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Review – Figma – Stand Alone Complex Motoko Kusanagi

Ghost in the Shell’s Motoko Kusanagi is kind of a hard one to pin down for a real “definitive look”.  Unlike a lot of anime, cartoon, or even comic characters, she has had a pretty wide array of styles over her various movies and shows.  There is a general theme of “tough” and “short purple hair”.  Aside from that there have been a variety of tactical suits, jackets, and various spandex sort of outfits.  This particular figure is based on the Stand Alone Complex Anime series.  Stand Alone complex is an alternate timeline version of the story from the popular movie and manga, Ghost in the Shell.

Figma Motoko Kusanagi

There aren’t any particularly great figures of Motoko from the original series from what I can tell.  I haven’t really seen any of Stand Alone complex though I like the original movie and have read some of the manga.  Of the various versions of Motoko available, I felt this one more capture the essence of what I personally think of as the character, though this design feels “younger” and a bit more, anime, for lack of a better term, than I’d really prefer.

Figma Motoko Kusanagi

It’s a decent design though and the sculpt and articulations are pretty clean.  There’s something a little funny going on with the articulation I can’t quite place though.  It works well enough for posing, but she kind of looks a little wonkey in some poses, like things don’t quite line up naturally.

Figma Motoko Kusanagi

Motoko includes 5 sets of hands in various poses, a Figma stand, three faces (smiling, frowning, yelling), two hairs (one is “windswept”), a pistol, an assault rifle, and an extra set of boobs.  I’m not entirely sure about the boobs, I think one is slightly larger but they look really the same.  Several of the hands are pretty specialized around holding the weapons, in particular the special right hands for holding each gun.

Figma Motoko Kusanagi

Figma Motoko has a problem I’ve encountered with the few Figma toys that I do have.  Her hair falls off way to easily.  If you lean her forward at all the hair has a good chance of slipping right off her face.  It’s a good sized chunk, so it’s easy to find if it falls, but it’s kind of a nuisance.

Figma Motoko Kusanagi

So overall verdict, it’s an alright figure, like a lot of the line, but it’s not quite the version of The Major I wish I had.  I’m kind of hoping that the live action Ghost in the Shell movie will see a bit of a resurgence in merchandise and some more, better figures.  I’d love to get a Batou to go with Motko.  I am also kind of surprised there aren’t more SH Figuarts from Ghost in the Shell, considering Bandai makes Figuarts and owns the rights to GitS.  That’s probably one of those screwy “The media company is different than the products company” deals.

Figma Motoko Kusanagi

Marvel Legends – Dormammu Wave – Doctor Strange (Movie)

The Doctor Strange wave of Marvel Legends, the one with the Dormammu Build a Figure, is the perfect example of how awful and mismanaged Marvel Legends waves can get.    For starters, there was recently a boxed set for SDCC centered around Doctor Strange that included a Brother Voodoo, Astral Doctor Strange (Comic not movie, granted), and a Dormammu, non Build a Figure version.  So, ok, the SDCC sets are not the easiest to get, but there also aren’t a ton of Strange fans I imagine clamoring for these characters, so doubling up like this instead of making less overlap seems like it would have been a better route.  To add some additional insult, this wave also included a comic Doctor Strange that is essentially identical to the one included in the very recent Hulkbuster wave.  Then there’s the extremely mediocre Astral Movie Strange, which is a clear version of the normal version reviewed here, minus the accessories.  The Astral form strange, honestly, would probably have been better done with clear colored plastic matching his normal form, though I imagine the cost there would have been too much vs the basic transparent that we got.  More annoying is that we don’t get figure of Wong or The Ancient One, both characters who could have really used figures, based on how cool they were in the movie.

I’m not here to rant about this poorly done wave of figures though.  I have not, nor do I plan to pick up any more figures from it than I already have (3 total, one because it was on clearance).  Instead, I want to talk a bit about the Movie Doctor Strange figure.  This figure kind of feels like the end result of the price paid for that pretty lame Astral Doctor Strange.  Where Astral strange has no accessories and is all translucent plastic (and, incidentally, the same mold as this one), this figure has many accessories and a pretty well done paint job and sculpt.

The core figure is effectively Cumberbatch’s Dcotor Strange as he appears in his “final form”.  He’s in his complete robes, he’s wearing his cape, he’s got the Eye of Agamotto.  He comes with an extra set of hands for some more varied looks as well as a shield like magic effect.  The cape is removable, and even stands up on it’s own (if you’ve seen the movie you will know the cape kind of has a mind of it’s own.  The Eye of Agamotto is also removable.  Removing the came and Eye, give you kind of an early learner Doctor Strange.  The removable Eye of Agamotto is also useful given the nature of what the Eye is for, possible future options of posing and interaction with other toys.  Without going into too much detail.

A poseable cloth goods cape could would have been cool but that’s not really Marvel Legends’ way of doing things so it’s pretty forgivable.  At least the cape is designed to stand on it’s own well.  Where he could really use a bit of cloth goods is in his lower tunic bits, since the plastic limits the articulation he has in his legs,  Doctor Strange isn’t really a martial artist but he is pretty dynamic, and he does come from a monastery of martial artist monks.

The extra hands are nice, and while he doesn’t have a sling ring accessory, they work for making the sort of gesture shown to operate the sling ring.  Having one with the slink ring molded on would have been nice but that’s ML for you.  There are some problems, at least on mine with mold flashing.  I’m actually kind of ok with this problem, in this case, because it makes his hands look a bit dodgy and well, part of Doctor Strange’s origin was having his hands crushed in a car accident.  Spoilers I suppose but it’s a very early and moderately trivial event in the whole scheme of things.

The movie version of Doctor Strange is one of the better Marvel Legends we’ve gotten recently, and definitely is the winner of the wave as far as quality and parts.

Review – S.H. Figuarts Sailor Mars

Coming in as the third member of the team, Sailor Mars adds some fire power, literally, to the Sailor Senshi mix.  Rei and her fire attacks make her a pretty heavy hitter on the team, and as a Shrine Priestess when she’s not Sailor Mars, she is one of the more capable members of the group even without her powers.

Figuarts Sailor Mars is much more of a departure in design than Mercury was to the original Sailor Moon. The core Fuku outfit is still there but she wears slippers instead of long boots.  She also has longer hair, which includes some neat articulated bits that allow it to “flare out” for dramatic effect.

She does start to get into a bit of reuse on the hands from Sailor Moon and Sailor Mercury, though there are also several new unique hands.  Aside from hands and faces, her only other accessory is a tiny Ofuda paper charm.  It’s not actually made from paper, it’s plastic, but it’s a depiction of her paper slip she uses for some of her attacks.  She also includes a special hand to allow her to hold the paper between two fingers as she does in the media.

While it’s not an included accessory, the Flame Effects parts set which is a separate item from Bandai, makers of S.H. Figuarts, works extremely well with Sailor Mars.   Considering how little accessories these figures have outside of Sailor Moon, and how much parts reuse there is between them, it’s a bit disappointing they don’t come with even a single attack effect or weapon of any kind.  I imagine they are saving that for the eventual “Super Sailor Senshi” releases.

If Moon and Mercury were tricky to stand on their tiny feet, Mars’s actual heels make her almost impossible without the stand.  It’s doable, but it’s tricky and the ankles have a tendency to splay outwards when doing so.

Of all of the five core Sailor Senshi Figuarts, Mars is definitely the lightest.  She has the least amount of accessories at least.  I guess the budget all went into her hair, though Venus does a similar trick.  That’s not to say she is a bad figure, it just would have been nice to see a bit more, some sort of fireball part maybe.  Or better yet, Sailor Moon has her cat Luna, Venus has Artemis, why couldn’t Sailor Mars have come with her two crows Phobos and Deimos?  Even in a static pose they would have helped make her feel a bit less bland.

Review – Transformers – Titans Return – Scourge

Scourge, along with Blurr, is part of the first wave of Titans Returns figures that were not originally Headmasters.  Scourge is a bit of a funny character in terms of picking up “new versions”, because his character’s ability allows him to make clones of himself.  Or maybe it’s just that he commands clones of himself, whatever the case, there is a justifiable reason to have many Scourge toys.

Unlike Blurr, who is kind of the star of the wave, Scourge is possibly the worst figure of the first wave.  The problems are less with the basic design however.  This Scourge, like Blurr is a nice update to the original design, as basic as it is.  Scourge is the classic example of a Shell Former.  He is essentially a robot wrapped in the shell of the parts of his space boat mode.  Both modes are accurate representation of the G1 Scourge, but his transformation is pretty simplistic.

The real problems are with the basic design of the figure itself.  Specifically there are a lot of reports of looseness in the head connection of the Headmaster giving him a bobble head.  He also has a pop up head crest similar to Blurr, though it is also prone to being lose and doesn’t stay up very well.

One minor little nitpick on my part, his pretty sleek Space Boat mode is broken up a bit by odd panels on the bottom of the front.  These panels only serve to fill in the gap on his legs, and just sort of hang off the vehicle.  It really feels like this could have easily been engineered better to remove the panel kibble hanging off an otherwise clean vehicle.

That aside, he’s also just sort of boring.  The vehicle is just a wedge with a bit of kibble on top, it’s accurate, but it’s not particularly exciting.

Titans Return Scourge isn’t an awful toy, he’s just not particularly exciting, and is prone to some issue that can be irritating.  With exciting animal options in the Decepticons, or the really well done Blurr, I wouldn’t make Scourge my first choice of the line.

Review – PC – American Truck Simulator

The Good

  • Strong Developer Support
  • Sprawling environment to explore
  • Straightforward Gameplay

The Bad

  • Free drive could be more flexible
  • No official online multiplayer
  • Repetitive gameplay

There are a lot of Simulation games out there covering a crazy array of subjects from Farming to Forklift driving.  To some extent, some laws regarding video game content in some European countries can be blamed for this trend.  It’s also nice to be able to do even simple things that you can’t normally do.  A lot of these simulation titles are flat out garbage, with mediocre graphics and very little realism in terms of game play, the few that are decent though really tend to be shinning stars to some extend in the gaming world.

Two of the best example of good Simulation titles are the Farming Simulator and the Euro Truck Simulator titles.  What really sets these games apart is the depth they go to simulating not just the basic aspect of doing some job, but also the nuance of running the entire business.  Euro Truck Simulator is particularly popular due to just how much of Europe has been recreated in a virtual environment for players to cruise around in delivering their cargo.  The creators of Euro Truck Simulator have set their sites on recreating a second continent for Truck Driving, with American Truck Simulator.  They have stated that their plan is to do all of the United States in various DLC packs (I’m not sure if they are including Hawaii and Alaska).  The base game includes California, Nevada and New Mexico.  It’s not a 1:1 experience or anything but the basic idea is there, which is great.

This plan has been put on hold a bit however since the developers are currently working to rescale the world they have created to allow for more accurate interchanges and a better feeling of long range driving.  Essentially, they are remaking what they have already put out to make the entire experience better, which just goes to show how dedicated they are to their cause.

There are a ton of little details to help complicate the experience that contribute to the Simulation experience.  A low powered truck won’t be able to effectively pull a super heavy load.  Over time, you will run out of gas unless you stop to refuel your fuel.  You also will grow tired, which causes you to briefly “black out”, unless you stop at a designated rest area to sleep.  You lose points (money) for running into other vehicles and walls, if you speed and get caught by the cops you get a ticket, though it’s often possible to speed and not get caught, especially on “the back roads”.  When you arrive at the destination you get a chance to earn bonus experience by just dropping off the trailer, or executing a perfect back in maneuver.

The real enjoyment of this game comes from it’s laid back gameplay.  There isn’t any real pressure, you aren’t racing against a bunch of other vehicles or having to worry about who will shoot you as you cruise around the world delivering various cargo trailers.  Once you’ve earned enough money to buy your own truck you can even free drive at your own leisure.

The free drive mode is nice, though it kind of feels like it could be better.  While free driving, you don’t carry a trailer, which kind of makes the Truck part of the game a little less fun.  You also still have to worry about the game’s mechanics, such as speeding tickets, refueling, and paying for repairs.  This can all add up pretty quick if you are a poor driver.  It would be nice to be able to turn all of the game off and just goof around in this expansive world.

It also takes a while to “unlock” free drive mode as well, since you’ll have to save up a hefty chunk of change in order to buy even a cheap truck.  Over time though as you earn money you can buy bigger and nicer trucks, as well as trick them out with custom paint and gear.  You can eventually start hiring other drivers to run jobs for your company as well, to earn some passive income.

All of this is a little moot though since there isn’t a built in way to play online.  There are 3rd party methods but it would be nice to have an official way to cruise around the US with your friends, or even see strangers cruising around in their fancy trucks.  I imagine there would be issues with griefing where other players just run around trying to wreck people.

It’s also possible that I’m expecting too much out of this title, it is a Simulation game, it’s not “GTA with Semis”.  Also don’t take too much stake in these complaints, they are issues that could be better, but the basic idea and game is pretty fun and it’s a good low pressure experience.  If the developers stick to their plan to do the entire US, it could definitely turn into something really interesting, as you could virtually cruise from Los Angeles to New York.

 

Review – Movie – The Wolverine

I’m feeling a little lost on the logic behind the X-Men movies, just a bit.  I mean there’s the original X-men trilogy, then there’s the new timeline X-men, then there’s these Wolverine movies sprinkled in.  The Wolverine definitely takes place after X-men 3, since there’s these little flashes of Famke Janssen as Jean Grey and references to X-men 3.  What it doesn’t really reference at all is Origins: Wolverine, which is sort of the actual predecessor film.  Actually aside from the few almost unneeded references to X3, The Wolverine feels really isolated from the rest of the X-men universe.  The setting, all of the other mutants, the villain, it all feels like it exists in a vacuum.

This kind of hurts this movie quite a bit.  It’s an interesting setting and story, but there’s this little back of the mind nag that says “Where is everyone else?”  There’s no Sabertooth, though technically he died in X1, something that could have been explained away.  I mention Sabertooth because he would have been the obvious thread to tie this film a bit to Origins: Wolverine, since he was such a centerpiece of that movie’s plot and character development.    Still, there’s also not really any mention of Xavier’s school, or Storm or Rogue or anyone Wolverine has been fighting with for years.  Instead we get a little opening bit involving Wolverine getting pissy at some hunters for poisoning a bear.  This all felt like a wasted chance to tie this into the bigger picture better.  It would have been expensive to drop cameos from everyone in the X-men universe but dropping in a couple of the lesser know (cheaper) actors for a bit at the beginning at the school then having Yukio pick him up from there would have worked much better.

Instead we get hunters and a story in a vacuum despite having all these little bits happening around it.

Aside from that issue, what about the film itself.  There’s definitely a different tone to these single character movies than the larger X-men films, The focus is Wolverine, all the way, he’s always present and the whole plot revolves around his burdens and life and what makes him tick.  Most of the film takes place in Japan, as Logan is invited by an old friend who is on his death bed, wishing to thank Logan for saving his life many years ago during WW2.  There’s a lot of fish out of water element to this story, as the rough and tumble Wolverine navigates through the orderly Japanese landscape.

There’s a lager plot at work however, and Wolverine gets a bit of a taste for life without his healing ability, which makes things complicated during his battles.  The fight sequences are probably the best part of this film, and they are numerous.  There’s definitely a very Asian cinema style creeping into things here, and not just because of the setting.  The camera work and choreography of the fights are all much more stylistic in nature.  Wolverine’s feral fighting style definitely shows it’s difference from the much more fluid martial arts methods employed by his opponents.  It’s a nice chance of pace in these films really and is handles pretty nicely given the different fighting techniques.

Really the entire movie kind of feels like an excuse to get Wolverine to fight Ninjas.

There’s also the romance sub plot.  It seems a bit relevant to mention the plotline of this movie is lifted a bit from a comic plot line, though it involved a few more other X-men, a lot of the surrounding characters are there.  Mariko in the comics is one of Wolverine’s sometimes love interests.  In fact the comic some of the events of this film are inspired from draw involved the X-men gathering for a wedding between the two.  In this movie however, their romance feels, and is, really rushed, especially considering the climax amounts to Wolverine staging a rescue of his captured love.  Considering he didn’t even want to come to Japan originally and only planned to stay for a day originally, it seems a little out there that he essentially is willing to run somewhat recklessly into this rescue attempt.

This is compounded more by the really pointless Jean Grey scenes spliced in randomly.

Which also brings up another dodgy bit on the plot side, it’s never really shown well what connects Logan and Yashida Wolverine is just sort of in Japan during Hiroshima, for unclear reasons, saves this one random Japanese soldier from a nuclear blast, for which he is clearly grateful, and then as near as the story tells us, they have not seen each other since.  Its understandable Yashida would want to thank Logan one last time before his death, it’s not super clear why Logan should or would care.  Not to mention that part of Logan’s character is that he can’t really remember anything from his past, which presumably would include that time he saved some random Japanese guy.  I mean he didn’t seem to remember his actual blood brother during the first X-men movie, one whom he fought along side during WW2 if the Origins opening is to be believed, but hey, random Japanese business guy.

So yeah, there’s a lot of off points on the plot, and the film feels like it is completely disconnected from the X-men universe, aside from the one thread that feels like a random after thought.  I will give it a good point though, the effects are much better than Origins: Wolverine.  The action is also really great with a good Asian style going on with things.  One thing I will also add, there could be some redemption with the upcoming Logan film, if it bothers to reference anything in this film.  Part of the plot involved taking Logan’s power away and transferring it to another, now we get Logan, with Old Wolverine, maybe he has aged as a side effect of what happened during this film?  I’m not sure if they are organized enough on these movies to make the pieces feel like part of the same puzzle unfortunately.

Review – Movie – John Wick (Chapter 1)

Occasionally a movie comes along that’s just so simplistically perfect in what it’s trying to present.  Recently it seems there have been two such movies, and John Wick is one of them.  Where so many movies try to make everything a deep metaphor or some sort of social commentary on the world at large, John Wick gives us a straight forward tale of revenge, with hints at a deeper world beyond.

I feel like this layered simplicity is what really makes this film work.  That and the top notch action choreography.  This movie is loaded with shoot outs and guys getting shot and beat up, but it all works extremely well and flows along very well.  Everything is intense and tight and fast, but it manages to keep some level of gritty realism as our hero gets injured and tired and remembers to reload his gun from time to time.  The centerpiece moment is the fight in the middle of the film in The Red Circle Club, as John Wick, chases his target through a crowded night club battling henchmen all along the way.

But the action isn’t the meat of this film, and neither is it’s revenge based plot, the meat is the rich criminal underworld created as the film moves along.  Specifically, the way John Wick never stops to explain anything to us, but still presents everything in a way that’s clear as to how things work.  Take the Golden Coins we see several times in the movie.  They are simple gold coins, probably valuable in their own right, but they also seem to represent more than just a coin, favors perhaps.  A way of trading trust throughout this world of mobsters and assassins where everyone knows everyone else.  John has many of them, and spends several of them in clear logical ways that give us the idea of what they are without hand holding the viewer along.

There is also John Wick himself.  John is a retired hitman for some powerful criminal organization.  We never get to see John Wick in his “glory days”.  Instead, we get the feel of just how much of a bad ass John Wick is by the way other characters react to seeing him “back in action”.  The way his old boss has nothing more to say than “oh” when learning that his son has pissed of John Wick.  The way his colleagues immediately respect him and treat him highly.  Through the vague story of what length John went through to retire and get married in the first place.    And of course through how determined and skilled John is at dispatching dozens of grunts along the way despite being “retired” for some years.

It’s this little detail that helps keep the action flowing without stopping to get bogged down in the details while simultaneously not leaving tons of “well what the hell does that mean” moments.  It’s a fine line that other similar movies often fail at because they are too vague with the details or too talky about it.

The movie itself may not be quite for everyone, mostly because it’s pretty violent, though it’s also violent in a way that’s not overly gory.  Another nice point of this film, it would have been easy to get gratuitous with the violence, with constant blood splatters and whatnot, but the film avoids these cheap gimmicks which just helps push that subtle layer of realism that I mentioned earlier.

The bottom line is, this movie is pretty fantastic, especially if you are at all into action movies with excellent fight choreography.

Review – Gunman Clive (3DS)

The Good

  • Quick classic style gameplay
  • Interesting and different art style
  • Game becomes more complex than it initially feels

The Bad

  • Game can be frustratingly “cheap” in it’s difficulty
  • Not an overly long game with not a ton of replay value
  • Some mechanics such as the weapons could be a little more refined

In Depth

Gunman Clive is a game that harkens back to a simpler time of gaming.  There isn’t a super deep story going on and the levels are all relatively short.  It’s very “arcadish” at it’s core, with it’s time tracking and death tracking, that is to day, the idea is more to beat your high scores, than experience some deep endless story or gameplay.  This isn’t a bad thing mind you, and there’s more going on here than it initially seems.

The basic plot is that you are a cowboy in the west and your girlfriend, or wife or whatever has been kidnapped.  You chase out, armed with your trusty side arm to rescue her.  The basic controls and gameplay remind me a lot of the old Mega Man titles.  Not for crazy power ups or level selection, but just the basic jumping and shooting only straight ahead sort of mechanics.  The levels themselves are much more classic platform shooter, something akin to a Contra game, especially with the power ups you collect along the way.  The game starts out simple enough, there are opposing cowboys to shoot down, sometimes there’s rabbits or birds swopping in.  As the plot advances along though it becomes apparent there’s a lot more behind the scenes as you travel through levels with more and more crazy technology and eventually head off into space battling aliens.

The game is divided into several themed “worlds” with 5 or so levels in each world.  Each world can be completed in around a minute once you get the hang of things, though chances are you’ll spend longer on each level working it out.  Each time you die you simply return to the start of the level to try again, there are no lives here.  As the levels advance, things get more and more complex.  Enemy cowboys start hiding behind things for example, and later you encounter robot cannons and various environmental hazards such as spikes and electrical beams.

At the end of each world is a huge boss.  The bosses are all pretty interesting and varied in their mechanics and design, I particularly liked the giant transforming train robot at the end of the Train world.  All in all the difficulty across the board is pretty simple, a lot of the puzzles and traps though fall into the category of trial an error.  You play through learning the proper timing of everything until you manage to get through to the end.  The most annoying aspects involve the enemies constantly respawning if you slide their spawn location on and off the screen.  Also annoying is that sometimes enemies drop new weapons which are worse than the one you have, except you can’t avoid picking up the inferior weapon.

Probably the main gimmick of this title is the neat art style used throughout,  The entire game is rendered in this sort of yellow and gray hand drawn motif.  It looks pretty cool without being super distracting.  Despite it’s simpler art design, there’s a lot of fun complexity going on, especially in the bosses and as the world progresses into the later worlds.

Gunman Clive isn’t a super complex title, but it’s a fun little indie game platformer.  It’s not the most replayable game though unless you are into score challenges.  There is a “Play as a chicken” mode that unlocks after completing the game though.