Ongoing Investigations: Case #157February 17, 2012
There was no way my apartment was not getting the Mass Effect 3 demo the day it came out. I will avoid spoilers but I am sure some people are going to be upset that I mention you fire guns and fight Reapers. That aside the demo lets you make a temp Shepard with the normal amount of customization and you even get to make a few key previous game choices. You play through the first mission that is a basically a tutorial and then it jumps ahead to the earlier E3 demo. The first part is very cinematic where the second half is a good sample of the new game play. Since the second half is further in the game they give you more weapons to play with and more power points to see how the new abilities feel. A few quick notes. The cool down for powers is extremely short in first part and terrifically slow in the second half. They clearly want you to experience the new combat shooting system with minimal power use in the second half. The new game plays is even more run and gun than the previous games. I think it is a bit harder but you still have the power wheel to pause the action and a story mode if the action is too frantic. I also noticed that you could not upgrade your weapons like you could in the E3 demo. I also have played a little with the Mass Effect multipalyer. The mode is thankfully cooperative. I would not want to step foot into a competitive version of the game. So far the gameplay revolves around surviving waves of enemies with a few random mini missions to break things up. 11 waves of increasingly tough enemies is fairly grueling. But once you get the hang of it the game is fun if a bit brutal. Expect to fail missions a lot. They do give you a good amount of experience even if you fail. You use the money you earn in missions to essentially buy booster packs of upgrades and items. The items you get are random so you can expect to grind quite a bit. The only lame thing is to play as an aliens race you have to randomly unlock them buying the expensive version of the booster packs. Over all the demo made me look forward to the game in March and made be not worry about the multipalyer so it accomplished its mission.
I had the pleasure of seeing the premiere of Justice League: Doom at a special event held at the Paley Center here in NYC. The movie is based on a famous Justice League storyline from the comics known as The Tower of Babel in which Batman has contingency plans on how to take out each member of the JL stolen and then used against them. The basic premise remains the same, but the ways in which each member is neutralized as well as the ultimate villain are different in this new animated film. And it is executed fantastically. All of the stories are being told simultaneously which brings in a lot of tension as we switch from hero to hero. The writing is snappy and of course Batman has all of the greatest lines but it meshes well with the serious nature of the story. It gets very dark and what happens when Batman realizes what is going on as well as how the JL take that information is an excellent, thoughtful finish to the action packed story. This is a great addition to the DC animated library and a wonderful swansong for late great writer Dwayne McDuffie.
Much to the consternation of Tsukihime fans it seems that the Fate part of the Nasuverse is the part that always gets all spinoffs. Himuro no Tenchi Fate/School Life is not exception but it is one of the strangest spin-offs yet. It is a 4 koma comic all about the daily lives of some of the extremely minor characters at Shiro’s school. The comic most revolves around Himuro Kane, Makidera Kaede, and Saegusa Yukika but most of the school based main characters make guest appearances. Thankfully while the art is sort of crude and very gag manga based it is also wacky like a proper 4 koma. So that means punchy little jokes as opposed to more sedate Hidamari Sketch styled slice of life humor. That means Kinnikuman jokes, demonic family pikes, and some obscure historical references. But it is still wacky girls do wacky things without a hint of anything supernatural. Also did you know there is an Indonesian version of soccer played barefoot with a flaming ball? Thanks Fate/School Life! It is worth just reading the third and fourth chapters just to learn about all the odd sports they mention. Also Tchoukball is the most un-American sport ever.
I caught the first episode of Kevin Smith’s new reality series Comic Book Men which follows the clerks at Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash. Smith is also part of the program as him and the guys talk in a podcast setting interspersed throughout the episode. I’m not a big Smith fan, but this seemed like worth checking out. It is unscripted but at the same time seems really scripted. One example is when another clerk asks a question like “What is Robin’s origin?” which I can hardly believe they don’t already know the answer to. I realize this is for the benefit of more casual viewers but they need to figure a way to integrate it better. Also the customers they deal with in the store were all selling, not buying, which felt unnatural. Maybe it is just too difficult to tape a regular time at the store, like new comic day, because of release forms? In any case it just made things seem really empty and slow. As for the personalities of our cast everyone is fine except Bryan who just comes off as a real asshole. The first episode is quite stiff and unsure of its formula, but this doesn’t surprise me with a reality show. I will probably give it at least another episode to see if it can get into a grove but it doesn’t seem promising.
I decided to check out Sekien No Inganock as it was recommended to me by a reader. It is a steampunk visual novel which caught my attention. While steampunk is the flavor of the week nerd obsession of late in the English language world I was curious to see the Japanese take on the subject. Otaku are hardly into steampunk as much as Americans but there are things like Gear Antique that prove that they are aware of the genre. I will warn anyone interested in the game that there are an unusually high amount of anthropomorphic characters in this game. While I would be hesitant to call it a furry game I would preface it with the statement that if you can’t stand anything with furry content this will instantly turn you away. The main love interest is at cat girl named Ati so your mileage will vary on that fact alone. Other than that the game has an intriguing premise. The city of Inganock much like Paradigm City was a prosperous steam-powered city until an incident sealed away the area during a disaster everyone cannot remember. Now the majority of the population is mutating while being hunted by invincible mythical beasts. The protagonist is a doctor who has taken in a strange girl who seems unaffected by the affliction plaguing the cursed city. The game play is mostly your usual long stretches of reading with a few key choices to make but there is one twist. About half way through each chapter there will be a section where you get to hear the thoughts of all the major players in the chapter. Unlocking one characters thoughts will let you see more of what the other characters are thinking. It is a nice bit of interactivity but it can be argued it is just a very complex form of making you read a linear story. The art has a very pastel vibe that makes it feel unique and gives everything a dream like quality. This is a game with pornographic content but I have not run into any of that in what I have read of the first three chapters. There was an unexpected scene of toplessness fairly early on but since then everything has been tame. Things still have the ability to go downhill since I am hardly an expert of how Liar-soft constructs their games. The plot seems to be made of episodic chapters that are all building to reveal the grand mystery behind what happened to Inganock. It is a promising start so I am interested to see where it goes.
I finally read the science-fiction / detective mash-up The Caves of Steel. It takes a future where Earth’s relationship to robots and the rest of the universe known as the Spacer Worlds is a tumultuous one. The culture of Earth live in domes and their environment as well as their lives are very set out for them. Tensions are high as robots become more advanced changing people’s livelihoods. Elijah is a middle-aged detective who must work with advanced robot Daneel to solve the murder of an important figure in the changing policies between Earth and the Spacers. This is a fairly short novel that attempts to pose philosophical questions during this imagined future. We learn quite a bit about the world surrounding Elijah as he travels around investigating and his perspective changes as he interacts with Daneel. Some of it is engaging while some of it feels shoehorned or tangential. And if the novel shows its age anywhere, it is the dialogue which is very fond of the words like Jehoshaphat. The mystery itself is a good one which I could not pick out the culprit in despite not having very many suspects.