NA LCS 2018 Summer Split: Power rankings and predictions
By Tanner Kinney
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By Tanner Kinney
Disclaimer: This review is of the Nintendo Switch version of the game and was primarily played in docked mode.
By Tanner Kinney Disclaimer: This review is of the Nintendo Switch version of the game and was primarily played in docked mode. The Nintendo Switch has proved itself to be a very versatile console to match a versatile company like Nintendo. A console that houses both DOOM and Pokemon Quest within the same shop makes for an interesting line-up. As Nintendo slowly gets their main franchises to the Switch, with Pokemon, Metroid, Yoshi, and Smash Bros. coming soon, it’s the constant drip-feed of titles that keep the console alive during dry spells. One of those games is Sushi Striker: The Way of the Sushido. Nintendo, in conjunction with indieszero (developers of the Theatrhythm Final Fantasy series), created an incredibly charming, though somewhat imbalanced game. Fight for food freedom The world is in peril, as an evil empire (because all empires are evil) has taken all the sushi from the general population. Tensions are high as the Sushi Liberation Front are slowly trying to build their army within the Empire’s territory, and another all-out sushi war is on the horizon. Here we meet Musashi, a young boy/girl (since I chose female Musashi, I’ll be using the feminine pronoun) who wants to bring sushi to the world after meeting a stranger named Franklin (very Japanese name, I know). To do this, Musashi befriends a legendary sushi sprite name Jinrai and becomes a sushi striker. With her new power, Musashi joins the Sushi Liberation Front to drive back the Empire and bring sushi to the world. The story is very simple, and any “twists” the game offers can be seen coming a mile away. The game, however, is stuffed with interesting characters and charming--though sometimes cheesy-- dialogue. The characters may not be more than one-note personalities, but those personalities work well with the style and story the game tells. Plus, the story is incredibly ridiculous from ground up, so the cheesiness of it all comes together well. Cheese does generally improve everything, though maybe not sushi. A couple favorite characters of mine are the eccentric TV-producer Rio and the soft-spoken Sushi Assassin Celia. In a game all about charm, the writing does its job sufficiently well. It’s not an incredibly gripping tale with twists and turns, but it works. A Saturday morning cartoon anywhere, anytime Sushi Striker's presentation is incredibly nostalgic to anyone who spent their childhoods growing up with shows on 4Kids. The opening of the game includes a fairly lengthy, fully 2D animated cutscene, which really just gives the same simple joy as watching something like Dinosaur King or Spider Riders (though, maybe not quite as terrible). There are a number of these cutscenes within the game, and they are all a joy to watch. The animation and character design is all really stellar, with plenty of unique faces to keep the game interesting. Sushi Assassin Celia and the female Musashi are both incredibly adorable. The number of 2D stills for emotions the characters have is also more than expected for a game like this, with Musashi in particular having a tons of different, creative stills for expressing her emotions. The music is also pretty fantastic, though nothing really too special. The nature of the music fits the chaotic sushi combat, and even in fights that took multiple attempts, the music never became grating. The lack of music tracks is a bit disappointing, but it isn’t a terrible thing. The music choices and sound effect stings during the 2D cutscenes add to the Saturday morning cartoon charm. Speaking of which, the sound effects are all very fitting and work for the game, all very exaggerated and comic. The voice acting is pretty good overall, with some line reads being better (or funnier) than others. The way Musashi’s voice actress (Christina Vee) says “GHoOoOST SUSHI” puts a smile on my face, and that’s all that really matters. The lacking part of the presentation comes in the backgrounds. Many are 3D backdrops, rather than 2D renders or any other kind of 2D art. It wouldn’t be so bad if the 3D art was good, and it probably doesn’t look bad on the 3DS version of the game, but while docked on the Switch it looks incredibly low quality. The game would look a lot better overall if it used entirely 2D art with a pop-up book style. As it stands, the 3D art doesn’t get in the way, but it still sticks out. Addictive and fast-paced sushi combat The core gameplay of Sushi Striker: Way of the Sushido is somewhere between Puzzles and Dragons and Puzzle Fighter with an art style that is reminiscent of Puyo Puyo Tetris. It’s puzzle-action glory at its finest. The player must connect adjacent plates of the same color together, creating stacks of plates. This sounds simple, but these plates are all moving on three conveyor belts, sometimes with the one in the middle moving opposite the others, and other times with all three moving in the same direction. To damage the opponent, these stacks of plates can be thrown, dealing damage based on how many plates are stacked. By eating the sushi on these plates, Musashi powers up her sushi sprites’ skills. These skills can be used to influence the battle, some influencing conveyor belt speeds, how much damage is dealt or other random factors in battle. It seems a little confusing at first, and there is a bit of a learning curve, but it is very rewarding once it all clicks. The flow of gameplay is fantastic. Every factor in preparation plays a part in the battle. Understanding the enemy’s skills, Musashi’s skills, the favorite sushi bonuses, how to efficiently deal the most damage, and perfectly timing when to attack is all very engaging and makes for a combat system with a lot of depth. The first time 30 or more plates get chained together is incredibly satisfying, with the sound effects playing a big part in that. When the combat clicks and the brain awakens, it is so satisfying to smash the opponents into the dust. Sometimes though, the requirements to chain plates together can become murky. There are times when plates would connect without any real reason as to why they do, and sometimes plates that look like they should connect don’t work as expected. These problems are especially apparent during stages where all conveyor belts move in the same direction. The main story mode provides an underwhelming challenge, with most stages being very easy while played normally. Fortunately, the game gives the player what I referred to as the “Hard Mode Belt,” which reduces the player’s health by half, but rewards additional points and experience for victorious battles. For younger kids, the challenge is probably too daunting, but for adults with some skill in puzzle games, the story mode should definitely be done entirely with the Hard Mode Belt. The special stages, unlocked after liberating a section of the island from the Empire, are genuinely hard though. The AI in these stages is much more vicious and intelligent, some using cheesy strategies like continuously healing. Completing these stages with the Hard Mode Belt are quite the challenge but are incredibly rewarding when victory is achieved. Each stage also has additional challenges which, when completed, award stars similar to mobile puzzle games. These will usually take another attempt or two to get but generally don’t take too much additional time. There are a few other additional modes added. There’s an online mode to battle other people across the world in sushi combat, along with local multiplayer. The game also includes a more puzzley equivalent to the plate-stacking gameplay in the Puzzle Hut. The game randomly generates three rows of plates, which must all be collected in under 10 seconds and five moves. It’s a legitimately hard challenge, and I lovingly referred to it as “Screaming Anime Girl Simulator,” since I rarely succeeded in these challenges, and Musashi screamed everytime she lost. If the more puzzle-style gameplay sounds interesting, it isn’t that deep, but it’s worth a try. If the screaming anime girl sounds interesting, please seek help. Featured image from Miketendo64
Nintendo’s abandonment of the traditional E3 press conference has been a huge boon for the company. No longer tied down by audio issues and strange gameplay demos, the company can focus on neatly produced game showcases, and give proper time and attention to bigger titles. With some showstoppers like a new Smash Bros, Metroid Prime 4, and the next mainline Pokemon games coming soon, Nintendo had a ticket for the best show in town. If only they actually showed those showstopping titles, aside from Super Smash Bros.
Square-Enix, despite being a long time publisher and developer with dozens of franchises under their wing, has spent very little time with E3 press conferences. Their last E3 showing was three years ago, where they showed trailers that were already shown at Sony’s conference that year. With two long-awaited titles in Kingdom Hearts 3 and Final Fantasy VII Remake finally happening (eventually), Square has a lot to show, with room for plenty of surprise announcements. If fans are expecting something on the level of Microsoft yesterday or Sony later tonight, they’re going to be disappointed.
by Tanner Kinney Square-Enix, despite being a long time publisher and developer with dozens of franchises under their wing, has spent very little time with E3 press conferences. Their last E3 showing was three years ago, where they showed trailers that were already shown at Sony’s conference that year. With two long-awaited titles in Kingdom Hearts 3 and Final Fantasy VII Remake finally happening (eventually), Square has a lot to show, with room for plenty of surprise announcements. If fans are expecting something on the level of Microsoft yesterday or Sony later tonight, they’re going to be disappointed. After watching the event, even fans with tempered expectations were most definitely disappointed. The summary Shadow of the Tomb Raider had another trailer that was different from the one shown at Microsoft's conference, complete with more gameplay. The game will be available on September 14th on PC, PS4, and Xbox One. The player will have to fight a Mayan apocalypse Lara Croft will "become one with the jungle" which means that the game has a heavy stealth focus. New traversal techniques, including 360 degree underwater swimming A greater number of deadlier tombs Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood had a short gameplay trailer that shows the new content added in the most recent patch. This includes the new raid, Ridorana Lighthouse. The patch has already been released. A new crossover event between Monster Hunter World and FFXIV was announced for Summer 2018, probably with an upcoming patch. The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit received another new trailer. The game is not Life is Strange 2 but will lead into that game's world. The game will be available for free on June 26th for PC, PS4, and Xbox One. Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age was given a trailer and a release date, which was previously known. The trailer showed some story elements and brief gameplay segments. The game is set to release September 4th, 2018 on PS4 and PC. It will also have a crossover with Final Fantasy Brave Exvius. A new game by Platinum Studios, titled Babylon's Fall, was given a trailer. The game will release in 2019 for PC and PS4. Nier: Automata for Xbox One had a trailer that was repeated from Microsoft's event. The game will be available June 26th on the Xbox Store. Octopath Traveler had a trailer shown. The game is available on July 13th, 2018 on Nintendo Switch. Just Cause 4 had another trailer shown, this time with more depth. Just Cause 4 has the largest and most breathtaking world in the series. The game will have more variety than previous games. Extreme weather will be introduced to make the game more destructive. Vehicles were overhauled from previous titles. The grappling hook can be upgraded and modified. Enemy AI is more intelligent than previous titles. The game is running on a new open world Apex Engine. The game will release December 4th, 2018 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One. A partially live-action teaser trailer for a game titled "The Quiet Man" (presumably the sequel to The Bye-Bye Man) was shown. More to come in August. Kingdom Hearts III was shown again, in a trailer very similar to the one shown in Microsoft's conference. A Ratatouille summon was shown, along with some more new story content. The game is still set to release on January 29th 2019 for PS4 and Xbox One. The good Seeing more in-depth gameplay for titles like Just Cause 4 and Shadow of the Tomb Raider was nice, especially since those games are releasing later in the year. A few new moments were included in the Kingdom Hearts III trailer, with the cast from Twilight Town and more Organization XIII members. Kingdom Hearts fans will, at the very least, have more new trailer footage to over-analyze in two-hour long YouTube videos. The bad The Quiet Man, despite having no gameplay shown, wins an award for worst titles in video games. Any title that evokes memories of The Bye-Bye Man shouldn’t make it off the cutting room floor. The trailer was also terrible as well, featuring live-action “seamlessly” transitioning into video game footage, except it doesn’t look good or seamless at all. There wasn’t anything else shown about the game to make it at all interesting. The fact that their major announcements included a number of titles previously announced, some even previously released (like the recent Final Fantasy XIV patch), makes the show just lazy. It would have been better for that time to be spent with other titles, even if it was just some guy talking about Final Fantasy VII Remake for a few minutes. The pointlessness of it all This entire conference was pointless. Aside from the 15 second teaser for the new Platinum Studios game and the terrible trailer for The Quiet Man, there was nothing new that was shown. Nothing that any fans were expecting from a Square-Enix press conference was shown. Even the Dragon Quest title was one that has been released in Japan for almost a year now. Considering there are a number of titles Square could have talked about, like Final Fantasy VII Remake, it’s a wonder they even held had an E3 showcase at all. Overall, this showcase is already being forgotten live. The disappointment from fans is immeasurable, and their days are ruined, at least until the next press conference. There might be more shown at Sony’s press conference for Square-Enix titles, but for now, it’s just sad and disappointing. The best hope we have is that at some point between now and the next showing of The Quiet Man, they change the title. Source: YouTube Image: Nintendo Everything
Microsoft, and in particular the Xbox brand, has struggled to get a leg up over the competition throughout the current generation. The Xbox One was controversial out of the gate, and even with continuous effort from Microsoft to improve user experience they aren’t keeping their customers. With previous major releases like Sea of Thieves and State of Decay 2 underperforming and potential system sellers like Scalebound getting cancelled, Microsoft has a lot of ground to make up. With only Crackdown 3, another Gears of War, another Halo, and another Forza on the horizon, Microsoft needs to make some major announcements of big, and most importantly new, exclusives to get people back on Xbox.
by Tanner Kinney Microsoft, and in particular the Xbox brand, has struggled to get a leg up over the competition throughout the current generation. The Xbox One was controversial out of the gate, and even with continuous effort from Microsoft to improve user experience they aren’t keeping their customers. With previous major releases like Sea of Thieves and State of Decay 2 underperforming and potential system sellers like Scalebound getting cancelled, Microsoft has a lot of ground to make up. With only Crackdown 3, another Gears of War, another Halo, and another Forza on the horizon, Microsoft needs to make some major announcements of big, and most importantly new, exclusives to get people back on Xbox. The summary A short cinematic teaser trailer was shown for a new Halo title, Halo Infinite. A new trailer was shown for Ori and the Will of the Wisps. The game seems to be expand on the mechanics of the first game, with even greater visual flair. The game will release in 2019 on PC and Xbox One. A new title by FromSoftware was announced, titled Sekiro Shadows Die Twice. The game features an art-style based around East-Asian culture. The game will release in 2019 on PS4, PC, and Xbox One. Todd Howard announced that Fallout 4 would join the Xbox Game Pass. More information was given about Fallout 76 It takes place before all other games in the series. The game will be set in West Virginia, as predicted by many fans. Pre-orders will be available on June 15th on the Xbox Store. A new game set in the Life is Strange universe was announced, titled The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit. The game will available for free download on June 26th on the Xbox Store, and allegedly on PS4 and PC. A new trailer was shown for Crackdown 3. The trailers showed a more complete gameplay experience than previous trailers, including the movement options and destruction features. The game is set to release in February 2019 exclusively on Xbox One. Nier: Automata's Xbox One version was a release date, June 26, 2018. Metro: Exodus was given a new story and gameplay trailer. The game features customizable weapons, along with other features from previous games in the series. The game will be released Feb. 22, 2019 on PS4, PC, and Xbox One. Kingdom Hearts 3 was given a new trailer. The trailer debuted a Frozen inspired world. Other previously announced worlds also had more gameplay shown for them. Gummy ship combat was also briefly shown. The game will release January 29, 2019. A trailer for upcoming Sea of Thieves DLC was shown. The first pack, Cursed Sails, will release in July, while the second pack, Forsaken Shores, will release in September. A short trailer for the Battlefield V single player campaign was shown. The new Forza game, Forza Horizon 4, was shown. The game features off-road vehicles and racing. The game is set in Britain. The game will feature a dynamic, shared open world. Real people will be racing in this shared open world. Co-op can be seamlessly entered with other players. The entire community will experience the dynamic open world changes. The game will release October 2, 2018 exclusively to Xbox One, and will be a part of Xbox Game Pass on release. Phil Spencer announced that they started investing in new developers to create exclusive Xbox One titles, under a studio called The Initiative. Phil Spencer also announced a series of studios working exclusively under Xbox, including Zombie Labs, Playground Games, Ninja Theory, and Compulsion Games. We Happy Few got a story trailer to go along with its upcoming release. The game will release on August 10, 2018 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One. The official release of PUBG on Xbox One was given a launch trailer. New maps and game modes were also announced. The full release will be Winter 2018. Tales of Vesperia Definitive Edition was announced. The game will include all the DLC and characters, brought to the West for the first time. The game will release Winter 2018 on PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One. A story trailer was shown for a sequel to The Division, simply titled The Division 2. The game will take place in Washington and feature urban warfare, with themes of civil war. The game will release March 15, 2019 on PC, PS4, and Xbox One. A staged gameplay trailer also shown, featuring fake mic chatter. A new system for Xbox Game Pass, FastStart, was announced. It will launch for select titles later in June. New titles coming to Game Pass were announced, all coming to Game Pass on the same day as the global release, including Forza Horizon and Crackdown 3. The Division, The Elder Scrolls Online, and Fallout 4 were all announced to release on Game Pass today, right now. A video package was shown featuring a number of indie titles and smaller releases, some notable ones being Super Meat Boy Forever, Below, WarGroove, Dead Cells, and Ashen. Shadow of the Tomb Raider received a new story trailer. The game will release September 18, 2018. Session, a skateboarding game that isn't Skate 4, had a trailer shown. Black Desert was given a trailer for the Xbox release, which is in Fall 2018. Devil May Cry 5 was announced and given a trailer. The game seems to be ridiculous and over-the-top, like previous instalments in the series. The game will feature Dante from the original Devil May Cry series. The game is set to release in Spring 2019. A focus on visuals was included, using Xbox technology. Cuphead DLC, titled "Delicious Last Course," was announced. The game will feature a new island, new bosses, and a new character. It will release in 2019 on both PC and Xbox One. Tunic, a Zelda-esque looking title, was announced and given a short trailer. The game currently does not have a release date. A new Bandai Namco game, titled Jump Force, was announced. It is a fighting game featuring a number of Shonen Jump characters. The game will release in 2019 Dying Light 2 was announced and given a short teaser trailer, plus a more detailed gameplay trailer. A release date was not given, but it will release on PC, PS4, and Xbox One. The game will feature a fluid parkour system, deep and tactical melee combat, and zombies Dying Light 2 will have choices that have genuine consequences on the game world There is a functioning open-world that reacts to your choices. A brand-new Battletoads game was announced, set to release in 2019. Just Cause 4 received a new trailer. The game will release December 4th, 2018 on PC, PS4, and Xbox One. A Gears of War mobile title was announced, titled GearsPop after the FunkoPop art style used for the characters. The crowd was not happy. A new real-time strategy Gears of War game, Gears Tactics, was announced. Gears of War 5 was also announced and given a story trailer. The game features a female protagonist. It will be available for Xbox Game Pass at launch. No release date was given. The next Xbox consoles were hinted at, and are being worked on, but no other details were given. CD Projekt Red's highly anticipated Cyberpunk 2077 was given a world premiere trailer as the final show stopper. Although not much was shown in terms of specifics, it does feature a snazzy logo. The good Microsoft did something very similar to last year, and that was bombard the audience with games that are available on Xbox. Considering the accusations that the console has no games worth playing, it’s no surprise Microsoft wants to make notice of the games and only the games. Very little time was taken away from the games, and titles were being announced at a constant pace. This kept the energy high for the whole conference which was a big plus, and likely made fans feel proud to be an Xbox fan. The games themselves were also definitely selected well. The show started with Halo Infinite and ended with Cyberpunk 2077, both of which are highly anticipated titles, particularly Cyberpunk 2077. Throughout the show, there were enough surprises, like Battletoads and Devil May Cry 5, to keep the audience engaged and interested. Finally, surprisingly enough, most of the guest speakers were also very interesting. The developers they brought on to talk were all very passionate and barely corporate, and Ashley Speicher who talked about Xbox Game Pass (something rather dry) managed to still be interesting. Plus, Todd Howard got to speak for a bit, and that’s like a pocket of sunshine on a cloudy day for anyone, except maybe Bethesda fans. The bad The bad parts of the conference itself don’t really come from Microsoft themselves. The scripted mic chatter used during The Division 2 gameplay trailer was as embarrassing as always, with lots of “gamer” speak and phrases no actual human being would use while playing multiplayer with friends or even strangers. A skateboarding game being shown that isn’t Skate 4 is a bit of a let-down for fans, and that GearsPop game definitely shut the audience’s excitement up fast. The main problem with the conference are problems that Xbox has had for the longest time, and they certainly weren’t solved here. Many of the titles that got major attention, such as Kingdom Hearts 3, Dying Light 2, Devil May Cry 5, and Cyberpunk 2077 are all releasing multiplatform. Although Microsoft got to give the first look at these games, these games are not exclusive. It’s a tactic they used last year with Anthem to make their line-up look more promising, despite Anthem being multiplatform. At the end of the day, the only true exclusives that matter are still Halo, Gears of War, Crackdown 3, and Forza. Fans of Playstation, Nintendo, and PC still don’t have a reason to buy an Xbox One, and it will likely stay that way since no major new exclusives were announced. The strange The strange, or more accurately the boring, goes to Phil Spencer. As a businessman, Phil Spencer managed to turn the sinking ship of Xbox abandoned by Don Mattrick into an actually viable gaming platform, to which he deserves commendation. As a speaker and a showman, he isn’t very interesting to listen to. Specifically, after the major announcements of Halo Infinite at the start of the show and Gears 5 towards the end, he gave long speeches with lots of flowery language, but no substance. He may not have talked down to the fans, like EA and Ubisoft have a habit of doing, but he successfully managed to kill any energy built up to that point. Had the presentation been entirely the games, with him saying as few words as possible, it would have been much improved. Twitch Chat, though perhaps not the best judge of audience reactions, was spamming sleeping emotes anytime Spencer spoke, and for good reason. If Microsoft had Todd Howard double-dip and host both this conference and the Bethesda conference, the show would have improved significantly. Overall, this conference was a good show that had a lot of great reveals and great games. This is a good thing for the gaming community as a whole. For the Xbox platform, it still doesn’t bode well for the future. While Sony has been both investing in new IP, and reviving old IP in new and interesting ways, Microsoft remains stuck with the same four-horse show they’ve had for the past four years. It will be interesting to see how many of the titles that got special attention at Microsoft’s press conference will get more attention at other shows later in the week, particularly at Sony’s and maybe Nintendo’s, though few titles shown here are confirmed for Switch as of now. If Sony can show the same great titles with more interesting exclusives, it will likely be a much stronger show. Source: YouTube Image: Spieleberichte
Disclaimer: This review is of the PC version and was conducted on a PC with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 960, i7, 8GBs of RAM.
By Tanner Kinney The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the opinion of Byte or Byte’s editorial board. It’s not an exaggeration to say that Disney has control of the box office with every film it releases. If you want your film to succeed, and it has the same target audience as the next big Disney film, you move your release date. Whether it be animated films aimed towards families or their films aimed towards an older audience, Disney is a black hole, absorbing all ticket sales within a 10 movie radius. Despite claims that “superhero fatigue” will eventually hit Disney Marvel films, they are still going strong. It seems superhero fatigue is more just fatigue of terrible films, like Justice League. Yet, the impossible seems to have happened. A big budget blockbuster film from a well-established franchise tanked in the box office. The winner of the big loser trophy is Solo: A Star Wars Story. A Star Wars film with a troubled production, that got released after two major titles in Avengers: Infinity War and Deadpool 2. Despite ranking first in its opening weekend, Solo bombed with only roughly 100 million dollars in domestic sales, and roughly 172 million dollars worldwide. Those numbers seem pretty good though, but with a 250 million dollar production budget that doesn’t even include marketing, which could easily add another 250 million onto it, Solo has quite a deficit to overcome. The questions: why did Solo fail? Is Disney Star Wars in trouble? And can Solo even have a chance to make its budget back? Let’s break out the calculators and see if Solo can win in the end. I don’t have a really good feeling about it. Let me preface this by saying that I feel nothing about Star Wars. Despite writing about Star Wars twice previously, I was never a long time fan of the series. I think prequel memes are funny, even if they are a cynical fabrication by Disney executives to get people to love the prequels (even if it’s ironic love). I think the original trilogy is good. I even actually really like The Last Jedi, being one of the 46% of audience members on Rotten Tomatoes to give it a positive score. But Star Wars was never really my thing. I’m here for the numbers, and to see if it wasn’t Rian Johnson, but Hollywood hack Ron Howard who put Star Wars in a grave. Blockbuster budgets To start, let’s establish the budgets for the films I’ll be talking about. The budget is essentially the baseline goal of sales a film needs to meet within its theatrical run. Beyond breaking that barrier is pure profits for the production company. Since this is about Solo specifically, I won’t be looking at profits today. It’d be a challenge to get anywhere near an accurate estimate for how much Solo will make, along with the other films that are still in their theatrical run that I’ve included to provide comparisons. I will, however, make a prediction about the future of Solo, and whether it will even start to make profit. The films included as points of comparison will be the other Disney-Star Wars films, and the two major competing blockbusters for Solo, Avengers: Infinity War and Deadpool 2. For reference, most data is taken from BoxOfficeMojo. Any numbers that can’t be found there were estimates found through various searches. Those will be specified. Now then, the first graph: Surprisingly, the budgets for the Star Wars films have been relatively consistent, all hanging between 400-500 million. The budget for The Last Jedi is an estimate, but is in line with what’s expected. As always, production budgets don’t include marketing, so the base numbers are doubled to get an estimate of how much the total budget is (though some films may have more or less marketing). Deadpool 2, of course, is smartly budgeted and therefore makes huge bank for Fox. Infinity War’s budget is massive, estimated at 716 million, but that’s expected of “the most expensive Marvel film ever.” Solo is on the more expensive end of the Star Wars films, likely due to the increased production costs from going through a bit of production Hell. These budgets are pretty in line with what’s expected of these major blockbusters. In my last article looking at box office numbers, most of the films from the past few years had budgets in this zone. Most of the films in my last article also made sizable profits in just opening weekend. Those were superhero films though. Could any of the Star Wars films compete with the opening weekend of a Disney-Marvel film, and make their budgets back? Since, optimistically, a film should pay its cost back with opening weekend, so every week from there out is pure profit. Opening weekend woes The first number, in light blue, is the domestic sales of the film. The second number, in dark blue, is the sales worldwide (domestic sales+foreign sales). Worldwide sales tend to, if things are going well, more than double the sales made from domestic sales. Only particularly niche films don’t manage to do that. The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, Deadpool 2, and Infinity War all managed to succeed in doing that. Rogue One got close, but not quite there. The only outlier, then, is Solo, which only made an additional 72 million in foreign sales on top of 102 million domestic sales, totaling in roughly 174 million worldwide. Not only do Solo’s worldwide sale not even come close to scratching every other movie on the list (despite having a four day opening weekend, thanks to Memorial Day), it doesn’t even get close to touching the massive 500 million dollar budget. By comparison, The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, and Deadpool 2 all made their budgets back on opening weekend. Rogue One would eventually make its budget back, and Infinity War has also made its huge budget back by now. Fortunately for Solo, opening weekend tends to only average out to 30 percent of the overall sales of a film. Week two worsens The drop off between week one and two is always a good indicator of the health of a film’s life. Nowadays, many films have a significant drop off between week one and two, averaging roughly 50 percent consistently across films of any genre. When I first drafted this article, we didn’t have numbers for week two, so I had calculated the average percent difference between week one and two of the other five films. This came out to 57.4 percent, which was used to calculate an estimate to how Solo would look in week two. Fortunately, now we have actual numbers. Unfortunately, they are much, much worse, with a -65.2% drop. Opening weekend numbers are also included to provide a visual comparison, as adding the percentages to these graphs tends to get a little scuffed. Finally, all the numbers are domestic numbers, since beyond opening weekend, foreign numbers aren’t tracked by the site I used for my data. Now then, with that established, look at this graph: The only film that manages to escape the 50 percent drop off was The Force Awakens, managing to only have a -39.8 percent change. The Last Jedi had a massive drop between opening weekend and week two, almost certainly because of the negative press from fans. Deadpool 2, curiously enough, had a similarly huge drop, likely because of the release of Solo. Now that Solo has released, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the two films have similar numbers again Keeping in mind that these are domestic numbers, worldwide numbers experience similar declines to that of the domestic numbers. So then, let’s take Solo’s opening weekend worldwide number: 174 million. Let’s assume that Solo’s worldwide decline is roughly the same as the estimate I had for its domestic decline week two. Finally, although, typically the drop off between weeks improves as the movie stays in theaters, let’s use an extreme example of my -57.4 percent change that I had originally estimated over the course of Solo’s theatrical run. So, explaining my super radical math, 174 (zeros removed for simplicity) is multiplied by 57.4 percent (or 0.574), which results in 99.876. That number is then subtracted from 174 to get 74.124, or the estimated week two worldwide numbers. The process is then repeated, replacing the 174 with the new week’s sales. I repeated this process several times to get a full month of Solo being in theaters, on a consistent decline in sales. The final result was, after five weeks in theaters, Solo only grosses a very rough estimate of 329 million. That’s still well below its budget. Even predicting a gentle decline would only alter the results maybe a full 100 million at best. The result of all of this number munching is that Solo is almost destined to be a box office failure. This film will have to make its money back through toy sales and other means. If that doesn’t happen, Solo will be a failure, the first in the entire history of the series to be a failure (at least, in profits). Which leaves me with a question: how did this happen? What about Solo was so different from the previous Star Wars films that made it a failure? Was it the critical reception? The fact it was a standalone? The negative press the film got throughout its production? Well, let’s take a look at one last graph: one for Rotten Tomatoes scores: The Rotten truth Unlike a lot of the superhero films, there isn’t much of a divide between critics and fans on (most) Star Wars films. That’s still consistent with Solo. The truth of the matter here, though, is that Solo is also well below every other film I’ve used. It’s also the third worst rated Star Wars film of the whole bunch, including the prequels. Yes, one of the prequels is rated higher than Solo. Sure, fans seem more warm towards Solo than they were towards The Last Jedi, but the fans also wanted to burn Rian Johnson at the stake and launched a full crusade against the film. Solo doesn’t even have fans riled up to do that. Which leads me to the conclusion about what happened to Solo, and what it means for the future of Star Wars films: The general public does not care about Solo. The general public might not even care for the standalone films. Rogue One may have done well enough, but it was one budget setback and PR disaster away from being a failure like Solo. Which means people only care about the major trilogy, but even then interest is waning after The Last Jedi soured the fans and a lot of the general audience. Disney wants Star Wars to be this evergreen franchise, where they can set up a series of films that are in an interconnected world. In theory, with all of the extended universe material, this should be fairly easy. So far, however, this experiment has been a failure. Only Kathleen Kennedy knows what the future of Star Wars is, but for the sake of good movies that succeed, I’m hoping she’s considering her options after the disappointment that is Solo. And if she doesn’t have a plan, then Disney needs to give her the axe, and give Star Wars to someone who cares. Did Ron Howard bury Star Wars? Probably not. The real question mark remains after the release of Star Wars Episode IX. If the film can’t find a way to keep the general audience interested, the films will die. The extended universe was always a niche thing anyways for the really hardcore Star Wars fans. I’m curious to see how the next standalone film will do, and I’m especially curious to see how the first film of the next trilogy after that does. But don’t worry Disney, if the idea well starts running dry, just give me a call. I have plenty of ideas. Sources: Box Office Mojo, ByteBsu, Observer, YouTube, RottenTomatoes Images: Byte Staff, IMDb
By Tanner Kinney Disclaimer: This review is of the PC version and was conducted on a PC with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 960, i7, 8GBs of RAM. Shaq Fu is sort of a legend in gaming culture. This bizarre 16-bit fighting game featured East-Asian culture, mysticism, magic, and Shaquille O'Neal in the middle of it all. If that at all seems interesting, the more interesting part is that the game is completely irredeemable. Shaq Fu was buggy, slow, unfair, and easily one of the worst fighting games of the 16-bit era, possibly of all time. Yet, its infamy garnered a significant following among an internet culture obsessed with ironic enjoyment of things. So, in March 2014, at the height of a fundraising craze sparked by Mighty No. 9, Big Deez Production (yes, that’s the real name) launched an Indiegogo campaign to create the long-awaited sequel, Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn. $473,000 and four years later, it was finally released. The best thing that can be said is that it is better than the original. But that’s a bar so low, it’s buried underneath Shaq’s wine cellar. This game doesn’t deserve to be graded on a curve. One-button gameplay for a one-note game Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn is a beat-'em-up styled more after classics like Double Dragon or Streets of Rage than after more recent entries into the genre like Castle Crashers. The player controls Shaquille O’Neal, a very tall man who was orphaned and discovered in a lake by a Chinese woman. He was then raised to fight bullies by a Chinese elder (complete with a mildly offensive comedy accent). Shaq was trained to fight using a legendary secret technique, passed down through centuries of Dynasty Warriors: mashing the attack button. Shaq has one single combo that gets used throughout the entire game, with no variations. Occasionally the game tasks the player to overcome simple quick time events or, in rare cases, press a different button once or twice. Those are simply illusions to make the player think there’s more depth to the game. Realistically, this game could’ve been released on Atari 2600, since only one button is needed to succeed. Over the course of the six levels the game provides, there’s not much variety in the enemies Shaq kicks down or in the ways those enemies get dunked on. Every level provides a new backdrop and some reskins of enemies from the first area. This only serves to drive home how repetitive Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn is, since all the enemies are using the same attacks over and over—just like the player. Every time a new variation on “fat dude with large club weapon” appeared, I remembered that not only that I spent $20 on the game, and that this game was in development for four years, but that people legitimately funded this game. A lot of people legitimately funded this game. In an attempt to add some variety to a game desperately failing to keep the player interested, the developers included various methods other than punching to dispatch waves of recolored enemies. The first alternate method is the enhancement suits, which allow Shaq to transform and dispatch enemies by pressing a single button over and over again. Only, instead of just normal dude Shaq, it’s Shaq in a cactus suit firing needles at enemies, or Shaq in a giant robot suit punching dudes, but faster. The second method is when stage elements are required to dispatch large waves of enemies in a single section of the level. These consist of respawning street-signs, barrels of grape soda, construction equipment, and boulders that get kicked down a hill. Within the last two levels of the game, there are four sections with enemies that get boulders kicked at them. Sure, it’s pretty standard for early entries in the beat-'em-up genre, but games have evolved beyond such one-note gameplay. When compared to something like Castle Crashers, with dozens of varied levels, enemies, bosses, and ways to actually play the game, Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn is a complete waste of time. The cherry on top of the repetitive gameplay is the final level. The developers tied their garbage bag of a game up in a nice bow, with the player getting to do every different kind of combat section in a single level. Once all these different sections are put back-to-back, it drives home that the game is completely devoid of entertaining content. Horribly dated writing, music, and art style Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn was in development before the major companies retired the last generation of consoles, and the game was promised for the Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii U. Those were cancelled, but that’s for the best, since it would have split development time if they tried to actually port it to all consoles. Visually though, it doesn’t look like the game evolved beyond the previous generation of consoles. Even at the highest settings on PC, the game still looks like something that would show up on Xbox Live Arcade. It’s ugly and textures are all very flat, but it at the very least has a style. A style that has somehow accelerated time and become dated before it was even released. The animations aren’t anything special or meaty, which is key in making a beat-'em-up that feels good to play. The design of the enemies ranges between incredibly bland dudes to borderline offensive caricatures. Props can be given to the art style during the cutscenes between levels, which actually looks really good. If the whole game had been done using the 2D artwork, the game would’ve looked incredible. Unfortunately, the game just doesn’t deliver the visual spectacle a modern beat-'em-up should deliver. The music exists. That’s all that can be said for it. During the entire playthrough, there wasn't a single time the music stood out. It wasn’t terrible, aside from the theme that plays on the title screen and during loading screens, but it also didn’t add anything. A beat-'em-up needs to have music that drives the player forward, keeping up with the pace of the action and adding to the spectacle. Going back again to Castle Crashers, that game has an amazing soundtrack with songs that stick with the player. No song in this game sticks in the mind for longer than a moment. And all of that is if the music even plays. More than once, the music completely cut out and left me with dead silence, aside from the generic sound effects and one-liners Shaq delivers. Speaking of one-liners, the writing in Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn is as dated and sad as Shaq’s rap career. The game attempts to tell a story about how humanity is becoming dumber as a result of obsession with celebrities (irony is probably intended—at least I hope). These celebrities are actually demons, who are making the population dumber and easier to control. Throughout the course of the game, Shaq must kill fake Justin Bieber, fake Kardashians, and even fake Madonna. The celebrities fight using references that might have been funny if the game released on schedule. For example, the not-Justin Bieber fight has Bieber attack Shaq by shooting eggs out of a cannon. Since he egged someone’s house that one time—four years ago. If that doesn’t give a good indication about how dated the humor in this game, then maybe the fact that Madonna is in the game will. Madonna wasn’t even relevant four years ago, let alone now. Maybe that’s the joke, but much like the actual menopause joke this game actually makes through not-Madonna having an attack called “Hot Flash.” It’s not funny. This game doesn’t even provide chuckles. And that’s not even cracking into the potentially offensive stereotypes included in the game. Particularly, the game makes a number of juvenile jokes at the expense of the LGBT community. Considering it’s pride month at the time of writing, it’s a wonder what year the developers were living in when they created this game. Laughable length that overstays its welcome Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn joins the new trend of meme games that metaphorically hold the player at gunpoint, challenging them to beat the game in under two hours so they can get their chuckles at the meme, while not having to spend money on something so horrendous. This is due to Steam’s refund system giving refunds for games that are played for less than two hours. Much like Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back, the game is embarrassingly short for its price tag. I can’t even imagine how people who spent hundreds, maybe even thousands of dollars on the game during its Indiegogo campaign must feel. Considering that more content was promised for the base game (more playable characters, local multiplayer, more stages, etc), it feels even better to know that the developers will be releasing that promised content as DLC in the future. The biggest joke of it all, and possibly the best joke the game makes, is that the gameplay still manages to feel repetitive and overdone through just its abysmal runtime. By the end of the second level, the game has nothing new to offer. It has played all of its cards, it turned Shaq into a Shaq-tus and it showed all the different types of enemies that the player would fight. After all of that, the rest of the levels just felt like filler. To give a comparison, Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon was recently released for half the price and had a full experience that went above and beyond what was expected for that style of game. Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn doesn’t even deliver on the minimum expectations of a retro styled beat-em-up. Featured image from Nintendo Times
Disclaimer: This review is of the PC version and was conducted on a PC with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 960, i7, 8GBs of RAM.
By Tanner Kinney Disclaimer: This review is of the PC version and was conducted on a PC with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 960, i7, 8GBs of RAM. Castlevania is one of the original platformer franchises and a legend among fans of the genre. Yet Castlevania, along with its NES brother-in-arms Mega Man, was mishandled by the publisher for the longest time until eventually just getting put in cryostasis until someone could figure out what to do with it. While Capcom has decided to revive Mega Man in a big way with Mega Man 11, Konami has let their respective franchise fade to dust, with only a pachinko game being released under the Castlevania name. The producer behind Castlevania, Koji Igarashi, made a Kickstarter to launch their own spiritual successor to Castlevania, named Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. This isht similar to when Keiji Inafune swindled desperate Mega Man fans into funding a poorly managed rush-job called Mighty Number 9. Fortunately, if Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon (developed by IntiCreates, rather than Igarashi himself) is anything to judge by, the future is looking much brighter for fans of classic Castlevania. A true retro experience that’s beautifully stanky There are hundreds of games that attempt to copy the 8-bit aesthetic, and only about seven of them actually nail the feel of playing a classic NES game. Games like Shovel Knight look and feel like they could’ve belonged on the NES, despite having plenty of more modern advances that make the gameplay itself smooth as butter. Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon joins that latter category of games that nail the 8-bit aesthetic while not sacrificing how the game feels. When starting up the game, it’s almost scary how close it is to the original Castlevania. The influence is obvious almost immediately as the Simon Belmont stand-in, Zangetsu, starts his adventure outside a building with a few candles in his path. The design of the playable cast and the enemies the party faces is also lifted from classic Castlevania, with some minor design changes. The big difference comes in boss design. The bosses are very clearly an IntiCreates creation, similar to how they design bosses in their other retro platformers. These bosses are all just incredibly cool to watch, with impressive animations. All the animations are incredibly smooth and nostalgic, with only the bosses getting more frames of animation than what would be seen on a classic NES game. A particular favorite animation of mine is Gebel’s walk-cycle, which is loaded with a comical amount of swagger for an 8-bit sprite. The music is incredible, with a lot of really great chiptune jams that would fit right in with the original Castlevania. The instrumentation nails that Konami platformer sound, while remaining atmospheric and suited to the environment. I would say the music feels more Mega Man than Castlevania due to the more upbeat nature of the soundtrack, but it’s a welcome change. A particularly good song is the music that plays before fighting the final form of the final boss. It’s a short little jingle, but it does so well at hyping up the player to take down not-Dracula. Castlevania gameplay that is mostly a blessing, but sometimes a curse Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon plays like the original Castlevania trilogy on NES, though it shares the most similarities with Castlevania III. It’s a 2D platformer, where the raw platforming is less of an obstacle than the enemies blocking the path. The game won’t require any frame perfect jumps or leaps of faith, but it does take a lot of careful attention to not get knocked back into a pit. There are four playable character, and all of them play slightly differently. Zangetsu is somewhere between Simon Belmont and Ryu Hyabusa, Miriam plays closer to Castlevania IV Simon with a long range whip, Alfred is dead-weight, and Gebel is just Alucard from Castlevania III. The amount of characters adds a lot of variety, and surprisingly creates attachment between the player and the cast without any dialogue at all. Once again, just like the visuals and music, this game is old-school Castlevania. That includes the fun parts, like the variety of sub-weapons and branching paths that lead to different platforming challenges and sometimes even secrets to uncover. The attacks are also satisfying in their weight, particularly Miriam’s whip, though Gebel's dumb shadow attack is fun in it’s own way. The game also has the… "quirks" of Castlevania. To explain, one of the key traits of Castlevania platforming is the “unique” jumping. Unlike Mario, Mega Man, Kirby, Ninja Gaiden, Contra, or any other classic platformer, jumping in Castlevania is a commitment. And that’s no different in Bloodstained. The jump arc is decided the moment the jump button is pressed, and cannot be altered in the air. If the player isn’t careful, they could easily launch themselves into instant death before the enemies even get a chance to intervene. Heavy knockback also sticks around, with enemies being able to send the player flying back into traps, other enemies, and usually instant death. It’s something to adjust to and, while I’m personally not a fan of the Castlevania-style, Bloodstained puts in a lot of effort into making the game much fairer. The levels are much more fairly designed for the mechanics of the game, with few moments that match the worst parts of Castlevania. Only in a few spots does the game feel cheap by having enemies placed in a way that the player is almost guaranteed to get sent into a pit of death on their first try. It’s frustrating in certain levels, like one hallway in level five and most of the final level, but the punishment for death isn’t nearly as severe as it would be in the original Castlevania. Since Bloodstained has a cast of four characters, each has their own health bar—which makes each individual life actually more like four lives. This means that the platforming parts of the game are more manageable, and bosses can be taken down through the course of four full health bars if the player is paying attention. It’s actually a lot of fun switching between the characters to deal with platforming sections, even if most of my attempts would end in me desperately trying to rush the next checkpoint with Alfred, praying not to get insta-killed. It makes classic Castlevania more accessible and fun, which is a tremendous feat. Difficulty and length that exceed expectations The last part of Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon that completes its NES platformer style is the difficulty. Bloodstained is not an easy game. It will leave the player screaming in frustration, throwing things, and eventually finding satisfaction when the level is finished and the level complete jingle plays. There may have been a lot of effort to make the game more accessible for players who haven’t played the original Castlevania games, but it’s still not an easy game. For those who find the challenge too daunting, but love the style and beautifully simplistic story, there’s a “casual mode” that removes some of the more unfair quirks of the game. For veterans who blow through the game in under two hours, which I managed to barely do, there’s also a “nightmare” difficulty. I didn’t personally try it out, but I imagine it brings back more of the classic Castlevania quirks that the base game removed. Length is actually something Bloodstained handles really well. Generally, these retro style games are short when played casually, and able to be beaten in under two hours. The first playthrough of this game is definitely like that. However, a number of different endings, bonus difficulties, and challenge modes add additional playtime for those who really want to sink their teeth into a platformer like this. It also seems like it’ll be a great game for speedrunners. So, for fans of beating a game a quickly as humanly possible, there are a lot of options. And all of that is for a modest $10 price tag. For a game of this quality, that’s almost a steal. Featured image from IGN
The revival of Star Wars under Disney, led by producer Kathleen Kennedy, has been much more turbulent than expected. Despite the first two films, The Force Awakens and Rogue One, being overall solid action flicks, the two most recent films have left fans and critics at odds. The Last Jedi was a well-executed film that perhaps went too far in the direction of subverting expectations, which left critics content, but incited a rebellion among fans that has so far carried into the reception of their future products. The first of which is Solo: A Star Wars Story. Fortunately for Star Wars fans, Solo is a comfy blanket of nostalgia that doesn’t try to change too much of what they know. For anyone else, the film just blends too well into the crowd of run-of-the-mill action blockbusters to be worth noticing.
By Tanner Kinney The revival of Star Wars under Disney, led by producer Kathleen Kennedy, has been much more turbulent than expected. Despite the first two films, The Force Awakens and Rogue One, being overall solid action flicks, the two most recent films have left fans and critics at odds. The Last Jedi was a well-executed film that perhaps went too far in the direction of subverting expectations, which left critics content, but incited a rebellion among fans that has so far carried into the reception of their future products. The first of which is Solo: A Star Wars Story. Fortunately for Star Wars fans, Solo is a comfy blanket of nostalgia that doesn’t try to change too much of what they know. For anyone else, the film just blends too well into the crowd of run-of-the-mill action blockbusters to be worth noticing. An origin story with the personality of a plastic cup Solo: A Star Wars Story tells the tale of a young Han Solo, played by Some Guy™ (Alden Ehrenreich), who is involved in crime on a planet named after something from a throwaway line said during A New Hope. After almost escaping but getting separated from his love Qi’ra, played by Emilia Clarke, Han decides to join the Empire in an effort to become a pilot and rescue his love, despite their lack of chemistry, from their dead-end planet. After some hijinks, Han meets Chewbacca, and the two join a smuggler named Beckett, played by Woody Harrelson, who serves as Han’s father figure and mentor of sorts. Han is then launched on a heist greater than anticipated, and the only advice he has is to never trust anyone. The biggest problem with the story of Solo is that it does nothing to really make a general audience member care. People who aren’t already fans of Star Wars, or people who aren’t invested in the plastic cup of a character that is Han Solo get absolutely nothing out of the story. Scenes aren’t connected by anything more than hard cuts and the overall heist narrative. Due to the fact this is a prequel story to the original trilogy, there’s no real threat for the main duo of Han and Chewy. It became more of a guessing game to figure out which of the new characters would get killed in an attempt to create emotional impact for an audience that doesn’t really care. While it is structured well, it isn’t anything too special. The acting is pretty solid overall, though it’s very clear that Alden Ehrenreich is playing Harrison Ford playing Han Solo. Donald Glover puts in a good performance as Lando, and Emilia Clarke does her job sufficiently well. Woody Harrelson seems to phone in a couple of line reads, but it isn’t too much of a problem. The writing given to the characters in the film, however, is inconsistent. While Han and Chewy have pretty great chemistry and a few good moments, the rest of the cast of characters aren’t given much. Lando essentially appears as a glorified cameo, disappearing from the plot as fast as he entered it. Beckett and his relationship with the smuggler group Crimson Dawn seems interesting at first but is watered down to a simple good guy/bad guy dynamic. Even Han Solo himself shows no real growth over the course of the film, other than learning to shoot first. That’s it. That’s the character arc of Han Solo during his entire little origin story, and it amounts to a Star Wars reference. This is not even touching on the droid, named L3-37 (yes, like “LEET GAMER SPEAK”). Phoebe Waller-Bridge is given possibly the most poorly written character in the entire franchise (yes, including Jar Jar Binks), to the point where it almost seems like Disney is making a parody of her character archetype. L3 is a droid obsessed with “droid rights,” and that is her only defining character trait. On watching the film the first time, she’s relatively entertaining as a comic character, but it seems bizarre that Disney would make a character that mocks the whole “social justice warrior” character. Which then means L3 was written to be played completely straight, and that makes her character so hamfisted and cringey it’s laughable. Aside from one good scene with Emilia Clarke and L3, where L3 leaves a passing mention that she and Lando are getting it on, the character seems like a carry-over from a completely different movie. Perhaps she is, considering this film's production history. L3 is a good summary of the film itself: unnecessary. Great action ruined by terrible direction Solo had a number of cool action sequences. The spice mines of Kessel served as probably one of the coolest parts in the film, with the robot uprising providing a mood that actually got close to feeling like Star Wars. The final action sequence was also very minimal, which felt perfect for a small story like this one. Even the action sequences that seemed like they were part of a different film, like the car chase at the start or the train-heist that’s shown in the trailers were still entertaining enough for what they were. Sure, the music has to over-compensate for the more underwhelming action sequences, but it still provided a fun diversion from the dark-brown mush that is the rest of the film. For some reason, Solo is a very dimly lit film. It's like Zach Snyder directed it. The first planet, the non-action sequences on the train-heist planet, the mud planet where Han is stationed as an imperial soldier, and even parts of the Millenium Falcon seem like there was a lightbulb out on set, but they were already over budget so it couldn’t get fixed. There are some scenes that are more reasonably lit, mostly the action sequences that weren’t in the spice mines of Kessel, but the rest of the film just seems overly dark compared to the goofy tone of the film. Speculation is that these scenes were carried over from the first directors of Solo, but that just makes this film feel like two different films pulling in two different directions. Speaking of which, the pacing in this film is pretty terrible. There’s more than one action sequence in the film that hard cuts from blaring Star Wars music and fast-paced action to dead silence, complete with a wide shot of Han wherever he is at the time. It feels like someone choppily edited two different terrible films together, and the result is a Frankenstein’s Monster of a film that at least makes people smile at times. Despite the fact it jumps from one scene to the next with reckless abandon, the film also feels like it ends the third act three different times. Traditional film structure seems to have gotten lost somewhere along the line, possibly during the copious reshoots the film went through. An obsession with the past plagues Solo A problem Solo has, at least from the perspective of a general audience member with no connection to Star Wars, comes from its obsession with the past. A number of lines in the film exist to either be direct call-backs to the original trilogy, or explain things that didn’t need to be explained in the original trilogy. Some moments felt like the writers actually just did a Wookiepedia search on “Han Solo” and copy pasted moments word-for-word. Han Solo’s dice, how he got the Millenium Falcon, why he gave Chewbacca a nickname, why he uses a blaster, almost every part of Han Solo’s character is given an explanation. The only elements they missed were explaining where Han Solo got his boots, or the trademark red stripe down the side of his pants. This is all well and good for the Star Wars fans. After Rian Johnson brutally murdered what they loved in cold blood while telling them all their fan theories and extended universe fan fiction was absolute trash, they need a caring voice reminding them about the good old days. But The Last Jedi is infinitely more interesting as a film because of the risks it took in bringing Star Wars to a new place. Solo just brings it right back where it always was: a boring place where every little detail is explained. The only acceptable reference to old Star Wars is the confirmation of Chewy’s family as canon, meaning the entire Star Wars Holiday Special is canon. Lumpy is canon, and really, that’s all that matters. Image: We Got This Covered, IMDB
The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the opinion of Byte or Byte’s editorial board.
When the game series Shin Megami Tensei comes up, it generally raises eyebrows and gets confused looks. Despite being one of the tentpole JRPG franchises, the series has only recently started to gain a more significant following in the West, which is almost entirely attributed to the Persona spin-off series. And while the Persona games are definitely great, the mainline Shin Megami Tensei games are a unique experience that is hard to find in other games within the genre. The games tackle more mature themes and philosophies up-close and personal, rather than through the veil of a high school anime. Although the mainline has become more diluted by excessive anime in recent installments, they haven’t gone full Fire Emblem waifu simulator. Yet.
By Tanner Kinney The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the opinion of Byte or Byte’s editorial board. Stardew Valley is a game that I’ve been sitting on for a while now. I always thought it looked fun, but I also was one of the few people who never got absorbed into a game of its type before. I never ended up buying it, holding out for the multiplayer update. After all, games are more fun with friends and/or family, right? Which is why when the multiplayer beta for Stardew Valley dropped, I instantly purchased the game and jumped right into it. And, within the past two weeks I’ve spent 50 hours on the game. This game is, no joke, an addiction. A good kind of addiction, not the crippling kind like an addiction to Diet Coke or League of Legends. One day I booted up the game, played it for a few hours solo, then played a multiplayer server for a couple of hours, then went back to my solo farm after we were done with multiplayer. It’s got such an addicting gameplay loop that pulls you into another in-game day by design, making it incredibly hard to quit. I’ve just reached Year Two on my solo farm, and I’m still excited to go out every day to pet the ducks, milk the cows, fish excessively and give a worrying number of diamonds and melons to my waifu Penny.
By Tanner Kinney When the game series Shin Megami Tensei comes up, it generally raises eyebrows and gets confused looks. Despite being one of the tentpole JRPG franchises, the series has only recently started to gain a more significant following in the West, which is almost entirely attributed to the Persona spin-off series. And while the Persona games are definitely great, the mainline Shin Megami Tensei games are a unique experience that is hard to find in other games within the genre. The games tackle more mature themes and philosophies up-close and personal, rather than through the veil of a high school anime. Although the mainline has become more diluted by excessive anime in recent installments, they haven’t gone full Fire Emblem waifu simulator. Yet. So when it was announced that Atlus would be re-releasing one of the mainline titles, Strange Journey, onto a more modern console, I was pretty excited. The original is a very good game that could only be improved when stepping away from the limited Nintendo DS hardware. Unfortunately, Altus did what Atlus does best: re-use as many assets as possible. At the very least, they didn’t ruin an incredible title through their laziness this time. Humanity’s last hope Strange Journey is the story of a multinational military group who are sent to investigate a strange phenomenon: the Schwarzwelt. The Schwarzwelt is a large cloud that absorbs and destroys anything it comes into contact with, and grows with each passing day. Four ships, decked out in anti-Schwarzwelt technology are sent in to investigate. However, something goes horribly wrong, and the last operational ship, the Red Sprite, must attempt to escape their alternate dimensional prison. Throughout their exploration, demons and angels modeled after mythological beings will not only challenge the crew to battles of might, but also battles of mind and philosophy. Will the player choose to align themselves with the angels, the demons, or neither? The game throws a lot of heavy questions at the player, and ones that could be given plenty of thought. Thanks to the different paths in the game, the player can answer these questions honestly and get a decent role-playing experience from their role-playing game. The characters in the game, though many take a backseat to the core cast, are also surprisingly interesting. Thanks to the new character portraits added in Strange Journey Redux, they are given a little more characterization and are somewhat easier to connect with, though many aren’t fleshed out beyond a couple of minor character traits. The core cast, however, is likeable and creates some actual internal struggle for the player. There are times where, say, the player might personally agree with the rude but driven Jiminez, then decide for the sake of the mission to side with the skeptical but kind Zelenin. It’s hard to really discuss the game’s story without breaking into spoiler territory, but let it be known there’s a lot to take in. It has its low points and its slow points, of course, but the story serves its purpose incredibly well and serves as a great foundation for rest of the game. Oppressive atmosphere weakened by uninvited anime Strange Journey’s most defining feature is probably its complete control over the oppressive atmosphere. The Schwarzwelt is, at least, almost quite literally Hell on Earth, with each new sector the Red Sprite travels to providing a new dismal landscape, reflective of humanity’s own imperfections. The art design plays a huge role in this, with each sector crafted to not only provide some new locales for the player to move through, but also progress the underlying narrative. The design of the demons also ranges from intimidating to somewhat silly, although almost all of them are simply re-used from previous Shin Megami Tensei games. The only negative here comes from the fact that the port doesn’t look that much better than the DS original, which is a shame, since 3DS games are capable of looking much better than this. The soundtrack also plays a significant role in creating atmosphere for the game. The game primarily uses a bombastic orchestral soundtrack, with heavy brass and percussion. Those tracks help drive the player to pull themselves out of the idea that the mission is completely doomed, giving hope that success is still possible. The music for the different sectors contains a number of different styles. For example, Sector Antila has a very slow and intense backing track, while Sector Bootes is more lively and kind of jazzy, with plenty of saucy brass stings. The improvements made to the OST, thanks to the improved sound card of the Nintendo 3DS, make the experience that much greater, especially considering the OST is my personal favorite part of the game. Yet, this all applies to the original Strange Journey. The port does very little to change presentation, aside from adding character portraits for the crew of the Red Sprite and adding a couple new character that are disgustingly anime. The best part about the original Strange Journey for me is that all the characters are more realistically styled, making the demon world of the Schwarzwelt that much more alien. In the remake, many of the new portraits for female crew members make them look incredibly young, with Chen looking like a Girl Scout when compared to her partner Irving. When the game first throws the player into the new content the remake provides, complete with an anime-fairy-princess looking Demeter, my eyes rolled so far back into my head I could see my brain cells dissolving. It might not bother a lot of people, but in my opinion, the port didn’t really do much to make the game better. Despite that, the presentation as a whole is still pretty fantastic and the disgusting anime bits can be mostly ignored. A solid combat system, but lacking in thrills The gameplay of Strange Journey is probably the part of the game that, at least in the original, acted as the biggest roadblock for someone just getting into the series. Strange Journey returns to the first-person dungeon-crawler roots of the series, with the player tasked to explore the Schwarzwelt, which turns out to be a gridlocked series of corridors that are maze-like in their structure. The player will deal with puzzles, trap tiles, and irritating water slides that only sometimes send you back to the start of the dungeon. The dungeon-crawling is perfectly fine, but doesn’t really add much to the game aside from atmosphere. When compared to the more fleshed out dungeon crawling in something like the Etrian Odyssey games – with a map that the player can draw on and take physical notes – Strange Journey’s map isn’t as interesting. Even though the dungeon crawling doesn’t do much for me, it’s still exciting to traverse the different locales as you try to escape the Schwarzwelt. Actual combat in Strange Journey does not have the “press-turn” system of other mainline Shin Megami Tensei titles, or even the “once more” system of Persona 3 and onward. Instead, Strange Journey uses a combat system similar to older Shin Megami Tensei games, with some added fun. The player and all the demons are assigned an alignment: law, neutral, or chaos. If the player hits a weakness of the enemy, every demon that shares the alignment of the attacker will perform a “Demon Co-op” attack, dealing additional damage to the enemy. It’s relatively simple, and more strategic than the average JRPG, but is nowhere near as strategically engaging as the press-turn system. The game is still fun and provides a lot of options to dismantle foes. The difficulty curve is also a little gentler than other Shin Megami Tensei titles, which is only a bad thing for masochists like I. The combat is still fun and engaging in its own right. The major boss fights becoming pretty intense at times, but it’s not a surprise that the game is sometimes referred to as “Sleep Journey.” The additions made by the port only really serve to make the game easier. A number of “sub-apps” were added that remove some of the features of the game that some might call “unfair.” The ability to field save is very convenient, although it does remove some of the thrill of losing hours of progress to an ambush from a powerful enemy. There’s also a whole new dungeon to explore, adding some additional gameplay for those who played the original. Yet, there’s not a whole lot else that would really draw people who played the original to buy the remake, unless that extra bit of dungeon content is worth the cost. Featured Image from NintendoBlast
Disclaimer: This review is of the PC version and was conducted on a PC with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 960, i7, 8GBs of RAM.