RPG's on the DS-Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time


An ideal action RPG for the Nintendo DS.

After playing Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days (Review coming soon...), I have been on a search for the perfect action RPG on the DS. One that has lots of content, online mulitplayer, a solid combat system, and a unique RPG system. While my search was a complete failure, I did find a few action RPGs that actually were fun. One of them is Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time. What makes it unique, besides the long title, is the fact that it's the only solid action RPG, with online multiplayer. This feature not only increases the playability of this great title, but also adds lots of variety to an otherwise basic RPG.

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time (I will call it FFCCET from now on because I am tired of writing this insanely big title.), foll0ws the story of your custom adventurer. You have the choice of four classes: Clavets, Lilties, Selkies, and Yukes. All of them look like childish midgets, but it adds to the charm. The story has your character finishing a coming of age ceremony, but after the festivities, one of the villagers gets a disease which will lead to her inevitable death. You are sent to find a cure, prompting a creepy German child molester, to destroy a crystal, resulting in your whole entire family disappearing. It is then your job to beat his ass inside out, and get back your family by finding the shards of the crystals. The story is basically an excuse just to go around killing monsters, but you probably will want to kill the German child molester to a pulp, since he wiped out your family after discovering about your sick village member.

The game has you going around to various locations with your basic hack and slash RPG formula, that has been done throughout the Crystal Chronicle series. This time around though, all the controls, combat system, leveling up, item management, and graphics have been refined. While their is the occasional quirk, it will take much more to stop you from playing this addicting title. The game does allow you to create an AI based team, giving you the option of actually controling members of the team. The AI has improved, but not by much, since they are pretty damn useless when it comes to puzzles, combat, or basic survival. They will assist you, but don't expect much from them.

The real hook however, is the multiplayer. Owning one copy of the game, allows players to access co-op online. This probably one of the greatest multiplayer feats I have seen in a VERY longtime. Playing online makes the experience ten times more enjoyable...unless the lag occurs. Lag is a bit of a problem when 4 players worldwide play co-op, since it seems to be WAY to much for the system. If you do keep the game continental though, you shouldn't encounter any problems though...hopefully.

The final flaw that stops this game for ever achieving the great recognition it deserves, would be the puzzles. Puzzles abrubtly stop the action, and when they take place during the action, they become archaic. They are usually simple, such as push a block on a lever, but when they become complex, it really slows the pacing of the game down, causing some people to actually want to stop playing. If you can ignore the puzzles, however, you will probably enjoy this game.

FFCCET is a great title for the DS. While it isn't going to win any awards, or ever match up to games such as The World Ends With You, it will entertain you for hours on end. While $30 is a bit much, it probably won't dissapoint you.

Land of the Wild Things


Where the Wild Things Are is a dull remake of the famous 1963 picture book.
Where the Wild Things Are is an example of what happens when you take a beloved picture book, and turn it into an hour and 40 minute film. It has good intentions in its depiction of the mind of a child, but fails to remember the basic aspects of cinema. Whether it be that the film is too dull to keep anyone engrossed, or that each scene is overacted, Where the Wild Things Are is a clear indication that Spike Jonze really needs to spend some time mourning over the abomination he has released in theatres.

Where the Wild Things Are begins with a disturbing scene of a child screaming at the top of his lungs while chasing a dog with a knife. This is Max (Played by Max Records), a kid who feels like he has been neglected, and has resorted to creating an imaginary fantasy world inhabited by giant, juvenile creatures. One would expect the film to include Max befriending the creatures and discovering that the world doesn't revolve around him, however it takes a disturbing twist when Max threatens to kill all the creatures unless they crown him king. The use of addictive substances may have inspired this tragic turn of events.

The performances don't help either. Max Records has the problem of overacting, for his script mostly consists of screams. The voicing for the "wild things" are also overdone, but not as much as Max, thankfully. The costumes are bizarre, seeing that they all look like Muppets on steroids.

Another flaw is the obscure storytelling, which fails to give enough details on the monsters. Each monster is frivolous, and unfortunately have the depth of a kiddie pool. "Why are the monsters unhappy?" is a question I asked throughout the film, as it gives us only their personality descriptions and not the history of these creatures. This is a missed opportunity, considering it would have made this film interesting. The film should have included more dialogue, and less of the dull antics of Max and his "wild things."

I sense that Where the Wild Things Are has a lot of heart. Unfortunately, while its means well, it simply isn't interesting enough to ever be something that any child or adult could enjoy. For a relatively short movie, it feels surprisingly long and dull. You can have more fun creating your own imaginary world, a world where this film doesn't exist.

Moore Assaults Capitalism


Michael Moore delivers a hilarious and powerful documentary about the corruption of our American economic system.

Love or hate him, there is no doubt that Michael Moore is a key voice in political and social activism. After the brilliance of Bowling for Columbine and the tragic (if hilarious) Sicko and Fahrenheit 9/11, Capitalism: A Love Story premiered with high expectations. It doesn't match up to its predecessors, but it stands on its own with powerfully tragic scenarios, a strong (if one-sided) conclusion and typical Moore-style cinematography that has defined this filmmaker since Roger & Me.

The film is an argument against capitalism which he believes, enables the upper class to take advantage of the middle and lower class. Armed with shocking facts, critical analysis, humor, and witty dialogue, Moore not only criticise our current economic system, but launches a war on it, assaulting it with with moral questions, statistics and heartbreaking interviews with the victims of this system. It is likely that regardless of your opinion of Michael Moore, you will at least believe that our economic system must be changed by the end of this film.

The interviews with the American citizens aren't as moving as Sicko or Fahrenheit 9/11, but it isn't the interviews, but rather conspiracies that are the spotlight of this film. Each one will either shock you or drive you to tears, another trademark of Moore's films. The film shows appalling incidents, such as privately controlled juvenile detention centers gone awry, and shocking regulations or documents that will make your jaw drop. Moore criticizes the people behind the economic corruption, armed with banter and cleverness, using a calm monologue to destroy the image of the wrongdoers.

Unfortunately Moore's opinions tend to be a bit extreme (typical of Moore's personality), which is likely to anger Moore haters, capitalists, and "right wing nut jobs." Moore's film isn't wholly accurate either, since he frequently manipulates the footage, causing lots of intentional misinterpretations between the interviewee and the viewer. This probably will anger a few people, but it does assist Moore in making a strong argument.

Michael Moore doesn't disappoint with his slam on our economic system. He does go a bit extreme with his opinions, but he does make valid claims. The director seems to know what he is talking about, as he gives the viewer the impression that he is a man of the people. While I don't always agree with him, I believe that Michael Moore candidly speaks for the American people.

The Informant! Vs. ADM


Matt Damon's performance gives The Informant! the momentum to be an enjoyable experience.

Matt Damon is back from killing countless people in the Bourne series, to his new film The Informant!, a retelling of the true story of Mark Whitacre (Damon), an executive turned whistle blower for ADM (Archer Daniels Midland), a company found to be involved in illegal activities. The story is pretty much about the pressures that Mark Whitacre goes through. If you are expecting a slapstick, than you are mistaken, as The Informant!, is a dark comedy, a tragic story of a man who nearly goes insane for the pressures of keeping his intentions a secret from his company.

The question that the films presents is not how Mark Whitacre undermined his own company, but why? Don't be expecting an answer, because unfortunately you won't get one. The movie acknowledges that Mark Whitacre was making thousands of dollars at ADM, and was actually going to be better off if he had kept his mouth shut about the illegal dealings of ADM. The film hints that Mark Whitacre has reasons as a result of his megalomania and stupidity, but they are never really explored, which is unfortunate.

Throughout the flick, Whitacre has a monologue that usually serves as an example of how insane he is. The monologue usually has little to no relevance on the events that are taking place, whether it be talking about polar bears during an ADM meeting, or talking about how he would like to go fishing with one of the government agents. This is probably the highlight of the film, as these monologues are hysterical and numerous, with nearly every scene having one of these addresses.

The acting of Matt Damon as Whitacre is over the top and hilarious, Damon even going to the extent of gaining tons of weight after gracefully leaping off buildings and beating up assassins in The Bourne Ultimatum. The performance of Scott Bakula as agent Brian Shephard is solid and interesting, but won't leave as much of an impression as Whitacre.

The Informant! is a hilarious, if woeful tale of the one man who stands up against a force of great power. The film tries to be funny and tragic at the same time, which makes it difficult to ascribe the film to a single genre. However, the performance of the chubby Matt Damon, the engaging story, and the hilarious monologue of Whitacre makes it a great cinematic experience.

The Problem with Fullmetal Alchemist: Conquerors of Shambala


I LOVE the Fullmetal Alchemist series. It is my favorite TV show to ever be released. Many must be thinking how naive I am for worshipping an anime series, but I say this with great pride. I love the messages, characters, plot, humor, effects, and action that is pretty much in every episode of this series. So when I heard of the movie, I naturally went insane. After watching it, I fell into an odd depression. It wasn't that the movie was bad, but the fact that it was melancholy, and offered more questions than answers. So since this movie is going to be released on Blu-Ray, I decided to not do a review, but a critical analysis of problems with this film. While I saw that it did get generally positive reviews and I greatly enjoyed the film, I must offer a critical analysis of it.(Warning, contains spoilers and referances to the film that only those who have actually watched it may understand!)

1. Characters
One of the great things that Fullmetal Alchemist has been known for is the superb characters. Edward and Alphonse Elric are a great team, Ed being the one who acts mature, but is a hothead inside, with Alphonse being the voice of reason in the duo. Even the supporting cast is equally strong with hilarious characters such as Alex Louis Armstrong, to very broken and complicated characters, such as Scar. Unfortunately, the movie tries to do the impossible task of fitting each character into the 1 hour and 50 minute movie, while offering new ones. This present itself as a huge problem, since side characters are given little to no screen time, and new characters really lack the impact that the main characters of the series have had. If the film was longer, restrained itself from offering so many new characters, and focused on the ones that were in the series, than this could have really been a strong aspect of the film.

2. Longevity
I already have mentioned this, but the film is simply too short. 1 hour and 50 minutes, is barely enough time to have all the characters explained in great detail without sacrificing story, causing many events too short, and many characters too lack much substance. The main villain is a prime example, as she has screen time that is under 30 minutes, and gives a reason to her evil doings that is sub par to the reasons of other evil doers "doings" in this series. If the film was by any chance between two hours to 2 hours and 30 minutes, than the problem would have definitely been solved.

3. Ending
(Sigh)...What really caused me to view this film in such a disappointing manner, was the ending. Not everything is tied up, most of the results of the film are left for speculation, too much detail is spent on the Elric brothers, and the most of the main side characters are not even given a hint of explanation over their whereabouts. Here are a list of things that aren't explained:

  1. Relationship of Roy Mustang and Riza Hawkeye.
  2. What happened to Central after the final battle?
  3. The political situation in Central.
  4. How does Winry feel?
  5. Does Alphonse join the military?
  6. The relationship between the Ishbalans and the State Military.
  7. Is Dante dead?
  8. Why does Edward cause Alphone Hiedrich and Hohemheim Elric's sacrifice to be in vain when coming back to Earth.(Makes sense if you watch the film?
  9. What is the ultimate fate of Ed and Al?
  10. Etc.(I'm serious, there's more!)

The main problem is that everything is left to speculation, and while it does leave many people with lots of post film discussion, it leaves even more people disappointed with the lack of questions answered.

In conclusion I feel that if the writers focused on trying to offer more answers than questions, than I would love FMA Conqueror of Shambala. Instead, I'm greatly disappointed by the film. While it's still a great film, it angered me when I discovered that they were in fact, shortening the film. Why they did this is completely beyond me, but I am willing to forgive them since it's a solid entry and finale to the FMA series. So if you want to buy the Blu-Ray edition of this film, be my guest. Hoping that the finale to the manga and FMA Brotherhood is better than this, I sign off as I attempt to heal the editors of the swine flu, using human transmutation of course.

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