Tag: Atmosphere

Resident Evil 2 REmake review

Developer: Capcom

Publisher: Capcom

Game played on: PS4

Release date: January 25, 2019

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Resident Evil 2 is the latest game in Capcom’s long running franchise of survival horror games. This is a remake of the second game from the fifth generation of consoles. It cements the franchise’s return to its roots, after making a more action oriented focus starting with Resident Evil 4. Keep in mind that I have not played Resident Evil 7.

Resident Evil 2 retells the story of the Raccoon City outbreak. Players get to choose to play Leon S. Kennedy, a rookie cop or Claire Redfield, Chris Redfield’s sister. Completing one character’s story unlocks a “second run” playthrough that shows what the other character was doing at the time of the first playthrough. I played as Leon the first time, and then Claire.

Capcom really managed to outdo themselves here. Resident Evil 2 is a remake that manages to court modern gamers with its presentation and gameplay, and will appeal to old school fans of the series.

Of the three games I have played of the series, Resident Evil 2 probably has the story with the most effective emotional hook. In Claire’s story, she becomes the caretaker of a young girl named Sherry Birkin. As for Leon, he will eventually partner up with the series’ famous Ada Wong, and begin the Batman and Catwoman-esque relationship with her that continues in the chronologically later games. For whosever’s scenario you play first, there will be a side character named Marvin, a Raccoon City police lieutenant. There are genuinely emotional moments and you feel a true connection to the new characters. Leon is a naïve idealist while Claire seems to be the more down to earth and pragmatic of the two. There’s a noticeable lack of camp compared to previous entries. While there are outlandish elements, everything is taken quite seriously, with the outbreak being treated not only as a horrifying event but a tragic one that ruins a fair share of lives. Yet the story never becomes so serious it becomes unintentionally funny. It’s by far the most grounded Resident Evil, but it still knows it’s a Resident Evil game. It ties with 4 for best dialogue.

One rather glaring flaw is how the first and second runs aren’t well connected to the other. The idea is that while Leon is going through his campaign, Claire is going through hers. Finishing one unlocks the other. The problem arises from how neither meshes well with the other. Puzzles that are done in the first run have to be done again in the second, when ideally characters should have different challenges to handle. To be fair, some puzzles are mixed up in the second run to throw off players, but the larger problem is not solved. It’s because the team clearly put the most thought into the first character run while the second run was neglected. The second run is quicker to go through, and not just because a player will have advanced knowledge of which items are where.

Structurally, the game is very similar to the first game. It begins in one location that follows a Metroidvania style design philosophy, and then the game takes you to new locations that expand on Umbrella’s role in the plot. In place of Spencer Mansion this time is the Raccoon City Police Department. Like its predecessor, the RPD is an absolute labyrinth, though it doesn’t have any death traps. Players will need to solve puzzles to escape, and then will have to solve more puzzles once they do. The newly designed RPD is the star of the whole game.

Zombies are even tougher than before now. It’s better to just avoid them outright rather than wasting ammo on them. It can take multiple headshots to kill them, and that’s just for the normal ones. Enemies like the Lickers are even stronger, but can be avoided if you’re quiet. The boss battles could be better but they’re serviceable. Impressively, the scariest segment in the game is one where there are no zombies. It’s a segment where you play as Sherry Birkin hiding from someone.

A much touted new edition to the remake is Mr. X. This guy is an unstoppable monster, who will hound players wherever they are. The closest contemporary comparison is the Xenomorph from Alien: Isolation. He can’t be killed, merely stalled for a few seconds. If you see him: run. Don’t try to pick a fight with him, because you will lose. Once he appears, he will not stop chasing you. Even if you outrun him and hide, he will still be searching for you. You’ll be hearing his footsteps on another floor, or on the same floor if you’re really daring or unlucky. It is best to find a good hiding spot or a save room, which he cannot enter. It becomes even more vital to avoiding combat when he shows up, even with other enemies. He can hear you running, firing a weapon, and even uses the groans of zombies to pinpoint your location. It encourages smart and deliberate, but also quick thinking and having a backup plan. He also has pretty frightening theme that plays when he sees you.

Resident Evil 2’s sound design is not only impressive from a technical perspective, but is also a useful tool for survival. Due to the over the shoulder perspective, the game compensates by using shadows and narrow hallways to hide the zombies, since fixed camera angles are now a thing of the past. By using sound, you’ll be able to have at least a good idea of where zombies will be, and if Mr. X is in the same area as you are.

The game looks great with excellent animation, realistic gore, and had a stable framerate my whole time playing it. A zombie outbreak has never looked better. The voice acting is pretty good as well. Kudos to Ada Wong’s voice actress Jolene Andersen, who helps her come across as more likable than I have previously found her. The weapons sound and feel good to use, and Leon and Claire have different ones that they’ll use.

Resident Evil 2 is a remake that other video game remakes should aspire to. It honors the legacy of its predecessors while also standing on its own as a great game. Anyone who is a fan of survival horror and excellent game design owes it to themselves to play this game.

Score: 9/10

 

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Annihilation (movie) review

Director: Alex Garland

Writer: Alex Garland

Cast: Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson, Gina Rodriguez, Tuva Novotny, Oscar Isaac

Released: February 23, 2018

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I had some high hopes for this one, and it didn’t disappoint. Support this film to show that science fiction films like these can still succeed at the theater.

Annihilation is the film adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer’s novel, directed and written by Alex Garland. I have some familiarity with Garland’s work. He wrote 2012’s Dredd, which was really good and I’ve heard high praise for his first film from 2015, Ex Machina. Annihilation just further cements his status as a guy to keep an eye on when he’s attached to a project.

The story is about Lena, a female biologist played by Natalie Portman whose husband played by Oscar Isaac has come back home after a year of being presumed dead from a military op. It quickly becomes clear something is very wrong as he can barely remember anything, and becomes deathly ill and is taken and quarantined by an organization known as the Southern Reach. Lena, wanting answers as to what happened to her husband, decides to join an expedition of all female scientists into a closed off area of land known as “The Shimmer”. As the mission goes on, they encounter unexplainable phenomena, and must try to finish their mission.

My previous review was for the original novel so I can comment on how this film is as an adaptation of its source material. Quite frankly I not only think it’s a great adaptation but I think I prefer it to the novel. The original novel was a top tier sci-fi read with great atmosphere and a chilling plot, but its characters were rather thin with very little actual emotional investment for us to give. They didn’t even have names, not even the protagonist. The movie fixes that by giving the characters names, added personal life details, personalities and backgrounds that serve as motivation for why they’re on the mission, and gives them a sense of comradery which makes the story more tragic. It also removes some details that would drag the film’s narrative down so as to streamline it more to fit the runtime. Last and most importantly, it preserves the novel’s spirit of Lovecraftian fear and desire to know the unknown. The only change that I don’t think they needed to make was change the name of the area itself, but that’s a very petty thing to knock it for and at least the new name sounds cool.

The technical aspects of this film are exquisite. The special effects are extremely convincing with creative creature and set designs, aided by gorgeous cinematography and stellar direction. The film is simply beautiful, no two ways about it. Garland managed to bring to screen the haunting beauty of Area-X VanderMeer put to paper. Even as beautiful as the film is, there is still an uncomfortable feeling lingering in the back of your mind. Even as you get lost in the beauty of the environment, what you don’t see may kill you. The spin-tingling moments of tension in the film is aided by the film’s chilling musical score from Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow. The performances from the cast are all really good, especially from Natalie Portman as the lead and Tessa Thompson pulling of a pretty sympathetic and complex role.

Annihilation’s plot is hard to get into without risking giving spoilers away. The trailers have done a good job of keeping the plot as vague and detailed as it needs to be, and I’m going to try to do the same but fix a misconception some may have from the marketing. The plot is not your traditional sci-fi horror story you’ve seen from Alien or The Thing. It’s a much more cerebral, slow-burn plot dealing with heavy themes such as humanity’s tendency to self-destruct, the apathy of nature, and the fear of the unknown that all culminates in one hell of a climax and ending. All of this is aided by an emotional hook from the characters all having damaged personal lives and differing traits that set them apart from each other. That’s all I’m going to give away concerning the plot and characters. If you want to know more, go out and see for yourself.

It’s not a movie whose flaws can be totally forgiven in spite of its outstanding qualities. I didn’t mind the slow pacing because I just got lost in the beauty and wonder of the film, but it probably could’ve gone a bit faster. Nevertheless it at least didn’t get boring. Also some characters are more fleshed out than others and while the special effects are outstanding 99% of the time, there is that 1% that just doesn’t quite work.

Annihilation is a smart science fiction film that deserves to succeed at the box office. It’s definitely a movie that will leave you pondering what it all meant, especially the shocking last act. It isn’t a masterpiece like Blade Runner 2049 or Under the Skin, but it’s a damn good movie that can be viewed in the same light. I highly recommend you give it your money.

Score: 8.5/10

Snowpiercer review

Director: Bong Joon-ho

Writers: Bong Joon-ho, Kelly Masterson

Cast: Chris Evans, Song Kang-ho, Octavia Spencer, Tilda Swinton, Jaime Bell, John Hurt, Ed Harris, Go Ah-sung

Released: August 1, 2013

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Holy crap this movie is great! Why doesn’t this get more attention? Why didn’t this get a wide theatrical release? It’s awesome!

As you could probably tell, I think Snowpiercer is good. Actually I think it’s freaking brilliant. Snowpiercer is a Korean film directed by the same man who did last year’s Netflix film Okja. It takes place during an apocalyptic ice age that has rendered the Earth uninhabitable, like Metro 2033. The only place where people can live is on a massive, self-sustaining train called the “Snowpiercer”. The train is divided by class, where the rich live at the front in luxury, and the poor live at the back in squalor. One day, they’ve had enough and Chris Evans’s character decides to lead a revolution to take the front of the train by force and hopefully lead to better conditions and more fair treatment for the poorest passengers.

Snowpiercer is a movie that unlike other, lesser movies, has intentions beyond being a brainless action movie. This is a movie that has something to say about society, class inequality and struggle, violent revolution, and how delicate our eco system is. The whole train can be seen as a metaphor for the world we live in. The pacing of the plot is near flawless, with no act going on for too short or too long, and each character getting the proper amount of screen time they deserve so the audience can learn about them and their motives. There are twists, horrifying revelations, emotional gut punches, and an ending that will leave your jaw on the floor. With that, and some seamless and interesting worldbuilding, this isn’t your usual Hollywood action film, this is one that is more concerned with getting you to think instead of just entertaining you for 90 minutes then moving on. The characters are also all interesting and complex. Curtis Everett seems like your standard, idealistic revolutionary leader at first, but as the movie goes on we see darker dimensions to his character that reach downright chilling levels. Even the villains have their own complexity and understandable reasons for their actions, to the extent that by the end even I saw where they were coming from.

That isn’t to say Snowpiercer as an action movie fails, in fact it excels in this category. While the beginning had more shaky cam than I expected or wanted, it only last for a moment and the rest of the action is tightly choreographed and directed. Taking place on a confined, claustrophobic train, the violence is brutal, bloody, and unforgiving. Screw your PG-13, pull your punches action movies, this is R-rated, close quarters combat that does not shy away from showing how short and blunt violence can be. The standout action sequence is one that happens in a tunnel. I have no intention of spoiling it. Watch the movie, because it’s one of the most tense, nail-biting sequences filmed in years.

On technical merits Snowpiercer also gets high marks. The film’s cinematography makes you feel like you are in this claustrophobic environment, with each section of the train feeling like a lived in, authentic place. If there was CGI involved in anything, I could barely tell if it all, except for the outside environments. The cast all do a great job as well. Chris Evans completely disappears into his role, and Tilda Swinton is practically unrecognizable as one of the most repugnant film characters I can remember seeing recently. John Hurt and Ed Harris do a great job as well as among the most interesting and spoilery characters of the movie.

It’s a struggle to come up with any real faults that Snowpiercer has. It’s not entirely a smooth watch however. One of the characters is a teenage drug addict with psychic powers that totally felt out of place in the otherwise mostly believable world of the movie, to the extent that she sort of took me out of the experience. That and…well I can’t say I remember the music that much. That’s really it though, but they still do hold this movie back from getting my first ever 10/10 rating by an inch. This is a movie that deserves more attention and I think will be remembered one day as a classic.

Score: 9/10

Devilman: Crybaby review

Director: Masaaki Yuasa

Writer: Ichiro Okouchi

Studio: Science SARU

Episodes: 10

Aired: January 5, 2018

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This was a pleasant surprise. I mean it was extremely violent and depressing so I shouldn’t really call it pleasant, but what would normally just be entertaining schlock turned out to be well written and emotionally engaging. See Netflix? You can make good anime related content as long as it’s you know, still an anime.

Devilman: Crybaby is the latest anime adaptation of Go Nagai’s Devilman manga from the 1970s. This series has had plenty of adaptations before, including a cheesy children’s show, two ultra-violent OVAs, and some sequels and spinoffs. I have no interest in the original manga because of its dated artstyle and other similar series like Berserk and Parasyte doing more with similar concepts originally found in Devilman. As for the other adaptations, they don’t adapt the story in full so I don’t see the point in watching them. What immediately grabbed my interest about Crybaby was that it had a genuinely unique visual style and it was on Netflix, so binge watching it would be easy. Still, I had no real expectations for it and went in mostly blind save for knowing the premise.
The premise is that Akira Fudou, a shy teenager is convinced by his childhood friend Ryou Asuka that demons exist in this world, and decides to help him by going to a sexually charged dance party known as a “Sabbath”. There, demons appear, and Akira ends up getting possessed by a demon named Amon. Akira manages to maintain his human consciousness and soul, but becomes much more assertive, stronger, and edgy, and can transform into Amon. Akira decides to become “Devilman” in order to stop demons from killing humans, while trying to balance this with highschool and family life. So it’s like Spider-Man but with sex and gore. If you can’t handle that, don’t even bother watching the first episode.

While the premise of Devilman: Crybaby can lead one to write it off as just brainless violence, that’s being unfair to it. Crybaby manages to use its insane premise to explore some genuinely interesting questions and themes about bigotry, how fear can lead to humanity doing truly awful things, and how people can be manipulated by those in power to rallying against a boogeyman. The world evolves as the plot progresses on, because realistically a secret like this would never be able to remain one forever, and even the early episodes have subplot where Ryou and Akira have to deal with a reporter who almost exposes their secret. Crybaby moves at a pretty quick pace, leaving you immediately switching to the next episode after the previous one has ended. This means the show doesn’t outstay its welcome, but some of the episodes do feel rushed and lacking in the character development department. While most of the characters aren’t neglected, there are some that we could have learned more about, but didn’t.

Crybaby stands apart from the crowd thanks to its unique style and direction. Instead of clumsily jamming 2D and CGI animation together, Crybaby manages to expertly combine them, to the point that you’ll barely even notice when they switch because of how seamless it is. The animation and artstyle work well together, because they were done in the interest of favoring fluid movement and unique visuals over detailed, realistic environments. Some might say this detracts from the extreme gore and sexual content, but I’d argue it only enhances it. When the action finally happens it is a treat for the eyes, and watching Devilman kill his opponents in the most gruesome ways imaginable. However, it can get a bit repetitive since it feels like he has no chance of losing, and the fights always end with him either punching or ripping apart the demons. Now luckily the anime fixes this by having him lose just when the team probably guessed that you were getting sick of him always winning. The downside to the animation is when the characters aren’t in action, it comes off as choppy and stilted at best, which takes you out of the experience.

English and Japanese voice actors are all pretty good, but I’d say go with the Japanese voices with English subtitles. Some of the Japanese voices have more edge to them, which fits the tone of the anime and some of the characters’ personalities, especially Akira post-possession. It’s easy to switch between the two mid episode, so decide for yourself which is better.

Crybaby’s music, while not original, is diverse and fitting for the setting and tone. Featuring musical styles from techno to ones that will make you start to bawl your eyes out. The opening is also catchy and memorable as hell.

The age of the source material can sometimes show its age while watching the anime. Now they made the smart choice of updating the setting to modern times, and even take advantage of this by having social media and the internet play roles within the plot, it does not entirely alleviate the problem. The original Devilman manga was a major influence on revered classics such as Evangelion and Berserk, which overall did improve on the original’s concepts. Without spoiling anything, the final minutes of the anime were a near direct imitation of The End of Evangelion’s, and the reveal of the villain gave me Berserk flashbacks. That may not be entirely its fault due to just trying to remain faithful to the source, but it would have been better to make changes that give the ending a less derivative feeling. On the other hand I love how unapologetically bleak and nihilistic the ending is.

Devilman: Crybaby is really, really good. While perhaps having too much of a derivative feeling, quick pace, and the animation style and direction not being for everyone, it is still a seinen horror anime that actually has heart and brains, like Parasyte. Unless you have a short stomach for some truly disturbing, dark material, there’s no reason not to give this one a watch. Show Netflix that there’s a demand for series like this.

Score: 8/10

Vampire Hunter D review

Director: Toyoo Ashida

Writers: Yasushi Hirano

Studio: Ashi Productions

Released: December 21, 1985

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This will be my first review where I will attempt to give a numerical score based on a number out of ten. I don’t know if I’ll stick with this system but I think it’s worth a try.

There are timeless classics, and then there are works that might have been good around the time they originally came out, but haven’t aged well overall. Vampire Hunter D is the latter.

Vampire Hunter D is an anime movie adaptation of the first novel of a long-running, popular series of post-apocalyptic/fantasy/horror novels from Japan. I haven’t read any of the books so I can’t speak for its faithfulness to its source material, but I’ve read that it is a faithful adaptation for what that’s worth if you’re a fan of the source material.
It’s a real shame that I don’t particularly care for Vampire Hunter D, because there are elements to it that are well executed. It manages to deliver a pretty heavy atmosphere, the soundtrack is decent, the unusual setting is interesting, and the designs of the monsters are creative and genuinely disturbing in appearance. The movie has a lot of potential to be something special, but alas, it doesn’t manage to reach even half of it.

The story is set thousands of years after a series of nuclear wars, the Earth has become a world filled with mutants, monsters, vampires, and other dangerous creatures. A vampire hunter only named “D” is given a contract by a young woman to kill an ancient, powerful vampire that takes young girls from a small town to his castle to be his brides every 50 years. There are a couple of side characters and villains, but none of them are interesting or well developed. Our main character D comes off less like a character and more of a plot device at times with how powerful and underdeveloped he is. As the movie goes along, it will become clear to you that nothing is really a threat to D. Oh, he might have difficulties, but they feel artificial and move along so quickly you’ll barely notice, save for one instance where you think for a moment he might actually be dead (he’s taking a long nap really). He reminded me a lot of Geralt of Rivia from The Witcher series in terms of demeanor and occupation: A monster hunter feared by most of the populace, loved by a few, and women will want to sleep with him just after getting to know him. The pacing to the plot is also a mess, moving too fast with some scenes feeling barely connected together, yet with some scenes just dragging on. There’s an attempt at a one sided love on the young woman who hires D that feels totally artificial thanks to the bad pacing. Lastly, while the world the movie is set in is interesting from a concept point of view, the world presented on screen feels very patched together. There’s some advanced technology, but the small town looks medieval in architecture and clothes worn by the townspeople, like a steampunk setting. It’s a unique idea, but the world comes across as artificial and not lived in at all.

The animation for the movie is the most poorly aged aspect to it. The stiff, recycled animation makes the action scenes on a technical level very weak and lacking in tension, and because the characters are so poorly developed there’s no emotional investment to the fights. We know D will win, it’s just a matter of when. The most entertaining aspect to the fights is the blood and gore, which I’ll admit can still be entertaining today. Voice acting isn’t exactly good either. Now after doing some research I found out that the English voice acting I heard was in fact a newer dubbing done by Sentai Filmworks after they got the distribution rights to the film in 2015, not the original 1992 dub from Steamline Pictures. Neither is what I’d call good, but the newer dub is better than the old one. At least the new one has some cheesy camp to it, the old one is just stilted and dull. I did listen to a bit of the Japanese voice acting and it sounded okay by today’s standards.

I’m sure there are some people with nostalgia for this movie, and it is an interesting work from a historical perspective with some redeeming value to be found, but that can’t redeem its flaws. Vampire Hunter D is just an average movie as a whole that isn’t really worth your time. If you want to see some violent, monster killing action that bad, go watch Netflix’s first season of Castlevania. Maybe the sequel will be better and it did get me interested in the original novels, so it deserves some credit.

Score: 5/10

Resident Evil REmake review

Developer: Capcom

Publisher: Capcom

Game played on: PS4

Released: April 30, 2002, January 20, 2015 (HD Remaster)resident-evil-remake-cover-art-gamecube-box

I don’t have any experience playing the Resident Evil games, not even the wildly acclaimed Resident Evil 4. Every time I saw the trailers and gameplay for the old and new ones, I had no interest. It didn’t look scary next to say, Silent Hill. I only decided to give the series a chance once I came to terms with the two series’ differing priorities. Silent Hill is going for a subtle, Japanese horror atmosphere, while Resident Evil, despite also being made by a Japanese company, is going for more of a B-movie, George Romero style of horror. You can prefer one over the other, but comparing the two in terms of which is better horror is unfair.

Resident Evil, a.k.a. Resident Evil REmake to the fans is a remake (obviously) of the original Resident Evil from the PS1 era to the GameCube. It was re-released over a decade later to this current generation of consoles and to PC as an HD remaster. A major benefit that this version has is the choice between the old school tank control scheme and a modern one. Now while I can adapt to tank controls, if I have a choice between them and more refined ones, I’ll choose the latter. But even if it didn’t have its new features, I would still love this game because it is one of the most gracefully aged games ever made.

Resident Evil REmake follows the original’s plot near beat for beat. The elite S.T.A.R.S. unit of the Raccoon City Police Department is called in to investigate a series of grisly murders up in the woods. After contact with one team is lost, another team is sent in to find them. They get chased into the spooky Spencer Mansion by a pack of murderous zombie dogs, the mansion is full of zombies, and the activities of the evil mega corporation Umbrella are slowly discovered through the player’s exploration of the mansion and its surrounding area by solving elaborate puzzles, evading death traps, and finding keys to unlock the mansion’s doors. If you’re looking for a well written story with complex characters, go elsewhere. It’s a cheesy, B-movie plot with corny dialogue (and voice acting to match) that you have to accept for what it is. That doesn’t mean the plot is bad, in fact I’d argue it’s good within its genre. There are good twists and the remake adds a new subplot that changes how the story plays out a bit, the characters are likable, and the pacing never goes too slow that you’re begging it to pick up or too fast that you don’t have time to breathe.

You are given the option before you start the game to play as one of two characters: Jill Valentine or Chris Redfield. Jill has more inventory space for items but can’t take a lot of damage, while Chris doesn’t have as much room in his inventory as Jill but can take more damage than Jill before dying. The story plays out in different ways for the characters as well. Jill’s campaign will have fan favorite Barry Burton as the main side character while Chris will have Rebecca Chambers, a medic from another team that had come earlier that can heal Chris without costing any items. I like both campaigns but I think Jill’s is the better of the two. Barry comes to her aid multiple times throughout the story, has an interesting character arc about his family, and will even save Jill’s life if you get poisoned in the first boss encounter of the game. Her campaign is also just easier for first time players and has more mystery in it on the question of who’s a traitor (even though since the original game is over two decades old I knew and so will you). Play her first, then play as Chris to get the most enjoyment since Chris will have to do some things differently from Jill over the course of the game. Depending on some choices in the game, your ending will play out differently with either a happy, bittersweet, or depressing resolution to the story.

Spencer Mansion is one of the best designed and realized settings I’ve seen in gaming. It is the setting along with Shadow Moses from the first Metal Gear Solid of how to do backtracking right.  The mansion is a character in its own right, with a history and its inhabitants history told in the letters and documents you’ll find throughout the game. The atmosphere is claustrophobic with the game’s changing camera angles that never reveal a comfortable amount of what’s next to, behind, or in front of the player, making every turn you make a dangerous one. Going through the same area never feels tedious, since the game is always throwing surprises along the way. Enemies that weren’t in a hallway before will be there later, forcing you to change your approach. Killing zombies is not always the best option, as ammo is scarce and even if you do kill them, unless you shoot the brain or burn the bodies, they will come back later even stronger and faster to make your playthrough even harder. They’re not the only enemy to worry about either, because if they don’t kill you, the mutated animals of Spencer Mansion will. Every decision you make is one that will affect you in the long and short term.

I died a lot playing this, and you can’t just die and go back to the nearest checkpoint, because there aren’t any. The game’s save system has you use type writers to save your progress at safe rooms where you can also story your items. However, to use them, you have to use ink ribbons that are of limited supply and take up inventory space, making the choice between saving your game but risking losing an opportunity to do so later, or not using your ink ribbons to save them for a later time a tough choice. If you don’t choose carefully, you’ll really put yourself in a dangerous spot like I did at one point. The mansion won’t be the only place you’ll explore, with other areas including hidden laboratories and a cabin. They all feel connected, part of a greater whole, and you’ll feel like a genuine badass as you play the game and become more familiar with the environment and the enemies’ behavior. You, and your character go from scared survivor to conquering action hero.

REmake’s sound design and music is another standout. The footsteps on the creaking stars, the thunder from outside, the moans of the undead all sound like they’re real and in your room. While I won’t rank the soundtrack as one of my favorites, it’s a good soundtrack that adds to the game’s spooky atmosphere, though I do think the game’s tensest moments during gameplay are when it has no music playing at all. Just you and a zombie slowly coming your way.

The negative aspects of this game I can name mostly have to do with when it came out. The lip synching and non game engine cutscenes haven’t aged well and the voice acting is okay if I’m being generous. It’s miles above the original’s at least and it fits with the game’s campy style. I can’t think of anything else to complain about technically wise; the game’s framerate is smooth, the load times are mercifully short, and the pre-rendered backgrounds and character models still holdup very well today. I only had one glitch that lasted for 2 seconds involving Chris disappearing in his campaign and it didn’t have any effect on my playthrough.

Resident Evil’s remake is outstanding and leagues above many games today, not just survival horror ones. People might scoff at the dumb plot, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously and the gameplay, level design, and atmosphere are a cut above many horror games today. It should be played at least once by gamers and is worthy of being hailed as a classic. I recommend it highly and since it’s the scariest month of the year right now it makes for a good Halloween treat.

Bakemonogatari review

Directors: Tatsuya Oishi, Akiyuki Shinbou

Writers: Yukito Kizawa, Munemasa Nakamoto

Studio: Shaft

Episodes: 15

Aired: July 3, 2009- June 25, 2010

bakemonogatari

I’ve been especially struggling with how to start this review. I really don’t know where to begin with Bakemonogatari. It’s an anime that has been difficult to convey my thoughts on due to its sheer unique nature. I really haven’t watched anything quite like it. I can say it’s a very love it or hate it kind of anime. Either someone will think it’s a unique, visually amazing and atmospheric show with an unconventional way of telling its story, or someone will think it’s nothing more than pretentious harem garbage. I am the former person, because while not perfect, Bakemonogatari is an engrossing, unique watching experience.

Bakemonogatari is the first anime that is based on a popular series of light novels called the Monogatari series from Japan by author Nisio Isin. The anime covers the events of the novels titled Bakemonogatari. The plot is…well there really isn’t an overarching plot to this anime, just a series of episodic events that become slightly more interconnected by the end. The “plot” is that high school student and partial vampire Koyomi Araragi solves the supernatural oddities such as invisible snakes and cat spirits going on in his town amongst different girls he encounters. That’s it really. Story arcs will introduce a new girl with a spirit that is causing them problems, Araragi with the help of his semi-mentor Meme Oshino will exorcise it, and the girl will become his friend and/or admirer. The final arc has the closest to what the anime’s main antagonist will be. If you’re looking for a story with original ideas writing-wise or one with more singular focus, then you’ll be disappointed. Bakemonogatari isn’t concerned by what story it’s telling but how it tells a story.

Bakemonogatari’s biggest strength is its unique visual style and direction. The usage of color, especially red is extremely striking amongst often grey backgrounds. Nearly every scene in the anime is incredibly beautiful to look at due to scene being shot at creative angles that create a surreal atmosphere that you would expect to see in a Stanley Kubrick or David Lynch film, which should be expected of Shaft’s famously unique visual style and director Akiyuki Shinbou would go on to create and direct the darkly beautiful and subversive Puella Madoka Magica. Many times, conversations between characters will be interrupted for brief seconds with stills of text from the original light novels. Flashbacks will have a film reel sound effect playing in the background, with some using live action stills. Settings will be entirely empty of people save for the main characters, as if the city is a ghost town. The surreal atmosphere is further enhanced by Bakemonogatari’s blending of genres, strange cast of characters and dialogue. Araragi, our protagonist is the most normal character in the anime, and he’s partially a vampire that can heal from any wound! The girls he aids have their own personality quirks, such as the first girl Hitagi Senjougahara being disturbingly cold and prone to threatening violence on Araragi. This is because Bakemonogatari is both an urban fantasy mystery and a busting of the harem genre. The character Senjougahara is outright called a tsundere in the anime, and she very much is one, she’s just a darkly comedic parody of one. The other girls are on the surface character types you’d see in your usual anime harem show, but are truly the archetypes given substance and depth. To top it all off, we are given an utterly beautiful soundtrack that is wide in range from as creepy, strange and mysterious as the world and characters of Bakemonogatari to surprisingly chipper and calming.

This is an extremely self aware and meta anime. It takes jabs and makes observations of itself and anime conventions as a whole. It straddles the line between endearing, and obnoxiously having its head stuck up its ass. It definitely flirts with the latter, but luckily has the sense to stay closer to the former. Nonetheless, the anime definitely has a huge amount of pretentiousness and smug satisfaction in its own admitted cleverness that can be a bit distracting. Less tolerant viewers will probably be rolling their eyes at its hubris.
Bakemonogatari’s other inescapable flaws are the cultural boundaries between its native Japanese and English speaking audiences and its story feels like you missed a previous season. This is because in the Monogatari series timeline, Bakemonogatari is not the first story for a number of these characters. Now the original light novels were published in an out of order timeline as well, so it is entirely possible that this problem is mitigated in its original format, but this creates a sense of confusion that can easily cause someone to turn away from the anime after the first episode. The former flaw is that Bakemonogatari has a great deal of wordplay that will likely go over some of the heads of a number of English speaking viewers, myself included. While there were plenty of scenes I understood the humor, I’m sure there were moments that I didn’t get which is both my fault and the anime’s.

As for voice acting, everyone does a very good job and brings their characters to life. There’s even one very humorous scene in one of the anime’s later episodes where one character proceeds to vaporize the fourth wall and use the fact they have voice actors and actresses to hilarious effect. Just watch it, the moment completely catches you off guard and is a moment of genuine cleverness.

Bakemonogatari would probably be a masterpiece if it weren’t for its own occasional arrogance, some of the humor being lost in translation, and being a bit too vague and hard to follow at times for its own good. Yet it’s also the kind of show that begs for a re-watch sometime in the future so you can see what you missed and dissect everything. It’s a hard recommendation due to its unorthodox nature and hard to penetrate story, but I would ask that you do watch it even if you find yourself disliking the very first episode. It’s an anime that dares to make its viewer confused and downright uncomfortable at times and if nothing else, you’ll certainly never forget it, love or hate it.