A Human Light in the Darkness – Further Thoughts on Devil May Cry 5

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So in my review of Devil May Cry 5 I did my best to avoid spoilers, which meant I couldn’t go into nearly as much detail about the story and characters as I would have liked. It’s a direct story with a tight focus, and that’s basically all I could say, other than the characters made real strides, especially Nero. I’ll be going into things in greater detail here with no restraint on spoilers, so bear that in mind going forward. If you haven’t played the game yet and want to know what I thought and then be able to go into the game blind, go read my review, otherwise, this is the last warning for spoilers if you stay. Spoilers follow.

 

V and Vergil’s humanity

So then, Vergil huh? He was confirmed in the final trailer and shown (with his face covered) as far back as the reveal, but I didn’t expect him to have quite as much of a presence as he does. After splitting himself into his human side; V, and his demon side; Urizen, the whole game is about the former, alongside Dante, Nero, Lady, Trish and Nico trying to take down the latter. They try, they fail, they wait a month and have another go, V rejoins with Urizen to reform Vergil and after a family reunion (more on that later), Dante and Vergil go to Hell to close the portal Urizen opened. It’s straight forward and, like I said, focused. It’s the character interactions that stand-out, with an overarching theme of humanity. For each of the main cast of demon-human hybrids their humanity is what sees them through. V is literally Vergil’s humanity ripped from him and given life of its own; everything he threw away in his quest for power. In order for Vergil to come back from the brink and be a potential ally to Dante and friends he’s going to need to go through a pretty drastic change, and that’s what happens. His human side, aided by physical manifestations of Vergil’s haunting nightmares from his time as Nelo Angelo back in DMC1 are unconditionally on the side of good. V is eccentric but warm, with a sense of humour and a love of reading and quoting Blake poems that meshes surprisingly well with the ruthless way he deals with demons. It’s implied that V is what Vergil would have become if things had been different vis a vis the death of Eva and Sparda, and Vergil’s own feelings of abandonment. He’s also physically weak and slowly dying; Urizen has the vast majority of Vergil’s power, V has a small amount he’s using to stop himself falling apart. Each of the three playable characters has a different connection to Vergil, a different angle to view him from, and in that regard V plays a dual role. He is both part of Vergil and an observer of Vergil’s all-consuming pursuit of power, it’s like feeling regret at your own personal failings while being able to see them happen in front of your eyes, unable to stop them without serious backup. V is my favourite character in the game, possibly in the whole series. His playstyle, design, backstory and interactions with everyone and everything in the game are just so endearing and interesting. It’s for that reason that I’m sad that in order to get Vergil back we had to lose V. Don’t get me wrong, I love Vergil and I’m glad he’s back. I think he, Dante and especially Nero all make great strides in a short space of time, in a way that makes sense because it’s informed by history and unspoken emotions. The way I see it is, V is the flame that burns twice as bright but half as long; all the sweeter for his brevity. Also if he’s got to be sacrificed for anyone I’m glad it’s Vergil and his existence makes Vergil more interesting. But I do still miss him.

Nero and the Power of Love

I certainly wasn’t expecting Nero to be the heart of this whole story. Just as Dante and Vergil are about to land potentially lethal blows, Nero disintegrates his Devil Breaker, grows a human arm in its place and taps into his very own Devil Trigger, regaining the Devil Bringer he lost. His DT is born from a desire to stop his Uncle and Father killing each other, to end their sibling rivalry, connect with his family and turn their collective attention to destroying the Qliphoth.  Dante and Vergil finally stop trying to kill each other because Nero gets in the middle of them, taps into the power of love and literally beats them both into submission. Nero’s brash and cocky but it makes sense that he’d take this turn after everything that happened with Kyrie and Credo back in DMC4, with him even referencing the latter’s death as something that haunts him to this day. His kicking the shit out of Vergil probably doesn’t hurt his image in his Father’s eyes either, considering his fixation with power and strength. Speaking of which, giving Nero a new Devil Bringer that carries over into new game plus is great, especially given that you can combine it with Devil Breakers, adding a whole extra layer to Nero’s combat style. The final boss fight between Nero and Vergil isn’t as hard as Dante’s prior bout (at least on normal difficulty), instead offering an immensely satisfying cooldown, particularly when you first activate Nero’s DT and he yells “FUCK YOU!”, raises a spectral middle finger and an awesome remix of Devil Trigger starts playing. It’s a powerful moment for the series as a whole and in particular Nero; he’s really come into his own as a character in DMC5. I also like that he’s still in a relationship with Kyrie and lives with her in and that she’s still involved as a character, although I wish she had more of a presence than just a disembodied voice. I look forward to seeing where Capcom take him in potential sequels, particularly if Dante and Vergil really are trapped in Hell. Speaking of which…

Vergil and Dante

Hoo boy. So Dante and Vergil finally tone their rivalry down from “duels to the death” to “brotherly sparring” but it takes the hardest boss fight in the entire game for them to do so. Their relationship in 5 goes from trying to kill each other to working together, sparring and trading friendly banter, ending the game with this wonderful exchange:
“Don’t you dare say it!”
“Jackpot!”
I think everything V did was instrumental in this change in Vergil, as well as meeting his Son for the first time. Having lost the nightmares from his time as Nelo Angelo, regained his humanity and managed to avoid dying, which was the whole reason he split in the first place, it makes sense Vergil might be looking for something else to do with himself. Nero’s proved he can best his old man in a fight, and that he has the physical strength and pure heart required to protect the human world, so why not go off with Dante to seal the portal and bum around Hell for a bit? Presumably the two brothers will escape from the underworld eventually, I feel like having finally brought Vergil back to life proper Capcom wouldn’t do away with him so quickly, and as a send-off this isn’t nearly over the top, cool and goofy enough for Dante. Dante’s going to die in the ultimate blaze of glory or Dante’s never going to die. Regardless of where it goes from here, the ending of the game is excellent. It really feels like a satisfying culmination of everything that leads up to it; that focus on the mental and physical strain of waging a seemingly insurmountable war against Vergil; brother against brother, son against father, humanity against demonic power. It takes a toll but it all pays off, and I’m excited to see where a potential sequel would go.

Finally, just some extra stuff I like:
Dante’s styles, specifically this being the first game that made me want to use something other than Swordmaster. Got some good mileage out of Trickster and Gunslinger. This is the most fun I’ve ever had with Dante, his weapons this time around are all fantastic, combined with the styles and how fluidly he moves and attacks, it’s brilliant.
V’s backwards dodge being Griffon carrying him away
The neat little alternate main menus showing Dante and Vergil hanging out in Nico’s motorhome. Particularly the one where Vergil looks over at Nero like he’s about to say something then shyly decides against it
Speaking of Nico: everything Nico does but especially her getting the Devil May Crymobile into all manner of hard to reach places
I just came up with Devil May Crymobile and I like it, I’m going to use it more often
Lady’s new design. It’s like her terrible DMC4 look never happened
Dante’s new design; I like the more simple look in line with 3 after his chaps and Chris Redfield gloves from DMC4. Excellent boot game.
V’s EX colours making his coat have the colour and pattern of Vergil’s DMC3 outfit
Nero’s hood up taunt and V’s violin and orchestra taunts
One the subject of V, one final mention of the fact that I love everything about him. V is best boy.

So that’s Devil May Cry 5, the most fun game in the series, and potentially the best overall. A game that’s immensely enjoyable from start to finish and that balances deeply satisfying action gameplay with a poignant, emotional story that makes real strides for the Sons of Sparda and Nero, introduces V and Nico and continues Capcom’s meteoric resurgence into the top tier of game developers. I love it, and I’ll be surprised if it isn’t either my game of the year or at the very least a close, close second. So far its only rival for first place is the Resi 2 remake. God, Capcom really are killing it right now.

By James Lambert
@jameslambert18

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Devil May Cry 5 Review

Capcom’s been knocking it out of the park over the last few years. Street Fighter V AE, Resident Evil 7 and all its DLC, most recently the Resident Evil 2 remake; they’re on the top of their game right now, and it’s into this glorious Capcom resurgence that Devil May Cry 5 steps. Regardless of your thoughts on Ninja Theory’s DmC I think we can all agree that a new mainline Devil May Cry game is a good thing. I’ve been hyped for it since its stellar E3 reveal and I’ve finally got my hands on it.

The story is simple but direct and with a sense of dread and urgency that keeps it interesting. There’s a lot I can’t talk about for spoiler reasons, but basically Dante, Trish and Lady, Nero and newcomer V are all trying to take down Urizen, an unfathomably powerful demon king residing at the top of Qliphoth, a huge demonic tree that’s sprung up in the city of Red Grave. The whole game is spent trying to beat Urizen, with Nero and Dante trying to get stronger so they can even scratch him, with initial attempts playing out as hopeless “Supposed to lose” boss fights. This guy means business, even for Dante. The story jumps around between flashbacks and each character encountering different bosses in different areas at the same time, and on some missions you can choose between two or more of them. It’s a proper campaign that includes the three of them equally this time, rather than the DMC4 story where Nero runs through the whole game then Dante runs through it backwards fighting all the same bosses. As I said it’s a simple but focused story: there are no real side characters besides an information broker who makes brief appearances at the beginning and end, the gameplay has a real combat focus, there’s no backtracking or puzzles that carry over between missions and there’s really only one type of puzzle in general. It’s an important, personal story that realises the weight of its events and handles it accordingly; its narrow focus means it makes real strides for all involved, particularly Nero, and paves the way for an interesting, different direction for the series going forward. To say any more would spoil it, but its story stands out as one of the best in the series.

Of the three playable characters, new lad V is the most interesting. He fights with three familiars: Griffon; a bird that deals in ranged attacks and acts as V’s double jump, Shadow; a panther that handles melee attacks and lets V use him as a surfboard in place of sprinting, and activating V’s Devil Trigger turns his hair white and summons Nightmare; a hulking colossus that causes heavy damage and acts independently, but can be ridden and controlled directly. Riding him never seemed as effective as letting him do his own thing, but it’s an option all the same. The only attack V does himself is finishing off wounded enemies with his cane, as his familiars cannot kill anything themselves. Also he can read aloud from a book of poetry to regain DT quicker and his taunts include air violin with actual music playing, and the same thing for conducting an invisible orchestra as they play Ride of the Valkyries. I expected to enjoy V’s sections the least because I’m the type to get stuck in with melee, but it got to the point where I chose him over Nero and Dante. He’s got interesting story implications, a unique playstyle and a cool design, and alongside support character Nico is the best new addition to the series. Nero is the next best, with his Devil Bringer demon arm having been removed and replaced with the Devil Breaker; a series of robotic arms with different effects. One shoots an electric blast, one slows down time, one launches off a rocket fist that repeatedly attacks an enemy, that sort of thing. You choose what order they’re equipped at Nico’s (more on her in a minute) shop, but cannot do so in game. They’re also rather fragile; take damage while using one and it breaks, and you can choose to break them yourself either through a self-destruct mechanism or by using their powerful and unique charge attacks. This variety combined with Nero’s slick playstyle carried over from DMC4 make him a joy to play and experiment with. Nico, who runs the shop for each character and designed and built the Devil Breakers is sassy, snarky comic relief; driving the Devil May Cry camper van into all manner of hard to reach, dangerous places to secure business. Nero will get through a tricky area with demon-powered double jumping and superhuman agility and then Nico will just plough through it all in a van like “I’m here too, dickhead!”. I love her. Last but not least is Dante, who you should all know by now but if not then his whole deal is collecting new weapons to use on top of his default two handed sword and twin pistols. Unlike V and Nero who do have variety but have a core weapon or style that everything revolves around, Dante’s mix and match arsenal of long and short range weaponry suits all manner of different playstyles, and can all be mixed together with ease. While the most familiar of the three he’s by no means boring; he’s still good fun to play and rounds off the trio of playable characters nicely. His partners Trish and Lady unfortunately don’t really get anything to do, although the latter’s had a redesign that’s far superior to her DMC4 look.

Some of the changes are a little odd. Vital stars and DT stars are gone, as is holy water. The only items you can buy now are blue orbs (which increase max health) and gold orbs (which resurrect you on the spot), the latter of which are surprisingly abundant, and you can resurrect yourself with increasing amounts of red orbs. I’m not sure whether removing the ability to manually heal outside of green orbs and putting in red orb resurrection has something to do with the microtransactions, but if that is the case they’re rendered moot by the game’s generally low or at least reasonable difficulty and aforementioned abundance of gold orbs. Outside of that it’s Devil May Cry business as usual: racking up stylish combos ranked on a meter through carefully stringed together melee attacks, taunts and ranged weaponry, over the top action with a goofy streak and feeling like a total badass. Plays like a dream, consistently fun and engaging, all in all a good time. The level design is more grounded and lacks both the gothic architecture of past games and DmC’s colourful, impossible space, altered reality areas. Red Grave is a city that looks a lot like London, and the game is split evenly between the city and Qliphoth, which is a mass of slick vines and underground caverns. Qliphoth isn’t particularly interesting at all, but the levels set in Red Grave provide something unique to the series: seeing the effects of a demonic invasion on a mainstream, populated city rather than an isolated community like Fortuna, or areas devoid of humanity like Mallet Island and Temen-ni-gru.

Overall, Devil May Cry 5 is great. A focused story that gets the most out of every last drop of tension and satisfaction of struggling to overcome an all-powerful foe, with great personal stakes for Dante, Nero and V. V and Nico both steal the show whenever they’re on screen, and while it’s a shame Lady and Trish don’t get anything to do, it’s not their story. The gameplay is as satisfying as ever and the new elements like V’s familiars and Nero’s Devil Breaker make it the most fun game in the series. It looks great, it plays beautifully, it’s everything I hoped it would be and I love it. Capcom have once again nailed it, and this is the second fantastic game they’ve released in six weeks. I’ve done my best to avoid spoilers here, so I’ll be doing a follow up article soon where I go into my thoughts on the story in greater detail, with no such restraints. Until then I’ll leave you with a hearty recommendation to go buy Devil May Cry 5. It’s dead good.

By James Lambert
@jameslambert18

Far Cry New Dawn Review

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When Far Cry New Dawn was first announced, I was dead against it. As I wrote in my piece on Far Cry 5 I think its ending is the best in any game, and to sully that with a continuation really rubbed me the wrong way. SPOILERS for Far Cry 5: it ended with a nuclear apocalypse, and this game is a direct sequel set in the aftermath; a post-apocalyptic Far Cry game, with new villains but returning characters, including “The Father” Joseph Seed. I came around though, because it seemed to be handling it quite well; Joseph seemed well integrated, the new villains being a pair of twins (seen above) eager to let everyone know that the new order is survival of the fittest and the abundance of bright colours and violence gradually won me over, and so here we are. I loved Far Cry 5 and I still do, so let’s see if this is a worthy sequel, shall we?

Seventeen years after the nukes fell, a man named Thomas Rush travels America by train, helping out settlements and generally working to rebuild society. You play his create-a-character Captain of Security, who ends up stranded in the woods near Hope County, Montana after the aforementioned train is attacked by a gang of Darwinian Bandits called “The Highwaymen”. The Highwaymen are a huge gang with chapters all over the remnants of the U.S., but this one is lead by two twin sisters called Mickey and Lou (seen above), a constant thorn in the side of “Prosperity”, a camp run by Kim and Nick Rye, with help from their daughter Carmina. In order to turn the tide, the Captain is sent to make contact with New Eden, a technology-averse group with seemingly superhuman powers living to the North, lead by The Father; Joseph Seed. The exact nature of New Eden and how they factor into things will remain a secret for spoiler reasons, but it’s at the point they’re introduced that the game really kicks into gear. Of the new characters, most of them are exceedingly dull. Rush in particular has nothing of note going on at all, the only interesting thing about him being his Task Force 141 jacket, which raises the question of whether Far Cry exists in the same universe as Modern Warfare, which I’m sure isn’t the only thing Ubisoft wanted me to take away from his presence. His skills at rebuilding settlements are only paid lip service, and he has very little impact on the plot overall. The new Guns and Fangs for hire aren’t a patch on the old ones, except for Pastor Jerome, who returns from FC5, and new character The Judge, who has some cool implications story wise but never speaks or does anything other than kill people with a bow. The new, non-twin antagonist is barely developed and ends up as an anti-climactic boss fight that, again, I won’t spoil, and the Twins themselves are just okay. They fill that archetypal Far Cry antagonist role of getting up close and personal for monologues twinged with the threat of violence, and their brutality combined with all the dance music, graffiti and ragtag goons reminded me of Far Cry 3, but they’re not a patch on previous villains. Speaking of which, Joseph is very much the star of the show, now a old man living in self-imposed exile, sitting in the dark at the upper end of a life-threatening river Colonel Kurtz-style. He’s mellowed out but still has an edge to him, and his story progresses in a natural continuation of Far Cry 5, with some degree of closure. It made me come away from New Dawn thinking that, while not necessary, its story does at least add something to FC5, and stayed true to a character I’ve become very fond of.

Gameplay wise it’s basically Far Cry 5, but with a few main differences. Firstly the game has a Borderlands-style RPG flavour to it, where enemies are graded on four levels that determine their damage and difficulty. Despite sounding drastic, it actually doesn’t make that much difference, and fighting enemies is just as viable an option as it was in FC5. The ability to perform melee takedowns on higher level enemies is linked to perks and so can be acquired any time as long as you have the perk points, and weapons have to be crafted, and are graded on the same scale. A higher ranked weapon will do more damage, and each rank offers a more powerful version of New Dawn’s unique weapon; the Saw Launcher. It’s exactly what it sounds like: a gun that launches saw blades. They ricochet around decimating anything in their path, it’s great. The game places an emphasis on crafting materials, the most important of which being ethanol, required to upgrade everything in Prosperity, and earned by liberating camps. Camps can now be abandoned, which grants ethanol and gives the location back over to the Highwaymen and ups the difficulty, but you get an increased amount of ethanol for clearing it out again. Finally there are expeditions, in which the Captain is flown out to various locations in other states to steal a bag of materials from the Highwaymen and escape. They feel like the kind of thing you get in Tom Clancy games; little stand-alone areas that offer a chance at the same gameplay in locations different to the main game. I mean that as a compliment, they’re good. Speaking of which, though parts of Hope County are barren, grey, irradiated death traps, the majority has been hit by a nuclear super bloom; retaken by nature and covered in plant life. It’s a good look not often seen in post-apocalyptic stories, and it sets it apart. Hope is no longer split up into Holland Valley, Whitetail Mountains and Henbane River, so I’d only realise where I was when I’d stumble onto a location from Far Cry 5, dilapidated, covered in flora and/or re-purposed for post-apocalyptic needs. I really like that aspect, it makes exploring and finding places natural, rather than being guided towards them for fan service.

Overall, Far Cry New Dawn is a good time. It doesn’t need to exist, and it could well have been a disaster, but I enjoyed it, and have no real caveats in saying so. The new characters are generally weak and underdeveloped, but it does good work with The Father, and that’s enough for me. It’s not as good as Far Cry 5, but it’s still a fun game with some good character moments, and I enjoyed it.

By James Lambert
@jameslambert18

Who Said We’d Never Leave Raccoon Alive? – Thoughts on Resident Evil 2’s Ghost Survivors DLC

Image result for resi 2 ghost survivors

Resident Evil 2’s first substantial piece of DLC is a free update called “The Ghost Survivors”, four what if? scenarios in which characters who died or were at least presumed dead in the main game escape the city. There’s gun shop owner Robert Kendo; last seen euthanising his zombified daughter, Elizabeth Warren; daughter of the mayor and human taxidermy project for Chief Irons, Ghost; a member of Hunk’s team and Sheriff Cortini, who was killed in the petrol station at the start of the game. Each scenario can be played in Training Mode, which is less difficult, has fewer enemies and gives you more ammo and health, but you don’t get a recorded time for completing it. This is to get you prepared to do them in their intended state, which is, in no uncertain terms, rather difficult. They’re all short, so they’re hard, and although they offset it slightly by letting the player get items from zombies in backpacks and one-use gashapon machines, careful resource management is still important. Each of the initial three has their own unique enemy; poison zombies for Kendo, a creature reminiscent of the Fumers from Resi 7’s “Not a Hero” that have to be sufficiently damaged quickly to stop them regenerating, and zombies in bulletproof armour covering different parts of their bodies for Ghost. Cortini, poor bugger, has to deal with all three as well as normal zombies in his story, which rather than a point A to B rush is a horde mode in the first room of the game; the shop part of the petrol station. I’ll be honest, I’ve not finished any of the scenarios on their proper difficulty. Fortunately you can unlock Cortini on Training mode, so it’s not a big deal. It’s not that the difficulty puts me off, I enjoy a challenge; I’ve already beaten the main game on Hardcore (only A though, still working on B), it’s just that in order for me to rise to a challenge I have to find it engaging and interesting, and that’s not the case here. Simply being hard isn’t enough to make me dig my heels in and do everything I can to overcome it. I’m content to just play them on training mode, where they provide a neat little aside where you get to play as new characters fighting new enemies.

While I’m here, I’d also like to briefly talk about the game’s two existing extra modes, as well as the recently released free costume DLC and the soundtrack swap DLC.

Firstly, the 4th Survivor, and the Tofu Survivor:
Hunk’s story kicked my arse the first half dozen or so times. Basically he’s he only surviving member of the team sent to acquire the G-Virus from old Bill Birkin, and has to go from the ramp in the sewers that Leon slides down to the front gate of R.P.D, dealing with blocked exits, a complete lack of weapon, ammo and health pick ups to offset his fully stocked inventory, and every enemy type in the game crammed into the environments. Zambambos, dogs, lickers, G-Adults, plant folk, even Mr X shows up near the end. Given Hunk’s finite amount of supplies it’s a careful balance of running past enemies and deciding when and where you should shoot, throw a grenade, or can afford to be grabbed. It’s a rush to get through it; Hunk’s theme is ace, a mix of low, catchy beats and a rousing orchestral refrain, and completing it does feel like a real achievement. Plus it just goes to show how badass Hunk is and why people love him so much. Tofu survivor is more of a fun distraction really, given that a sentient block of Tofu armed with sixteen knives and angrily complaining in Japanese when he’s attacked isn’t canon. Apparently there are multiple Tofus with different equipment but much like the Ghost Survivors I don’t enjoy it enough to make myself complete it and unlock them. I felt like I needed to do 4th Survivor to close off the story and I did get around to doing it, Tofu Survivor is neat but little more than that. I do want to commend the damage physics though, specifically how Tofu has big bites taken out of him the more damage he takes. Also he really does look like a big block of tofu.

Secondly, the classic music and costumes:
The costumes are model swaps with the original 1998 ones, and they look great. The models are well done and they interact really well with the remade assets. As odd as they look they don’t look that weird or out of place. Unfortunately they don’t have alternate versions like the remastered ones do; Leon doesn’t get his bandage and Claire doesn’t take her vest off, and long guns don’t appear slung over their backs, but they still look really good. The soundtrack genuinely elevates the game. Resi 2’s soundtrack is one of the best in videogames, and hearing it again here just goes to show that A) it holds up really well and B) how many distinct, unique tracks the soundtrack has. While I praised the remake’s score for being subtle and taking away the sense of comfort that came with the original’s dramatic soundtrack, having said soundtrack present adds a whole new layer of character to proceedings; it almost feels like playing a different game in a way. It’s charming, and genuinely quite unnerving at times, again a testament to how well it holds up. The main menu has the music of the original game’s little opening cinematic, and brings back the series’ tradition of having a spooky, ominous voice say the title: “RESIDENT EVIL… TWO.” Also it includes the original sound effects, though disappointingly it only covers the inventory, main menu and item box. It’s nice, don’t get me wrong; that inventory sound really takes me back, but I was hoping for the old zombie moans, and the upgraded shotgun sounding like dropping several sauce pans and their lids on the floor.

That was a look at Resi 2 Remake’s extra modes and some of its DLC, see you next time for a Capcom property a little more… stylish.

Update: I had another go at the Katherine Warren scenario, Runaway, and died right near the end, and I am starting to feel that itch. In fact after I wrote this I had another go at Ghost’s scenario and finished it, turns out I was forgetting to look for gashapon machines and was trying to get through with no gear. So I’m getting them done. Might take a while, might dip in and out, but I’ll do them eventually. What I said about rising to challenge and having to be interested and invested is still very much the case, I’m just becoming increasingly invested in the stories, and the game as a whole is one that’s been very hard to put down, so I’m still in the Resi 2 headspace.

Update 2: I’ve finished the main three: No Time to Mourn, Runaway and Forgotten Soldier. Oddly enough despite having the highest difficulty of the three I found Forgotten Soldier the easiest, and No Time to Mourn a complete pain in the arse. Might get around to doing No Way Out sometime but that’ll take longer given the whole waiting for the game to progress aspect of a horde mode.

By James Lambert
@jameslambert18

Call me Kakarot – Further Thoughts on Dragon Ball Super: Broly

I recently watched and reviewed the subbed version of Dragon Ball Super: Broly, a film I really enjoyed and did my best to avoid spoiling in my review. Now having watched the dubbed version I really want to talk about it in more depth, with no such restraint on spoilers, so bear that in mind. SPOILERS abound from here on out, and the film is absolutely worth seeing blind if you haven’t already. I mean, it’s worth seeing it regardless of how much you know about it going in but still. GO! BROLY! GO! LET’S GET INTO IT.

First of all, the dub is fantastic. Christopher Ayres had a double lung transplant and does the best Frieza I’ve ever heard, Sean Schemmel and Chris Sabat are, naturally, fantastic as Goku and Vegeta and even though he’s only in it briefly Ian Sinclair’s Whis is an absolute treat, as it always is. With the exception of Masako Nozawa’s performance as Goku Black (in base form anyway, I prefer English Rosé) and Bardock, to the point where I actually missed her during the latter’s scenes in this, I prefer dubbed Dragon Ball, and it’s nice to see that the performances match the gorgeous animation for the movie. Also I won’t dwell on it under the circumstances but Vic Mignogna does a really good job as Broly, whether it be his uncertain, reserved speech or just screaming bloody murder.

There are two main parts of the movie, like I said in the review, and I’ll elaborate on both. Firstly, the character stuff. Everyone manages to get their characters across quickly; Lemo is a weathered old man who’s seen a lot but kept his head down, Cheelai is a criminally talented but kind-hearted woman more than willing to stand up for what she believes in, as evidenced by her simultaneously pick-pocketing the shock collar remote and calling out Paragus for raising his son to be a weapon. Again, their voice work is superb: Bruce Carey gets across a personality and untold backstory entirely through his voice, and Erica Lindbeck compliments Cheelai’s mix of iron will and compassion.
Speaking of Paragus, there’s this split between good and understandably cruel: he throws away his entire life for the sake of his Son and follows him to a remote, inhospitable planet to save his life, but shocks Broly with what appears to be an excruciatingly painful voltage and did, at the end of the day, craft him into a tool of revenge. Yes Broly loses control and needs to be reigned in, but Paragus has let that side of him go unchecked in any sort of long term way for the sake of whatever petty vengeance he can still get on the long-dead King of a destroyed planet.

The film’s crowning achievement character wise, however, is the man himself: Broly. Look, it’s beating a dead horse at this point, but original Broly’s backstory really was utter dogshit. Pretty much anything else would be a step up, but they really went all out with it. Spending his entire life on a desolate planetoid with only the company of his Father, whom he loves, but who physically abuses him and dedicates his time forming him into a weapon has had a serious impact on him. His only friend was Bah, the name Broly gave to one of the furry dog weasel monsters that inhabit Vampa, with whom he had a close relationship until Paragus blew Bah’s ear off. That’s the green pelt he wears around his waist, and I love that the coolest part of Broly’s outfit actually has relevance to his backstory, and is a key part of it. This is a Broly that’s cute, sympathetic, tragic and badass all rolled into one. A man you can root for because the film spends its exposition section, for lack of a better term, outlining who he is, what’s happened to him and why he’s completely unstable so that the rest of the film can be dedicated to showing the extent of what how that instability manifests. It’s his movie, and they did a wonderful job explaining who this Broly is, why you should care and why he’s different from the other one. As for his physical attributes, I’ve come around to Broly’s Super Saiyan design. It is similar to Kale, but it’s so out of control and so feral that it does feel different, particularly the full power version. Also as Lanipator mentioned in Team Four Star’s discussion of the film, Kale is like universe 6’s version of Broly, which given the existing similarities between the two universes actually solves it for me. At least Kale was cognisant enough to speak, and eventually controlled it, Broly fights for a few minutes then completely loses himself to feral rage and doesn’t snap out of it until just before Gogeta’s final kamehameha hits and he has that horrible, terrified look on his face when he realises he’s going to die. He doesn’t of course, but it’s still pretty grim.

The second part of the film is the fighting, and while I have less to expand on with that, it’s by no means lacking. As I said in the review the animation is amazing, and the fights between Goku, Vegeta and Broly look fantastic, as they all gradually move through their stages of power and adapt to what their opponent is doing. It’s a bit weird seeing Vegeta move through the stages rather than go all out to try and squash Broly, but maybe because it was another Saiyan he wanted to draw it out, he did have a big smile on his face when Broly first punched him. Also it was nice to see him go Super Saiyan God.

Surprisingly despite the pretty real subject matter there’s time for really solid comedy; small moments like Goku and Vegeta leading an enraged Broly to Frieza, Goku yelling out “Have fun, Frieza!” just before he teleports himself and Vegeta away and leaves the dictator to his fate, to the darkly comedic and beautifully acted scene in which Frieza kills Paragus to trigger Broly’s transformation into a Super Saiyan, trying to sell it as an accident like a goddamn pantomime villain. The scene that really tickled me is the coordinated attack on the two goons who retrieve the final Dragon Ball. No sooner have Goku, Vegeta, Whis and Bulma arrived in the Arctic when the two try to escape, only for Vegeta and Goku to react in a way you’d think had to be planned given its speed and clockwork smoothness. Vegeta shoots their ship down, they jump over and Vegeta lifts the ship so Goku can pull an angry face at the occupants and breathe on the windscreen like an enraged bull. It’s just a lovely bit of physical comedy and goes a long way to show, without words for the most part, how well Goku and Vegeta can work together when they choose to, which comes into play later when they fuse. Speaking of which: Gogeta.

GOGETA! GOGETA! GOGETA!
Gogeta, a combined force so strong his fight with Broly shatters the fabric of reality somehow. I still prefer Vegito personally, but I think Gogeta has promise, and I like A) That he’s SO powerful, to the point where I think he’d be a real problem for a God of Destruction. Maybe not Jiren, because his power doesn’t seem to be quantifiable, it’s just a nebulous “Whole lot” of power, to the point where despite how OP Ultra Instinct is, it just lets Goku fight him on equal footing rather than doing what UI is actually supposed to. B) He’s playful and cocky, but in a different way to Vegito. Vegito is chatty and likes taunting his opponent, whereas Gogeta barely says anything, showing off his skills entirely through his actions in dodging Broly’s attacks and letting off punishing energy blasts of his own. He’s ruthless though, despite the little smile when Broly is safely transported back to Vampa by Shenron: if that hadn’t happened Gogeta would have blown Broly apart, and given the context of everything that’s happening that would have been genuinely horrible.

Finally, just a quick list of other things I liked:

Goku’s gentle transition into Super Saiyan God, holding Broly in place and then Broly reversing it, turning Goku’s red Ki green.
The bit where they remind you of what Golden Frieza looks like while panning around him and focusing on his bum and pecs as if to say “Remember how hot Frieza is?” To that end:
That one shot that shows off Paragus’ surprisingly nice buns. Also Broly’s super attractive, and I fully support any potential relationship with Cheelai, who is also super attractive. Long may they be super attractive together. DRAGON BALL SUPER ATTRACTIVE. Ahem. Moving on.
The music shouting people’s names. KAKAROT! BROLY! SUPAH BROLY! GOGETA!
Goku biting Broly while they’re both submerged in lava
The quiet “This doesn’t look good” Frieza utters when Goku’s gone blue and the area of Arctic they’re in is now made entirely of lava and volcanic rock
Combined Galick Gun/Kamehameha, and Broly launching energy out of himself via aggressive chest bump
Whis effortlessly dodging all of Broly’s attacks
The fact that the film has an unconditional happy ending, where Broly is living on Vampa with Lemo and Cheelai, and Goku takes them a house and supplies. The last anime film I watched was End of Evangelion, so it’s nice to have a change
Finally, this article’s namesake: “What’s your name?”
“It’s Goku. But Broly, call me Kakarot.” This line was different in the subbed version I watched for my review. There it was “Goku. Or… Kakarot” and carried far less weight, more like Goku was explaining he had two names rather than placing trust in Broly with a name only Vegeta calls him

By James Lambert
@jameslambert18

Resident Evil 2 Remake Review

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You know, I remember when the Resident Evil series was itself a shambling, undead monstrosity. After RE6 set everything on fire and REvelations 2 watched it burn, I was all ready for the series to be put out of its, and my, misery. But then Resident Evil 7 miraculously saved the day, and now we finally have the much requested Resident Evil 2 remake, given a surprise announcement at last year’s E3.

After Jill, Chris, Barry and Rebecca cleared out and blew up the Spencer Mansion up in the Arklay Mountains, the zombie and monster-creating T-Virus spreads to Raccoon City, sending the whole town into a state of apocalyptic disarray and flooding the streets with the undead. Into this shitshow come Chris’ student sister Claire, here looking for him, and rookie cop Leon Kennedy, starting his first and only day on the job; far from the backflipping, suplexing, wonderfully awful one-liner spewing super agent he will become. They both seek refuge in the Raccoon City police station, converted from an old art museum, and obviously things go downhill from there. Much like the original, this version has a “scenario” system whereby whomever you play as first gets to the station first and has a relatively slow build up, then after you’ve finished you can play as the other character in a second scenario where they arrive after and get thrown into things head first. The differences between the two, as well as the numerous different bosses, enemy locations, weapons and routes found in Leon and Claire’s runs mean you have four different campaigns to play through, and having beaten all four, it works beautifully. Admittedly I play through games several times anyway, and I appreciate familiarity and predictability, but I don’t think the game is repetitive, especially given its short length and just how satisfying an experience it is, particularly if you’re a fan of the genre and series. The story goes for a more serious tone than some of the more fun, campy games in the series, with more grounded versions of certain aspects and more natural, realistic touches: Ada’s new reason for being in Raccoon City makes more sense, Leon and Claire both swear and decry enemies and the situation, as well as psyche themselves up. Clair now wears a reasonable outfit for riding a motorbike in, and Leon’s wildly different uniform is a result of arriving at the station in his civvies and changing into full tactical gear after encountering the undead. Chief Irons is no longer a theatrical creep putting on a false air of civility; here he’s blunt, violence-prone and direct from the very moment you meet him. It’s never po-faced, but those who are looking for another Jack Baker will be disappointed. The more serious tone meshes with the changes made to the gameplay however.

Those changes to the gameplay are a big part of what makes the game so good, and so effective as a survival horror game. Whereas in the original ammo was plentiful, zombies could be safely taken down without any bother and the game was split into self-contained rooms and corridors, here the game uses one big, continuous map that contains every area simultaneously. No more shots of doors opening to hide load times, but now zombies can and will go through them. You can freely move, and aim over the shoulder to target any part of enemies you like, but zombies now take an extraordinary amount of punishment; multiple headshots will put a zombie down for a time, but won’t kill it. Even the shotgun with its excellent shredding gore effects isn’t guaranteed to do the trick. You’re more capable of attack and defence, and so the game adapts. Lickers, making a triumphant return from the original are blind, and if you’re careful can be avoided. But they hit like trucks covered in knives and can cover huge distances when they leap. Even less direct elements like the original game’s bold, memorable soundtrack that was both comforting and disconcerting in equal measure has been replaced with a more subdued version. You don’t feel safe, you never feel like you have the upper hand. A big component of this feeling is the much documented update to Mr X, a humanoid bioweapon that jumped you at certain points in the original game, exclusively during scenario B. Here he’s present across all four campaigns, and rather than being tied to scripted events once he’s on the scene he’s there for good, and he will pursue you all over the place. He’s not a constant threat; there are times where he backs off and you get a breather for a while, and at this point I’m not intimidated by him at all, but he’s still really well used, and when I first had to deal with him he threw me off my game.

There are some quality of life adjustments, however, just as the above sounds like an absolute nightmare. Defence items make a welcome return from the original REmake; knives and grenades that act as both useable weapons and get-out-of-grab-free cards. While shooting zombies in the heads will chew threw ammo, it’s far quicker and easier to put two to five in their kneecap and blow their leg off. They can still grab you, but the angle of their grab attack is reduced, and they’ll never walk again. This ties into the ethos of enemy encounters in the original games: unless it’s a boss, it’s often better to just avoid a foe. Go round definitively killing everything you see and you’ll be out of ammo and due a restart; this is, at its core, survival horror, just with the increased mobility and improved combat options of Resident Evil 4.

Capcom have knocked it out of the park with this one. After Resident Evil 7 brought classic Resi back into focus, this takes one of the best games in the series, applies some updates and quality of life adjustments and finishes up with a tense, brutal survival horror game. Its a synthesis of old and new: an iconic classic lovingly redone and augmented with a fresh perspective, much like REmake, but with a new combat system that brings another, similarly fresh approach. An excellent survival horror game, an excellent Resi game, an excellent remake of Resident Evil 2, and even this early in the year a game that will surely be a contender for 2019’s best.

By James Lambert
@jameslambert18

Dragon Ball Super: Broly Review

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Dragon Ball Super: Broly has a lot on its plate. It’s the first Dragon Ball Super movie, and it’s taken on the workload of canonically introducing Broly, Gogeta, Bardock, Gine and the on-screen destruction of planet Vegeta, showing where young Goku, Vegeta and Raditz were at the time. The original Broly is an iconic character but outside of his cool design as a hulking mega-Saiyan, he’s terrible, so he’s ripe for a do-over. Other elements, like Bardock and Goku and Vegeta’s origin story were handled excellently in “Bardock: Father of Goku”, so their appearance here made me wary. Bardock’s my second favourite Dragon Ball character and the trailers showed some changes, but I’ll get into that later.

Back when Frieza took control of his Dad’s army and therefore every Saiyan on Planet Vegeta, two Saiyan babies were being incubated. One is Prince Vegeta, heralded by his Father as an all-powerful ruler. The other is Broly, son of Saiyan Colonel Paragus, whom instruments declare could be even more powerful. Of course, King Vegeta’s having none of that, so sends Broly off to a desolate planet full of monsters, citing a potential loss of control and subsequent destruction as the reason. Paragus goes after him and ends up stranded on that same planet. Five years later and low-level Saiyan warrior Bardock and butcher wife/girlfriend/partner Gine send their youngest son Kakarot off to Earth to protect him from the imminent destruction of Vegeta by Frieza, which Bardock thinks is coming because Frieza ordered every Saiyan to return there. Sorry to interrupt the plot section but this seems like as good a time as any to talk about what they’ve done to Bardock. My Bardock, “Father of Goku” Bardock, is a bloodthirsty mercenary who, in the Japanese version calls his infant Son scum for not having a high power level. He flies out to confront Frieza after seeing the future, but it’s a practical desire to keep his race alive, and Kakarot is sent to Earth to conquer it while Bardock is off being betrayed and attacked by Frieza’s forces. Here he’s presented as being unusually attached to both romantic ideas and his own children, and sends Kakarot off for his own safety. Now, this is clearly a designed change in his character, possibly done to make him seem more sympathetic, and adapted from Dragon Ball Minus. While it’s not the version of Bardock I like and I’m sad that version isn’t canon, I can at least understand why the change was made. What’s weird and harder to explain is the brief scene in which Bardock, in damaged armour, is seen fighting back against Frieza when the latter launches his attack that destroys Planet Vegeta. In Father of Goku, he saw the attack coming and mounted a desperate offence after everyone he asked for help blew him off, and his armour was damaged in an earlier fight. Here he goes from sending Kakarot off to the next day suddenly being in damaged armour opposing an attack he had a hunch about but didn’t literally see coming, so what happened there?

Anyway, back in present day Bulma and Frieza are both after the Dragon Balls for amusingly vain reasons, and after the latter steals them they all end up in the arctic continent. A pair of Frieza soldiers named Cheelai and Lemo come across Broly and Paragus and take them to Frieza, where he offers revenge by proxy to Paragus, through the medium of the apparently super powerful Broly. Goku and Vegeta, having travelled with Bulma meet Broly, a mammoth fight breaks out, that’s basically it as far as the plot goes.

There’s good and bad to Broly, and I’ll start with the bad because there’s only one. To begin with rather than being the “Legendary Super Saiyan” he’s able to harness the power of Oozaru in his normal body, which lets him keep up with Super Saiyan God Vegeta. That’s an interesting angle and plays into his new personality, which I’ll elaborate on in a sec. Unfortunately the bad part is that when he finally does go Super Saiyan he retains his non-canon counterpart’s pupil-free berserker form, which now canonically belongs to Kale, and even has her “Rapid fire green energy blasts in all directions” attack. To have a different take that separates him from Kale then walk it back in the span of his introductory film is disappointing. Anyway, on to the good. The new personality I mentioned has two main traits. When he’s not fighting Broly is a gentle, calm man with stunted social skills, when he’s fighting he’s basically an out of control feral berserker; having spent his entire life living on a desolate planet full of monsters, being crafted into a weapon by his abusive, revenge-driven Father who fitted him with a shock collar to keep him under control, he’s understandably not the most stable of people. Given the other version’s backstory, this is infinitely better. This Broly is far more relatable and interesting, and has real potential if they fold him into future episodes of Super. His design is much better too, with the interestingly sourced pelt wrapped around his waist, human Oozaru form and a character that actually has room to grow, rather than the bloodthirsty, one-dimensional maniac he was in his original guise. He also has a good relationship with Cheelai and Lemo in their limited screentime together, and I’d like to see all three when DB Super comes back.

The animation, both in terms of movement and visual splendour are absolutely phenomenal. It looks better than the entirety of DB Super, which was no slouch, and even its 3-D scenes look good. The colours and characters’ expressions are lighter and softer, and the whole thing moves with a sort of playful confidence, especially when Goku’s on screen, that makes it an real joy to watch. Alongside sewing the seeds for potentially strong character and story beats going forward, it’s just an extended bombastic fight where Goku, Vegeta and Gogeta take on Broly, with all the spectacle Dragon Ball is known for. As for Gogeta; he’s an interesting contrast to Vegito, last seen fighting Fused Zamasu. Alongside a unique move that’s definitely going to be his Level 3 super in DB FighterZ, he seems to have more Goku in him than Vegeta. Where Vegito’s special attack is a Final Kamehameha, Gogeta uses a Kamehameha. Where Vegito refers to himself as a fusion of Vegeta and Kakarot, Gogeta refers to himself as a fusion of Vegeta and Goku, a name Vegeta refuses to say. Presumably if Vegeta can get over how dumb the Fusion Dance is the two of them can have a potential advantage over future enemies, which I look forward to seeing, even if I do prefer Vegito.

Overall, DB Super Broly is great. It makes changes to Bardock that I personally don’t like at all, as well as changing Goku and Vegeta’s backstories, but new characters Cheelai and Lemo are good (particularly Cheelai, more of her please), the whole thing is a beautiful, exciting, fun piece of Dragon Ball goodness and most importantly, the canon Broly is infinitely more interesting and likeable than his original counterpart. It’s a good watch, and I can’t wait to see what they do with Broly going forward.

Edit: In the dub version Gogeta refers to himself as a mix of Kakarot and Vegeta. My review is based on the Japanese version, where the subtitles said Goku and, having gone back to check, I didn’t hear him say the word “Kakarotto”, so I don’t know what’s going on there and why they made that change in the subbed version.

By James Lambert
@jameslambert18