Games

Nioh 2: The Complete Edition

There’s hard games and then there’s let’s make it completely unfair to the player games, and Nioh 2 falls into the latter. I’d say maybe half the bosses were made to be hard, but fair and the other half, the developers decided to say, bluntly, ‘fuck you’ to the players. There’s no mincing words here. The developers did not make this game as a love letter to their previous game, instead they decided to take everything that was bad about Nioh 1 and improve upon those horrible mechanics. Sure, I can now have a counter to some moves with a move of my own but most of the time, you will take damage trying to do so. You are actively punished for using the game’s mechanics. Oh, and the game suffers massively from “Do as I say, but not as I do.” In order for enemies to be staggered, and yourself, your Ki has to run out. However, in tradition with the game’s mentality of “fuck you, player”, bosses don’t need to reduce your Ki to stagger you, they merely need to hit you once.

I’m getting ahead of myself here. A quick rerun of the game mechanics is in order. You have life and Ki (basically your stamina), and when life drops to 0, you die. Ki drops to 0, you’re winded for awhile and open to any attack. Enemies also have a life bar and a Ki bar, and when you drop their Ki to 0, they are open to any attack and will get staggered, letting you wail on them until they recover their Ki – done so by a move on their part and automatically by you. You can also perform a Ki pulse which is pressing the button at the moment the Ki meter turns from red to blue. Most of their attacks can be blocked, reducing your Ki by a massive amount in proportion to the damage they would have dealt. You can also choose to dodge but dodging is dependent on your total equipment weight. Too high, and you’ll barely be able to move out of the way. Really low or none, and you can dodge out of the way with incredible distance. Some enemy attacks are highlighted in red, these can be countered with your burst which is dependent on which guardian spirit you have equipped. There’s feral, phantom or brute and each counter is different. Then enemies have the ‘fuck you, player’ move in which they have a grab that will take most or all of your life in one go. In no universe is this remotely fair to the player, and only exists to artificially inflate the difficulty. Your only hope is to be far away, and sometimes that isn’t enough because the radius for the enemy to perform this move is massive.

Let me get this out of the way, I beat the base game and I enjoyed the base game for the most part. It’s when I started the DLC and expansions that I realized, there’s no need to play any of them because they were designed purely as a “fuck you, player.” All the bosses that I fought therein had several bullshit insta-kill moves or grabs. When I finally did beat the bosses, it wasn’t because of my hard efforts to memorize the move sets of the boss, but rather because on that 10+ death, the boss didn’t use that one particular move. In other words, I won because of sheer luck and not skill. This behavior is not native to the Nioh games for all of the souls games, Bloodborne, and Sekiro also have bullshit bosses with bullshit moves and you beating them is highly reliant on them not using a specific skill or move. It seems that the Japanese developers, as whole, have that mentality of “fuck you, player”. The best Japanese ARPG game I’ve ever played, that had the most fair mechanics ever, was not made by the Japanese but by Americans – Naughty Dog with their masterpiece, Ghost of Tsushima. That really says something about Japanese developers.

As a whole, playing a Japanese ARPG game is akin to bashing your head against a brick wall in the hopes of breaking it down to get past. In Nioh 2, that brick wall has another brick wall right behind and whenever you do hit your head against it, it seals itself back up.

As for the story, it was useless and mere filler. It used the backdrop of real characters from history to tell a prequel to Nioh 1 and then near the end, acted as a sequel. It was as barebones as a story could get. I didn’t care to play the game at all for the story but for the satisfaction of being able to say I beat it. And sure, I beat it, but at what cost? My sanity? There’s a lot to love inside the game, but the sheer frustration of many gameplay decisions is immense. It’s hard to believe a lot of the elements got past QA, and that someone thought it was a good idea to implement them. Like the grabs, or having the insta-kill moves. Or bosses that ignore the mechanics but you still have to obey them and are limited by them. The decision to make loot randomized, forcing you to grind over and over in the hopes of better gear. Having a mission based campaign, are you guys still playing on PlayStation 2? Rest of the world called, we’re on open world games now.

Overall, I do recommend the base game. It’s hard but doable, and for the most part, the bosses are hard but fair. Unless you do side quests, in which case the bosses are mostly of the “fuck you, player” design requiring you to massively farm XP to get way over-leveled in order to best them. I do not recommend any of the DLCs/expansions, they are simply unfair to the player.

TV Shows

Midnight Mass

Mike Flanagan strikes again with an excellent and well told horror story. Everything he’s put out so far, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the experience. He is a master at creating suspense and keeping tension through the entirety of the season. Midnight Mass is seven episodes long varying in length, usually an hour for the most part. Each one is masterful in developing characters and has just the right amount of calm before the storm. Each episode’s final 10 or 15 minutes accelerates the horror plot in unexpected ways; that is, until you catch onto what is happening then it becomes a sense of wonder.

I can’t say the references it has, or the pop culture ones either because to say would be spoiling the plot, and this is one show I really don’t want to do that. It is best to go in blind and be left at the mercy of what will unfold. The acting is superb by everyone involved, and I especially liked the Sheriff (Rahul Kohli) and Riley Flynn (Zach Gilford). The cinematography was excellent and helped add those feelings of isolation with the wide sweeping views of the lonely island. The music elevated the tension and suspense further, and I’m really glad that it didn’t give away if a mild jump scare was to happen. Speaking of those, they are far and few and the ones that do happen, are to be expected.

The imagery and religious symbolism within the show was used to great effect, and really made you think how well the subject matter of the Bible tied into the idea presented in the show. I’m not Catholic, so a lot of the Bible might have gone over my head, but the few passages I did understand, I really enjoyed the idea presented. In fact, one of the passages about Jesus, I always thought since I was a child, that it could be used for such an idea as this show. I read other reviews that didn’t enjoy the long monologues by many of the characters but I felt that they were needed because this show is filled with preaching and lots of sermons so the monologues fit into that idea of preaching.

Overall, I highly recommend the show. It’s a standout on Netflix, and one of their few really good original series. For fans of horror, it’s a must see.

TV Shows

Lucifer Season 6

Spoilers ahead, hard not to talk about them regarding this season.

I love the show as a whole but this last season is, to put it mildly, utter disappointment. You had 5 seasons of character development, of doing the procedural genre, and the fifth ended on an excellent note and a clear path forwards. Yet, the writers in their infinite wisdom, decided to forgo the path laid out and take three giant steps backwards, and only one forwards. This season should have explored the idea of redemption, and what it meant to have Lucifer be God himself. Instead, they took the cowardly option, reneged on that idea, and went back to the Devil being nothing but a devil. All the character progression thrown out the window.

The first three episodes were 40 minutes of filler, going down yet again with the procedural route, and leaving only the last 15 minutes or so to progress the plot in a meaningful way. There was a bit of intrigue and mystery which was quickly squashed with yet another familial arc to play through. And to top it off, they added time travel and time loops. One of the worst arcs to add to any show, it reeks of lazy writing. By adding a time loop, you insert paradoxes into the equation, and considering season 5 was all about the idea of free will, a time loop explicitly implies there is no such thing as free will. For you have to go about the exact same way as to what caused the loop to begin with.

The only redeeming factors, aside from the excellent acting from the cast, is that Daniel had a good conclusion to his character arc, that Maze and Eve got their happily ever after and that Ella finally learned of the existence of Celestials plus her own happy ending. The inclusion of SJW elements and “woke” elements was downright pandering, possibly to Netflix. The speech by the drag queen in episode two served no point than to please the LBQT+ crowd. The idea of Adam as toxic masculinity was again pointless, and did nothing and added nothing to the plot. Including cancel culture into it was meaningless, and felt like the writers were going down the checklist of what to add to please their Netflix overlords. Oh and because institutionalized racism is rearing its ugly head (always has been), they decided to include the plight of trying to change the police force from within… SWAT anyone?

This season starts off essentially in the gutter, makes a marked improvement as it reached the middle and then declines harshly in the final two episodes. That last episode, the last 20 minutes play out like a fever dream of fantasy. Everyone gets good things happening to them. Until the last 9 minutes, which are depressing when you think about it. Chloe lives 40, maybe 60, or even more years alone without Lucifer, finally dies, and joins him in Hell to help with psychiatry for people dealing with their own guilt. Great ad for psychiatry, but why did you have to ruin the show for that? Like Game of Thrones fans will feel regarding their last season, I feel the same way. Lucifer ended on season 5 and this trash season doesn’t exist. Similar to how they never made a fourth Indiana Jones movie, or never made an Avatar: The Last Airbender movie.

Anyways, these are just my opinions, and maybe other Lucifer fans will enjoy it. I certainly didn’t and therefore I couldn’t recommend it. But you do you.

TV Shows

SWAT (all 4 seasons)

I started watching this show because I was a fan of the movie with Colin Farrell, and I am a fan of Shemar Moore. And the more I got into it, eventually blazing through all four seasons, I have my ups with it and I got problems with it. First and foremost, the level of social programming at play and the PR publicity for cops is immense. Yet, it does manage to call awareness to societal issues that plague current and past times. Almost, nay, every episode is hammering home some sort of social justice which, over time, starts to pile up and become another mindless topic in the background. The fourth season is the only one that I enjoyed because it brought better awareness to the futility and failings of the American justice system. And to the racial politics at play, on both ends, cops and civilians.

That aside, it’s like watching trashy reality TV. You know it’s not great, kind of bad really, but you wanna keep watching to see what happens next. For my case, I had grown attached to the family structure at play between the characters. Between Hondo, Street, Luca, Tan, Deacon, and Chris. And then those outside that family, the Commander, Hicks, extra SWAT members – Rocker, Stevens and Mumford. I really enjoyed the dynamics between all of them, and that sense of camaraderie that follows. This for me was the bread and butter that kept me going. I wanted to see where each character would progress in terms of personal growth. I enjoyed Street’s arc the best, going from a hotshot to a dedicated member of the team. Hondo is the one I had the most issue with. He’s a straight up killer. And the show doesn’t acknowledge that. I’ve lost track of how many people he’s killed, upwards of 50 easily.

I find it ironic his character is trying to fight for what’s right for the black community and for the racial tensions between police and the community. He’s trying to stop the racial profiling at hand, yet if you’re a gangbanger with a gun, you’ll be shot dead. But if you’re a member of society who happened to pick up a gun for some misguided attempt at justice, you’ll be flash-banged and peacefully, albeit painfully, restrained. The show tries to make claims about rehabilitation, but with all the death, it’s clear that they’re trying to say only some lives matter and others don’t. 80% of actual swat calls are for narcotics, more often than not for someone OD’ing. Yet that show would have you thinking they’re used for investigative work (they don’t do that).

As for the acting, camerawork, and music: everything is quite well done. I really enjoy watching the shootouts, as mindless as they are. They give that fix of action in bite size format instead of watching a movie for it. I particularly enjoyed several driving sequences, they were inventive at times. And the camerawork takes some creative liberties that result in fun sequences. Music gets the blood pumping during the action, and pensive when it needs to be.

Overall, if you can get past the social engineering at work then you’ll have a fun time. If you can’t, you’ll not last a whole season. I’m excited for the fifth season, I’d love to see them explore Chris and Street’s burgeoning relationship further. If there was one coupling I was looking forward to the most, it was theirs.

Movies

The Father Who Moves Mountains

This was an excellent movie, and most of all, not “Americanized”; by which I mean, there was no musclebound steroid hero doing all he can to conquer the mountain. It was a father grieving when his child went missing, in the Carpathians, who used all the resources he could muster, called in every favor owed to him, spent nearly all his wealth in an attempt to locate him. The scenery was breathtaking, and the scale of the mountains humbling. The score conveying a sense of futility, haunting the viewer, always present in the background and coming to the forefront in pivotal scenes.

The main character, the hero so to speak, is a flawed man. He’s no Stallone on the mountain. He left his wife for a younger woman, abandoning his son in the process to start a new life. He seemingly cares little for others, only concerned in getting his son back. There’s a bit of corruption at play with the military favors he’s called in. As time passes, and his resources dwindle, we can see that he starts to go through the five stages of grief. We, the viewers, experience this emotional gauntlet alongside him. He vehemently denies when the experts tell him to wait for spring. He gets angry at those that helped, even when they nearly lost their lives to the mountain. He bargains with anyone that will listen, offering money. When those close to him start to leave, and he sees others mourning his son, sadness hits him. And at the end, we start to see a glimpse of his acceptance and the movie ends.

The acting was well done, and every character was believable, and very human. This is how things would go in a similar situation. Naturally not everyone is well off enough to use the same means he did, but if you had the means, wouldn’t you do everything in your power to see your child returned?

I recommend this movie. It’s a powerful tale of the lengths parents would go for their children. In that sense, a very human story. Glad that Netflix added it.