Monday, October 26, 2015

Things No One Cares About:The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap (Manga)

Of all the Legend of Zelda games I've played, The Minish Cap is definitely one of them. It's hardly a bad game; just a forgettable one. What makes this weird is that the final fight with Vaati left such an
impression on me I shoehorned him into a D&D campaign as a boss. The rest of the game is this big
nebulous blob that; if I revisited it I'd love it but forget about it soon after. This overall feeling of
apathy also extends to the manga adaption.

The story follows the game's plot in a condensed format. Seeing as having chapters of Link wandering around a dungeon with no clue how to proceed would be rather boring and waste what little page count we have, instead each dungeon is treated as an action scene; barring the third temple, which goes into story about a fairy who sings for days then dies. It’s beautifully drawn, like most of the book's art, and serves as a nice transition into a decidedly more serious second half. The Picori are quite a bit more involved in the action here which I feel ties better into their love of humanity. Link is the first human they've been able to communicate with in a long time so of course they'd really love helping and being involved with him. This does however become the root of some of the nitpicks.

Near the middle of the story Link is given a magical feather by the Picori elder, Libari, and at first it's a nice little way to keep Link on the right path without feeling like he's being railroaded. Near the end this feather might as well kill Vaati by itself for all the goofy crap it pulls from making a perfect map of an area to becoming a Roc's cape. Mind you this things back story is that Libari won it off a regular Cucco by kicking its can. The other issue that bugs me is Link's little character arc is poorly defined. Near the end he berates Vaati for using the power of others to strengthening his own and Link relies on his own power. There is just one problem with that: Link is using things given to him by the Picori. There is nothing wrong with getting help from friends but  give credit where credit is due and don't act like you did it all. I would chalk it up to poor translation if the rest of the manga wasn't translated well but it isn't so I won't.

I do know that some Zelda fans to take these games more serious than I do and tend to prefer a more
mature experience from the franchise; the fact that this is a more light hearted action comedy might not sit well with some. However I've always seen the franchise as one not afraid to laugh at itself and I can live with the more humorous moments of the book. The character are the right mix of funny and serious so that they still feel like Legend of Zelda characters. Also I do love that Kinstones are
implemented in such a clunky manner that it borders on comedy though it's a nice call back to the
game's actual plot use of them so I can forgive it.

The manga adaptation of The Minish Cap is a fun little romp that ultimately doesn't leave a great deal of impact just like what it's based on. The action is fun and it has possibly the cutest version of the Gleerok I've ever seen. It's worth a read once for the genuinely funny comedy but nothing really worth writing home about.

Till Next Time: Stay Positive

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Things No One Cares About: Pac-Man World 20th Anniversary (PS1)

The transition of classic 2-D franchises to 3-D has the habit of going rather well if you're associated with Nintendo but otherwise tend to be choppy. This was especially prevalent in the PS1/N64 era which was often a company's first attempt. Thus while we had gems like Super Mario 64 and Ocarina of Time we also had garbage like Bubsy 3D. Pac-Man World,released to coincide with  his 20th anniversary, decidedly falls into the latter category and while having some creative ideas still doesn't excuse the mess.

The core problem of the game lies with it's controls and sense of space. In a good 3-D platformer you have this sense of where you are in relation to other platforms and objects. However when hopping around the levels here I can never quite grasp where I reside so I end up missing a platform that looks like it should have been easily landed upon yet is really a few feet out of reach. Luckily Pac-man's repertoire includes grabbing on to ledges if you can get close enough. Unfortunately his gloves seemed to be covered in butter as he fails to grab ledges sometimes leading to yet more trips to the dark abyss.

Jumping is also rather finicky in some regards. Sometimes the jump button just doesn't work work,though that could just be my controller. Any little piece of room geometry or an enemy looking at you funny stutters the jump and leads to many a death. The fact that the extreme foreground some times has an invisible wall blocking a jump you other wise could make is infuriating to say the least.

Enemies and obstacles also add to the frustration as they will often hit you from places that should be safe but just aren't. When dealing with enemies Pac-man can bounce on them which also serves as a double jump of sorts and that's all you really need. He has the ability to rev up and roll into enemies or shoot a pellet at them but they are more trouble than they're worth and will probably get you killed. Then again so will the butt bounce since it's lack of precision aiming will often put you in the exact place you don't want to be. Combat is better avoided if for no other reason to ease some of the frustration of cheap deaths.

Pac-man World was developed during that time when platformers had you collect truckloads of random doodads because they powered something or other. It's not a bad style of games by any means but here it feels like needless busy work. You collect fruit to open doors to gain access to various switches, collectible letter to spell out Pac-Man or keys to unlock cages. Usually fruit is hidden fairly close to the door it unlocks so it's less a challenge and more a tedious back and forth.

Despite the bile I've been spewing the game did do a few things right. The levels themselves are rather neat looking,nothing special but still cool. They draw from your standard video game locales:pirate ships,ruins,space etc. They all try something at least different to keep the level's interesting. I never felt like “oh this is another factory level”, no this was the area with all those spinning platforms or this was the level with the laser puzzles. By extension no two bosses in this game are tackled in the same method. They range from forcing open a temples hands to ram it's heart to a straight up homage to Galaga with Pac-man surfing in space blasting aliens. The fights are the highlight of the game and I kept me going despite the horrendous control problems. The only real bad fight was against the Khrome Keeper which ties back into the central problem of knowing where you are.

Mind you all of the problems are with the main story mode of the game. There are a whole two other modes to mess around with. The first is classic:which is the original Pac-man,nothing special there. The other is the highlight of the game:Maze mode. It plays like the original game but with the camera focused on Pac-man and more hazards outside the ghosts trying to eat you. It's rather challenging and a cool shake up to the standard formula.

The story is rather bare bones yet charming in a way. Some weird robot named Toc-man kidnaps all of Pac-man's friends and family by accident and Pac-man goes to save them. It works for a game about Pac-man. It's not the type of game that needed some crazy plot. The end reveals that Toc-Man is being used by a ghost whom Pac-man promptly eats with that same smiling face he always has. It's rather eerie to watch him devour the ghost that just wanted a friend.

As a kid I adored this game yet could never beat it,so coming back to it with my (arguably) adult brain I expected to be able to grasp it better. All I was able to grasp was that this was a poorly designed game that tried to make up for it's flaws with creativity and banking on your love of Pac-man. The maze mode is rather good but you're better off going with it's companion game Ms. Pac-man Maze Madness. With my rose tinted glasses shattered I leave you with one simple truth: Crash Bandicoot 2 is fantastic,so is Warped.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Shojo a Go-Go: Komomo Confiserie

Father knows best is a rather antiqued trope that was rather prevalent in the 1950's but has mostly been dropped being played straight for the utterly sexist undertones. Basically akin to always being right and being able to sort out the silly problems of the doting housewife and children. A variation of this trope with likes to pop it's head into shojo/joesi manga and is usually played straight with the boyfriend of the main girl just knowing better and being a jerk about it. Blue Spring Ride and Happy Hustle High are good examples of the trope in effect. Komomo Confiserie seems to have this going on in this story of role reversal.

Komomo Confiserie tells the tale of a young girl,Komomo, who in her youth was wealthy and often picked on the young baker,Natsu, in employ of her father. Now it's ten years later and she's poor,he's successful and she is at his mercy. The volume is mostly for setting up who's who and the character dynamics. It seems to be mostly focused on helping Komomo grow as a person under Natsu's sadistic thumb. This is where we run into some of the more disturbing implications of the volume.

Natsu's desire to tease Komomo is creepy and he's is never truly treated as wrong for his acts. He hates the idea of anyone teasing her besides him and takes on your typical threatening poses if someone does. It's clear he's doing the teasing to help her adjust to life as a average person and the book will probably justify it as the only way she would learn. However his friend Yuri joins the cast and is able to teach her a lesson through kindness and it sticks. So it seems to be less the only way to get through to her and Natsu likes to just mess with a girl because he can't admit his feelings. No matter the interpretation it's just not that interesting to me,this may be due in part to the last chapter leaving a bad taste in my mouth.

The final chapter of the volume introduces the coveted school setting and with it come your stock shojo bullies. Apparently after Yuri taught Komomo about real friendship she became a saint because nothing seems to phase her during the bullying. She just writes it off in a way that is rather mature for a character who really shouldn't be that mature just yet. She's had some development over the volume but no where near enough to justify this attitude,so she becomes some what of a purity-sue. Sure she questions herself later with Natsu about her treatment of him in their youth but it's assuring her that she meant well in the end.

In all honesty,this isn't a bad opening volume. Everything is set-up well enough till the last chapter.Even if the last chapter was handled better it's still nothing really special. Natsu's attitude towards Komomo has this nasty undertone that is going to be given an excuse about how it was all for her betterment. Combined with Komomo's baffling new found maturity leaves me with no desire to read.