Ongoing Investigations: Case #160

After writing about the Zelda franchise recently, I had to get playing the DS release Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks because, hello, you get to drive a train. In this adventure, you are trying to restore the train tracks that connect the realms as well as stop the resurrection of an evil lord who has stolen Zelda’s body. With sword, er stylus, in hand I set out on this small but mighty adventure. I was actually surprised by how long the game was and how much was packed into that little cartridge. Zelda’s ghost is your guide, but she is also your partner in fights for certain areas which is a nice addition to the gameplay. Your path is very straightforward since you can only travel by train so the map has but a few outposts to discover, sadly. Despite loving trains, at times traveling was tedious and long since the only way to open portals was, for the most part, done with side errands that I didn’t engage in. Still I had a blast with the train driving and the first part of the final battle in which you must take on a giant evil train was quite fun. There is a noticeably low count of enemies in this game, but bosses still gave me quite a challenge throughout. My favorite was in the fire temple, it was just enjoyable to play! But I cannot emphasize enough to Nintendo: please quit it with the stylus heavy games already or at least make it optional especially for things like walking. The accuracy is just not there and it takes some of the portability out. Also flute playing gave me nothing but frustration throughout the game because no one really teaches you how to do it correctly. One thing that stood out to me as the game went on was even though there was much hand-holding, you got so used to it that when it didn’t explain something it was damn hard to figure out. This happened multiple times to me, I’m okay with not haing hints but I’d like consistency about it otherwise it is just confusing. Overall, it was an enjoyable game experience, and I spent the better part of a weekend playing it nonstop, so it hooked me quite well. I love the Wind Waker-esque world so it is great to continue to see additions to it.

With my roommate playing so much Mass Effect 3 that he actually took a week off from work I too have been sucked into to the hype. And since I have a iOS device I decided to try out Mass Effect: Infiltrator. Having sampled a bunch of iOS games the first thing I noticed is that anything other than simple puzzle games and time wasters have an annoying learning curve where you spend time learning the touch screen control scheme and wrangling it into something you can play. As much as writers like to claim that phones will kill the portable gaming machine market the fact that any full portable console has intuitive control scheme make the far more suited for full-fledged games. Infiltrator is a side story about a Cerberus operative who goes rouge. The story is fairly minimal. If you are expecting the complex moral decisions from the main game you will be sadly disappointed. They give you paragon/renegade choices but they are super simple and seem to have little effect on the plot. The combat is a system where upgrades are essential to succed. You have to grind the low-level missions to get the upgrades you need to the later story. The first thing you should to is buy the sniper rifle and the beam rifle. Then upgrade all you weapons and the pull ability. Everything else is supplemental. You need the extra weapons for get the style bonuses from switching weapons to get real money. If you just rely on the assault rifle and the shotgun you will have a very hard time getting gold on any level past the first few.Once I got the hang of the game it was fun but it is really small especially for the price. I am looking froward to seeing how this compares to the Mass Effect 3: Datapad app considering that is free.

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Ongoing Investigations: Case #149

I had been waiting to watch Hayate the Combat Butler! Heaven is a Place on Earth since it was announced last year. So when it finally come with the latest volume of the manga I was thrilled to watch it. The movie much like the rest of Hayate is a pleasant and warm helping of comfort food. Heaven is a Place on Earth is a nice little story set right after Natsu-comi and the arrival of Kayura Tsurugino but before the beginning of the next semester. It perfectly captures the feeling of being out in the country during summer vacation. The story focuses on the Hayate/Nagi relationship so I am of course totally behind it. But there is a Hinagiku bath scene so all the fans of the pink student council president will be satisfied. The best part of the movie is it feels like a nice minor arc in the manga. While it is a bit surreal at points it feels like it was taken from the source. Too often these little spin-off movies miss any of that spark that make you love the manga but this one captures that je ne sais quoi perfectly. The oddest thing about the movie is it came out BEFORE Kayura was introduced in the manga but the movie makes no real attempt to introduce her. It goes along like she has always been a part of the cast. At this point it is clear who she is but I am sure there were many a Hayate fan trying to figure out who this strange new girl was. Kayura cosplays as Saber in the movie so she is 1000% OK with me though. I will also say that I cannot deny the appeal of Maria with twin tails in a summer dress. This movie is probably not going to win over anyone who is not already a Hayate fan. They don’t make an effort to introduce you to the plot other than showing some newly animated clips from the first episode during the opening song. Oh Ruka does not take part in the main plot but she sings a song and says a few lines of dialog during the movie’s opening. So if she appears in the 3rd season she now officially has a voice actress. I am now just waiting to watch it again when they release the extended cut on the Blu-Ray.

I went to see Arthur Christmas mostly thanks to an article about its production which also alerted me to the fact that Aardman Animations (of Wallace and Gromit fame) made the film with Sony. It really was everything it should have been: a delightful Christmas adventure with plenty of humor and holiday magic plus top-notch animation. It is the story of the one present Santa forgets to deliver on Christmas Eve which causes endless trouble for everyone. Arthur, youngest son of Santa, along with Grand-Santa take up the mission. Arthur isn’t the successor to the Santa mantle. Oh, he has plenty of enthusiasm but he is also absent-minded, clumsy, and afraid of just about everything; still he has a true heart that inspires everyone in true movie fashion. It even gets a little meta at points as Arthur realizes that Santa isn’t a person, it doesn’t matter who delivers the present, Santa is an idea and a feeling. One of the highlights to the animation production is just how Santa does deliveries which is very high-tech nowadays as they attempt to explain the ways in which it is all accomplished using military precision, thousands of highly trained elves, GPS, and a “sleigh” that functions much more as a space ship with the ability to camouflage itself in many ways. But the olden ways must be dusted off and put to use to fix the gift mistake. It has that classic bridging of multiple generations as a key element along with the realization that we each have a place in the world. While the story has some bumps, I didn’t understand how worrying helped Arthur get to the sleigh or why wrapping the burglar alarm did anything at all, it was a holiday film that left me in good spirits!

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Reading the New DCU

The new 52 (of which I bought 20) marks the first I’ve bought a monthly issue in . . . I can’t even really remember but it has been at least 10 years. Honestly, I’m a bit surprised that I broke such a streak for DC. I’ve never been much of a DC reader ever, even in trade format, with the exception of some of the Batman line. Most of my exposure to its wide range of characters comes from their animated productions. This seems to put me in an odd middle of the road position of not being new to these characters but not being a hardcore fan. In the end, it seemed like the perfect situation to be in.

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