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Monday, 4 December 2017

Fate/Apocrypha E21: Antares Snipe

Episode 21
Antares Snipe.

Just a few more episodes. Just a few more.

So, first order of business is probably to say that I'll be winding down this blog for a hiatus soon -- probably not a permanent one, although I realise every blog that goes on hiatus says that, but a combination of a lack of energy and enthusiasm for the blog, plus the fact that Google has now started playing silly buggers with my view count to the point where I have no idea how many people are even reading, means that I could probably do with a break for a little while.

So, I'll be dropping days bit by bit and reducing activity up until this ongoing is done, which should only be a few weeks from now.

If you're wondering why I'm saying this in a Fate/Apocrypha review of all things, it's because I have to fill the space somehow, and god knows I'm not going to be able to fill it by talking about the great mass of nothing that is this and every episode of this godforsaken show.

In this week's episode, Chiron (Archer of Black) and Achilles' (Rider of Red) duel continues when Achilles uses his Noble Phantasm, creating a sealed off area where no outside forces can interfere, allowing the two to settle things with a fistfight. As Achilles wins and they return to the real world, Chiron uses his own Noble Phantasm to snipe Achilles' heel and strip him of his immortality. Meanwhile, Astolfo (Rider of Black) and Sieg (Saber of Black) attack the Hanging Gardens, with Sieg transforming to fight Karna (Lancer of Red) while Astolfo destroys the Gardens' defenses. On one of the planes, Jeanne (Ruler) faces off against Atalanta (Archer of Red), who uses a forbidden power.

Okay, so there are really only two major plotlines to this episode: Capping of Achilles and Chiron's rivalry, if you can call it that, and Astolfo destroying the Gardens' defenses -- and, to be honest, there's basically nothing to talk about for either of them. They're both very dry and by-the-numbers, with no real surprises.

In fact, the show actively works against ever surprising the audience: Before Chiron and Achilles even have their fight, Chiron asks that Achilles do something for him afterwards, basically sealing the deal that Chiron is definitely going to lose, survive just long enough to tell Achilles what he wants, and then die -- because of course he is, that's how 'when this is over, will you do something for me' always goes.

And of course, Achilles then follows through on that promise; and of course, Astolfo just barely takes out the last of the Garden's defenses through grit and determination; and of course, Sieg goes and starts his duel with Karna; and of course, and of course, and of course, always taking the most obvious route available each and every time.

Here are a few ways this episode could have been more interesting:

Astolfo fails to take down the last few defenses. The rest of Team Jeanne must now attempt to board a Hanging Gardens which is weakened, but not undefended. How do they cope with that? What ramifications does that have?

Caules and Fiore die. Chiron now has a time limit to defeat Achilles or make him mortal in, as he will soon dissipate due to lacking a Master.

Chiron dies before he can tell Achilles what he wants from him. Achilles is victorious, but is left struggling with the feeling of his victory being 'incomplete' with a loose end that will now never get tied up.

See? It's simple. Take the route that creates more conflict, not the route that has everything fall neatly into place. This is basic stuff, and Fate/Apocrypha can't even manage that. 

Tune in next week, I suppose, when I guess we'll be getting the end of the Jeanne-Atalanta rivalry (because that's a thing, I guess) and seeing more of Sieg fighting Karna, which may actually end up one of the more interesting fights of the show.

Friday, 1 December 2017

What We're Watching 1/12/2017

What We're Watching

Final Fantasy Type-0.

I've tried to play this game twice previously, and both times I never made it very far before my interest wavered. This time I'm Let's Playing it, and I've got to say I'm enjoying it: You can tell it was a low budget title released during Square's financial troubles, with FMVs often replaced by still images with narration, slightly low-end (although still really pretty) graphics, and voice-acting that ranges from 'good' to 'hilariously terrible,' but it's a fun, interesting game.

It's also a game that is clearly trying to be a little experimental, at least by Square's fairly conservative standards, combining elements of hack-and-slash, RPG, and real-time strategy (with -- variable amounts of success) as well as fielding a gigantic playable cast of fourteen characters right off the back.

I've no time to level up fourteen different people, so my party is firmly set as Ace, Rem, Nine, Queen, Deuce, and Trey. I think that's fair: Two ranged attackers, two healer-mages, one tank, and one combination tank and healer.

King's Game.

God, this anime is just bad. As is the eventual fate of all hilariously bad anime, it's now slipped into just being more boring than anything, as I've already seen all the weird creative choices it has to offer. 

Expecting me to sympathise with an attempted rapist? Seen it, you've been playing that angle since episode two. Weirdly over-the-top horror committed upon characters we don't know or care about? Practically an every episode occurrence. Bafflingly bad acting and animation? Practically a mainstay of the series by now.

There's just nothing here to keep my attention and yet, bafflingly, I am still watching.

Valkyria Revolution.

Here's a game that's surprised me. I initially dismissed Let's Playing it when I heard a lot of negative reviews for it, but actually, it's pretty good! It's far and away not a scratch on Valkyria Chronicles, but that's in many ways an unfair comparison: Valkyria Chronicles is a very different game, trying to do a very different thing.

That said, I do think that this game would've been a lot better received had it not been released with the 'Valkyria' label on it. As a standalone game, or the start of a new franchise for Sega, it probably would have been very popular -- it certainly looked exciting from trailers. As a Valkyria game, it naturally invites comparisons with a much more daring and interesting game, and that works against it.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Crisis on Earth-X, Parts 3 and 4.

Crisis on Earth-X
Parts 3 and 4.

Okay, let's kick things off by addressing a point I made in the last review, that of there being a lot of absent characters: Happily, a bunch of them return in this one! Amaya, Zari, Ray, Nate, and Diggle all put in appearances, leaving only a couple of characters (Ralph and a few others) left out. So that's good, at least, although we do, unfortunately, have an elephant in the room to address this episode.

Onto the summary, though. We'll get to the elephant.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Crisis on Earth-X, Parts 1 and 2.

Crisis on Earth-X
Parts 1 and 2
(Supergirl and Arrow).

In an odd way, Crisis on Earth-X, being a little more coherently put together than the Dominators crossover, and a little less focused on the individual storylines of whatever show is nominally fielding each episode, feels almost like a very long, very split-up superhero crossover film, ala The Avengers and Justice League. Which is nice, I'm all for the blurring of boundaries between films and television shows.

It's also the final capping off point of Supergirl, Arrow, The Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow until they return for their second acts next year, though, so there's a certain drive to tie up plotlines: For Supergirl, those plotlines seem to be Kara and Alex's romantic woes; for The Flash, it seems to be Barry and Iris' engagement; for Arrow, it seems to be Ollie and Felicity's romantic development and the will-they-won't-they query of whether they'll get married; and for Legends of Tomorrow, it seems to largely be Jax and Stein's conflict over Stein retiring. The focus on interpersonal relationships can almost feel jarring at times, especially when coupled with the Nazi invasion plotline.

Monday, 27 November 2017

Fate/Apocrypha E20: Soar Through The Sky

Episode 20
Soar Through The Sky.

Some of you may have noticed there was no review of this show last week, and that's because last week had another recap episode. Why a show in which literally nothing ever happens needs not one but two recaps, I have no idea, and I didn't watch it, and I assume that it was exactly as boring and mind-numbing as the rest of this show.

I just keep telling myself that we're almost at the end. Almost. We're so, so close, it's got to be, what, four more episodes, five, until we're done? Maybe even less! And then I will be free of this curse.

(There's a Fate/Extra anime airing immediately afterwards. I will not be reviewing it. I probably won't even watch it.)

Anyway, this week's episode sees Team Jeanne boarding their fleet of plane, and heading out for their flying attack on the Hanging Gardens. With Jeanne (Ruler) and Chiron (Archer of Black) on one side, and Semiramis (Assassin of Red), Achilles (Rider of Red), and Atalanta (Archer of Red) on the other, the two sides do battle in the skies as they wait for Astolfo (Rider of Black) and Sieg (Saber of Black) to arrive and disable the Hanging Garden's defenses. Meanwhile, deep within the Gardens, Shirou uses a command seal to compel Shakespeare's (Caster of Red) loyalty, and enters the Holy Grail itself, intending to use its power in his grand plan.

His grand plan which is totally unclear, actually. I realise that the explanation will just be some idiotic, mostly nonsensical rambling, so I'm not exactly in a rush to get to it, but it would be nice to have some clarification of the villain's plans. Maybe it would help this show have some actual stakes attached to it.

Because honestly, why do I care about the outcome of this battle? When the characters are standing around talking, and Sieg opines that he has to take part in this battle and won't be returning, I have zero appreciation for it, because the show's never bothered to make it clear why Sieg needs to take part in this battle. It just sort of waves its hand and assures us that Shirou has bad things planned, but we almost never see any actual evidence of the cost of what he's doing, or even the potential cost. The entire war seems empty and pointless, because we as an audience don't have anything to care about: Not the flat, lifeless characters, not the world, not the primary school morality lessons at play, nothing.

So, I don't care if Sieg uses too many command seals (which he will), or if Chiron, Astolfo, and Jeanne die (which they will), or if Shirou fails (which he will). I have no dog in this fight. I just don't care.

A lot of the episode, meanwhile, is taken up with two action scenes: Atalanta vs Jeanne and Achilles vs Chiron. They are both very, very boring. A-1 Pictures is still trying to mimic Ufotable's style, and it's still abjectly failing and making those action scenes little more than a bunch of coloured streaks flying around.

I'm so tired of this show. So very, very tired.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

The Flash S4E7: Therefore I Am

The Flash
Series 4, Episode 7
Therefore I Am.

Well, this is something a little bit new for The Flash: An episode that commits, fully and completely, to humanising its main villains and giving them a compelling backstory that makes them sympathetic to the audience. We've been keeping up with a rough ranking of which episodes are the best and which are the worst so far, and honestly this one has thoroughly blown every episode this series out  of the water, displaying a quality that hasn't been on show since the high points of the first and second series.

It's the last episode before the four-episode Crisis on Earth-X crossover event, so in a way it serves as the closing salvo of this series' first act, and it does so with particular aplomb, placing DeVoe and his wife Marlize front and center and exploring both how they ended up turning to villainy and their personal relationship to each other.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Editorial: 4 Games We're Looking Forward To in 2018

Editorial: 4 Games We're Looking Forward To in 2018.

Valkyria Chronicles 4.

Why did nobody tell me about this? You guys know how much I love Valkyria Chronicles. C'mon, guys. C'mon.

This is especially surprising after the relatively poor reception to franchise spin-off Valkyria Revolution, but I'm certainly not unhappy to see Sega putting out another classic-style Valkyria Chronicles game on a non-handhold console. In fact, I'm overjoyed.

Due to come out in Japan in Q2 2018 and worldwide at some other point in 2018, Valkyria Chronicles 4 will apparently break with the three previous games by having you play forces of the Europan Federation, instead of neutral country Gallia, as they attempt to make in-roads into the Empire.


Vampyr, a gothic RPG in the vein of Mass Effect, albeit with fewer aliens and more creatures of the night struggling with their dark impulses and Byronic tendencies, is scheduled for early 2018, and at the moment looks like one of the most exciting games of 2018.

We've seen plenty of gameplay for it at this point, so its release date is unlikely to change at this point, but it remains to be seen whether Vampyr will live up to its hype. If it does, it could launch a franchise to rival the RPG bigwigs of Dragon Age and -- well, not Mass Effect anymore, I suppose.

Darksiders III.

I don't think anyone was expecting Darksiders III to be announced some months ago, but announced it was, and given that both the previous Darksiders games were a lot of fun, even if Darksiders II loved fetch quests and busywork a bit too much.

Darksiders III, releasing at some undisclosed point in 2018, will put you in the shoes of whip-wielding Horseman of the Apocalypse Fury (because I suppose Famine isn't game-y enough) as she hunts down the Seven Deadly Sins on a wartorn Earth.

That's assuming it ever gets finished and released, which given that THQ has a history of financial troubles, it may not be.

Detroit: Become Human.

Detroit: Become Human is going to be a mess. A glorious, ridiculous, absolutely bonkers mess. It's going to be game so terrible it crosses into hilarious then back into just plain bad and then back into hilarious again, and I can't wait.

While the game was meant to come out this year, it's been delayed to Q1 or Q2 of next year, and oddly, we still don't really know what it's about, except androids and slavery and crime and cyberpunk and stuff like that.

Still, it should be a whole lot of fun, and I will most definitely be streaming it on release.