Diablo III: Reaper of Souls – Ultimate Evil Edition Review – Ps4

I am very late to the Diablo party. It’s a video game series I’ve always heard talked about in high regard but I didn’t have a PC good enough to play the older titles. Thanks to it making it’s way to consoles I was finally able to see what I’d been missing out on.

Traditionally Diablo games are played with a mouse and keyboard like most MMO’s, you click on enemies to attack them and it helps you navigate the complicated menus. So for the PS4 version that had to adjust the menus and the combat to better fit a controller. The combat side of the game translates perfectly but the menus were quite fiddly. Even after multiple hours with the game I would still mess up and end up on the wrong screen or accidently sell something. Luckily Diablo III is a very forgiving game, if you do sell something by accident every merchant has a record of everything you’ve sold and you can buy it back for only a little more than what you sold it for. 

This was one of the main things that impressed me about the game. They’ve done away with many annoying things you usually have to do in RPGs. Every character can generate a magic portal to take you back to town if you need to sell items and when you’re done you go back through it and continue exactly where you left off . You can sell any type of item to any vendor, no running round to find the armor guy just to offload that crappy shield you picked up. Almost every new area has a waypoint that you can teleport to easily from town. Little things you probably just accept in other games but it’s refreshing to see a developer make these quality of life improvements.

A Family That Slays Together…

One of the big things that attracted me to this game was that you can play the full story co-op, with up to 4 players either locally or online. I wanted a game my fiancée Danielle and I could play together that wasn’t too demanding gameplay wise and this was perfect. The game is played at a top down view so both of your characters can run around independently but you can’t go too far away from each other so no one gets left behind. Each player gets to make their own character, with their own items, gold and experience. Gone are the days of player 2 getting the short end of the stick and having to be Luigi or something.

I chose to make a Crusader who’s a slightly more defensive warrior type with a sword and huge shield. While Danielle went with the Demon Hunter who’s an archer that gets access to a host of animal companions like a bat, wolf or even a hog (much to her delight). We didn’t really plan it but these characters went really well together, I would wade into the hordes of enemies and pull their focus while Danielle rained down pointy death from afar. 

Here’s a picture of our heros after finishing the game:

A Lust for Loot

This game is all about loot. You’re constantly picking up better armor and weapons throughout the levels and it’s never not exiting. Regular enemies and chests will drop a few items but when you beat a boss or uncover a secret chest they explode in a fountain of coloured items. It’s a great complement to your victory over a boss as everyone dances round their corpse collecting goodies, it just feels good inside.

There are a lot of different armor sets to collect so the look of your character is always changing. You can dye each individual piece to your liking and even make it invisible in case you don’t like the way a helmet covers your characters face but still want the bonuses from wearing it. You can even change the way weapons look so if you have a strong bow that looks boring you can give it the design of a legendary one but keep all the stats of the original. They really went above and beyond on these features, Blizzard is the same company that makes World of Warcraft so they probably have a lot of experience with what gamers want for outfitting their characters.

Any Way You Like It

Diablo III really does encourage you to play the way you want to play. Once you get far enough in the game there are 11 difficulty levels to choose from. We played the first 4 acts on Normal but by that point we were steamrolling everything so we upped it to Expert. This made the final battle an actual challenge, we had to come up with strategies and actually dodge the boss’s attacks which we hadn’t had to worry about before.

You can change the difficulty at any time from the pause menu so if you get in over your head you can always fall back to Normal. I love this part about the game because it means even if this is your first ever video game you could still beat it and be finding cool items but if you’re an RPG veteran you’ll be rewarded for playing on harder difficulties with more gold and XP.

Story Bored

The main story mode is made up of 5 acts in this version of the game, each one sees you explore themed areas and ultimately fight a big demon boss at the end. Unfortunately the story was the weakest part of the game for me. There’s just nothing special about it, it’s your standard video game fantasy story you’ve probably heard 100 times before. Your hero sets off on a globe trotting quest to save the world by defeating Diablo’s demon generals before confronting him yourself and your character is the only one in the world who has the power to do this. Granted, they don’t really take the story that seriously themselves because most of the characters are usually cracking wise as long as the world isn’t in imminent danger. 

There were charming characters along the way though. My favourite was Zoltun Kulle who is an evil ethereal wizard you’re forced to bring back from the dead because you need his help. He follows you round on one quest constantly saying evil things and trying to recruit you to help him take over the world while your character politely declines. I really wish we could have taken him through the whole game.

Overall we really enjoyed our time with Diablo III, we played the whole game co-op locally and it worked perfectly. If you’ve been curious about the series this is a great jumping on point and it can be enjoyed by players of any skill level.

★★★★☆

Jake’s Top 5 Worst Cartoons Based on Video Games

Cartoons and video games are are like the only two things I cared about as a kid. I’ve always loved animation, when it’s great it can take you to fantastical worlds that you can’t experience with live action shows. That’s one of the same reasons I love video games too. So surely if you combine the two things it can only get exponentially better right?… right?!

Well no, not always. So let me take you on a journey through my wasted youth in this top 5 worst cartoon shows based on beloved video game franchises.

5. Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the realm 


Now this isn’t an automatically bad idea. Mortal Kombat is a game series so violent that they had to create an entire rating system for video games just for them. The problem was kids loved it, so they created this show to be a Mortal Kombat product that parents could let their kids experience guilt free. 

Unfortunately they forgot the part about actually making a quality cartoon. The character designs are pretty good even though they’re from the less successful Mortal Kombat 3 but the animation is just cheap. Characters routinely stand around with weird expressions on their faces and appear in front of objects they should be standing behind because the animators messed up with the layers. 

The fights end in some extremely unsatisfying ways usually with one punch or kick sending a person flying back 50 feet or someone just dodges and lets the bad guy fall off a cliff. My favourite part is where Reptile and Sonya square off and he just runs up and kicks her in the butt, then does it again 4 more times while she tries to get up… MORTAL KOMBAT!
All the characters act really immature. Sonya is the whiny teen of the group and takes every opportunity to shout her catchphrase “Kombat Time!”. Raiden at one point calls the group “Mortal Butts” as an insult that only a 5 yr old would find funny. And we find out that Jax was a fat kid in school and teasing still hurts his feelings awwwwwww. 

It was an awful show but when you’re a kid that just wanted more MK it was all we had, sadly. Here’s a montage of some bad moments if you want to check it out yourself.

4. Super Mario Bros. Super Show!

Yay! Mario, the most famous video game character in the world! There’s no way they could mess this up.
Now I know what you’re all asking, “who’re those old creepy dudes?” why it’s mildly successful pro-wrestler Capt. Lou Albano and Canadian television actor Danny Wells playing Mario and Luigi of course! 

The creators decided to bookend the episodes of this cartoon with boring improvised live action segments that usually involve trotting out some “celebrity guest” from the network’s other TV shows. I don’t know about you but I always wanted to know what the Mario Bros got up to in their plumbers workshop in front of a fake studio audience.

That’s not to say the cartoon was any better though, instead of exploring the world of the Mario video games or referencing any of his in game adventures they went with scintillating storylines such as: While trying to catch Koopa in Jungleland Mario suffers from amnesia and is convinced by an ape couple that he is their child, Posing as Judge Koopa he sentences Mario and Co to the prison of Koopatraz where he is also the warden, Mario and Luigi take to the skies to stop Koopa and Lakitu from taking over Pastaland with the help of a used magic carpet salesman, Koopa kidnaps Santa Claus in order to ruin Christmas, Koopa’s road gang has stolen all the spaghetti sauce in Car Land so Mario’s group must work to get it back and many more horrible ideas!

Almost every episode was a bad movie or tv show parody and the ones that weren’t had a bad cover song in the episode. Probably so they didn’t have to write any dialogue for a few minutes. The only good part of any episode was the end credits because you knew you were free of this abysmal show but also because you get the live action Mario Bros awkwardly dancing in front of a green screen. Come on everybody! Do the Mario!

3. Street Fighter (The Animated Series)


This show is hilarious for all the wrong reasons. It’s horrible looking animation and stupid dialogue all combine into a deliciously bad mixture and I kinda love it. 

Looking back at footage of this show I just have no idea what’s going on. They were so cheap with the cartoon you can see the individual frames of animation a lot of the time, which should never happen. It suffers from similar problems as the MK cartoon except it takes them to a ridiculous level. Characters will show ridiculous feats of strength and agility only to be swatted aside by whoever they’re fighting and there are multiple times characters just fall over for no reason. 

This show also has the most animation mistakes I’ve ever seen in a cartoon. The characters randomly grow and shrink in size to such a noticeable degree that you’re left unsure if it was intentional. It constantly breaks the laws of physics in it’s own world. 
I feel like if you watch too much of this show you might go literally insane. Just see for yourself:

The only thing it gets right is that characters all have the right costumes and special moves so I guess one person working on the show knew their stuff.

2. Captain N: The Game Master


A 90s kid and his dog get sucked through the TV into Video Land which is apparently where all our favourite obscure Nintendo characters live:

This show’s worst offence is that it’s boring. It shouldn’t be hard to make a story about a kid getting sucked into a video game considering that’s probably the dream of their target audience. I think one of the reasons it failed was they clearly couldn’t get any of the famous characters to accompany our hero. He gets lumped with Kid Icarus, Simon Belmont and Mega Man (who inexplicably sounds like he smokes 100 packs a day). Three characters that I never heard anyone my age mention until I started reading about games on the internet. 

The villains are even more perplexing and obscure. For henchmen we’ve got Eggplant Wizard who is an enemy from the game Kid Icarus that turns you into an eggplant (or aubergine to the UK crowd) and King Hippo who is one of the boxers from the Punch-Out!! Games. But our main attraction here is their leader Mother Brain from the Metroid series. In the game Mother Brain is an evil sentient bio organic computer that shoots lasers at you. It doesn’t really have any characteristics or personality till later games. So for the show they decided to give it a face and have it sound like Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors. It even has heavy lipstick and eye makeup which just makes me think of Frank N. Furter too!

But despite these wacky characters to work with they still managed to make something boring. Looking back I think they ignored the source material a little too much and their own interpretations were just plain weird.

1. The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog 


This was one of those cartoons that I genuinely thought would hold up until I revisited it and learned how wrong I was. This show is one of the messiest and obnoxious things I’ve ever seen. I can deal with intentional chaos in comedy, I’m a big Tim and Eric fan but this Sonic cartoon is just disgusting. It’s a complete assault on all 5 senses and a few more that I didn’t even know I had.

The characters are repulsive in every way, just look at this vomit:

I think they were going for a Ren and Stimpy sort of vibe with the art style but they didn’t have the talent to pull it off so it came out more like Worker and Parasite.

Every character’s voice is shrill and annoying, especially Scratch the chicken robot henchmen who punctuates every sentence with an ear piercing high pitched “AHA HAHAAAAAAAA”. Most episodes involve Scratch and Grounder (out resident Bozos) setting traps for Sonic to run into that even Wile E. Coyote would be embarrassed by. They don’t even have any real motivation, Dr. Robotnik just stamps around saying “I hate that hedgehog!” whenever Sonic escapes one of his traps.

I’m surprised I came out of my childhood with any brain cells left after watching this abomination. Luckily for us the show had to succumb to the Children’s Television Act which meant the episodes had to contain a portion of educational content which is where we get this gem from:

Yep! That was Sonic telling kids what to do if someone touches them inappropriately. Unquestionably good advice but such a hard pivot considering the pointless cartoon trainwreck that came before it.

So that’s it for this dark window into how I spent my time as a child in the 90s. If you want to watch any of this junk they’re pretty much all on YouTube in their entirety because not even the creators care about these shows anymore.

Captain America: Civil War Review

Not content with cracking the superhero team-up movie formula way before DC and just over a month removed from the critical flop Batman v Superman, Marvel have also shown everyone just how a hero vs hero movie should be done.

Civil War is the latest instalment in Marvel’s cinematic universe which sees the Avengers fractured due to consequences from their previous adventures. The film takes inspiration from the 2006 comic storyline of the same name but it changes a lot of stuff so it fits better into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

*This review will contain spoilers about the plot and character moments but I’ll try to keep it vague*

Despite being a named Captain America movie, Civil War is totally the next Avengers movie. Cap is technically the main character but there’s a lot of Iron Man and the gang too. We open with big chase scene where the Avengers team as we saw them at the end of Age of Ultron is trying to stop Crossbones (the douchey Hydra agent from Winter Soldier in cool skull themed body armor) from stealing a bio weapon. We get Cap, Black Widow and Falcon running through a crowded market place where there are plenty of masked goons for them to throw around.

I really love how they handle the fight choreography in this movie. Obviously Cap can’t throw guys through buildings like Superman or Hulk but if he hits a running dropkick on a guy you better believe he’s going to fly back 30 feet into a wall. Sparing use of CG also helps everything have a real impact. They’re also not afraid to do more complicated fight scenes with huge groups of people. There’s a really impressive scene like this where Cap and Bucky are escaping from an apartment and fight their way through about 100 guys down the stairwell.


Whatever a Spider Can

The rift in the team partially comes from an accident in this first scene where Crossbones set’s off a bomb blowing up part of a government building. This combined with the Avenger’s other incidents of collateral damage spur the UN to create document which would stop the Avengers deploying unless the UN deems it necessary. A side effect of this is that any heroes operating without the government say so would become criminals. Cap doesn’t want to sign and thinks they can do more good un-regulated whereas Iron Man thinks they need to play by the rules to stop more needless deaths. I love when Marvel delves into the real world consequences of superheroes. Granted, it runs the risk of getting too serious but Civil War still keeps that trademark Whedon-esque charm that they’ve had since the first Avengers movie.

So now that Cap and Iron Man are lacking some team mates they both recruit a little extra help. Cap collect some members who aren’t too bothered by being on the wrong side of the law which turns out to be Hawkeye and Ant-Man. Paul Rudd is great in this movie, his irreverent humour in the face of being totally out of his league is hilarious. Iron Man decides to one up this by recruiting the newest member to the MCU, Spider-Man! 

Going in, I was thinking he would just have a small cameo but it was much more than that. This is the debut of their much younger Spider-Man played by Tom Holland who’s most famous for playing Billy Elliot in the stage production until now. We also get to see a strangely young Aunt May which just seems wrong to me. Aunt May is supposed to be a nice old lady, not a milf!

So once the two side are evened out they’ve got to have a big fight, naturally. This is definitely one of the best fight scenes they’ve had in any Marvel movie to date. Everyone gets a moment to shine and it’s the first time we properly see Spider-Man in action. Obviously we’ve seen his web slinging and acrobatics in other movies before but they really make a point of showing off his lesser known skills like his super strength and his wisecracking. Seeing all of these Iconic heroes battle on the big screen is truly amazing and I’m so glad we finally got to see it. 

We need you Cap

When it all comes down to it though this is really a story about Steve Rogers and Tony Stark. We’ve spent the last 2 Avengers films watching them become friends but that all comes crashing down over the course of this movie. Stark does come off looking worse overall due to some questionable choices but you can definitely see both sides of the argument. There are some surprisingly emotional scenes considering this is a movie about costumed lunatics running around punching each other. It also leaves us with plenty of questions about the future Avengers movies and how they will function after all this. 

I really enjoyed this movie from start to finish, it brought back some of the perfectly timed comedy moments that I thought Age of Ultron was missing and the action scenes are easily their best to date. The only bad point I noticed was the pacing was a bit rushed at times, they had a lot to get through in their 2hr 26 min so it moves at more of a quick comic book pace. This meant they had to put in a few convenient plot moments like Bucky miraculously getting his memories back after being knocked out for a few minutes of screen time. Other than that I really can’t fault this movie, after the disappointment of Batman v Superman I was so glad Captain America: Civil War was everything I wanted it to be and more.

★★★★★

PlayStation NEO and the Future of our Consoles

As you may have heard, GiantBomb.com broke a story last week about Sony getting ready to annouce a new model of the PS4 which could be out as early as this holiday season.

Codenamed NEO it would essentially be an upgraded version of the PS4 we have in stores now. We can expect it to load games faster, be able to display slightly better graphics and hopefully have games run a little smoother. However in the leaked documents Sony states that the NEO is not intended to outright replace the PS4. 

Starting in October all new games will be required to have a “NEO Mode” and a “Base Mode”. NEO Mode games will be allowed to have improved visuals and performance but are not allowed to have additional gameplay features. So they couldn’t do something like exclusively offer 2 player co-op play only to NEO owners. It’s good to see that Sony are taking steps to stop the base PS4 becoming obsolete as soon as the NEO hits but it’s still a bit worrying.

This is the first time one of the big companies in video games has proposed anything like this. Sure there have been console redesigns to make them smaller and have bigger hard drives. but we’ve never had an update that would change the way games are developed for the system. The only example that’s close to this is the New Nintendo 3DS which released last year but unfortunately there have been some problems with games not running as well on the older hardware version. As I mentioned above Sony seems to be setting guidelines to specifically avoid this problem but it’s still something to think about.

Also yet to be announced is whether the NEO will help improve Sony’s Virtual Reality headset when that launches later in the year too. The PS4 is a lot less powerful than the minimum spec PCs needed for the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive VR headsets. Performance is very important for VR games, any stuttering or drop in the frame rate for visuals can be the difference between motion sickness and a truly immersive experience. Depending on how this is handled PlayStation VR might only be worth having if you can run the games in NEO mode. 

Microsoft have also expressed some interest in upgradable hardware but they seem to be going down a more PC-like upgrade structure. Where you would have options to purchase separate pieces of hardware much like PC owners do now. Microsoft have been going big on Windows 10 as a gaming platform so they probably want to have a unified experience on the Xbox and PC. Whether or not Sony’s plans spur them into action on this earlier than planned remains to be seen.

Nintendo are more than likely going to be announcing their next console in June at E3. All we’ve heard so far is that it is codenamed The NX and may be some kind of handheld/console hybrid. Where you would be able to take your games with you and play them on the go then continue on your TV when you get home. Nintendo haven’t been the leader in graphics and hardware since the Super Nintendo days so it will be interesting to see if they try and match the PS4 and Xbox One in terms of power. And if that was Nintendo’s plan then has the PS NEO thrown a spanner in their works in terms of bragging rights?

It looks like we might be shelling out cash on some new consoles earlier than we all thought. Like every year, all we can do is wait for E3 which is June 14-16. Typically this is the place all the big companies unveil their new toys so we’ll know for sure then.

Street Fighter V Review – PS4

  
  
In February I wrote about how I thought Street Fighter V was not worth buying at it’s time of release. Since then they have made some of the promised upgrades so when I saw the game had been discounted to just under £30 I decided it was time to check it out. 

SFV is the newest numbered entry in one of the longest running fighting game franchises ever. The first entry in the series was originally exclusive to arcades in 1987, there may only be 5 numbered entries but Street Fighter is famous for re-releasing games with new additions to prolong their lifespan. The first ever Street Fighter game I played was Super Street Fighter II Turbo which is actually the 3rd revision of that specific game, Phew! So this actually makes SFV round about the 19th unique release! Everyone still following along at home? 

It’s totally understandable that fans were disappointed that SFV launched with such a barebones list of features considering this isn’t Capcom’s first rodeo.

Missing Pieces

  

  

Street Fighter V shares a lot of similarities with many other fighting games on the market today. A regular match is best to 3 rounds with the first player to reduce the other’s health bar to zero winning. Each character has their own set of unique normal and special fighting moves they can use to do damage and trick your opponent into letting down their guard. Street Fighter is often likend to the video game equivalent of chess because it pits two people against each other in a pure test of skill. 

Unfortunately this isn’t very good for new players who can be completely outclassed if you venture online without training enough. This was the first thing that disappointed me about SFV, they still haven’t figured out a good way to teach new players how the game is played. You’re thrown into a pretty basic tutorial up front that shows you what buttons to press to do some moves but it doesn’t tell you why you should use certain moves in certain situations. Sure you could go online a find some of this out yourself but you shouldn’t have to do that. 

If you dig a little deeper into the options they have added character specific tutorials that go into more detail about the tools each character has but this is simply a video clip and a text box overlay. It doesn’t show you and then let you try it out for yourself. You’re just supposed to watch it then commit it to memory. Some of this was fine for my needs because I’ve played most of the games in the series but I couldn’t help but put myself in the shoes of a novice player. If you’re approaching this game with no prior knowledge I really think you’d have a pretty frustrating time at first, until you read some online guides or watched some YouTube videos. I just can’t help but think there’s a step they’re missing in there. Capcom should find a way to help new players make that transition from noob to pro without having to seek help outside of the game.

As I mentioned previously, Capcom did make good on their promise to update the game in March to add some new features and a new character. Frustratingly Capcom was keeping quiet and the update didn’t show up until March 30th which sent forums and subreddits into a rage but they’ll always be able to say that they technically hit their March deadline I guess. 

These features were the aforementioned character specific tutorial videos, up to 8 player online lobbies, the online shop (where you can purchase additional content) and 10 challenges to complete for each character which sees you performing progressively harder move combos. These are all things that definitely should have been in the game from the beginning but at least we didn’t have to purchase them separately so that’s something.
  

My Fight Money!

  

 

The online store at the time of writing is a complete mess. It seems as though they made it as convoluted as they possible. First of all there are 2 types of currency, Fight Money is what you earn from in-game actions such as winning matches and generally just playing the game. Then they have Zenny which is a premium currency you can buy with real money but as of right now this hasn’t even been added into the game yet! I’m just not a fan of this dual currency system, it comes from free to play mobile games and I don’t think it has a place in a full priced retail game. 

There are items in the store that probably should just be included as unlockables in the main game. Each character has the default costume and classically in Street Fighter you can select color variation on this outfit so for example Ryu can have his classic white outfit and red bandana or you could change it up with a blue outfit and yellow bandana. In SFV you only start out with 2 colours for each character and 8 more can be unlocked by beating the game’s survival mode on various difficulties. The remaining colours 11-15 have to purchased from the store on a per character basis. I don’t think you should have to spend your currency just to unlock what is essentially a colour swap of content that is already on the disc and when they add the option to be spending real money on this it’s just going to get messier.
  

Choose Your Character

  

One thing that’s always a constant in the Street Fighter series is a cast of interesting characters to choose from, let’s do a character rundown:

Ryu: Our wandering hero who is looking for the answers that lie in the heart of battle. Ryu is the classic beginner’s character that has been in every main SF game. He still does all the things you know and love. He throws fireballs, has his Shoryken flying uppercut and the spinning hurricane kick.

Ken: Ryu’s old sparring partner Ken also makes an appearance. He’s a lot like Ryu having the same basic special moves but he’s a bit quicker and has some more complicated combos to learn. He also has a better Shoryken than Ryu which travels further and sets the opponent on fire!

Chun Li: Another returning veteran. Chun Li is probably the fastest character in the game. Be ready to defend against a relentless barrage of kicks from all angles if your opponent picks her. 

Nash: As of right now considered to be the best character in the game we have Nash. Killed by the big bad M.Bison earlier in the timeline he’s now back as a reanimated corpse out for revenge! Nash has his own fireball variant the sonic boom and he can also teleport behind your opponent making it harder for them to defend.

Dhalsim: The stretchy, fire breathing yoga master is back. In past games Dhalsim has been a bit of a slower character but in SFV thanks to his teleport and air attacks it’s surprising how quick and aggressive he can be played in the right hands.

Cammy: The deadly british secret agent who’s bent on taking down Bison and his crew. Cammy is another speedy character who can rocket across the stage with her spiral arrow corkscrew kick which if timed right can also slip under your opponent’s projectiles.

Alex: Is the first of 3 wrestlers we have in SFV and he’s also the first downloadable character added post launch. Alex is a powerhouse, he hits really hard but is a little slow. If you get close to him you’re probably going to get powerbombed but he can also leap across the stage to grab you if you try to back off.

Laura: A Brazilian jiu jitsu fighter who somehow can electrify her opponents with judo hip throws. Laura’s a character who can have trouble if you keep her away with projectiles but once she gets in she’s in her element.

Necalli: Some kind of ancient soul devouring demon man with sick dread locks. Necalli is one of the new characters and he’s pretty fun to use. He charges around the stage clawing at his opponents and he can also stomp and pound on the ground to create blasts under his opponents.

Vega: The prettiest matador/cage fighter in the land is back. Vega is as imposing and tricky as ever in this game. He still has his trademark claw weapon which gives him good attack range and he still jumps off the walls to surprise people with german suplexes and strikes from above.

F.A.N.G: One of the new bad guys under Bison. This guy is pretty interesting, most of his special moves have a poison effect that will slowly drain the opponent’s health until they can land a hit on you. He’s also pretty goofy looking so it can be hard to tell where his attacks are coming from.

Zangief: Another veteran of the series the Russian wrestling champion of muscle power is back! He plays pretty much the same as he always did, your strategy should be to get close enough to put your opponent in his patented spinning piledriver. It can be risky against more projectile heavy characters but the reward is great.

Rashid: This guy is a new character who has the ability to shoot mini hurricanes across the stage with his super fast kicks. They can be hard to avoid as they go diagonally from the bottom to the top of the screen and while dodging this Rashid can still be attacking you.

R. Mika: A female wrestler from Japan who can rush at you with all manner of strikes to put you off guard. Unique to her is that she can call in her tag team partner to hit you from any side so you’ve got to keep an eye out for that during the fight too.

Karen: Is a highly skilled aristocrat with a disdain for those she deems lower class. Not the most exciting character to watch as most of her special moves are variations on kicks and punches but in the right hands she can be totally overwhelming.

Birdie: A huge chubby punk guy from London who uses his mohawk like a rhino horn to charge his opponents. He’s one of the slower guys but he can use bike chains to grab you from across the stage so he doesn’t always need to get close to hurt you. 

M. Bison: The evil dictator himself is also back to terrorise the world. Bison hasn’t changed much from the previous games. He still has his head stomp and his flipping knee attack but now he can also grab your projectiles out of the air and fire them back!

6 Buttons and a Joystick 

One thing I can’t fault in this game is the fighting. Actually playing the game feels great which is technically the most important thing in a fighting game but it’s a shame the whole package couldn’t have been held up to this standard.

You can really feel the impact of some of the hits, the fighters also do quite a lot of damage compared to Street Fighter IV so the matches have a quicker pace and are more tense when you get down to that last bit of health. They’ve also changed the way defending works in this game. In past Street Fighter games any special move that hit you when blocking would slowly chip away at your health. So if you had a pixel of health left your opponent could just mash out specials until one hit you but in SFV a move will only K.O. you if don’t block it. I think this makes it more exciting as you have to outsmart your opponent if they’re hanging on with the tiniest amount of health and blocking all of your fireballs.

Also new to this game is the V-system. Each character has a unique V-Skill activated by hitting the medium punch and kick buttons together. For example Ryu’s is a parry that can negate an attack giving you a chance for a quicker follow up or Dhalsim’s is to float in the air when you jump to avoid projectiles or mess up your opponent’s timing. They also have a unique V-Trigger activated by pressing the hard punch and kick buttons which is more of a long lasting effect but can only be used once a round typically. For V-Trigger Ryu gets increased special move damage and Dhalsim creates a carpet of flame that drains your opponent’s health if they stand on it.

In addition to this each character has a special meter which when full lets you unleash a Critical Art. Which is basically a big special attack that does a big chunk of damage if you hit but will probably leave you vulnerable if they block it. These character specific super moves are really visually impressive and are always crowd pleasers for anyone watching.

  

  

There are a lot of options during a match which is good but I often found myself forgetting to use a lot of this stuff in the heat of battle.

Another problem I found with the controls is they don’t map to a PS4 controller very naturally. You have to use the shoulder buttons for some of the attack buttons as you ideally want to use all 6 of them. Luckily I have an arcade stick controller so this wasn’t a problem for me but it’s something to consider if you only have the Dual Shock 4. 

I can’t really recommend SFV to a beginner who hasn’t really played a fighter before. I don’t think they would have a good time with it. I’m not sure if the problem of introducing new people to the genre has been solved yet but SFV didn’t do anything to help that cause. Capcom very clearly catered to the hardcore fighting game community which will probably hurt the overall sales but the diehard fans will be too busy playing it to care.

★★★☆☆

Jake’s Top 5 Podcasts

I’ve loved podcasts since I started discovering video game sites on the internet in the mid 2000’s. They’ve been a constant presence in my life and have got me through many boring commutes to college, uni and now work. I’ve learned some amazing things about life, video games and a multitude of other subjects. After listening to some of these guys for years now I feel like I know them personally, the way they have let thousands of fans be a part of their lives is amazing.

 

Thankfully these days it’s easier than ever to get a hold of podcasts, most phones come with pre-installed software to download them and I’ve also included links to the podcasts in the headers:

 

5.How To Be a Person

how to be a person

Regular Hosts: Mike Drucker, Jess Dweck

 

This podcast follows the socially awkward team of Mike and Jess as they receive life lessons from their comedy pals. Each episode starts off with a full background of the current guest and ends with the topic that they have brought to teach the hosts.

 

This is a consistently great podcast, most of the guests have some comedy background so you’re always going to get some hilarious anecdotes. The part that is so endearing to me is the way the hosts and guests talk so candidly about their lives not matter how embarrassing the situation was. Topics they’ve covered so far include how to draw, make friends, be a parent, stop smoking, write a movie, survive heartbreak and be a scientist. Whether you’re interested in the subject or not you’ll always learn something useful or funny.

 

4.How2Wrestling

 

how2wrestling

 

Regular Hosts: Jo Graham, Kefin Mahon

 

A show designed to teach the uninitiated how to watch, understand and maybe even enjoy the ‘sport’ of professional wrestling. If you’re curious about wrestling but have no idea where to start, this is the place. Kefin is the resident wrestling expert while Jo is a new fan who’s ready to learn all about headlocks, sleeper holds and heel turns.

 

That’s not to say that there’s nothing to enjoy if you’re already into wrestling, most episodes function as a history of a specific wrestler so there are always some fun/weird/scary facts to learn about people like Hulk Hogan, John Cena and Stone Cold Steve Austin. They have also done some more general episodes that deal with things like wrestling slang/terminology or the reason WWE has so many different shows on every week. They also cover wrestlers new and old so you can start to build a wide knowledge base of wrestling legends and current up-and-comers.

 

This is also one of the few British podcasts I listen to, it’s fun to hear about all this wrestling madness from a perspective that’s closer to home. The hosts Jo and Kefin are absolutely charming together and they’re really good about featuring user comments on the show, I got one of my tweets read on ep 5 How2Shield which was awesome to hear.

 

3.Talking Simpsons

 

talking simpsons

 

Regular Hosts: Bob Mackey, Chris Antista, Henry Gilbert

 

There’s a special thing that happens when you get a bunch of Simpsons fans in the same room together, we can communicate purely in Simpsons quotes. When the Laser Time podcast guys realised they couldn’t stop doing this on their other podcasts they decided to make a separate show to get it out of their system and so Talking Simpsons was born.

 

This is the first podcast from the Laser Time Network on my list, I’ve been following these guys since they all used to write for the website GamesRadar around 2008. So when they all eventually left I gladly followed them to their own independent site where they have started a multitude of podcasts under the Laser Time banner.

 

Talking Simpsons is a chronological exploration of The Simpsons starting from episode 1, it gives an overview of the episode plot line complete with sound clips of the best parts. They also have a lot of behind the scenes info about the making of the show and explain some of the more obscure jokes. One of my favourite parts is hearing the host’s personal experiences watching these episodes as kids and there is lots of 90s talk to hit all those nostalgia buttons.

 

At the time of writing the first season of Talking Simpsons is only available to contributors to the Laser Time Patreon but since they’ve started the season 2 the new episodes are free for everyone.

 

2.The Giant Bombcast

 

giant bombcast

 

Regular Hosts: Brad Shoemaker, Jeff Gerstmann, Drew Scanlon, Dan Ryckert

 

Giant Bomb is my all time favourite website and as long as they keep doing what they’re doing it always will be. The Giant Bombcast is one of the longest running weekly podcasts ever, the episodes usually run around 2-3 hours long and at the time of writing there have been about 932 episodes. That alone doesn’t make it great though. The Bombcast has been one of the great constants in my podcast life and they’ve been consistently funny for over 8 years now.

 

At it’s core the show is simply a weekly round up of all things in video games but it’s the personalities that will keep you coming back. All the hosts have amazing chemistry together, members have come and gone as people have joined and left the site but Jeff, Brad and Drew have always kept the show running smoothly. They are all really passionate about video games but aren’t afraid to admit how dumb they can be sometimes.

 

This isn’t just a show for video game fans though. The first segment of the show is usually just the hosts talking about what they got up to at the weekend. They also take listener emails at the end of the show which can hit upon any topic imaginable. You can get an email about pooping habits followed by one about the mysteries of space! Whatever the question/topic the Bombcast crew is more than happy to oblige.

 

1.Thirty Twenty Ten

 

302010

 

Regular Hosts: Brett Elston, Diana Goodman, Chris Antista, Henry Gilbert

 

This is one of the most unique podcasts I’ve ever heard. Thirty Twenty Ten is an exploration of what was happening in pop culture this week 30 years ago, 20 years ago and 10 years ago. So currently they’re taking a look at 1986, 1996 and 2006. They cover any important things they can find for that week like movies, music, TV shows, video games, comics and world events. What other podcast can you hear discussions about the Challenger explosion, the release of Underworld: Evolution and the developers of Grand Theft Auto being taken to court for an unused sex minigame all in one episode?

 

All the hosts have their own area of expertise but also offer their own personal anecdotes about what they were doing in the various time periods. This is probably the easiest podcast to recommend out of my list because it literally has something for everyone. It’s also pretty new having only started this year so there are only 14 episodes to catch up on at the time of writing and I’ve got to mention that it has an amazing theme tune done by Dotflist. It’s not too late to climb aboard the pop culture time machine!

Wrestlemania 32 Wrap Up

Well there it was again, the biggest event on any pro wrestling fan’s calendar for the year has been and gone. Overall I’d say it was a very confusing show and in my opinion a lot of matches ended with the wrong people winning. 

Wrestlemania is basically wrestling’s season finale, it finishes off all of the current storylines so they can start fresh the next night on Raw. But it’s also a time when the most eyes are back on the WWE. Whether it be lapsed fans who want that yearly nostalgia bump or perhaps new fans who’ve been caught up in the excitement and want to be part of the conversation. So with this in mind you’d think WWE would go out of their way to create a feel good show but that’s not what they did this year. 

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with subverting expectations but when that comes at the expense of a fun show maybe that’s not the right call for Mania.

  

Kevin Owens(C) vs Dolph Ziggler vs Stardust vs Sami Zayn vs Sin Cara vs The Miz vs Zack Ryder in a 7-Man Ladder Match for the Intercontinental Championship

What seems to be becoming an annual tradition we have a big cluster muck of a ladder match involving anyone they couldn’t fit anywhere else. The only real story going into this match was the feud between Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens. Owens had previously injured Sami so we were all expecting it to be a one on one match between them to settle the grudge. Both of them have a huge history together from their early days of wrestling and they have both worked extremely hard to get to where they are today. So that alone would have made an awesome match, instead they decided add a bunch of unrelated losers last minute and make it a painfully forgettable ladder match. 

The only big moves that spring to mind were Stardust taking a nasty body splash through a ladder from Sin Cara and Kevin Owens getting suplexed painfully onto a ladder by Sami Zayn. But after all of this the biggest loser of them all Zack Ryder who hasn’t won a meaningful match in years gets the belt. Straight away I felt this was a totally pointless victory and that was confirmed when he lost it to Miz the next night on Raw. This was the first in a night full of confusing choices by WWE and a disappointing open to the show for me.

Chris Jericho vs AJ Styles

Unfortunately this is the 4th time this year these guys have fought so it does suffer from diminishing returns but at least they tried to add some new dimensions to the match. This is the first time they’ve faced off with Jericho being a full on bad guy. 

Even though he’s a respected legend from the 90s he still knows how to piss off a crowd when he needs to. He shows no respect to AJ by slapping him, holding submissions on after the ref has called for the break and even busts out his cocky pin from his WCW days. This match also shows that both men have been learning from each other on the previous bouts. Both get chances to reverse each other’s signature moves, the ending coming from Jericho catching AJ out of an aerial dive into his Code Breaker finishing move to get the win.

At the time I thought that Jericho didn’t need to win this match especially now that AJ Styles became the no.1 contender for the title on Raw yesterday. So I think it would have made more sense for AJ to win here then go one to have a successful Raw too but maybe they didn’t want to give him a Mania win because he’s a newcomer to WWE.  

 

The League of Nations vs The New Day 

The New Day are inarguably the biggest stars the WWE has right now. So big that they got to do a special entrance that involved them falling out of their own big custom cereal box dressed as Saiyans from Dragonball Z. Yes you heard that right, New Day have really captured the attention of the internet generation and it’s helped rocket them to super stardom. 

  
They really deserved a better match than this one, taking on a bunch of boring bad guys who’ve been shoehorned into a team isn’t really Mania worthy in my opinion. Also New Day are the tag team champs, they should have been defending the gold against an impressive tag team.

So despite The New Day being the absolute favourites WWE decides The League of Nations should beat them in a forgettable match. At least they won by cheating so New Day still looked like the better team. Another pointless win that really took the air out of the atmosphere after New Day’s legendary entrance.

So after the match the League of Nations get on the mic and make the age old wrestling mistake of declaring no one can beat them which every wrestling fan knows immediately summons a super team of legends to prove you wrong. In this case it was HBK Shawn Michaels, Mick Foley and Stone Cold Steve Austin coming out for nostalgia’s sake. It was pretty entertaining we got to see everyone do their finishers. We got a Sweet Chin Music, the return of Mr. Socko and the crowd favourite Stone Cold Stunner. Then New Day got back in to try and persuade the legends to dance with them to which Stone Cold politely declined with a Stunner for Xavier Woods. 

  

Brock Lesnar vs Dean Ambrose in a Street Fight

The Beast Incarnate vs The Lunatic Fringe in a no holds barred street fight. This match should have been awesome but it was very one sided with Brock Lesnar dominating for most of it. Now this is perfectly understandable because Brock is a terrifying monster of a man in real life but this is wrestling, none of that matters in this fake world. The crowd and me included really wanted Dean to finally get his big win because he’s been losing a lot lately but Brock pretty handily destroyed him. For a street fight the weapon usage wasn’t really anything special either, Dean had even been gifted a barbed wire bat from the Hardcore Legend himself Mick Foley but he didn’t even get to use it! Brock dodged it and that led to him hitting the F5 for the win.

  

Charlotte(C) vs Becky Lynch vs Sasha Banks for the WWE Women’s Championship

It feels great to be able to say with 100% certainty that this match was the best on the show but again it fell victim to a weird and unsatisfactory ending. However this was a pretty important match in WWE history, for year the female wrestlers have been branded Divas while the men got to be called Superstars which never seemed fair to me. But they’ve somehow managed to get Vince to give up this sexist term and now everyone is a Superstar and the Diva’s Championship has been renamed the WWE Women’s Championship.

For years now the women’s matches have been pretty bad at most events but they’ve finally got the talent to really turn things around. Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks are absolute stars and they really led this match. Early on there were lots of fast paced move combinations involving all 3 women and the pace never really slowed down which was great. There were also some great top rope moves highlights being a huge moonsault to the outside by Charlotte and out of nowhere frog splash from Sasha which was a tribute to her favourite wrestler Eddie Guerrero. 

Unfortunately this was all ruined by Ric Flair’s interference at the end. His cheating helped his daughter Charlotte pick up the win and forever have to accolade of first WWE Women’s Champion. I wouldn’t have minded this outcome if it was a fair match between the 3 women but the fact that they had a man interfere just ruined it for me and tainted the new serious direction they’re trying to go with women’s wrestling. 

  

The Undertaker vs Shane McMahon inside Hell in a Cell

No, this isn’t a joke. I haven’t accidently put in a match from 2000. They actually decided to pit the 46 year old Shane McMahon against the 51 year old Undertaker in no holds barred match inside a giant steel cage! And yes it was as stupid as it sounds.

First of all Shane is not a formally trained wrestler, granted he’s had a lot of high profile matches and he’s known for some amazing high flying moves which have been genuinely impressive and endeared him to the fans but he’s not a wrestler. The only reason they put this match together was for some reason Shane was ok with jumping off the near 30ft Hell in a Cell cage through a the announce table. Now this was an amazing jump that I didn’t think they had the guts to actually do but it was all for nothing! Shane lost to the Undertaker because he moved off the table just before Shane hit, it was an awful landing too, there was some kind of cushion but he didn’t really hit it straight on but he also didn’t die so that’s something right?

The match before that was pretty boring because of the slow pace and it was long too, clocking in around 30 minutes in total. Undertaker was always my favourite wrestler but I wish he would retire soon, he’s just not the same. Give the old deadman a rest already!

  

The Andre The Giant Memorial 20-Man Battle Royal

It’s telling that this match was a 30-man battle royal last year but WWE’s had a bad year for injuries and the roster was a bit think this year so we have this 20-man match full of nobodies. Big Show and Kane were the only wrestlers of note announced before this started and the rest of the made up with random tag teams mostly. 

The winner of this match was Baron Corbin a relative unknown from NXT which was actually a surprisingly good choice because no one was excited for this match. And it was a strong main roster debut for Corbin. It’s always good to see them supporting the new guys, I was worried they’d just give to Kane or something after the previous decisions.

  

The Rock vs Erick Rowan

This was a really pointless segment, The Rock got a huge stupid entrance with the Dallas cheerleaders dancing around him and he was shooting a flamethrower for some reason. So comes out to chat with the crowd for a bit but then he gets interrupted by the Wyatt Family who (for the uninitiated) are a band of mystical voodoo hillbillies who have no previous connection with The Rock as far as I remember. So The Rock rips his clothes off revealing he’d been wearing his wrestling trunks all along(maybe he always does?)! 

This wasn’t even a match, the bell hit and Rock hits his Rock Bottom finisher and that was it. Then the enraged Wyatts try to beat him up but the John Cena comes out to save him! They both do their signature moves and the Wyatts slump back to their swamp shack.

  

Roman Reigns vs Triple H(C) for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship

So here we go, our main event between the King of Kings Triple H and Roman Boooooooooooo. 

  
Seriously the boos for Roman during this match were deafening. Bit of backstory on Roman Reigns, he’s Vince McMahon’s golden boy at the moment and he’s being given all the high profile matches and title shots but the problem is he’s not a very good wrestler. He can do big power moves fine but the rest of his moves are just boring strikes and instead of thinking of new stuff he just repeats his same moves ad nauseum. He also has almost no charisma, I literally have no idea what the higher ups see in him. The crowds have completely turned on him because he’s being shoved down our throats as the guy we’re supposed to cheer.

Triple H tries his best to drag Roman through this match but it was really boring, it probably didn’t help that at this point we were past 6 hours of wrestling if you include the pre show. But their job is to keep our attention no matter how long the match goes but unfortunately Roman just stinks it up too much. We all knew he was going to win too, Triple H shouldn’t be champion for too long because he’s the COO of the company (in real life and the story) so we knew it could only be Reigns at this point. 

So he hits his Spear finisher and Triple H goes down for the 1-2-3 leaving Roman to celebrate in front of a booing and hissing crowd. It was pretty hilarious, I just kept thinking “someone has got to come out and save this, right?” But they never did. It was seriously the flattest ending I’ve ever seen at a Wrestlemania. They’ve got a lot of work cut out for them if they’re set on making this guy a star, on raw he showed some signs that they might start playing him off as a bad guy which is probably their only option at this point. 

So yea that was it, a disappointing end to a disappointing show. The only way to save the show for me would have been to have the women’s match on last and ban Ric Flair from ringside. But no matter what happens we’ll probably all watch it again next year. Overall I’d give the show: 

★★☆☆☆

Batman v Superman: The Day My Hero Died 

This was a deeply disappointing movie for me to watch. I’m a practically life long DC and Batman fan, I was born in ‘88 so I didn’t get to see the ‘89 movie until it was shown on TV. My earliest memory of the Batman is watching it on a rainy Saturday afternoon at my Grandparent’s house and having so many questions about this mysterious dark knight. 

I was also the perfect age when Batman: The Animated Series started in ‘92 and this excellent portrayal is what I consider to be my Batman. Brought to life by the voice actor Kevin Conroy, this Batman was kind and altruistic but knew when and how to dispatch thugs when he needed to. Batman was a true role model for our generation and he’s been a constant presence in my life. But that’s not the Batman I saw on screen in Superman v Batman: Dawn of Justice. What I saw was my childhood hero turned into an unrepentant murderer and that’s not okay with me.

*Spoilers for Superman v Batman: Dawn of Justice*
  

Injustice

Batman kills a lot in this movie. Just off the top of my head: he blows up multiple cars full of people with mounted machine guns on the Batmobile, shoots multiple people with pistols and heavy machine guns in a post apocalyptic dream sequence, knocks a thug’s grenade out of his hand and leaves them to explode and shoots another thug’s flamethrower tank with an assault rifle again resulting in a fiery explosion. 

To me this felt like complete betrayal of everything the character stands for and I want to go into a bit more detail on that.

As a character Bruce Wayne’s defining moment is undoubtedly the mugging turned murder of his parents. They were shot and killed in front of him which is what started him down the path to becoming Batman. He wanted to rid the streets of the kind of scum who indiscriminately destroy human lives figuratively and literally. He values human life and is always ready to give people a second chance to leave their life of crime behind. No one man should decide who lives or dies and Batman does everything in his power to ensure criminals are caught and sent to jail alive.

Weapons on the Batmobile aren’t something new, over the many incarnations he has used projectile weapons but they are usually used to disable a vehicle or destroy obstructions. He should never use them to shoot a car until it explodes. 

Fair enough, the post apocalyptic Batman we see is a dream sequence but in my opinion it adds nothing at all to the story. It was a pointless inclusion. There should not be footage of Batman in a major movie gunning down hordes of soldiers with an assault rifle. It’s just not right.

In the final Batman scene he infiltrates a warehouse full of thugs which was their big chance to make it right but again he murders some of them. Now granted the thug with the grenade was mostly responsible for his own death but the Batman I know would have at least tried to minimize the damage caused by that situation. The last guy he comes to is pointing a flamethrower at the hostage Batman’s trying to rescue so it’s a desperate moment but a better Batman would have used his knowledge to disable the weapon hopefully without blowing the guy up.
  

World’s Finest    

Maybe it does sound unrealistic for Batman to dispense vigilante justice without taking a life but that’s the point. Batman is supposed to be the best of all of us. The pinnacle of humanity. A man who over his comic history has faced down god-like beings from other worlds and bested them. He should never even want to pick up a gun in the first place after what happened to his parents. By avoiding killing he can also ensure that he doesn’t orphan anymore of Gotham’s children himself.

This is what happened when my Batman was forced to pick up a gun in desperation:

He quits. Because if he let himself slip down that path there would be no coming back and the symbol of the Batman would lose its meaning.

With Great Power…

Director Zack Snyder not content with just destroying Batman also drags the Man of Steel’s good name through the mud too. 

Superman never shows any remorse in this movie for the events of 2013’s Man of Steel movie. We find out that he never made any statement or public apology for levelling a good chunk of Metropolis in the 18 months between movies. He doesn’t show and remorse or internal conflict over the murder of General Zod on screen.

Superman is another character that famously doesn’t kill because he is basically a god compared to a regular human. He knows that if he kills a human people would be terrified of him because he’s so powerful. So when he snapped Zod’s neck in the climax to Man of Steel a lot of his long time fans felt their character had been betrayed too. They had hoped that in the next film he would take responsibility for his actions and be held accountable but that does not happen.

He just emotionlessly flies through the whole movie and again in the climax a lot of buildings get levelled except this time they cram in some clumsy lines about the areas being after 6pm so nobody is at work in the financial district.

They do set up a scene where Superman is supposed to appear in front of congress to explain himself but just as he’s about to talk a bomb planted by Lex Luthor blows up the entire building. Then Superman just flies away and this is never addressed again! Snyder literally substitutes much needed dialogue for an explosion, it’s ridiculous. 

Doomsday

On top of all of this it was just a mediocre movie for me. It hits nowhere near the highs of Marvel’s Avengers but it’s not as bad/boring as Green Lantern either. All I was feeling was disappointment while watching this. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by Bruce Timm’s excellent animated universe but I don’t think it’s too much to ask to have a good Justice League movie in my lifetime. Sadly Zack Snyder is directing the future DC movies and they’re due to start filming soon so I guess I’ve got a few more years to wait.

Ending on a positive here are some shows I would 100% recommend over this movie if you’re curious about the DC universe: Batman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, Justice League, Justice League Unlimited, Young Justice, Arrow, Flash. 

(Most of these animated shows are on Amazon Prime Video right now)

Shovel Knight Review – PS4

Being reductive you could describe Shovel Knight as another retro style indie game platformer but it’s so much more than that. It’s a perfectly crafted love letter to 8 bit (NES) and 16 bit (SNES) eras but it’s also not afraid to borrow from some more recent games where it makes sense.  Steel Thy Shovel

You take control of the titular Shovel Knight, a treasure hunting adventurer. While exploring the Tower of Fate with his partner Shield Knight they uncover an ancient amulet that traps her inside and locks Shovel Knight out. When he hears that an evil Sorceress has unlocked the tower he grabs his trusty shovel and sets out on a rescue mission. 

I get that they were trying to stick to an overall retro game feel but they could have at least tried modernize the whole damsel in distress trope. Even Nintendo has tried this over the years for Princess Peach in the Paper Mario series and they’re the ones who made their money on this cliché back in the day. It’s disappointing that in a modern game there is virtually no strong female presence throughout most of the story. 

Strike the Earth!

As you may have gathered a lot of the gameplay revolves around the shovel, this is your main form of attack. You can use it to bash enemies, smash blocks, dig up treasure and even bounce on like a pogo stick which can be used as an attack. The controls feel great, you never feel out of control of the character which is good because there are many tricky jumps ahead.

You navigate the overworld via a Super Mario Bros 3 style map complete with enemy encounters patrolling around. Each level is usually themed around whichever boss resides inside, there are 8 Knights to defeat at the end of their own themed level almost exactly like Mega Man’s robot masters. For instance Specter Knight’s level is a creepy graveyard/haunted house and Mole Knight’s is an underground labyrinth. 

The boss battles are a great event to cap off the stages. Each Knight has their own unique attacks and they come after you relentlessly. It’s really exciting when you’re down to your last bit of health and you land that final well deserved hit.

There are Zelda II style towns you can visit to buy supplies, upgrades and maybe find a few sidequests if you talk to the right person. This is where you can shop for the game’s many items, they slowly unlock as you defeat more Knights and range from fireball spells you can shoot to a spell that makes you intangible so you can’t be harmed. It really lets you play the game however you want. Whether you focus on upgrading your health so you can take more hits or upgrade your magic power so you can use the items more often, it’s up to you.

A Lust for Gold

Each level is brilliantly crafted, fitting the theme of the corresponding Knight and also slowing increasing the difficulty as you go along. The game does a great job of teaching you how to be better without straight up telling you what to do. It also rewards exploration, there are secret passages hidden everywhere full of treasure. 

Collecting treasure feels great in this game. Nintendo figured out early on with Mario that it’s just fun to collect coins and such in video games but all they did there was give you an extra life every now and again. In Shovel Knight treasure is everything. You use it to buy all your upgrades, extra weapons and to gain access to certain areas. Taking out a huge enemy or digging up a mound of earth and getting showered in riches is fun for everyone.
  When you die in Shovel Knight you lose some of your gold and are sent back to the last checkpoint but you are given a chance to retrieve what you lost. In the area that you died there’ll be floating bags of cash and if you can make it back there without dieing again you’ll get all of it back. I really appreciated this system because when making retro style games developers always seem to be tempted to make it super difficult but this really takes the pressure off and made it way more enjoyable to me. You can make it a bit more risky for yourself (if this seems too easy) by smashing the checkpoints you come to during the levels. You can get gold out of them but then you won’t have anywhere to respawn if you fall down a pit.

This system is very clearly borrowed from the Dark Souls series, where your experience is left in the area you died. it’s good to see that they weren’t afraid to borrow from some modern games, where it makes sense.

A Bard’s Tale

One thing that can’t be faulted in this game is the music. Jake Kaufman creates a masterpiece of bleeps and bloops that is very authentic to the 8 bit era while also feeling modern due to the complex song arrangements. Just listen to this and tell me it doesn’t get you all pumped up and ready for adventure:

I’ve had songs from this game stuck in my head all week which to me means they did something right with this soundtrack. You can even collect the songs in game and give them to a bard in town who will play them back to you whenever you want. They are usually pretty well hidden in the levels so it made me want to check every suspicious looking wall, sometimes at my own peril.

They even get Manami Matsumae (a composer who worked on the original Mega Man soundtrack) to compose a couple of songs for Shovel Knight, Just to take this nostalgia trip full circle.

But Shovel Knight is much more than that, it in no way relies on nostalgia to get a free pass. It’s an excellent game that could be enjoyed by anyone whether you were around in the 8 bit era or your first video game was Call of Duty. This is video gaming in it’s purest form and I loved every second of it.

★★★★★

Street Fighter: The Movie: The Review 

It was May 1995, Robson & Jerome were topping the charts with Unchained Melody *shudders* and a young Adam Sandler had just hit it big with Billy Madison mere months before but the movie I was excited about that year was Street Fighter. 

Super Street Fighter 2: Turbo was one of the first games I had for my very first video game console the Super Nintendo I loved it but there was a problem. The movie was certificate 15 and I was only 7 years old. My Dad thought he would try and take me anyway so we queued up outside the cinema for the showing (that’s what you had to do in those days) but when we got to the front I was rejected for being too young and we had to go and see the terrible Macaulay Culkin Richie Rich movie *shuddering intensifies*. 

So 1995 went on and I forgot about this movie partially due to the Mortal Kombat movie coming out later the same year which I got for Xmas on VHS. It wasn’t until I was around college age when I finally saw Street Fighter, I picked it up in HMV for about £3 and settled down for the ride of my 7 year old self’s life!

  

You Lose

The movie opens up with the classic news story montage to set the scene as so many action movies do. It introduces us to our villain General M. Bison the evil dictator of the fictional country of Shadowloo (which looks a lot like Thailand) he is played by the amazing Raúl Juliá (known to our generation from the Addams Family films). I just want to say this up front, Raúl Juliá single handedly carries this movie. It’s a well known fact that he was dying of stomach cancer during the filming but he is such a professional that he never let it impact his performance. Apparently he would be sat down for most of the production day but as soon as they said ‘Action’ he came to life and in my opinion totally steals the show.

In the first scene we see Bison loading hostages into a pit, he personally slaps a few of them down I think? The camera cuts are pretty bad throughout the movie, often obscuring the fighting which is a baffling editing choice for a movie about Street Fighters. We hear via news reporter Chuni Li (played by Ming-Na Wen of Agents of Shield fame) that there is a $20 Billion ransom for these hostages and the world has 72 hours to pay up or they will be killed. 

During the news report (which Bison is watching on a giant TV display) Chun Li tries to get some words from the Colonel Guile on the hostage situation. So we get our first glimpse of our sonic boom throwing, flash kicking American hero so who did they get to play him? The muscles from Brussels himself Jean-Claude Van Damme of course! JCVD’s acting is a mess in this film his accent is barely understandable and it feels like they just did one take a rolled with it for the most part. Guile is part of some kind of worldwide army called the Allied Nations whose main priority is to take down Bison it seems.

Whilst being interviewed Guile tells his buddy Charlie that he’s going to save him which immediately outs the poor guy to Bison who decides he now has special plans for Carlos “Charlie” Blanka. It turns out these special plans are to turn Charlie into a mutated super soldier. So he’s hooked up to a machine that pipes in green mutagen goo and shows him violent video clips like that scene in A Clockwork Orange. Good going Guile! Luckily the head scientist eurgh… Dr. Dhalsim (the stretchy, fire breathing Indian yoga master from the game is also a scientist apparently) decides this is a bit too much and sets out to save what he can of Charlie’s humanity. 

   

The World Warriors

Over the next half hour or so we’re quickly introduced to the rest of the cast. Joining Chun Li Zang on her news team we have the pro boxer Balrog who has always been on Bison’s side in the games, E. Honda who in the game is a Japanese sumo wrestler but here he is a Hawaiian sumo complete with stereotypical shirt and everything. But this news team is just a cover so Chun Li can get info on Bison’s whereabouts in the hopes of confronting and assassinating him.
With Guile’s A.N. army we have Cammy the British agent played by Australian pop sensation Kylie Minogue. Who was apparently only hired to satisfy the union of the Australian Actor’s Guild as the indoor scenes were filmed there. T. Hawk who in the game is a hulking native american stereotype but in this film he’s just a regular looking soldier who at one point dons a headband with a funky design on it near the end. He also inexplicably has a band-aid on his forehead throughout the movie even though we never see him in any action scenes. 

Ryu and Ken who are the main characters of the video game are so disappointing in the movie. They are travelling con-men who make a living doing dodgy arms deals with Bison’s men. This inevitably lands them in hot water but helps them infiltrate the evil organisation and relay info to Guile. Two of the coolest characters in fighting game history are reduced to morally ambiguous scam artists who provide incredibly cringey “comic relief” and just to cap it off not one fireball is thrown between them! And no one pronounces Ryu’s name consistently some say Rhy-oo and others Ree-oo the latter being the correct one. Disappointing. 

The rest of Bison’s thugs include Dee Jay, the Jamaican dance fighter who seems to run the computers in Bison’s lair and do no fighting at all. Vega, the claw wielding underground cage fighter. This guy is pretty faithful to his video game counterpart the costume is on point and he actually fights in a cage just like his stage in Street Fighter 2! Zangief the towering Russian wrestler is another one they get right. He’s played by bodybuilder and looks spot on, he’s the classic dumb henchmen who provides some of the only good jokes in this movie. 

Finally we have Sagat who in the game is an impossibly huge Muay Thai kickboxing legend. He’s played by the then 48 year old Wes Studi who is a great actor but not very imposing as a fighter. There’s a great scene between him and M. Bison early on where they are brokering a deal for weapons and instead of real money Bison offers him these:

  

Sagat: Is this a joke? This money isn’t even worth the paper it’s printed on!

Bison: On the contrary. Every Bison Dollar will be worth five British pounds. That is the exchange rate that the Bank of England will implement after I kidnap their Queen.

Such a good line and delivered perfectly by Raúl. This movie has flashes of good comedy moments but they come few far and between. If they’d just embraced this goofy side more often this would have been much more enjoyable to watch. 

So that’s our very over saturated cast, apparently Capcom (the Japanese company that owns Street Fighter) fought against the director to include as many characters as possible as he originally only wanted 7 from the video game. So as you can imagine this leaves a small percentage of screen time for everyone and they all go undeveloped as a result. Capcom are also the ones who pushed for JCVD as Guile who’s fee cost around a fourth of the films budget.

You Sunk My Stealth Boat

So after a bit of in fighting all the good guys wind up on the same page and decide to launch a full army assault on Bison’s Bond villain lair. Guile and his troops are about to leave when my second favourite character shows up out of nowhere. This guy!

  

The snooty rich government bureaucrat (Simon Callow) playing pretty much the same character he would play in Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls later in the year. This guy is great, with a smug face looking like he’s just closed down a beloved youth centre he proceeds to tell Guile that the A.N. is going to negotiate with Bison and he is to inform his troops to stand down. So this prompts Guile to make a fairly passionless speech to his troops and he manages to whip them up into a frenzy and runs off to confront Bison against orders in his STEALTH BOAT!

  

This has got to be one of the least stealthiest vehicles in film history. The first thing you notice is it has Guile’s full name in huge white letters plastered on the side. Granted once he get’s going they do activate the stealth camo to render the boat invisible but that doesn’t stop the huge wake it leaves behind as it bombs loudly down the river to Bison’s lair. Then guile decides to take out the cameras and gun emplacements on the river bank so proceeds to start shooting a huge chain gun in all directions causing giant explosions in every direction. STEALTH!!!

Somehow this catches Bison’s attention and he manages to blow up the boat. Guile and crew had luckily escaped from it though and our heroes make their way into the base. They snoop around for a bit but are captured pretty quickly and Bison orders Chun Li to be taken to his quarters.

Bison’s bedroom is absolutely hilarious. There are skulls everywhere, a chandelier made of human bones, a hat rack for all his different coloured hats and this gem of a painting:

  

Bison changes into his smoking jacket and Chun Li gives an impassioned speech about how when she was a child her father had been killed defending their small village from a group of thugs lead by a young Bison. The reply he gives to this is without a doubt one of the greatest bad guy lines in movie history:

Bison: I’m sorry. I don’t remember any of it. 

Chun Li: You don’t remember? 

Bison: For you, the day Bison graced your village was the most important day of your life. But for me… it was Tuesday. 

Ice cold. After this amazing line Chun Li launches her attack and almost beats Bison but he gets himself into a safe room and releases gas into the room. So our heroes are captured again and the time is up so Bison plans to execute the hostages by letting Blanka loose in the pit to murder them all!

  

Behold your tiny ginger hulk in all his glory! Blanka looks absolutely awful, he doesn’t look scary at all and he doesn’t even do anything! He chokes Guile for a second before he realises that he knows him and then that’s pretty much the last we see him. Blanka was such a cool character in the game, a feral green man raised in the Brazilian rain forest who could use electric powers he learned from eels to zap people. Just another thing in a long list of disappointments. 

So we’re into the final big action scene, they were obviously going for a James Bond type of thing with army guys rappelling into the base and bad guys getting blown up and flying everywhere but it looks so low budget. Bison and Guile face off in unarmed combat but during the fight Bison gets knocked into a computer panel and gets electrified. Instead of killing him this boosts his power somehow and he starts flying around slightly reminiscent of his video game counterpart but way less impressive. They’re clearly just swinging Raúl Juliá around on wires as he flies into Guile with his fists held out. Watching this I’m terrified for Raúl’s health, this is a man who was unfortunately months away from death and here he is risking his life for this waste of a movie. 

So Guile finally knocks Bison out of the air with a jump kick so nice they replay the scene thrice and he flies into a big pile of monitors and is crushed. Guile then tries to rescue Charlie Blanka from the self destructing lair but eurgh… Dr. Dhalsim who is now inexplicably dressed like an adult baby having lost his hair and clothes in a lab fire I guess? Anyway, he tells Guile that he’ll take Blanka to go be one with nature or something so Guile reluctantly leaves.

All of our heroes escape the lair while it explodes and they all decide to do a little pose for the camera as the film’s logo pops up, yay! At least the characters are actually doing an approximation of their in game poses so they got that part right. 

  

K.O.

And there we have it people, it’s finally over. This movie is very confusing, why they decided to try and create a cheap military action movie instead of going with the tournament structure of the game is beyond me. It feels like they were trying to fight against the characters they’d been given instead of embracing them. Or they already had a movie premise in mind and tried to shoehorn the Street Fighter characters into it. Either way it doesn’t work and everyone is unhappy. 

There are some baffling creative choices made that just annoy the Street Fighter fan in me. Why were there none of the series signature special moves? Why is Dhalsim a scientist? Why do they feel the need to give all the characters first and second names? Why is there barely any fighting in this movie called Street Fighter? Why does Dhalsim suddenly become bald at the end?!

According to the director it was a nightmare to direct and the whole production was plagued with bad luck and a dwindling budget. Polygon did a great article about what went wrong with this movie which I’d thoroughly recommend reading here. I can only recommend watching this movie if you love Street Fighter and you want to see how wrong it can go or you’re with a group of friends and drinks are involved. Or if you don’t want to spend any of your hard earned Bison Dollars maybe just find an M. Bison montage on YouTube.

I can’t even seriously rate this movie so it give it 1 Bison Dollar out of eurgh… Dr. Dhalsim.