So… Is It Good?

A blog featuring the various writings of E. H. Lau.

Archive for March, 2012

Why Leverage Has… Leverage Over Most Other Heist Fiction

Posted by cyberpfalcon on March 21, 2012

I love Leverage.

In case you’ve never heard of it, Leverage is a TV series about a team of con artists who have decided to become modern day Robin Hoods. They help their clients get… leverage. The clients that the Leverage team gets are usually the victims of some big, rich, and powerful person; some big, rich, and powerful person who has somehow scammed innocent people out of huge amounts of assets (whether illegally or using legal loopholes). The Leverage team then runs a con on their mark (the big, rich and powerful person) in order to return to the victims their rightful property.

Now it may sound like a stereotypical heist show where the only twist is that they’re only stealing from those who deserve it and are actually helping out others, but I’m of the opinion that it is that twist that gives Leverage its leverage over all the other heist shows.

Well, that and the lovable main cast, the awesome recurring characters (STERLING!), the tight writing, the great direction, the music, the tone, the style, the camera work, the editing, and THE LOVE that the creators and writers of this show seem to have for it.
But really, a ton of heist related fiction can claim that too. Like the Ocean’s series or Inception (it’s a heist film, people, the twist this time is that they’re putting something in, which, like Leverage, is part of why the film is awesome).

So, back to the point that the edge that Leverage has over a lot of other heist fiction is that it is about a team of modern day Robin Hoods.
As anyone can tell you, TV shows have episodes, and Leverage is a mostly episodic type of TV show, as in most episodes are standalone stories (yes, there are story arcs, but most episodes have a plotline that starts and resolves in that episode). Since Leverage is a mostly episodic type of TV show, it has to have a generally similar premise for each episode. Now, I’m not saying that all episodes have to be of the same type, but generally, without a massive retooling, episodic TV shows mostly contain episodes that are similar in premise. For example, most episodes of Star Trek is about visiting strange new worlds, or how most episodes of House have House’s team treating a patient. So similarly, Leverage mostly consists of the Leverage team running a con on a mark to help their wronged clients.
So what’s so great about the twist? The Robin Hood twist of Leverage gives Leverage the ability to tell stories that most other types of heist fiction can’t. It allows the show to show the characters doing other things other than stealing money or diamonds or some valuable thing. For example, in “The Miracle Job”, the team runs a con to save a church from getting shut down by some company that wants to tear it down after the company hired some goons to attack the priest of the church. My favourite example of this advantage that Leverage has is “The Long Way Down Job”, where the team has to find a missing mountain climber in order to take down a corrupt businessman.
The Robin Hood twist allows Leverage to step away from the usual banks and vaults that we usually see in heist fiction and into other realms.

And that’s why I love Leverage. Go watch it.

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Why SoulCalibur V Is A Good Game, Yet A Disappointment

Posted by cyberpfalcon on March 21, 2012

I’ve been a big fan of SoulCalibur ever since the SoulCalibur II (which is actually the third game). So when SoulCalibur V was announced, I was excited. Then they said that they were going to replace most of the cast, which made me skeptical, but still excited. Then the game came out, and I played it. That made me disappointed.

Now, I’m not saying that SoulCalibur V is a bad game. In fact, I think that it’s a good game, however, there are just so many things that makes the newest installment in this series a disappointment.

Let’s go over the gameplay. SoulCalibur V is a fighting game. It’s a 3D weapons fighting game that’s primarily based on inputting the correct strings of buttons rather than comboing with special moves. So to make it a bit more clearer, it’s more like Virtua Fighter rather than Street Fighter.
The fighting system is solid, with players using a series of moves which results in a high-or-low guessing game. This time, a special move called “Critical Edge” has been added in. These Critical Edges are basically special moves that spice up the gameplay. Also added are Brave Edges, which are special variations of regular moves. There is a ton more details about the fighting system in this game that I haven’t talked about, but to sum it up, the core fighting system is solid, even though this installment allows players to perform juggles a bit more than the previous installments (which, in my opinion, is not a good thing, since we don’t want a SoulCalibur that’s like Tekken, we want a SoulCalibur game).

So we have a solid core system in place, that’s good.

Now then, let’s move on to the modes that the game has to offer.

… and it was at this point in the article that I realized that pretty much everyone else has said most of what I’m going to say.
For example Angry Joe’s review, or Joystiq’s review.

So rather than bore you all with a long article about my opinion on the game, which is pretty much what the two links say (with some minor variations here and there), I’ll just list the good and the bad (sorry, no ugly here).

The Good:

  • Battle system is mostly still the great system that the Soul series has been known for
  • Character designs are great, new characters look great, old characters get cool redesigns
  • Characters who use new styles are pretty cool and inventive (new styles as in a style that isn’t a copy from a character in previous games…, we’ll get to that)
  • Critical Edges and Brave Edges are welcome additions to the gameplay, with Brave Edges being better versions of existing moves, and Critical Edges being Super Moves, both at the cost of your special meter; they give the well-known system some refreshment and some cool new moves for new players and veterans to try
  • An actual story mode, taking a page out of Mortal Kombat (2011) and Dead of Alive: Dimensions, although…, if you look in the bad, you’ll see a counter point… several of them
  • The cutscenes in the story mode are gorgeous…, when they’re cutscenes
  • The story is… okay…
  • Gorgeous graphics and a great soundtrack
  • Can register rivals in muliplayer, keeping track of your rivals’ progression
  • Replays – they’re saved automatically (limited of course), and then you can permanently save some of them to your HDD
  • Character Creation – fun as always, can create your own or dress up the already existing characters, lots more things you can do this time, like adding stickers or CHANGING THE COLOUR OF YOUR WEAPONS
  • ..EZIO AUDITORE DA FIRENZE, sorry, he’s just an awesome choice, and he’s really fun to use
  • Nice lobby system in multiplayer

And now, for The Bad:

  • Single player is lacking… ALOT
  • Story mode focuses mostly on Patroklos and Pyrrha, AT LEAST HALF OF THE CAST DON’T EVEN SHOW UP IN THE STORY, and the ones (besides the main two characters) that do show up are only there for quick cameos, why have a story mode if you’re not going to showcase your roster?
  • In story mode, you only use… FIVE CHARACTERS in total (two of them are actually still Patroklos and Pyrrha, so from a story standpoint, three, from a gameplay standpoint, five), why have a story mode if you’re not going to let the players experience most, if not all, of your characters?
  • The story is… okay…, it’s really only tolerable
  • The character roster, while having some great characters…, manages to have THREE mimics (as in they randomly choose other characters’ moves to use for that round), one is fine, but THREE?!
  • Most of the cast are replacements, in fact, most of the cast uses styles that are pretty much copies of characters they’ve left out. Why bring in a new cast then? Why did you skip 17 years? WHAT WAS THE POINT?!
  • Speaking of mimics, it’s bad enough that they took out Sophitia and Cassandra (two of my favourite characters), but there are now THREE selectable characters that use the short sword and shield style (alright, this point is a bit nitpicky, but add the fact that they have three mimics too…, and the two points really tick me off)
  • No Talim 😦
  • Legendary Souls mode is basically a really, really, really hard arcade mode with the A.I. cheating (More on that in a bit)
  • Quick Battle mode is just a mode where you fight CPU of varying difficult. In II, we had Weapons Master mode, which was fun and full of varying challenges, III had a Chronicles of the Sword mode (while different, it was fun), IV had a Tower mode (which is really just challenges, but getting to customize your characters with different stats to try to beat the tower was fun). So…, WHY DO WE ONLY HAVE QUICK BATTLE MODE IN THIS GAME, WHERE ALL YOU DO IS FIGHT CPU?! AND WORSE, AT THE HIGHER DIFFICULTIES, THEY CHEAT.
  • In various modes, the A.I. cheats. It’s basically psychic (IT READS YOUR CONTROLLER INPUTS), and can pull off moves that shouldn’t be allowed (for example, a move requires crouching, I’ve seen the CPU pull it off many, many times without crouching). So instead of programming actually smarter A.I., the team (might not be the devs, maybe the executives decided to do this, who knows) decides to just give the CPU psychic powers and allow them to pull off moves that aren’t possible…, great.
  • No Talim 😦 Or Sophitia. Or Cassandra. Or Yun-seong. (You know, I probably wouldn’t be as upset about this if they had Story Mode tell us what happened to the characters. Heck, I probably wouldn’t be upset if the NEW characters at least had profiles or something IN THE GAME to tell me who they are and what they’re fighting for. The fact that most of the new characters have no backstory that’s shown IN THE GAME or even IN THE MANUAL just makes me miss the characters that I’ve grown to love over the years.)
  • In Character Creation…, a lot of the parts… float. They don’t fit the characters, they just float around them. Try putting a breastplate on a thinner (or even normal-sized) character, it floats. The fact that they got all the parts to fit in SoulCalibur IV makes this an even more sour point.

So as you can see, for nearly everything good that I have to say about the game, I have counterpoints.

So to summarize, SoulCalibur V is a good game, the gameplay is great. However it doesn’t build on what they did in the previous series, and it’s lacking so much content. If this was priced lower (much lower), maybe I would feel justified, but at a full retail price and compared to the fact that we had a ton more content in IV and previous installments, SoulCalibur V is a disappointment.

So if you’re a fan of the Soul series, I’d say wait for a price drop and stick with IV for a while (unless if you’re THAT big of a fan, then you probably already have this). If you’re new to the series, get IV and wait for a price drop before you get V. If you’re new to fighting games…, get IV first. (Or, you could just rent the game first, and see if you want to take the full bite.)

Oh yeah, speaking of which, a pre-order bonus from Gamestop (at least in Canada) was an Ivy bobblehead. Whose great idea was this? Let’s take our characters who’s known for her… round parts… and make those parts flat while making her head the roundest!
(On that note, apparently, Ivy is chaste. She was infected by the Soul Edge, so she doesn’t want to pass down the curse. … again, why are interesting tidbits about characters left out of fighting games? I mean, seriously, I know we can search the Internet, but if you have a profile already written, PUT IT IN THE GAME. Besides, it being in the game makes it more official… Hm…, maybe that tidbit isn’t canon then…, if anyone knows the source of that, let me know)

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