Film Review: Black Panther (spoiler free)

Many superhero movies often fail to live up to standards set by fans and are looked
down upon. Black Panther is not one of those movies. In light of recent events, many are
rewatching movies such as Black Panther to celebrate the work, and it certainly is a movie worth celebrating. Black Panther focuses on social issues while providing both an entertaining watch and a top tier soundtrack. Overall, It is a must-watch given the quality of the film.

Of the recent movies, Black Panther stands out among them due to many aspects. One
of the major selling points of the movie was the action scenes. The scenes are not only action packed, but also flow well and very natural. None of the scenes feel like they are forced and have very smooth transitions. The action and music are very compelling and the music bolsters the excitement of the scenes. The soundtrack is another major boon of the movie. All the songs played (or lack of it) fit each scene extremely well, enhancing the mood and making the scenes more lively. Each track is composed wonderfully and brings out the most in the movie.

Another major aspect of the movie is the social ideas brought up. The movie addresses
many social issues and approaches to fixing them in tandem with the growth of the characters themselves. Many characters are well represented, although there is little African American representation, and are brought out in a primarily positive manner. The only complaints that I had after watching the movie were the primary motivation of certain characters overall and how irrelevant a few characters were, although it is a minor complaint compared to how good the movie was overall.

In general, I would rate this movie as one of the best movies to come out over the past
few years and it certainly lives up to the hype it received upon the release. I would highly
recommend this movie for those who have not watched it or those who want to rewatch it, as it is highly exciting and absolutely worth the time.

-Benjamin L.

Black Panther is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Game Review: Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc (spoiler-free)

Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is a popular game, primarily revolving around a “killing game” based on trials. It is the first main game of three, originally released in 2014. The goal is to solve the mystery of each trial and to find the killer. The game contains a wide cast of characters, including 16 students and one bear. Overall, Danganronpa is a very interactive game with a unique trial system that makes the user feel engaged while also learning about the large cast. 

One great part of the game is the art style and game design itself. The environment you are in is not only visually intriguing, but contains a wide variety of different areas. Each area is well designed and pleasant to look at. The art style also matches very well with the actual gameplay mechanics and design as the user interface contrasts the background. The art is also very unique compared to other games as the game is effectively a visual novel, making it a fresh experience. The characters in the game are also quite compelling. Every single character is a master of their craft and provides their own unique experiences. Their personalities and the way they interact with each other always brightens up the game. The characters and their designs were by far my favorite part of the game. Each invoked a certain emotion in you regardless of whether or not you liked them, making the game more enjoyable and entertaining as a whole.

In general, I would rate this game a 10/10. The game is absolutely worth the price point and the interactive visual novel is both entertaining and well written. The game may start somewhat slow but the gameplay itself and world overall make up for it. 

-Benjamin L.

Pokemon Conquest Game Review

Pokemon Conquest is a Pokemon spin-off game, a game that uses different gameplay mechanics from the normal games that were released during the 5th generation. The game is effectively a tactical role playing game which functions similarly to a chess board. Conquest is generally a different experience compared to the average Pokemon games since it also draws from traditional Japanese lore and designs. 

One thing that draws players in is the unique gameplay and visual design compared to the normal games. The grid based battle system and large map makes gameplay and battling a fresh experience and the different moves of each pokemon allows for hundreds of different ways to play. The game also includes traditional japanese influences which spice up the game as it is something that is less commonly seen in western games. The game also still maintains many things about what makes pokemon great in the pokemon themselves and how they interact and battle with others.

While the game is solid overall, there still are many issues with the game as a whole. One major complaint is the post game after the main story. While the main story is still hours of content, much of what happens after the main story is effectively the same thing but from the perspectives of different characters. This devalues the game for me as not having much to look forward to after is a disappointment given the potential of a game like this. Another complaint is the general access and pool of pokemon. The way pokemon level up and their upwards potential is based on the characters as well, meaning that each character is limited to a specific pokemon which and inhibit the potential of teambuilding and gameplay as you would need to obtain hard to get characters just to use 1 singular pokemon at the maximum potential.

Overall, I would rate the game a 7/10. I would recommend it if you enjoy rpg games and Pokemon, although the many fundamental issues and inherent lack of a post game make it hard to justify over the other great games out there. 

-Benjamin L.

Game Review: Genshin Impact

Of the many free games released this year, Genshin Impact is easily among the top of them. The game combines amazing gameplay mechanics from great games such as Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and with modern art and storytelling. The art and animations are a major boon for this game, as the environment and characters created all look amazing and gameplay is smooth. The plethora of different areas and characters to fight with or against offers various ways to play the game for different people so there is certainly a character that suits everyone’s playstyle.

Every character in the game is unique and appeals to a large audience. There are many
different characters with different abilities and weapons for players to pick up. Combat with each character is fresh and you can use up to 4 characters on a team and combine their skills. The characters are also well designed in conjunction with the world and storytelling, making the aesthetic of the game top tier compared to many free games. Summoning in this game is also very exciting and is very accessible without spending money.

In terms of issues with the game, some people may not like the longer games that require constant investment over a period of time. For newer players to these types of games
progression may feel too slow. The price of summoning for new characters and premium
content is also a bane for many players.

Overall, the game is still great for all players, even those that don’t spend. I would rate it a 9/10 as sometimes the game feels like it isn’t complete. However, updates for the story are rolling out and the game is still constantly being developed so I look forward to what comes and would highly recommend it.

-Benjamin L.

Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest

Fire Emblem Fates is a trilogy of Fire emblem games that was released throughout 2016. Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest was the second of two that were initially released. The games are a tactical RPG that focuses around managing characters and attacks, similar to a chess board. Birthright and Conquest differ in story and the routes you choose. Conquest is the latter version that is not only harder, but provides a different focus on deceit and lies.

One major thing that conquest has going for it is the large cast of likeable characters. Unlike Birthright, Conquest’s characters contain varying amounts of personality while also bringing back likeable characters from other games and versions. While character development itself is lacking, the characters are fleshed out enough to create an entertaining atmosphere regardless of the situation. The mood and tone of this version reflects the main themes of the story. The dark and gloomy environment further builds upon the game and the story is significantly more engaging than Birthright.

Regardless of the idea that Conquest is better and more detailed than Birthright, the game still has some major issues. Unlike Birthright, conquest is designed to be much harder and limits options in order to prevent over-leveling. As a result, while the game isn’t inherently much harder, the difficulty scaling increases exponentially so early game mistakes can make a large difference in the late game. The game in general is not as beginner friendly when compared to Birthright, although this is partially mitigated by how it is the second game of the story. Another complaint is that in order to fully understand the second game, you have to also play the third version in Revelations. Without playing that game, the ending feels somewhat empty and confusing as a result, thus making the game as a whole less satisfying to complete.

Overall, even with the various complaints, I would rate it an 8/10 and think it is still worth playing. The game is still entertaining and gives a good measure for the modern fire emblem games. Unlike the other two, the story progresses at a reasonable rate and it doesn’t feel as clustered. The game, while not my first choice for a modern Fire Emblem game, is still worth the time and money put into it.

-Benjamin L.

Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright

Fire Emblem Fates is a trilogy of Fire Emblem games that was released throughout 2016. Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright was the first of two that were initially released. The games are a tactical RPG that focuses around managing characters and attacks, similar to a chess board. Birthright and Conquest differ in story and the routes you choose. Birthright is meant to be the first version played and builds upon the main character’s direct family.

The game overall follows the general JRPG formula, with interesting characters. The characters, in general throughout the 3 versions, are a major focus. Birthright contains many strong and likeable characters. The royal family of this side is based on traditional japanese designs along with the rest of the world. The game is very visually appealing as a result. Gameplay in this game is also generally good. Maps, on the hardest difficulty, are still thought provoking and unique so the games don’t feel as repetitive. The game is a good entry point when compared to the other two versions as it does a good job giving context behind every point in the overarching story between the three.

Some complaints of the game include the ineffective usage of many other characters and the difficulty of the game on anything past the hardest modes. While the main characters of the story are fleshed out and compelling, the majority of other characters in this version are simply there as a unit. There is very little character development and as a result, there is little emotional connection to said characters throughout the story. The difficulty is also not up to par with the expectations of playing a JRPG. Being the first of three, the game is meant to be easy but I feel that even on normal difficulties, the game holds your hand too much and there is barely a challenge whatsoever.

Overall, I like the characters and world building that Birthright provides but I think that the game is not as worth when compared to the other two. The lack of actual development and character growth is noticeable and is much less engaging than conquest and the third version, revelations. I would rate this version of the game a 6/10 as it still has many likable features of modern Fire Emblem games but is lacking overall as a JRPG. 

-Benjamin L.

Overwatch Experimental Patch Notes

In a competitive game such as Overwatch that has a large esports scene and general
player base, balance changes are often necessary to maintain a healthy game state and keep players interested in the game through changes in gameplay. In Overwatch, balance changes in addition to hero pools(banning of certain characters for a set period of time) at the highest level have a massive effect on gameplay overall. In order to test these proposed changes, the player base has access to the “PTR,” or a server in which you can play the game with the new proposed changes before they are official. Doing this allows them to gauge player interest in the changes and whether or not they make it to the live patch (which is the version of the game).

As a team-based game of healers, damage dealers, and tanks, Overwatch requires an
innate balance between the three roles, as each role has two players playing that role for a
team of six. In previous changes, tanks and shields created by tanks were nerfed severely,
significantly boosting the power of “damage” heroes and those meant to support them. As a
result of previous changes, this experimental patch focuses on reducing the overall power of
those characters and the healers that enable them. While changes such as this may seem
initially good for the game and characters, certain changes can have many implications on
competitive play. In this case, one of the changes was made to the primary “sniper” character in the game, called Widowmaker or “widow” for short.

The changes included increased ammo cost and decreased scoped damage falloff. What this means is that not only does she have to reload more, but at a certain point her impact in the game has much less value. Widowmaker is one of the few characters to be able to kill many other damage-dealing characters instantly, making her a valuable asset on certain maps (areas of play). On certain maps, Widow is a mainstay and very powerful in enabling team plays by killing important low health targets such as most healers. By removing this ability on traditionally long maps, her impact in those games significantly decreases as she has to focus more on tanks rather than sniping from a distance, which rewards skill. Mirror duels between Widowmakers on each team are even mainstays on the few maps she is viable on, as taking out the enemy sniper gives you the freedom within the team. Instead, you enable the character to focus on closer targets and remove them from the game as there is less of a threat of an opposing widow, making these changes worrying for how the meta will develop as barrier shields have been considerably weakened.

Overall, I would personally not like to see these changes make it to the main game as many other characters have been weakened significantly in previous patches, and reducing
effective counters to such powerful characters can be unhealthy for the game overall.

-Benjamin L.