– The Chaos Vault –
Metroid: Zero Mission (Wii U VC):
First up is Zero Mission, which is one of the few games that gets the extra Chaos Vault title.
When I first played Zero Mission I was impressed by how they improved upon the original game and it’s design. Second only to Super Metroid in terms of 2D games in the series, Zero Mission takes the layout of the NES game and gives it some of the best parts of Super and Fusion. For example you can now wall jump, cling to ledges, move faster and actually save your game. I also think the game benefits from being a remake as Nintendo have shown that they’re not too good at creating maps for the series any more as their original efforts (without retro) amount to a bunch of sectors in a space station. Having a template to work off is certainly a good thing although this certainly isn’t Super Metroid’s level of excellence as sequence breaking isn’t as viable, although there are well hidden short cuts for skilled players.
As with most well designed Metroidvania titles collecting items is amazingly satisfying and you should do just fine as the map is a great help in giving you general locations of items. The game also gives you vague directions towards your destination like Prime does without being overly restrictive, it feels more like a gentle nudge rather than an actual order. Of course I find item collection in this game slightly unbalanced in it’s difficulty, as many items require you to perform feats of great skill using the various speedbooster abilities. This gave some trouble early on as in the past 5 years I had forgotten about most of speedbooster mechanics in this game, and was much more used to Super Metroid use of the ability. Many regard this title as the hardest game in the series to 100% and while I don’t agree with that to any degree I certainly acknowledge that there’s some bullshit in the later game that may make you want to give up on that objective but I think the satisfaction at the end is worth it.
Now lets talk music, Zero Mission has an excellent soundtrack consisting of remixes of the original game giving it flairs of super and prime soundtracks in the process. It’s often quite blood pumping and ominous, and certainly feels like a great tone for this first mission. The art style is still rather dark and creepy but it had plenty of colour and often reminded me of a comic book which is certainly a more fitting look for a sci-fi series like Metroid than what they showed at this years E3. Of course it’s not my favourite visual look of the series as Super Metroid and Prime trump it (I mean the ship designs in Zero Mission are just awful, the space pirates are flying around in oddly coloured sperm cells), but the visuals are pleasing and helped establish the Zero suit design which has become both a blessing and a curse for the franchise. Speaking of the Zero Suit I think the stealth section was a little forced and while I do think it varied up gameplay, the map that they created for it was rather annoying to traverse afterwards and would have been better with some extra thought put into shortcuts. Of course it’s also a huge power high as you go around killing all the pirates that were giving you shit before hand. In short it’s a minor complaint and I think that can be said of most issues about the game. Zero Mission is a title that still holds up and one that I can easily recommend to pretty much anyone, however if you’re getting into 2D Metroid you should consider Super Metroid first and then make this your second choice.
Wario Land II (3DS VC):
Wario Land II was an unexpected surprise, a sequel to Super Mario Land 3: Wario Land this sequel takes a different approach to level progression. Up until this point the Land games had either been entirely linear or used a world map structure which is more traditional for platformers as a whole. Wario Land II though offers multiple branching paths that lead to multiple endings. Of course that would be more impressive in story based games but in this title it only really allows for some humour and more level themes/variety. Well it also means that the levels are designed with various secret exits which is great since each level is filled with secrets areas and encourages exploration. It’s somewhat slow but the exploration focus really drew me into this game and the emphasis on basic puzzles was also a positive.
One complaint I’ve seen for this game is that it’s too easy, well it’s easy in the sense that you can’t die but I personally find losing coins to be enough of a punishment especially if you’re going for 100% completion. A lot of enemies also give comedic abilities and hindrances which is an interesting dynamic which lends itself to many surprising moments. Sometimes it’s vital to use these new forms to pass a stage and to find secrets, and the rate at which each new mechanic is introduced is steady and avoids overwhelming the player. Aside from completing all the levels in the game to reach 100% you also need to find enough coins to open the treasure chest at the end and to play a minigame at an often secret location within the level itself. They’re simple and straight forward plus if you push the home button at the right moment you can cheat the system if you only have 50 coins on you (trust me that makes more sense once you play the minigame). Once you’ve done this you will find all the treasure and complete the map which will unlock the final level, which is one of the freakiest things I’ve ever seen on the game boy. It’s also a pain in the ass to beat but it didn’t feel like an unfair challenge, also you get to hear some kickass music. Speaking of the soundtrack most of the tunes are repetitive but this isn’t a bad soundtrack by any means, it just doesn’t hold up to the best the game boy has to offer.
Visually this game is somewhat basic but that’s somewhat expected of titles on the older systems. Since it was on Game Boy Colour it does a decent job using colours and there’s a decent variety of level themes on offer here which is nice. There’s an odd charm to this game and while it may be perhaps too forgiving for some it’s still a blast to play and has some excellent level design. It also has re-playability and you don’t have to trudge through every level just to get back to the next fork in the road since there’s a super helpful level select screen once you’ve completed one of the endings. I can most certainly recommend this one unless your the type who needs everything to be really fast. Of course I would suggest other games on the system first but I do think it’s worth playing.
Sonic Advance 3 (GBA):
So this game managed to take second place in the backlog tournament, which is rather baffling all things considered however I was able to get through this quicker than I will be able to get through other titles that made the cut.
Sonic Advance 3 is the third game in the Advance trilogy on the game boy advance, it was around the time sonic was reaching his darkest years on home consoles and soon the portable scene would be sonic’s safe haven until Colours released. Of course this game isn’t exactly the shining beacon for the portable entries as it’s incredibly flawed. First off lets start with the control, it can be painful and takes adjustment on part of the player for it to become either passable or enjoyable depending on how much of a stickler you are for sonic physics. Another flaw is present within the level design as you’ll find yourself running into many instances of being crushed without warning. This was also before the days bottomless pits had those warning signs which proves troublesome if you want to search for the games collectibles. Really the crushing blocks would be less bullshit if this was made on a system with a bigger screen and we could therefore see more of what’s ahead in the level. Another problem is that the games awesome pair-up system is horribly imbalanced with many pairs being practically useless in comparison to others, in particular there’s not much advantage at all to using Knuckles with Sonic as a partner since it nerfs his gliding and climbing ability for some reason. Note: on every 3rd Act make sure to be using Sonic as the player character as it’s the only way to unlock the other characters.
Funnily enough my main problem with the game though is the stupid requirements to collect all the Chaos Emeralds. First off you need to find all the Chao in each zone, which is quite a bit of effort since this isn’t quite Sonic CD levels of design. You’ll find yourself replaying levels over and over looking for your cute little pals and once you unlock a key which spawns randomly in any act. That’s right all that effort for the KEY so once you stumble upon the key which can range from “too easy” to “it’s no use” you finally get a single CHANCE to take on the special stage. Yep that’s right it doesn’t permanently unlock the special stage so if you fuck it up you have to hunt for another fucking key. This is perhaps one of the most annoying Chaos Emerald hunts I’ve dealt with only topped by Advance 1 with it’s complete BS special stages that clearly don’t understand how to convey depth in 2D… wait those are in Advance 3 as well? well FUCK! Okay to be fair the special stages themselves don’t get bad until zone 6 and zone 7 but the fact that depth is still an issue is pretty bad. Combine these things together and you may find yourself going through levels again and again and again just unlock more tries at the special stage. This is the worst way to extend a games life and quite honestly it’s what lead to me giving up and just getting the normal or “bad” ending.
However if you can play this game on the Virtual Console or an emulator it’s fine since we have these things called save states which allow us to deal with bullshit such as this. Repeating the same 4 minutes over and over again? Nah fuck that man, just press restore or load and try it again until you finally get it right. Quite frankly I do not recommend getting this game on a cartridge outside of some sort of collectors value. Which is a shame since otherwise I’d say this is a pretty good game since there are many positives. The visuals are nice with many levels that don’t feel like they were ripped out of previous games… although sunset hill is a thing. Speed seems to be handled moderately well visually and there weren’t many glitches outside of the times I bumped the cartridge by accident. In terms of just gameplay it’s actually a good time especially if your just doing a casual run through of the game, the pair system has moments when it shines and it’s nice to see variety through that means. Advance 3 also has a pretty amazing soundtrack which is usually one of the guarantees of sonic games although that is arguable since music taste does vary. A good time on an emulator is to be had with this game otherwise it’s best to play something like Sonic Rush, Sonic Colours (DS) or Sonic Generations (3DS) if you’re looking for a portable Sonic game.
Jurassic World (Movie):
When I first heard about this movie and saw a brief trailer it looked like they were going to drag another classic of the 90’s into the dust and turn it into a cheesy disaster movie with next to know character. However as time went by they changed the marketing direction somewhat and it was clear that heart was actually being put into this movie. I personally think it paid off as Jurassic was a fun movie that new how to keep the fell of the first film while also updating it for modern times. The previous 2 sequels used characters from the first movie to try and bring in back the audience and personally I find 2 to be absolutely awful, while 3 was at least mildly entertaining when it was released.
I really like the direction they took with the movie as it feels more like it’s own universe/timeline instead of just the crazy story of John Hammond making islands of dinosaurs. The events of the original movie actually had a butterfly a effect and I think that’s interesting to see. Also I think it helps that while the original characters are mentioned they don’t ever make a guest appearance (at least not a blatant one) this gives the new cast a time to shine and I think it pays off. The guy who played Pi (from the life of Pi) does a great job of playing the quirky out of touch park owner, and Chris Pratt shows us all that his previous role wasn’t a fluke. The comedic timing is a lot better here than the sequels but the movie certainly knows how to hit hard with the emotional moments, however there were times I felt it was going too far into horror/disaster movie cliche territory which I think it loses points for. Of course this film about a dinosaur theme park is cheesy but I think it manages the line between fun and dramatic fairly well. I also laughed my ass off at the ending which I don’t think I’ve done in a while.
Visually I think it’s impressive however I did see it in 3D which may have effected my immersion. Perhaps it enhanced the experience since I remember at least a couple of cool moments with the effect. I don’t want to comment on the whole CG vs. Puppets thing since people seem to be hung up about that. The soundtrack is pretty freaking sweet although post of it is forgettable outside of the main theme that makes it’s way into a shit ton of tracks. Overall I recommend this movie for it’s characters, it’s writing and the overall fun time it offers.
Love Live! (Anime):
Love Live is a mediocre anime and one that is suitable for those who like the particular music it offers. After seeing many people carry on about the show I was curious about the fuss and while I don’t feel regret about having seen this I don’t think it’s much of a big deal at all. For starters while it’s certainly cute it’s not exactly excellent visually, and for a show surrounding idols and music a lot of the ost misses the mark in terms of memorability and some of the actual songs end up blending together by the end. Funnily enough though I think this series has decent character development and the first half certainly had a rather enjoyable story. The whole struggles they go through in order to form their group is a interesting journey and the challenges they face seem to downgrade once the second half hits and thus it loses some drama in the process. The second half felt like it lacked focus and drive, but at the same time it built more onto some of the characters and had some moving moments (although they felt a bit forced at times). It also ended on a semi-cliff-hanger for a movie that is coming out this year or so I’ve heard. Outside of the charming characters, some comedic value and some good songs there are not many reasons for me to recommend this series but I do think it’ll appeal to someone so if any of this sounds interesting to your tastes you may want to look into. Otherwise it is quite mediocre and you could spend the time better elsewhere.
Fate Stay/Night: Unlimited Blade Works (Anime):
Oh yeah, now this is some good shit right here. If you’ve been with me for the long haul you would remember a Chaos Blogg with several Fate/Stay Night related reviews. It’s been a couple of years since then and in that time I’ve grown more and more attached to the series, which means I’ve been extremely hyped for this anime since it’s announcement. Funnily the toughest thing for me right now is to decide whether to recommend this or Fate/Zero first, as this series does have many tweaks in order to flow with Zero’s narrative but Zero is meant to be the prequel which you’re not meant watch first in most situations. For the time being I’m leaning more towards recommending Zero first but I’m honestly not too sure. Also for the love of all that is good avoid the 2006 anime and the 2010 movie with the same title as this, they’ve become quite obsolete now and I don’t you all to sit through that.
The animation in this shows is fucking fantastic and it delivers a fuck ton of excellent action sequences, which is the kind of thing that felt incredibly absent from the previous adaptations and at the very least you’ll provided with a spectacle. As for soundtrack well, it’s better than Zero but doesn’t really pick up until the second season at which point I was clamouring to listen to the full tracks but they’re not even released yet. The first half does have some good themes but a large chunk of it feels like generic battle orchestra with out much sign of the original VN soundtrack. In the end though it excels in Audio and Visual departments, and thankfully it also does a great job of presenting the story. It’s not a one for one adaptation of the source material however most of the changes fit thematically with it’s prequel and in some cases we’re given more insight into some characters backstory. Of course I will note that some characters get shafted as time constraints seem to remove some depth from side characters. However when the previous adaptations went completely off track or were just a glorified highlights reel this anime did a fantastic fucking job of telling the story while tweaking it within reason.
Of course my view is of someone who has read the source material and I have extreme bias in that regard, I get the feeling many who entered with Zero and it’s much darker narrative won’t enjoy this show as much but I honestly hope people can enjoy both while acknowledging the difference and similarities. In fact most complaints I have with the story originate from the VN itself and that’s because the VN is designed to have each of the 3 timelines or routes build on top of each other giving the player/reader a greater understanding of this fictional world. Of course these complaints are minor and I’ve already gushed enough so to continue without going into spoiler territory isn’t feasible. Please check out this anime, and the prequel since I think they’re worth it plus there’s movies being made by the same animation studio that cover different timelines. *gets yanked off stage by a giant cane*
Ahem, now that I’m done here it’s off towards blogg 64 which shouldn’t take too long. Those four videos on the other hand is a different story and honestly I have no clue when I’ll finish them but hey motivation is weird thing that strikes at odd times. Anyway thank you so much for reading, and enjoy these pictures.