Project G-Son of Godzilla (1967)

Alternate Title: Ok, I guess Godzilla’s a dad now?

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I don’t care about this movie.  You can’t make me care about this movie.  I can barely bring myself to write this post.

That’s how you know this post is going to be a good one, right?

So this movie is another Jun Fukuda joint, the same director behind the previous film that wasn’t quite up to what we’ve come to expect from Godzilla and didn’t make a whole heck of a lot of sense but was still kind of ok.  As I believe I previously mentioned Fukuda wasn’t a big fan of his own Godzilla output in retrospect, although I would say he’s probably being a bit too harsh on himself, overall.  He did make a few that are really good for those like me who love the extra dumb ridiculous stuff.

That probably doesn’t sound like it’s a compliment, but I’m intending it as such.

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Where was I?  Oh yeah, I was crapping all over this movie.  So whereas Ishiro Honda would direct Godzilla films to be about big dumb monster action but also had this hidden theme of social commentary layered underneath it, and underneath that would have a sense of vague sense of “you know, this is all good fun but this would also be crazy horrible to live through”.  Three layers there.  It’s like a cake where the top layer is crazy fun but the middle layer has encyclopedia pages in it that make you think of how horrible society as a whole is, and the bottom layer has a picture of your abs crying in it so you regret the whole thing.  That analogy got away from me a bit, I think.  But yeah, Honda’s movies were more dumb fun that made you think a bit about it.  Jun Fukuda cut out the thinking part.  Sometimes it works.  Sometimes it didn’t.  It didn’t here.

Son of Godzilla is notable for introducing Minilla, the hideously ugly Godzilla baby whose existence proves there is no such thing as a kind and loving god in the Godzilla universe.  Even as far as child-relating young versions of Godzilla, Minilla somehow manages to be even less cool than Godzooky, and at the modern day, we’ve gotten exposed to Godzilla Jr. who is both way cuter than Minilla could ever be and could mop the floor with him without even getting short of breath.

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Look at him.  Doesn’t that make your soul shrivel up a little?

Anyways, lets get on with the recap.

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Project G-Godzilla (1954)

We’re going to be doing things a little differently with this one than I’m planning on doing with all the rest.  There’s reasons for this, of course.  I never do things without reason.  Even if that reason is just ‘because I feel like it’.

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In this case however, frankly, the original Godzilla is a little bit different.  It’s incredibly different in tone from what the series would become, or even the rest of the genre it helped found.  Although it’s considered a Showa era film, it has continuity and repurcussions among all the rest of the Godzilla films of every era.  And really, this movie is a lot more serious, haunting, and downright reverent for its subject matter than what’s to come in this series.  So I’ll be treating this one different than the rest of what’s to come.  Usually, we’ll review in bulk, but here, Godzilla stands alone.  I’m planning on snarking up the place, but this film deserves more than that.  So let’s go.

Godzilla (1954)

Memorable Title: The OG Godzilla

Before we start proper, I should mention, I am horrible with names.  I’m especially horrible with names that aren’t in one of the languages I speak.  And I’m super horrible with names that only come up a few times over the course of my run with a film.  So, as will be common with these reviews, I’ll only call people by the names I remember.  If I don’t remember a name, I’m making one up.

Anyways, we’ll lead with a synopsis.  At least, as best I can remember, some time after watching the film and with a drink in hand now.  The film opens with a vaguely seen monster wrecking some boat near some island.  Another boat goes there to check it out, and the monster wrecks that too, leaving few survivors, including, if I’m remembering correctly, Some Guy.  Some Guy will be important later.  In any case, the monster proceeds to also wreck a fishing boat because it’s there, and it turns out that even when he’s not out wrecking boats, he’s still eating all the fish near an island.  This is important enough to get a film crew in the area to investigate.  They learn that the island used to sacrifice it’s nubile maidens to a sea monster named “Godzilla” in exchange for a good harvest of fish.  Godzilla decides to crush the island that night, reporters see, then everyone goes to Tokyo to ask them to do something about the giant monster breaking all the stuff.

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The government sends a mission to the island, consisting of, among others, Dr. Dinosaur, Some Guy, and for some reason the Dr.’s daughter, Daft Tart.  Seeing them off is Dr. Serizawa.  Dude’s a scientist and is really married to his job, but it’s an open relationship, so he’s also engaged to Daft Tart.  Daft Tart and Some Guy are schtupping on the fly, but Serizawa knows about it and is cool with it, because again, open relationship.  Anyways, the mission heads there, takes a look at some footprints.  Dr. Dinosaur notices some extinct creature living in the footprint, notices that it’s radioactive as all hell, and also notices that a bunch of kids have gotten a fatal dose of radiation in them.  The group continues exploring until they spot Godzilla in broad daylight, screaming at them from over a hill.  Dr. Dinosaur takes his knowledge back to Tokyo, presenting that Godzilla’s this still-living dinosaur who had been residing in an evolutionarily and biologically isolated underwater pocket until he was mutated by an errant H-bomb test.  This leads to a bit of furor as some insist that Godzilla’s existence should be hidden to prevent panic and protect Japan’s international relations, while others insist everyone has a right to know.  Either way, everyone agrees that the big giant thing that has killed tons of people should probably not be alive to kill a bunch of other people, except for Dr. Dinosaur who wants to keep the big guy alive so he can do science stuff on him.

Government sends a bunch of ships out to sea to go bomb Godzilla.  They fail to do any serious damage.  This will be a theme in future movies.  They do, however, manage to lead Godzilla back to Japan, where he destroys a train and some other stuff before heading back to the ocean.  Government gets with Dr. Dinosaur about what to do about Godzilla, who tells them that Godzilla is unkillable and also don’t shine lights at him.  Dr. Serizawa shows Daft Tart what he’s been working on, the Oxygen Destroyer, which…. destroys oxygen.  Good name, I guess.  Literally eliminates oxygen molecules from whatever it comes into contact with.  Serizawa is a WW2 vet, saw the impact of the atomic bombings, and is absolutely distraught that he’s created the world’s next great super-weapon.  He resolves to keep his discovery an absolute secret until he’s found a peaceful, truly helpful application to it, worried that if anyone else finds out about it, it’s just going to be used to kill.

 

Japan builds a giant electric fence around the country, thinking that it will stop Godzilla if he ever attacks.  Godzilla attacks.  It bothers him for a second, but then he unleashes something nobody ever expected, his atomic breath, to melt his way through it.  He then lays siege to Tokyo.

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Absolute siege.  I feel I can’t understate it enough.  By the modern day, we’ve seen Godzilla go on a rampage tons of times.  Even compared to that, the destruction he inflicts on Tokyo in this film is absolutely brutal.  And you see it all from the people affected by it.  Those fleeing.  Those hiding.  Those who can go no more, and know that they’re going die.  Moreover, the military is absolutely ineffective against him.  There is nothing they can do that is not futile.  Yet they keep trying, because they have to, and they die by the ton for it.  A big theme in this film is the consequences of the atomic bombing, and you see it heavily here.

The day after, every single place that can care for the injured is absolutely flooded with the wounded survivors.  Daft Tart sees this, and tells Some Guy about Dr. Serizawa’s new potential superweapon.  They confront Serizawa about it, expressing the need to kill Godzilla before he does this again.  Serizawa begins destroying his work at this, leading to a confrontation with Some Guy in which Some Guy gets bloodied, and Serizawa hates himself for the violence.  Then he watches TV, sees what’s going on, and agrees to turn his invention into a weapon, but still destroys all his work so it can never be replicated.

Even with the knowledge that the Oxygen Destroyer is going to wreck the local ecosystem, the government’s behind the plan.  Some Guy and Dr. Serizawa head out to sea, where the military has tracked Godzilla.  Contrary to his previous appearances, here, Godzilla is completely peaceful, and makes no move against the two.  Serizawa plants the Oxygen Destroyer, sends Some Guy back up, then severs his own ties to the ship and his oxygen line, taking the only surviving knowledge of how to create the Oxygen Destroyer with him and keeping it from being unleashed on the world.  The Oxygen Destroyer goes off, and strips Godzilla to the bone.  With Godzilla dead, and Serizawa with it, those above have a bittersweet moment, remembering the heroic scientist and the potentially tragic beast, while also realizing that, if the world keeps on the path it’s on, more Godzillas may well be created.

And let the credits roll.

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Godzilla could have just been another of the stupid fun monster bash movies that I’ve gotten so hooked on, exactly what the series became.  The original film, though, is far, far deeper than that.  You can’t enjoy this film the same way you enjoy the rest of the Godzilla movies.  Overall Godzilla fans may not enjoy this film, and fans of this film may not enjoy the rest of the franchise.  It’s very, very different.  In particular, it’s the themes of this film and the mindset of the people who made it that makes this special.  This is a film about war, about destruction, and about the atomic bomb created by the survivors and veterans of World War II who were witness to its most devastating events and lived through the aftermath.  This type of film could only have come from this creative team and at this time, and it offers a unique perspective into the mentality of the Japanese populace in the years they spent recovering from the end of World War II.

I don’t see any way around this.  Let’s set the scene here.  Pre-WW2, Japan was one of the most vicious, cruel, and inhumane nations on the planet.  World War 2 was the cap for them on at least 30 years of continuous aggressive action and numerous war crimes against China, Korea, Russia, and beyond.  Active and expansive slavery, comfort women, the Rape of Nanking, the Asian Holocaust, the list of horrors that they committed goes on and on.  As the war turned against them, they turned against their own citizens as well, committing to the use of kamikaze pilots long after they ceased being any sort of effective, aggressively encouraging families in soon-to-be Ally-controlled territories to commit suicide in order to keep their populace from finding out that life under Allied occupation is not near as horrible as they’ve been saying, or press-ganging millions of their civilians into military service, arming them with suicide weaponry, and telling them to make their deaths count.  Nazi Germany may be getting the most focus for WW2 horrors, but Imperial Japan was right there with them.

And the atomic bombs hit them so hard they turned into a nation of pacifists.

Granted, there was a lot more involved in their societal change than just that.  Saying it that way makes for a way more dramatic picture, though.  And it’s really hard to understate the impact the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had on Japan.  The film Godzilla gives you a bit of a glimpse of it, though, wrapped up in a much more palatable fantasy horror shell.  Yes, you’re watching a movie about a giant monster terrifying Japan.  But, the monster Godzilla is the atomic bomb.  And that takes things to a deeper level here.

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Director Ishiro Honda, if memory serves, was in the Japanese military during World War II, and returned to see the aftermath of the bombing of Hiroshima.  He drew from those images in creating Godzilla, and I imagine a fair bit of the feelings of the time, too.  The military is helpless against Godzilla, much like they were against Fat Man and Little Boy.  The aftermath of Godzilla’s rampage sees hospitals overcrowded, medical staff overwhelmed, and even the immediate survivors aren’t safe, as radiation poisoning grabs hold.  As was common following the atomic bomb.  Godzilla, who, as the film points out, was mutated by the H-bomb himself, has skin that’s scarred and warped much like that of real-world survivors of the atomic bombings was.  It is not subtle in its metaphors.

Given that the initial American version of this film, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, cut out some “anti-American” scenes, the Japanese Godzilla has picked up a bit of a reputation.  However, I didn’t really see much in the way of anti-Americanism in the original version I watched.  Granted, my copy of it is by Criterion, whom I know retranslated the subtitles from earlier versions, but given their reputation for maintaining movies in their original format, I would think it would be more accurate.  In any case, I just didn’t see it here.  It is strongly against H-bomb testing, and frankly, given that this came out shortly after the Lucky Dragon incident, I can’t blame them for that, but anything that’s really targeted at America is only by extended implication.  Hell, it’s at least as anti-Japanese government as it is anti-American, as you see some mindset to leave people vulnerable and keep Godzilla hidden in order to protect their own interests, and they lead the assault against Godzilla that ends up leading him back to them and provoking even worse devastation.  It is against the advancements of the new biggest, baddest weapons and the use of science to kill people in general, as seen in basically everything to do with Dr. Serizawa.  Even then, though, it doesn’t make a flat statement against them.  I don’t necessarily know if this was the intended statement or not, but there did hit a threshold in this movie where it was necessary to use the new big, bad superweapon to keep the nation from being wiped out, even when that did have lingering effects.  The message ends up being more “only use the superweapons in the direst peril, and even then take care that they don’t develop further” rather than a simple “atomic bombs=BAD!”

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As far as the quality of the movie, well, I know I enjoy my films very differently than your average consumer.  I had a very fine time with it, however.  It’s typical in Godzilla films to have a long time building up tension before Big G appears while they develop the human interest side of things, and that’s definitely the case here.  It’s a very different tension here than you usually see, though, building up fear and danger rather than the thrill of impending chaos.  Several of the characters have a surprising amount of nuance, moreso than was typical for this time period.  And I really have to applaud it for making you feel its themes.  This film has all the subtlety of a sledgehammer, and it would have been very easy for it to end up basically screaming what the developers really thought at you without any hope for absorption, as so many attempts at “thoughtful” media end up doing.  But this film doesn’t do that.  Godzilla exhibits a high level of “show, don’t tell” that makes its themes, blunt as they are, way more impactful, and really promotes an understanding of them.  This is a monster movie at its core, sure.  But it’s a monster movie that makes you think, and it’s one that has lingered with me well beyond when I finished watching it.

Eyes on The Witcher

The Witcher’s become kind of a big name in games.  One of the prime examples when you think of Western RPGs.  It’s a little weird, looking at the first game in the series, and realizing nobody expected that game to be successful.

It makes sense.  A game by a developer that had never done a project from the ground up before that goes deep into the lore of the obscure Polish novel series it’s based on that has never had any presence in the greater market?  Yeah.  That’s not going far.

Except it did!  The first Witcher game is a lot of fun!  And more than that, you can tell it’s made with a lot of love.  A lot of love by people who don’t know perfectly what they’re doing, sure, but that care for the material just oozes out.  The creators are obviously big Witcher nerds.  And more than anything else, they wanted to deliver the feeling of being the Witcher in the Witcher’s world to you.  And it makes for a good time doing so.

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So, to get this going, in this game, you are Geralt, the titular Witcher.  The game takes place shortly after the final novel in the series, in which Geralt, total badass that he is, got killed like a chump by some random farmer with a pitchfork.  Makes things a little awkward that he’s up and walking around here.  It’s awkward for the people in-universe too.  Geralt did, explicitly die there.  Then he came back to life, sans his memory.  This is a plot point.

And there, you come in.  Yeah, typical “amnesiac hero so we have an excuse to explain all the stuff to the newbies” thing, but it feels more natural here than it does in a lot of other properties.  I think the amnesia was better implemented throughout.  You are Geralt.  As a Witcher, your job is to find monsters and witch them.  Usually, there’s people who will pay you to witch specific monsters.  Sometimes, you have to witch people too, in pursuit of your goals, but never for pay.  Also, you get to carry three swords.  At the same time!

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The game’s definitely a lot more plot- and setting- based than it is combat based.  Not that there’s not plenty of combat, it’s just not where the focus is.  It wants you to feel the world of the Witcher.  Which isn’t a happy place to be.  I don’t think it goes full out dark fantasy, but man-eating monsters are a very common occurrence there, people are horrible to each other, and everyone’s survived several different wars in their lifetimes just to get to this point.  The most common enemies you face are either creatures that feed on the dead or are the risen dead themselves.  You spend more time in the grungy underbelly of the host city than any place nice, and even the nice places aren’t that great.   It’s largely typical medieval fantasy, but it’s really interesting to see it from a different perspective, filled to the brim with classic Polish folklore and beasties.  The novels originally were pretty significant for taking the classic fairy tales and giving them dark twists.  They’ve moved well beyond that, and you don’t see those elements directly in this game, but that’ll give you an idea of the level this is on.  I feel like the big strengths of the Witcher’s setting as a whole lie in its subtleties.  It’s not a big super-unique fantasy setting, but it does have some twists on it that show how much thought went into these things.  And it’s kind of neat how much of that world building got carted into this game without being super explicit about it.  I played this game before I ever read any of the books, and it never felt like I was missing out, but now that I’ve read a couple, it interesting to see the little bits they imported without ever bringing real attention to it.  Like, in the novels, the only women that ever wear their hair down are royalty, prostitutes, or sorceresses, all women who are in control of their own occupations and lives.  The game never calls direct attention to it, but they still bring that feature right over.

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The plot is… it’s interesting.  It has some depth to it, although it can be rather simple in points, but it does go in some interesting directions.  It only carries over a handful of characters and one major faction from the novels, but the style of tale it tells fits in with the original stories fairly well.  It is a bit stop and start, though.  Part of that is natural, coming from trying to carry an involved plotline in a somewhat sandbox world, while the rest is just from the plot and game structure not quite matching up.  The Act structure often brings things to a rather abrupt stop and shift, often when the transition is unexpected.  I lost out on both the best weapons in the game because the Act I was in ended without warning before I had all the sidequests I wanted to do done.  In any case, you’ll have long moments of moving slowly, before everything gets moving at a good clip once again.  I won’t call it persistent pacing problems, because it’s always at the player’s control, but you may not always elect to move through the lines as fast as you’d otherwise like.  In any case, it’s a decently ambitious plot, but the Witcher was obviously designed with gameplay progression in mind first, and story delivery second.  Still, it is multi-faceted enough to hold your interest when the plot does arise.  It plays really nicely with Geralt’s amnesia, in a way a lot of games ignore.  By that to mean, it actually addresses it more than twice.  Geralt has explicitly lost things in losing his memory, both becoming more gullible as he doesn’t have his experiences to draw back on, as well as losing track of who he is and his place in the world.  He has multiple conversations with old friends trying to figure out the role of witchers in this world that might be moving past them, and there’s some times where he has to recreate his personality and choose who he wants to be going forward.

Outside of wandering around and talking your way through situations, most of the gameplay comes through combat.  The combat engine here is really interesting to me.  It’s similar to the Dragon Age games, where all the action you’re seeing on screen are really just visual representations of a bunch of dice rolls going on behind the scenes, and a visual representation that doesn’t always match what’s actually going on.  You’ll see Geralt making some total acrobatic moves on his enemies, completely stun-locking them so they can’t even move, and his HP will still be chipping down bit by bit.

So yeah, the combat engine is interesting, here.  There’s not a lot of performance-based stuff you can do.  Essentially, once you’re in combat, there’s not a lot of choices you can make, and your skills won’t make much of a difference.  You get up to a five-hit combo with proper timing, but the timing is very easy to pull off, to the point that when you’re far enough into the game that enemies start presenting a challenge, you can get the full combo almost by rote.  You can switch styles at a whim, but in almost every situation, there’s a clear ‘best’ style to use, so you don’t get much utility out of that.  You do have some status-inducing bombs you can use to really change the tide of battle and a few spells you can mix up in combat, but other than that and your choices of target prioritization, all the other things you ‘could’ do to affect the outcome of battle take too long to have a meaningful effect. The core of the combat gameplay is going to play out as it plays out once you start the fight, and there’s not a whole lot you can do about it.

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That’s because the big meat of the combat engine is in preparation.  You may not be able to do much to change the result of a combat encounter after you start the fight, but you’ve got a huge amount of things you can do before it.  From the start, you carry at least two swords, one steel for humans and one silver for monsters (both are for monsters), each of which can be forged and reforged with a variety of buffs and effects.  Each of those swords has three styles, one for heavily armored enemies, one for evasive enemies, and one for groups, that get different moves and effects depending on the choices you make as you level up.  And then you get a huge array of potions and blade oils to add additional temporary effects to you and your weapons.  You can’t just take an unlimited amount of potions, those things are somewhat toxic, and as you take more than a handful Geralt starts feeling the sting from them, so figuring out the most effective combination of the limited amount of potions you can take is vital for success.  The game is really big on having you do the in-universe research on the monsters and situations you’ll encounter and figuring out what you’ll need to counter them.  You have to find books.  Knowing about the monsters clues you into what they’re weak to, what swords and styles are best for them, and gives you extra ingredients for making your concoctions.  Books also contain the recipes for your potions, blade oils, and bombs which prove so vital, and enable you to gather alchemical ingredients in the wild.  The in-combat gameplay is very simple, but the mental work before it is anything but, which lends to a really interesting take on the typical RPG sword and claw business.

I guess I should also talk about one of the more famous/infamous parts of this game.  So, there’s porn in it.  Not like, hardcore porn or anything, but, well, Geralt has a lot of sex.  It’s pretty integral to the lore, a chaste Geralt would be like a virgin James Bond.  In this game, when you have sex with someone, you’re treated to a really tame kissy kissy fade out like you’d see most every other time something like this pops up.  And then you get a beautifully hand-drawn picture popping up that shows you what the character looks like naked.  It’s not an omnipresent thing or anything, and, with a few notable exceptions, you can ignore the sex scenes without missing out on plot or in-game rewards, but this is before the age of bathtub Geralt, so the sexual appeal is pretty one sided.  I’m a pretty sexually open person, so getting to know what a bunch of fictional people’s breasts look like doesn’t bother me at all, but if it’s not to your taste, I can’t fault you at all for not wanting it in your video games.

Overall, the Witcher does show a lot of signs of being a freshman game.  Designed pursuing the ideal over execution, the untempered ambition of the piece, and a fair bit of jankiness that experience probably ironed out of the later ones.  For all it’s flaws, it’s a really good game.  It delivers a unique experience, and it’s totally accessible yet becomes even deeper on repeat playthroughs and after having read the books.  It’s grown a little dated, but the game was solid enough to launch a very well regarded franchise and position its company well enough to put together the closest thing Steam has to a competitor.  I enjoyed my time with it, and I look forward to jumping into future games in the series.

Ninja Gaiden

You remember those parts in the original Castlevania, where you had Medusa Heads flying at you from all over the place, spawning endlessly, all of them seeking not to wear down your life bar but to knock you into an instant death pit for the cheapest, most frustrating failure?  Did you love it?  No?  That was your least favorite part of the game?  It really didn’t make you feel good?  Well, the makers of the NES Ninja Gaiden think you love that.  In fact, they’ve developed a whole game around that mechanic.

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Ninja Gaiden hates your controllers, and it wants to make you break them all over your knee.  It was made by taking some absolute horseshit, distilling it into its most pure form, inscribing some coding onto it, and compressing it into an NES cartridge.  Ninja Gaiden despises you personally, and it wants to do everything in its power to make you feel like a worthless piece of scum.  This game thinks fair play is for the weak, and the weak are not worthy of stepping foot into these halls.  This game is hard, and not hard in the way something like Dark Souls is, where it’s actually intended for a human being to be able to beat it.

I beat it earlier this week.  And that feels glorious.

Ninja Gaiden is actually an excellent game, as long as you’re the type of player that enjoys staring down the most blatantly unfair obstacles and keeping at it until they blink.  Mechanically, it plays like a faster-paced classic Castlevania with a more maneuverable protagonist.  Enemies are constantly surging onto the screen, but anything short of a boss can be slain in a single hit, and those you can’t cut down, Ryu’s got the speed and the leaping ability to avoid.  You’re given a selection of sub-weapons that extend your attack range beyond just simple sword strikes.  It has a pretty heavy emphasis on platforming, all the while enemies are charging at you or launching projectiles.

And this game made some real achievements.  It was really advanced for its day, in a lot of ways.  For one, look at it.

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Just look at it.

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The game is gorgeous.  Way more detailed than you’d expect for most games on the NES.  They use the limited color palette very well, and it makes for some very striking visuals.

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Ninja Gaiden is also notable for being one of the first games made to implement cutscenes.  This enabled it to tell a story well beyond what you’d normally find in a game of it’s day.  Granted, it’s not exactly recreating the works of Shakespeare here, but you actually get a decently complex plot out of it, with twists every act, betrayals, murders, surprises, deadenings and re-deadenings, and the super tough ninja Ryu turning out to actually be pretty dumb a lot.

Have I made the point that this game is good?  Because I want that in place before I get into all the ways it delivers its complete bullhonky to you.

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I really enjoyed my time with Ninja Gaiden, but if you’re going to do the same, you’ll need to embrace that part of yourself that enjoys facing down things doing their utmost to ruin you and overcoming them.  Playing this game is like riding the bull, in that you’re finding yourself on top of something that’s focusing the totality of its being into throwing you off and running you through.  I said earlier Ryu can slay most any enemy in a single hit.  The game is designed around that.  Most of its enemies, it doesn’t even make them that hard to hit.  Instead, it seeks to overwhelm you with their sheer quantity, and have them come from multiple directions.  One guy in front of you isn’t so bad.  But when you’ve got one guy slowly making his way at you from one direction, another charging from behind, a third chucking axes at your from a distance, and a bird dive-bombing you, all at the same time, it gets a little more complicated.  And you’d better get used to that.

Because enemy spawning in this game is absolutely brutal.  Every enemy has its spawn point.  Cross a certain part of the stage, and bam!, they’re in your face.  And the enemies in this game are good at keeping the pressure on.  Might be that you need to back up a little to get the space to deal with them.  If you go even a pixel beyond their spawn point though, they’ll be right back as soon as you cross over it again.  Hell, if you kill them while standing on their spawn point, they will immediately pop back up and charge right back at you again.  When their spawn point is at the edge of a gap you need to leap over, that gets to be a problem.

For that matter, you know that comparison to Castlevania’s Medusa Heads here?  Yeah.  Nearly every gap has something on the other side prepped to knock you back into it.  If you play anything like I do, you’ll be losing far more to getting knocked back into a pit than you will to losing your health.  That is a frequent challenge.  Frankly, every time you see a gap, you have to wonder where the enemy is going to spawn while you’re mid jump to try and shove you back into the pit.

And sometimes it gets into straight “Screw You” territory.  One of the things that makes this game work is that it’s actually really generous with it’s check points.  Lose a life, and it only takes you back to the last stage transition you had.  Lose a life to a boss, and it’ll knock you back to the previous stage transition.  Lose all your lives, and you continue on from the start of the stage.  You’re not limited on how many continues you can have.  Each level has 3 or 4 stages, so that’ll usually have you in pretty good position to continue.  Until you get to the final boss gauntlet.  Three bosses in a row, all of which require you to learn their mechanics and patterns a lot more than any other in the game, and if you lose a single life to any of them, you’re knocked back a full three stages.  For no reason whatsoever.  This is especially ridiculous considering that as you’re playing your way back through them, there’s checkpoints inside of that span.  I swear, the endgame benefits so much from having savestates.

And you know what?  That’s all fun.  It’s fun.  I had a great time.  And I get to feel super proud and smug for having beat it.  The game tried to break me, but I am harder than it is.

The Untitled Fallout

Last time on Falling Out with Athena, we gave ourselves a scary dose of radiation in pursuit of obtaining some sick power armor. But we survived! So did Tycho and Dogmeat, in the complete and utter absence of any anti-radiation medicine. I don’t even know how that works! But here we go!

So, you might think that our first step in acquiring sick power armor is to go back to the place that has the power armor, which we just gained the right to enter. Well, you’d be wrong. The first step is to actually go back to the Hub. Because our adventures in the weapons research lab has left us with a bunch of loot. We actually end up with the entire free spending money of all the shopkeepers in the Hub after selling only a portion of what we collected. But there’s also other business here.

You remember that time that we got spotted through a window by that group that was way too high level for us? No you don’t, because that never happened. But we go to check them out, deliberately this time.

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So, I blamed this group’s weird aggro on a glitch that time. They shouldn’t have spotted us from outside the building, but they did, and attacked us as we were just passing by. As I get closer to the building, it turns out it wasn’t a glitch, so much as it was an unfortunate confluence of programming. Apparently, one of the NPCs, randomly wandering around, had meandered into their building and opened the door. The opened door set their aggro onto high alert, and bad things followed for us. They’re supposed to be after us for opening the door, but I guess random jerks invading their space instead makes them angry at us. So it wasn’t a glitch, just a weird confluence of random programming that we ended up taking the blame for.

It doesn’t matter this time, because we make them angry at us on purpose. Theoretically, we’ve been given no reason to bother. Just a bunch of weirdly aggressive make my day types who we’ve been given zero context on or reason to bother with. I mean, yes, there’s something out there that would key us into the fact that, you know, maybe these crazy violent thugs in a random building in the bad side of town have something to hide that we want in on, but we’re saving ourselves some time and skipping over the part of this sidequest where they ask us to do this thing we’re doing right now.

Last time we came across them, these guys kind of mopped the floor with us. We’ve built up plenty of levels since then, though. We have better equipment. Better armor. Better gear in general. Well, Tycho and Dogmeat don’t, but Athena does. And she takes advantage of it.

The biggest risk in this room is the guy with the combat shotgun across the way from us. He has a lot of HP, and one of the strongest small guns in the game. It’s the next level shotgun up from the model Tycho is carrying. Shot for shot, it’s still weaker than the .223 pistol Athena bears, but it has a burst fire mode that makes it truly dangerous. Get hit with a burst of that, and I’m not sure if even Athena’s new combat armor would be able to keep her from getting one-shot.

Luckily, the guy never resorts to it. Over confidence, I guess. Athena plings shots against him while Tycho, Dogmeat, and the other three thugs move around her.

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One of the thugs gets into melee range with Athena. I had discounted him, because he’s wielding spiked brass knuckles, which isn’t nearly as strong a weapon as that combat shotgun. I came to regret it, though. Dude still does some solid damage. Dogmeat’s got our back, though. Comes up, scores a few hits on him, one of which is a critical hit that knocks him to the ground. Gives us some breathing room to heal up after that.

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Punchman starts harrying Tycho, but Tycho guns him down. Athena has to heal up a bit once more, but she starts overcoming the combat shotgun guy in a battle of attrition, and the thug starts making a break for it and fleeing. Both Dogmeat and Tycho give chase, and end up slaying him on the streets. The guards are surprisingly calm about a pitched firefight spilling out right in front of them.

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Of course, this wouldn’t be us if we didn’t accidentally shoot ourselves in the middle of the fight.

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In any case, Athena mops up inside. One of the surviving guards decides to run outside, right into Tycho and Dogmeat’s loving attention. Continue reading

On Shin Megami Tensei

Athena over at AmbiGaming had posed the question recently. What’s a game you love but never talk about? I recently started replaying it again, so it was a pretty easy answer for me. Shin Megami Tensei. I’ve talked about other games in the series, some of them at length, but I don’t really talk about the Super Famicom original all that much. That got me thinking. Well, everything gets me thinking because my brain is just so big from knowing so much stuff, but that got me thinking specifically about this game. Maybe it’s time to correct that whole not talking about this game thing. Let’s talk about Shin Megami Tensei.

You might know the Megami Tensei series. The majority of the releases for the past decade and a half have seen western soils. Outside of the Persona series, they’re not really hitting mainstream attention, but they still draw plenty of their own groups to them. They series as a whole is known for a lot of things. Mixing a lot of recognizable figures from religion, mythology, and folklore, and letting you fight/ally yourself with them. Being really hard. Having God as the big bad guy. Or, back in the old days, being a classic JRPG series that never had a hope of being marketed to America through NOA’s content policies.

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That last one is how I first came across the game. The Megami Tensei series is one of my favorite ones. It was Persona 4 that introduced me to a lot of it, showed me magic and convinced me to dive in deeper, but my introduction to the series actually came years earlier with this game. Back when I was a cub, I had a friend. I know, I know, stem your surprise. Anyways, friend’s older brother was big into import games. Had himself a modded SNES, which seemed super cool and elite until I grew up and learned that all that entailed was knocking out the little tabs in the cartridge holder so that the SFC cartridges fit in the American SNES. As I recall, he had himself a rather sizable collection of Japanese games as well. Friend and I had some good times alternatively watching him play and playing through a bunch of games, including this one, although outside of when he explained things to us, we really had no idea what was going on in game.

Fast forward a couple of years. My family had moved away. Our parents kept in touch, but he and I didn’t. After graduating college, I committed to spending a year as an Americorps volunteer in an economically blighted area in middle of nowhere America. Early on, my mother had sent me a care package. Well, apparently she’d been talking to her friends about it, because my old friend had sent her a couple things to include in there, including the old copy of Shin Megami Tensei. I ended up spending long, long hours with that game, trial and erroring my way through the Japanese text until I finally found a translation guide online and could play it fully. I spent a lot of time with that game. That proved to be a very transitional time in my life, wherein I lost a lot of the old and found a lot of the new, and a lot of my memories about all that have gotten tied up in my thoughts about Shin Megami Tensei.

Artistic works, whether visual arts, movies, books, games, whatever, often end up meaning something to us, moreso than the work itself. Shin Megami Tensei is one of those games to me.  It’s been a constant companion for me, a game I come back to every once in a while just to relive.  It was even the subject of the first LP I ever attempted, although a similar transitional time in my life interrupted that.  Maybe that’ll be one that finds new life here eventually.

Continue reading

Going Down, Fallout-Style

Hey, boys and girls. It’s that time again. What time? Fallout time.

So last time, we had a bit of an abbreviated session where we decided we want some sick power armor and now we’re in a hole in the ground in an irradiated hellscape.

But it’s not just any hole in the ground! This is the West-Tek Weapons Research Facility, which we don’t know yet but sorry, I’m bad at spoilers. Otherwise known as the Glow. Because it’s so irradiated, that things glow here. Athena popped some pills, so she’s probably alright. Or is she? Find out below!

Yeah, she’s alright. Sorry. I’m bad at spoilers.

I’m also bad at screenshots too, because looking things over again, I didn’t take enough. So I’m just going to have to do the writer thing here, and paint you all some pictures with my words.

Outside the giant hole in the ground, there’s a dead loser. I’m not kidding. The game actually calls the poor sap that. Inside, we find corpses all over the place. Some of which look like they’ve been here a while. Some of which not so much. There’s a lot of corpses that look out of place here. Some people that are obviously from the outside world. It seems the Brotherhood have been sending their random wannabe joiners out here for a while. Probably not been getting many back.

Athena’s going to turn that right on its head.

So, there are four main dangers here. The first, and the most obvious, is the radiation. This is the only place in the game where we have to worry about radiation, but it is a doozy here. Athena’s endurance is on the low side, so even making it here without being struck with radiation poisoning takes some doing. Much less hanging around here. I brought just a bit over the bare minimum needed to get through here, but any drug is going to lose its effect with time, Rad-X included.

Luckily, time proceeds really slowly when we’re dungeon diving. As long as we don’t do anything stupid, we’ll be fine. Granted, Athena’s a night person, and it’s daylight out, so the chances of us doing something stupid have increased, but she’s still much smarter than the average bear, so trust me, we’ll be fine.

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The second danger is that the first floor is littered with traps. Dogmeat and Athena both have enough skill with traps to detect when they’re near, but not enough to do anything about them. Especially because Dogmeat never stops blasted moving around! We trip quite a few as we make our way around the giant gaping hole in the center of the facility.

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As you might expect from a weapons research facility, the Glow is loot heaven. We’re just scratching the surface on the first floor, but already we collect some high tech equipment, some bullets, and some skill-boosting books. Athena’s tempted to read them right now, but that would be one of those stupid things we talked about earlier. I’m a night person too, and I’m playing this game at night, so my intelligence is heightened. I’m able to avoid the temptation.

There’s a dead Brotherhood of Steel member near a computer terminal, in full power armor. Athena gets excited, but no. It’s seals aren’t sound, and it’s let in so much radiation it killed the person inside of it already. It’s probably a deathtrap. A sick, sick deathtrap. The brother is carrying two things of interest. A yellow keycard, and a holodisc in which he recorded his last moments. With the holodisc, we could go back to the Brotherhood and prove we made it in and out of the Glow, as required for initiation. I mean, we could do that, if you missed what I said earlier about loot heaven. This is probably the best place to get cool stuff in the game, outside of maybe the Brotherhood themselves. A lot of the very best stuff is going to be useless to Athena, because you guys tagged her small guns skills in the beginning and I want to respect that instead of turning her into a mini-gun toting she-warrior anyway. But there’s still a handful of very important things I want to pick up here.

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The holodisc itself details a rather grisly scene for the poor fellow who held it. A contingent of Brotherhood folks were investigating this place. Had no trouble with the first two levels of the facility, but tripped some security sensors on the third, and had to fight their way out through a bunch of battle bots. This poor fellow was separated from the rest of his crew, noticed his armor was no longer air tight and thus no longer radiation-proof, and succumbed. Not pleasant.

But hey, what say we just wander into the same danger he fell to, eh? The terminal next to him has some access to the power controls of the facility, but the primary power is non-operable and we leave the emergence power alone. It’s at least powering the elevators, which we use the keycard he was carrying to access. The doors were electrified, because apparently just not opening isn’t enough to keep people out, but the keycard takes care of that. We head down to the second level.

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On the second level, we find robots. And also traps that we notice but can’t do anything about so we just endured them, but robots. Not just any robots. These are the same types of robots that cut the Brotherhood apart. Security robots. Deathbots. They might have lasers or something. And if the Brotherhood in their sick power armor couldn’t stand up to them, what chance does Athena in her lame metal spiky punk armor, Tycho in his leather armor, and Dogmeat in her no armor stand?

Continue reading

Night of the Living Fallout

So last time… actually, you know what? You remember last time. I know you do. Let’s not worry about the usual intro here.

What? Ok, there’s that guy, over there. He doesn’t remember what happened last time. Do you believe it? What a jerk. But yeah, I guess we need to include him to. So here’s for that guy. Last time on Athena and the Lost Souls, our master thief had finally discovered her most solid lead as to the location of the water chip yet. The Water Merchants in the Hub suspected that the folks of nearby The Necropolis, which is sure to be a friendly and happy place, had their own source of water and most probably would have a water chip of some kind around. In pursuit of salvation for her people, Athena treks all day across the waste until she crosses some ruined signs from an ancient age claiming she’s entering Bakersfield, California.

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It’s a little worse for wear. But she’s here. The Necropolis.

Immediately on entering town, Athena notes that there’s no life to be seen and the stench of death pervades the air. Just like the modern Bakersfield, California that we all know, am I right? (Seriously, am I right in saying that? I’ve never been to Bakersfield.) She does spot a group of locals in the distance, and approaches them.

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There’s something a little off there. They’re not very talkative. But they are very ugly. And punchy.

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Not that they do anything, though. The ghoul beats its fists limply against Athena’s metal armor.

Athena’s gun does slightly more damage than that. Blows it away in a single shot. In fact, Athena and Tycho mop up that whole group before Dogmeat even gets close enough to attach. No problem.

There’s another group of these feral ghouls a bit further up north. They’re stronger. Not strong enough to pose a problem, but strong enough that it takes more than one hit to bring them down. So, you know, Athena has to spend a bit more ammo dealing with them. That’s about it.

Then we run into a problem. See, the place we entered town? Completely surrounded by debris. Athena tries going to the north. Can’t get anywhere. She tries going to the west. Nothing doing. East and south only lead out of town. In fact, the only options available to her are to leave and… no.

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Athena finds a manhole cover, leading into the sewers, that looks like it was used recently and begins to wonder if saving the lives of everyone she’s ever known or loved is really all that worth it. I mean, sure, on the one hand, that’s thousands of lives lost in a horrible tragedy if she doesn’t secure that water chip. On the other hand, there’s poop down there.

Continue reading

Dirty Deeds in Fallout

Last time, y’all decided that our dear, sweet, lovely Athena, so new to the cruelties of the wasteland, so innocent to the horrors of life, only ever wanted to make it a better place to live, was going to be a down and dirty thief. Such a heel turn. And frankly, I’m ashamed of you all. How could you do that to her? Turn someone who so far had never done anything foul against anyone that didn’t deserve it into someone who would willingly violate the sanctity of someone’s home, take something precious and irreplaceable to them, and hand it over to someone else for nothing other than a handful of bottlecaps? I hope you all feel really bad with yourselves.
Which is to say, I actually already did this in the same session I was doing everything else last update, so I’m really glad you voted the way you did.

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But before we get to our Dirty Deeds Done Dirt ExpensivebecauseAthenadon’tcomecheap, let’s get some errands out of the way. First off, we check with Jasmine, a member of the Circle of Thieves on our way out the door. She hands us some flares and a lockpicking kit to get ready for the job ahead of us. We already have a lockpicking kit, and I don’t know what we’re supposed to do with flares given that we’re operating in the shadows now. Vendor trash, the both of them.
She also warns us not to do anything against Hightower, our little thieving target here, other than take his stuff. He’s apparently really good to the Circle of Thieves. He doesn’t know it, but he is. If he gets iced and someone with better security takes his place, they’ll be out money. So peace and discretion is the name of the day. Sort of.

We leave the circle, and start heading back towards central The Hub. On the way there, you remember the building I mentioned last time that has several toughs we’re not yet strong enough to handle? One of them sees us through a window as we pass by, and the entire group of way higher-leveled and better equipped enemies pile onto us. Uh…. that wasn’t supposed to happen.

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And look, I know I’ve had some fun getting Athena into and out of situations she’s barely specced to handle, but not this one. This one doesn’t go well. Continue reading

The Fallout Legend-Killer

Man, it’s been a while, hasn’t it. Let’s go ahead and correct that.

So, last time on Aether and the Falling Outs, Athena killed some people for money. And this was a good things. Let’s see if we can keep that momentum going, shall we?

Also, Butch, master of the Far Go Traders, asked us to investigate why his caravans are going missing. We suspect a completely unproven urban legend that all the sensible people we know think is completely bonkers. That one chatty woman that buys our corpse-lootings suggested we check with a couple of people on the east side of town for more info, so let’s do that.

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The east side of town… not the best. There is a conspicuous lack of police presence in these parts. And the Hub is the biggest population center in this section of the wasteland. Which means it has a lot of crime, and outside of Decker, a lot of them are hanging out here. Case in point, this building. Full of guys. Bad guys. Specifically, bad guys who are both stronger and more numerous than we are right now, and who will immediately attempt to kill us if we indulge out natural player curiosity and attempt to look at everything in the game. This building will be important for us later on, but it’s a little too much for us to handle right now. So lets leave it alone for a bit, shall we?

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Instead, we head south a bit, and talk to this guy. Uh, sorta.

He’s what they used to call ‘touched by the gods’. Has an alternate view of the world. He suggests we go inside. Talk to Harold. This next guy.

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This guy. He is important. You won’t know this now. But you might have seen him if you’ve played later games in the series. He, or at least some person pretending to be him (Fallout Tactics is a weird one) has been in every single Fallout game released between this one and Fallout 3. Continue reading