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Every Wednesday on Twitch, I'll try to play Steam games for you.
(NOTE: Due to a new job, I may change around my streaming schedule.)

December 26, 2016

The Umpteenth Updated List Of Games (+Steam List)

I swear, every new list that I make for this blog just shows how much, or how little, there is left to do. Especially for Nintendo titles. I mean, I've been buying a few Nintendo games here and there, but this year, I surprised myself buying a lot more games on Steam. Remember my previous list? That was pretty large, no? Well, 2017 is a new year - and therefore, I feel like I should update the list again. I feel like I'll review more Steam titles than Nintendo titles this time around. I'm done with the games in Kirby's Dream Collection, I'm left with very few DS games... Yeah, things are going pretty smoothly.

You know how this goes: I will only list the titles I have yet to review for the blog. For a much, much shorter list, of course. I realize that 2016 and 2017 are big years for video game films, which should ad a number of titles to my list of films to review. That should be pretty interesting.

NINTENDO DS
Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney
Fossil Fighters
Spectral Force Genesis

NINTENDO 3DS
Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon
New Super Mario Bros. 2
Pokémon Sun
Pokémon X
Rabbids Rumble
Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS

3DSWARE
Pokémon Picross
Pokémon Rumble

WII
MadWorld
Mario Super Sluggers
No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle
Rabbids Go Home
Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition
Sam & Max: Beyond Time and Space
Sonic & The Black Knight
Sonic Unleashed
Spectrobes Origins
Super Mario Galaxy
Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's: Duel Transer

VIRTUAL CONSOLE
The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past
Paper Mario
Phantasy Star
Super Mario RPG: Legend Of The Seven Stars

WIIWARE
Deer Drive Legends
La-Mulana
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
Sonic 4 Episode 1

MOVIES
Note: These are the movies that I wish to review at some point for the blog. Some I own, others I don't. This list is a lot more lax for this reason; this is more of a wishlist of films I want to review... at least for the ones I don't own on DVD yet,
The Angry Birds Movie
Assassin's Creed
Ender's Game
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
Max Payne
Pixels (Fuck No)
(Pokémon films maybe?)
Ratchet & Clank
TRON
TRON: Legacy
Warcraft

TV SHOWS
Sonic Boom
Rabbids Invasion

UPLAY
Throughout 2016, Ubisoft made many games available for free through their UPlay service. Ubisoft isn't a company whose reputation has been pretty shining in the last few years, but these are titles that shouldn't pose any problem. Note that I haven't downloaded them all yet, but they're in my account, they're free, all I need is to download them. I am, in fact, still juggling with the idea to add this as another category for my blog... But in the meantime, here's the list.
Assassin's Creed 3
Beyond Good and Evil
The Crew
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Rayman Legends
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell

STEAM
Crap, even if I reviewed quite a few games, I think the list is gonna be even longer than the previous one! That said, while I bought many new games, I also removed from my collection a few free titles that I just didn't care at all about. Mostly the free MMORPG titles that were too heavy. Friggin' TERA, almost 40 Gb... Okay, enough time wasted, let's get to the list!
Bastion, Disney's Castle of Illusion, Caveman World: Mountains of Unga Boonga, The Chosen RPG, Chroma Squad, Clockwork Tales: Of Glass and Ink, Copy Kitty, Cry of Fear, Cubicle Quest, Defy Gravity, The Desolate Hope, Dev Guy, Disgaea PC, Disillusions Manga Horror, DRAGON: A Game About A Dragon, DuckTales Remastered, Dust: An Elysian Tail, Dyna Bomb, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Electric Highways, Elisa The Innkeeper: Prequel, EM: Shader Attack, Emily is Away, Eternal Senia, Everlasting Summer, Face It: A game to fight inner demons, Far Cry 3, Fingerbones, Fishing Planet, Five Nights at Freddy's, Five Nights at Freddy's 2, Five Nights at Freddy's 3, Five Nights at Freddy's 4, Five Nights at Freddy's: Sister Location, Floating Point, Frederic: Evil Strikes Back, Game Dev Tycoon, Gems of War, Goat Simulator, Golf With Your Friends, Gravilon, Grimm, Gun Rocket, Hand of Fate, The Hat Man: Shadow Ward, Hearts of Iron III, Hexoscope, The Howler, I Zombie, Intergalactic Bubbles, Jongoku Kisetsukan: Sense of the Seasons, Knight Online, Knights of Pen and Paper +1, Labyronia RPG, Labyronia RPG 2, Lead and Gold - Gangs of the Wild West, Legend of Myseria, Legend of Numbers, Lux Delux, Mad Combat Marines, Magicka, Mega Man Legacy Collection, Mirror's Edge, Monster Loves You, Morphopolis, My Lands, Narcissu 1st and 2nd, Neverwinter, Nuked Knight, Octodad: Dadliest Catch, The Old Tree, One Way Heroics, Only If, Out There Somewhere, Papers Please, Parcel, PARTICLE MACE, phoenix Force, Pink Heaven, Pink Hour, The Plan, Polarity, Pony Island, Portal, Portal 2, Rabbit Hole 3D: Steam Edition, Realm of the Mad God, Revolution Ace, Rock'N'Roll Defense, Rolling Sun, Save Jesus, Saviors, Scribblenauts Unmasked, Serena, Shantae and the Pirate's Curse, ShipLord, Shonen Idle Z, Simply Chess, Sins of the Demon RPG, Skyborn, SNOW, Sonic Generations, South Park: The Stick of Truth, Spaceport Hope, Speedrunners, Spooky's Jump Scare Mansion, The Stanley Parable, Storm of Spears, Sunrider: Mask of Arcadius, Surgeon Simulator, Survarium, Swords & Crossbones: An Epic Pirate Story, Team Fortress 2, Tenrow, Thomas Was Alone, Time Clickers, Time of Dragons, To Burn In Memory, TrackMania Nations Forever, Transistor, Transmissions: Element 120, Trove, Twisted Worlds, UFO Online: Invasion, Undertale, Unturned, Urban Trial Freestyle, Viridi, Voices From The Sea, WAKFU, Waveform, Worm.Is: The Game, You Have To Win The Game, ZOMBI

And that about covers it. I still plan to carry through with reviewing every single title on this list (in the case of Steam games, make more Steam Packs to review quickly a bunch of short ones). As you can see, I've still got a lot on my plate, and if you have any suggestions, please send them my way.

December 23, 2016

Rise of the Guardians (Wii)


Christmas is in two days, so how about a little Holidays-themed review? Hm? There’s that Wii game in my collection that I’ve barely played ever since I bought it. Maybe it would be time for me to take a better look at it, huh?

If you’re a Dreamworks fan, and even if you aren’t, you probably know about their 2012 film, Rise of the Guardians. A beautiful CGI-animated film about Jack Frost being called to help other icons of holidays and childhood in their fight against a villain who’s basically the Boogeyman. Of course, it is a lot more complex than that – the film contains dozens of little touches present in the original oeuvre, William Joyce’s The Guardians of Childhood, for which this film can also be considered a loose sequel of sorts. The film covers a lot of ground, discussing the relations the Guardians have between each other and how they feel about their appointed role in the mythology of children’s beliefs. It ties this all together into a compelling story about friendship, beliefs, memories, dreams and kicking ass. Because kicking ass they do. If you’re given the task to protect the children of the world as long as they believe in you, and you’ve got the superpowers to back it up, surely you’re not gonna be shy about jumping into action as soon as a major threat appears.

Also, I never thought Hugh Jackman would have been given an even hairier role than the one he usually plays.

As an example, here's the DS version.
Looks too similar to the others.
And of course, as with many major feature films, a number of video game adaptations were made. Gamers in general don’t have a soft spot in their minds for licensed games, because of the usual quality of the resulting titles. Combine a studio having to build a game out of a film that’s coming out in many months in theaters, with the rush of completing the damn thing so that it’s out when the film is released, and you’re gonna end up with a lot of duds. It’s inevitable. Thankfully, not every game that comes out of such a business practice is inherently terrible. There are some good licensed games out there. On the very early days of this blog, I reviewed a licensed game for How to Train Your Dragon. Wow, this place changed a lot since. Oh, I was so hopeful in 2013… Life sucked less… I was less angry, the world at large was less angry and hateful… Anyway, I thought it was a pretty enjoyable game. The Wii game adaptation of Rise of the Guardians may suck, or it may be good enough to try. Today, I’m telling you about this.


And for those who tell me that Rise of the Guardians is technically more of an Easter movie… Let me show you something. See this empty shelf over here?


This is where I store my damns, when I have any. As you can see, I’m all out. 

December 16, 2016

Steam Pack 2

Yes, that's my wallet. Yes, it's almost empty. Friggin' Holiday Season, man.

Christmas is coming, so let’s talk about Steam a little more. It really is a fantastic platform to discover games of all kinds. We had the Black Friday, which means there were major sales on Steam. I felt like my previous Steam Pack worked pretty well, so I decided to make another one. Once again, here’s a few games from my Steam collection, some free, some not… Either way, I hope these quick articles give you an opinion on each, and direct you on your decision to either download or not download any of them!

Audiosurf


If you’ve been anywhere near Steam or YouTube in the past eight years, chances are you’ve seen videos of this game. Audiosurf is a brilliant game that will create a level out of any single song in your entire library. It will take into account the tempo – both increases and decreases in speed – as well as the instrumentation and percussions (creating a more bumpy track if, say, the percussions are more present, as an example).

The most pleasant acid trip of all.
For a music lover like me who has accumulated over 130 hours of music to listen to on their computer, this game is like Heaven. You can surf your way through Weird Al’s Bite Me (for all of its seven seconds) or the small tracks on the Collector CD of Kirby’s Dream Collection (ranging from 30 seconds to a minute). You could bust out any normal-length track from 1 to 5 minutes or go into longer territory (Dragonforce’s Through the Fire and Flames is a community favorite). Want a marathon? Use the longest stuff you have (Yes’s 15+-minute epics? Pink Floyd’s Dogs, Atom Heart Mother, Echoes or Shine On You Crazy Diamond? Any Harmonium, if you’re into long French songs? Maybe even Dream Theater, with their collection of songs over 19 minutes in length – up to and including the 42-minute Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence)! Have fun. Video game tracks? Soundtrack compositions? Silly cartoon themes? Anything from the shortest folk ditty to catchy EDM to the most complex and difficult progressive tracks? The options are infinite.

And just in case it wasn’t already addictive enough, the game comes with three difficulty settings and various modes. Some modes aren’t on some difficulties, so you often have no choice but to play a song on a much higher difficulty. All modes have the same basic concept: You collect the color blocks, and must form chains of 3 on your three rows of 21, trying not to overload them (as it causes you to lose your progress and start over collecting blocks). The rows only disappear when chains of blocks of the same color are made. These are the various modes:
-Mono, where you can only collect the color blocks and avoid all the grays;
-Pointman, where you can catch blocks to use later and form better chains;
-Double Vision, where you control two cars (or you play with a friend);
-Vegas, which shuffles the board;
-Eraser, in which the goal is to delete a certain color;
-And Pusher, which can push blocks left and right to help form more chains.

This song is extremely long - and as a result, the path in
Audiosurf goes up, and down, and that's what you're
seeing in the background. It's so beautiful.
This is, probably, one of the best games on Steam. It’s also one of the earliest, released all the way back in 2008. In fact, what I’ve been discussing so far is almost common knowledge. The game has been around for that long. An Audiosurf 2 was released and I’ve yet to try it, though I’ve heard good things about it. To be honest though, I don’t feel the need to have it just yet, while the original Audiosurf keeps me busy.

I would say Audiosurf is a definitive must-have. You should enjoy it. If it had only its own collection of tracks to use (which, granted, it does come with a number of tracks from Valve games like Portal), it would be pretty weak. But you have the world of your own song collection at your fingertips. On six modes split over three difficulties. It's an awesome, awesome, awesome game.

Wow, I’m such a prog geek when it comes to music…

Price: 10.99$

Battle Ranch: Pigs VS Plants


Well, that looks simple enough...
Geez, talk about a change for the worse. How to describe Battle Ranch... Hm... Think Plant VS Zombies, with two major differences: It’s more like Plants VS Piggies, and also it sucks. Also, there isn’t much else similar. I have no idea where I was going with this analogy.

The evil pigs have set foot on the land, and the vegetable population wants to stop them. Or rather, the farm animals are counting on you to harvest the resources and place them on the field in order to fend off the hordes of biker pirate knight porks. Yup, I just had to put these four words together. These guys just can’t pick a theme and keep it.

Well, that looks somewhat more coimplex...
This combines a garden management/harvest sim with some form of tower defense. You plant seeds and harvest them to make money, then place vegetables in the pigs’ way to attack them. There’s the star fruit that shoots in one direction, the hawthorn that serves as a blockade, the pepper bomb, the tomato that shoots a cannon that can paralyze enemies for a few seconds… There is plenty of choice. Just place a veggie in a row where a pig has just showed up, and start the slaughter. Huh, I guess vegetarians really do win the food fight after all. You get a star on the level if you harvest all the required vegetables before the end of the timer, though you get a gold star only if said timer isn’t in its silver section (in which case you get a silver star instead).

Well that looks like it's too much.
Guess I just don't care any longer.
The main menu includes a great variety of modes – that would be pretty great if we didn’t have only one mode unlocked at first. I don’t even know what we need to do to unlock the others – probably play through the 40+ levels of the current mode to unlock the next. Just for 10 of these levels, that's almost a complete hour of gamepla! After a while, you unlock more things, like cages to trap boars that get too close, a farmer to harvest vegetables for you, and a shop where you can switch around your set of attacking veggies to better face the upcoming waves. Oh, also, the pigs start going underground, through your defenses…

An interesting concept with alright graphics, but a gameplay that ends up being rather meh. A very limited soundtrack that becomes annoying after a while. There were some good ideas here, but this game unfortunately falls into the category of games that are weaker clones of better titles. The game does offer some pretty tough levels as it goes, though, so if that’s something you might be interested in, do know that it only costs 1.00$ at the moment.

Brawlhalla


As I played more and more Steam games I have actually paid for, I started to put away free-to-pay titles. I haven’t touched AdVenture Capitalist in about two months. However, just because I’m not going into free games anywhere as often, doesn't mean I've completely stopped. I still plan to review whichever ones I’ve kept. While Brawlhalla contains a TON of content that you must pay for, the game still contains enough in its base form to give you a fun time.

So much that you could have to pay for!
This could count as a Super Smash Bros. copycat to some extent, although much simpler. The battlefields are floating platforms and you get points by knocking the opponents off-screen - sounds Smash enough, doesn't it? A ton of characters with backstories, special moves, weapons – none of them with the star power of Nintendo mascots, but then again it’s better that way. Many modes, many of which can be played online against other Brawlhalla players in your timezone. The fights can be a 1VS1 or a 4-player battle royale, with the winner always being the one to score the most points. Items can appear, summoning a blast across the stage, or giving your character one of two weapons that belong to that character only.

Ah, I like the smell of freshly-begun battle in the morning!
All the modes are available from the start: Online and Custom online, for casual matchmaking; Ranked, play for glory; Single Player, self-explanatory; Couch Party, to play against friends locally; Legends, to learn about every single hero; and Store, to buy new characters, taunts, skins, avatars, etc.

That’s the thing, though; if you are not willing to pay for anything, you still have all of this… but only six characters to choose from. There are 22 additional characters that can be unlocked by paying for them. You can play a bit every day, and earn coins by completing daily missions, and you can unlock the characters over time. That’s all fine and good, but those characters are quite expensive, going from 2300 coins to 7200. There are also various customization options that can be unlocked, though for most of those you actually need to buy Mammoth Coins. Get your own, starting with 140 for 6.59! You could buy Mammoth coins to unlock customization options. You could also buy all the heroes for 16.49$, if you want. Chances are, though, that you’ll probably enjoy this game without ever buying anything from it – if you don’t want customization and if you can actually wait and collect the coins over time through daily missions, you can probably enjoy it just fine.

In a fighting game, it's like nobody can get along.
No wonder the Subspace Emissary had everybody at
each other's throats all the timeé
All in all, this is a pretty great game for free, although your enjoyment will depend on whether or not you’re willing to pay. Having only six characters to choose from is pretty small – I would give the game more points if it had a few additional characters available from the start. Reading said characters’ biographies is enjoyable, and the game keeps track of all your successes. Though, hey- all the modes are available from the start, and the fighting in this game is pretty fun (it’s always better to play against humans, right?). They could have charged you for modes. They only charge you real money for customization, with paying for the unlockable heroes being only an option, not an obligation. It’s free, so try it out.

Card Hunter


Hey guys! This is, like, a super new concept! It’s a tabletop RPG… where everything is done with playing cards! …Yay? This is another free-to-play game with bonuses you can pay real, dear money for, though I likely won’t ever spend a cent on it. Thus is the reality of free-to-play games, including Card Hunter.

Try to keep track of everything on this
screen alone; then, imagine for the
whole game.
You start off in a very high-level team, in high-level quests, in a sort of tutorial. You have your group of adventurers, each with their deck (that is improved by the equipment worn by them – better equipment, better cards to pick from). This tutorial shows how the game works. Need to move? Use a card. Attack? Use a card. Heal an ally? Use a card. Being attacked? Said cards also include protection and armor, so you can instantly be protected from certain attacks, as the game uses those automatically. Many things require a die roll though, so if you're unluky, well, you're not gonna be helped much.

That's a lot of cards for various purposes.
Seems like a nice introduction to the
complexity of actual tabletop RPGs...
However, my main issue with the game is that it doesn’t use the normal turn-by-turn tabletop RPG gameplay. You play, the DM plays, then you play. As in, despite controlling three characters, you can only play one card from one character each turn. The DM's characters often share the same hands, so when he picks a movement card, all of his characters sharing that hand can move. You’re soon told by the actual owner of these characters that you must start playing from Level 1, and not with his characters from a well far ahead campaign. Alright, alright… we'll start from the beginning. But we'll still kick ass, just come back in.......... 12 months!

It’s a fun game, though I personally am not a fan of the system used for it. I mean, cards and only one turn, really? Oh well. This being a free-to-play game, a point will come where you’ll probably be told to spend to unlock extra features. Obviously, don’t, unless you are absolutely sure you want these features… I must admit though that it’s pretty enjoyable, between the long-winded explanations of why the protagonists are in these battles, and how every single adventure has its explicative sheet… all this, mixed in with jokes about the social ineptitude of nerds playing tabletop RPGs. The tongue-in-cheek tone of the interactions, with a battle system that you eventually get used to, lead to a game that can be quite enjoyable, with very few things that you’d actually need to pay for. You mostly need to pay for a few extra quests. There's also a multiplayer mode.

So many campaigns to play through!
So many curses to be tossed!
Both by the wizards and the players!


Carpe Diem


This free, very quick graphic novel has fairly limited options. You can beat it in 5 minutes. It’s available in many languages, so chances are you can pick your native tongue in the game’s parameters.

That's the only decision you'll ever have to take in this one.
For the sequel that's apparently being worked on, however...
Carpe Diem is about a guy, Jung, and his girlfriend, Ai, going out on a date. He hasn’t had a lot of free time to do so in recent weeks, so he’s happy he gets to see her again. And it’s a good thing, as Ai doesn’t have much time left… When the date starts, you pick one of three options: The mall, the park, or the arcade. The story will then go there, and you’re not given other choices afterwards when the characters go to other places, whether it’s a restaurant or the park at nighttime.

The music could change more, as it’s the same quick clip repeated as long as the story is going on. The very limited interactivity may turn you off, though as I said, it’s only 5 minutes and in the end, it’s more about telling a quick story. Stay until the end. You could even spoil the end for you by pressing Crtl and rapidly skipping through the whole thing – though stay, as it’s a rather surprising ending that says a lot. The developer is apparently working on a more complex version of the game…

Alright, that’s it for today! I hope you enjoyed reading about these suggestions!

December 9, 2016

WarioWare: Smooth Moves


(You can't imagine the amount of work it was to make this title card. Hell, I didn't think I was going to run out of place on it! Seriously look at the full picture.)

One of the advantages of Nintendo is that they love to innovate. Touch screen; movement detection; the various features of the 3DS; the additional screen of the Wii U (You can say that it didn't turn out so well, but you can’t deny that it was an innovation); and now the Nintendo Switch that is practically three or four different consoles in one… They have always had this edge against competitors. Honestly, I love the concept of the Switch, I just hope they fill the roster of games quickly, with a lot of titles that make people want to buy the console.

And it’s inevitable: Since the Game Boy Advance, every new Nintendo console had its accompanying WarioWare title. The GBA had Mega Microgames and Twisted! (this one innovated with a tilt sensor); The GameCube had Mega Party Games; The Nintendo DS gave us Touched!; For the DSi (and 3DS?), we had WarioWare: Do It Yourself as well as Snapped!; The Wii U had Game & Wario; The original Wii had D.I.Y. Showcase, and Smooth Moves.

Applying the formula of the WarioWare series to the Nintendo Wii must not have been a simple task. Yet, they managed it rather well, by setting up Forms (positions the player must take with the Wii remote in order to play a certain category of microgames). Before every microgame, you’re told which form to use and you’re given enough time to switch accordingly. That way, even in the most randomized levels, you’re not left alone to figure out what you have to do next. That’s a good thing, because some of those poses are simply silly and you wouldn’t think of using them. Alright, so what’s the idea they found to connect all those things together? Let’s look at the plot!

December 2, 2016

An Episode In Gaming: Code Lyoko (Part 7)

"Code Lyoko" review: Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7

Alright, I covered the whole show, I talked about the episodes I liked, I gave some points of criticism… Today, I am letting it all out. My criticism, I mean. I will go back quickly on 24 little things I noticed in Code Lyoko that may annoy some people. Maybe I’m making a CinemaSins of myself, maybe I’m just complaining because complaining on the Internet is fun… Either way, I stay true to my word: I like the show. But I understand why someone might not. Here are 24 problems, ranging from minor to major, that can be found in Code Lyoko. Note that I did not include all of the criticisms I brought up in the previous six parts – I kept the more important ones. If you know the show, and there are other things that annoy you about it that I haven't covered, feel free to share them. I like reading your opinions.

24. The doors are a CGI show-off
Starting with Season 2, the show started using CGI also in some scenes of the real world – usually for doors. Only problem is, the doors created this way swing on their hinges back and forth. Look, I’m sure such doors exist in high schools and dormitories – only problem is, the CGI on these particular doors looks incredibly fake, and their swinging back and forth just looks like the animators are showing off their blending of the 2D and CGI parts. Plus, I doubt such doors would be so widespread around a French high school campus. They're practically everywhere.

23. Variable computer science
The show may stretch and pull your suspension of disbelief like an elastic and stop just before it breaks – but it also does this to computer science. Sometimes, new programs take weeks or months to code; other times they take mere hours. When the supercomputer is turned off, or loses power, or rebooted, Lyoko won’t work as well, yet any Lyoko-Warriors inside it will still somehow be aware. It all depends on what direction the writers want an episode to take. Add this to the pile of things that aren’t consistent in the series.

22. No deduction skills?
Even when it's ridiculously obvious where they're going,
they still make sure to waste every possible second
before delivering their big shocking twist.
I noticed this later as I was writing Part 5 of this review; these characters have little to no deduction skills. Or at least, no deduction skills when it matters. As an example: the plot elements start piling up by the end of Season 2. The Hermitage, belonging to Franz Hopper, has a room for a child; Aelita remembers the doll found there; her visions include flashes of Franz Hopper playing piano in a clean Hermitage. Anyone and their mother could figure out that Aelita was always human. And as the heroes review all these elements, they ask questions, but keep dancing around the answer until it’s finally stated… Christ kids, either you’re trying to force yourself not to spit it out too quickly, or you’re really that terrible at deduction! What about hypotheses? You guys never tried to bring forth that maybe, just maybe, Aelita was always human? Jérémie, you’re a science guy, you should have tried bringing forward a hypothesis or two! Urgh. Moving on.

21. Project Carthage: Forgotten
This relates to the myth arc regarding Franz Hopper and XANA. In Season 2, it’s revealed that Hopper created XANA as a multi-agent program during Project Carthage, an ultra-secret project, which is why his family was then targeted by men in black… and, thus, why he and Aelita fled to Lyoko. There are still hints of this when Jérémie tries to figure out the password to call the transporter that would bring his friends to Sector 5 (SCIPIO). However, that plot element is dropped. What was Carthage about? Why did it require XANA? Why did it make the Men in Black target all of Hopper's family? Either the writers forgot, or decided they’d rather not talk about it.

After all, you can't make a lot of jokes about being chased
relentlessly by dead-serious Men In Black...

20. A spoiler in the ending credits!
Talking about backstory, starting with Season 2, the end credits show Classified files that include pictures of Franz Hopper as well as documents about him. It shows him with a wife, it shows him among the teachers of Kadic. I repeat: It shows him with a wife. Who has a slight resemblance with Aelita. In other words, the show spoiled its second season’s biggest revelation right from that season’s first episode. Good work! You may count it as foreshadowing... in which case it's probably the most obvious clue that would allow the viewers to figure out the big twist very early on.

19. …An army of robots
Yup. That was XANA’s world takeover plan all along. Still disappointing as all Hell.

And they all have weak points, too!
XANA, you're supposed to be a brilliant enemy!

18. Jérémie’s programming failures
One of Jérémie's programming failures; we had a group
of Odd consuming all the hair gel in the ten-kilometer
radius for their eccentric haircuts.
It’s justified by him getting into something that is out of his league, but Jérémie accumulates failures when he’s programming something new to use on Lyoko. When it’s not multiplying Odd, it’s separating Ulrich’s mind from his body. It led to a bunch of interesting episodes, but it would usually be used just to add some extra drama – how often have these programming failures happened and suddenly the affected heroes had only 4 or 8 or 12 hours to be repaired or else they were gonna die or vanish forever or something?

17. The “No Deaths” clause
One thing established from the very first episodes, and reinforced throughout the show with the numerous times the characters are second away from death, is the “No Death” clause. Basically, Return to the Past reverts the world anywhere from a few hours to two days back, but will not negate deaths, making them indeed permanent. The reason is simple: This is a kid show, therefore it shouldn’t have such heavy subjects. However, one question is never answered: How did they learn that death wouldn’t be reverted by the reset button? Was it written somewhere in the program when Jérémie discovered it? Or… did they find out the hard way, early on in their careers as heroes? Come to think of it, why wouldn't deaths be reverted if the supercomputer is able to replicate a whole day's worth of actions so perfectly? Sleep well, kids!

16. Stupid XANA plans
Yup, a food golem. I wasn't kidding about that one.
To be fair, a can to the head really does freaking hurt.
I get that the whole idea behind the show is that these protagonists are fighting something more powerful than they’ll ever be, so they’re always within a hair’s breadth of losing. However, this happens even when XANA’s current plan is completely stupid. Giant teddy bear? Okay, that was the pilot, why not. Destroying the group’s trust by going around as a polymorphic clone and kissing people? Wait, what? A food golem, really? I don’t know how XANA selects his plans, but some of those were outright ridiculous. And that’s coming from a program that evolved to become a magnificent manipulating bastard! Although, if these stupid plans also brought him so close to victory… that probably says more about the heroes…

15. Impossible XANA plans
In the same vein, while I can forgive the polymorphic clones, the possessions, and other similar things, I don’t see how XANA could achieve some of the other things it’s done. It once removed all gravity on the campus. The reason given in the show was bogus. Another day, it literally sunk the Academy multiple floors into the ground. How? Nobody knows! What about that time he unleashed the coldest winter of all time upon Kadic? Even with all the power this program gained, there are still things that it shouldn’t have been able to do. That or, it’s gotten a really incredible grip on quantum physics…

14. No proper intro until Season 3
"XANA Awakens" should have been the first two episodes.
I don’t mean intro as in, “the introduction sequence of the series”; I mean, an introductory episode or two explaining the setting. Season 1 starts in the middle of the group’s fight against XANA. We discover the details one at a time, over the course of the first few episodes, but it’s not until Season 3 that we get an actual introduction. The two-parter “XANA Awakens” airs as part of Season 3… AKA, 52 episodes later.

13. Variable intelligence adults
There is something about TV shows and cartoons in general that is known as “Depending on the story”. This is when characters start behaving in some way only because that’s what is needed for the current story to work. In Code Lyoko, the adults are struck by this pretty badly; one day they will respond to the crisis in an intelligent manner, bringing the children to a safe place. Another day, they’ll be complete imbeciles who confiscate all the cell phones when they mysteriously start ringing all at the same time, and then try to take down every signal tower in town. The level of intelligence of these people, who are teachers for the most part, varies greatly from episode to episode. This gets toned down in later seasons, when the adults start picking up on some of the heroes’ antics and actually keep a rather reasonable level of intelligence regardless of plot.

12. Odd’s Future Flashes
That power of premonition that Odd had in Season 1, which was such a blatant way to increase drama that even the writers decided to take it out of the show. And good riddance.

Ironically, Aelita ended up having a near-identical
premonition at the end of the show. So even if they
got rid of Odd's power, they still kept that ace up their
sleeve... just to cultivate some final drama in episode 94.

11. Casanova Odd
A recurring gag in the show, starting with Season 2, is that Odd just can’t stop flirting with every girl on the campus. Well, with every girl his age, but still. The joke soon deviates to “Odd gets hated by every girl that dates him”, because karma is cruel. It does start off as pretty funny, but after a while it just becomes annoying. Like many comical side-stories on the show, this only shows up once every few episodes, whenever the writers can milk a joke out of it, so it’s not too bad.

10. Sissi… What a pest!
Plus all of her moments where she's nagging Ulrich or
purposely looking for trouble with the gang...
One of those aspects I barely discuss in the whole review is Sissi Delmas, the alpha girl on campus. After her behavior in “XANA Awakens”, the heroes chose not to have her in their group, and ever since, she's tried to break them up or discover their secret. That’s when she’s not trying to pull Ulrich away from Yumi, of course. If XANA is the villain of the protagonists’ heroic lives, Sissi is the closest to a villain there can be in their student lives. She starts off as an unpleasant, whiny, spoiled brat who feels entitled to get Ulrich and shows no respect to anyone. She mellows out over the course of these four seasons, becoming at least a little more likeable every time – however, no matter what point it is in the show, she’s guaranteed to have moments where you just can’t stand her annoying presence. Well, at least she held her own against XANA’s latest scheme multiple times, so she’s quite the survivor…

9. Aelita the useless
Aelita started out as a disliked character for many reasons. At first, her only power was to change the layout of the field, summoning barriers or removing floors and similar things. But aside from that, she had no actual offensive talents, meaning she always had to be protected. She was a breathing, walking escort mission, with the sole bonus being that the Lyoko-Warriors only needed to open a way for her towards the tower by killing XANA’s mooks. Sure, in Season 2 she started fighting back, and in Seasons 3 and 4 gained new abilities that let her fight alongside her friends, but it was still an escort mission; she had to survive, go into that tower and deactivate it. However, for the first two seasons, something about her annoyed a lot of fans.

8. The Aelita-XANA dilemma
Talking about Aelita… This point is about the question that pops up in “XANA Awakens” and is maintained for all of Season 1. Should they risk keeping the supercomputer turned on and letting a mankind-hating AI pull all kinds of nasty plans on unsuspecting people, all to save another AI with a pretty face? Or should they sacrifice that pretty AI to ensure mankind isn’t endangered? This question was a sword of Damocles over the show’s beginnings, with many fans raising that point out of simple logic. I mean, have you seen the kind of shit XANA is able to pull? He almost wins in every single episode! Most people would say “sorry, Aelita” and turn off the whole thing. But Jérémie would not allow this to happen. In the end, it turns out he was right, Aelita really was a human virtualized on Lyoko; but it also endangered the world for two whole years…

7. The protagonist-centered morality of the early seasons
Here shown: A Return to the Past, just to illustrate the point.
With a handy reset button and no unfortunate secondary effects (at first) to using it, the heroes really went wild with the Return to the Past function of the supercomputer at first. Of the 26 episodes of Season 1, 23 episodes use it. Almost every instance was justified considering XANA had done considerable damage or done things that would be questioned or investigated. Even in the following seasons, they would use it, but only as a last resort. However, the heroes would also take that opportunity to correct their own mistakes in their student lives. Things their opponents (mostly Sissi, Nicolas and Hervé) do are treated as wrong, but when the Lyoko-Warriors do those things, then it’s A-OK. Some episodes do show a more selfish side of the characters, especially Odd who once made a major mistake and tried to have Ulrich take the blame for him with Yumi… yeah, Odd, I’m not done criticizing you. These are teenagers, so it can be excused that they sometimes still think that what they're doing is right even when it isn't. Doesn't make it less infuriating the few times where such behavior is shown.

6. Yumi, professional XANA victim
By her status, Yumi is an easy victim for XANA to pick on. She lives with her family; she’s a year older and, thus, not in the same class as her friends. On top of that, she doesn't like having to save the world. These may be the reasons why the malevolent program seemed to pick on her more often than it picked on the others. On one hand, it’s perfectly logical; on the other, it becomes pretty glaring after a while. When the fans come up with a term for it, you know it’s become a problem. Granted, Aelita would become a justified victim of XANA afterwards, but Yumi would still seem to be more frequently the one that all misfortunes happen to – whether it’s in the fight against XANA, or in the students’ everyday lives on the campus.

5. God Damn It Odd
That time Odd had one of his famous "God Damn It Odd"
moments but received punishment for it.
Disco-dance, Odd! Dance all night long!
I could probably list all the times Odd acted as a moron who provokes the problems in this show, but it would stretch this article to 5,000 words. Odd Della Robbia was already set up as the most immature kid in the group. The comic relief, basically. Unfortunately, this also means that he was often the one to cause the drama in the “ordinary student life” part of the episode… which would often carry into the week’s “fight against XANA” part of the episode. And that’s exactly the problem; you’d think that after his antics put him and his friends in trouble, Odd would learn. Well, nope. And that’s probably the most infuriating thing about him. Don't get me wrong, comic reliefs are important, but writers of a series must always make sure that said comic relief doesn't become a burden for the team of protagonists. And Odd was becoming a burden by the end.

4. Ulrich and Yumi’s infinite romantic tension
Oh, Yumi... This is just Season 1. You have  no idea
yet what he's like when a competitor appears.
Talking about plot tumors that never really leave the story, we have the “romance” between Ulrich and Yumi. Here’s how it happened: Ulrich meets Yumi during a martial arts class at Kadic. They're the only two students, and she kicks his ass. He takes a liking to her. When XANA attacks, she’s brought to the factory and ends up helping on Lyoko. Throughout Season 1, Ulrich knows he has feelings for Yumi, but can’t bring himself to say it. In Season 2, William enters the picture… And Ulrich becomes a jealous creep. Of course, he doesn’t know that Yumi has no romantic interest in William, and this bit of missing info drives the rest of this awkward relationship. The first episode of Season 3 shows that the fight against XANA is too dangerous, and Yumi wants to stay out of any possible romantic relationship as long as it’s not over… and Ulrich agrees, but reluctantly; he stays a jealous creep. At least, their final victory allows for this couple to finally happen. See, these two act like the teenagers they are, but this couple and the issues they go through (usually because of Ulrich’s own jealousy, as Yumi is a lot more level-headed) ends up driving many B-plots from their student lives. And Ulrich’s attitude often makes you wonder if he’s the kind of guy you should root for…


3. Life Points mean nothing
Lyoko doesn’t have a clear system. Sure, there are abilities, there are monsters, and there are attacks, but no clear system about Life Points. They merely serve to increase drama when the protagonists are fighting on Lyoko. It’s as I said: One day, a laser from a Tarantula will deal 10 Life Points of damage to a hero, the next a single shot from a Kankrelat will take down 60 Life Points. I know why the writers keep this feature unclear: So that they can make the story go just the way they want it to go. Need Aelita to end up alone on Lyoko? Have the others all get devirtualized quickly, showered with blasts from the enemies. Need one to come back to the real world to face whatever’s causing the danger at the moment? Quick devirtualization! Make things harder on Lyoko? Have only one of them still on Lyoko with Aelita, against the remaining monsters! It becomes pretty obvious after a while that the Life Points are really just there to balance the drama so that so that the plot goes according to plan.

2. The overuse of stock clips
The most obvious stock clip sequence:
When a Return to the Past is activated.
Cartoons are expensive to make, so every show has its own way to cut costs. Stock clips are one such example; instead of reproducing the same scene with similar shots, why not take a scene from a previous episode, cut the sound, and use it in the new context? Code Lyoko, in particular, invites this quite a bit. Stock clips are used when:
-The group is rushing to the factory;
-The Lyoko-Warriors are being virtualized;
-The main characters are on Lyoko;
-Aelita is deactivating a tower (this one, in particular, is pretty bad, as it’s always the same sequence. It changes a little in Seasons 2 and 4, but otherwise it’s always the same thing)
-Jérémie is typing or launching programs on the supercomputer’s control station, in particular the Return to the Past.
It becomes very obvious, and it often leads to issues when the stock clips don’t follow exactly the situation (causing continuity errors). Thankfully, every season has also seen a few changes here and there, meaning the creation of new stock clips or replacements of old ones – this is especially notable in Season 4, when all the characters change outfits, including on Lyoko. You can tell they are at least aware of the problem and shook up the formula precisely to avoid being told that they’re never using anything else than the early stock clips.

1. Always so close to losing
And now, the ultimate indication that this show cultivates drama just to keep the audience in their seats: Every time the heroes win, it’s always a second or two before they would lose. Someone would be close to death, XANA’s plan would almost work. Aelita would deactivate the tower at a snail’s pace, and XANA’s influence in the real world would stop. Always a few seconds before the bus hits the nuclear power plant, or befire a character falls from a deadly height, or whatever else the situation was. In the first season, episodes where this didn’t happen were quite rare. There’s only so many times that a trope can be used before people start seeing the pattern in a show and become disinterested in it. The rate of in extremis victories did decrease afterwards, not every situation ended in a risk of death. This was yet another improvement on the show once it found its footing, early on in Season 2. They wouldn’t completely get rid of it, though, so quite a few episodes would still end with them stopping XANA’s attack just in time before there are casualties. I guess it works for kids, who don’t mind this sort of thing, but an adult might be annoyed at the frequency at which this trope is used.

One second later, the trains would have collided.
One second later, that laser would have made a half-Yumi.

I,m not posting every example, but you get the idea.

And this is it, this covers every single thing I had to say about Code Lyoko. Phew! I’m done with that show. I’m putting this behind me. If you liked this long as Hell review, be sure to check out the show; you might end up enjoying it.

And with this, we’re now in December! I’ll write a few more reviews to finish the year. Let’s see… write two quick Wii reviews, maybe a Steam Pack or two… Things should go pretty quickly now. Okay, goodbye!

November 28, 2016

An Episode In Gaming: Code Lyoko (Part 6)

"Code Lyoko" review: Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7

Alright, this is the second-to-last part for this review, I promise. I have something more for Part 7, but you’ll see at the end of this article. We've still got 20 episodes, so I’ll hurry up and discuss them.

"I hope I get out of this, to see
mom, dad, Hiroki, Ulrich again...
And my Pokémon Ruby save file..."
We get an episode where the students are off to a camping trip at a nearby lake (where XANA attack, because of course it does), and then we see the Lyoko-Warriors going back into the Digital Sea and towards the first Replika. If you need to remember what a Replika is, go back to read the second half of Part 5. As usual, Season 4 of Code Lyoko has brought its share of new concepts and settings, and many episodes are about exploring them in greater detail, usually by way of “what is this goes wrong?” being the basis for an episode’s plot. In “Lost at Sea”, after a fight against XANA in the Digital Sea, Yumi’s mini-ship doesn’t return to the Lyoko-Warriors’ ship, the Skidbladnir. She’s lost in the depths. Of course, they do manage to retrieve her after moments of excellent drama, but it’s another episode that highlights just the kinds of unexpected dangers any of them could run into – they’re always at a risk in the Digital Sea.

Plus, of course it had to be Yumi. If something tragic must happen, it must happen to Yumi, the writers’ favorite victim.

"Look at this! I no longer have to design a cosplay!"
"Are you kidding? I'm still not ready for the next furry
convention!"
With knowledge that a Replika needs to be destroyed by smashing the supercomputer that contains it, Jérémie works on a program that will translate Lyoko-Warriors from Lyoko to the real world, as their virtual avatars. Just… just roll along with it, the writers on this show had an idea for the rest of the season, logic be damned. Jérémie will find a better solution later. For now, we have to follow along. Anyway, like everything else, this starts with a test drive. This episode, “Lab Rat”, was mysteriously missing when Cartoon Network aired the show, so fans of the series wound up seeing the main characters translated to the real world as their Lyoko avatars. With no explanation whatsoever because the episode that set up that plot point never aired.