Now Playing March

Beaten/Abandoned

Monster Hunter Stories – I didn’t make it far in this. The ponderousness that works in regular Monster Hunter games really doesn’t serve an RPG well. Every fight takes too long and so far they haven’t been exactly challenging. The paper/rock/scissors set up works, but it is also really simple. The rest of the game is also low impact. It just felt slow and pointless. Maybe it is just I want to be playing Monster Hunter World, but I loaned it to my brother. I’ll give it another try sometime.

Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight –

First of all, this game is gorgeous. It has big, lush sprites and an engaging art style. I also love the general play style of the game; it is a compact Metroidvania. It is short, but that is more of a good thing, I think. It is short because the game cuts out all the fat, leaving only the meat. At about 4-5 hours, I think Momodora is closer to the perfect length than being too short. My big problem with the game is that the difficulty is uneven. The bosses in this game are mostly pretty impressive, but they work as substantial roadblocks in the experience. Maybe that flaw is on me for not being especially good at the game, if that is so I’m fine with it, but it significantly hampered my enjoyment of the game. That is the only real flaw, though. Everything else is great. This is a really good game.

Ongoing

Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology – When this first came out for DS years ago, I called it one of the best original games on the system. Then I promptly forgot about it. Now, playing this enhanced version, I reminded how great this game is. The story is mature and thoughtful, though it doesn’t completely avoid cliche. It sets up a time travel mechanic and really lets the player use it. It is more in-depth than Chrono Trigger’s millenia spanning adventure, keeping the time travel mostly confined to a small length of time. The battle system, which I have complaints about, encourages thoughtful uses of its mechanics. This is just a really great game.

New Super Mario Bros U – I’ve cleared the first two worlds of this game. It is still great.

Terranigma – It is slow going, but I’m still working on it. I am really liking this game.

Upcoming

The Alliance Alive – Despite not really having any patience for this game’s predecessor, Legend of Legacy, I let people talk me into going in on this one too. When I finish with Radiant Historia, I’ll get on this. I have some hopes, it sounds like they changed a lot of the things I hated about Legend of Legacy.

Super Mario Galaxy – I have misplaced my Wii nunchuk, so I went with NSMBU while I searched it out. Once I locate it or a replacement, I’ll likely get started with this game.

Suikoden V – I’ve had a hankering to play this PS2 hidden gem for the last few weeks, so I might put it in and give it a spin. Don’t expect much, though, since I’m still in law school.

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Pacific Rim Uprising

I loved the original Pacific Rim. It was kind of thin in places, but it was so earnest that it sold it. After seeing dreck like the Transformers movies, just having a movie about giant robots that wasn’t a big pile of shit was welcome. The sequel, which doesn’t have the advantages of timing or of being directed by Guillermo Del Toro, couldn’t have hoped to live up to it. Pacific Rim Uprising, though, manages to forge its own path, while keeping that earnestness that helped make the first one so enjoyable. It expands the mythology and creates some interesting, or at least potentially interesting, new characters and lays out a path forward for this potential franchise.

Pacific Rim Uprising is the Saturday morning cartoon version of the original. That is mostly a bad thing, but not completely. Uprising lacks the first movie’s weight and its stakes. The fight scenes are fine. They are not especially inventive, but they are coherent and enjoyable. There isn’t quite the heft that the first movie had, this is a little more cartoony. It works, though. Giant robots are an inherently goofy concept, the first movie played them as straight as possible, this movie frees things a few steps more from the bounds of reality. These robots do a lot more running and jumping that the old ones did. There is also less weight to the story. The first movie had this palpable weight to it, that the end of humanity was near. This takes place in the aftermath; humanity has won. So that oppressive weight is gone. There was also the feeling that any character could die at any time. Mostly because lots of characters died, frequently abruptly. Here, with the bulk of the cast being literal children, that seems, and proves, much less likely. There are still loses, but things are a lot less final than in the previous film.

John Boyega stars a Jake Pentecost, the son of Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), who has left the Jaeger program and works as a smuggler and thief, salvaging old Jaeger parts and selling them on the black market, as well as things like cereal and hot sauce. Through circumstance he is teamed with Amara Namani (Cailee Spaeny), a young girl who has built her own mini-Jaeger out of scraps, and forced to rejoin the program. There he is reteamed with his old partner, Nate (Scott Eastwood)to train newcomers and Amara is put in with the rest of trainees. Boyega does good work making Jake an interesting character; his feelings of inadequacy in trying to live up to his father work especially well in a movie that is going to have a hard time living up to its predecessor. The precocious Amara starts well, but her arc kind of gets lost in the middle before coming back near the end. Nate is a guy; he only really has one note of being by the books, with little or nothing about who he is coming through. None of the other trainees do much to distinguish themselves. The other notable new face is Liwen Shao (Jing Tian), the head of the corporation who is seeking to displace the Jaeger program with drones. She is interesting, if underutilized.

Returning characters are few and not treated especially well, though in one case it makes perfect sense. Outside of flashbacks and static images, returning characters are limited to scientists Newt Geiszler and Hermann Gottlieb and former Jaeger pilot Mako Mori. The scientists are roughly as important in this movie as they were in the first. Gottlieb still works with the Jaeger program, while Geiszler has gone to work with a private firm. Gottlieb has several chances to shine as the sole scientist for the good guys, it is fine continuation of his character. Meanwhile, Geiszler has gone a little off the deep end, as he was wont to do in the first movie without Gottlieb’s restraining influence, working with the Shao Corporation. His developments, while not really positive, make perfect sense for the character. Then there is Mako, who was the heart and soul of the original movie. Bringing her back seemed like a good sign, but the movie treats her abominably. She has no role, she is only motivation for her adoptive brother Jake.

The story wisely avoids just repeating the first movie. While eventually Kaiju do come back, it doesn’t just start with a new breach. It builds to their return. In many ways, it has the bad guys using the heroes tactics from the first movie against them.

Pacific Rim Uprising is not as good as the original, but neither is it a complete failure. It stumbles occasionally and really misses the hand of Del Toro, but for the most part provides a solid outing of giant robots punching monsters.

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