can’t lay down the final word until I reach the end. But as is, the game is fantastic. I’ve loved everything about it through and through. It’s beautiful, it’s alluring, it’s fun to play. It’s simple to understand and play, yet there are parts which will challenge you both in problem solving, and in just accomplishing difficult agile tasks. You get a perfect balance of both. It’s not too hard, and it’s not too easy, and it sure as hell is fun. Also, more likely than not, it will hit the feels. The story seems well written so far, and it definitely gets quite emotional and poetic on a few counts. I strongly recommend it, it’s probably one of the best games I’ve played in the last three years.

Enjoy 🙂

(HD, please ^^ )