Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Wishlist: Injustice 2

I recently purchased the Ultimate Edition of Injustice Gods Among Us for PS4, and with information coming in on Mortal Kombat X, I have a list of things I would like to see in the next installment of the game.  So lets get started.

1) Character Variants

Perhaps the most interesting addition to Mortal Kombat, this is a clever way to expand the raster while catering to individual play styles.  This would be useful because many of the characters in Injustice have a personal ability that changes the play style anyway, this just opens new opportunities.  Another advantage to this is that the game takes place in 2 separate universes, so therefore it makes sense for them to play a little differently from one another in the story mode.

2) Incorporate Elements From The Mobile Version

It's not often that a mobile port has anything to offer to it's console counterpart, but in this case there are exceptions.  One such element I would like to see is costume abilities; every costume has an ability that is unique to is.  For example one Doomsday costume could get stronger every time he loses a health bar, while another one resurrects himself to add more health.  This makes the skins feel like alternate universe versions of each other rather than a simple wardrobe change.  Anther thing I like is team battles.  Like Kick-Ass said; after heroes show up the, the next logical step is teams.  Next I want to see character levels; this could help balance online play as well as add a new layer of competition between friends.  Then there's the Gear system; adding items to a character to modify how they play.  Lastly I want to see multiple levels of super moves.  This would add a new layer of strategy, do you blow your super meter on weaker moves that can be used more often, or save it for a devastating finishing move?

3) Replacement Characters

To start this point I want to say spoiler alert.  Anyway for those who played the first Injustice;s story mode you know not everyone makes it out alive.  Shazam gone there needs to be a new champion of magic, With Wonder Woman dethroned there needs to be a new maiden of might and so on.  This was sorta explored with Damian replacing Dick as Nightwing after his death.  So why not expand this a bit; let Bruce retire, Roy take up the bow, or Cassie become Wonder Woman.  Conversely how about have old heroes characters become new heroes, something the arcade mode alluded to.  Examples might be Barry, Hal, and Harley seeking redemption by shedding their tainted mantles.  All of this would simply be cosmetic in standard play, but in story mode could make the characters all the more interesting.

4) More Diverse Roster (AKA Less Batman)

The one thing I disliked about Injustice is the overabundance of Batman characters.  In a game based on everyone choosing sides and waging war, why does Aquaman get no villains yet Batman gets 6 plus 2 sidekicks?  This is made worse by the fact 1 is DLC, and most of the villains contribute nothing to the story.  Ideally we would just see more characters added, but this might not be possible so removing the non essentials may be best ( here's looking at you Grundy and Bane).

5) Powerful Super Baddie

What made the threat in Injustice do great is that Superman is in fact more powerful than the other heroes.  Now with him behind bars, a new villain needs to take his place.  The obvious choice would be Darkseid, but perhaps a less obvious choice could also work, maybe another hero snaps, or an obscure villain becomes exponentially more powerful (maybe Atrocitus takes advantage of the Lantern imbalance and seizes power).  

Characters Wishlist

In a perfect world, we would see the roster simply expand, but that can't always be the case so here is the list of everyone I want to see in the future, obviously DC's trinity is a must so I won't include them.

1) Red Hood

My personal favorite Robin, yes I did say I wanted less Batman characters, but Jason could replace Deathstroke as the weapons fighter thus swapping one bat character for another.  Another route is with Joker dead, Jason becomes a less violent person in the Regime universe. 

2) Constantine

With a television series on the way, Constantine is on track to become a popular character in the future.  Not only that but his magic affinity sets him up perfectly to become the new champion of Magic...an unwilling one.  Plus imagine the fun play variants that you could get with this guy.

3) Parasite

One fighting game character type common with multiple games is the mimic, the character that makes each round a random selection.  Parasite is the perfect candidate to pull this off as his power involves leeching the powers of others.  What could separate him from simply choosing random (besides incorporating a level, gear, and personal ability) would be giving him variants that modified him slightly, one could make his combos all a grab bag, or maybe choosing between strength and tech types in regards to environmental objects.

4) Brainiac

Another member of Superman's rogues gallery, and my personal favorite DC villain.  Brainiac can match Superman as a fighter while his intellect could make could make for interesting play styles.  Not only that but his technology could make for some great combos.

5) Atrocitus

A character that is relatively unknown to the general public, Atrocitus can replace a heavy hitter like Bane as well as take the role of a Lantern.  Thus we already have a brawler and a skillful variant ideas for this guy to accommodate players.  Also as a bonus skin we could get Razor from the Green Lantern animated series.

Everyone else I want were already in the first game, so I won't list them.  Although there are some interesting skins I think would be cool; perhaps the insurgent Harley Quinn becomes the new Nightwing/Robin/Batgirl, Red Arrow, Green Lantern Aya (not sure how to work her into the story), Tim Drake, Kyle Raynor, Eradicator...It's an easy way to increase the roster and introduce players to new characters.

Do you agree, disagree, or have an idea for what you want to see?  Feel free to leave a comment below.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Video Game Review: Transformers Rise of the Dark Spark

Transformers Rise of the Dark Spark is the newest installment of what I like to call the Cybertron franchise (because the previous games had Cybertron in the title).  Almost as soon as this game was announced I became skeptical; from the new studio taking control, and especially after it became clear it was being marketed as a film tie-in rather than a sequel to one of my favorite games.  But when it came out I gave it the benefit of the doubt after I learned it was a true Cybertron game, and given that some of my other favorite franchises have been handed over to new developers with relative success, I decided to give this one a try.

The Good

First and foremost the game plays like the previous Cybertron games, which is a huge deal because it could have gone a totally different way.  Another plus is the fact that the game has the sense to separate the story we know and love from the Bayformers series that is a huge part of the marketing.  Like most, I find the Bayformers to be a huge disappointment to the franchise.  However, I actually find the designs of the robots to be rather interesting, especially in the newest film.  Also Thanks to Michael Bay's excessive use of stereotypes the Transformers all get rather distinctive personalities...but that has nothing to do with the game, except it means that you can use the characters from the movie that were included such as Drift, Bumblebee, and Optimus.  I am also fan of the changes made to escalation mode; over 40 playable characters to choose from, customizable loadout, and a wide array of defenses you can use to help you survive the hoards.  On top of that the weapons upgrades and experience points carry over between game modes.

The Bad

Because the game was handed off to a new studio, there are things that inevitably suffer as they get into the swing of things.  Sadly the plot was one such casualty, I'm not saying it was bad... but it wasn't great either, just sort of filler between the other two games.  Another problem is the removal of competitive multiplayer.  Back when War For Cybertron came out I was very skeptical that it would be any good, but then I tried out the multiplayer demo and it instantly won me over.  Then in Fall of Cybertron they gave us the option to create our own transformers.  So why would they think removing this feature was a good idea?  Another issue, which is more of a nit-pick, is that when selecting your character you cannot look at a the alternate forms or see what class the character is, which would be useful.  Also for a game that is marketed as a tie in with the movies and the main Cybertron series, it's odd there is only 4 movie characters playable, I was kinda disappointed I couldn't be the lovable Hound.

The Ugly

Lets start with the graphics, yes they look like they did before, but this is years later so we should get something better, especially when a game is available on the new consoles.  In fact I ended up getting the game on the 360 because there was no difference between the versions.  The movie story is also very sloppy, it is meant to take place after Age of Extinction, but a character who is very much dead by the end is clearly alive in the game.  Also in the Cybertron half of the games you play as a very wide array of characters, but the movie levels only let you play as Drift, Bumblebee, Optimus, and a very disappointing Grimmlock section.  This gives the feeling that the developers wanted to make one game, but were forced to shoe-horn in another game because the movie tie-in wasn't finished on time.

The Verdict

All in all I feel this game is a decent first attempt, but other studios have taken over franchises more effectively.  There is some good, some bad, but it all feels like the Cybertron series still.  However at the end of the day I was kinda hoping for more, so if you plan to get it then wait for the inevitable price drop and get it on a last-gen console to save even more money.  I give this game a solid B, it's fun but feels like more effort could have been made.

What I want in the Future

I see this series going one of two routes, either embrace the multiverse angle (which I hope won't be the case), or just continue the story after Fall of Cybertron and bring the war to Earth.  I also want a return of character creation, that could be expanded using the vast cast of already established characters, weapons, and abilities.  What I really want to see is the Reach route, create a single character for story and multiplayer, have a Decepticon and Autobot campaign and the player takes the role of a recruit in the war who rises through the ranks.  I would also like subclasses; as of now there are four classes: Tank, Car, Van, and Jet (I know these aren't the real names, but for the sake of argument go with it).  Now imagine using a Tank in a support capacity, taking a beating while healing his teammates; or a jet more tailored for combat with less speed but more armor.  Gamers have more than 4 playstyles, developers need to learn that and use it.  Overall I just want to see more, we are in a new era of gaming, one where games can have 40 ending (Dragon Age Inquisition), Cars can be bigger than the entirety of last-gen games (Arkham Knight), and graphics can look almost live-action.  Thus I don't think it is too much to ask that a PS4/XBox One Transformers game be unlike anything we've seen before.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Television Reviews: 2014 Finales

I thought about doing something new, today I am going to go over the television series of past season.  Yes I understand that there are some shows still going as well as some that just started, or are about to start for the summer.  For the purpose of this post I am going to be looking at the shows that started in the fall or were mid-season replacements, and rather than go over everything I am only going over what stuck out; good or bad.  Obviously this is all spoiler heavy and opinion based, and I can only discuss shows that I watched this year.  So if something you watched didn't make the list don't despair, just leave a comment below.  With that introduction out of the way, lets get on with it shall we.

About A Boy (Season 1)

This is one of two Sitcoms that made the list, well, other than How I Met Your Mother, which I went over earlier.  About A Boy is a new series that really surprised me, I watched the first few episodes expecting it to be just a regular sitcom; instead we got very likable characters, sophisticated as well as juvenile humor, and a two part finale that managed to bring a tear to my eye.  The plot to the finale is that the main character, Will, has decided to follow his girlfriend Dr. Sam across the country.  Over the course of 20 minutes we see Will tell all of his friends except one, the child next door named Marcus who has come to form a father/son type bond with Will.  Before Will can break the new to Marcus, a prospective renter does it for him causing the inevitable emotional response.  This episode took an unexpected turn into the dramatic, and unlike most Sitcoms it manages to handle it well.  In fact I'll go so far as to compare it to the Fraiser episode where his younger brother has a heart attack and may end up dying.  This finale was especially emotional because just about everyone reading this has probably had a friend or mentor move away, or maybe you yourself moved, so it was something that everyone could relate to.  I for one look forward to what this show has to offer.

Sirens (Season 1)

The other Sitcom that made the list.  Sirens is a new Show from Dennis Leary (Rescue Me) about a group of EMTs as they go about their daily lives.  For those familiar with Dennis Leary's other television shows, you know what to expect here; lots of crude jokes and physical comedy with realistic characters (almost always emergency responders), and very little exposure to the character's occupations, other than to provide material for jokes.  What's interesting about this series is that unlike Leary's other shows, he is not the main character...in fact he hasn't even shown up in the series.  For the finale the best way to describe it is that it   makes fun of other shows' season finales.  The plot is that the main character, Johnny, has decided to get married to his girlfriend Theresa in a small private ceremony.  But through a series of hilarious events wedding ends up not happening.  I say this makes fun of other sitcoms because they all end seasons the same way; you get a teaser saying everything will change, but when the show comes back in the fall nothing is any different.  For example: The Big Bang Theory tends to end the show with characters going on potentially life changing journeys that conveniently last just long enough to last during the summer hiatus, then by episode 2 we all forget they even happened.  Personally I really hope this show gets picked up for another season, but if not I can deal with it.

Grimm (Season 3)

I personally love Grimm, the show is clever and well written, but it always makes a very big, and oddly common mistake; it ends on a cliffhanger.  Don't get me wrong cliffhangers can work really well, however the big problem with doing it as a season finale is that there is not always a guarantee a show will get renewed.  For example the series Almost Human, another great show, was cancelled after one season but left a lot of plot threads unresolved.  Another issue is that after being off the air for a few months, I often need to go back and rewatch the finale because I can't remember what needs to be resolved.  In the season 3 finale the hero, Nick, is stripped of his powers by another character with a spell.  The way I look at these types of series is simple, each season is an ark... there is a major conflict they deal with and some sub plots along the way.  When a show decided to do a cliffhanger finale, they end up wasting an episode or two the next season cleaning everything up.

The Blacklist (Season 1)

The Blacklist is an anomaly with among television series, the finale is what I consider perfect.  In  the first season Raymond Reddington turns himself in to the FBI and cuts a deal by handing them criminals from his "blacklist" that are so underground, nobody is looking for them.  As the season progressed we learn of a "big bad" that is after Raymond as well as the lives of the various characters.  In the finale this isn't necessarily wrapped up, but all the major plot points are.  Rather than end on a cliffhanger, we get a wrap-up and then a plot point that makes things clear as well as raise questions.  But if the series were to be cancelled after a finale like this, we aren't left to wonder about what happened to the characters because everything is resolved.

Arrow (Season 2)

Arrow was last years surprise for me.  My entire life I hated the Green Arrow, he was always a poor substitute for Batman who wanted to be Batman.  In Arrow however everything about the character is changed, right down to his origin story.  The result was the best interpretation of the character and the best DC television series that isn't animated.  Throughout the series we get to see other characters from DC comics that are also changed to fit into the more realistic universe, often improving on them as well.  In fact the only one I didn't like was Amanda Waller, but most of that hate stems from the Not-So-New 52 change of making her attractive (I'll get into that in a later post).  The season 2 Finale ends up being 3 parts and has the Heroes facing off with Deathstroke and his army of super soldiers before Amanda Waller blows the city off the map.  We end up with the "Big Bad" style ending that I enjoy with the hero dealing with a villain that defines the season, in this case the amazing Deathstroke.  Unlike other shows that use the Big Bad format Deathstroke is faster, stronger, more experienced, better trained, and better prepared than The Arrow.  This forces him to turn to others for help and eventually outsmart Deathstroke.  The series wraps-up the plot and then leaves a few plot hints for next season much like The Blacklist.  However in the final scene it decides to do go the cliffhanger route and cheapen the experience.

Hannibal (Season 2)

The last series I want to talk about is Hannibal.  This season finale left me with one thought: What...The...F*(#.  In my honest opinion I feel this show would probably be better if they just removed the connection to the Hannibal film and book series, I can't help but make connections.  On it's own merit however the the show is fantastic and keeps you engaged the whole time you watch it.  The finale gave us the culmination of Will and Jack's plan to catch Hannibal, but it all goes horribly wrong.  By the end of the episode everyone is either dead or dying, except Hannibal who is on a plane out of the country.  Ironically despite my hatred of cliffhangers, this one did very well by me for one reason, the narrative ended.  Despite having all of the main characters bleeding to death with their fates unknown, the show still manages to give a warped sense of closure when Hannibal flies away.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Spider-Man: Raimi Vs Webb

This week I did something I haven't done before, I watched both the original Spider-Man franchise and the Amazing Spider-Man movies (including the new one).  So today I am going to tear them apart to determine which of the two franchises is the definitive Spider-Man.  Because the movies are so different I'm going to compare the similar elements first, starting with the characters.

The Family

Everyone knows Spider-Man was raised by his aunt and uncle, and in the movies they are portrayed very differently.  In Raimi's original trilogy May and Ben Parker are much older, personally I preferred the younger version that Webb chose.  Sure the late Cliff Robertson and Rosemary Harris were a more accurate portrayal, and far better used than Martin Sheen and Sally Fields are in Webb's series.  This is a difficult decision for me because I am such a fan of Sheen's other work.  However if I had to choose based solely on their performances in the films...I'm gonna have to give it to the original.  Despite their age they are just given a lot more to work with, which results in a far better set of characters.

The Thief

This one is a far easier choice to make.  In Sam Raimi's Spider-Man the thief is seen robbing the wrestling promoter, presumably taking thousands, after the promoter refused to pay Peter $3000, Peter lets him go.  This results in the death of his Uncle in a carjacking gone wrong, and a fairly emotional confrontation a few minutes later.  In Webb's Amazing Spider-Man however, Peter lets the thief get away after being denied chocolate milk from a convenience store, and uncle Ben is then killed trying to stop him.  This leads to Peter searching for the man, who apparently looks like every other criminal in New York, and confronting the look alikes one by one all while being a smart-ass, cheapening the whole ordeal.  So for this I obviously have to go with the original.

The Love Interest

For this one I can't directly compare Gwen Stacys, because that would be unfair to Bryce Dallas Howard who only got a few minutes of screen time.  So instead I'll compare Kirsten Dunst's Mary Jane Watson and Emma Stone's Gwen Stacy.  In Raimi's movies Peter and MJ have a...complicated relationship.  Personally I feel Raimi's handles the idea of a civilian vs superhero identities a lot better.  Peter knows that he can't be with MJ and still keep his secret in tact, this works for the first two movies.  However the third movie doesn't have this barrier and their being apart is just for the sake of keeping the character consistent.  In The Amazing Spider-Man however, Gwen learns almost immediately that Peter is Spider-Man.  This leads to an entirely different relationship, one that is far more supportive and actually makes the characters better.  Of course both actresses are really just playing the same roles they always play, and Emma Stone is just more charming.  So I give this one to Gwen Stacy.

Flash Thompson

Honestly, both franchises horribly misuse this guy.  Flash is Peter's high school bully as well as Spider-Man's #1 fan, and in the comics he goes on to become his friend, joins the army, loses his legs, becomes an alcoholic, sobers up, and becomes Venom.  In the Raimi films we get maybe two scenes where Flash picks on Peter, and the incredible hallway fight scene where Peter fights back.  In Webb's movies we get a scene where he picks on someone else and gets angry when Peter calls him on it, a scene where he loses at basketball to Peter, a scene where he tries to offer support to Peter after Ben dies, and one last scene where he is shown in a Spider-Man shirt.  In essence Webb's version is the jock we all knew in high school, not a jerk, just full of himself.  It's this more humanized take that Webb does that ends up being the better interpretation, and therefore the winner in my opinion.

Green Goblin

Comparing all the villains would be like  comparing apples to broccoli, they're just all so different.  So instead I'll do the common enemy; The Green Goblin.  Raimi's Goblin is portrayed by Willem Dafoe, and my God what perfect casting.  Dafoe is terrifying, going from calm to crazy banana-pants at the drop of a hat.  Raimi's version also has a Jekyll and Hyde feel as the Osborn and the Goblin are separate entities.  The only problem with this version is the suit, it just looks ridiculous, especially when compared to this anamatronic mask they were testing for the film.
As for The Amazing Spider-Man franchise (MAJOR spoiler warning for those who haven't seen The Amazing Spider-Man 2 yet), Norman is not the Green Goblin, instead it is his son Harry.  In the film Harry is Peter's childhood friend who has been away at boarding school for years, only returning to the city because his father is dying of a degenerative disease that turns his skin green, and by the way it's genetic.  So throughout the movie Harry is trying to find a cure for his Green Goblinitis that involves Spider-Man's blood.  But when he finally gets it the blood not only cures him, but turns him into the Green Goblin for a whole 5 minutes.  Honestly this was probably one of the bigger slaps in the face Webb's films gives us.  It's clear the Goblin is only in this movie to set up the Sinister Six film that's in the works, although Rhino is handled even worse.  Though to the movie's credit Dane Dahaan does really well with what little he is given.  As for the suit, personally I feel it's really dumb, but arguments have been made for it being better than Dafoe's.  This comparison ends up being a bit unfair in the end simply because of how high the bar was set with Dafoe, and how lazy Webb's attempt came off as being, the better Goblin is Dafoe.

Spider-Man

And now for the topic you all came to see, which Spider-Man do I feel is better.  First a bit of background.  When the original Spider-Man movie was being cast over 10 years ago, even the studio thought Tobey Maguire was a bad choice because he wasn't the action star they wanted.  However Raimi wasn't looking for an action star, he wanted Peter Parker...and he got him.  When it comes to Superheroes and villains I feel movies need to stick with a simple rule, cast the secret identity, not the hero.  Think about it; the costume is going to be worn by a stunt man most of the film anyway, so whats it matter if the actor can bench a truck.  Maguire however did end up bulking up considerably for the movie, and thanks to baggy clothing he managed to maintain the illusion that they were very different people.  This version of Peter is more emotional than Garfield's and the way they are both played are very different.  Andrew Garfield plays Spider-Man as a smart-ass hipster.  He does the quips we all wanted from Maguire but never really got, and his body type is more what we expected as well, the lanky, more spider-like look.  However where Maguire was the perfect Peter Parker, Garfield is a more more accurate Spider-Man.  Garfield's Peter is an entirely different story, he's obnoxious, he seems cooler than he should be, and despite appearing smarter than Maguire's version, he ends up being all show with his gadgets whereas Maguire was actually intelligent.  If you look at the fights in these movies Garfield is constantly being told how to win by Gwen, but Maguire improvises,  examples being removing his mask to appeal to Octavious, or creating an acoustic enclosure to bring down Venom.  As for the suit, both The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Raimi's suits are equally impressive, seriously well done costume people, these are fantastic.  So the ultimate decision ends up being one of personal preference here, and personally I just prefer Tobey Maguire's take on the character.
As a last minute bonus, check out these images I found on the internet of the unused Black suit and Venom.
Seriously, between these, the Spider suit, and the unused Goblin Mask Raimi proved that it is possible to have comic accurate costumes that don't look stupid on film.



Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Editorial: Creating The Ultimate Superhero Game

Well it's that time of year again, blockbuster season.  Yes that magical time of year where Hollywood starts cranking out one big budget movie after another in hopes to take our money, I mean entertain us.  And inevitably there will be Superhero movies as well, in fact there already has been a few already.  But with all these fantastic movie choices it seems odd that when it comes to Superhero games you are stuck with either Batman or Spider-Man.  Sure there are the occasional alternatives like Infamous, the surprisingly good Wolverine game, and Injustice.  But There is yet to be that definitive game when it comes to superheroes.  So today I'm going to lay out some aspects gathered from some of my favorite superhero games, and how to combine them into the ultimate experience.

Sandbox

First and foremost we need a sandbox environment.  Luckily most developers have already figured this out by now, if you're gonna give us powers, let us play around with them.  For those who don't know, a sandbox game is one where you are given an open world where you can explore and do missions rather than forced to do levels one after the other.  Although I would love to have a new location, perhaps an entirely new location...that isn't a dark run-down city.

Multiple Powers

For a licensed superhero game this isn't a necessity.  But for a hypothetical "ultimate" superhero experience why not.  This has been seen seen before, from MMOs, to Infamous, to even the Lego games.  Basically what I'd like to see is a game that lets you choose your powerset, then unleash it on your enemies.  Maybe even make a boss immune to each power option so that players will be forced to fight smart, or better yet...

Multiplayer

The staple of of the modern videogame, mutiplayer turns even the most boring game into an afternoon of awesome.  Obviously I'm not after an MMO here, in fact what I have in mind is more along the lines of the Fable series, where each player has their own unique character and can unlock stuff, but only player 1's game is affected.  Call it a Team-Up, or sidekick mode, plus with the above idea of a boss that is immune to each power, a second character would be perfect.  Or maybe even expand this to 4, or even 8 players to create a super team of your very own.

Different Playstyles

This is the first item on the list I haven't really seen in a game, and admittedly it may be asking too much, however this is a hypothetical game so whatever.  Anyway in the game Infamous Second Son the hero can gain 4 different powers, however they all play essentially the same.  What I'd like to see is different controls for each power.  Imagine a game that let you choose Spider-Man, Batman, or Delsin; all of which played exactly like their respective games, in fact all those games have the same basic level design so in theory it would all mesh really well.  Plus it adds more depth to character creation.

Character Creation

Kind of a no brainer at this point in gaming, even Arkham and Spider-Man have alternate costume options.  But for a game where you create your own superhero character creation is a must.  Thus allowing those who want to wear tights and capes to do so, or players can opt for a more modern look, or even go without a costume if they feel so inclined.

Moral choices

Something Bioware has perfected, making choices that affect the game's outcome.  There are the obvious "should I kill this person" decisions, but what if you had to also make a choice between saving a love interest or a bus full of kids, real hard choices that define people.  Thus players can play the Boy scout, the psychopath, or anything in between.

Secret Bases

The last thing needed for the ultimate superhero game would be a lair for the player to hang out, store trophies, and change their appearance.  Or even take it one step further, use in game currency to order things like weapons, costume pieces, vehicles, or decoration and have them delivered to the player's base.

Anyway, this is what I would love to see in a definitive Superhero experience, have any ideas of your own?  Feel free to leave a comment below.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Television Review: How I Met Your Mother

It's been a while since I reviewed an entire television series.  This week one of my favorite shows of all time ended, and there were some good times as well as bad times that I'm going to go over here.  Needless to say this particular review will be full of spoilers.

In a nutshell the series is about a man named Ted Mosby telling his kids how he and their mother met...over the course of nine years.  The series focuses on Ted and his friends; Barney Stinson the womanizer, Ted's best friend Marshall Eriksen, Marshall's girlfriend and later wife Lily Aldren, and Ted's former love interest Robin Scherbatsky.

Ted's story begins when Ted decides to stop dating and settle down with "the one".  The first episode has you believe Ted will end up with Robin, until his kids interrupt the story out of shock.  As the series continues we follow the gang through their lives and major milestones.  For example in the early seasons Marshall and Lily date, break up, get back together, and eventually get married.  All throughout the series everyone's careers also progress in a natural way rather than the exaggerated 
trajectories we usually see on television.  For example Robin moves to New York to be a newscaster, she starts off as the late night field reporter, then gets a job on an early morning talk show, then moves to a national news team, and eventually she becomes the number one newscaster in the country.

As the series goes on we see a large, possibly inappropriate number of women Ted dated before the titular mother, I say inappropriate because he is telling his children about all the women he slept with before their mom.  Some of these women we are led to believe Ted will end up with, particularly Stella.  Stella not only lasted the longest, besides Robin, but they were even engaged until she left him at the alter.

One of the biggest things I liked about this series was how jokes often came back.  For example their is a joke where Ted tells his kids how he got his dates mixed up once and as he's explaining the event happened later on, he bursts into the bar in a dress proclaiming "Now we're even".  Two seasons later we finally learn what he was talking about, and why he was in the dress in the first place.  Another ongoing joke was Barney's job.  For the first 8 seasons Barney made ridiculous amounts of money and when anyone asked what he did he would answer simply "please".  Then in the final season we learn his job is to sign forms without looking at them, which is highly illegal, but it's okay because it was all part of a long revenge plot and Barney was actually a whistle blower.  Other notable recurring jokes include; the dopplegangers, Robin Sparkles, and my personal favorite: Barney's history lessons.

Another thing this show did really well was the tone.  Unlike most television comedies, were everything is funny, always works out, and even the bad times are hilarious.  How I Met Your Mother manages to balance comedy and drama flawlessly, making us laugh as well as cry.  The ending is the best example here, but I want to cover it separately later.  Another example is the episode "How I Met Your Father", in this episode after a pregnancy scare Robin is telling her future children how she and their father got together.  The episode is full of jokes but ends with a very sad note, Robin cannot have kids, and the future children don't exist.

Now for a negative of the show, Bob Sagat.  Personally I have nothing against Bob Sagat, however he plays the voice of future Ted, a character who is seen a few times throughout the series, however whenever future Ted makes a screen appearance he is always plays and voiced by Josh Radnor.  Basically it's an inconsistency that always bugged me.

The Final Episode

If you have ignored my earlier warning about spoilers, this is your last warning, I am going into detail on the series' final episode so if you haven't seen it; avoid this section like the kid on the playground  with lice.

The final episode covers multiple decades.  Ted meets his wife in the first ten minutes of the episode and decides to stay in New York.  After that we get to see what happens to the gang between when they meet and when Ted starts the story.  Three years later Barney and Robin get divorced, forever altering the gang.  Robin leaves after the realization that her friends are all moving on in their lives, and nobody sees her again for more than a few minutes every few years.  Ted, who starts the series obsessed with getting married, lives with the mother of his children for years before finally tying the knot.  After a year in Italy Marshall goes back to corporate law, something he hates, until he gets the opportunity to be a judge again, eventually even becoming a state supreme court judge.  Barney finally reforms after having his own child with a one night stand.

Overall the series finale was perfect...until the last 2-4 minutes.  Personally I was fine with the mother's death, sure it was really sad, but it gave Ted a reason to tell the story.  What I had the problem with is everything after the story ended.  Turns out Ted never got over Robin, and the whole story was his way of asking his kids if they were okay with him dating her.  After 9 years of amazing television, and not a single bad episode, it's understandable that the series makes a mistake.  But the very end of the series was like watching your team play the perfect game, only to have the other team score at the buzzer.  Sure it doesn't matter and your team still wins, but it changes how you feel about the game.

In the end How I Met Your Mother is my favorite sitcom to date, and considering I grew up on shows like Friends, Fraiser, Everybody Loves Raymond, and King of Queens this is quite the statement.  Now that it's over there is a huge hole in my life, but at least I got the closure I needed out of the finale.  I give the show a solid A

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Comic Review: Superman Birthright

I've been meaning to read this story for years, and I finally got around to it last night.  In a nutshell Superman Birthright is a modern retelling of Superman's origin story, something that has since been done a lot.  At the time the mini series was meant to be a non-canon story, but was so well received it replaced the already established Superman origin story.  It was written by the Mark Waid, the man behind Kingdom Come and the current Daredevil series.  The art was done by Leinil Yu, who was also the artist of Mark Millar's incredible Superior series.

The Good

This mini-series did a lot of this well, one of the biggest highlights being that they explained the disguise, really well in fact.  Clark refused to use a mask, so his mother came up with the idea for him to wear layers to hide his muscles, bad posture and acting to seem mild mannered, keeping his hair well groomed because flying would mess it up, and very thick, strong prescription glasses to dull his otherworldly eye color.

The next strong point was Lex Luthor, everything about him was perfect.  In this story Lex is a genius in the field of...well everything really.  his origin is that he lived in Smallville, and was an outcast until an accident left him an orphan as well as bald.  After that he started his company in Metropolis, and created truly amazing technology by looking at planets and hypothesizing how something could survive on them.  His hatred of Superman is based on his obsession with alien life, and when he finally makes contact, he is treated as a lesser being.  So he decided to put together an elaborate plan to discredit Superman and eventually kill him as an alien invader.

Superman's power set was slightly altered for this mini-series as well, making him powered by multiple sources; the yellow sun charges him, but the powers themselves stem from the differences between Earth and Krypton's environment.  Basically everything about this mini-series is brilliantly written, well, almost everything.

The Bad

I have a few complaints about this series, interestingly enough it was basically everything I didn't like about Man of Steel.  The "S" shield, something that went from being a simple letter, to the El family crest, but in this series it was made into the Kryptonian symbol for hope, something I found kinda dumb, but not the biggest problem.

My biggest complaint with this series was how Pa Kent acted in the early issues.  Like the Man of Steel film, Pa Kent is responsible for for Clark hiding his powers.  And in the early issues he was very disproving of the idea of Superman, even to the point where he tried to destroy Clark's rocket to stop him.  He eventually turns into the Pa Kent we all recognize, but the whole point of Pa Kent is he helps Clark become Superman.  

The series was a bit slow in the early issues, but by part 4 the pacing got better and I ended up staying up until 3 AM because I couldn't stop reading.  But the early 3 issues were kinda disappointing, I felt like it was just an average storyline and didn't see why it was so well received.

The Verdict

The series was overall great, but it does suffer from the usual origin story problems, and this one in particular suffers a little more because it is such a well established character.  But the series proves itself thanks to the brilliant creative team of Waid and Yu.  Thus I give this mini-series an A-.