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Adrian Jenkins "southerndudeman" RSS Feed (Ames, IA)

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Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane Archives Vol. 1 (DC Archive Editions)
Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane Archives Vol. 1 (DC Archive Editions)
by Various
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $59.99
55 used & new from $28.82

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good content, mediocre physicals, April 22, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I am a sucker for DC Archives, since I can find them so cheaply at Amazon. This is no exception (although I did pay more than I am accustomed to). I had been waiting for this volume to drop in price for some time (I generally buy these for no more than half their original cover, sans shipping). I didn't quite wait that long here, but it was close.

First, the particulars of the volume. The binding is sewn, the cover is solid, and THE PAGES ARE ATROCIOUS. DC has definitely gone cheap with their paper here. The pages remind me of the cheap, thin, over-glossy stuff found in current Marvel omnibi (such as the Spider-Man reprint). It doesn't curl like that paper, but it is vastly inferior both to the original, thick stock of the earliest printings (such as Superman, All-Star Comics, Dark Knight, etc.) as well as later printings (and publications) such as Plastic Man, or Doom Patrol, etc. There is no way this paper justifies a sixty dollar cover. Strangely, this is the only archive I own (out of now 30) with this paper, so I imagine it is a very recent development.

On the plus side, the reproduction and color is top notch, which is important, because the art in the book is so lively and bright. One thing that often grates me in regards to golden age comics is how similar each artist looks. With the possible exception of Shelly Moldoff, the art keeps the same look from one comic to another. Batman, Dr. Fate, The Sandman - while details might differ, the generalities are often the same. Facial expressions are pretty sparse (my favorite is the "I just got hit by a black jack" look that pretty much every hero sports at one time or another). Colors are limited (and often strange - red backgrounds are the norm for many Golden Age comics, but how often do you really see a red background in life?). That's not to say I don't like the comics, or the art, but it feels like an eternal recurrence of the same.

Not here, though! While many of the covers are drawn by Curt Swan, the main artist for Superman for many years, the comics themselves are often drawn by one Kurt Schaffenberger (famous for his work with Captain Marvel). The expressiveness of the characters, and the cartoon-y look, cannot be overstated or overestimated. It REALLY makes this comic quite lively (something I always felt was missing, at least in my limited readings, within Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen, and is a treat for the eyes.

Now, onto the comic itself. Let's not kid ourselves - the Superman Family of comics wasn't meant to produce earth-shattering stuff (well, at least not until Kirby came along much later). These are light fare, which could conceivably offend the sensitive with its at times brutally-sexist portrayals of women. Of course, this doesn't bother me - it's a sign of the times, nothing more. But sometimes, women come off REALLY bad in the comic (take, e.g., the sorority story, where the sisters are some of the most reprehensible humans portrayed in comic literature, and yet are apparently completely acceptable within society, and even desirable).

Nonetheless, Lois has her moments. My absolute favorite story in this volume involves a trick that Superman attempts to play on Lois after she bungles into a rocket ship, and how much it backfires on him and everyone else (also, there is a great panel of a bald Robin which makes me chuckle just thinking about it). On multiple occasions, Lois solves a case completely on her own, with no help from Superman. It's not as bad as it's often made out to be, and at times, it is surprisingly progressive.

The introduction is solid, and fun at times. All in all, I'm happy with this volume, except for the lousy choice in paper. Enjoy!
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 25, 2015 8:23 AM PDT

Metal Gear Solid: The Legacy Collection
Metal Gear Solid: The Legacy Collection
Offered by DealTavern
Price: $23.99
137 used & new from $16.90

3.0 out of 5 stars Great games, unnecessarily expensive product, April 22, 2015
Let me say first and foremost that I generally love these games (well, except for MGS3, but that's for later). MGS was probably my favorite non-RPG on the PS1 - I must have played it through 10 times, trying to get all of the different ranks. MGS2, with the exception of Raiden's whiny girlfriend, was just fantastic. MGS3 was basically unplayable upon release (due to the horrible top-down view), although that was later repaired, and is now a perfectly playable (if grossly overrated by fanboys) game. MGS4 is a great game once you skip the cut scenes (although I hated getting that Chicken badge). The version of MG here is inferior to the one I remember in the US (the music, in particular, drones on forever and ever). Solid Snake is a fun enough game, but I honestly would have preferred the "little crap game" of Snake's Revenge, despite its non-canonical nature. Peace Walker might be my favorite MGS game. The mission-based gameplay, coupled with the stylish cut scenes, and generally silly post-game madness (LOL at Snake hunting monsters!) really hit the spot...
...when I played it 3 years ago! The fact is, many of the games here are fantastic, and even those I don't like are still solid. So, why do I give this only three stars? Because, ultimately, this is a completely unnecessary package. As mentioned, I picked up MGS HD 3 years ago, for twenty bucks. That particular package included MGS2, MGS 3, MGS: Peace Walker, MG and MG2: Solid Snake, and was one of my favorite best buys. MGS 4 has been cheap for years. I just don't see any world where the extras here justify a re-release at $50 (and I am particularly disappointed at the cost-cutting measure of selling MGS as a download, rather than a physical game).

I may re-visit this review in the future when this package falls to $19.99. For example, the God of War collection was basically the same way...until it fell in price, and then became one of the best deals out there, despite the fact that two of the games there were downloads. As with any product, price influences the review. For $50, it's not worth it - you can cobble these games together much more cheaply. Tying a new bow around it should only appeal to the most diehard of fans.

But when the price falls (and it certainly will), you should pick this up, assuming you haven't played these games.

Batman: Earth One
Batman: Earth One
by Geoff Johns
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.58
92 used & new from $5.77

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Same tune, different key, April 17, 2015
This review is from: Batman: Earth One (Paperback)
Before starting any origin story, the question should always be asked: is this necessary? Sure, DC has 52 independent earths, but if the only goal of these earths is to give the authors a chance to rehash the same origin story, over and over, then what's the point? For this reason, I diverge from many of the critical reviews of this volume that complain that this doesn't fall in line with the Batman origin of Kane and Finger, or with Frank Miller, etc. etc. Of course it doesn't - this Batman lives on a different earth, with different experiences. Obviously, he should be different.

In fact, the biggest problem with Earth One Batman by Geoff Johns (with art by Gary Franks) is that Batman's origin continues to be the EXACT SAME THING. I would give a spoiler warning, but honestly, you know how it plays out: Bruce Wayne's parents are killed. He then is cared for by his butler, Alfred, growing into the vigilante known as...BATMAN! Yes, there are a couple of details changed, but they are so minor as to be completely inconsequential to the tale. Frankly, this is paint-by-numbers Batman, and I had hoped for more when I saw that Johns was writing this (in general, I have liked Johns take on Batman, moving him from the immature loner loved by basement-dwelling internet warriors to a truly adult leader in Justice League). There is just nothing new, story-wise, to keep my interest. Yeah - Alfred is some special forces guy. Big deal - Bruce Timm's Alfred was a less-physical version years ago. Yeah, Penguin might have something to do with the death of Bruce's parents. Big deal - Bruce's parents ALWAYS die.

There's just no risk-taking here. I remember a Len Wein tale from back in the day where it was revealed that Bruce's father was the original Batman. Why not, e.g., play off of this? Maybe instead of being killed, Thomas Wayne is simply paralyzed, and hence unable to carry out his duties as Batman. Thus, he forces these duties onto an unwilling, but devoted, son. Or maybe Bruce's parents are decadent socialites, which in turn colors the noble Bruce to become a hero of the common folk.

The point is: why not try something really new here? That's the point of separate earths, right? But Johns just plays the same tune in a different key. Now, Alfred trains Bruce. Now, Bullock is a shiny cop brought low by Gotham. They're just random changes in the same general storyline.

In general, I would give this 2 stars. However, the art work of Gary Franks bumps this up a full star. It is a shining light in an otherwise dull and boring world. Buyer beware.

Prince of Persia Trilogy HD - Playstation 3
Prince of Persia Trilogy HD - Playstation 3
Price: $19.15
146 used & new from $8.51

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars What did I just play?, April 10, 2015
Holy smokes - I am stunned to read the praise of this stinker. With no hyperbole, these games (well, the two I made it through) rank among the worst games I have ever played, on any system. I bought this game years ago (for a price lower than Amazon's current one). I played through Sands of Time, and it took me three years to start Warrior Within (and honestly, I only started it because I was sick of seeing the 0% on my PSN account). I played Warrior Within, and nearly cried.

How bad are these games? Let me count the ways:

The Sands of Time (1 star): Where do I begin? Well, let's start with aesthetics. SoT is one of the ugliest games I've seen (even accounting for its time of release). Combat is a joke, which is good, because the combat system is atrocious. Outside of combat, the game is slow and pretty boring. The excitement is generated solely by the biggest offender here - the wonky control. You will die, quite a bit, simply because the controller betrays you. I can appreciate the concept here, but the execution is flawed beyond belief. Although the game takes less than 10 hours to play and plat, I can't even recommend it to trophy hunters. It's just too frustrating to die because the control betrays you on a wall climb (and it WILL betray you). There is nothing difficult here, other than the pathetic development of the game.

Warrior Within (0 stars): Sands of Time caused me to wait 3+ years before I played Warrior Within. And Warrior Within makes Sands of Time look like God of War. Were it not for the fact that the concept is good, Warrior Within might rank as the worst game on the PS3 (taking over the slot ignominiously held by Man Vs. Wild or Deathly Hallows I). All of the problems in Sands of Time are magnified tenfold here. I know this game inside and out, due to the fact that I had to play through it THREE TIMES to get the plat. Every problem in this game is burned into my mind. Where do I begin?

Well, somehow, this game is actually uglier than Sands of Time. The CGI scenes are choppy, and the in-game scenes are just pathetic. Women who are ostensibly sexy looks like brides of Frankenstein. The prince himself has an atrocious design. Further, the change between the CGI and the in-game cutscenes is remarkably jarring. There is an (embarrassing) sequence early on with an enemy wearing a revealing gray thong. But in the game? Looks like a black bikini bottom. At one point, the prince becomes the Sand Wraith. The CGI looks good here - the Sand Wraith looks like some creepy Heartless or something. In game? I wouldn't even recognize him as the same character. Enemy designs are poor, environmental graphics are a mess - this looks like a rushed, shoddy production.

The story is a standard time travel plot, with absolutely no logic to it whatsoever. It's not complicated to follow, but it's complicated to explain rationally. Time travel rarely works, but when it does, one needs to have some kind of rule or structure. Long story short...<yawn>. You're playing out the string for most of the game, and only at the very end do you get any payoff whatsoever.

The combat in this game might be the worst combat I've seen in 10 years. It is execrable. In some games, combat allows you to lock onto enemies. In others, you are free to move about. In the former, the control often switches to a different "combat" scheme when you lock on. In the latter, the control scheme generally remains the same. Warrior Within eschews both of these ideas for some god-awful hybrid. The game somehow chooses your lock-on for you. In battle against a single enemy, this is fine, but against multiple enemies, the game is poor at switching to the nearest threat. The AI is effectively stupid here - they drift in and out of combat, which would generally make them easy to deal with, BUT since you can't choose to whom you are locked on, this actually serves them well; as the current threat dances away, new threats will come forward. You remain locked onto the previous threat, and take a beating from the new one. Thus, there is little strategy in combat - run around, stick and move, boring boring.

Even more problematic is the fact that the control scheme changes in combat. As in many games, you have a jump button and an attack button. However, in combat, the jump button becomes a sort of dodge roll. I won't even begin explaining how horribly this roll is controlled. My biggest problem is that sometimes, the game decides, "Nah, you don't need to roll here. Instead, just JUMP OFF A CLIFF TO YOUR DEATH." In particular, when you fight the final boss(es - depending on game choices, the final boss can change), you are on a suspended structure. If you dodge roll too close to the end of the cliff, the prince just does a Peter Pan off of the structure (literally - he will turn, face the opposite direction of the boss, and jump to his death). Yes, you can rewind time, blah blah blah, but again, the fault is completely in the control. Why the game didn't dedicate one button to dodging, and one to jumping, I'll never know. There are 8 easily-accessible buttons available!

Despite these horrid combat controls, the game is remarkably easy. You can skip many encounters (basically, as long as you can get your character out of combat position, you can run away). With the exception of one of the final bosses, the rest are painfully easy, even on the hardest difficulty (that boss, the Dahaka, makes up for it - he is brutally difficult on the highest difficulty, and no picnic on the lowest). Basically, Warrior Within is like Sands of Time in this regard - your greatest enemy is control...
...and the camera. I remember horrid cameras from the PS1 days, and a few later games. The camera here is one of the worst I can remember. You are constantly fighting with it in combat. Moreover, combat controls are based on your position relative to your enemy, and not on the camera. In short, the control directions can change on the fly, relative to your field of vision.

Given that this is Prince of Persia, there is also the wall-running, trap-dodging, and general mayhem you've come to know. Again, control craps the bed. While traps can be difficult to manoeuvre on their own, the shoddy controls make them much, MUCH more difficult than they should be. Moreover, there are timed sections in the game, which are just painfully bad because of the control (and that's too bad - this had much potential).

Oh, let us not forget the soundtrack. It is hilariously inept. As an old metalhead, I just shook my head most of the time. It doesn't fit the game in any way, shape of form. Sound in general is bad - the voice work is mediocre, and the general screeches made by enemies are jarring because they sound so bad. Moreover, sometimes they are muted terribly, and other times, they blare our of your speakers.

All of this would be worthy of 1 star, but what really puts the feces icing on the cake are the glitches. Ubisoft has always been bad about QC, but you would think that they would fix gamebreaking glitches on a re-release. Nope. It is entirely possible (and pretty easy, actually) to glitch your game so that, just as you move to the final boss, it freezes, and you can't do anything other than start over. Collecting all of the collectables in a single playthrough is a good way to accomplish this (the ninth treasure chest, in particular, often causes this glitch).

Moreover, there are design flaws in the game. If you do levels out of (a completely unknown) order, you can put yourself into a situation that requires you to start over (and again, you will only see this near the end of the game). This is unacceptable.

Finally, back in the day, I'm pretty sure that you could unlock earlier Prince of Persia titles in this game. That's been removed. Sorry - there's money to be made. Contrast this, e.g., with the Metal Gear HD Collection (one of the best), which left in the excellent Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake.

Shame on Ubisoft for allowing this, and shame on these reviewers who look past these very real flaws in praising this crap-pile.

The Two Thrones (? stars): I can't bring myself to play this. Maybe in 3 more years?

Stay far away from this title. It's one of the worst on this system.

Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
Offered by MOST WANTED
Price: $19.84
194 used & new from $10.36

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best JRPG of the PS3 generation, April 6, 2015
Let's face it - the JRPG has sunk this generation. Years ago, when I posted my review of FFXIII, I gave it the title "The Death of the JRPG". I could not have been more accurate. The JRPG has turned into a wasteland, populated by irrational fanboys and creepy otaku. The latter I can deal with (it's easy to stay away from the pedophilia-driven dreck they like), but the former has been a huge problem. Soulless piles like Tales of Xillia garner mob-like fans who put down anyone that points out the flaws in the game, fueled by disingenuous company heads claim that if Westerners don't buy more of their (lousy) games, they'll stop releasing them (as if any company is going to hurt its business in this manner).

This is particularly distressing when one considers the JRPG from generations passed. Indeed, JRPGs produced some of the finest games ever made, in this reviewer's mind. Level-5, the developer of this gem, made the exquisite Dark Cloud 2 (as well as Dragon Quest VIII, my favorite game in that venerable series). But even they've had their problems this generation - WKC didn't really hit on all cylinders in sales (and, truth be told, it was terrible as a SP RPG).

Thus, it is nice to say that Ni No Kuni is a return to form both for the JRPG as well as Level-5. This is easily the finest JRPG of this generation (damning with faint praise), and it would hold its own in past generations as well (unlike, say, Resonance of Fate or Tales of Graces, both of which are only good given the slop of this generation). Attention to detail is apparent throughout the game, from the excellent art direction, to the wonderful graphics, to the old-school JRPG mechanics of an overworld, to the simple but effective combat. This game excels top-to-bottom.

Where do I even begin? Well, the simplest place is the visual excellence. This game is stunning to look at. Not only are the graphics crisp and solid (I still can't, for the life of me, figure out why more JRPGs haven't gone the animated route), but the designs are clever and interesting. The humans look great, the fairies are distinctive, and the familiars (this games version of Pokemon) are well-thought-out. It's been hard to praise art direction in any JRPG (outside of the Souls games, which I don't really consider JRPGs), but thankfully, it's easy here.

The world of Ni No Kuni is vast. Like many others, I have missed the overworld of the JRPG. It makes a great return here, and carries with it many of the things loved by gamers of the past (like me!). Throughout the world are hidden resources and treasures, as well as numerous creatures which can be fought for experience, or tamed to help in battle. Like the treasures, some creatures are hidden as well (these are often the best creatures in the game). As you progress through the game, you will obtain new modes of transportation which will allow you to explore more and more of this world. It's just great fun.

The story moves slowly, but effectively. In short, a boy hopes to save his mother by traveling to another parallel world. Nothing fancy, but again, it is effective. Why do the denizens of this new world even care about a boy from another world? What are the antagonists' motivations? All will be revealed, and the revelations are effective. I won't say more, but I loved the story. It played out like (good) anime - the type you generally get from Studio Ghibli!

Battle is easy enough. You carry up to three monsters (familiars) into battle. These familiars can be taught different attacks, which have strengths and weaknesses against the denizens you will fight. You can switch out familiars at will, for the most part. You can also take part in battle yourself, and you have your own abilities. In addition, 2 party members (each with their own abilities and familiars) will join you. As I said earlier, simple but satisfactory.

If I had one complaint, it is with the postgame. As I sought the platinum trophy for this game, I began to wonder - why am I doing this? For example, there is a robust synthesis system...which serves little to no purpose whatsoever. My familiars were more than sufficient with the equipment I found in the game. Why do I need to make more? Moreover, finding items to make equipment is a chore, requiring many battles (often, items must be stolen from enemies). It all seemed pretty useless.

I love collecting pokemon, but in Pokemon, there is purpose. Namely, the meta-game. Here? The only reason to collect is to say that you've collected. By the end of the game, I was using one familiar exclusively, and he was more than enough to tackle any and all enemies I saw (including the optional superboss). There are favors (130+, if memory serves), but yet again, outside of trophies, the rewards are less than satisfactory.

I can't help but think this game was meant to have even more stuff in it. Maybe a DLC? I don't know. In any case, don't let that turn you off from the game, but recognize it nonetheless. This is great fun, and I hope the sequel (which has been hinted at) improves even more on the experience.

Amazing Spider-Man Volume 1: The Parker Luck
Amazing Spider-Man Volume 1: The Parker Luck
by Dan Slott
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.92
94 used & new from $8.10

6 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Ugh, March 9, 2015
I come from a different place than a lot of the reviewers who dislike this book. While many of them compare this to Superior Spider-Man (which they loved), I absolutely deplored that stinkstorm, writing it off as gimmicky and boring after a grand total of 6 issues. Apparently, I wasn't alone - obviously many people wanted Peter Parker back as Spidey (for better or worse, and in this case, for much worse).

Before I go into the mess of this book, let me comment briefly on the physicals. I've always hated Marvel's TPBs, and this is no exception. I hate the paper. I hate the binding. They always feel supremely cheap to me. I'm sure DC has the same problem, but I only buy them in hardcover (with the exception of Spidey and the FF, I am a DC fan). Marvel, on the other hand, is generally picked up in trade, as I did for this volume (thankfully, for well under the cover price).

As for the content contained within, where do I even begin? The ridiculously contrived plot devices that get Parker back into the fray? Nope. This is Marvel, and if Marvel loves anything, it's absurd deus ex machina. Sometimes it works, often it doesn't, but you know what you're getting with Marvel. I have no problem with brain switches or anything like that.

Nope - the place to begin is the one place that Marvel has typically drummed DC - character interaction and dialogue. And here, it is ATROCIOUS. This is particularly problematic for Spider-Man (at least the Peter Parker variety), as Spidey depends so much on his alter-egos personal interactions, as well as his banter with villains. It feels like this book was attempting to conjure some of the character from the movie, which is in itself a horrible idea (you know, because those movies were every bit as atrocious as the dialogue on display here). I just found myself cringing at Parker's inanity in talking about his luck, or love, or...pretty much anything else. And if you are going to sell your comic on the return of Peter Parker, it might be a good idea to get that part of the comic right.

Make no mistake - Spider-man has been a mess for years (at least since the absurd One More Day storyline, one of those failure deus ex machina mentioned before). I think Marvel is about to get it right with what should be one of their flagship characters (having recently re-taken the movie rights from Sony), but it is all wrong here. If you want to read good Parker, do yourself a favor and wait. Or, perhaps better yet, go pick up the old Lee-Ditko omnibus (or even the Lee-Romita omnibus, although the latter is much more expensive). Heck - pick up the Roger Stern omnibus if you're desperate. But there is no good reason to read this book.

Tales of the Batman: Len Wein
Tales of the Batman: Len Wein
by Wein, Len
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $32.49
51 used & new from $26.77

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fun and unknown era of the Batman mythos (for me, at least), March 6, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Adding to my collection of reprints, I decided to buy Len Wein's Tales of the Batman recently. It filled in a gap in my Batman knowledge - I literally knew nothing of 70s and early 80s Batman. I was pleased that this volume based itself around an author, rather than an illustrator, as I could get complete stories. And on the whole, I am immensely satisfied with my purchase.

The physicals of the volume: the volume is a relatively cheap-looking hardcover with a decent enough dust jacket. I don't like the paper at all (a cheap glossy stock), although it is pretty light, allowing one to hold the book (containing 640 pages) relatively easily in hand. Nonetheless, I would have preferred a newsprint-type of paper like that found in, e.g., the Steve Ditko Omnibi (with a cheaper cover to match, although I paid nowhere near cover price). I was concerned about the glued binding, but I found that reading was remarkably easy, and "guttering" was pretty minor.

The Batman universe is quite strange, differing vastly from Golden Age/ Silver Age Batman as well as from post-crisis Batman. But the change is not unwelcome. Batman is far more sociable in this volume - in fact, there's a good bit of Marvel in this DC title (particularly in its treatment of Catwoman and her relationship with Batman/Bruce Wayne). I thoroughly enjoy the villains in this volume. There are stories involving the Joker (who, for my money, reaches his best look here, with his elongated face and accentuated features), the Riddler, Catwoman and Ra's Al Ghul, as well as lesser known villains such as the Gentleman Ghost (one of my personal favorites!) and Firebug (TRIVIA! Did you know that Firebug is one of the bosses in the NES Sunsoft classic Batman?). I particularly like the disdain Batman shows for the criminals, often referring to minor costumed creeps as "two-bit". It's much better than the aura of respect now shown to the rogue's gallery these days, as if they are an irreplaceable part of the city (one of Scott Snyder's few missteps, IMHO).

Many of the stories are multi-issue, which is welcome to me. I love some of the artistry on display here (and, for my money, the Catwoman of that day is still my favorite of all of them, with her hair falling from under her mask, and her ridiculous green cape). The storytelling is solid; I'm not as much of a fan of Len Wein as others, but I do enjoy his tales here. This is a marked improvement both from the ridiculous sci-fi nonsense of Silver Age Batman, as well as the inspired-by-the-show-but-not-nearly-as-good goofiness of Batman in the late 60s. Batman isn't the broody, one-trick pony often portrayed today. He is a human being, and an interesting one. Characters still explain every single thing in their minds here, but that small flaw doesn't detract much from the volume as a whole.

All in all, for the prices these days, I think this is solid value, and I would recommend it highly.

Yakuza 4 - Playstation 3
Yakuza 4 - Playstation 3
Offered by Shopville USA
Price: $53.99
28 used & new from $12.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stellar sequel to a stellar game, February 4, 2015
with the release on PS+ of Yakuza 4 for free, I thought I would finally get around to reviewing this gem of a game. Unlike many, I did not get into this series on the ground floor. Rather, I took a flyer on Yakuza 3 when I saw it for peanuts at a local K-Mart (peanuts being...ten bucks). I was floored at how good the game was. Although many people described it as a Japanese GTA, this was nonsense. Yakuza was a throwback to the beat 'em up gems of the 90s, where you fought waves and waves of enemies before meeting up with a boss who usually ate a ton of your quarters.

Yakuza 4 is much of the same, only bigger and better. Rather than the single character of Kiryu Kazuma. we are introduced to three additional characters (Akiyama, Saejima, and Tanimura), each with different fighting styles, strengths and weaknesses. The characters really DO fight differently, and while you might be able to plow your way through on lower difficulties, you'll need some finesse on the higher ones.

The game is mostly open world, with freedom of movement between missions, while accepting missions will restrict your actions. In that sense, it is similar to GTA. Fighting is mostly hand-to-hand (there are pistols and other guns, but they are rare, and often unavailable on missions). Fights come in two varieties: standard thug fights (which can be encountered during free time, or during missions), and boss fights, which typically end story missions. For thug fights, you're usually surrounded by 3-5 thugs which you have to knock out in various ways. In addition to standard kicks and punches, you have a variety of "heat actions" (think of limit breaks) at your disposal which will do massive damage, as well as add killer cut scenes (and this is from someone who is not generally a fan of cut scenes). The thugs can usually be dispatched with whatever tactics you wish.

However, the bosses are a different story. These fights are almost like heavyweight pro wrestling matches, with ebb and flow dictated by your performance in battle. Bosses are almost always unique characters, and like you, they have fighting styles and their own heat actions. They can dodge, parry, counter, and in general, make your life into a mess. Bosses fight differently, and you'll have to use the best tactics to tackle each one. Sometimes, bosses will enter QTEs - if you do well in these events, you will often counter their actions. If you do poorly, you are taking serious pain. And sometimes, bosses just go cheap. For example, one boss will become invincible, spinning around like a dervish while wielding a deadly knife. Better stay out of the way.

The story is solid. It might play a little soap operatically, but given the dreck that often accompanies Japanese games, this is stellar by comparison. The voices are completely Japanese, though, so you'll need to read subtitles. You can skip cut scenes if you want. I don't recommend it, but it does nothing to hurt the action portion of the game, so if that's your interest, have at it. But don't let the story scare you off from the rest of the game.

In addition to the main questline, as it were, are numerous minigames and side stories. For my money, the minigames range from delightful (a coliseum, a VR trainer, karaoke) to so-so (batting cages, hostesses) to way too Japanese for me to like (shogi, mahjong, pachinko). But you are free to choose which ones you would like to play. Outside of some annoying trophies (7 pairs in mahjong, 3000 balls in pachinko), you don't need to play them much. The side stories are a mixed bag. They almost always end in the same manner (you fight some street level thugs), but some of their twists and turns are good. Each character has 15 side missions. If you do manage to beat the first 59 of them, the last mission is a fantastic boss battle against the recurring Amon character of the series, which is much harder and more satisfying than anything else in the game.

In addition to this, there are various challenges, both in game and outside of it, which yield permanent rewards within the game. The game has a satisfying NG+ mode, although I find replayability to be pretty suspect if you complete everything in one playthrough (and, if you are hunting trophies, you will need a total of three playthroughs for all of them). But I will never complain about a game adding NG+, and this one is incredibly solid.

All in all, what else can I say? Despite a couple of missteps (mostly with the lack of Western analogues to some minigames), this game is virtually flawless, and is one of the best games on the system. I highly recommend it, particularly if you are a PS+ member. Enjoy!

The EC Archives: Shock Suspenstories Volume 1 (v. 1)
The EC Archives: Shock Suspenstories Volume 1 (v. 1)
by Al Feldstein
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $49.95
40 used & new from $22.19

4.0 out of 5 stars Definitely worth a buy, even at cover price, but there are some flaws..., January 26, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I have to confess: I've avoided the EC Archives for some time. The build-up of the reviews, I feared, had heightened expectations, and the cover prices of these archives often outstrip greatly archives from, e.g., Marvel or DC (I know - quality determines price and all that - the laws of economics don't apply to Amazon). Fearing disappointment from what might have been a bunch of fanboy navel-gazing, I put off purchasing these books.

However, recently, I found a copy of this book for a very reasonable price (over 50% off the cover), and took a chance with both it and Crime Suspenstories, voulme 1. And I'm happy I did. I don't like this volume as much as the latter (as I'll explain below), but it was well-worth the price of admission.

Apparently, at the insistence of fans, EC comics (the publisher of the famous Tales from the Crypt, as well as many other fine lines) created a sort of potpourri comic to appeal to fans across multiple genres. Rather than a single issue being devoted to crime, or horror, etc., Shock Suspenstories would have 4 stories across 4 different genres. Initially, those genres were crime, war, horror and sci-fi, although war slowly morphed into the eponymous Shock Suspenstory, which focused more on morality issues facing the America of the 50s. While I don't know of their acclaim at the time of their drawing, the artists of this comic are now regarded highly among comic artists of any day and age. There are 6 total issues in this volume, comprising 24 total stories of 6-8 pages.

First, a note on the physicals - they are absolutely, positively astounding. Purists may poo poo the modern coloring techniques, as is their right. However, for a reader whose first exposure to these gems is through this book, you absolutely cannot go wrong. It looks astounding.

Before purchasing this volume, I knew that the war stories would morph over time, and initially, I was happy about that. I have never been a fan of war stories, despite numerous efforts to get interested. Apparently, I looked in the wrong place. The single war story here (a second story tangentially concerns Korea, but is really a morality play) is fantastic, with a twist that I literally did not see coming.

The crime and horror comics could probably double as one another in a pinch. While there are a couple of horror tales that are horror tales alone, most could jump back and forth easily (a fact not lost on EC, BTW - their Crime Suspenstories volume often has Haunt of Fear titles). And I love both of them. Here, the stories and their twists are more predictable, but still perfectly sound. I particularly liked the opening tale of the volume, which would have made a great Tales from the Crypt episode itself.

The morality tales which take the place of the war tales are solid. Nothing spectacular, and at times, pretty unbelievable (I found the story about the parade particularly hard to believe), but still good to read. Each story ends with a note from the author, which is not ambiguous in the least regarding his feelings. I thoroughly enjoyed the story attached to the cover of the volume, BTW.

The lone deduction I give because of the Sci-Fi stories. These are, without a doubt, inferior to the other offerings. Often, they read like a lousier version of the "pew!pew!" raygun pulp sci-fi that has been all but forgotten. Tastes vary, I'll grant, but with one or two exceptions, I found these stories were better simply as a means of looking at the pictures.

Thus, this reviewer thoroughly enjoyed 19 or 20 of the 24 stories present, which garners a natural 4-star rating. Enjoy!

Superman Chronicles, Vol. 2
Superman Chronicles, Vol. 2
by Jerry Siegel
Edition: Paperback
28 used & new from $20.98

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Shop around!, January 21, 2015
The current prices for these Chronicles are absurd. At this moment, you could cobble together a similar collection in the superior DC Archives for a fraction of the costs seen here.

As far as content goes, this is great stuff, particularly if you're a fan of the Golden Age. But as a product, it is woefully inadequate when compared to its other options. This may change over time, but at this moment, you could by 4-5 brand new volumes of the Superman Archives (which are hardcover, with vastly superior paper quality) for the same price as a new Chronicle here. In this day and age, it's just not worth it to purchase this. So take this review as it is intended - a grade of the available product when compared to similar competitive options.

Buyer beware.

EDIT (April 28th, 2015): The power of the market! When I wrote this review, the lowest price found on here for this archive was a (ridiculous) fifty dollars. Now, you can find prices for half that! I still think the archives are better value, though, so the buyer should continue to beware.

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