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March 25, 2016

Kirby's Dream Land 2

It was a nice day in Dream Land… UNTIL THE NIGHTMARES CAME!

Oh wait, I think I got this wrong. It was a nice day in the Rainbow Islands… UNTIL THE NIGHTMARES CAME!

No, wait, not quite it yet. It was a nice day in the Rainbow Islands… UNTIL KING DEDEDE SHOWED UP!

Um… No, that still doesn’t sound right. You know what? I think I’ll be better off explaining the game. Kirby’s Dream Land 2 is the third overall platform game in the Kirby series. Released on the Game Boy like Kirby’s Dream Land, this one pushes the limits of what could be achieved at the time with the portable console. Not only does it feature Kirby’s copy abilities from Kirby’s Adventure (a limited number of them, only seven), it’s also much longer (a little over 30 levels) and features a new gameplay mechanic: the Animal Friends.

Yep! Unhappy with giving us everything we wanted, the folks at HAL Laboratory give us even more! You see, when he defeats a mid-boss, Kirby frees from a bag one of four animal friends. There’s Rick the hamster, who’s great on land; Coo the owl, for all you people who have a strong urge to fly but nowhere to fly to; Kine, who sucks on land but is excellent underwater, which shouldn’t be a surprise considering it’s a sunfish; and Gooey, who appears only in a bag if you already have the animal friend who’s supposed to be in that bag. The first three are equipped to Kirby when he goes to them after freeing them; they have their own life bar, thus they provide six additional health points should you use either of them. They also put their own spin on Kirby’s seven abilities, resulting in no less than 28 different possibilities. Gooey is a special case, he refills one point of Kirby’s health when he appears in a bag. And he does it with a kiss. Oh yeah, Gooey’s a real ball of concentrated love. He doesn’t look the part, but that’s what he is.

March 21, 2016

VGFlicks: War Games: The Dead Code (Part 2)

Ready to jump into the review of this movie again? If not, go read Part 1! Considering the crazy amount of explanation there is to do in this film, I prefer not to waste your time with a long intro. Let’s go!

A long time ago, two astronauts tried the same trick
to escape the listening ears of a machine. It failed there
as well.
Two agents (played by Trevor Hayes and Claudia Ferri) monitoring RIPLEY at Homeland Security meet in a car outside to discuss the affair. Agent Aaron Scott explains that RIPLEY has really been going overboard. Due to the tenuous links between Will and the terrorist group the money used in the Dead Code game came from, the machine will keep on looking for connections, up to the six degrees of separations; in layman’s terms, you might know it better as the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. It’s the theory saying that, if you took into account every person you met (or shook hands with) in your life, and then all the people each of these people met (or shook hands with), and continued this way, it will rarely take more than 6 such “connections” to be linked to anyone else in the world. RIPLEY is currently doing this to find an explanation for the Will Farmer case, which may lead it to incriminate most of the entire global population if it continues. Oh, by the way, RIPLEY watches them and reads their lips again… and is willing to manipulate road signals to get them out of its way… because yes, it can fucking do that, as it proves in a later scene, which leads to one agent getting hit by a car when the traffic lights suddenly change at an intersection…

Ah yes, those cold Canadian winters...
Professor Stephen Falken drives Will Farmer and Annie D’Mateo to a factory in a recluse sector, and on the way they reflect on the situation. Falken explains that he was part of RIPLEY’s design team, he was considered too threatening; hence why he hides. However, he was also diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, adding weight to why he’d kill himself (or fake such, in this case), and suffers from the disease. Will says that he lost his father at a young age, that he died after catching some local illness in a foreign country. Falken lays down the real facts: Will’s father worked for the American military and had been sent to Bosnia to help develop bioweapons… after which they got rid of him, using those same diseases they were preparing to throw en masse during the next armed conflict; and his death was disguised under a cover story for his family. These family relations also explain why RIPLEY ended up having such a freak-out…

Gosh, this thing belongs in a museum.
Soon the three of them reach a mostly abandoned station, where they are greeted by an old Russian guy. In there, they find the old War Operator Plan Response computer (WOPR, or JOSHUA, whichever you prefer). Falken inserts a card in the machine and types the backdoor password (Joshua), which causes the old machine to suddenly become a lot more efficient than it was. It even replies to Falken’s written lines with its own unique lines and its very own voice. Like an ancestor to Chatbots everywhere.

At Homeland Security, Hassert states that bioweapon prototypes have been found in the terrorist cell in Damascus (the one Will and *sigh* Dennis took money from) corresponding with the chemical samples found in the Farmers’ household, and that there might well be a dormant terrorist cell in Philadelphia. RIPLEY, listening in, decides to raise the threat alerts to a maximum and cuts off all the power in Philadelphia, with a countdown towards “decontamination” starting at 12 hours. Holy shit, RIPLEY is planning to nuke the goddamn city!

It's a gaming overload!!!
Since JOSHUA was in part made to work in tandem with RIPLEY, this means it can infiltrate its systems. Falken commands JOSHUA to “play games” with RIPLEY, which makes JOSHUA overload RIPLEY with Tic-Tac-Toe, checkers, go and chess matches, enough to slow it down, which brings back some power to Philadelphia…. But RIPLEY reboots itself to get rid of the games, and then launches a warhead towards the station where WOPR is located. The old machine barely has time to warn Falken, Will, Annie and the Russian guy. Falken stays behind and does a few things on WOPR as Will, Annie and the Russian guy get out in a hurry, merely seconds before the warhead falls and destroys the station. That’s also when the Special Forces arrive to arrest Will and Annie, and bring them to Homeland Security. At a little under an hour from “decontamination”.

Well, we didn't get a Philadelphia-shattering kaboom, but we did get a
Falken-shattering kaboom. ...Oh WOW, that was NASTY from me.

Brought to a room near the main control center of RIPLEY, Will and Annie (who’ve been given a laptop) devise a plan and contact Dennis to help them. They’ll be launching a DDoS attack on the machine’s servers, to slow RIPLEY down considerably. You know, this might be one of the first times in fiction that they portray such a technique. And at least, this time around, it’s used against a real threat. (Plus, for once, Dennis does something useful, it was about time…) And it works, as RIPLEY drops some of her control over Philadelphia as more and more people connect themselves to RIPLEY’s game. But she reboots again to negate most of the effects of the DDoS attack. However, Will accesses JOSHUA, which has been sent by Falken through e-mail. JOSHUA’s methods are still insufficient, though, so they convince the agents of Homeland Security to boost the prize rewards for RIPLEY’s game from 25,000$ to 100 million and advertise it everywhere to cause maximum traffic. After all, if there’s one thing we can count on in this world, it’s greedy people attempting to win it big with minimal effort, right?

In the background: All the player accounts opening in the hopes of winning
the promised 100 million $. In the foreground: An old Colm Feore who's
playing his role far too seriously for such a silly script.

So RIPLEY absolutely had to wish to self-destruct?
Sigh, those damned machines sometimes...
So illogical!
Feeling threatened, RIPLEY redirects the mission towards the Homeland Security headquarters, in Washington D.C. Annie explains that there’s a branch of chess masters playing “suicide chess”, where the point is to lose by having the opponent take all your pieces before you take theirs. Will explains this concept to JOSHUA and makes the program play this with RIPLEY, in a “Russian roulette” kind of way. With only 13 minutes at the countdown, JOSHUA begins playing with RIPLEY, each time causing a “loss” by showing that the launch of a single nuclear warhead would inevitably result in a Third World War, which is exactly what RIPLEY was programmed to prevent. Every scenario ends with the ominous message “Total annihilation”. The problem with this plan is that these simulations are meant to lead to actual attacks, with 1/6th of the nuclear warheads in America being currently ready for launch, and were they to find an active warhead RIPLEY could launch it.

You know you've fallen low if you're desperate for a
machine to get a clue...
And as luck would have it, a simulation weapon turns out available, heading for Washington D.C. Goddammit, I should have never watched this film! Is my inherent bad luck, my jinx, traveling across media now and tipping the odds against protagonists by the mere fact that I’m watching them? When will this bad luck ever leave me??? Thankfully, by this point RIPLEY has learned that there is no point in a game where victory means defeat, and stops responding, canceling the attack. When JOSHUA asks it if they’re still playing, RIPLEY responds that “the only winning move is not to play”. Huh, I feel the same about Uno, Monopoly, Mario Party 2 and Mario Kart DS. Hurray, catastrophe avoided!

Well... in this ending's defense, they're two computer
nerds. They know they're compatible.
After the celebrations, Will asks JOSHUA if he really would have launched the warhead, since it got so close to doing so. JOSHUA replies that he would have as the humans are finished… before adding that it was a joke. You know, I’m not sure if I want my AI with a sense of humor after this. I mean, it’s already bad enough when they take everything seriously, what will it be like when we snark at them and they snark back? Whatever. All’s well that ends well, Will is now dating Annie (Oh great, does that mean he “earned” her? Urgh.), roll credits.

Bleh. Can’t say I outright hated it, but it’s still a rather mediocre film. Then again, what else was I to expect from a direct-to-DVD film?

I mean, I could say I’m happy that the film is set, for half of its duration, in Quebec, and that it features mostly Canadian actors. There’s also that, for all the flak I could give it, the movie at least treats hacking with more serious than most films, in that it uses real techniques that take time, and the machines (especially RIPLEY) show exactly what kind of dangers await those who put too much faith in a learning AI… not that we needed another reminder anyway. There is not a danger of a third World War (not until the final “duel” between JOSHUA and RIPLEY, anyway), but this whole mess ends up causing different kinds of problems to the American infrastructure.

However, despite whatever little praise I could give, the film gets taken down by a number of issues. The passable acting, the terrible CGI special effects and the nonsensical story. I made jokes about it in Part 1, there are so many coincidences in this plot that it’s pretty much impossible to believe. What’s worse, for this plot to work, it needs those coincidences. This story is just a mess, and it’s so blatantly obvious which way it’s going to go that you’ll see it coming from miles away. Stephen Falken returning? Seen it. JOSHUA appearing? Seen it. RIPLEY turning on its masters? Totally unexpected! Oh, who am I kidding… SEEN IT! Annie bringing up a variant of chess to help defeat RIPLEY? I mean, that scene at the chess club had to have a purpose, right? Need I go on?

For a movie that tries to depict neither side as a villain, the agents of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security sure do a lot of dangerous things, like relying on RIPLEY (programming her with defects that make her a threat to anyone, including themselves), or chasing after Will and Annie and almost running them over. Their plan, as a whole, is idiotic. Using an online video game to detect potential instances of domestic terrorism? Gee, what can go wrong with that plan? The only way to play that stupid Dead Code game is to bet money, so for one, those potential “terrorists” who don’t have money to waste on online games won’t go detected. And what about totally innocent gamers who somehow reach that game, beat it (after multiple attempts) and get falsely accused of terrorism? No video game can be used to properly judge if someone is dangerous, nor can video games cause violence in real life. One’s attitude in a game can and will differ greatly from what they are in real life, especially when the potential for cruelty in-game is at a maximum.

Never forget this.
And I’m forgetting many other instances. Oh, and of course, should I mention that Will’s friend Dennis now ranks on my personal Top 15 of the most annoying characters I have ever had the (dis)honor to see on-screen? Sure, by the end he helps in taking down RIPLEY, but it’s too little too late. He’s not all bad, he does have a few good moments here and there, but his awful moments are far more frequent.

In the end, War Games: The Dead Code is a poor movie, a sequel no one asked to a movie that was never meant to be a franchise. Don’t bother with it. It’s not entirely terrible, but it’s definitely not worth actively seeking it out. Hell, I only paid my copy of it 3 dollars, and that’s enough. I don’t think I’m going to watch it again. The worst part is that MGM thought, for a moment, that there could be more direct-to-DVD films based around War Games, but thankfully this plan doesn’t seem to have carried through. Guess they didn’t make enough money.

You know what? Go play chess instead. Though, I’ve also seen my fair share of crazy chess players…

Next week? Oh, time to continue looking at the Kirby games in the Dream Collection, with Kirby’s Dream Land 2!

March 18, 2016

VGFlicks: War Games: The Dead Code (Part 1)

A little bit of history about video game movies. It’s hard to believe for the millenials, but there was a time where video games were not a widespread fact of media. Anyone who lived in the 80s and early 90s know what I’m talking about. This was the golden age of arcades, the machines were large and sucked out your cash as long as you were ready to shill out another quarter or a buck to try and beat your own high score. Oh yeah, that was also a time where scores mattered. Also, home computers were a rare thing, and those things were big too. Obviously, this was not a time where there was a single video game popular enough to make a film. And yet, 1983 saw the release of the first movie with video games – or, well, computer games, but you get the picture – as the central point of the story: War Games. The Famicom wasn’t even out in stores! War Games came out in May, the Famicom in July!

War Games was the story of a brilliant teenager (played by Matthew Broderick – still accumulating roles despite our hopes that he had stopped in the early 2000s) using multiple hacking techniques existing at the time, until he finds his way to a simulation game… or so he thinks, as said simulation game reveals itself to be an actual military program designed to launch very real nuclear weapons, and the teenager’s mindless toying with the program takes the entire world closer by the minute to World War Three. That’s kind of a big deal.

I haven’t had the honor to see the original War Games movie yet, but until I do, here’s a fun fact for you: In 2008, thus 25 years later, they made a sequel to this. The new film, called War Games: Virtual Boogaloo-er, I mean, War Games: The Dead Code – can be seen as a sequel nobody really asked for. But we got it, and it deals with computer games, so I had to check it out. They managed not to make it a box-office bomb… by not releasing it in theaters, doing a direct-to-DVD release instead. It was also filmed in Montreal, so there’s that. Hey, who knows, this could be good snark material. Let’s plunge into War Games: The Dead Code, and see if it was worth reviving this film with a sequel.

March 16, 2016

Movie Week: Zootopia

So many characters, so much detail...
Is that a carrot on this guy's iPhone?
Disney’s 55th animated film and one of the more political films for children they’ve released in recent years… despite a cast made up only of mammalian animals. I’ll try to avoid revealing spoilers as much as I can.

Young rabbit Judy Hopps dreams of leaving the family business and become a cop in the big city, going against what people expect her to be; and become a cop, she does, after working harder than everyone else at the police academy. She finds a place at the Zootopia Police Department thanks to a social program instated by the Mayor that promotes diversity at the police department. There, on her first day the gruff Chief Bogo assigns her the task of being a meter maid. Now, some people would see the logic behind a choice like this; Judy is a new cop who doesn’t know the city’s layout, and this would be a chance for her to familiarize herself with this new environment… but Judy doesn’t see it that way.

Still, she applies herself to this new task, and soon sees a fox entering an ice cream parlor for elephants with a kid. Now, I must point out that Judy has grown, under her parents, with preconceived ideas about foxes (and an encounter with a fox bully didn’t help matters), but decides to give the fox a chance… well, until she finds out he was there to buy a large popsicle, melt it, and sell it as smaller popsicles as part of a scam. And when she confronts him about it, he calls her inferior compared to all the other animal species who are better suited to be cops. Judy also proves to be quite reckless when she chases a runaway crook in Little Rodentia, where she’s bigger than everyone else and risks stepping on a citizen at any moment.

This makes Chief Bogo not like her very much as you can guess, and he threatens to fire Judy. That’s when an otter lady comes to the police station to report the disappearance of her husband; Judy hurriedly takes the case – again, against her chief’s orders. And before Bogo can fire her, the mayor’s assistant, Dawn Bellwether (a sheep), congratulates her for taking the case. Bogo, obviously not happy with this situation (and forced to follow Mayor Leodore Lionheart’s orders to promote diversity), reluctantly gives Judy the case and gives her a 48-hour ultimatum. What little information Judy can gather brings her back to the fox she met the day before: Nick P. Wilde, who happens to have sold a popsicle to Mr. Otterton.

She manages to trick him into helping her, but Nick makes sure to waste as much of her time as possible (which includes passing by the DMV to find a car with a plate number, which results in that scene with the sloths, the one you have to remember because of the trailer). And thus begins a quest where Judy and Nick become unlikely allies in an investigation that reveals a threat to the mostly peaceful life in Zootopia and the social climate within it.

Honestly, this is where I have to stop. I won’t spoil more of the plot itself, though I’ll need to spoil certain elements of it (mostly the background) for the following analysis, so if you don’t want to know certain very important details, stop reading right away.


The world set up in this movie seems bright and colorful, with all the animals, both predator and prey, living in the same city. Sure, each species has kept a few of the traits we expect them to have (Judy is really quick and agile, Nick is cunning), but the problem does not lie in the fact that all the mammalian species live together. All the drama of the movie lies in the preconceived ideas some of the citizens share about others. Expecting certain animal species to act the way we imagine them to, either due to their species or due to the way they look. Each species is expected to fill a certain role. “Rabbits can’t be cops”, that’s the kind of thinking that Judy goes against. “All foxes are nasty con men”, that’s the way Nick goes (mostly because that’s what is expected of him by many other members of this society).

The story involves predator animals being found feral for an unknown reason, and this sparks a social conflict in Zootopia where the prey animals, who make up about 90% of the population (according to Dawn Bellwether), start getting fearful about the remaining 10% and shunning them for what they seem to be, not for what they actually are. You heard right: The villain of Zootopia, whoever it might be, is attempting to provoke a large-scale racial war.

The moral of the film, as a whole, is that “everyone’s a little bit racist” (cue the Avenue Q song), even those who are already oppressed. Everyone has ideas about others, beliefs about others that have no basis outside of appearance and certain stereotypes that just don’t want to die. Nick strongly believes against rabbits in the police force, while Judy has gained from her parents the mindset that foxes cannot be trusted (and even profiles him, like some cops in real life do with black people). Yes, everyone has that part of racism, sexism, that part of –isms basically, and one way towards making the world a better place is to get rid of this dark place in each of us. In a more idealistic story like Zootopia, it may be easier to do, but in real life? People don’t change that quickly, sadly.

The other moral, “look beyond appearances”, permeates the entirety of the movie, it’s not tacked on like many lazy films for kids do. Every character is shown to have a side that clashes with what you’d expect of them. I already explained about Judy’s deep-rooted prejudice against foxes; meanwhile, Nick has had a pretty awful childhood and only goes with the “con man” life because that’s what he’s expected to be. Chief Bogo, for how imposing and threatening he looks, is just doing his job (and Judy is acting impulsively and not following his orders, even though she just started so he's right to berate her); he’s also a fan of pop stars, and after Judy proves her worth, he treats her with much more respect. The mayor, Leodore Lionheart, is a lion with a large but reassuring, warm presence but reveals himself to be kind of a jerk. Pop idol Gazelle is socially involved and takes a stand when the racial tensions arise, in defense of predator animals (she has four tigers as her backup dancers, this should be a tipoff that she trusts them). The mob boss of the Tundra region, Mr. Big, is ruthless until he finds out his daughter was saved by Judy earlier in the film, after which he treats Judy and even Nick (whom he previously hated) like friends. Flash the sloth at the DMV shows a hidden side of himself later... Heck, even Judy’s parents grow out of their prejudice against foxes when we see them again later on.

This movie is just incredible. The amount of detail put not only in the plot, but also in every character, every environment, every scene, is beyond words. The characters are likable and introduced very well, not only in how we’d perceive them to be but also in how they actually are beyond race or appearance. The result is a complex fable about racism, bigotry and acceptance, which are pretty big themes for Disney to tackle in one of their films. It was a great risk, and they hit all the right notes. The funny scenes are REALLY funny, there are many awesome action scenes, and the drama is very well-done. Even the police investigation aspect is treated mostly with serious, with Judy (and then Nick) following every trail of information they can find, then going up the clues in order to solve the mystery. I would say that the reveal of the real villain of the story doesn’t come off as much as a surprise since Disney has done a similar reveal in three of their preceding films before this one (Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen and Big Hero 6), but that’s really a minor complaint that doesn’t take away much from the film.

My only fear is that the movie’s powerful message, which is made obvious in its duration and in how it’s the central point of the entire drama, will go over the heads of those who would learn from it (that is, racists and bigots in general).

Seriously though, I don’t think I can praise this movie enough. I consider this to be one of the best animated films I’ve seen, period. If you haven’t seen it, go see it. It’s worth paying a theater ticket for.

March 15, 2016

Movie Week: The Little Prince

Will not be released in the United States (the original release date, March 18th, has been taken off). God damn it. Therefore, I don’t think I’ll feel any shame in revealing spoilers, since there doesn’t seem to be any release date. I’ll still try not to make this review too long, though.

We follow the story of a young girl whose mother is, without a doubt, the worst case of helicopter parents I have ever seen, setting up her daughter for scholar success and nothing else. Social life? Which kid needs that? Is it really that important? They move closer to the school the mother desperately wants her daughter to get in, and it turns out they live right next the aviator of the story, now a very old man. The young girl actually meets him on her first days in her new place, and soon starts visiting him behind her mother’s back. The Aviator tells her his encounter with the Little Prince.

This movie gets very creative in its framing device; the main story with the young girl, her mother and the Aviator is shown in CGI, while the Aviator’s story is shown with stop-motion animation. The story from the book is re-told through vignettes, whether it’s the Little Prince growing the rose on Asteroid B612, visiting the other asteroids, then landing on Earth where he befriends a fox. He later meets the Aviator, who crashed in a desert, and they spend time together as the Aviator repairs his plane and the Little Prince tells his life story.

Meanwhile, the young girl has nearly stopped following the strict schedule set up by her mother, and visits the Aviator every day, and hears his story as he repairs his plane. He even offers her a fox plushie. After the Aviator makes a mistake, the mother finds out about this friendship and enforces her schedule. As if that wasn’t enough, the young girl and the Aviator end up having a major disagreement near the end of the Little Prince story and she breaks their friendship. Sometime later, the Aviator is hospitalized. Thinking he needs the help from the Little Prince, one night the young girl climbs aboard the plane and flies off, with the fox plush as her co-pilot, in space in search of the Little Prince.

Everything from that point on is original material that meshes the two elements of the framing device, and the young girl’s quest to find the Little Prince takes her to an asteroid that is all a giant city where adults work, and without a single child in sight. And from there, she starts looking around… and honestly, I should just stop there.

The movie does try to recapture the spirit of the original book, at least in the stop-motion scenes. And those are beautiful. The CGI scenes with the mother are meant to emphasize the joyless life many adults appear to live and how they often raise children into having the same life as them, that is, a life where all that counts is work and nothing else. The Aviator is meant to represent those who grow up with still this kind of childish joy and charm that adults often manage to keep within them as they grow up. As he says, “growing up is not the problem; forgetting is”. A good morale if there ever was one. The contrast between the young girl’s house and the Aviator’s is also very interesting. Also of note, no character in the entire movie has a given name, as you may have noticed so far; the young girl, the mother, the aviator and any other character introduced in the film’s runtime. The third act ties up most encounters in the original story of The Little Prince into a cohesive story, though how well they succeeded, and how well they kept the spirit of the book, is up to the viewer. Thankfully, the animation is absolutely marvelous, from beginning to end, a real treat to see.

I personally enjoyed the third act, though you might not. You should try to find this movie and watch it, since you won’t be able to see it in theaters in the foreseeable future.

March 14, 2016

Movie Week: Deadpool

Rating : R in America, PG-13 in Canada. No, seriously.

A superhero movie unlike every other, for a "superhero" unlike any other. Well, anti-hero, but you get the idea. Wade Wilson, mercenary, meets and forms a relationship with exotic dancer Vanessa Carlysle. Their relation goes well for over a year, when Wade finds out that he suffers from a cancer. He follows up on the offer of a mysterious man who works for a shadowy institution that offers to cure terminal diseases… and after a long time of experimentations and torture, finds himself with a mutant healing factor that makes him really hard to kill, but leaves him with a face that makes him, in his own terms, unfuckable. After escaping, he sets out to find and kill the guy who did this to him, another mutant with the ultimate resistance to pain. On his quest, Wade (who wasn’t already exactly sane from the get-go) dons a mask and kills his way through subordinates to find the guy’s whereabouts.

Thus begins the story of the Merc With A Mouth, fully aware that he’s in a movie and taking every chance he gets to dis the X-Men (who, in this game, want to recruit him to control him) or any of Ryan Reynolds’ previous superhero roles (that is, Green Lantern and the Deadpool of X-Men Origins: Wolverine). It’s also clearly an anti-hero we’re following, not a hero, as even though Deadpool is our protagonist, much of what he does is just plain wrong in so many ways. The film also definitely deserved its R rating, judging by the extreme fight scenes, and the many sexual scenes (sure, there’s the Wade/Vanessa ones, but it’s also used for a joke once in a while after Wade’s transformation).

The main character is crazy awesome – as per the course for Deadpool – and the secondary characters are also really great, like Colossus or Negasonic Teenage Warhead. Talking about that, when she’ll grow up, will she change her name to Negasonic Warhead? Whatever. The fight scenes are fun, and the special effects are pretty great too. While it is mostly a comedic superhero movie, there are some dramatic scenes that work very well; though, you can guess a dramatic scene won’t stop Dead-friggin-pool from making jokes.

I really enjoyed this film, and I’m sure you will, too, if this kind of comedy superhero falls right into the sort of thing you like. I didn’t dare to say much about the film since Deadpool fans who may not have seen the movie so far wouldn’t like it spoiled to them, and I don’t think I’ve spoiled too much so far. Anyway, see you tomorrow for another quickie review of a movie I went to see in theaters.

March 12, 2016

Movie week?

March has been something special so far; we're not even halfway through the month and I've already been to see three different films in theaters. I was planning to write about them as soon as I saw them, but a lack of time to do so has led me to postpone these quick reviews. Now that I have some free time, I decided to go ahead and write an article for each film. Therefore, I declare this week to be Film Week! A special one-time event, that I doubt I will repeat anytime soon (unless you pay me and I go see many other films in theaters), with three quick film reviews during the week, and a two-part VGFlicks review of a movie that has a bit of a connection with video games. Does that work for everyone? Good!

The four reviews will bve:
-The Little Prince (was supposed to get a U.S. release on March 18th, but for some reason the people at Paramount scrapped the release)
And the VGFlicks review is War Games: The Dead Code.

See you starting Monday for the three quick movie reviews, and Friday for Part 1 of the VGFlicks review!

March 11, 2016

Top 12 Secondary Characters - Mario Edition

It may look like I’m running out of ideas… Eh, I don't care.

Everyone who’s spent even a bit on this site reading my reviews knows that I’m a huge fan of the Mario series, despite its flaws. And like any work of fiction that lasts longer than 30 years, this franchise has accumulated a large cast of characters, be they mooks, bosses, major villains, allies, minor characters… and some actually return multiple times afterwards. Gee, it’s like they were good enough to come back! What’s more, this series has more spin-offs than you can shake a stick at, so fan favorites get to return as playable characters and join the karting/golfing/[…]/partying fun!

For this list, I’m counting down my 12 favorite secondary Mario characters. To fit the list, the character must not be a main character of the series (thus ruling out Mario, Luigi, Peach and Bowser, and now Toad thanks to Treasure Tracker), must not have their own spin-off franchise (just ruling out Wario, Yoshi and DK), and must have appeared in at least three games, spinoffs included (though appearances in mainline platformer and RPG games kinda helps). One exception for this is the RPG characters; since there are two main RPG Mario series (Mario&Luigi, and Paper Mario), with 5 games each (both RPG series crossed over in the recent Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam), a character from those RPGs can be on this list by appearing at least twice in its series. As an example, I noticed the Mario and Luigi series had more continuity between titles than the Paper Mario series.

Let’s kick off this list with…

12. Broque Monsieur and Madame
Ironic that a French-like
character would be a tête carrée...
These two… peculiar characters made their first appearance in Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story. Both appear in Bowser’s half of the plot, with Broque Monsieur serving as a Tutorial of sorts for Bowser’s regular attacks. Broque Madame is a test of Bowser’s strength when using his special attacks, which all involve hordes of his own mooks. There are many interesting elements about these two: They’re both named after a type of French dish, and they have a French accent to boot. They’re actual living blocks, which means they have crazy defense and can take all the damage you can throw at them. Third, their species also include doglike and catlike creatures (Broggy and the Blitties, respectively; the block kittens are adorable!). Fourth, they seem to know a bunch of secrets about the Kingdom, like Broque Madame who knows about the Shroobs in Bowser’s Castle. Last but not least, they were popular enough to make a comeback in the next M&L title, Dream Team, along with more characters like them (Brickle and Britta), making them no longer unique cases around the Kingdom.

11. The Shroobs
"Bwaaaaaaah! I mean... EXTERMINATE!"
Despite appearing only twice, these guys got a spot on the list. They’re a notable group of villains as the only bad guys in the entire franchise who actually managed to take over the Mushroom Kingdom and turn it into a terrifying world of darkness… in the past, no less! They were such a force that two pairs of brother were needed: The Mario brothers AND their baby versions! The reason they invaded? Their planet was a wreck. Their leaders are a lot of fun, especially both Shroob princesses, and their Juggernaut, Yoob, is a massive nigh-indestructible monster. How can one not like that species? But like any villain in the series, they’re eventually defeated. They reappear in the sequel, Bowser’s Inside Story, as a bonus fight; three Shroobs are discovered in the freezer of Bowser’s Castle. Now why they were in there, for which purpose Bowser kept Shroobsickles hidden in the depths of his fortress, no one will ever know. Well, at least defeating them gives the Brothers a new attack.

10. Queen Rosalina
I’ll admit it right away, I see Rosalina as a fad character, in that as soon as she appeared she turned out to be popular, so now Nintendo puts her everywhere to cash in on her popularity. I am not a fan of how she shows up everywhere now, despite other secondary characters of the series having appeared long before her and still getting little to no recognition. Still, I can see why Rosalina is liked. A Queen with magical powers traveling across the universe, friend of cosmic entities, with a sad backstory and many, many secrets. I see the appeal of her character, though I still think Rosalina is getting too much focus. But hey, if you like her, good for you. I don't really hate her, either; after all, she has a spot on this list, doesn't she?

8. Toadsworth
Lucky old guy, he even got his
own Smash trophy!
Princess Peach’s steward who accompanies her just about everywhere she goes. So much so that some fans, like me, see him as a kind of father figure for the Princess, considering a King has never been mentioned in the games (there was one in the comics, but we’re better off not remembering that moron). Due to his old age (he’s sixty according to Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door), he doesn’t frequently join the roster of Mario spin-offs, playable only in the baseball titles and Yakuman DS, a Mahjong-themed Japan-exclusive game. Since Super Mario Galaxy, Toadsworth has slowed down on his in-game appearances. I guess the Princess getting kidnapped all the time has done a number on his nerves. The post-Sunshine RPGs do show him more neurotic than before…

9. Toadette
Don't let the pink fool you;
she's better than you think.
The Toads of the Mario universe are a strange species. Nobody knows if the mushroom on their heads is a hat or an actual part of their anatomy. Many of them are simply citizens, but a few have what it takes to be heroes, like Captain Toad. Toadette doesn’t appear that much outside of spin-off games, though she does have a few interesting roles. She’s said to be quite the musician, and her appearance in Mario Party DS has her music room invaded by a mean Hammer Brother. She’s a regular of the Mario Kart, baseball and Party games. She has a bit of an entrepreneur streak as well, opening a hotel in Dance Dance Revolution: Mario Mix. In that game, her hotel gets twisted into looking like a corkscrew, and Toad and Luigi use the power of dancing to restore it… yeah, it’s that kind of game. She’s also playable in Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, and her role in Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam is pretty important too, so there’s at least a few attempts at making her more than just a generic female Toad.

7. Professor Elvin Gadd
His voice is also a bit creepy. He fits right in
with everything else in Luigi's Mansion.
AKA E. Gadd, the absent-minded professor who’s perfectly fine with sending hopeless green-clad brothers into perilous ghost houses for some good old-fashioned ghost-hunting with a vacuum. So long as he’s not the one to do it, he’s fine. He’s an inventor, but he’s not really a bumbling inventor; he just hates going on the field. Well, gotta give it to the guy, his creations work, and help Luigi quite a bit when the time comes to save Mario from, say, King Boo. Mostly King Boo. Almost only King Boo, in fact. He does make a few appearances here and there outside of the Luigi’s Mansion games, especially in the Mario & Luigi series where he owns Starbeans Café in the Beanbean Kingdom, and his past self is met in Partners in Time. He also appears in a few Mario Party installments, mostly to provide accessories. His creations are also mentioned in Mario Kart. Come to think of it, I mentioned all of this guy’s contributions to the franchise, but I haven’t said the truth about him… He’s a goddarned coward. I guess that’s meant to make him funny? Well, it works.

6. Kamek and Kammy Koopa
The brains behind...
...Bowser's brawn?
I’m putting them together because, aside from a few differences, they’re pretty much the same character: A Magikoopa serving as Bowser’s right-hand magician, providing helpful spells geared towards improving Your Gruntiness in order to defeat Mario. Kamek is an odd case as he is closer to the Yoshi series (considered the true villain of the Yoshi's Island spin-off series), where he would be Baby Bowser’s caretaker and cast spells to make enemies gigantic, culminating in a final boss fight against a Kaiju-esque Baby Bowser. Even to this day, Kamek likes to provide help against the heroes. Kammy is the Paper Mario version, where her many tricks first allow Bowser to gain the Star Rod, effectively making him invincible, and later provides him with a flying arena that enhances all his stats. She’s such a danger that she needs to be taken down as well! Her role in The Thousand Year Door is smaller, but she’s still Bowser’s magician.

5. King Boo
I can't help but like this picture. Way to make a
Mario character look threatening.
Oh yeah, the villain most commonly associated with Luigi’s Mansion appears shortly after the ally most commonly associated with Luigi’s Mansion! Of course! King Boo is notable as one of the few villains in the Mario series who has managed to capture Mario, of all people. Guess Bowser just needed a bit more stealth. And hey, King Boo is a ghost, stealth isn’t difficult for him. In general, whereas Bowser is presented as a powerful opponent who unleashes grand attacks, King Boo is shown to be more of the underhanded kind, trapping heroes and making sure they stay trapped. Not only did it happen to Mario – twice – but he also trapped Luigi at least once, in Super Mario 64 DS. I could also describe his many spin-off appearances, but I feel it’s much more important to say why I love this character: In Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon, King Boo reveals itself to be, hands-down, one of the most terrifying monsters in the Mario universe, period. Its determination in taking down Luigi once and for all might be even greater than Bowser’s desire to defeat Mario. No trace of comedy in this character anymore. It’s dead serious. Well, it was already pretty damn dead, but you get the point. It’s also implied to have gone batshit insane by that point, which makes it even more threatening. Oh, and let’s not forget that it also exhibited reality warping abilities!!!

4. Bowser Jr.
Look, he even has his own little
cute Koopa clown car! That's, like,
totally necessary on him! He wouldn't
be able to fight in Smash without it!
Introduced in Super Mario Sunshine, very little is known of Bowser Jr.’s actual origins. Clearly Bowser felt lonely one night, remedied to the problem, and now he’s stuck with a kid who was probably left at his Castle’s doorstep with a note. Either way, this character turned out to be quite a surprise in his first appearance (Super Mario Sunshine), where he donned for most of the game the appearance of a shadow Mario thanks to a magic paintbrush. That was back when Bowser’s Koopalings were considered his kids (they aren’t anymore). Ever since, Bowser Jr. has been a part of most of Bowser’s schemes, serving as a boss in games such as the New Super Mario Bros. series, both Galaxy games, and even some RPGs. Despite revealing a more fatherly, caring side to Bowser, that same side we see from the gruff turtle-dragon when he’s with his troops, Bowser Jr. hasn't gained much of a personality over time. Thankfully, this changed a bit in Mario and Luigi: Paper Jam, where the Paper version of Bowser Jr. appears in the Mario and Luigi world (along with several other Paper Mario characters, Paper Bowser included) and instantly forms a friendship with M&L!Bowser Jr., implying that all each of them wanted was a friend. Awwww. Wait, am I “awwww”-ing for a villain? That’s kinda weird…

3. Princess Daisy
If there is one thing I enjoy of the Mario princesses - all
of them - it's that they happily join any mundane
activities thrown their way, whether it's karting,
tennis, or plain ol' partying. And don't mind relaxing
from their duties. ...whichever they are...
The “spunky princess” trope has been used over and over, but in the Mario series, it’s a lot of fun to see Princess Daisy in action. Having been kidnapped only once (in Super Mario Land) and never bothered ever again afterwards, she happily joined the heroes in most, if not all, of the spin-off series. I like her character despite her voice, despite her lack of presence in Mario games outside of spin-offs (seriously, the Mario RPGs are missing a great deal in not including Sarasaland at least once…), but I like her mostly as Luigi’s potential love interest, a relationship implied in a few sport titles but never outright stated, more like a rumor. And the Internet is like a small village: As soon as a rumor starts, everybody takes it and rolls with it, for better or for worse. Though it was for the better this time around. Daisy is a good pick in many sport games, and she’s a good foil to Peach (the self-titled Princess of kidnappings) and Rosalina (the mighty cosmic force). She’s also an important character in the Game Boy comics about Super Mario Land, where she’s under Tatanga’s grip but manages to make him bend to her will every time, and in the movie, where she’s… um… well… you know what, let’s not mention that movie again. (Though it did help cement the idea of a Luigi/Daisy pairing.)

2. Fawful
When it comes to swirl glasses, he was the OG. Sorry Dr.
Insano, you are not the first one.
I have the fury of the mustard of your doom! Did that make sense to you? No? To me neither. A more enigmatic villain of the Mario & Luigi series, Fawful made not two, but three appearance, two as an important villain. He first shows up as Cackletta’s loyal lackey in Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga, where he started as nothing more than an annoyance, eventually becoming a valid thread near the end of the game, shortly before the final boss fight. He cameos in Partners In Time, and makes his grand comeback in Bowser’s Inside Story. There, he sets out to retrieve an ancient evil known as the Dark Star, and plans to use its power to take over the world (because duh). He’s also the one to provide Bowser with the Vacuum Mushroom, turning Bowser’s insides into a world of its own, and letting him also inhale the Mario Brothers. Don’t question it, it’s a weird game; I mean, in this game he also causes the outbreak of a weird disease that turns Toads into perfect spheres… Fawful took notes from his mentor Cackletta, who was considered a master manipulator and chessmaster, and proved himself to be quite the bastard. He found himself a lackey (the gruff Midbus), took over and brainwashed Bowser’s forces, and eventually invaded Peach’s castle as well. The final fight against him is memorable as, assimilated by the Dark Star and inhaled into a dark(er) version of Bowser, he’s also fought inside Bowser by Mario and Luigi, as the creepy Fawful Bug. His mannerisms, odd speech patterns, nutritional metaphors, and comedic personality helped make him a fan favorite among the secondary Mario villains – and he’s one of my favorite Mario villains too.

1. Waluigi
The lean, mean, purple machine takes the top of this list. Waluigi is a polarizing character, as he never made an appearance in a main series game (not even a cameo), but has appeared countless times in spin-off games. Waluigi is merely an evil copy of Luigi, a brother to Wario (whom he aids in his evil plans from time to time), a joke first, a relevant character second. He does have an amazing course in Mario Kart DS: his Pinball Machine. He’s like the lost Dalton cousin. (He does look like the Daltons…) Also, don’t be fooled, this silly guy packs some crazy dance moves, some that are perfectly fine for the category of games he appears in, others… not so much.
"My victorious crotch demands that you look at it!"
He’s a beast on many a sport field (ask Mario Sports Mix), you could even say he’s Overpowered in that game. In games like Mario Super Sluggers, his brother and he attempt to crash the party with Bullet Bills. He is also the first main antagonist of Dance Dance Revolution: Mario Mix, where he plans to rule over the land with the help of legendary artifacts called the Music Keys. He displays the spirit of a trickster here, as well as an affinity for explosives (and sadly his spot as antagonist gets stolen by Bowser). Waluigi has had other moments to shine, of course, but Nintendo never seems to know what to do with him, and that’s despite the massive fandom and support the character has, even being desired as a playable character in a Smash game instead of just being an Assist trophy. Personally, I’m campaigning for a future Mario and Luigi title where the Wario brothers are playable alongside the Mario brothers. This could be an interesting dynamic. Long story short, I’d like to have more Waluigi in my daily dose of Mario gaming.

Well, there you go. This is my list. You’re free to agree or disagree with any of the choices on here… and if you do disagree, I’d like to hear why. Feel free to leave a comment. Next week, the first actual movie review of the year. And I have a bad feeling about that one…

March 4, 2016

Mega Man (B)


It took me all this time today, but I did it. I can move on to the next levels. I have no time to waste.

The second level has another section of platforming, after which Mega Man finds himself in a room against Cut Man. What? Oh no! The Robot Masters, again? Alright, fine, it can’t be that hard, right? The devious developers at Capcom cannot be so cruel as not to leave a healing item before each boss, right? …right?

After Cut Man is dealt with, more platforming occurs, then we fight Elec Man. Oh crap… And after Elec Man, this continues! And a nasty surprise awaits at the bottom… Mega Man gets cloned, and has to fight a clone of himself! When you switch to a different weapon, so does the clone. This is another tough fight, though you can make it easier by using the Pause glitch… which isn’t considered legal here unlike for the Yellow Devil, but fuck it, this is too hard. When the clone is defeated, we move on to the next level.

And that's one Hell of a trippy background.

Don't you hate opponents who
are bigger than you?
The third level is mostly a narrow passageway that goes down, and after a moment Mega Man finds himself dragged forward in the hall that fills with water. He gets to the boss, the Bubble Machine(s). Eh, still better than Noise Machines, I hate the "music" produced by those things. There’s actually seven Bubble Machines, they all circle around the room while shooting projectiles, are too large for Mega Man to jump over, and each time you kill one, the next is faster. A recommended strategy is to shoot to kill the first three, then use Guts Man’s power to lift the four stone blocks in the room to instantly kill the other four as they appear. Which is what I do, and though it’s still a tough fight, I manage to kill those damn machines.

Finally, we enter the final level, where we complete another platforming section, and then we get to the “boss”, or rather, a whole lot of bosses. First is Bomb Man; then it’s Fire Man. Then, Ice Man. And finally, Guts Man. You do not get healing items between each boss, you do however have access to all of your weapons, and the whole sequence boils down to “don’t get hit too much in each encounter”. Fire Man is the one who’s gonna be the most problematic in that regard.

After those four bosses are defeated, Mega Man reaches a checkpoint, after which he can refill one of his weapons, and then it’s the fight against Wily. You don’t get to regain any Hit Points before the final boss, so I hope you weren’t on your last life! Still, if you know the tricks, Wily is not that difficult. He has a few weaknesses that you can exploit, even if that means using the pause glitch to have an easier time. …Which I totally had to do, in order to win and be able to tell this to you. Soon Wily’s machine is defeated and Wily surrenders. Mega Man chooses to stay the way he is now, and decides to fight for everlasting peace.

But we all know that Wily’s comes back in Mega Man 2, with 8 robots this time. God damn it. And everlasting peace? Sorry Mega Man, you’ll never see it. I can’t blame you for trying, but… yeah… not gonna happen…

See that tiny opening to jump into where the
fire is? That's cheap platforming.
So, how’s this game? Hard. Challenging. Frustrating. But that’s not exactly a secret. The difficulty of this game can be grating at times, especially from what I consider to be cheap or unfair moves on the part of the developers. Some enemies are exactly where they’re the most annoying, and that’s when they’re not also moving to pose an even bigger threat. Platforms are located at just the right place, or low ceilings prevent Mega Man from being able to reach a higher ledge by jumping (a terrible case of this can be seen early in the first Dr. Wily stage). The first levels aren’t so bad, though still difficult, the last ones can aptly be described as “insane”. Impossible? No. Beating scores in game difficulty? Oh yes. I barely exaggerated my reaction to Yellow Devil, though it was less “Must Defeat This Thing” and more “I can’t beat this part. I give up. Oh damn, that’s right, I’m gonna have to review this someday. I’m gonna have to finish this.”

Review presented by Nicolas Hamel
through Planned All Along.
But you could have guessed that.
Now, don’t get me wrong, it was a very creative idea back then and it still is today: Combating multiple opponents, each with a weakness to another opponent’s ability, and being able to gain that ability by defeating its owner. Which creates a chain of weaknesses, and the key is to find out which Robot Master to start with. The magnet beam can help in some problematic platforming sections, though not always. Long story short, there are tricks to use in order to beat the game.

The sprite art is very detailed, and the 8-bit music’s good. Not that you’ll notice most of this considering the kind of trouble awaiting in each level… In the end, despite its great difficulty, Mega Man is a good game. However, while the sequels kept the level of difficulty, they were more merciful and ameliorated the formula, so I'd suggest another Mega Man game, maybe the second. But if you want to try this one, go ahead and have fun. I think that covers everything I had to say about this game.

Next week, a Top 12 list.

(I promise I will no more have freakouts like this. Well… I’ll try my best.)