Saturday, May 31, 2014

Fire Emblem: Awakening (3DS Turn-Based Strategy/RPG Game 2013)

So this game was a nice breath of fresh air with regards to genre. It has been a long while since I've played a strategy/RPG game where you move individual units around a square-based map setting.

The story was good, but the whole battle system seemed to take away from the plot, which would go back and forth from Anime-style video clips to normal pre-programmed polygons.

Fighting was fairly strategic, but to really understand the math, it would've taken a lot more concentration and time that I was up for. Because of this I just grinded, until my peeps leveled up, then steamrolled through the final missions. I know it's very fire emblem-like, but it's annoying how the weapons and spells in this game only have x number of uses before you have to replace them. I never liked that aspect of some games, just like needing to find food and water to stay alive.

Either way, it was a fun game to play through once. The story was simple and understandable, and the gameplay only got boring towards the end. I would've liked the dialog to be fully voiced, but I guess they don't go that too often on 3DS games.
Rating - High

Monday, May 26, 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past (Action 2014)

Pretty good movie. I think First Class still beats it out but yeah, not too shabby. Like always the future scenes are always better and cooler than any of the scenes they showed from the past, but yeah...budgets.

The plot in this one carries on from what happened many years after First Class so that was good. Some new characters were introduced and the old ones were still as good as they were before. The ending with Magneto was a bit over the top and not really realistic with regards to what the humans do...yeah a story is a story. Most everything was done very well from the plot to the characters to the costumes, etc. Definitely worth a watch to kick off the summer movie season.
Rating - B

Dourado - A Dane Maddock Adventure by David Wood (Book 2007)

Another good adventure book by David Wood. This time they crew is following around the mystery surrounding a Biblical artifact and more and more secrets. Pretty good premise and pretty good plot. I would say it's definitely on par with Mr. Wood's other books. Very enjoyable although a bit short.
Rating - High

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The First Bird by Greig Beck (Book 2013)

This book was originally put out in three separate episodes, but was later released with all of them combined. I remember finishing the first and was quite bummed that the second one had not been written yet. Fast forward a year and now I've finally gotten around to finishing off the whole package.

I'll keep it short since there really was a lot to this story. The first and second books were awesome, but the third one somehow got pretty bad at the end. It turned into a post-apoc, pseudo-zombie-ish story that didn't quite make sense. To top all this off, one of the main characters lost her marbles over an "emotional response" and pretty much jeopardized the whole purpose of the first two books. In all honesty it seemed like someone else wrote the last part of this book...it really did because it just made no sense for a character that you kinda got to know to totally go out of character for a very unconvincing reason.

The ending of the book was also confusing and I still don't really know what happened. I'm no evolutionary biologist, but as far as I know, a plant can only contain 1 set of DNA, its own. How can it produce different sets of species via mutation and atavism? Scientifically something either totally flew by my head or there is a logical problem here.

Either way the premise of the story was good and the majority of the writing was excellent as well...but the last episode was not very good compared to Beck's other works.
Rating - Mid

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Machine (Sci-Fi Thriller 2013)

So this movie started out promising as the beginning scenes introduced you to the timeline of the film. Sadly though it just went downhill from there. This movie was low-budget and in B-territory. It reminded me of The Colony because of its simplicity and rushed plotline.

The film was hella predictable and pretty corny with below-average acting. I suppose the main chick did an OK job being a cyborg, but still it was not film-worthy.
Rating - D

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Railway Man (Drama 2013)

I didn't think this movie was all that good. It was about a British guy who was haunted by demons from his past which stemmed from his time as a POW working on the Burmese Railway.

The story and experiences of the real-life guy this movie was based on was quite tragic since it had all the ingredients of what it was like being a WWII prisoner like beatings, torture, starvation, and the like, but the writing and pace of the film was too slow and bland. It was very English if you've seen other films that have come out of the UK. It's hard to feel for the actor-character since he seemed like an ass who treated his nice wife like crap. I suppose it went along with the plot of the guy having PTSD, but still...

For a drama I give it a no. The acting was not convincing enough to make me care about the main character.
Rating - C

1993 Toyota MR2 (SW20) Turbo

In all honestly I don't even know if I should be writing a review on this car since I only owned it for a few months and drove it less than 60 miles. It was supposed to be my project wrenchin' car, but it ended up being a short learning experience instead. So for the sake of consistency, I'll pump out a review using what I did find out about the car.

Appearance
This was one of the last sportier-looking cars that Toyota produced. They still had the 3rd gen MR2 Spyder and the redesigned Celica that continued on through the mid 2000s, but then mid-decade they canceled all of that and concentrated on boring SUVs and Hybrids. In my opinion this car was damn sexy. Lines were great, dimensions were great, and it had a very sleek look to it.

Handling
Although the tires on my MR2 were hella stiff and the rest of the suspension parts were quite old, it handled much like a Mini Cooper; very low to the ground and could take a corner at a very high rate of speed. I would assume that with better tires and revamped struts and bushings, it would feel like a dreamy go-kart.

Lights
One reason why the car looked so good from the front was because the headlights were of the pop-up variety that was popular during the late 80s and early 90s. All modern cars have since discontinued this, but there's a reason why cars from this era looked so damn sleek. I read that this was a maintenance issue though, as it uses a motor to flip up the headlights and this motor breaks over time. One other negative about this design is that the car becomes very un-aerodynamic when the headlights are turned on.


AC
I didn't know this before I bought the car, but AC systems of this era used a refrigerant called R12 which was good in that it supposedly worked very well, but it was bad because it was harmful to the environment and was thus discontinued. Finding this refrigerant on the secondary market is harder and more expensive, so most AC service departments will convert cars over to the more modern R134a system which supposedly is not a "cold" as the old refrigerant. Long story short, if you ever need to service the AC unit in this car it will either be more expensive to stick with the R12 or to convert it over to a different system.

Storage
It was mentioned that this car has no storage space and this is true to an extent. There are ZERO cupholders and I guess, again, this was common with cars back in this era. Do you remember back in the 80s when you had to buy a plastic thingie that attached to the roll-down window to hold your drink? This car did have a useless little cubby between the two seats and I guess you could put small stuff in it, but the car actually had a trunk that was fairly usable. Small duffle bags could fit along with multiple bags from shopping trips and the like.


Design
So back in the day the car was supposedly designed with the assistance of some Lotus engineer. And if you don't know Lotuses are, they're tiny performance cars that have a mid-engine configuration. What this means is that the engine is located directly behind the seats and then then there is a trunk area or open space behind that. It's supposed to make the car better balanced, but supposedly if you lose control of the car, it'll spin like an uncontrollable top. I didn't experiment with that rumor. But one bad thing about this type of design is the coolant system. The radiator still had to be located in the front of the car, as it's air-cooled, while the engine was in the middle-back. So the whole coolant system was way more complex with lines running the length of the car. Bleeding the coolant was also an added bitch because of how "long" the system was and getting all of the bubbles out of the coolant lines = not a fun time if you want it done correctly.

I was annoyed at the fact that even though you had some parts like the battery, radiator, power steering, and master brake cylinder located in the front, and only the engine and transmission in the back, there was still no room to work in the engine compartment. That is what I absolutely hated about the car: no room to work and the fact that I totally stressed out my back by working in odd angles because the mid-area of the car was higher than your average front hood area. Being forced to lean and bend over for extended periods of time sucked.

The last thing that was annoying about the design was that the engine hood itself was perforated. This was good in that it gave the engine more ventilation and cooling, but was bad in that water could totally just flow in. Yes, if everything in your engine bay is A-OK and locked down, water shouldn't have a detrimental effect, but it does have a wear/tear effect.

Maintenance
The last aspect of the car that sucked was that it seemed like everything about it was more expensive to maintain. The fuel pump is located in the fuel tank which means that if it ever needed to be replaced (which it did), it would cost around $700 just for the labor. And then in order to drop the gas tank you need to drain all the coolant out of the system since you need to remove the coolant lines to get to the gas tank. All this = more money gone. The turbocharger was also located in a precarious position so if you ever needed that to be serviced, the whole damn exhaust system would need to be removed. Same goes with the oil cooler and anything on the back of the engine. And trust me, there were many tubes, hoses, pipes, and gaskets that could possibly have problems. Even doing a simple spark plug change required the removal of a bunch of intercooler pipes and part of the throttle body...it was a friggin time-consuming nuisance. Yeah when comparing this car vs a normal car on Alldata's website, the MR2 took the cake as being the most time-consuming with regards to flat-rate labor charges. A timing belt job on this car was an infamous bitch that would've cost over $1,000 to do (Should cost around $600-800). On top of all of this, the car was so old that it didn't have an ODB2 connector, so any attempt at figuring out any future problem would require using a paperclip, jumping a connector, looking at how many times a light would blink, then scouring the Internet to see what those lights meant. Fuck a whole bunch of that.

Overall
In the end, this model of car had too many design flaws/issues that I found out I could not tolerate or agree with. When you add the manual transmission into the mix, there wasn't much else that I could extract a positive feeling from. So when I factored all of that information in with the fact that it still needed probably $2-3k in parts and maintenance before it could be deemed long, road-trip worthy, I said screw it and sold it. The car would've been great for an owner who knew exactly what they wanted and didn't mind paying for the extra costs associated with a mid-engine sports car, but that owner surely wasn't me.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (Top-Down 3DS Adventure Game 2013)

Ha, so it seems as though I got a 3DS XL as a new gaming system since absolutely nothing was coming out for the PC and the PS4 was an utter disappointment with release dates for newer games. Ironically when compared to all of the systems out there, playing Zelda again on a Nintendo system was at least 100% more fun than any of the games I played on the PS4. Goes to show how it's the little things that matter, not the polygons and next gen shenanigans.

This game was very reminiscent of the original Zelda for NES. You fight though various dungeons to get to a boss battle then get an extra heart for completing said level. You get other weapons/items along the way and then you fight a last boss battle. Very straightforward and very simple. It's quite exhilarating to actually "win" again verses not winning on other more modern, advanced games. I don't know how else to describe it, but it was positive feeling.

The only negative I would say is that the game was close to $40 new and I already completed it. I'm selling it on Amazon and will most likely lose $10 though the whole process. Not that bad for a "rental" but yeah I sorta wish the game was a bit longer. Either way, it was very fun to play and I got what I wanted out of it.
Rating - High


Ark Royal by Christopher Nuttall (Book 2014)

So this book was another space opera one that I sought out. Although it was OK, it still falls behind in terms of story and writing style when compared with other Sci-Fi novels.

The plot in this one sorta reminds of of the newer Battlestar Galactica TV series, so because of that, it had a plot that kept on pushing quite fast. For one reason or another I didn't really feel the plight of the characters though. Things just went too fast and the crew of the ship kept on getting themselves out of jams.

I'll continue with the next book since the premise of this one was decent enough.
Rating - Mid

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Sunny (Foreign Korean Drama 2011)

This was another fine example of a good Korean drama. I know that if they tried to make a US version of this movie with an average Hollywood production company, it would fall flat on its ass.

The film jumped back and forth between present day and past experiences of a group of friends who met back in HS in the early 80s. In the present, one of the characters got cancer and was close to dying and another one of the group made it a mission to try to find all the members of the old group. The director did a good job with the scene jumping and the costumes during the 80s was pretty spot on with the mix of Korean stuff. But jean jackets and colorful outfits were definitely in. It was a very good drama for a first time watch. I know that it would decrease in stature if I ever saw it again, but overall it did strike a chord.
Rating - A

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Titanfall (FPS PC Game 2014)

So I knew exactly what I was getting into before I bought this game: fast-paced shooting. Unfortunately I also knew that it was only a matter of time before I would get bored of it; and surprise surprise, I'm bored. What a great time to write a short review.

So yeah this is just another shooter with the added concept of mechs and how you can summon them as a chassis or an AI-controlled helper bot. Multiplayer is very quick, but it's exactly the same as your average COD game. They have a "campaign mode" which only has a few cut-scenes and added dialog, but no real AI battles since all the baddies in the campaign are real people. So this game would be better defined as a pure MP game that they try to encapsulate around a weak story & world.

The game is all about luck...if you run by a person without seeing them and they shoot you in the back, all the points go to them. Sure there's the twitch factor of FPS gaming, but it's rare for you ever to be in some sort of direct mano-a-mano combat. One person always sees the other person first and then ransacks them from behind. Is it fun when you're the lucky one? Yup. But does it get old? Yup.

The game tries to hook you with the initial purchase and then they sell DLCs with new maps and guns. I could see some 14-year old loving the hell out of this, but I sure don't. I'm from the generation where a game should be one complete extravaganza and then something totally separate should be released. DLCs are just another way to make money by restricting content and it sucks...just like micro-transactions. Either way, Titanfall was fun while it lasted but I'm pretty burned out. They should totally make a real, single-person campaign; it would probably turn out much better than Killzone was.
Rating - Mid