Bayonetta

Bayonetta

Let me tell you guys in advance that I have been hoping against hope for ages that both the Bayonetta games would eventually release on PC, although the chances for this to happen seemed minuscule all along. But thankfully for me and many others who like hack-and-slash games like Devil May Cry, God of War and Darksiders among many others, this console gem has been released by Sega on PC at long last. So, how does this game, which initially released in 2009, compare to games of the present? And more importantly, is this game fun?

Bayonetta, first up, is the name of the titular character, a witch with some crazy amounts of power. The game begins with a chaotic fight against some angels alongside another witch atop a falling cliff-face. If that still doesn’t tell you about how much the game is filled to the brim with insane, over-the-top moments, fret not. This is just the beginning of Bayonetta, and believe me there’s loads more to witness. So, about the story then. Bayonetta is a leather-clad witch who has resurfaced(literally) from the depths of a lake about 20 years ago, after spending an unknown time in a slumber, of sorts. Presently, she works for some chap called Enzo, who’s basically leeching off of Bayonetta’s abilities to make money, and this is also how Bayonetta meets Rodin, who serves as the arms dealer and more through the duration of the game. basically,  she’s making her living by finishing off members of the angel clan and receiving some sort of payment from the denizens of hell. One day, Enzo comes to Bayonetta with rumors about The Eyes of the World, and that one of them is in a city called Vigrid[the other half is with Bayonetta and is in the form of a ruby-like gem].

To be fair, the story of Bayonetta does feel pretty random, like MGR : Revengeance level random, more so the farther in you go into the game, but this is somehow not a problem at all because of the rich world filled with angels to kill and some small puzzles to solve every now and then. The lore of this world is rich and fleshed out, with the player collecting pages of Antonio’s notebook, simply speaking, a way for the game to introduce to the player the world of Vigrid, the Light and Dark sides and such, around which the game revolves. For a game which came out about 8 years ago, the environments don’t look too dated and are sometimes pretty, even. The occasional excursions from Vigrid to Paradiso are welcome, with Paradiso filled with blooming meadows and clearings amongst flowerbeds, a visual treat.

But come on; nobody buys a hack-and-slash game to stand around and look at building architecture, or trees, god forbid. And that gets us all to the focal point of Bayonetta, which is combat. Basic attacks(punches and kicks) are bound to the two mouse buttons, and combos can be executed by mixing them up in various ways; a simple-seeming but effective way to make the game accessible to people like me who suck at hack-and-slash games. One key for jumps and another for dodging out of enemy attacks. Seems simple still, right? So what is so special about Bayonetta‘s combat? Well, when you dodge out of an incoming attack at the last possible moment, Witch Time is triggered; everything is in slo-mo[except us, of course] for about 3 seconds and one can more or less wreak havoc by executing devastating combos to delete the health-bars of enemies that consist of angels small and large[and larger still]. And later on in the game, one will come across some minor puzzles which involve using Witch Time in creative ways to get to the solution. Later on, Bayonetta also learns to shapeshift into a panther and a crow, which have also been well-incorporated into puzzle-solving. Coming back to combat, fighting for extended periods of time without taking any damage in return will help in filling up the magic gauge; when it is full, one can execute stylish finishers upon the press of a key, personalized for every distinct type of enemy, and god, are they epic. And the Wicked Weave, the most important damage dealer; Bayonetta uses her hair to launch extremely hard-hitting attacks at the end of her combos, and consistently landing these Wicked Weaves helps in depleting the enemies way faster.

                                                         Told you guys she used her hair…

But all of this seems small when compared to Bayonetta’s bossfights. The bosses are humongous in size, but no one is infallible, especially when faced with Bayonetta and her twin pistols. And this is really where the impact of Witch Time really shines through, because the bosses, being bosses, delete chunks of health with every hit they score on you, and in later part of the game you better not get stuck in their combos, because they tend to be somewhat long and take a toll on your health. So better bring your dancing shoes to the ball, and be light on your feet. Even so, you will be scurrying around injecting health-giving shots and sucking on lollipops to buff your damage and magic gauge levels.

The story is random, I would say, but the characters? Not quite. In fact, they are some of the most interesting characters I’ve seen in games in recent times. Bayonetta is equal parts playful and stylish, and even her combat style, filled with elegance and style, fits this perfectly. Like a hand in a glove, if I were to say so myself. Enzo is the kind of scumbag lowlife who often gets stuck in situation too far outside his zone of control, so you do feel sorry for him when the action breaks out, and he’s stuck in the middle with bullets flying left and right all around him. Rodin[pronounced Radin, for whatever reason], is a man who’s made a deal with the devil, or so it seems, and sells us some really good stuff to help us along in our adventures, right from his bar called The Gates of Hell. We later on come into contact with three pivotal characters who I cannot reveal for the sake of preserving the…thrill, I guess? It feels better to experience it rather than me spilling the beans about them, at any rate.

                                                             This boss is nothing…

But the game is not without its weaknesses. This game was made by PlatinumGames, the guys who also made MGR : Revengeance among others, and guess what? Both games have cutscenes the size of bosses which Bayonetta fights. There were times when I would just sit and watch a cutscene unfold over 10-15 minutes, after which I would fight for maybe around 10 minutes, and then back to screen-watching. It thankfully doesn’t get too annoying because of the entertaining characters and their banter; also these cutscenes often tend to go way, way over-the-top; sometimes the dialogues get cheesy in a funny way which also helps. But of course, you’re raring to get back into the fight, aching to show them angels their place, so one will tend to get a tad impatient through them cutscenes. Another niggle I have with the game is the generous littering of Quick Time Events; I’m sure as hell that at least a third of my deaths could have been avoided if not for these QTEs. Well, at least the set-pieces are insanely bombastic.

The game clocks in at 14-16 hours, depending on how good you are at this kind of games; not a short game by any means, either way. Coupled with the fact that you will be having fun every step of the game, I would say this was a time well spent. So, if I happened to be too subtle about my opinion of Bayonetta, let me iterate, once and for all : just play it!

RATING : 9.5/10

PROS :
– Combat system is on point
– Endearing characters
– Witch Time is used brilliantly, for both combat and puzzles
– Finishers are godly
– Epic bossfights
– Crazy end credits!

CONS :
– Long cutscenes
– Too many QTEs

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu

Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu

It’s been some time since I’ve seen some really awesome anime, something that could actually blow my mind with its events. So, when I saw Re:Zero get high ratings in multiple anime-related sites, I felt this would be one anime worth watching. Only, I had to wait till the show was nearing completion, because my general style is to pick up an anime, and just blow through all of it at once. All right, enough of my ramblings about my viewing habits, let’s get down to business.

The show starts off with the protagonist Natsuki Subaru, a hikkikomori who plays video games all day, get suddenly transported from a convenience store to a fantasy world, with nothing but his groceries and phone in his hands and clothes on his body; he has absolutely no clue where he is, or what he’s supposed to do there. While exploring this strange new world, he crosses a small group of thugs, but is soon saved by a silver-haired girl who’s chasing after her stolen insignia of unknown importance. Since Subaru has already caught a glimpse of the thief while getting accosted by the thugs, the girl decides to take his help in catching the thief. But what starts off as a simple tracking mission leads them to the thief’s den, and death. I’m not going to say anything more about the plot, but suffice to say it shares some elements with Steins;Gate.

Image result for re zero kara hajimeru isekai seikatsu

The premise of the anime starts off being simple enough, with elements of a regular fantasy-adventure with comedy and harem elements sprinkled about, but it will strip you of your misjudgment faster than you think. Re:Zero is a great psychological rollercoaster of a ride, set in what appears to be inspired from Renaissance-Europe, and reminds one of old-school RPGs. Subaru, whenever he gets killed, ends up respawning at some previously visited spot at a preset time, which leads Subaru to start referring to them as save-points as the story progresses. And let me tell you, the psychological aspect in the story is profound, and will mess you up as the anime progresses.

The RPG-feel of Re:Zero will attract many to the anime, at least those who game a lot, I’d say. And the plot-progression is also fluid, with minimal slow-downs through most parts of the show. The medieval time-period-inspired settings look grand in stature, and animation is pretty good in my opinion. The best part of the show, was Natsuki Subaru’s character development, and that of another female character, who seems to be more of a lead player in the happenings than the silver-haired girl; though the anime creators may say so otherwise. Only issue with the show, at least for me, was that it sort of lost its character towards endgame. The feel of the show felt kind of tampered with, for me at least.

If you liked Steins; Gate and play RPGs fairly regularly, chances are you will like Re:Zero a lot.

RATING : 9/10

PROS :
– game-like concept
– character development of Subaru and another character is well-done
– medieval fantasy setting works great

CONS :
– lead female character isn’t as well-developed as Subaru
– loses some of its character towards the end

 

 

SUICIDE SQUAD

SUICIDE SQUAD

So I’ve gone out to watch Suicide Squad with my friends, most of who are avid superhero comic fans. Although not a fan of such stuff myself [with my interest lying more towards the anime side], I must admit I was curious myself to check out this film. A movie featuring super-villains as the main protagonists? I don’t think this has been done before, not in my memory at least. But my memory has been known to fail me at inopportune times, so well.

A US intelligence officer, Amanda Waller, decides to recruit the most infamous super-villains to carry out a top-secret mission in exchange for a reduction in their prison sentences and some small perks. The agency into which they’re being recruited, Task Force X is an organization which performs black ops missions, and this agency decides to use these infamous villains for deniability in the event of something going haywire. The villains, Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Killer Croc, Captain Boomerang and others are all gathered up, supplied weapons and then choppered off to Ground Zero to complete the mission. While at the same time, the Joker is mounting a rescue operation for Harley Quinn. What is the mission? And can Joker get Harley out?

The squad in question…

The plot progression is generic, and is something the viewers have seen time and again. It isn’t the high point of the movie by any means. The movie is funny, although some of the gags do fall flat. Action scenes are great, as is expected from a super-hero film, or a super-villain one, for that matter. Of course, the events transpiring throughout are always to set up the next explosive set-piece. Especially the Deadshot scene. But it isn’t all action either. Some of the scenes are actually meaningful. The interactions between Harley Quinn and Deadshot especially, are really good to watch, and in general these interactions between the different member of the titular suicide squad are good to watch.

Far as acting goes, it was pretty good. Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn is the right mix of crazy and hot, and she really freshens up the screen whenever she’s on it. And Will Smith as Deadshot is great as well. Killer Croc generally stands around and growls whenever he isn’t busy tearing the enemies apart. Jay Hernandez as Diablo is really cool when he shows off his skills. And Viola Davis as the ruthless intel officer Amanda is good in her role. Cara Delevingne as the antagonist feels somewhat random though. And towards the end, some of her scenes end up being unintentionally hilarious, although the situation is dire. I myself wasn’t a fan of the Joker played by Jared Leto [an actor I do admire for movies like Requiem for a Dream among other]. But it may just be my own personal opinion.

The soundtrack of the movie consists of songs from artists as varied as Eminem to the rock band Queen, and everything in between. And the songs are all awesome.

Overall I would say that if you are a fan of the DC Universe, you should watch this film. No, it is not a perfect film by any means, but you’ll have fun throughout its 2 hour run-time. And if you are an action junkie, then definitely watch it.

RATING : 7/10

PROS :
– Harley Quinn and Deadshot are awesome
– great soundtrack
– interactions between the squad members
CONS :
– generic story
– antagonist is a bit random
– Joker was a bit meh to me

Stephen King – The Drawing Of The Three [The Dark Tower #2]

Stephen King – The Drawing Of The Three [The Dark Tower #2]

I found the first entry in the Dark Tower series to be a bit on the unsavory side, although I did enjoy the action sequences in the book. At least the ending of The Gunslinger gave me the much-needed impetus to pick up the second book. So, how is the sequel?

Very good, indeed, if I may say so. Well, even if I may not say so, not many can deny the fact that The Drawing Of The Three is a brilliant piece of writing from Stephen King. The plot picks up from where it left off, with the protagonist, Roland the gunslinger waking up at the shore of what seems to be an endlessly running coast. And he is not alone. He has  “lobstrosities” for company, and very early into the book, Roland has to fight these monstrous creatures off, sustaining grievous injuries in the process. The next day, he finds what is akin to a door at the beach, and opening it leads Roland into the mind of another person who has been destined to accompany Roland in his grim, dark quest for the Dark Tower. Just ka-things.

So, what is ‘Drawing’? It is the act of pulling out a person from his/her world into Roland’s own. And he gets to do it with three people, hence the name of the novel. The people Roland ‘draws out’ are all from New York City, and there seems to be some as-of-yet unknown connection between Roland’s Dark Tower and NYC.

The book has three main parts, each of which is concerned with Roland’s drawing out the destined people, and all of them are unique in their own way. One arc has Roland in the mind of a cocaine smuggler, while another has Roland inside the mind of a woman with split-personality. And the third…well, that’s even more awesome. The action sequences in this book are fabulous indeed, and not only the action, but also the characters are more fleshed out now. We begin to identify ourselves with Roland more than before, and the new characters all have their own motivations in their own worlds.

I had to struggle to finish the first book, but no such experience repeated itself in The Drawing Of The Three. This is Stephen King the way I like him. This is a marvel. I sign off.

RATING : 9/10

Stephen King – The Gunslinger [The Dark Tower #1]

Stephen King – The Gunslinger [The Dark Tower #1]

I’ve had the first book of The Dark Tower series, The Gunslinger, for quite some time. I think about four-odd months easy. At last I’ve picked up the novel. So is the first entry in Stephen King’s magnum opus, as he himself often similarly describes the saga?

The novel starts off with the gunslinger Roland in pursuit of a man dressed in black, who might serve to be of key importance in his quest for the Dark Tower, a tower of which he knows little and understands even less, but seeks it just the same. Roland has left behind his own world and dark past to get to Dark Tower, and along the way he makes acquaintance with people who have led similarly dark lives. The novel is set in a wasteland desert with a touch of the good ol’ Wild West feel in it. At the same time, it also gives us a hint of what could very well turn into an epic fantasy-type.

How’s the book itself? The protagonist, Roland, is not a very likable character(yet), but he is believable with his somewhat archaic notions of duty and honor, coupled with a certain ruthlessness. But the book itself felt a bit patchy in its pacing and the overall feel. Parts of it are outright brilliant, especially the action parts, but at the same time other parts felt slow-ish and just generally a wee bit uninteresting. There were moments where I actually thought of leaving the Dark Tower quest for later, but leaving a book incomplete is an action I consider to be sacrilege, so I stuck with it. At least the book ends strongly, and gave me the impetus to pick up the next book in the series.

Overall, I would say the book is good, but not an especially good one. I have read a few of Stephen King’s works, and while he is undoubtedly a brilliant writer, I feel he does occasionally go a bit bonkers in his writing. The Gunslinger suffers a bit more than usual from this, but the action parts are written in a way that’s beyond great. Anyway, for those who want to start The Dark Tower series, you might get a bit put off by this book, but hold on to the series because there are flashes of brilliance here that may spark the flame for the sequels in the series. You will like the book even more if you are a fan of the revolver-toting Westerns.

RATING : 7.3/10

 

DANIEL POLANSKY – LOW TOWN TRILOGY

DANIEL POLANSKY – LOW TOWN TRILOGY

After reading stuff written by Mark Lawrence and Joe Abercrombie, I’d started to notice Daniel Polansky’s Low Town book creeping into my fantasy recommendations list on Goodreads. The summary of the book seemed pretty interesting, too; an amoral, ruthless protagonist, an unforgiving place. Just my kind of book, I felt. And picked it up.

And did not put it down until I was a couple of hours late to bed each night, for the ten days it took me to finish the series. The protagonist, who is only ever called The Warden, is a drug dealer in Low Town; and not just any ordinary drug dealer, either; he is in fact notorious for being the machinery that runs Low Town. In his own words, he is the one that runs Low Town. He stays with Adolphus, his best friend and war-time buddy, and Adolphus’ wife Adeline at their bar, The Staggering Earl. From here, he makes regular runs to different parts of the town, selling his merchandise, bribing the town guards, the works.

The first book starts off with a series of child-killings in Low Town. The Warden gets embroiled into the matter by being the discoverer of one of the dead bodies. And goaded by Adolphus’ wife Adeline, he begins to carry out his own investigation into the matter. This is how the series starts off. Plot-wise, all the three books are independent enough to give the impression that they could be read in any order whatsoever. But these books are not really about the plot, as such. They are more about character development and the changing relationship dynamic between The Warden and others.

Though the series is labeled as fantasy, you won’t really find much sorcery in these books; you could say that only about 5% of the series would actually have sorcery in it. But whatever sorcery there is, is pretty badass. The series is one of those gritty, dark fantasies which have sort of become the norm these days. But the specialty of this series, is that it feels more like a detective-noir type book than anything else, with its drug dealers, unscrupulous guards, and a world which is in general an unfair place. And the dry, deadpan humor throughout is the best part.

Even if you are new to fantasy, you will most probably like the books if you are a fan of crime-mysteries. And for fantasy veterans, so to speak, Daniel Polansky will be a breath of fresh air, with his witty humor and gritty writing.

RATING : 9.2/10

Daniel Polansky – She Who Waits (Low Town #3)

Daniel Polansky – She Who Waits (Low Town #3)

The first two books in the Low Town series were brilliant depictions of a cruel, unforgiving world of The Warden and his domain, Low Town. So, how does the series get tied off by Polansky in this final entry to the series?

She Who Waits is set about 3-4 years from the events of its predecessor. In this final book, Low Town is getting more and more unstable, to the point that the Warden predicts a full-scale war to erupt between the different crime syndicates in the town. And with the Old Man’s Black House making its own play, The Warden doesn’t expect the place to last longer than a few weeks. The Warden intends to make a clean break from Low Town with Adolphus, Wren and Adeline in tow, to some far-off place where Wren will actually have a future in becoming a competent practitioner of the Arts. Also, a rash of brutal, chilling murders have been recorded in Low Town, with one of The warden’s neighbors also becoming a murderer in the same vein. On top of this, a new drug called red fever[named after the infamous plague which killed off a majority of the inhabitants of the empire during The Warden’s childhood] is making the rounds in Low Town…

While the first two books were gritty and brutal, they feel like starters when placed in front of this book. The first two books build up to this entry, and here is where the emotional payoff hits pay dirt. This book is more emotional than the first two books combined. The Warden is not a good guy, as we all know by now already; he just wants to do right by his best friends and Wren, who he now thinks of as his own son. A remnant of his past returns to Low Town, and The Warden is determined to close the chapter on that matter.

The book is brilliantly written, and is even better than its predecessors, a significant feat as the readers of the Low Town trilogy will recognize. If you’ve started the Low Town series, do not hesitate to finish it, although you probably won’t need my encouragement after being two books in.

RATING : 9.4/10