Friday, June 03, 2005

Rental Maven

Lazy, lazy summer; of course even lazier than you might think. I took the opportunity over the long weekend (and subsequent week) to catch up on some of my rentals:

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The Aviator

Comments: It was okay I guess. It was pretty cool seeing the 'Spruce Goose' fly, something you'll never see in real life.

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House of Flying Daggers

Comments: I don't quite get these high concept kung fu movies. Crouching Tiger was OK, but attempts to make the cheezy respectable come off rather awkwardly. It's like someone got a hold of a really good kung fu movie and took out half the fighting and sucked the rest of the fun out of it by pumping it full of 'female issues'. (As an FYI, Jet Li's Twin Warriors is one of the best Kung Fu movies ever).

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Napoleon Dynamite

Comments:More high school skit than actual movie, I lost interest and turned it off about half way through when I realized it was cutting down on my video game time. It drew some chuckles out of me though. It would probably make for a good movie to watch while trapped on an airplane.

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Tenchu: Fatal Shadows

Comments: The Tenchu series of games seem to get good press (though I always suspected it was because they're about teen girl assassins in hot outfits), so I decided to pick one up. Since the game takes place in medieval Japan, it works better than most stealth games since the lack of any electronic gear makes the limited alerts work. The artwork and level design are also stellar. However, the game reminded me of why I hate stealth games (after MGS2 almost made me forget). First there's the fact that levels must be mastered in order to pass them. Get killed by the last guy on the level? Have fun playing the whole friggin' thing all over again (and again...and again...and...again)! Add to that the fact that the camera was iffy in stealth mode, when timing is of the essence, and the aggravation level goes through the roof. I finally gave up on the game when I tugged left on the movement pad and the character went right, leading to a quick kill - of me, not for me. (Did I mention the hot outfits?)

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Samurai Warriors

Comments: Although developed and published by the same shops as Dynasty Warriors, this iteration found a way to be an inferior product. The Warriors engine is bad for 'disappearing' enemies to keep the framerate humming, but this game one ups previous efforts by a) Not registering hits on vanishing opponents, and b) Making sure the most powerful enemy is one of the first to vanish, inevitably leading you to have your back to a boss and setting you up for a thorough pummeling. Add to that the torturous random castle levels (which much like any randomly created level, is completely bland and pointless), the drab, depressing environments (as opposed to the rather bright Chinese motif of the Dynasty series), and the soul sucking voice acting and I was done with this bad boy.

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God of War

Holy mackerel! It's pretty astonishing when the first five minutes of a game are more fun than the first five hours of play put into the previous two games. This will sound bad, but I knew right away that this game was way too much fun to have been developed in Japan - the controls are tight, the difficulty is manageable, the plot makes sense and the hero is, to put it mildly, not a closeted homo (the game, unsurprisingly, turns out to have been developed by Sony's SCEA Santa Monica studios (PDF link)). The artwork is amazing, all the areas look to have been customed designed. Many of the enemy interactions are custom. The hero's moveset is deeper than any fighting game character. It's a bit too heavy on the jumping puzzles for my taste, but there's more than enough favorable content to make up for that. (While searching for in-game pictures, I came across this moral lamenter who took it upon himself to play the whole game, he mentions the following aspects which I missed:
- Ripping the heads off of gorgons
- Tearing undead soldiers completely in half
- Splitting the head of a minotaur in half by shoving a blade through its mouth
- Breaking the back of a siren and snapping her in half like a twig
- Standing on the back of a harpy and ripping its wings off
- Cutting the legs out from under a centaur and then slitting its throat
- Various other forms of decapitating, eviscerating, and amputating limbs of enemies.

Oh yeah, and he forgot the cool one where he impales the knight on his own sword and kicks his feet out so that he lands on it.

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