NIER (360, M)

Before I start the actual review, I just want to note that for the sake of clarity I'm going to write "NIER" when I'm talking about the game, and "Nier" when I'm talking about the character.

So first impressions of NIER were that it had a very, um, interesting opening cinema (I wouldn't recommend watching that at work, but if you're going to anyway, at least keep the volume down), and that Nier was one squirrely motherfucker. A few hours later I'd killed a wild boar by making it bash its face against a rock for fifteen minutes, gotten slapped around a lot by a giant lizard with a disgusting growth on its neck, played a tedious fishing minigame (made even more annoying because I started out fishing in the wrong spot), and fought a giant robot boss that felt like it took forever and a day to kill. Yeah, the game was just not endearing itself to me.

Though the vocalized music is certainly leaps and bounds above "Growing Wings" (one of the absolute worst vocalized songs I've ever heard in a video game, second only to "PARTS" from Mega Man X Command Mission. Yes, I'd even rate the DK Rap above it) I thought it was let down by being too repetetive and samey, and in some instances, noisy. But I'm not going to spend too much time on that when I'd rather rag on the visuals which are painfully remniscent of Shadow of the Colossus, and long-time readers will know that is not a compliment coming from me. Same washed out colors, same mountainous plains, and most of all the same idiotic supernova levels of bloom. The main difference between the two is everyone else on the Internet agrees NIER is ugly. I'm not defending NIER's graphics, I'm just curious to know why when one game pulls this shit to portray a "dying world" the Internet hails it as "art" and "a style", but when another game does the same thing for the same reason, everyone pans it. Is it because NIER looks a bit less like ass for having more varied environments and some color, and so it doesn't reach the singularity Shadow of the Colossus did that caused its hideousness to circle back to being beautiful? Or is it the more obvious reason, that NIER wasn't advertised as art leading up to its release?

I did start warming up to the game around the rematch with the lizard in the Aerie, but where NIER really shined for me was its writing and characterization. Okay, when Nier starts going on about his daughter this and Yonah that, I want to see Kaine to smack him around some more. But when he's got his mind on anyone or anything else he's a lot more likeable, the banter between him and Weiss was some of the funniest stuff I've seen since Cthulhu Saves the World, and moments like this make Nier a hard man to hate. He, Weiss, Kaine, and Emil make a great team playing off each other and were the closest I've felt to fictional characters in a long time, and that's why the big plot twist was such a fucking punch in the stomach. The initial endgame was only irritating and depressing as all hell, but as I read more of the backstory and what happened after the game's events online I left the game so disgusted I had to force myself to play it long enough to get a screenshot. At the risk of spoilers, it's like finding out stopping Kefka from killing the world in Final Fantasy VI wound up dooming everyone anyway. I suppose it's a sign of how much the characters connected with me that I'm calling bullshit on what I was told about them and getting worked up about what happened to them after the game, but big plot reveals shouldn't leave the player feeling like they've had the rug pulled out from under them and that everything they did was for nothing, and in forcing a Blade Runner twist into the story, all they do is topple the world they'd built up.

And if (spoilers) the Shades were deformed human souls and the Replicants don't have souls, why the fuck was one of the bosses created by the people of a town turning into Shades and merging together? And if the Replicants are empty shells, why would Replicant Yonah still be in the body when Gestalt Yonah took it over? The whole thing smacks of being pulled out of somebody's ass because the deadline was approaching and the company was going under, and they were more interested in blowing some minds than making some sense. But here's what really cheesed me off; Cavia thought it would be cute to tie NIER's backstory to Drakengard through that game's most insultingly stupid ending, that wasn't even canon. That's like if, say, The Last Remnant had its history in the ending of Chrono Trigger where everyone turns into lizard people. So they not only fucked up this game's story with their bullshit plot twist, they took Drakengard and Drakengard 2 down with it.

Now, there might be another, far-reached explanation. Considering how goofy NIER gets at times and how much it parodies other games with moments including but not limited to Weiss telling Nier to stop yelling aloud every thought that crosses his mind, the blatant homage to Ocarina of Time when the Prince of Facade gets the mask, and the laboratory that makes jabs at Resident Evil by way of Akira, and what a bunch of whackjobs Cavia were, it was supposed to be satirical of insulting bullshit plot twists that make no sense. But even if that is the case, a satirical insulting bullshit plot twist that makes no sense is still an insulting bullshit plot twist that makes no sense, and I haven't been this pissed off with how a game handled its story since Blasting Again.

Just to go out on a less pissy note with this quickie, it's time for a little story; When I played through Darksiders I thought War sounded familiar, but when I looked up his voice actor, Liam O'Brien, I didn't recognize anything else he'd been in. But while playing through NIER it never clicked with me that I'd heard Weiss somewhere else because he's voice by, you guessed it, Liam O'Brien.


Full Metal Panic! Complete Series (Shoji Gatou (Writer), Retsu Tateo (Illustrator))

I read the first two volumes last year, and finished off the series this year. You know, I was confused by the high school aspect in the first volume but as I got used to it I found it more entertaining as the series went on. So much so, I started preferring the antics of military hardass Sosuke bungling up normal life over the giant mechs. It's also worth mentioning that Sosuke's face is drawn a lot softer in later volumes. This may have just been Tateo loosening up in his artwork, but it's also around this time Sosuke becomes less rigid as a character, and at least trying to show his feelings for Kaname and act like a normal high schooler, even if he's still failing miserably.

I also appreciate the Whispereds are not condescending to the reader. What I mean by that is, with something like Daniel X, you've got this superpowered character who's constantly reminding you how much better he is than you. The Whispereds are telepathic super geniuses by virtue of being born that way, but they also have their own problems ranging from insanity to being exploited for their abilities, or when Tessa has that bizarre hallucination or whatever it was about the childhood she could have had if she'd been born an ordinary girl and you know she wouldn't be opposed to the idea of a trade.

But what brought the series down a bit, and the main reason I started preferring the comedy side of the series, was the angst from the Sosuke/Kaname/Tessa love triangle, which is unfortunately something you're going to get in a lot of manga. If I remember the first two volumes correctly, there are at least three seperate times in the series when Kaname has a breakdown because she thinks Sosuke is in love with Tessa. Then Sosuke saves her and shows she's the one he loves... and after the two have some more high school hijinx, the same damn thing happens again a couple volumes later. Also, maybe this is just my problem, but I had to read the final battle three times to figure out what was going on. Then again I had to do the same for Parasyte, so again, maybe it's just me.

And I could have done without the pinups of Kaname and other female characters in skimpy bikinis, and some of the other teenager pandering.


Beetlejuice (PG)

I originally watched this back in September, but when I sat down to write the quickie some time later I couldn't think of a thing to write about it. So I decided to rewatch it, skip the original quickie and just do one for the rewatch, and I still don't know what to make of it. I think my biggest problem is that the movie's rules are rather arbitrary, and made up and revised as it goes along. For example, we see dead people taking on a form representative of how they died, like the explorer with the shrunken head, or the receptionist with the slit wrists. So why aren't Adam and Barbara, you know, drowned? Besides the fact it would have gotten tiring watching them drenched the whole movie. And if the ghosts are tied to some spot on earth, how do the football players get on the stairs in the big musical number? I'm pretty sure they weren't dead for 125 years. Yeah, it's a cute callback to an earlier scene, and some might call it anal retentive to not enjoy it for what it is, but I call it asking the movie to follow its own rules.

Also, I went in expecting this to be about, you know, Beetlejuice (or Betelgeuse as it's spelled in the movie, consistency would be nice, people), not this recently dead couple trying to cope with the irritating harpy tearing their house apart, and Beetlejuice is just there to start some shit at the end of the film. Not only that, his big debut appearance somehow managed to be out of place in a movie named after him when the first chunk of the movie is the aforementioned dead couple and afterlife bureaucratic motherfuckery, and then this perverted cartoon shows up.

Even on the second viewing, deliberately trying to pick up on all dialogue related to it, I still didn't understand what was going on when Otho conjures up Adam and Barbara and they start decaying. Then I wondered if he got his spells confused and was actually exorcising them, which another character said is "Death for the dead", and Wikipedia seems to confirm that. But that takes us back to the movie making stuff up as it goes along when Beetlejuice breaks off the exorcism by, um, knocking them down? And undressing the exorcist?


Orphen Complete Series (Yoshinobu Akita (Writer), Hajime Sawada (Illustrator))

I only found out when I was about halfway through that this was an anime first, then adapted to manga, which does a lot to explain - but not justify - the erratic momentum and the story that was all over the place. Although calling it an "adaptation" is a bit generous, because it reads more like a teaser for the anime, so if you want some explanation on what the hell happened to the assassin or how a certain character came back to life, a story that flows more smoothly than a river of half-dry cement, or just some fucking closure, it's time to fire up the anime.


Stripes (R)

Another movie I originally watched back in September, and rewatched because I couldn't think of anything to write when it came time for a quickie. I do think I got a lot more out of it on the second viewing, though. Hell, the first time I watched it, after the graduation ceremony I actually asked my dad why the movie was still going. Okay, the beginning is still kind of joyless, but Murray rallying the unit and saving their butts meant a lot more when I actually remembered the scenes where Murray volunteers to be the unit's "big toe" if Hulka wasn't there, and Hulka telling him he's never going to amount to anything. And it's either this or Full Metal Jacket that inspired the scenes from the "PTA Disbands" episode of The Simpsons where Skinner tries to get back in the army.

I also think this could have done without the nude scenes.