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Dragon Ball Super Episode 101 Review

Warning: The following review contains spoilers for the episode.

The Tournament of Power is drawing ever closer to completion, which causes Universe 11 to step up this week and start dealing out some justice. The result was a fun, action-packed episode that saw Universe 11 far worse off than anyone could’ve imagined. Amidst it all, one of the most touching moments in recent Dragon Ball memory occurred, making for a nice emotional surprise during all the chaos.

One of the greatest aspects of the Tournament of Power arc has been the resurgence of old characters. This week we saw that in spades, as Master Roshi, Tien, and both Androids were utilized frequently, displaying their unique skills and talents we saw them practice leading up to the tournament. Simply showing them off fighting would’ve been enough, but taking it a step further by showcasing them winning battles is even better. Their power levels will never compete with the likes of Goku, but in this battle royale setting where the weak and strong are all fighting, they have their moments to shine. I’m quite pleased to see Super not glossing over them in favor of Goku.

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Detroit Review

It’s one thing to review a movie, it’s another thing altogether to review an anxiety attack.

Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit is a concussive dramatization of a true story, in which corrupt and racist police officers violently detained ten black men and two white women during the 12th Street Riot of 1967. The incident would leave innocent people dead, and if you’re not familiar with these events, and if you assume that justice would be served, then you might not have a particularly keen understanding of the history of the American criminal justice system.

Then again, if you aren’t familiar with this incident, you’re in Kathryn Bigelow’s target audience. Detroit is designed to shock and repel you and challenge your assumptions about law, order and everything in between, but that works best if you still actually have those assumptions. If the real-life events of Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit are news to you then there’s a good chance you will emerge from this film having learned an important lesson.

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Star Wars: Darth Vader #4 Review

While this new series has hardly been without its flaws so far, it has succeeded in justifying Marvel’s decision to publish a new Darth Vader comic so soon after wrapping up the previous volume. Aesthetically, tonally and in terms of setting, this Darth Vader comic feels like a whole different animal.

The time period is the single most crucial difference between this Darth Vader comic and its predecessor. Whereas Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca explored a Vader at the height of his power and mastery of the Dark Side, Charles Soule and Giuseppe Camuncoli are working with a much weaker and more uncertain Vader. His broken body lacks the raw power it once wielded as Anakin Skywalker, and he’s years away from becoming the precise, imposing warrior who singlehandedly hacks his way through Rebel armies. He’s uniquely vulnerable at this stage in his career, and that’s a fact that creative team continue to seize on in this issue.

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Generations: Hulk #1 Review

Marvel’s Generations maxi-series is a project that aims to bridge the gap between Secret Empire and the Marvel Legacy relaunch. The general idea seems to be to pursue the “respect the past, embrace the future” mentality by having current incarnations of popular heroes cross paths with their older counterparts. Basically, it’s a foundation for a bunch of straightforward, entertaining crossovers between past and present. As long as you’re not expecting anything deeper or more meaningful than that, this opening Hulk chapter won’t disappoint.

Marvel has yet to explain the hows and whys of Generations, and this issue makes it pretty apparent that they aren’t going to. There’s no explanation for why Amadeus Cho finds himself suddenly thrust into the past to help a Silver Age-era Hulk defend himself from General Ross’ army. His confusion is meant to mirror the reader’s own. And the immediacy of his predicament quickly makes any questions about continuity quickly irrelevant.

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Voltron: Legendary Defender – Season 3 Review

Note: this is a spoiler-free review for all seven episodes of Voltron: Legendary Defender Season 3, now available on Netflix.

For those who have finished the season and want to read my thoughts on the ending and some of the other major story developments, head over to our Voltron: Season 3 Spoiler Discussion.

Netflix is trying something a little different with the latest season of Voltron: Legendary Defender, which has helped it step up to be the best season of the show to date. Season 3 clocks in at a trim seven episodes (barely half that of the previous two seasons), but with the promise that another short season will follow in October. I don’t get the impression Netflix has done anything more than chop a normal-length season in half, but when is there ever a reason to complain about having more Voltron?

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My Hero Academia Episode 30 Review

Warning: Full spoilers for the episode below.

My Hero Academia has been moving along at a remarkably swift pace the past couple of weeks, and “Climax” continues that momentum, delivering a thrilling conclusion to Iida’s ill-conceived quest for vengeance against Hero Killer: Stain.

Once again, Bones must be praised for its incredible animation work, which shines in each character’s facial expressions, adding an emotional weight to the stellar writing. The music that accompanies these sequences only heightens the emotional impact, mirroring Iida’s internal triumph. A somber piano score plays while Iida lies paralyzed on the ground, and when he finally rises to his feet and comes to Todoroki’s aid, the music switches to a rousing beat of drums and brass. The sound then builds to the climactic moment when Deku regains control of his body to join Iida in simultaneously delivering a crushing blow to Stain, which resonated so profoundly on an audio/visual and emotional level.

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Miitopia Review

One of Nintendo’s more enduring creations from the past decade are “Miis”–cartoony, user-created avatars that have since appeared in numerous titles across Nintendo platforms. Nintendo has expanded upon these avatars through games like the 3DS StreetPass titles and Tomodachi Life, which saw players put Miis in a variety of comedic relationships and situations.

With Miitopia, Nintendo aims to further evolve the concept of a Mii-focused game–a role-playing adventure in world populated with Miis of all kinds. Sadly, however, Miitopia is far from the virtual paradise its title might suggest.

In the colorful world of Miitopia, sinister happenings are afoot. The Dark Lord has been stealing the faces of the world’s populace and placing the visages on its horde of minions. This wave of terror has left many eyeless, mouthless, noseless Mii-people in its wake. A mysterious traveler–played either by your personal Mii or another Mii living on your 3DS that you select–stumbles into a city during one of the Dark Lord’s attacks and is called upon by a higher power to put a stop to the face-taking madness.

It’s a pretty silly story, but that’s the point. Miitopia isn’t supposed to be a “serious” RPG, but rather a goofy adventure you plop your Miis into. Your party members–as well as the roles of major non-player characters–consist of Miis you make, download, or add to the game via QR codes. Want to make the Dark Lord look like your boss at work, fill up your party with your coworkers, and create a Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson lookalike to play the part of a helpful sage? Or create a love triangle between Princess Bubblegum, Bobby Hill, and Peter Griffin? You can do all that–and more.

Making a fantasy world filled with Miis is a cute idea inspired by Tomodachi Life, but another concept that carries over from that game is inter-character relationships. As your party members hang out together at inns, travel to new locations, and fight at each others’ side, little events occur that will raise and lower their affinity for each other.

These events are often depicted with funny cinematics and dialogue as characters talk, argue, train, and help each other out in combat. The randomness and goofiness of these scenes is part of Miitopia’s appeal: It’s fun watching the Miis you’ve put into the game gradually become weird BFFs (and maybe more).

Unfortunately, once the novelty wears off and you look beyond the basic “putting Miis in a silly fantasy world” concept, Miitopia starts to lose its luster. The role-playing adventure behind this silliness is an incredibly basic affair that quickly grows tiresome. It initially shows some promise: As your party-member Miis come into the world, you assign them various jobs for combat (with some unlocking later in the game). Some are based on typical fantasy archetypes, such as Warrior, Cleric, and Thief. However, the game also offers more out-there classes like Pop Star, Chef, and Cat. You also assign characters a personality type, such as Cool, Stubborn, or Airheaded, that can affect the way they take actions and guard against attacks: A Cool character might dodge enemy attacks more frequently, while a Stubborn one can sometimes take extra turns.

Unfortunately, aside from your main character, all your comrades are controlled by AI and act according to their own whims.

Mixing a job, a personality type, and a Mii of your choosing sounds like it has potential for some really fun implementations in turn-based combat. Unfortunately, aside from your main character, all your comrades are controlled by AI and act according to their own whims–and the status of their current inter-character relationships. It’s frustrating watching them waste MP and items when you know that you could do a better job fighting if only you had control over them.

However, you can do a little bit more than just watch your three allies fight. You can pull party members aside to give them HP- and MP-restoring “sprinkles” or put them in a “safe spot” to recover from status ailments, but the lack of full party control or even limited AI guidance makes you feel like a passive observer rather than a leader.

Another big stumbling point is Miitopia’s exploration–or, rather, the lack thereof. When you enter dungeons and other dangerous areas, your party of Miis moves automatically through a linear area, stopping only for enemy encounters, treasure, brief character skits, and the occasional fork in the road–which is the only time you actively guide the characters during these scenes. It’s supposed to be cute watching the Miis banter while stumbling through forests, caves, and mountains, but once you’ve seen your mage talk about how they love dogs for the 50th time, you’ll wish the game’s fast-forward feature were even speedier.

At the end of every quest area is an i nn where you can have characters board together, play (notably slow) minigames, spend money to buy new gear, and eat stat-boosting food. Shopping in Miitopia works very differently than in other games: If you see that a character wants to buy something, you give them money, send them out, and hope they actually buy the gear they said they would instead of getting distracted and coming back with bananas.

The fun of seeing Miis you put in various roles do goofy things wears thin after just a few hours.

Feeding your party is a neat little idea, though: By giving your characters food at the inn, they’ll earn bonus stats. Giving them food they really like will boost their stats much more, while food they dislike or hate has a much weaker effect. It’s a neat concept, but it’s again hamstrung by the game’s tendency toward randomness. You don’t know if a character likes or dislikes a particular food until they’re eaten it at least once, and there’s a fair bit of frustration in procuring a rare, potent, stat-enhancing meal–only to find that the character who needs it most absolutely hates it.

Ultimately, lack of player input and randomness makes Miitopia feel like a slow slog you mostly watch rather than play. It’s certainly cute, and it boasts the typically high production values you expect from Nintendo in terms of visuals, music, and dialogue. However, the fun of seeing Miis you put in various roles do goofy things wears thin after just a few hours, and while the game can reignite a bit of that initial joy when you add new Miis to the game at certain milestones, you still have to trudge through a lot of repetition to get there. If you’re looking for a deep, engrossing game filled with Miis of your making, I’m sorry to say that adventure is in another castle.

Splatoon 2 Review

Splatoon 2 is easy to love. It’s colorful and quirky and unafraid to be different, and it’s consistently a blast to play. As far as shooters go, its unique movement mechanics stand out and make each match exciting. And while the logistics of its multiplayer aren’t perfect, Splatoon 2 is a vibrant and exuberant sequel with enough fresh additions and changes to set it apart from the original.

Like the first game, Splatoon 2 stars human-squid hybrids called Inklings. Their world is bright and filled with nautical puns both spoken and implied, and even just walking around and picking out new clothes is delightful. The shoe store is called Shella Fresh, for example, and cute fish-themed decor peppers the hub area. That extends to the gameplay, of course; your weapons shoot (or sometimes fling) ink, and you can instantly change into your squid form and swim through ink puddles to reload. Swimming also has a stealth element to it, since you’re harder to see and faster, and therefore better equipped for surprise attacks. You can also ink walls and swim up them in squid form, which adds to your verticality in matches. In the standard multiplayer mode Turf War, you’re tasked with inking more of the map than your opponents while also “splatting” them to limit their progress.

Multiplayer is undoubtedly the main draw of Splatoon 2, but both new and returning players should absolutely try the new-and-improved single player mode before jumping into any matches. Unlike in the first game, where you could only use the standard Splattershot gun in the campaign, Splatoon 2’s serves as a fantastic introduction to all the basic weapon types you’ll have access to–and it’s much more robust, with collectibles that require a sharp eye to find and creative platforming challenges that really showcase how unique Splatoon 2’s movement is for the shooter genre. And while it starts out a bit basic, each level builds on the last and requires clever application of your knowledge to complete. Grinding on rails while shooting targets, then switching to your squid form and successfully landing a tricky jump is satisfying not just because it’s fun and cool but because it really feels like you’ve mastered Splatoon 2’s new mechanics.

Unfortunately, not all of the single player campaign’s lessons make it into the multiplayer. Most notably, rail grinding, which is the standout from single player, isn’t possible on Moray Towers’ rails. That in particular feels like a missed opportunity, especially since that map is returning from the first game. However, getting to use a wide variety of weapons in single player makes the transition to multiplayer easier, and subtle tweaks to weapons and gear, like faster movement with the roller, add a layer of new strategy for veteran players. On top of that, the majority of the maps are new, and favorites include Inkblot Art Academy and The Reef, both of which have several vertical levels that result in intense struggles for control of the higher ground.

The only multiplayer mode for non-ranked matches is Turf War, which is consistently so much fun that only having one casual mode isn’t really a problem. Covering the most ground with your ink is a simple enough concept, but skillful movement, well-timed inking, and the right strategy for your weapon all work together to give each match more depth. There are some wrinkles with the logistics of these regular battles: there’s no way to change your weapon once you’re in a lobby, so you’re stuck with whatever team composition you get, and you can’t guarantee you’ll be on the same team as any friends who join your lobby. But, as the most laid-back of the multiplayer options, Turf Wars’ quick games and random team assignments make it easy to jump in and out and have fun without too much pressure. It might be frustrating when your team of randoms doesn’t seem to know what they’re doing, but the fast-paced struggle to cover turf with your team’s ink is as exhilarating as ever.

Ranked battles return with Tower Control, Rainmaker, and Splat Zones. Each mode is similar to game types you might be familiar with in other team shooters; Tower Control consists of escorting a tower to a goal, Rainmaker is like reverse capture the flag, and Splat Zones requires you to “control” specific areas for a certain amount of time by covering them with your team’s ink. Unfortunately, the lobbies for ranked matches haven’t been populated enough for us to play them ahead of launch, but based on our experience with the first game, we can expect these modes to work essentially the same way. Splatoon’s ink mechanics make these modes feel different from other games, and the focus on specific objectives is great for competitive players who want something more than the informal structure of Turf War.

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There’s also a new co-op mode called Salmon Run that lets you play alongside one to three friends in a horde environment. It’s surprisingly challenging and requires more strategy and finesse than Turf War by far. Even on lower difficulties, my groups struggled against minibosses that require specific strategies to take out–they’re less threatening than the single-player bosses but hard to deal with in high volumes. Successfully clearing the waves was satisfying knowing that we had to have worked well as a team in order to survive. In addition to the updated single-player campaign, this is another mode that shows off what’s so great about Splatoon 2’s unique gameplay in ways that PvP multiplayer doesn’t.

The biggest problems with the original Splatoon’s multiplayer were limited matchmaking and a lack of voice chat, which made team strategy extremely cumbersome and difficult. While regular battles still lack shooter matchmaking mainstays like parties, there’s a new mode called League Battle that lets you group up with either one or three other friends and play together in a more competitive environment. League battles include the same modes as ranked but don’t affect your solo rank, which is a great option if your skills aren’t quite in line with your friends’. That said, voice chat is still a problem–you have to use a phone app to communicate, which is inelegant at best and ridiculous for a modern team-based game. There’s no good reason it couldn’t have been included in-game.

At first glance, Splatoon 2 seems very similar to the first game. But all the small changes, and even the bigger ones in single player and League Battles, make for a fresh take on the already unique shooter. If you played a lot of the original, the sequel has enough to keep you coming back, and if you’re new to the game, it’s a fantastic place to jump in.

My Hero Academia Episode 29 Review

Warning: Full spoilers for the episode below.

The students of U.A. have grown so much since we first met them in Season 1. Both Deku and Todoroki have gained a better understanding of themselves and who they want to be as heroes, and”Hero Killer: Stain vs U.A. Students” provides an empowering display of just how far these two have come.

Iida’s thirst for vengeance has clouded his vision, much like how Todoroki’s desire to deny any semblance of his father previously kept him in bondage. Thanks to Deku’s selfless plea in “Shoto Todoroki: Origin,” Todoroki has since accepted himself and awakened his full potential, and seeing him do something similar for Iida was such an emotionally satisfying moment of character development.

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My Hero Academia Episode 27 Review

Warning: Full spoilers for the episode below.

After sharing a significant portion of the spotlight for better part of the first half of Season 2, Deku reclaims center stage in”Bizarre! Gran Torino Appears” and undergoes a significant amount of growth under the mentorship of the adorable, hilarious and somewhat senileGran Torino.

All Might’s former mentor is every bit endearing and fascinating as I had hoped after our brief introduction to him at the end of”Time to Pick Some Names.” While he somewhat falls into the stereotypical old wizened coot mold-much like Dragon Ball’s goofy yet strong and knowledgeable Master Roshi-Gran Torino’s personality is so well realized that I didn’t feel like I was watching a cardboard cutout from prior shonen anime.

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