Friday, 24 March 2017

Power Rangers 2017 Movie [Review]

The TV series of Power Rangers is always good fun, and the suits and story were usually pretty colourful and fun. A few seasons took a more serious side with the story, and even in the more light-hearted ones there were some serious moments. But no-one really expected those spandex suits and cheap effects to change to reflect that more serious tone. Here then, with the first in the new Rangers films, a more serious tone is presented with the effects and suits to match.


It takes time to get to the good stuff, and if you really want to start questioning stuff that happens, this isn’t going to fit your tastes. With Rangers it is always best to suspend logical reasoning regarding its events, even if some things are sort of logical. As such, the film itself begins 65,000 years ago, with the original Rangers. Zordon is the only Ranger left on a war-torn environment, and he calls in a strike to end the conflict. In the present day, we slowly get introduced to the new team, with most focus placed on Jason to begin. Billy and Jason strike up a friendship, and that night the two head off to the mines. Kimberly, Zack, and Trini are there as well, and the power coins are revealed.
This film essentially tells how this team of misfits bond together, and I feel it does a good job of that. It’s a more mature origin story, with some obvious issues it deals with for the main cast, who do a good job of portraying those emotions. In context of the film, I do feel we don’t get much of either Zack or Trini until the middle act, where the bonding between the group really starts. I can understand where that comes into it, since these are the more outcast characters, but it still would have been good to get a bit more depth to them early on. Alpha and Zordon are used as was expected, and even gave Zordon a bit of a selfish need until he realised his time is done. As for Rita… She was a bit more outside of what I expected. How she came about and grew in power, with the way it was shot, gave a more creepy side to the character. At full strength, she really played that up.

As for the story itself, it was more about those character interactions, I felt. It gives a real feel as to how the characters see each other, and their reactions to believable to the situations they are in. At first they are hesitant to accept the powers and the responsibility, just as in the Mighty Morphin' TV series, but here it is more played up. The bond between the group is what allows them to earn their powers, and until they have that bond, they cannot morph. And while they do start training, they don't exactly bond. When it comes to the action, Rita is reconstructing Goldar and intends to pull the Zeo Crystal supporting all life on Earth from where it is hidden. I liked watching the Rangers grow into that team, and in a way it reminded me of Dino Thunder. A group of teens get in trouble, are grouped together in some way, find the power, and have to bond as a team to succeed. Since this film is playing on the original settings, I wouldn't suggest anything as outlandish as it should have been three Rangers to start.
I felt it was a well constructed film. There's serious and more light-hearted moments, with references to numerous films, and even a blast of the original theme's chorus as the Rangers and their zords charge into battle. I will say though, and this will be coming up in my Look Inside the Morphing Grid series when I get to the era, I felt Disney had a better understanding of how to make Rangers work. Most of the film feels like it suits the more serious tone, and the lighter toned scenes are a breather from that, but in no way do they feel... fully interwoven with each other. Perhaps it's just preference, and there'll be more detail when I cover that era, but for here I'll just say that the lighter scenes don't exactly work in places, and occasionally feel timed wrong.
The effects are well done, with the zords and enemies feeling mostly a part of the same world. Just don't go expecting the sort of explosions you'd get in the TV series, as the fights are more grounded. Which is also an interesting point to bring up.

The final climax of the film is the fight that is usually expected in any Power Rangers episode. Battles against foot soldiers and monsters, then a zord fight. The fight against those foot soldiers is executed well enough for the film, with the first wave outside the mine. It's a more standard movie affair than the TV series though, which usually holds back the larger groups of foot soldiers until the finale, as the first fight overwhelms them, if not for using the zords. And while I do say it's best not to think about the logic of Rangers, this is the one point I couldn't help but question it. Working as a team was the whole point of the film, and while that gets represented in the zord fight, it doesn't get much look in with the ground fight. Said ground fight barely lasts any time at all before the zords are pulled out to annihilate the enemy. Said fight has a few instances is used. Said ground fight, in real terms, is five super-powered teenagers in armour against a bunch of rock monsters that fall easily. Yet all appears lost almost too quickly. I think that maybe the film wanted to use the zords more, as those things really are good looking. The fight with the zords is a lot better, and since the zord fight immediately follows the ground fight, enjoyment isn't really affected too much. The zord fight feels much like in the TV series, with each Ranger utilising their particular zord as a way to fight off the forces of evil and stop Goldar from getting the Zeo Crystal. It's effective, and good to watch, and when all seems lost, the Megazord is formed. Either through the bond the Rangers are sharing at that time or due to a fuse owing to the extreme heat the zords have placed on them. I'd say the first, since teamwork is the theme of the film and Power Rangers as a whole.

As to what final verdict I'd give the film... I liked it, and it certainly gave a more mature spin on the lore of the Rangers series. Which is something I'd like to see expanded on with the future films. As for this film, it does a good job of introducing the concept of Rangers, so even if you haven't been a fan of the series you'd still be able to enjoy it. But while it is good, and it serves its purpose, I can't help but feel Disney did it better with the series, so a film under their control could be better than this one is. If we look at the films as a series, then this was just the first episode. And since it was the first episode, we should expect greater things for the series in the future.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Nintendo Switch: This Just Got Everywhere [Gaming]


It's been over a week since the Switch was first released, and already it's doing better than the Wii U. A lot of build-up for the console went a long way to securing good sales, for both games and the console itself. And what a console this thing is.

The set up was quick and easy, showing off what the console was capable of easy enough. The UI is simple enough to navigate, with games being sorted by most recent played. A set of icons below this carousel feature the news, eshop, album, and settings for both console and controllers. Two themes are available, and so I opted for the darker one on preference. What I really like about it is the simplicity of it, but feel it could have a bit more functionality to it. The Wii, 3DS, and Wii U had ways to track play time, the latter two having specific apps for it [the 3DS one being the best], but there is no such thing with the Switch. Even the PS4 and Xbox One have some way to see total play time, and while it's not really a big deal, it is something that will be missed. The eshop is also simple in design, and simple to use. Simple functionality seems to be the order of the day for the Switch, and that also goes into how it's used.

While I did get time playing it in January, there was no real way for me to test the switching function properly. Glad to say it works great. Freehand Joy-Cons are the best, I've found. That's how I started using the Switch, and is probably going to be the way I play near enough all the time with it docked. The straps fill the Joy-Cons out a bit more, allowing them to be held better. The positioning of the buttons and sticks are pretty good for either freehand or in the grip. Swapping to handheld mode is simple enough, and attaching the Joy-Cons to the Switch itself. The only trouble I've had is removing the straps, but after a few times of doing so it has got easier to do so. Holding the Switch in handheld mode is lighter than I was expecting. The only trouble I have had is a single Joy-Con. At the January event the only experience I had of that was with Sonic Mania. I've played two games that use a Joy-Con on the side, and even with the strap I've found it a bit hard both keeping a hold of it and pressing buttons in more intense moments of play.

As for the games I've played, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has been the big one. While I do keep up with the series, I'm not exactly a big fan. I've seriously been pulled into the world with this one though. There's so much to do within the world. I've explored like crazy and still probably haven't found everything. The game is open in how you attempt things, with story beats being the best way to do so. There are also numerous shrines around that give spirit orbs for passing a test. Four of these will grant a heart or stamina upgrade. And there are over 100 of them. There's things to cook, clothes to buy, places to explore, and enemies to beat up. There's weapons to use and find, Korok seeds to collect for inventory upgrades, and also fairy fountains which give good things to you as well. There is so much to do that while I'm technically half way through the story, I'm nowhere near finished with the game.

FAST RMX is the second game I purchased, and while I said I would do it first day, I had spent so much time on Breath of the Wild on that day I didn't have time to do so. Instead, it was the first thing I did on the second day, and it's a great game. I haven't been online yet, but the single-player races I've done have been living up to the name of fast. It takes a bit of skill to race, with switching between two colours to gain and use boosts the sole game-changer on offer. Each course looks vastly different from another, and each feels unique with its course layout. Getting third or better will unlock a new cup and a new vehicle, with three difficulty levels to get through. There's even Hero mode for that greater bit of challenge, where the boost bar also acts as an energy gauge - same as in F-Zero - which destroy your racer if it runs out. I've only played through a few of the cups, but it has been a great racer all the same.


Now the third game I've been playing has been Snipperclips, a simple yet fun puzzler. At first it was just the demo, but I've delayed this post so I can include the full game, which arrived as a code with the Neon Joy-Con bundle. The demo had the tutorial and three of the stages, with the tutorial doing a good job of showing the controls off and the stages doing a great job of showing what to expect in the full game. Getting to that full game, the puzzles get that bit more interesting, and while I've only completed the first world, the puzzles on offer have shown that it can be fun. Get a friend along for the challenge, and it becomes that bit more fun with the right person. Yes, you can work together to solve the puzzles, but there's fun to be had just playing around. I've yet to fully test out the other modes in the game, but from what I've read, those also offer enjoyment with friends.

That's my impressions with the console in its first week. Yes, there are a few niggles, and a lack of entertainment features - such as Netflix or Amazon Prime Video - might bother some. For me though, it has been a delight to have as much power of a home console on a handheld, and have the ability to swap almost seamlessly between handheld and TV. While the launch has been a success in my eyes, there's still the next few months to take into consideration. The likes of Splatoon 2, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and ARMS will make sure there are plenty of first party games coming, though E3 is where the support of others will really be shown.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

March '17 Monthly Update [Network]


Last month I teased something new that would be released to the Kindle Store either this month or next. In this update, I can now unveil that. Over three years ago, I had an original story running called TV and Film Residential Camp. It was a story about this unknown country down in the southern hemisphere that liked to keep to itself. A student holiday wasn't all that it seemed, and one student was able to break out of the memory alterations. He took a trip to the United Kingdom, and specifically a town called Halesowen.
Now in that story, I was using real names of real people - more specifically the friends and lecturers at the college and myself. I didn't want to keep that though, as I figured it wouldn't do well to feature people if they didn't want to be featured in a proper published work. Yes, I had put the last chapter on hold so I could prepare it for self-publishing to the Kindle Store. That, clearly, never happened. But I had worked out new identities for new characters. Every single name was changed, as well as altering some other parts to them. Slowly I was building up an entire roster of new characters. And so this group comprised of ten people. That was when I swapped track. I could tell some interesting stories with these characters, and so the new story began planning.
That was six months back, and it is almost ready. For this starting book, I wanted to focus more on the characters themselves, so the book is essentially eight short stories taking the viewpoint of one character - two for the beginning and ending stories, which will both be longer to accommodate that. The title of said book is The Alternate Adventures of Halesowen. Keep a look out as I will be saying more on it, including release, soon.

Elsewhere, I mentioned writing up another Nintendo Switch post should there be any news. That news came in the form of an independent studio showcase of games coming to the Switch. Yesterday. I had also said that if news didn't come I would still write something up, but I decided against that just to allow time for other things. However, with the release of the Switch this week, I will be giving my thoughts on it and the games I get.
The next in the Look Inside the Morphing Grid series will look at Power Rangers In Space, and Lost Galaxy. From what I've seen of In Space so far, it is looking likely to be great throughout, though there's every change Lost Galaxy could be better.
The next episode of Doctor Who: The Star Wars Chronicles has DarkRula and The Doctor retracing the steps of the Daleks when they first arrived. Along the way the two will run into some eager bounty hunters willing to capture them. Catch up with that when Retracing and Running is posted later this month.
Another mention from last month was that I was unable to record games on my laptop due to it being funny like that. Whatever caused it, I found a slight workaround for GTA videos. In January I posted videos from the Rockstar Editor. One from the PC version and one from the Xbox One version. Since I've been spending a bit more time on the Xbox One version, I've also been making some races on that version as well. Using the Rockstar Editor, I recorded footage of that track, editing it as I did those videos in January. It is up on Youtube, though has somehow exported out at a slightly lower quality than the previous video.

That is all for now, so bye for now.