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Shin Godzilla (Resurgence) Review
The following review contains spoilers for Shin Godzilla
Toho Strikes Back
Though not without its faults, Shin Godzilla (also known as Godzilla Resurgence) delivers on all fronts. As any good and entertaining Godzilla film should do, Shin gives you a full serving of humor (both intentional and not), great visuals and destruction, music that adds to the experience rather than serve as just background noise, and a human plot that stacks up well against the best the series has offered in the previous 28 Toho productions.
But of course, there aren’t only 28 Godzilla films. A pair of others were made in the West, the first of which was a failed attempt by summer blockbuster connoisseur Roland Emmerich. The film was such an afront to the Godzilla name that Toho immediately responded with Godzilla 2000. Not only that, but Toho eventually dubbed Emmerich's version of their legendary monster 'Zilla' because, as Toho put it, "They took the God out of Godzilla". Despite the fan backlash, Zilla is a part of Toho's official canon and it later appeared in Godzilla: Final Wars where it showed up just to be promptly obliterated by the real deal. It's
. After Final Wars, Godzilla would go into hibernation for over a decade until the West tried again.
That second attempt was Legendary's Godzilla 2014 and it didn’t take long for Toho to repeat history and announce that they were bringing big G back in response. They boasted that this new Godzilla would be the biggest yet, reclaiming the title from Legendary’s Godzilla which had just taken it months prior.
It felt as though Toho might have had a bruised ego. While Emmerich’s film was a disaster, director Gareth Edwards made a solid attempt at bringing Godzilla to a Western audience with Godzilla 2014. Despite having plenty of flaws, the movie did justice to the source material and respected Toho’s pride and joy. It was also a huge box office success, prompting Legendary to quickly announce that two more Godzilla films would be on their way. Despite my worries that Toho was rushing out a new movie for petty reasons, I remained optimistic.
We could be in the early days of a Godzilla golden age. It's possible there will be two concurrent Godzilla series with Japan and America trading blows, movie by movie. What a time to be alive!
A Godzilla Unlike Any Other
When it was announced that Hideaki Anno would be directing Toho's newest film, many eyebrows surely were raised in response. Known for his background in anime and as the director of the Evangelion series, his hiring turned Shin Godzilla into a big wildcard. It was easy to think blending the style of an anime with a live action monster flick could backfire badly. Ultimately, however, it worked out pretty well.
What Anno gives us is one of the most unique Godzilla designs we've seen yet. While mostly done in mostly good CG, there still seemed to be a bit of animatronics at work as well. While Anno claimed he wasn't satisfied with their efforts to keep up the Toho tradition of using a man in a rubber suit, they did end up using motion capture on a suit, as well as a puppet touched up with CG, and the end result is a deceptively classic feeling Godzilla.
By using a lot of low angles looking up at Godzilla and distance shots showing the legendary kaiju in beautiful wide landscape shots, Anno is able to effectively communicate his monster's immense size and terrifying features.
I use the word terrifying only half truly, for Godzilla's introduction is anything but. When we get our first look at Anno's creation...well, just look for yourself.
Wait...that's not Godzilla!
Oh, how the theater laughed. It's probably the googly eyes that most effectively derail this serious moment into one of utter hilarity but regardless, this version of Godzilla is simultaneously the worst and best thing my eyes have ever witnessed. I could see how a diehard Godzilla fan would see this and be offended but honestly, it's just freaking funny.
What really caught me off guard was how unsettling this Godzilla actually was when we got to see more of it. As it shimmy shimmied its way through town (there's really no other way to explain how this thing moves), a jiggly fat neck wobbles to and fro opening gills that drench the ground in blood. Gross! At one point, Godzilla attempts to stand on its two hind legs, revealing not a strong, healthy looking creature ready to bring the destruction but instead a tortured abomination. This is a freak that probably wants to be annihilated and it's unsettling to watch. The whole thing is funny, disturbing, and depressing all at once. It's a mix of emotions quite unlike anything Godzilla has evoked in me before.
And just when you think this introduction can't get any more bizzare, Godzilla evolves.
Like a Pokemon.
Oh God, someone hit B and stop this! It's starting to actually look intimidating!
What we're left with is something that's starting to look like the Godzilla we know and love, minus the goofy googly eyes that still remain. Due to civilians still being in the area, Japan holds off on an attack allowing Godzilla to return to the sea to rest and when he returns, he's evolved a second time. This is when Godzilla starts to look very familiar. But don't think you know this Godzilla, its packing a few interesting surprises.
Pictured: Godzilla bringing the disco back
Instead of rebooting the series as a sequel to the original Gojira, Toho and Anno decided to start from scratch. Shin Godzilla features a brand new Godzilla with a brand new origin story. I already touched on one major change, the fact that Godzilla looks very different and then evolves into a more familiar monster, but his looks and origin aren't the only things revamped.
Godzilla's got some tricks up his sleeves, tricks we haven't seen before. The biggest of which is the monster's atomic breath, now a crazy sort of napalm breath/energy beam/disco show combo. And it's deadly. Godzilla ends up turning Tokyo into an infernal hellscape in minutes flat, one of the most powerful and destructive moments in Godzilla's long and storied history. It's the highlight of the movie and seeing it unfold in theaters was like a Godzilla sized dream come true. Unfortunately, this climax happens somewhere around the midpoint of the movie, the final act falls short of topping this spectacle.
Some fans are saying these changes go too far, that it's too different and ridiculous! Well, to them I say see
, exhibit C....
The biggest issue I have with this new Godzilla is its demeanor. The monster barely shows any emotion outside of its anger induced rage fest. It moves very slowly and often looks like a statue. In fact, the movie basically ends with just that; a frozen statue Godzilla plastered right in the middle of Tokyo. I feel this all was a creative decision by Anno, perhaps wanting to use Godzilla as a stagnant but ever present threat to Tokyo. It fits with the commentary on the 3/11 disasters and makes sense, it's just a preference to want a more lively and emotive Godzilla.
All in all, Anno has given us a very unique Godzilla, from a drastic departure in appearance, to evolutions and new atomic abilities, to humanzilla things emerging from his being. You read that right. Humanoid Godzilla beings trying to escape the monstrosity that is Shin Godzilla. Anno's monster makes us laugh, makes us cheer, and even manages to make us feel some of that authentic Toho terror and dread. Despite the googly eyes.
Seriously. Humanoid Godzilla beings. Good luck sleeping ever again.
The Human Element
For me personally, the human plots usually end up being a Godzilla film's weakest link. Sure, some zany time traveling plots with aliens might entertain more than others but for the most part, Godzilla is usually bogged down by characters we don't care about giving dialogue that feels like pure filler. To me, this is not the case with Shin Godzilla, though I can see the possibility of people getting lost in the dialogue or bored during some longer plot heavy sequences.
A Deeper Meaning
This film operates like a behind-the-scenes documentary following the Japanese government as they deal with a surprise Godzilla attack. This means there's no human sub plots, no love story, no crazy sci fi. You're getting a rather realistic look at a natural disaster and a nation's response. While some might not like this, it's clear that Anno had a plan and knew exactly what approach he wanted to take and why.
Shin Godzilla has a lot to say. It draws on the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami as well as the Fukushima meltdown that followed to provide a humorous satire on the response of the Japanese government. It becomes obvious when the Prime Minister goes on live TV, deceptively dressed in an emergency rescue suit (we as viewers know the man has spent all his time in conference rooms and meetings, not out surveying damages), telling the people that they need not worry about the monster making landfall. As soon as he says this, he’s interrupted with the news that Godzilla has already done so.
It did what now?
Subtle digs at government operations appear throughout the film, from constantly needing to change board rooms to an exhausting chain of command that must patiently be navigated to approve each order. Can we fire, can we fire, can we fire? Yes, fire. We can fire, we can fire. Fire away. But on top of the satire, there are several more serious topics Anno wants us to ponder as we watch:
Japan's deep respect for Article 9, the part of their constitution that renounces war and the use of weapons. The Japanese Special Defense Force mentions several times that they are better suited for helping the citizens evacuate instead of fighting Godzilla.Japan's inability to defend itself and needing to rely on the United States to help with Godzilla. Japan does try to use force against the monster but they throw everything they have at Godzilla without even leaving a scratch on him. It's the Americans that eventually wound Godzilla when they come to help.Japan's role in the worldwide community and the older generation's passive ways, going along with the decisions being made for them. This even applies to the ridiculous notion of dropping a nuke on Tokyo to destroy Godzilla.
Anno challenges us to come up with our own thoughts on these issues, to wonder if Japan should be given more autonomy and break with tradition to build a strong military that can defend themselves. We watch a sort of changing of the guard as an older generation gets replaced by a younger one and with them comes a shift in thinking. It's up to us to compare these two leadership styles and come to our own conclusions, though the character Yaguchi makes a pretty bold statement late in the movie basically yelling at the audience that Japan's Special Defense Force is the only hope for Japan's future.
While we're given a deep and intriguing story, it does tend to drag at times as we get a couple of long dialogue heavy sequences. The most notable occurs after Godzilla's attack on Tokyo when Japan's new leadership studies Godzilla and finalizes their plan to stop not only the monster, but the nuke the world wants to drop on Tokyo. While they come up with an ingenious plot that they successfully execute, the explanation is overwhelming and difficult to follow. Dialogue in this movie comes fast and furiously, there's more characters than Game of Thrones, and whenever a new character or location appears, we get extra subs to tell us the information the movie thinks we need to know. At times I was reading as fast as I could and still couldn't get through everything. And if the screen wasn't crowded enough, sometimes English speaking characters would pop up adding Japanese subs to the hilarious mess.
This wasn't so hilarious in the movie's final act however. The part of the film that digs most deeply into Godzilla's origin story was the hardest to follow. A man named Goro Maki had been studying mutations due to nuclear contamination, he knew about Godzilla and apparently so did the United States. Something happened to his wife, he commits suicide, and leaves behind all his research on an abandoned yacht. His research forms a sort of puzzle for the Japanese government to solve, which they eventually do by realizing they could fold his data printouts like oragami, unlocking everything they need to put their plan into motion.
Yeah, I don't know. I'm not sure why Maki would make his research so cryptic if it could help stop a monster he knows very well. I'll have to wait for the Blu-ray release to see exactly what was going on with this part of the plot.
Maki is sort of the most interesting character in this movie because of the mystery surrounding him, yet he never appears on screen. As for the others, I'm personally ok with Anno deciding to make his story driven by satire and political commentary instead of giving us a personal connection to any individuals. It's fitting that a large group of characters come together to defeat Godzilla, with no special emphasis on any one person. It would sort of contradict the film's message to have a single hero. Japan needs to decide if they want independence, if they want to be able to take care of themselves as a country. They decide yes and defend themselves, as a country not a person.
In truth, none of the characters seem like they'd be all that interesting if we dove further into their lives anyways. This is something that can sadly be said about most Godzilla movies which is a shame. While most of the characters don't really stand out, one character in particular does. And not in a good way.
"I'm Kayoco Ann Patterson and I'm totally spunky and a little funny. I want to be YOUR president." -Kayoco Ann Patterson 2028
The problem with Kayoco is that in a story where you can reasonably buy into what is happening, all the political maneuvering and the messy chain of command present within the government, I just can't buy into her ever becoming president. She's a stereotyped character and no amount of suspended disbelief can make her aspirations seem plausible. Her English speaking scenes stick out like sore thumbs as well, especially her meeting with the US Ambassador to Japan. The man is portrayed like a cartoon villain, he's just a voice coming from a shadowy seat. Despite just needing to read a few lines, the voice acting is rather bad. The whole scene could have just been tossed. There's a few other American characters that have the same problem in their brief roles.
And So It Ends
As mentioned earlier, the Japanese government comes up with a pretty clever plan to defeat Godzilla, inspired by their findings in Maki's work. Essentially, they want to inject a blood coagulant into Godzilla cooling him down. The plan works, Godzilla is frozen, no nuke is dropped on Tokyo. At least not when the film ends.
I've been thinking about this ending since I left the theater, it leaves a lot open to speculation. We're told that if Godzilla were to wake up, the countdown to drop the nuke would resume. That would give them roughly an hour to...do something, whatever they could do before Tokyo is wiped off the map. This combined with the humanoid Godzilla creatures I referenced earlier creates an ending that maybe needed just a bit more. Open ended is good but, unless there's a direct sequel, I think Shin Godzilla leaves too much on the table.
Despite the flaws, Shin Godzilla's human plot rides its thought provoking nature to success. I may change my opinion a bit over time as I reflect back on this movie and watch it again, but right now I'm feeling pretty confident in saying it's one of the best human plots from any Godzilla movie. I can certainly see why someone might disagree, mostly because of the lack of personal character development, but the 1954 original Gojira is the only film in the series I can think of that delivers a comparably powerful plot and strong message about the world that inspired it.
A few scattered thoughts I have on other aspects of Shin Godzilla:
The soundtrack is fantastic. The classic theme and sound cues are present, making sure we know that we're watching an authentic Toho Godzilla, filling us with feelings only Toho can provide. I found it interesting how the soundtrack seemed to evolve with Godzilla and the Japanese Government. The music was more orchestrated and string driven when the old and passive leadership was in charge. When the younger generation took over, the music became more modern, lead by electric guitar and drums. The middle sections had a sort of blend between the two with strings, piano, and drums making for some great original tracks.The biggest blunder of this film was truly the googly eyes. There were other problems I saw in Godzilla's design based on the promo pictures and trailers, mainly the stubby arms and the incredibly long cat-like tail, but after seeing the film, those worked well. The googly eyes on the other hand...Though the effects were mostly great, there were some instances where the CG looked particularly bad. They serve as examples why the smaller budgets of Eastern films can't do full CGI like Western movies can.When Godzilla is injured by the American Air Force, I wondered if that was the cause of Godzilla's back lazers. Perhaps atomic energy was leaking through his wounds, similar to the gaping neck hole Godzilla has in GMK: Giant Monsters All Out Attack.I'd rather not compare this movie to Godzilla 2014 but let's face it, everyone is going to. If Toho turns Shin Godzilla into a series, it'll be Toho and Legendary going toe to toe for several years. I'd say Toho wins round one, the main difference being that Shin Godzilla is a lot more effective at accomplishing what it sets out to do. Legendary's film decided to make Godzilla a third string player behind nameless soldier #645327 and the Mutos. The problem was that Brody wasn't interesting enough to carry the movie like they wanted him and his plot to do and no other element in the film made up for it. Director Gareth Edwards also wanted to tease his monsters, evoking the slow burn style of classic films like Jaws and Alien, but it just didn't work. The cuts were unnatural and it felt obvious that they were intended to mess with us. I do enjoy Legendary's film. I've seen it several times and will see it several more I'm sure. There's just no contest here with regards to which movie executed its intent better.
I personally love Shin Godzilla, I feel it could very well end up being one of my favorites but I can see why others might feel differently. The poor pacing, long sequences of information overload, Godzilla sleeping for half the movie while the Japanese government studies and plans, and the kaiju's incredibly goofy and hilarious first form are all enough to give someone pause. Throw that on top of a very topical and heavy commentary that is tough to follow if you're not familiar with the 3/11 disaster and subsequent Fukushima meltdown, and you've got a movie that requires a lot from its viewers. It could take several rewatches to really grasp what is going on, I know it will for me. While I love the depth and feel Anno gives us a very thought provoking story, it might not click for others. It all comes down to what the viewer prefers, in respect to both storytelling and how they would like Godzilla to be used.
In the end, there's no doubt that this a Japanese movie made for a Japanese audience. The fact that we get to see it in US theaters is a treat. If you're curious about what an authentic Toho Godzilla film is like or you're a big fan of their work already, Shin Godzilla is absolutely a must see movie. You just might want to do some light reading first.
The true King is back and no one does it quite like Toho.
By Sirius_Amory33 - - 0 commentsRead more...
Greta Van Fleet Takes On The World
Interview and Show Review
***Re-edited and posted from an interview of August 2017.
Blood is thicker than water and talent is greater than trend. I arrived in time to hear some of the warm-up and was immediately immersed into the nu-retro sounds, though they weren’t quite happy with the technical aspects just yet. It was clear that the live show was going to be a real experience. So, this is Greta Van Fleet. Touted as the next big name in rock music and (more recently) even familiar to the likes of Robert Plant and Tom Hanks, I see a stage of talented youth who might know what they want more than they know who they are, but with the world willing to wait and see, they have it all the the palm of their blistered hands.
The instrumentalists left the stage, while Josh stays behind to finalize some details, and I get my first face-to-face with the band members.
Danny and Sam, these neo-flower children, with a peace sign necklace on the former and hippie-long locks all around, are the first that I meet. A couple of handshakes later, we’re immersed in a conversation about Abbey Road, which is a just delightful conversational topic at any time, but it’s especially nice with musicians. They apologize for the warm-up running late and I assure them that it’s all fine, glad to see their meteoric shoot to rock stardom have left them still as polite as you’d expect some guys from the Polka capital of Michigan to be.
Jake, guitar in hand, walks over, “This was all Sam’s fault. I don’t know how yet, but it was.” He also apologizes for running late, because we’re working with gentlemen here. Long-haired freaky people need not worry about applying themselves; we’re a lot more accepting these days. Picking up on the Beatles conversation, he begins to strum a bit of Blackbird, stylized. We joke about how I’m going to title the article “It Was All Sam’s Fault” [Editor’s Note: We’re not doing that.] and we get back into our love and respect of the Beatles and other musicians. There’s a greenness to this experience. They still have that enthusiasm of the newness of being interviewed as band members that makes the excitement infectious, even though we’re just shooting the breeze at this point.
Midconversation with the instrumentalists and I hear someone try to introduce themselves to me with my own name. The lead singer, Josh, joined our little cohort. My sarcastometer was not ready for this. I quickly learned that while every member of Greta Van Fleet has a personality that could fill a room, Josh has something to say about everything and he usually does it in an unexpected way.
After failing to complete the joke and introduce myself as him, we had a laugh, then were told that we would need to relocate for the interview.
We chit-chat in an over-full elevator to the basement. There are worse ways to break the ice as we already establish a humor to the situation at hand. Soon enough, seated in a rough circle, we are ready to begin.
“It’s like a Breakfast Club,” begins Josh. If you had any doubts about the authenticity of the retro feel this band exudes, you lose it within 10-seconds of being around them. References to years far past are commonplace among them, especially outspoken Josh. At one point, he even refers to me as “Baba Wawa” in a Gilda Radner throwback voice. They come as close to having an understanding of the era that made the music theirs echoes popular as they can for people born years after it ended, but there’s still an edge that reminds you that they are in or barely out of their teenage years in this modern era as the time passes. This edge gives a hope for their future music, it says they will grow into themselves and their sound, even more than how well they own it now.
The pre-show energy is evident, as they tend to answer questions as a unit. This interview has been edited and condensed in an attempt to provide some sense of order and because there aren’t enough letters in the Latin alphabet for all of the sounds and noises they made.
As a background, if you are unaware, Greta Van Fleet is made up of twins Jake (lead guitar, 21) & Josh (lead vocals, 21), their brother, Sam (bass & keyboard, 18), and their friend Danny (drums, 18). They’ve all been playing most of their lives. That, along with some natural talent and creativity, accounts for the amazing skill they have at a remarkable age. Their sound is often compared to Led Zeppelin, particularly due to the lead singer’s wailing vocals and penchant for hitting high pitches, so that’s what I start with in...
Interviewer (to Josh): So how do you feel about the Robert Plant comparisons?
Josh: I’m alright with that, you know? He’s probably one of the better singers.
Interviewer: It didn’t get old yet?
Josh: No, no. I mean, anything can get old, but I get it, because it sounds a lot alike. Probably because when I was listening to Led Zeppelin, I was like, “There’s a lot of power behind that, how does he do that?” and a lot of those soul singers do that, where they can just belt that stuff. So it was like that is the best way to sing to get that power behind it. He’s one of my favorite singers, too, one of my heroes.
Interviewer (to all): How has your experience been with fans so far?
They all answered in a jumble of grateful comments, so I asked a more direct question.
Interviewer: You already have a decent following, is there anything you’d like your fans to know about how to interact at signings or meet-and-greets?
Jake: I like when they’re not as, you know, overbearing, because it’s easier to connect.
Josh: Ultimately, it’s like, they love what we do and it’s the appreciation of our art and our work, so it’s kind of a huge compliment- the fact that they appreciate that, so I think that we’re all super grateful for it, we like to talk to them.
Interviewer: You’ve talked about having a very organic song-writing process. How would things change if a member of the band took over as a dictator of the creative lead?
Josh: Well, it wouldn’t be art anymore. It would be SHIT!
Interviewer: How do you balance shows and being on the road with life and sleep?
Jake: We don’t. We arrived at our hotel at 4 in the morning. It’s good that we’re young. We have to do all of this while we’re young, when we can kind of bounce back from it.
Josh: Just get as much sleep as you can and just deal with it.
Danny: It was hard at first, but it’s so fun. It’s so overwhelming and fun, you don’t even think about the sleep. Until after the tour, that’s when you crash, but during it all, it’s just *clap, clap* you get a momentum going. It’s fun. It’s not as hard as you think.
Josh: Not when you’re in it. I mean, if you’re thinking about it, the process itself, then it becomes intimidating, or it can be, but then when you’re surrounded by it all the time and it becomes your world, you accept it. If you fought it, you’d burn yourself out.
Interviewer (to Danny): I’ve read in other interviews that the Kiszca’s father was in the music scene and “gets” the band lifestyle. How have your parents taken to you being on the road?
Danny: Rather well.
Josh: Your mother plays the guitar
Danny: My mom plays the guitar. That’s kind of how I started. I started playing the guitar. She had an old 12-stringer she had since the ‘70s and she took lessons as a kid. Her dad, my grandfather, he got her into lessons. I feel like the music part of me comes from my mom’s side of the family.
Sam: His dad actually told me one time, he said, “I always thought it would be so cool if Daniel was in a band.”
S: Yeah, and he was like, “and not only a band now, but now it’s really going somewhere.” He always thought that, I always thought that that was funny.
Danny: I never heard that; that’s cool.
Interviewer: That’s awesome. Okay, guys, this one is important. Would you rather fight one horse-sized duck or one hundred duck-sized horses?
Danny: One horse sized duck. Definitely. Then you’d only have one thing to worry about.
Jake: I’d feel bad. Horses are beautiful. Ducks aren’t as beautiful.
Jake: Well, what’s our weapon?
Interviewer: What weapon would you like?
Jake: If I was fighting a duck the size of a horse, I would want a 12-gauge.
Danny: How about a fencing sword. I would fence the duck.
Josh: *funny voice* It would bite your leg off.
Jake: It would swallow you whole.
Danny: It could try.
Josh: *focusing again* That’s the answer we’ve got for ya.
Interviewer: Do any of you have any secret talents?
[i can not account for how much of the following is accurate and how much was sarcastic or joking. You have been warned.]
Sam: I can play the fiddle… with my feet.
Interviewer: Can you really?
Jake: I’m accurate with a bottle cap.
Interviewer: Why don’t you use that to take out the horse-sized duck?
Danny: I was just thinking about the horse sized duck.
Josh: Yeah, flaming bottle caps! *machine gun noises*
Jake: I’m the tortilla tossing champion of Michigan.
Interviewer: Of all of Michigan?
Josh: Yeah. Digest that!
Danny: Sam plays the swinette.
Sam: I do play the swinette. I can also eat 12 hot dogs in a minute.
Danny: Are you kidding?
Sam: No. I’m dead serious.
Josh: I won the first place for the dugout shelter of Michigan … championship. Basically, if there was a fallout, I’d be the one you’d want to go to.
Interviewer: Does Michigan just have a bunch of random championships as a state?
Jake: Yeah, I guess. There’s not much… I mean, you can just chop wood up there. You’ve got that.
They begin talking faster and over each other.
Danny: Sam can tie the most knots in a minute.
Sam: That’s true. (pause) I was a boy scout. I know my knots.
Josh: Danny, were you a boy scout?
Jake: We were all boy scouts.
Josh: And I was the dugout shelter champion.
Danny: You guys were cub scouts.
Josh: The, uh, tri-city regional champion.
The conversation begins to get weird, which can be fun, but I attempt to get us back on track, due to time constraints.
Interviewer: What about Weird habits.
Sam: I bit my toenails.
Interviewer: That means you can reach your foot to your face.
Sam: (pause) Yeah.
Jake: So, that’s a good one.
Josh: Weird habits, weird habits. Not any strange ones. Like I think too much, that’s a habit, right?
Interviewer: I think that counts. That’s pretty common among musicians.
Jake: We all do that. I have a habit of sleepwalking at night, so whoever’s room I’m in, I’ll be standing above them with a bow and arrow stretched out. *laughing* Actually, as a real one, when I’ve been asleep before, I have a habit of playing.
Josh: Actually, yeah, I’ve seen that, like maybe once or twice, I’ve seen him doing this *air guitar*. He’s playing the guitar in his sleep.
Dan: Josh, you’ll hum melodies in your sleep.
Josh: Really? We all make music in our sleep!
Danny: Remember that one time you walked in and you said I was drumming?
Josh: Your foot was moving, too. Sam’s the only one I don’t think I ever saw doing it.
Sam: ‘Cause I’m too focused when I sleep.
Josh: Sam’s the only one out of all of us that can just lay down on a pillow and be out.
Interviewer: That is definitely a talent to me.
Danny: I just fall asleep randomly. *laughs*
Interviewer: That’s called narcolepsy.
Josh: You should probably get that checked out.
Danny: Yeah, before I just fall asleep onstage. *laughs*
Interviewer (to Sam): What about the not wearing shoes, is that a habit?
Sam: It’s not really a habit, it just kind of happens.
Danny: We probably have 50 pictures of him like that.
Sam: My feet were really hot.
Jake: We would have mentioned it earlier, but it’s just so… we're immune to it. We don’t really notice it.
S: My feet were really hot, so I just took my shoes off. That’s how that really happens.
Interviewer: Do you think that learning to play in a more organic setting affected your technique?
Sam: When you’re taught something by a music teacher, they’re teaching you, basically, how to play, and I think that when you're given the ability to try to learn something on your own that you basically have a moredirect connection to some of your influences.
Josh: I think a good analogy is when Orson Welles was asked, “How is it you could make Citizen Kane?” something like that, and he said “Ignorance, sheer ignorance.” Not knowing how to make a movie is the reason he made those choices he made.
Jake: I think when you learn things by ear, they’re more instilled in your soul, rather than just knowing it in your brain, when somebody shows you how to do something. It wasn’t really a choice, that we said, “Oh, I’m going to learn to play bass, you know, on my own.” My dad had one sitting around and I started playing with it a little bit.
Sam: Then Daniel started to play drums last week.
Interviewer: Which is weird, because the tour was longer than that.
Daniel: Yeah, it’s a weird thing where I just tend to forget and relearn all of it.
Interviewer: If you had an unlimited budget and resources, what would your dream video be for any of your songs?
Josh: Anywhere that we would be able to travel outside of the United States.
Jake: I think going through a Safari in Africa. Thick jungle.
Josh Maybe shooting with some of the ancient tribes.
Danny: Maybe South America, in the rainforest.
Josh: Discovering ancient societies. Could be f***in’ dangerous.
Jake: *Nods to me.* We’ll take her, too, she’s a journalist. She knows what she’s doing.
Interviewer: I’m game. Let’s go, haha.
Jake: That’s all you need.
Josh: You just need a journalist and a film crew.
Jake: I’d like to film a video in space.
Danny: No one’s ever done that.
Interviewer: That would be fantastic.
We get the 5 minute signal, so I move on to my last question.
Interviewer: What message or advice would you give to young musicians working towards making a career out of music?
Josh: Don’t do it. Don’t do it! Nah, I think persistence, really. I think if you have great passion and great truth in what you’re doing, if it means that much to you, then persistence and never stopping is probably the most important thing that you can do.
Danny: Don’t ever let anyone tell you how to do what you do good.
Jake: Play, play, play, play, and never stop playing.
Josh: If it feels right, follow it, and never stop. If you do, the whole universe will conspire to your advantage.
With that hopeful end and overhearing that this was “definitely the most entertaining interview we’ve ever gotten” (*pats self on the back*), we parted ways and I went back upstairs to wait for the show to begin.
Catch some bonus facts at the end of the article that were discussed apart from the main interview questions.
The opening bands were far from what you’d expect to open for a band that is being touted as the next Led Zeppelin. The first opener, Rahway, was like late nineties garage metal trickled into the present.
The second opener was another complete change in direction. Goodbye June is another band that, while undeniably now, have that heavy, classic, Southern rock sound. I later found out that the lead singer and guitarists are cousins, so they have more in common with GVF than just having a lot of talent and energy playing a throwback sound.
The Headliner: Greta Van Fleet
Then our headliner took to the stage. In vintage-style outfits that they looked surprisingly natural in, the four of them were ready to play.
They began with the energetic “Talk on the Street”, showing off a barrage of guitar and drum beats that almost fight with the vocals for attention. Though the song is not on the EP and not as well known, it got everyone’s attention and set the mood for the rest of the performance. Their EP’s namesake, “Black Smoke Rising”, rose out of that energy. The crowd really got into it then, singing along with every word.
The subsequent songs, “Edge of Darkness”, where Jake skillfully plays his guitar behind his head, and “When the Cold Wind Blows” kept the energy up, even though being lesser known. The thing is, these songs speak for themselves. You don’t need to know the words, you don’t need to know the melody, you don’t need to have heard them before. They are infectious. They are what live music is supposed to be- youthful, classic, rock. Could they be more refined? Sure. Should they be? No. Not yet. Let these kids be young and play music that possesses the energy of their predecessors. The room to grow is one of the most exciting parts for a new band, but even if this is to be all the music they ever release (knock on wood), it’s amazing for what it is. Skillful, raw rock and roll. I don’t need anything more than that.
Another EP hit, “Flower Power”, induced a total light and airy feeling in the room. A love ballad may seem premature for such a young band, but you have to remember that they have been playing together for four years (the Kiszca brothers, even longer than that) and grew up on the classics- literally using the classics to learn and hone their craft. Besides, the phrase “out of sight” is used effortlessly and you can not find fault in that. I’ll be openly biased here. I’m a huge proponent for bringing back certain phrases to common vernacular and “outta sight” is fairly high on that list, but Flower Power is amazing even aside from those words.
They played another lovey song, “You’re the One”, before a rendition of Willie Dixon’s’ “Evil”. The Dixon song choice, considering that he was also a known inspiration of Led Zeppelin, was nicely meta. As Josh’s vocals are far from the only comparable quality to Zep, the next song, Mountain of the Sun, played on some of those classic, transcendental lyrics that they were so known for, which was followed by dreamy “Watching Over”, which has a stop/start quality that goes right through your whole being.
They played another one of my favorites, Lover Leaver Taker Believer, before ending with the final two songs from their EP, “Highway Tune” and “Safari Song”. “Safari Song” may not have the deepest or most original song, but the way Josh enunciates “your heart” while shrieking the chorus is one of the most head-bangable parts of any song in their line up.
These guys are born performers.
Josh, who demands control of the stage, has an innate character quality that he is sure of himself in. Almost snarling between verses and smiling in what must be an almost unconscious reverie at times, exposing enviably nice teeth, he clearly enjoys what he does. His twin, Jake, has an obvious comfort in his practiced playing and has an equally powerful, if not quite as overt, stage presence. He chooses his moments to shine to meld with the music naturally. Their little brother, Sam, has a quiet quality that reminded me of a young George Harrison, which is no minor quality in my book. Watch out for this one, especially if he ever takes a spiritual journey. He might take his effortless exchange from bass to keys (and swinette?) over to the sitar next and I’ll look forward to hearing all of the music that comes out of it. Finally, Danny, their band-brother. This kid makes a drum solo worth paying attention to. His energy adds to the energy that penetrates the performance and is definitely not one to follow the drummer stereotype of just sitting in the background. I can’t speak for the entire room of fans, but the girls next to me were very vocal about their adoration for the drummer.
Led Zeppelin is the obvious comparison, but there are notes of many other bands here, as well as their own style. You have a replacement drummer, the potential for more complex songwriting skills, and a fabulous number of band members, which is very Beatles.
At the end of the day, you have to remember that this is GVF’s first foray into rock stardom. So the melodies and lyrics are very reminiscent of bands that could feature easily in Woodstock with a heavier, almost metal, aspect mixed in, but that gives them room to grow from their roots. There has been a lot of noise surrounding these dudes and it is worthwhile, but as we could really use a good rock music renaissance, let’s not let this one burn out. I, for one, am going to keep my eye out for what comes next and I more than hope, I expect that their music and performances will get more intense, more unique, and more themselves as time goes on. They have their whole future ahead of them and they really have every opportunity to grab hold of it and take it for all that it’s worth. It would be easy for them to rest on their laurels and comparisons to an idyllic time past, but if they want to make it or grow as musicians, they wouldn’t do that and I don’t see it happening. That’s exciting. Anything could be coming next.
Let’s all give them the support and hope that they will take it and run, because we will all be better off for it.
Rock on, my dreamers, and give these kittens another listen.
You’ll be glad you did. I am.
Josh is the older twin, beating Jake out by about 5 minutes. The band has a goal to sell out Madison Square Garden. Jake rewired some of his wrist muscles by continuing to play guitar after a wrestling-related injury Despite the protest of his mother, it ended up being pretty therapeutic. Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin knows who they are and talked about them in a recent Rolling Stones article. Their song writing style is organic and usually happens quickly. Danny is the only band member who isn’t related by blood, but he is essentially a brother to the rest at this point. They have many inspirations for lyrics, including some “nerdy” ones, such as Nietzsche.
Sam is most comfortable playing without shoes on. A true hero.
Since the initial writing of this article, the band’s music has been featured on Spotify, in various TV shows, from Shameless to Lucifer and even The Tonight Show, played dozens of sold out shows and festivals, including Coachella, where they won the approval of Tom Hanks (what more do you really need in life?), and released their second EP, From the Fires.
Their highly anticipated first album comes out tomorrow!
Go and listen.
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The Walking Dead Issue #150 Summary & Review | Betrayed
THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE WALKING DEAD ISSUE #150, AS WELL AS PREVIOUS ISSUES! PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK!
Hyped Up Issue #150 | Volume 25 Finale
The long awaited "Betrayed" has finally released. Who is betrayed in Issue 150? Is it Rick? Who betrays him? Do you think it's Dwight? All of these questions get answered in January 2016's issue.
If you remember, issue 149 ended with Dwight leaving with Lucille (Negan's barbed-wire-bat). This issue continues where 149 left off, only Laura joins him in his travels. The scene cuts to Rick and Eugene discussing putting together military. after one short page of the discussion, Rick steps out into the night. This is only 3 pages into the comic, giving me the illusion that it would be an intense 20 or so finishing pages. That wasn't the case. Rick gets jumped by two hooded men (Mortan & Vincent), but things get heated when Morton goes too far by deciding to KILL Rick. Vincent tries to stop him. He's unsuccessful, but manages to knock him on his rump next to Rick, allowing Mr. Grimes to take a bite out of crime by performing his favorite Finishing Move.
[su_spoiler title=SPOILER - Mmmm - Tasty][/su_spoiler]
The comic then cuts to Andrea strolling the hallways when she walks into Carl becoming a man. That's right, knockin' boots with the creepy fetish-craved, Lydia.
Rick is then found by Maggie and brought to the local hospital / care center. Rick sends Michonne to find Vincent since he fled from the scene. While she's searching for Vincent, Rick heads out to an emergency meeting all beat up and bloodied; Both his blood and Morton's. He wants them to see him in his current condition in order to get his point across.
Rick explains his fear of returning to the way things were 3+ years ago, but can no longer allow the community to be 'weak' since they're 'safe.' As he's speaking, Michonne arrives with Vincent and brings him up to the platform. Rick reaches out his hand and lets Vincent know that they need him. The community needs each other. Together, they can "Silence the Whisperers Once and For All!"
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Greta Van Fleet’s New Album Anthem of the Peaceful Army
Greta Van Fleet’s New Album Anthem of the Peaceful Army Attempts to Establish Them as Individuals with an Album They Wrote
We recently posted an article of an interview with Greta Van Fleet [that got shoved in the Vault for a while last year] in long awaited anticipation of the new GVF album, Anthem of the Peaceful Army. (What happened to that summer release? Doesn't matter- it's here now!) In light of the album's debut on October 19th, 2018, here is our honest and sometimes weird review of the album where we DON’T attempt to answer the question of whether or not these lads have done enough to differentiate themselves from one of the biggest bands in the world on their premier album after stirring up more buzz than you could shake a stick at, but we do make mild references to that.
Torn between my love of Cheerios and common sense...Led Zeppelin. There you have it. They are not them, okay? The similarities are there, but it doesn’t need to be in every passing thought about them.
Also, don’t shake sticks at things that buzz. Sage advice.
On to the Review!
Age of Man
Flowery flutes and straining vocals make this track an interesting introduction. Then, the guitars. I know there are many (Led Zeppelin) comparisons, but this has a bit of a Heart vibe when those strings kick in. This is a good jam. It’s solid. You’ll nod your head along, entrapped in the beat, and feel somehow inspired. Also, the vocals, backing as well as Josh’s amazing ones, need to be noted. If you’re unsure at this point, the vocals should be enough to keep you in for the ride.
The Cold Wind
A tonal twin of Black Smoke Rising, this is the song that makes you feel like driving. Can we get this on cassette? Play it in something with either a vinyl roof or wood paneling while cruising into a dusky evening full of colors in the fading light? I’m not asking for much. If I was, a Firebird or ‘Stang would be involved.
This is the epitome of what a song with a classic rock feeling should be. It doesn’t make you scratch your head thinking of something else, but it fits right in as though it belonged there all along.
When the Curtain Falls
Sprinkles of “babes” and “darlings” among lyrics that would usually invoke a bit of that condescending Cat Steven’s Wild World vibe come too soon here, considering a band of recent high school graduates sing “in and out of fashion” completely unironically about this unnamed darling while being considered the next throwback band.
I can appreciate that, I just feel it needs to be noted.
Slowing things down. I’m really enjoying the psychedelic dichotomy between the circular riffs and the steady vocals. I feel it. Yes, the water is rising, but it doesn’t drift too far out to sea. Another solid song with some depth to it. There are multiple tonal changes crammed into these four and a half minutes, but it’s a smooth ride. Fairly well done.
This is the one I was waiting to hear the recorded version of. I rarely find studio songs that hold up to live for the bands that really bring it live, because great energy can fix mediocre talent and send awesome talent into the stratosphere, but this brings the energy with it and the talent. The head nod now moves and infects the torso. I’ll be dancing soon at this rate.
Not to get repetitive, but this is solid. You need to get the intonation right, because intonation can make a vocabulary out of one word.
I apologize for the occasional limitations of the written word.I was almost disappointed this title wasn’t all four words, but I was ahead of myself. Instead, we get ten minutes of this great (Greta? Great? Greata? This band is ruining my ability to type… like, more than it is.) tune. Thank you!
You’re the One
This song is so sweet. In the way that has a purity and simplicity to it that is refreshing and nice. This would sound immature from most other bands, but the intricacy of the instrumentals backs it well and the result is more one of those purposefully, cut back sounds that many artists only get too after playing with too much for too long and trying to re-find themselves. The overall sound really has it.
I’m saying it’s good.
Plus, I didn’t think of Zeppelin once during the whole song and that seems to count for something, according to the other reviews I’ve read so far. Some Jeff Lynne, but his name only kind of s
Alright, I’m dancing now. I know, we shouldn’t have let this happen, but here we are. Why aren’t you listening yet? Then you’d get it. No, then you'll get it. The guitar is happy on this song. The backing vocals are a bit overdone, but if this song isn’t the sun smiling on a bunch of flowers, I don’t know what is. The end is a bit abrupt, but just let it lead in to the next
I’m starting to wonder how severe the editing will be, but this music invokes feelings that are best described in motion and other senses. My mild synesthesia might also be coming out, but I’d like to think good music just evokes this in everyone.
Mountain of the Sun
Open in a quintessential diner in a midwestern town, the kind that turns into a friendly dive bar at night, you know the kind. You’ve seen them on TV. This is the song those fellas in the back are playing while everyone chats and dances off the remains of their long day. I don’t get the title, but this song could have been closer to the beginning. It’s inviting and comfortable.
That breakdown, nice.
It spins me right round.Sugar, is that a harmonica? I’m telling you, that dive on the edge of town where everyone seems to know each other, but don’t make you feel unwelcome? This song is that place. It doesn’t need to exist, it just is.
I think this just pushed me over the edge to buying the vinyl of the album.
Brave New World
Lyrically, yes, this does sound like it could be about the book. It’s another good song, but the pattern is too similar to others on the record for it to really stand out. The chorus sucks you in. They don’t over rely on choruses, which is nice in itself, but that does help to establish this song.
I heard this on the radio last week and was very excited to get to hear it again. There is some Dylan-vibe on this track and a touch of Magical Mystery, but the percussion gets a standout and it feels like flower petals dropping. Fields and forests; this song is a happy midday pause.
Solid choice in a title song.
It also sounds like another thing the ‘60s and ‘70s were renowned for.
I mean Woodstock, of course.
Lover, Leaver (Taker, Believer)
Yeeeeesssssssssssss. This is heavy. This is heavy, man.
This album is definitely worth a listen and a buy. I think these guys are going to be fine, but some support is always nice, right? Oh, look, the link to the Greta Van Fleet shop is right, well, there.
This album shows the variety of what guitars can do and I'll always love that in music. Guitars aren't really an underappreciated or underestimated instrument, but they can be underutilized. This album did not. I am so appreciative of that.
Also, a recent article on Billboard (Yeah, go you guys! Billboard!) revealed that Sam managed to ignore a passing tornado. Add that to the sock thing that was previously mentioned here on DF and you have one of those untryingly interesting individuals. While all of these multi-talented youths are ones to watch, that is some next level, bad sitcom unawareness. Amazing.
Buy the album. This post was not sponsored in any way or even asked for. It just is.
Post-post Script: On my first listen through, I heard an instrument that I couldn't identify on one of the songs. I don't know if it disappeared (unlikely), but I haven't been able to find it since. I can't wait for more videos of live performances to come forth, because I'd like to see how they pull these off. Maybe even get to see them headlining. Anyone out in the interworlds going?
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Overcooked Review: Taste of Victory
You know what's more fun than cooking in an actual kitchen? Being a master chef of the video game world! And what better way is there to spend time screaming at your friends or loved ones than sitting on the couch with Overcooked. Team 17 created a fun and fast-paced cooking based game that everyone can enjoy. Whether you are prepping the kitchen for four or going solo, this game is a great way to pass the time.
Setting Up The Kitchen
Our culinary quest starts like any other adventure; King Onion and his dog, Kevin, plead with us to save the world by satisfying the hunger of The Beast. Unfortunately, as players are cooking newbs, the only items they can serve up is salad. Let's face it; the Beast's hunger cannot be satisfied by salad alone.
King Onion takes it upon himself to send the players back in time to travel about and sharpen their cooking skills for a rematch. In order to prepare, the future master chefs (not to be confused with Master Chief...that's another game) must head through cities, go on the road, and venture into outer space to conjure delicious dishes to satisfy the Beast.
Overcooked Recipe Book
Overcooked has several different modes: Campaign, Versus, and DLC in the Lost Morsel, and Festive Seasoning. Regardless of the mode you choose, the game has the same focus.
The object of Overcooked is to prepare and serve food while avoiding obstacles and beating the clock. The quicker players put out orders, the more tip money and points they receive. Each level usually has a particular recipe to prepare, such as soup, burgers, fish and chips, or pizza. Orders will consist of various ingredients that must be chopped, cooked, assembled, plated and sent out. In some cases, players are responsible for cleaning dishes, while in others they must avoid kitchen hazards like moving counter tops and jumping between food trucks.
In the campaign mode, players tackle a series of levels that require a mastery of 1-3 stars to advance to the next section. Each level has a particular score that needs to be hit to earn a rank, and players must cooperate in order to master the kitchen. Versus mode pits players against each other in an all-out cook out. Overcooked's DLC options offer would-be chefs more levels and more avatar options.
Next Top Chef?
When I purchased this game during XBOX ONE's Black Friday deals, I was reminded fondly of an Atari game called
. My nostalgia factor took over, and I sat down to play this game. First off, the graphics are pretty great. The game has an old school feel with smooth, modern graphics. The music is catchy, though forgettable - but that's not really what matters in a game like this.
This game is addictive, especially as a co-op game. It's not enough to get one or two stars. I had to have them all, and each stage had a fair amount of difficulty. While not the hardest game on the shelf, some of the levels could prove to be pretty challenging depending on how well your team works together, or how many players you have.
The controls are simple enough, and when it comes time for Versus mode, there is a fair amount of challenge swapping between avatars to beat your opponent - unless of course, you have more players.
I found myself saying pretty often, "There's no way you could do this with one player." That being said, it really isn't as fun with just one person. I'm not sure it's meant to be played solo.
Overcooked: Final Cook Off
If you are looking for some good, competitive fun, this is the perfect game to pick up. It's a great game to play with a couple of friends or family members, provided you work as a team. Of course, if cooperation isn't your thing, you could find yourself screaming "CHOP THAT ONION" at someone you thought was your friend, but clearly doesn't know his or her way around a kitchen.
Regardless, it's a wonderful way to spend the afternoon, and with the added DLC, players can keep coming back to the kitchen for another round.
So what do you think? Have you played Overcooked before? Which avatar is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below.
Want to try Overcooked?
Buy it here on XBOX ONE, PS4, or Steam!
Final Fantasy IX Review - The Evolution of Final Fantasy
We’ve come to the final franchise entry for the PS1 era. The series developed from the 8-bit medieval fantasy into a more realistic and futuristic game, each with a twist on game mechanics and story-telling. Though the past three main Final Fantasy games ascended into a more ‘technological era,’ this last entry was a nod back to the originals that started the epic journey. Set against a medieval background with a cast of quirky and unforgettable characters, it would be easy to believe that Final Fantasy IX is a light-hearted adventure; but don’t be fooled. While the look is more cartoon-ish, the story-line is incredibly dark as well as charming. There are many pros and cons to this fantastic entry, and it is definitely a fitting swan song for the PS1 era.
Back to the Classics and New Additions
Final Fantasy IX is quite the turn after Final Fantasy VII and VIII. Seeped in past lore, we leave the materia and GF-Junction systems behind as we return to the single class character design and buying upgrades. The game has several nods to past franchise entries including character inspirations, musical throw-backs, and collectible items. This lends a lovely touch of nostalgia without completely relying on the past. Of course, since this is a Final Fantasy game, the music is master piece by the wonderful Nobuo Uematsu in one of his greatest scores ever. All of these cherished aspects combine into one of the most well-balanced and visually stunning games in the series.
While the game returned to its roots, it’s not without innovations. One in particular is the addition of ‘Active Time Events.’ These cut-away scenes were added to provide additional insight and character development for a richer narrative. Other new developments involve a new way to learn abilities, an option to forge new weapons and armor, and a series of mini-games to form a truly enjoyable game. Regardless of the changes or throw-backs, the greatest part of Final Fantasy IX lies within its story.
Welcome to Gaia
Our story begins in the world of Gaia on the onset of war between two of the great nations. Players join Zidane Tribal, a plucky thief in a traveling band of misfits called
. He and his crew are attempting to capture the princess of Alexandria, Garnet Til Alexandros XVII. What begins as a high-stakes kidnapping turns into a game of cat and mouse. It catches not only the princess and her protector, Adelbert Steiner, in a daring escape, but also poor Vivi, a
and innocent bystander. As our plot thickens and the cast of characters grow, tension between the nations of Alexandria, Lindblum, Cleyra, and Burmecia rises. War rages against the power hungry Queen of Alexandria and Garnet's mother, Queen Brahne.
While Zidane and the others face the threat of Alexandria, a third player is pulling the strings. With the mysterious introduction of Kuja, a mysterious arms dealer, our heroes soon discover that not everything as it seems. It is a twisted story of war, self-discovery, and other-worldly surprises.
A Fine Line between Comedy and Tragedy
Final Fantasy IX has one of the most intricate stories of the series. On the surface it begins as a war story, but the narrative sinks into a dark allegory concerning our own existence. Unlike previous heroes who jump into the fray because they are 'the chosen ones,' we have characters who press on out of obligation, love, or self-discovery. While the powerful arc pushes each character to his or her limit, they exponentially grow by the conclusion. The lines of good and evil are so blurred that it's hard not to show sympathy for characters on both sides. Even the all-powerful villains seem to have some redeeming qualities that can alter our perception.
The world of Gaia is covered in shades of grey - while some moments are clearly black and white, the narrative touches on the aspects that make us all human, while using both human and non-human characters. Filled with silly moments and downright bone-chilling scenes, Final Fantasy IX tells a powerful story that players will want to revisit. It is incredibly well-balanced; the heavy moments are complemented by charming comedic scenes that allow for a rounded narrative.
Change isn't Always Good
That being said, there are some issues. The main story becomes a little muddy and difficult to follow. While all of the characters are very interesting, some of their development doesn't reach full potential, including the main villain. At points, the pacing is a little slow, but the worst error is a mandatory section that requires players to play Tetra Master. Rather than having a mini-game add extra fun, this card game is forced on the players and it does not play as well as it's predecessor, Triple Triad. There is no worthy reward for playing the game, and it really doesn't fit in. That being said, these aspects are not overwhelming enough to destroy the game experience. The game mechanics and the wonderful characters are enough to keep gamers wanting more.
Getting Ready for Battle
Final Fantasy IX has game-play very similar to its predecessors. Players have access to a main party that consists of eight playable characters: Zidane, Dagger, Vivi, Steiner, Freya, Quina, Eiko, and Amarant. There are other NPC characters that gamers can control for a determined amount of time. Players can explore the world map, towns, and dungeons like previous entries; however, rather than using a save point, Final Fantasy IX utilizes moogles for that function. When players encounter a moogle, they can talk with it, buy basic items, and take part in the mini-game ‘Mognet’ which is an on-going letter exchange between all the moogles in the game.
In addition to the save point change, Final Fantasy IX includes a field icon to assist in finding exits and treasure on screen – which is a huge help considering the intricate graphics. There is also a new approach to puzzle solving and story-telling through the ATE – or active time events. These events can allow for slight differentiation in game play, character development, and navigating dungeons – almost like Final Fantasy VI.
Also, like previous entries, players navigate the world map by foot, chocobo, boat or airship and can run into random battles.
Customization and Equipment
Final Fantasy IX returns to a single character system; each character has a specific skill set and equipment they can equip, and that never changes. On the other hand, players get to choose which abilities their characters learn by equipping them with the proper equipment. Of course, a thief (Zidane) can’t learn Cure – that’s a skill outside his class. However, gamers can acquire many different items with learn-able abilities. These abilities depend on the equipment characters wear and use. After gaining enough ability points, characters can use the skill without the item. As characters level, so do their stats, attributes, and skill points. The higher level, the more skills your characters can equip.
Another fun customization for characters comes from forging new items. Players can collect equipment and use it to form stronger weapons and accessories with rare skills. It becomes imperative to horde equipment in order to make new items because there are so many options. Of course, it's easy to find a guide in the age of the internet - but it's important to hold on to at least one of everything.
You Used TRANCE! It's not very effective…
Final Fantasy IX uses a similar battle system to its predecessors, and returns to the original four character battle formation. Each encounter runs on the Active Time Battle system (ATB) that has players waiting for the gauge to fill in order to perform an action. Each character has special abilities based on their class, such as steal, black magic, or casting summons/eidolons. However, unlike previous entries, the battle speed is incredibly slow. While the animation of the enemies and characters is quite incredible, the action drops to a crawl which makes battles last much too long.
Another change comes in the addition of the ‘Trance’ mode limit break. As characters take damage, a secondary gauge fills, much like Final Fantasy VII’s limit breaks. When the gauge is full, characters go into ‘Trance’ mode and unleash powerful attacks for a short period of time. Though it sounds great, the biggest flaw with the Trance model was the inability to store or save it. Whenever a character’s gauge is full, he or she will automatically go into Trance mode – like after an enemy has died or a battle has concluded. The game will even pause to allow a character to enter Trance mode before the victory music plays. Also, the Trance abilities aren't always the greatest.
Regardless, Final Fantasy IX’s battles are still fun and with fair amount of challenge.
Mini Games and More
By this point, Final Fantasy fans know that each new entry is going to have some interesting mini-games. Final Fantasy IX is no exception. There are plenty of side missions: the Mognet quest, a chocobo item-hunting game, and the terrible Tetra Master. After the success of Final Fantasy VIII’s card game, Triple Triad, the developers included something 'similar' and made it part of the story. Unfortunately, Tetra Master is not as easy to follow, and could be down-right frustrating. After a brief explanation and a few test runs, the card game is still confusing. Gamers must manage to get through it.
Another point of contention involved Final Fantasy IX’s strategy guide. While this didn’t affect the game directly, instead of doing its job, the guide was full of links asking players to log into the PlayOnline website. Most of these links no longer work, but thankfully, the internet has plenty of noteworthy guides for anyone looking for a helping hand. Understandably, if someone shelled out the cash for the guide, it would hardly be worth it.
Final Fantasy IX does a wonderful job of capturing the heart of the Final Fantasy series. The game is truly an example of a wonderful narrative and it captures spirit of the beginnings of the franchise. It marries some of the greatest aspects of the series into one beautiful game with an incredible story and soundtrack. This final entry for the PS1 era says good-bye to the designs of the past and forges on into a future of innovation.
Manga Corner: Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Vol. 1 Review
The Legend of Zelda is one of the greatest video game series of all time. It also happens to be one of my favorite. When I first discovered that there was manga series based off the franchise I have played since I was a child, I had a bit of a meltdown. The series is by Akira Himekawa and every book is a treasure, including the latest based on final Zelda game on the Gamecube and the first for the Wii. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Vol. 1 debuted on February 8th, 2016 - it was translated and released in the States on March 15th, 2017, published by Viz Media.
At first, it wasn't likely that the book would be published at all due to the game's rating and how it was received. Like the previous entries in this manga series, the Twilight Princess manga is based off the video game of the same name. This graphic novel is the first of four planned for the series.
There is a Legend...
Our hero, Link, is doing his best to settle down in the peaceful Ordon Village. Little does he know, his world of light is about to turn dark. Shadows have begun to stir. An ancient evil long forgotten has taken hold of the land of Hyrule. Can Link face the darkness of his former life and rise to meet his destiny? Or will he be swallowed forever by the demons lurking in his past?
Entering The Shadow Realm
While Twilight Princess is based off the video game, there are quite a few changes to the story. It goes further into the origins of Zant and Midna and provides Link with a backstory prior to his arrival in Ordon Village. While this added information fills in the narrative, I'm eager to see how they develop it in each volume. Focusing on our main hero, this personification of Link is different than others up to this point. He's a little rough around the edges and less eager to please. He acts like an actual teenager, which is refreshing, but he still has those familiar heroic qualities.
The theme is much darker and the visuals complement that vision. Some of the scenes are pretty gruesome, but then again, this was one of the more somber entries in the game franchise. As a starter, Vol. 1 does a good job drawing in the readers, leaving many unanswered questions. It also provides enough change for veterans of the series to be intrigued. While the novel does captivate its audience, I feel like it ended far too soon. This book only covers the very beginning - and though the creators have always done well adapting the games, I can't help but worry a bit. Or maybe I just want the next volume to be out.
I can't get over the artistry; the artwork is just outstanding. Hyrule and its inhabitants leap off the page. Each character depiction is very true to the video game. The panels are fluid, easy to follow, and they read quickly. Overall, this is a pretty good start to a series.
Twilight Princess, Vol. 1: Final Thoughts
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Vol. 1 doesn't shy away from the darker themes explored in its console counterpart.Though the tone is more mature than other franchise adaptations, it is visually inspired and true to the source material. It introduces a fair amount of previously unexplored backstory and sets up its audience for the next dramatic entry; and I am excited for it!
What do you all think? Have you read The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Vol. 1? Did you know Vol. 2 is out? Want to have a copy of your very own? Click here!
Or maybe you're more interested in the source material...click here for the HD remake on the Wii U, or here for the Wii version. Good luck finding a copy for the Game Cube!
Nostalgia Train: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV - Turtles in Time
Bury my shell at wounded knee after you jump back onto the Nostalgia Train. Our next trip takes us back to one the greatest times in video game history! The Super Nintendo truly was a golden era of video games, and this month's entry is no exception. Was there a better way to spend time with your siblings or friends than punching out foot soldiers in different time periods? The answer is always no. That's when I usually pull out my cartridge of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time.
Cowabunga! Big Apple (3 Am)
TMNT: IV is such a popular game that most enthusiasts call it merely 'Turtles in Time.' It's a 'beat'em up' with a simple premise and easy game play. Players join our heroes as they track down Krang and Shredder after the villains steal the Statue of Liberty during a televised tribute. Of course, this mission isn't so simple; Shredder has his own plan to banish the turtles into a time warp. Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Donatello must bash their way through legions of baddies in the past, present, and future in order to find and return the American symbol to its rightful place and time.
Turtle Power! Turtles in Time
While the plot is nothing really to write home about, it's perfect in its simplicity. You'd be hard-pressed to find a deep plot in any game focused on beating your enemies to a pulp. Of course, the focus of this game is the addicting game play. To start, players select their favorite turtle; each has particular strengths and weaknesses. The object is to fight through each level and conquer the end boss, ultimately reaching Super Shredder and retrieve the Statue of Liberty.
Each stage has different hazards and obstacles to overcome, such as moving platforms, falling rocks, and spaces that freeze a player dead in his/her tracks. At one point, players must throw foot soldiers at the screen in order to continue on. At the stage's end, the turtles must face the likes of the Baxter Stockman, Leatherhead, Beebop, Rocksteady and many other familiar TMNT enemies. While the game provides a fair amount of challenge with limited amount of lives and continues, it's not overly complicated and it's an easy game for just about anyone to play.
The Co-op Game of Champions
The past has given us plenty of fun and frustrating co-op games: Contra, Battletoads, Super Mario Brothers. Time has also given us some pretty interesting TMNT games - like the impossible one for the NES. Put those together, with
, and you have a co-op game for the ages.
The cooperative play in Turtles in Time is seamless; players can fight alongside one another without attacking each other, but the game does require a bit a strategy. Health - or pizza- is limited, as are special attack hazards located in particular levels. Also, there are quite a few levels that throw out two bosses at the same time. It's times like these that it helps to have your best friend ready to punch out a mutated warthog.
Technodrome: The Final Shell Shock
After 25 years of awesome, this game is still one of the best ways to kill an afternoon. (Or an hour...depending on how good your teamwork is!) While there are certainly other amazing games out there, TMNT IV: Turtles in Time is the perfect game for endless amounts of beat'em up fun. In fact, I think it's about time I picked it up for another play-through. So what do you all think? What's your favorite co-op game? Have you picked up Turtles in Time lately? Let us know in the comments below!
Lauren Wilson Interview - Walking Dead: Cookbook & Survival Guide
When it comes to The Walking Dead series, it's all about the noms. Everything in the popular show and comic series circles around survival - and eating is one of the most basic needs. Naturally, should we ever be trapped in the zombie apocalypse, it's always best to be prepared. What better way to have your wits about you than with a thorough survival guide and cookbook in one! Lauren Wilson, the author of The Art of Eating through the Zombie Apocalypse, did just that with her new cookbook AMC The Walking Dead: The Official Cookbook and Survival Guide.
If you want to know which wild plants will kill you, know how to unconventionally start a fire, or try out some unique recipes for your Walking Dead premier party, this one is for you. This 143 page instructional book is just the ticket for any foodie. With eye-catching visuals provided by photographer Yunhee Kim and delightful show-inspired recipes, even zombies will be shuffling along for this one.
Survival of the Fittest
The Walking Dead official cookbook has a lot to offer any reader, whether you are a show enthusiast, a food lover, or someone who prides herself on knowing how to survive when lost on a hike. Its versatility sets it apart from any other cookbook. The early chapters cover survival basics, while the latter section takes readers through the many recipes inspired by the show: from Lori's [Not So] God-awful Pancakes to Hershel's Spaghetti Tuesday Dinner.
Of course, a book like this just doesn't fall into place and not just any author could tackle such a project. Lauren Wilson was just the chef to do it. Of course, how does one write an official guide to cooking through the zombie apocalypse? Well, we had a chance to talk with the author about just that, among other fun things.
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Deadicated Fans' Interview with Lauren Wilson
1. Tell us a little bit about your background.
Lauren: I am Canadian and have been living here in the U.S. for the last 7 years. I went to chef school in Toronto after graduating college with a marketing degree and deciding I wanted to pursue something a little more hands on. I am also half Italian and grew up with a Sicilian nonna, so food has always been a big part of my life, and it was a natural choice when I made a career change.
I started writing about food not long after I started working in restaurants. When I moved to New York I got into teaching cooking classes and began working on my first book, The Art of Eating Through the Zombie Apocalypse.
2. What inspired you to write a cookbook quite like this?
Lauren: The idea for The Art of Eating actually came from a dear friend of mine, Paul, who just said offhandedly to me one day: “You’re a zombie nerd and you’re a food nerd. You should write a cookbook for the zombie apocalypse.” I just loved the idea! But this was back in 2008 and I wasn’t quite sure how long the public appetite for the undead would last, so I waited. It wasn’t until The Walking Dead premiered on AMC in 2010 that I realized I needed to get moving.
3. Tell us about your writing process for the cookbook.
Lauren: For The Walking Dead: The Official Cookbook & Survival Guide, the process was a pretty intense one. I had a short period of time to write the manuscript, and on top of that I was dedicated to making the book as true to the universe of the show as possible. That involved re-watching every episode of the entire series until that point (about 92 episodes), searching for food moments.
Thankfully, writing The Art of Eating gave me a great foundation of knowledge for the survival section and all I had to there was tailor the content to the show and what we see characters on the show doing. I took a leave from my full-time job serving and managing at Rose’s Bar & Grill in Brooklyn and worked 7 days a week on the manuscript.
4. What’s your favorite recipe?
Lauren: I usually say the Wild Boar Chops with Juniper, Apples & Sage. And it is really high up there on the leaderboard. But today I am battling the sugar demon so I would say Carl’s Chocolate Pudding. It’s so easy to make and so satisfying to eat-though I try not to eat 110 ounces of it at a time.
5. Has this inspired future projects?
Lauren: Not directly, no. But it has inspired me to write another cookbook, which I am working on currently. If you had asked me after I finished The Art of Eating if I would ever write another cookbook, I would have said NO. But now that I’ve written a second, I have definitely been inspired to write a third. So maybe I will be a cookbook author when I grow up…
6. What advice would you give aspiring authors?
Lauren: Work hard and keep going. When I decided to write The Art of Eating I had absolutely zero idea what went into writing, pitching and selling a cookbook. I had no connections in publishing. But I rolled up my sleeves and figured out what I needed to do. I decided to go the agent route so I cold-called every agent in New York City. So I would say work on your craft, write something you’re proud of, and then be unafraid to go out there and do your absolute best to make it happen.
Oh, and don’t forget about the business side of being an author. Hustle is a big part of the game because you have to work hard to find and really connect with people who are genuinely interested in you and what you’re doing. Even before you sell your book, you need to start trying to find your tribe. It’s a tremendously important part of the process, and it takes time and consistent effort. I wish someone had told me that while I was writing The Art of Eating.
7. What would you say was the most difficult part of the process?
Lauren: I really enjoyed the process! I think just the compression of work into a short period was the hardest thing. I didn’t take a day off for three months. But I was doing something I loved and very honored to be doing, so it made the whole thing pretty rad.
8. Which part was more difficult, the survivor guide or the research for the recipes.
Lauren: Neither? As I mentioned, The Art of Eating gave me a great foundation for the survival section. And writing the recipes was just fun. While combing through every single episode was a lengthy process, I am so glad I did it because I am hoping it makes the book really satisfying for fans
9. How did this project come about-were you approached by AMC, or did you approach them.
Lauren: I was approached by Insight Editions, who is the publisher of the book. They licensed the rights from AMC to do the book. In some awesome and unexpected twist of fate, the fact that I had written The Art of Eating made me perhaps the most qualified person to write a cookbook for The Walking Dead, so it was a no-brainer.
10. Have any zombies attacked while you were trying to forage?
Lauren: Ha! No. However, even if they had I think my urban foraging guide, Wildman Steve Brill, would have dispatched them without hesitation. He’s a wily dude.
11. What tips would you give fellow survivors in the field?
Lauren: Make like a scout and BE PREPARED.
Blast Off: Rocket League Review
What happens when you throw soccer, speed boosts, and a demolition derby together? The answer is one of the most addicting games ever released on a console. Rocket League has players pitted against each other in a battle royal in an attempt to score as many times as possible. Whether you prefer online play or want to try your skills against the bots, Rocket League provides hours of mindless fun for any skill player.
Score: All About Game Play
Rocket League pits a certain number of drivers against each other as they attempt to score goals with an over-sized ball. Players can pick up boosts, drive on walls, flip jump, or spiral in order to rack up points for their team. It’s also possible to take out other drivers by ramming and blowing up their cars. No worries, the destroyed cars re-spawn only moments later, but that could make the difference. Each match is set at 5 minutes; it’s easy to feel the pressure to score as much as possible.
During a game, players can earn points depending on what actions they perform in a match. Scoring goals can rack up big points, but so can blocking a goal, assisting a goal, or centering a ball. As racers earn points, their skill level grows and they win new cars, decals, and other decorations. These small details really allow a personal touch for each player experience.
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Modes: Bots or Free-For-All
Rocket League allows for
t modes: single mode and multi-player. Single player mode allows gamers to practice their skills alone or with local friends. There is also a Season mode that allows players to play against bot teams of varying difficulty, much like any sport. This mode is particularly fun with two players.
Gamers can also play online in 1-1, 2-2, 3-3, or 4-4 matches. While waiting for other opponents, the game fills in open slots with bots, but as players join – the bots are taken out. It is likely that you can join a game that is already underway. Depending on how chaotic you like it, a match with 4+ players can get pretty crazy, but that is part of the fun. As players join online matches, the system takes under consideration where a player ranks – whether he or she is a rookie or a veteran – and it pairs him or her with the best possible matches. It balances out the teams and makes for a more enjoyable experience.
Exciting Add-ons and DLC
Rocket League’s DLC involves some themed goodies and fun car customization. Packs include new cars, nods to Mad Max, and cool new cosmetics that are not crucial to game play, but are fun to have. Let’s not forget the Back to the Future, Batman v Superman, and Knight Rider DLC options! Depending on the platform, Psyonix made licensing agreements with particular franchises that brought
to the PS4 and Halo-Themed and Gears of War vehicles to XBox. There are so many customization options, it's easy for players to really stand-out.
In addition to awesome decals and vehicles, Rocket League features some free updates that allow a twist on the original format. These mods include low gravity, a cubed ball, or other challenging options to change-up game play. There are also two variations involving other popular sports: an ice-hockey inspired and a soon-to-be basketball-inspired version. The hockey version went over so well, it became a permanent addition.
What’s most exciting about Rocket League is the most recent announcement: cross-platform compatibility. Imagine this; you have an XBOX 1 and your friend has a PS4. Soon, you can play Rocket League together regardless of your system loyalty! That sounds like a win-win to me. Of course, this is all new technology. We shall see what the future holds; choice may not be an option. It is a step in the right direction.
Rocket League is quick, mindless fun that any gamer has time for. Anyone can squeeze in a five minute round, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to stop at one. With well-designed game mechanics, a simple concept and a purely fun design, it’s a game that is easy to pick up, but hard to put down. No wonder it received so many awards. Now, go score some goals!
What do you guys think of Rocket League? Give us a review down below!
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