Highschool of The Dead is Studio Madhouse’s 2010 entry into the zombie survival meta. Directed by Tetsurō Araki, previously of Black Lagoon, who’d later go on to helm hugely celebrated anime, Attack on Titan.
The 12-episode run follows Takashi and his peers as they narrowly escape a zombie outbreak at their high school, and attempt to survive their greater surroundings — swarming with undead. I was re-introduced to this show only recently, in my data structure and algorithm class. Our professor totally mugged off, and one of my classmates started playing HoTD on a projector. We were collectively in awe of the unrelenting absurdity of this show.
Sure, I love symbolic, meaty (unfortunate wording) works, where I can self-indulge in pseudo-critical analysis and occasionally witty takes. I love my Satoshi Kon cultural commentaries, but I also love my vapid, goofy, action romps. Highschool of The Dead, though, is a special kind of vacuousnessnessness.
Zombie flicks are usually larger commentaries on contemporary societal issues and systemic failures, for example, Romero’s pointed statements on capitalism, consumerism, and racism. At the very least, most zombie apocalypses are a backdrop for compelling character pieces, featuring dramatic arcs that confront audiences with the moral gray. But not Highschool of The Dead, oh, no.
This anime is all bombastic, bloody action. Between Busujima, the Kendo Club captain, using her skills to free noggins from necks, or chubby Otaku, Hirano, taking the position as the group’s most competent marksman. Its a power fantasy through and through. The trope of outcast kids banding together to outlast some hellish threat is the foundation for our core cast. Takashi, the group’s leader, is a sadboy. Saya Takagi is the scholarly tsundere. Rei is set-up as a damsel in distress figure. It’s the usual suspects, all tired, seemingly, obligatory squad members.
Tropey characters and mindless zombgore in B-movie-meta-packaging is not intrinsically offensive. Where HoTD wholly confuses and loses me is in the “fan-service,” which in this case should really be considered “fan-harassment.” There are so many off-putting panty shots, and all the women in the show are gelatinous — their breasts jiggling in full defiance of any lawful physics.
Anime often oversexualizes it’s cast, but I’ve never seen such a blatant try-hard attempt at undercutting any moments of tension, meaningful character development or violence, with boobies. There is a scene in the first episode where zombies devour a high school girl, and the camera cuts to her skirt flipped up, panties exposed. So unnecessary. What does this shot achieve? Why are you trying to make high schoolers or cannibalism sexy? Tonally bizarre. Highly questionable. It’s these moments that are the driving factor in the show’s absurdity. So much of the framing and composition centers on the female cast-members’ chests. It’s genuinely so uncomfortable and has no contextual basis.
Two years after HoTD’s run, Suda51 (Killer7, No More Heroes) released Lollipop Chainsaw, a video game written by James Gunn (Guardians of The Galaxy, Super). It’s similarly over-the-top but far more self-aware. It’s not a well-received title, though, it points out some things HoTD could have done to be a more harmonious work.
For one, dialogue and characters’ reactions to their scenarios should’ve committed more to the bit, and played for comedy. As is, the cuts and juxtaposing of scenes that play silly, but are trying to convey legitimate trauma only create discordance. Secondly, the grit could’ve been toned back a fair amount. The color palette is too bleak, leaning towards realism, which contrasts too heavily with the show’s lack of any real perspective or commentary.
It was mere weeks ago that Sony treated the gaming world to their first extensive look at the PlayStation 5, although in a virtual presentation rather than the more in-depth experience originally planned for E3. Sony held a Livestream event that showed off the console’s design and specifications, as well as new features for the Dualsense controller and a number of game trailers that had fans buzzing with excitement. But what perhaps had the most impact on the gaming industry was the announcement that the PS5 would be available in two models at launch: The Standard Edition and the Digital Edition.
The PS5 Digital Edition is expected to be virtually identical to the Standard Edition in terms of specifications and hardware, though it will lack the addition of a 4K Blu Ray disk drive. Sony is not the first to experiment with the idea of a diskless console, as Microsoft released the XBOX One S All-Digital Edition in May of 2019. Unfortunately, the system was shortly discontinued after poor sales, mainly because it lost the one feature the XBOX One had over the PS4: A 4K video disk drive. Furthermore, the XBOX One All-Digital Edition was priced at just $50 less than the standard XBOX One S, leaving gamers no real incentive to opt for the underwhelming bargain. The PS5 Digital Edition will reportedly be around $100 cheaper than its standard counterpart, suggesting Sony has learned from their main rival’s mistakes.
The biggest consequence of sacrificing a console’s disk drive is that only games and video purchased digitally can be played on the system. Buying games digitally is nothing new to gamers, as it has become the norm for most console owners since the release of the PS4 and XBOX One. The huge advantage of owning a game digitally is that you don’t have to worry about scratched or fractured disks, not to mention the removal of the age-old dilemma of getting up from your comfy seat on the couch to switch between games. For most people adapted to living in the modern world, digital game ownership is a far more convenient experience. But if it becomes the only option, will it remain as such?
When console owners wish to buy a digital copy of a game, the only source they can go to is that console’s digital marketplace. This means that the PlayStation Store, the Microsoft Store, and the Nintendo Game Store unreservedly dictate the prices of the digital software for their systems. For PC gamers who made the switch to all-digital libraries years ago, there are several sources for making purchases, though most use the popular service Steam. With the three major video game companies controlling the market for their digital games, stores like Gamestop, Best Buy, Target, and Walmart are still the premier sources for games on disk. With the trend moving towards gamers preferring a fully digital experience, it could pose big implications for any stores still selling physical copies of games. Target and Walmart are large department stores that can survive without these sales, but stores like Best Buy rely heavily on selling video games while Gamestop relies on it entirely. The world’s largest video game retailer, Gamestop has already begun to feel the repercussions from the eighth generation of consoles’ lasting legacy. With the demand for games on disk at an all-time low, the company has seen its stock plummet and many believe it to be on its way towards bankruptcy.
Something that had been known before Sony’s Livestream was that the PS5 will be a backward-compatible console capable of playing PS2, PS3, and PS4 games. The return of a backward-compatible PlayStation excited many fans who had held onto the disks of their favorite games from past generations, especially since the PS4 totally abandoned the feature (knowing there was more money in remasters and remakes). Tests are being run for thousands of previous-generation titles on their ability to run on the PS5, suggesting that many games that have spent years collecting dust on the shelf might still have some value to them. However, any potential goldmine of retro games would require a Standard PS5 to cash in on. With it lacking a disk drive, the PS5 Digital Edition would see little to no benefit from any of these backward-compatibility features. This creates a glaring subtraction from the PS5 Standard Edition that won’t show up on any spec comparisons.
Sony will reportedly not be the only company offering both a standard and digital model of their ninth-generation consoles. A recent leak from a secret Microsoft event suggested that the upcoming XBOX Series X will be accompanied by a diskless counterpart similar to the XBOX One S All-Digital Edition. However, rumors indicate that Microsoft has adjusted its business plan regarding price and that the new digital XBOX, believed to be called the XBOX Series S (working under the codename Lockhart), could be up to half the cost of the standard model. The XBOX Series X is estimated to launch at around $400, meaning that if the digital model is around $200 it could create some major appeal given the current economic landscape.
Looking even further into the future, if fully digital gaming systems were to become the new norm it would allow Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, and any other company wishing to get involved in the console race to exclusively control the market for their entire gaming library. Stores like Best Buy and Gamestop often do independent sales where they will offer games on disk at a significantly cheaper price than that of the digital store. These kinds of finds would become rare or even nonexistent to gamers if stores like Best Buy decided to stop selling games or stores like Gamestop fold completely. It would also eliminate the secondhand market, preventing people from selling games after they have grown tired of them. This seems smart in regards to a business strategy for gaming companies but comes off as petty and borderline despotic to consumers. In the PS4/XBOX One era, digital games have already made it hard for gamers to let friends simply borrow titles they have played through, one of the greatest perks of owning games on disk. Not much has been said on if the next generation of consoles will grant gamers more liberties with reselling and lending out digital games, despite a modest outcry for such features. Even so, if other stores abandon selling video games in the near future, Amazon would likely remain the one consistent source for games on disk; however, it would allow Amazon to maintain their own stranglehold on the prices for physical copies of games. This would put a severe limit on the number of cheap games that become available to patient gamers through consistent sales held by retailers.
The ugly truth of it all is that the PS4, XBOX One, and Nintendo Switch were designed in-part to turn gamers away from disks and onto their own digital marketplaces. With purchasing games digitally becoming the easiest way to own software, it has begun to render games on disk as obsolete. The only role a disk should serve is to install the game, but copyright reasons make it so that the disk is needed each time to run the game altogether. Nintendo even reverted back to tiny, extremely losable cartridges for the Switch, making it so the only logical option is to buy a digital copy of a game. Unfortunately, gamers will always be at the mercy of what consoles, developers, and publishers make available to them, and before long we could be living in a world where games on disk are no longer a viable option.
“When you’re lost in darkness, look for the light.”
The world as we know it is bleak. This year alone showed us that humanity is doomed to destroy itself. The year 2020 should’ve been the year of perfect visions for the future, but instead we see the dark truths lurking in the shadows. I don’t think anyone could’ve been prepared for what 2020 had to offer. We sought some sort of light in this darkness and funnily enough, the light we sought was a game whose world was filled with despair, hardships, and raw humanity, both good and bad, with small twinkling fireflies of hope.
What happened? This was one of the most anticipated games of the year. Why did it fail?
Many points that the story is to blame.
I played this game twice. The first time was to basically absorb both story and gameplay, mostly gameplay. While the second was to absorb the story with the mindset of it being a feature film. I am willing to admit that I enjoyed playing the game, I enjoyed the story on my first run but definitely did harbor some confused emotions about the choices made for this game. The Last of Us: Part 2 had that new toy smell and I wanted to be amused by it, considering it is a follow-up to arguably one of the best video games, and feats of storytelling, ever made and told.
Personally, I did not want a sequel. I felt that the first game was beautifully crafted from beginning to end, that a sequel was unnecessary and can potentially tarnish its legacy.
Unfortunately, my fears were realized.
My general impression of this game is that it was beautifully crafted, but not very polished. I loved playing through the game (on my first run) for one simple reason: I wanted to know what happens next. However, playing through the game a second time, I feel that this sequel left much to be desired.
I want to start with the good things about this game as it did many things right.
Graphics wise, this game is phenomenal. The settings are captivating and it is definitely an improvement. The environments of The Last of Us were stunning cityscapes that were slowly being devoured by nature. In this sequel, nature has almost eradicated most of the human-made structures that once stood proudly over the land. The combat feels refined and more personal, as each melee hit and gunshot delivered a satisfying yet uneasy feeling for the player. Facial animations have come so far in the industry that enemies killed feel like real people, and you, the player, are responsible for every brutal kill. Everyone has names for God’s sake, though one drawback to that is that they all look alike. Emily of the WLFs look like Tabitha of the Scars–er, I mean Seraphites. Immersion breaks at that point, but otherwise pretty neat. Combat has been improved, providing the player with a dodge mechanic to avoid enemy attacks, and a variety of new infected enemy types provided some heart pumping changes in pace. Particularly Shamblers, which are a variation of the Bloater enemy type that charge towards you to deliver an explosion of noxious and acidic spores.
Though combat has improved nothing major has really changed. They gave you the ability to go prone and jump, but I find that those additions didn’t really provide anything memorable or worthwhile. The jump button particularly was sometimes unreliable when trekking through cityscapes and other platforming sections of the game. Crafting hasn’t really changed much either. You are still required to gather supplies to craft items, and upgrade your weapons, but nothing new has been added. The weapons you craft are still pretty much the same items you make in the previous game, and I expected that they would introduce new items and supply types in the game. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.
Stealth has been improved significantly, and players can seamlessly transition from one play style to the other in a single encounter. I can go from crawling all fours to shooting an enemy. And when I get discovered I run away and hide and proceed to stealth through an enemy force. I found myself choosing stealth over combat more than anything. Dogs are a new enemy type that adds a fresh breath of air to the stealth mechanic as they can sniff out your location when close. It made for some excellent problem-solving moments, and cruel decision making. (Poor doggos… it’s either them or me. RIP Bear and Alice.)
I think The Last of Us: Part 2 is one of the best designed games of this generation. Though, I would’ve liked to see them explore the open-world aspect more. Early in the game, you get the option of exploring buildings to look for supplies and secrets before you move on to the next area. I remember comparing this exploration to Resident Evil, specifically Resident Evil 2 Remake’s GCPD section, where you unlock rooms to solve puzzles to unlock other rooms to progress. Now, as I’m writing this, I would actually compare this game to Resident Evil 3 Remake in terms of game design. Both have open-world sections early in the game before falling into a linear path.
Gameplay-wise, I thought that The Last of Us: Part 2 was a pretty fun game to play, as it provided you with good combat and stealth mechanics, secret items to collect (Sic Parvis Magna… That’s all I’m going to say about that), and a beautiful yet desolate world to explore. Puzzles are non-existent and lackluster, but otherwise, combat and stealth more than make up for it.
Story-wise, however, it is not perfect. And because of the story, the gameplay experience begins to suffer.
The story begins with Joel brandishing a guitar and telling Tommy what he’d done: he killed the Fireflies to save Ellie. I love how this game opened with this scene between the two brothers. We know that Joel and Tommy shared a deep and dark history and relied on each other to survive the apocalypse. Joel and Tommy trust each other, and in this scene, Joel trusts his brother to keep his secret. Tommy, although conflicted, agrees to “take it to the grave, if [he] had to.” This prologue takes place roughly about a few weeks after the events of the first game. Joel checks up on Ellie and gives her a guitar as a present and promises to teach her how to play. I found this scene quite poignant as we notice that Joel and Ellie’s relationship has changed. Ellie is visibly doubtful of Joel’s claims that a cure was not possible, and is sort of struggling with the idea of whether or not Joel is telling the truth.
I love this moment with the guitar, all the moments with the guitar, actually. In fact, the guitar is such an important part of the game as Ellie associates the instrument with memories of Joel. Plus, we get to practice playing the guitar throughout the game. The prologue ends with Ellie holding onto the guitar, strumming a few strings, perhaps a song in mind, without the ability to play.
As much as I want to talk about Ellie, I won’t.
I want to talk about Abby.
We need to talk about Abby. Big, muscular, Abby. She is the reason why this story is hated by fans. You can’t discuss what ent wrong with the story without talking about Abby. In fact, Abby is the story.
Who is Abby?
We are introduced to her as someone in search for a man, and not in the romantic comedy kind of way. Her intentions are obviously personal, and dark as she is willing to accomplish her goal at any cost, unlike the rest of her team. We get to play as Abby shortly after Ellie goes out on patrol. We basically learn the game’s combat mechanics and stealth with her. As we progress through this tutorial section, Abby is overwhelmed by infected and almost die. Until Joel shoots her would be zombie predator. Abby is saved by Joel and Tommy who are out on patrol, and the three of them work together to escape this nightmare scenario. She suggests to regroup with her team where they would be safe behind an iron gate and plenty of ammo. Joel and Tommy agree and follows her, and she leads them back to her base camp.
Joel and Tommy introduce themselves to the travelers and Abby reintroduces herself by shooting Joel in the leg with a shotgun.
Abby is Joel’s murderer. Plain and simple.
She is established as the game’s main antagonist, actually she’s supposed to be the game’s new protagonist, considering we play half of the game as Abby. However, it’s hard to accept a protagonist who is also Joel’s killer. Now, I saw Joel’s death coming a mile away. In fact, I expected it. Even when the reveal trailer dropped, I knew Joel was dead, or was going to die, in this game. I had a theory that Joel’s death caused Ellie to hallucinate her father figure while playing the guitar, and that she would have conversations with his ghost. I was half right. Still, I’m not sure exactly what the developers were thinking making Abby feel like the game’s protagonist after killing Joel, but I was intrigued. A little pissed, a little uncomfortable, but intrigued.
Yeah, Abby kills Joel, but not in a quick and honorable way. No, she ensures that Joel died a very slow and very painful death by having one of her group members (Mel) tend to his shot off leg, before she beat him to death with a golf club. What sucks even more, is that Ellie finds them just in the nick of time for Abby to deliver the final and heartbreaking blow.
The player is meant to hate Abby at this point, as she had just killed everyone’s favorite character. So, all hate is towards her. After playing the game, I went to read all these reviews that I have avoided until the game came out, and one of the things I noticed is that people are not happy with how Joel’s death was handled. Many are angry that Naughty Dog lied in their promotional material advertising that Joel had a bigger role in the story. They did this by altering scenes like changing character models in specific parts of the game, and though I understand why fans are angry, I understood why Naughty Dog did this as a way of avoiding spoilers. It’s not unheard of, Marvel and Disney has been known to do that with their Avengers trailers, so I’m not surprised they would do that. Needless to say, it was sleazy and the fans are pissed.
Many criticized that it is out of character for Joel to fall for an ambush like this one, the same Joel who can spot an ambush a mile away. He is a hardened survivor. I can see where they are coming from, however, I’ll defend this execution with this mindset: Joel has changed since then. He’s been living in Jackson, Wyoming for a quite a while, and has been living a pretty normal life, considering it is the post-apocalypse. When we visit his house after his death we learn that this man makes guitars in his spare time, and whittles as a hobby. It is possible that living a relatively secure and quiet life in Jackson have softened him up and that he has become willing to give strangers the benefit of the doubt. Recall, his story about trading with passing travelers. Through in-game dialogue, Ellie mentions how Joel was willing to trade his belongings to obtain coffee. It is also implied that he would often trade his guns for coffee. Joel even confirms this in the game’s epilogue. To me, that is a sign of Joel becoming tired of conflict and being on the run, he just wants to live a quiet life on Jackson. Considering what he’s done, I figured, he’d want to lay low. Guns are a symbol of danger while coffee is a symbol for domesticity. It is completely possible for Joel to have fallen in the clutches of Abby’s treachery because it has been some time since he’s had to encounter that scenario with passing caravans. According to Tommy, Jackson has its shares of travelers from time to time. So it would make sense that Tommy would suggest that his “saviors” resupply at Jackson. But, Jackson also gets its share of Raiders and bandits, so Tommy should’ve at least suspected the WLF group before completely being open with them, right? Yes. Upon playing the game a second time, I noticed that Joel was not very trusting of the group. It’s actually super subtle. When asked if they wanted to get the saddles off their horses off, Joel says that it’s all right and they are just there to “ride out the storm and get out of [their] hair.” In other words, they did not want to get comfortable. Perhaps Tommy has softened up a lot, but Joel still is a bit suspicious of people. There’s also the horde of zombies to consider. They were presented no other option but to follow Abby, or they would end up being food for the undead. They had no choice but to trust her in this situation. It’s a Catch-22 scenario. Contrived? Perhaps, but let’s see where this goes.
On my first run, I was willing to give the story the benefit of a doubt when it came to Joel’s death. It may have been played for shock value and as a means to get the plot going, but I am relatively okay with it, just so we can see where this story goes. I would rather focus on the story as a hole than focus on one tiny detail of the entire canvas. As my high-school art teacher would say, “Look at it from a distance.” By the time of my second run, and now that I have the entire canvas, I would agree that Joel’s death bothered me. I did feel that it wasn’t earned and that much build-up was needed before we could let the old man go. It was all because of Abby. I feel that if Abby was built up as a character we could trust in the beginning, then we would be okay with Joel’s murder at the hands of Abby. Joel’s death would have been more tragic, than shock.
Abby’s backstory is quite tragic, I will admit. Her father was the head surgeon tasked to operate on Ellie in the hopes of developing a cure. He was killed by Joel during the climax of the last game. Abby swore to hunt down Joel for revenge by any means, even going as far as joining a heavily militarized group known as the Washington Liberation Front aka WLF aka “Wolf” to train her body into a massive killing machine. The game gives you these moments with Abby, to sort of see things from her side, but it doesn’t work. If you were watching a film, or reading a novel of this story, it wouldn’t be much of a big deal, but considering that this is a video game, the player is forced to inhibit the skin of the murderer that killed their beloved Joel, and I think this is what rubbed fans the wrong way. Abby is problematic as a character because the audience was not able to establish a strong connection with her. The failure of creating a strong bond between Abby and the player is why many do not like the story. Players don’t like the story because half of the time the player is forced to inhabit the role of someone they despise rather than spending time with Ellie, whom the players sympathize with more.
A good half of the game is dedicated to sort of absolve Abby of her crimes, but considering what happened and the fact that she exhibited no signs of remorse for her actions regarding Joel’s murder, these attempts feel hollow. They provide you with this story arc of Abby encountering Yara and Lev, two runaway Scars—I mean Seraphites— who saved her life. Seraphites are the WLF’s worst enemies and have put in motion a plan to wipe them out. Yarn and Lev became outcasts when they questioned their tribe’s cult-like practices, and find themselves forming an alliance with Abby. One would argue that this story line is meant to show Abby feeling remorse because her act of saving them was her way to balance out her “guilt”. It is no accident that she finds herself in a similar situation as Joel did in the first game. They want you to make that distinction. But if I’m telling the truth, I didn’t quite buy it.
Consider Abby’s confrontation with Ellie at the movie theater. Ellie had just returned from murdering Owen and his pregnant girlfriend Mel, in an attempt to locate Abby. Upon noticing Mel’s now lifeless, and very pregnant body, Ellie went into a state of shock and regret. She realized that what she’s done was wrong and goes against her principles as a character. She begins to question herself despite Tommy’s reassurance that she was only defending herself, but that wasn’t enough to put her at ease with her actions. One can say that Ellie pictured herself killing Dina when she ended Mel’s life, as it was revealed to us earlier that Dina is indeed pregnant with Jesse’s child, and risked her baby’s health to help Ellie in her quest for revenge. (What is it with pregnant women going on suicide missions in this game?) Killing takes a toll on Ellie, whereas killing seems like second nature for Abby.
Cut to Abby’s fight with Ellie at the theater. I did not like having to play Abby and hurt Ellie in that boss fight. I hated it. I didn’t want to end up killing Ellie as Abby. I was on Ellie’s side. So, I guess, that’s one of the few reasons people also hate Abby.
Just as Abby is about to end Ellie’s life, Dina comes to Ellie’s rescue. Abby, however, bashes Dina’s head and prepares to slit her throat, but decides to do it in a way where Ellie would witness the gruesome scene. Ellie pleads to Abby not to do it, and tells her that Dina is pregnant. To which Abby replies with a cold-hearted, “Good” only to be stopped by Lev’s pleas. Who the hell says that? I thought we’re supposed to learn how to forgive Abby? This scene really cemented Abby as an irredeemable character; borderline evil. Unlike Ellie, Abby had no qualms killing a pregnant woman. Whereas Ellie is shown to be capable of feeling regret after killing Mel. Abby doesn’t even bat an eye.
Abby is a cold-blooded psychopath.
If you think about it, Abby doesn’t give the murder of Joel a second thought either. Joel saved her in an act of kindness early in the story, and they worked together to keep each other alive while being attacked by an unstoppable horde of zombies. Her entire mission was to seek her revenge on Joel, whom she perceived to be a selfish smuggler who killed her father. When it came time to return the favor, Abby did not hesitate killing him, even after being saved from certain death by the same man she depicted as a monster. I know that seeking vengeance for your father’s murder is justified in some way. It’s a noble motive, Inigo Montoya can attest to that, but would you not question yourself, if that same man showed you some semblance of kindness? Would you not feel conflicted slowly killing a man who spared you from a slow and agonizing death yourself? Remember, Abby slowly tortured Joel before brutally ending him. Would she not at least consider giving Joel a quick, painless death after he saved her from a very gruesome and painful death at the hands of infected zombies? The fact that Abby doesn’t have these internal conflicts with herself and resorts to torture, without hesitation, shows the player that she is an irredeemable character. No matter how tragic Abby’s character backstory is, the fact that she didn’t second guess her decision to maim and torture Joel, immediately placed her on everybody’s shit-list. Abby, at this point in the story, very early on, if I might add, is no more a monster than how she pictured Joel, if not more. In order for an action with such heft to be accepted by an audience, there must be a precedent that equals or exceeds the gravity of that action. Although Joel’s death would have been equal to Abby’s loss, there wasn’t much reason to torture him to death. Joel shot Abby’s father in the head, effectively giving him a quick and painless death, whereas there was no precedent for Abby’s excessive torture of Joel. It was excessiveness for the sake of excessiveness. The fact that flashbacks to Abby’s history occurred after the murder of Joel, and gave no justification that warranted torture, did not do anything for Abby but paint her as an evil character, which was probably not the game’s intention, considering we play as Abby for a good majority of the game.
One thing I did not like about this game’s pacing is the fact that there were so many flashbacks within flashbacks. It’s not a good way to tell a story. If this game opted for a more chronological plot, I feel that the story would have been stronger. Instead, the only thing the flashbacks accomplished are giving the players multiple feelings of uneasiness and restlessness to get back to the main story. We don’t want to know what happened years ago, we want to know what happens next. The Last of Us was captivating in that regard, as Joel and Ellie’s journey always progressed forward to a common goal. The Last of Us: Part 2′s reliance on flashbacks to tell a story showed signs of a lack in focus and direction of where the story needed to go. Though some flashbacks provided real wholesome moments like Ellie and Joel’s flashbacks, others, mostly involving Abby, slowed down the story. Abby’s Seattle sections was basically one big extended flashback. If the game had both Ellie and Abby’s Seattle sections broken up into alternating sequences—Ellie Day 1, then Abby Day 1, then Ellie Day 2, and so on—the story would not have had moments where progress was being held to introduce information that should have been presented beforehand. The pacing fails the story, and it adds nothing worthwhile to Abby’s character that would make the player, at the very least, accept her.
A rearranged, almost chronological plot with Abby as the initial main focus of the story, would allow players connect with her and empathize with her. If we played as Abby, or picked the story up from Abby’s point-of-view at the very beginning of the game, and learned everything about her, leading up to Joel murdering her father, we’d come to realize that she’s not an evil person, but someone who experienced a great loss and unable to get over it. This would provide the player a series of events that would justify Abby’s descent into a dark path culminating in her murder of Joel. She would have been painted as a tragic character, and by the time we come seeking for revenge, we would have felt conflicted over killing Abby rather than being complacent. Letting her go at the end would feel bittersweet, rather than downright sour. Unfortunately, there were too many flaws to be found in Abby, that the game was working against her rather than working in her favor, even if you were to rearrange the game’s plot.
Abby is not a very likable character. She exhibits behavior that of a pouty child who wants and craves attention. She is very competitive and selfish. Consider the archery game. There’s a section in the game where Owen introduces you to an archery game that he plays with Mel. If you’re a trophy hunter like me, you’d want to get the high score. The ironic thing here is, Mel has the high score. Throughout the game, Mel and Abby are at odds with one another, competing for Owen’s affections. If you get the high score, Abby demands to be “put on the board.” Owen says that he’d do it later, implying that if he did, it would upset Mel. Abby bullies Owen to writing her name on the board.
It is heavily implied that she doesn’t really like Mel. Mel was a student of Abby’s father and considered her to be his favorite student. I have a feeling that Abby may have been jealous that her father dotes on his star pupil. It may be a possibility. The fact that Owen is now dating her, and even got her pregnant, annoys Abby to all hell because she had feelings for Owen, but never really acted on them. Regardless, it is hinted that there is a lot of baggage between the two, and I kind of hoped we got to explore that a bit more.
There’s a scene between Mel and Abby in the third act of the game that reveals to us that Mel never truly liked Abby either. Mel believes that Abby’s intentions of saving the children were selfish and an act to get on Owen’s good side. Granted, it is implied that she knew what happened between Owen and Abby the night before (some rough, manly sex), therefore she may have her own justified biases, but assuming that she wasn’t aware of Abby and Owen’s infidelity, it is revealed that Mel always viewed Abby in a negative light. Mel even bravely calling Abby a “piece of shit” and that she doesn’t buy the fact that “Isaac’s top Scar killer” suddenly had a change of heart. This seemed like a huge fight, years in the making, but it wasn’t properly built up enough for it to add anything new that the player didn’t already know about Abby. We only get awkward in-game dialogue moments between the two, and nothing more. It frustrates me that their hatred for one another was not explored more, as it could really have fleshed out Abby’s side of the story, and would have at least made Mel interesting enough for the audience to actually care when she dies at the hands of Ellie. Mel had the most potential of being the moral compass for the game. But that’s not the case. Owen was the same way. He’s the most conflicted guy in the room. He should have been the one to convince Abby to make Joel’s death quick rather than allowing her to do as she pleased. Owen’s reasons for killing Joel would then be about justice for a good, but lost, cause, rather it be a willingness to be a part of someone’s bloody vendetta.
There’s another moment in the game that comes to mind when discussing Abby’s selfishness. When Manny suggests that Abby talk to Mel about what happened in Jackson, Abby refuses and stubbornly justifies her actions by saying that Mel also wanted Joel dead. Manny points out that Mel “hasn’t hurt people like that before.” Abby counters by saying Mel “kills Scars all the time”, but Manny points out again, “not the way [they] killed Joel.” I feel that Abby, in this case, is the type of person who would use others as a means of excusing and justifying her misdeeds. In a sense, said or, in this case, done what others were thinking.
Abby’s group felt like a list of people on a hit list, rather than actual people. I don’t give a rat’s ass about what happens to each of them. i don’t think anybody did. When Manny died, I admit, I was kind of sad, since he was the only one with some semblance of a personality, but when the sniper who shot him was revealed to be Tommy, I cheered. I know i wasn’t the only one who yelled, “Go Tommy!” I knew that sniping tutorial with you wasn’t just for show. Abby’s supporting cast were just as shallow as she was and offered nothing of substance to Abby’s character. While Ellie’s supporting cast weren’t all that impressive either, she at the very least had people at odds with one another on how she should approach a situation (Dina v. Tommy). Initially, I felt that Dina was an enabler, making excuses for Ellie rather than criticizing her even if the truth hurt. Though, she redeems herself by making that point loud and clear in the third act that revenge gets you nothing but more pain, when Tommy pleads with Ellie to go after Abby for him. I would have liked more of that conflict between Ellie and Dina, more push and pull, rather than having Dina foolishly follow Ellie to certain doom while carrying an unborn child in her womb. I get that she’s supposed to be a supportive character for Ellie, but when that character is also pregnant, you have to wonder why Dina didn’t push Ellie enough to go back home to Jackson. It should have felt more like this…
Could Abby have been a redeemable character?
To be honest, yes. She could have been, but the structure of the story, and the order of which information about Abby was presented, hindered that from happening. Here’s a cool thing about any film, or story: you can have the same scenes beat-for-beat, word-for-word, but depending on how you arrange them you create different stories, and convey different messages and themes. There was no way you can get players to like Abby right after she killed Joel in a brutal fashion, it’s just not happening. Abby has a “shoot first, ask forgiveness later” mentality that doesn’t work in the context of the story, especially since we are forced to play as her later on in basically a “this is my story, forgive me, please” section. Imagine Joel taking Ellie away from the surgery early on in the first game, then show flashbacks of Sarah. It doesn’t have the same impact. However, due to the nature of the story being told mostly in flashbacks, it muddles The game tries to make her a sympathetic and tragic character, but all those attempts don’t land as intended, which consequently paints Abby into more of an unlikeable person. The addition of her quest to save Yara and Lev as a form of atonement becomes shallow and disingenuous, because we do not trust her intentions to be as noble as she claims it to be. We don’t believe it, because at this point in the story, we just want to see Abby die. But even players are denied that satisfaction.
Let’s discuss the ending, because it is the most divisive part about this game.
After the events at Seattle, we fast-forward to Ellie, who is now living in a small farm with Dina and her newborn son, JJ. The couple has been living a fairly quiet life, but Ellie is still haunted by visions of Joel’s death. Tommy, who miraculously survives after being shot in the face, arrives for a visit and tells Ellie about new information about a well-built woman traveling with a boy with scars on his face. Seeing as he is now physically incapable of doing the job himself. Tommy suggests that Ellie should go after Abby like she promised. Ellie is hesitant and Dina tells Tommy that Ellie wouldn’t do it. Tommy leaves disheartened, but more frustrated than anything. Ellie is left to her thoughts, until finally decides to go after Abby in the middle of the night. Dina, however is adamantly against this, considering that Ellie now has a family to care for, to live for. She gives Ellie an ultimatum, if she leaves and comes back, if she comes back alive that is, Dina and JJ would not be waiting for her upon her return. Ellie going after Abby would come at a great cost. She leaves anyway in the hopes of finally putting her nightmares to rest.
We cut to Abby and Lev who are in search of a Firefly outpost in Santa Barbara. They discover a hidden barrack in a basement and contacts any surviving Firefly outpost using an old radio transmitter. Luckily for them, some Fireflies picked up their signal and they make plans to rendezvous with them. Just as they exit the house, Abby and Lev are ambushed and captured by a group called The Rattlers, a militarized group of people who capture travelers and put them to work as slaves in their plantations. Personally, I feel that the Rattlers were far more interesting as an enemy group considering they enslave survivors and even keep infected runners and clickers around as some form of sick torture. Plus, their sections in the game made for interesting gameplay decisions, such as saving ammunition in favor of letting loose their infected guard dogs to wreak havoc in the plantation.
Ellie picks up the trail and follows suit, but she falls for a trap that gets her injured and captured by Rattlers. With quick thinking, she is able to use a captured clicker to her advantage and interrogates one of her captors. He reveals that Abby is being held at their base and points her in its direction. Ellie kills her captor and make her way towards the Rattler base. Ellie pushes through her injury and fights her way through the holding cells. She frees the prisoners and demands answers to the location of Abby. They inform her that Abby tried to escape the plantation and was subsequently captured and left out to die at “The Pillars.”. When we get to the Pillars we see a weakened, much skinnier Abby tied up to a wooden pillar, as if crucified. Abby recognizes Ellie and expects her enemy to kill her where she stands, but Ellie cuts her down from the pillar instead. Abby rushes to a nearby pillar where Lev has also been strung up, and cuts him down. Abby tells Ellie that there are boats nearby that they can use to escape. Ellie follows them, and just as they are about to part ways, Ellie gets that same haunted image of Joel and challenges Abby to a one on one fight to death, but Abby did not have the resolve to fight Ellie anymore. Ellie threatens to kill Lev if she doesn’t fight, and Abby reluctantly agrees. The two vengeful women trade blows, but Ellie gets the upper hand and proceeds to drown Abby. But before she can finish the job, she gets one final image of Joel, not the same bloodied image she sees in her nightmares, but a memory of the final time she spoke to Joel. Ellie holds on to that final memory, before letting Abby go. Ellie sits in tears at the shore, unable to go through with her revenge and allows Abby to escape with Lev.
Personally, I love this ending. I played this game twice, but for some reason I still love this ending. I do, however, believe that this ending was undeserved and too good of an ending to be used in this game. I feel that Abby did not deserve this ending because of how the story was paced and structured. Let me rephrase that: The Last of Us: Part 2‘s ending, in the context of Abby fell flat due to its poor build up, weak execution, and mishandling of the character. Whereas in the context of Ellie, the ending was as fitting as it could get. The uneven distribution of catharsis could not be supported given the game’s weak plot structure. Everything was leading up to this bittersweet ending, but the path to get there was so convoluted that by the time we got to the conclusion, we are left confused and tired.
Here’s why I like this ending: it’s a dissection of the Firefly motto, “When you’re lost in darkness, look for the light.” It’s a hopeful message present throughout the series. Despite inhabiting a bleak world, our characters have room to grow, to interact, and socialize like normal human beings and have genuine wholesome moments. Moments like Sam and Henry sharing a warm fire and telling funny stories, in the first game; Joel taking Ellie on a trip to an old museum for her birthday; small moments of hope that humanity hasn’t completely rotted away. Abby gives Lev the same advise later in the game after Yara’s death. Ironically, Abby didn’t take that advice and instead of looking for the light after her father’s death, she embraced the darkness.
When I got to Abby in that weakened state, I almost felt bad for her. Seeing her fight Ellie was kind of sad and pitiful. This isn’t the same cold hearted, mountain of a woman we’ve come to hate; this wasn’t the same Abby who was capable of killing Ellie by herself. Instead, we see Abby in her darkest moment– malnourished, weak, and all but hollow. To kill her in that state wouldn’t have been an act of vengeance, but an act of mercy. The opposite of what Ellie, what we, the player, wanted.
Also, think about how much Abby actually cares about Lev in this scene. We sort of get this confirmation that Abby does indeed care about Lev and doesn’t parade him around like some trophy child of virtue. She actually cares for Lev, and if she didn’t before, she definitely does now, considering what both of them went through. They survived together, and now, at the verge of death together. Abby was completely traumatized at the hands of the Rattlers, that we absolutely cannot consider her the same person. Everything that she were, everything that we hated about her, is gone. Killing her, as she is, in this state, wouldn’t have meant anything but another dead body in the beach. It is such a tragic realization for Ellie. This is such a fitting end for Abby, that I feel that it was wasted and would not have been wasted if the players cared about Abby as much as they cared about Ellie. The problem is we didn’t. We really didn’t. We wanted her dead as much as Ellie did. Therefore, the ending did not pay off as intended.
I felt that this conclusion belonged to a different story than the one currently being told. I felt that the game could have ended with Ellie leaving Dina and JJ to go after Abby, and it would have been a satisfying ending. Abby and Ellie encountering the Rattlers felt like a different game to me. I mentioned that the Rattlers were far more interesting than the tribes presented in this game. Perhaps, this ending would have benefitted from being told in a third installment, but they chose to place it here. There’s a purpose for it here. Unfortunately, it did not live up to its potential, because the path we took to get here was confusing and took us on too many detours. It’s frustrating to me, especially as an artist, to be able to see this great story Naughty Dog had in mind, but fail in properly presenting it to the audience in a clear manner. This ending is just too good to be mishandled in the way they did. There are many ways one could improve this story, some simple changes, without changing too much of what is already here, but those choices were not made. Perhaps this game was trying too hard to be ambitious, and in its ambition, it couldn’t support the load. But this is what we got, this is the canvas we were given to examine. It is messy, and uneven, almost as if it is at odds with itself. You can’t change it, to do so would be a disservice to the original vision. In the words of my friends, “It is what it is. Whatcha gonna do?”
This divide in the fanbase could be remedied by giving the player a choice: drown Abby or let her go. The player would have the choice to make the decision themselves. However, that would completely undermine the underlying theme of forgiveness present in this game. A lot of people complained that Ellie accumulated too large a body count to just let Abby go. Players believe Abby deserved, if not needed, to die. But, here’s the thing: I never saw Ellie as someone who would kill for selfish reasons. She was willing to die for mankind in the first game, revenge isn’t really her cup of coffee, she hates coffee. That was more of Joel’s shtick. Whenever Ellie handled a situation the way Joel would handle it, it would take a significant toll on Ellie, because it goes against her optimistic nature. It’s what made Joel and Ellie’s dynamic so interesting. Joel was cynical, and saw ugliness in people, while Ellie, though aware of the bleak nature of the world she lives in, sees hope at the end of the tunnel. The question here becomes: how much of herself is Ellie willing to sacrifice to keep the memory of Joel alive? Despite her love for Joel, is she willing to take on his traits–the good, the bad, and the ugly–at the cost of her own identity, optimism, and peace of mind? In her quest for revenge, Ellie obtained a K/D ratio that would make Call of Duty players jealous. but this story was never about revenge, it’s about forgiveness.
Just as Ellie is about to drown Abby to death, a memory of Joel comes to her It is not the same haunted image of Joel that she’s become accustomed to, but a more pleasant memory. Ellie visits Joel for the first time in what seems to be years, in an attempt to reconnect with him. She is angry with him because he lied to her about the Fireflies, and believed that she should have died at the hospital. Ellie believed that by dying for a cure, her life “would have mattered.” Joel admits to Ellie that, if given a second chance, he’d “do it all over again.” In other words, Ellie’s life mattered enough to Joel, that he would risk everything to give her another day to live. I don’t think, she could disagree with that sentiment. Since Ellie knew the truth, she also knew the consequences of Joel’s actions, what dark fruit it would bear. Joel committed a crime against humanity; a selfish crime that would definitely get him killed if anyone knew, especially in Jackson, and he was willing to risk that for Ellie. The crime Joel committed was as human as it could get. Joel already lost a daughter once, he’d be damned to lose another one.
“I don’t think I could ever forgive you for that,” Ellie says. “But I’d like to try.” Joel responds with a heartfelt, “I’d like that.”
Tragically, Joel would die the next day.
Ellie letting Abby go was in no means forgiving the woman who killed her father, but forgiving the man who took everything that mattered to her and attempted to replace it with something new. In the end, Ellie never got the chance to forgive Joel, but I’ve come to think of Abby as Joel’s sins personified. When Ellie lets her sworn enemy escape within an inch of her life, in some twisted and disheartening way, it would be like letting go of Joel’s mistakes, Joel’s betrayal of her trust, and any anger Ellie harbored against the very man whom she trusted. It was like letting Joel go. In a sense, this would be Ellie’s own way of forgiving him. It is an unfair ending, but, at this moment in time, the only logical conclusion.
In the epilogue, Ellie returns home only to find an empty house. Dina and JJ are gone, presumably back to Jackson. In the end, she realized too late that her selfishness strained her relationship with Dina in the same way Joel’s selfishness strained his relationship with Ellie. They left Ellie’s belongings in her office including her guitar, a gift from Joel. Tragically, Ellie lost two fingers in her final fight with Abby, crippling Ellie’s ability to play the guitar. Ironically, learning how to play the guitar is the one memory of Joel she had left, and one she deeply treasured. It is tragic, it is cruel, and it is a fitting cost for her revenge. In her vengeful attempt to keep the memory of Joel alive, she’s lost the ability to make that happen. The epilogue ends with Ellie holding onto the guitar, strumming a few strings, perhaps a song in mind, without the ability to play.
In this writer’s own honest opinion, I wouldn’t have had this tragic, unfair, solemn, yet satisfying conclusion any other way.
A petition to remake the game has already been made, and I think that it’s ridiculous. Many of the reasons on the petition is laughable, moot at best. Some of the reasons I’ve heard people bash this game for is that it was too depressing, that it made you do evil things, like kill dogs. True, but did you know that you can actually avoid dogs or killing people in general by using stealth as an option? This is a post-apocalyptic world. Literally dog-eat-dog. If you had problems with its dark content matter, or felt uncomfortable with the choices given to you, then the genre is not for you, I’m afraid. This genre is arguably a dark and depressing world to explore the disgusting and evil nature of humanity, with small glimmers of hope. Nothing about it is perfect. nothing about it is fair. It takes guts to approach it. Remaking the game is a knee-jerk reaction that many of us experience when we don’t like something. In truth, remaking this game would only be a betrayal of artistic expression. Something that is becoming a rare thing in our society, specifically one obsessed with homogenous thought and remakes and remasters. Remaking something for the sake of changing the narrative would almost be a form of censorship— it is a dangerous practice, especially in the realm of art. And art is not for everyone. Art is not easy to understand or compartmentalize in easy to digest helpings. It is in fact a means to cut, to hurt, and to tell a very disappointing truth. It is meant to disappoint as much as it is meant to give fulfillment.
The Last of Us: Part 2 is a phenomenal video game, but disappoints in its convoluted narrative. The character of Abby proved too problematic and too ambitious to execute properly in a video game format. It would be a crime to dismiss the game’s ambitions, and what it was trying to accomplish, so I choose to applaud the developers for their attempt. It’s not easy to create a sequel to a story that people already deemed perfect as is. Naughty Dog did their best, unfortunately it was not enough this time around. I never asked for a sequel myself, but I took this one with an open mind, and yet with a sorrow heart. I still do feel like there’s something I’ve missed, and that there’s more to say, but it’s difficult to think of one with a game so divisive as this one. Perhaps, Naughty Dog learned a lesson with this game. There’s a good story to be told, it just wasn’t told well. Hell, I can’t say I would have done better. After all, I’ve pitched an idea for an Uncharted sequel set in space to my friends. Despite not living up to my expectations, I’m still puzzled by this game, in a good way. It was an experiment that didn’t pay off, but I welcome experiments. And I’m eager to see what Naughty Dog has planned next.
Until then, we’re left with memories of a guitar gently weeping…
The Last of Us Part II has finally been released to the public as we jump into the sequel to Joel and Ellie’s journey in a post-apocalyptic America. It is one of the most anticipated games this year and Naughty Dog has been teasing us with what to expect in this follow-up. After getting some positive buzz from critics and fans alike, it’s a no-brainer why everyone is dying to play this game. Before anyone plans to play the sequel, here are some facts you may need to know on The Last of Us Part II before jumping in.
The Game Takes Place 5 Years After the First Game
The Last of Us Part II jumps ahead five years from the original game where we find Joel and Ellie finding a place to call home. Ellie is now 19 and is sort of coming into her own in this newly transformed America that we have come to know. We still see some of the infected are running around as our characters are fighting to survive. The previous game takes place within a year as Joel is tasked to deliver Ellie to this renegade group known as the Fireflies as Ellie seems to carry the cure to this viral disease that has infected the public. It’ll be a much different story as this latest game follows our duo in a much different situation than the previous title.
Much Of The Game Takes Place in Seattle
The Last of Us took us across the country with Joel and Ellie as they ventured into different cities. We got to see places like Boston, Pittsburgh, Lincoln, Salt Lake City, and Jackson in a much different light in this post-apocalyptic setting. It is these locations that made the game so visually stunning and unforgettable during this journey with our main characters. In the new game, most of the game would be taking place in Seattle. Not many games have been set in Seattle, so it seems like the perfect place for The Last of Us Part II.
Ellie Will Be The Main Character Of The Game
In the original game, players were in control of Joel as he was tasked to deliver Ellie to the Fireflies in hopes of finding a cure within her immune system. The Last of Us Part II welcomes a huge change from the narrative as we are in the shoes of Ellie this time around. It’ll be interesting to see the world through Ellie’s eyes, but it does make us question whether Joel is still around when the game kicks off. It also looks like this story will be personal for Ellie as she seems like she is hell-bent on revenge based on the gameplay we’ve just seen. With what we’ve got to see in the game, Ellie appears to be able to handle herself on her own.
Joel Still Appears In the Sequel
Despite the lack of what we’ve seen of Joel in The Last of Us Part II, we do know that he’ll still be a part of the game. This time around, we won’t be controlling Joel much as we are going to be busy with Ellie for most of the game. It’ll be interesting to see how much we’ll see Joel and the way he fits into this story. It doesn’t look like he’ll be tagging along with Ellie, which does raise some questions about where he is. It’s a nice change of pace to see Ellie front and center, but we do wonder how things will turn up for Joel once the game starts.
There Is No Multiplayer Available
Part of what made The Last of Us so much fun was the multiplayer mode called “Factions”. In the multiplayer section, players can choose between hunter or Firefly playing in a team deathmatch. It was what made the game such a fun experience when playing with others online. Unfortunately, we won’t be seeing any multiplayer options in the sequel. It looks like The Last of Us Part II would purely be a single-player experience for fans of the original game. Even though we would like to see where the story goes, it would be nice if we got to experience the game with friends in a good old-fashioned PVP-like mode along with our copy.
The Sequel Will Incorporate Much More Realism Than The Original
At the time The Last of Us came out, it really pushed the boundaries of what games can do with great storytelling and amazing characters we can relate to. The original game put enough emotion into Joel and Ellie that we were all immersed in their journey. The same seems to go for the sequel, but with better graphics now that it’s being played on the PS4 as opposed to the PS3 when the first game came out. The trailers and gameplay showed how much detail was given into the atmosphere as well as the characters. Expect to see much more realism into this title, which Naughty Dog seems to be going for in their latest title.
The original THUG game was a pivotal entry point for kids into punk and hip hop in the early 2000s. It was the first Tony Hawk game to be narratively driven, centering on the journey of an up-and-coming skater, making it out of their hometown in Jersey and going pro. The soundtrack complimented the story’s grit perfectly, particularly in early stages, New Jersey, Manhattan, New York, Tampa, Florida, and San Diego, California.
The stand out cuts, all iconic hip hop tracks:
Jurassic 5 – A Day at the Races (ft. Big Daddy Kane & Percee P) Busdriver – Imaginary Places Lif – Phantom (ft. EL-P) Nas – The World Is Yours Herbaliser – It Ain’t Nuttin’ (ft. MF DOOM)
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time
An iconic Nintendo 64 title, I first played on the GameCube at the homie’s studio in New York. The score, composed by Koji Kondo, is ethereal and surreal. Grand pianos, domineering strings, and inquisitive chimes come together to create something orchestral and playful, ideal for an epic.
The game takes place in the mind of Polish romantic pianist and composer Frédéric Chopin, his final dreams before passing away from tuberculosis. If you’ve ever watched a YouTube video essay, chances are you’ve heard Chopin’s Nocturne op.9 No.2.
The soundtrack, “Trusty Bell ~Chopin no Yume~ Original Score” composed by Motoi Sakuraba, is earthy and vibrant, capturing Chopin’s whimsical dreamscape. A meditation on and acceptance of death and letting go. There is a divine serenity flowing through the sonic palette.
Mick Gordon’s score for DOOM’s 2016 remake is a cacophonous war-cry. The djent and industrial metal burns in hellish-tumors and cyberpunk textures. It’s high-octane and great for getting pumped and finding a fully immersive flow, whether slaying demons or simply working out.
Scott Pilgrim VS. The World: The Game
Anamanaguchi’s loving throwback to 8-bit gaming. It’s earnestly enthusiastic, surging with energy, and unapologetically nostalgic.
Welcome back to another one of these, and this time, we’ll be tackling a Netflix original series (because Netflix is what I have access to and how I consume the anime), Beastars! My two-word description of Beastars would have to be “gritty Zootopia”. Though I have heard some people disagree with me, I think I can pretty easily support my argument. One, we have a whole slew of animals that live together in one society, which are relatively anthropomorphic and which the creators of the show tried to keep proportional to each other (mice are tiny, bears are huge). Two, the relationship between predator and prey animals, this time around classified as carnivores and herbivores, plays a very important role in the plot.
The only differences are that this time around our story is a good deal more pessimistic, definitely cranked that PG up to an R, and our protagonists are highschoolers (in true-to-fashion anime style). But where are my manners?
Beastars started as a manga released in a serialized fashion starting in 2016. It aired as an anime first in late 2019 and then was released on Netflix in March of 2020. Reviews seem overwhelmingly good, with even a 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. So, how do I feel about it?
I really loved everything on a technical level. I at first was pretty put off once I realized that the show was mostly animated with 3D models, but once you realize that you’re uncomfortable just because it’s not what you’d expect from an anime and not because it is bad, it really grows on you. Or, it did on me. The cell shading, the movements of the characters, heck, even the character designs themselves were all very fun and fluid. I imagine that 3D animation is a bit cheaper than 2D animation though that is all intuition and not at all because I have insider knowledge or did my research. In any case, if more shows followed suit, I absolutely wouldn’t mind.
Just like with JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, I didn’t skip the theme song even once. It was pretty awesome. And there, it looks like they used actual stop-motion animation with little figurines, which is very unique! Enticing in all forms, really. I didn’t ever consciously notice the soundtrack during the episodes themselves, but what I do remember is very fond.
Perhaps I should have seen this one coming due to the experimentation with the theme song’s animation, but it totally blindsided me that they would switch visual mediums when using flashbacks or dream sequences. I particularly loved a dream sequence our main bunny character Haru had. If you’ve seen the show, you know the one, but I try to keep these reviews spoiler free. It was stunningly beautiful, and the animation extremely impressive.
Louis’s (gosh is that how I should spell it?) flashback was a similar change of pace I very much enjoyed. All of it was very good from start to finish. I never noticed a drop of the budget or a loosening of standards from this show. Good, good stuff on the technical front.
Oh, and does voice acting go here? I think it does. The voice acting was very good as well. I got some really strange nostalgia when I heard Haru’s voice, and then later found out her voice actress was in Digimon. Wow. That’s a blast from the past.
And of course this is always where I’m gonna start voicing dissent, isn’t it? I’ll start by being clear and saying that when my brother, a friend and I finished this series together, the consensus was that it had so much going for it that we were intensely disappointed by the product we actually got.
The first few episodes really drew me in. I was having a good time, the characters were charmingly ridiculous and melodramatic, and the premise was engaging. So, to tell you what I disliked really takes it into spoiler territory, doesn’t it? Don’t worry, I’ll try to be as vague as I can, but if you really want to experience the show for yourself, I would say skip to the conclusion section of this article.
So. I felt as if there were a good number of plot threads that went nowhere. To name some that I don’t feel are as spoiler-y as others, I’d call out Haru’s bullying and the mongoose character. Trying to keep things vague, there are also the conspiracy by certain students in the school, which is not hinted at prior nor ever brought up again outside of the one scene; the murder of Tem (though that might have been just there to set up the tension between carnivores and herbivores in the first episode); the second wolf character; and, heck, Louis, in his entirety?
Okay this paragraph is absolutely a spoiler, skip ahead if you want, but Haru names Louis as her love, and then absolutely forgets about him when he’s been missing for a day or two at the end. Just like Juno’s love interest with Legoshi seems to drop completely, Louis’s influence on Haru and Legoshi seems to go away very, very quickly when they deemed it convenient. I mean it’s even sort of implied he dies at the end? Like, what the heck?
Spoiler-ness over (if you could avoid peeking), the show also escalates way too fast. We start as a high school drama, albeit a gritty high school drama (not complaining, it’s a genre), but in a single episode we go full on bloody carnage action, and then we return to high school drama for the finale like nothing even happened. People aren’t even traumatized! What!? You can’t give me that and then expect me to be as invested in the high school drama portion of the show as I was before. The stakes were raised, and then you lowered the stakes again for the ending. I don’t get how that was supposed to be a good idea, it leaves a sour taste.
That is of course how the story ends on season one. Hopefully some of those plot threads get picked up in season two.
Despite my gripes, I will be returning for season two, unlike how I left One Punch Man feeling distinctly like I would be ignoring when season three came out. No matter how the story shakes out, watching Beastars is simply fun. You’re never exactly sure where it’s going to go, its characters are fun and their designs are funky, its world is simple yet enthralling (even when it doesn’t make a lot of sense), and I’m just glad to be along for the ride. I definitely recommend this show.
My biggest complaint is just that I stopped being able to take the show seriously. I was invested in it as a drama, and now I am invested in it as pure entertainment. Not quite a comedy, but not something that I’m gonna cry about late at night texting my friends about how awful it is that x y or z happened to a character I wanted only the best for. Which is a shame, you know? But that doesn’t make me want to stop watching it, and I think you should watch it too.
So a new Batman Arkham game was announced on Thursday during the Playstation 5 reveal livestream… What? I can dream, can’t I?
Alright, it wasn’t announced, but a new Spider-Man game was announced, Spider-Man: Miles Morales is going to be the next chapter to Insomniac’s Spider-Man PS4. Though it may actually feel like a glorified expansion pack. (Hope to God it isn’t). However, this announcement only got me more restless for any sort of news for a new Batman game.
It’s been a whole five years, since the release of Batman: Arham Knight, and fans are wondering what Rocksteady studios has been working on after all this time? Rumors started circulating about a sequel, and recent “leaks” about a WB Montreal developed Arkham game may soon be announced this year. They call it Arkham Legacy. It’s not a good title, but considering I’m suffering a 5-year Arkham game withdrawal, I’ll take it.
Rocksteady’s Arkham series paved the way for superhero action games like Spider-Man PS4, and pretty soon Square Enix’s Marvel’s Avengers. WB Games Montreal tweeted a bunch of cryptic symbols back in September last year, captioned “Capture the Knight” but nothing has been announced yet. If WB Montreal is working on the next Batman title, it may be safe to say, that Rocksteady is working on a different project (Please, be Superman, please be Superman…) There’s a new rumor going around that Arkham Legacy might be a reboot, considering how the last game ended. Not gonna spoil it here, go play Arkham Knight.
I’m curious to see where WB Games Montreal takes the series, reboot or not. We do know that Rocksteady and WB Montreal are not afraid to experiment with the Batman mythos to produce their own take on the Caped Crusader. I do think that fans may be hesitant to have the mainline franchise be put in the hands of the same studio that developed the controversial Arkham Origins. (You guys hate that game, I think you guys are just being mean…) Still, if rumors are to be believed, a reboot may be just what the doctor ordered, and this opens up a new take on the franchise. But, if it is a sequel, then we have plenty of paths to take with a new, fear toxin induced Dark Knight.
We’re not really sure what’s taking so long, but it could be possibly delayed due to the recent corporate shifts taking place behind closed doors. According to TheStreet, AT&T is looking to sell WB Games for a hefty $4 billion deal. Apparently, the company is looking to reduce their $165 billion debt by selling some of their assets. I don’t know about you, but if I was that deep in debt, I’d rather you just dig a deep, never-ending pit for me to live in for the rest of my life. But what really scares me are the potential buyers. They include: Take-Two Interactive, Activision Blizzard, and Electronic Ass, I mean, Arts. Electronic Arts (EA).
Take-Two does have some reputable games under their belt—like Bioshock, Borderlands, and Grand Theft Auto— their resume is plagued by the 2K sports games which has a nasty habit of being unfinished and unpolished. What I am worried about is WB Games falling in the hands of Activision Blizzard and EA, two of the most hated videogame companies in history. Especially EA. Though, the Batman:Arkham Series may not be in any danger, yet, considering licensing the Batman character and all its associated properties is a whole new different animal, small studios within the WB Games umbrella like NetherRealm Studios (Mortal Kombat), could be in potential danger. Maybe it’s the gamer in me being overdramatic, but considering EA’s track record, my fear is sorta justified.
Only time will tell, I’m afraid, which makes me even more anxious to have one last Batman game to blow us out of the park in the new generation, before we enter a possible new Age of Fear, the likes of which Scarecrow has never dreamed of.
The latest addition to the series is reportedly going to be announced in August of this year, so maybe we won’t have to wait too long.
In the meantime, if you’re itching to beat some thugs and fight an insane rogues gallery, get the Batman: Return to Arkham bundle which gives you every game in the franchise, minus Arkham Origins – which sucks, I wanted to play Origins on PS4. Sigh… Just take my money already!
Arkham Legacy is set to release March of 2045 on all consoles. Let the fear consume you…
Baki is the story of a now 17 year old boy striving to become strong enough to defeat his father who is the strongest creature in the world. Netflix has done an amazing job of bringing baki back to anime and continuing where the previous anime left off. So far Netflix has adapted the death row inmates arc and the raitai tournament arc which is the latest season to come out. While they do an amazing job in some parts others are a bit choppy but this isn’t an awful series by any means. Let’s get into the first season of the death row inmates arc.
The arc starts off with a basic premise: five of the most dangerous death row inmates in the world hear about a seventeen year old who is champion of the underground fights so they escape and make their way to japan to taste defeat. Baki has an encounter with each of the inmates but he isn’t the one to defeat all of them rather the other main characters that surround baki get more of a chance to shine and fight so we learn more about them and the inmates as the show goes on. Each fight is a true struggle and growth moment for each character which is backed by the music and animation but during some moves or fights they go into a different animation and it can be very jarring and sometimes unappealing, later seasons would fix this but we are discussing the first season. The writing is almost verbatim pulled from the manga and all the voice actors whether you’re watching dubbed or dubbed do an amazing job at making each character feel unique. While it isn’t perfect it is a very well done anime as well as capturing all of the violence and strange ways some characters look from the manga.
I love this series. It’s actually my second favorite besides kengan ashura so to see Netflix give it some limelight and not just cash in on it was a pleasant surprise. As I mentioned before the only jarring thing can be the animation during some fight where it changes but if you can get past that you can really enjoy the series. All of that aside I believe it’s an amazing adaptation as well as just a highly entertaining show to binge. If you haven’t seen it I highly recommend going to Netflix right now and checking it out, currently, all 3 seasons are up right now, Thank you for reading and let me know what you think of Netflix’s Baki.
Image Comics puts together a post apocalyptic story that has twists and turns at every corner in Undiscovered Country. Scott Snyder and Charles Soule write a scenario of life, death, and survival. When the United States closes itself off to the rest of the world for over thirty years an unlucky group of diplomats, scientists, and a mercenary enter the land the world forgot.
On the outside of America’s walls the world is suffering from this incredible disease in the form of the Sky Virus. There is no cure for the pandemic until it is stated the only cure lies within former Northern America.
Now, the mission to save the world begins as the clock is ticking for the rest of the planet. Dr. Charlotte Graves and her brother Major Graves lead the journey into the forgein lands with diplomats Chang Enlou and Janet Worthington. Also the team includes cultural expert Ace Kenyatta, journalist Valentina Sandoval, and finally pilot Colonel Pavel Bukowski.
Upon arrival the team is immediately attacked by the local savages living in former America. The land has been sectioned off into multiple territories, and each area ruled by a king. The Destiny Man, leader of the land pursues the team with deadly intent. The comic explores slavery, mystery, and mutations.
In charge of the artwork is Giuseppe Camuncoli and Daniele Orlandini together these two elevate the art in a direction that has no limits. When it comes to the character profiles, animals, and vehicles in this world everything is extraordinary.
Heavy outlines are present in creating a stronger presence of characters and environment. A form of realism is stylized with the comic in displaying human anatomy of bones, fingers, and facial features. Upon entering the United States everything switches up with exaggerated limbs of people with mutations. Fish that can swim in sand and giant lizards that crawl up walls.
Matt Wilson takes over the colors as they amplify the danger and the new age culture that has taken over the badlands of the United States. Solid colors are present with little blending to bring out flesh tones of skin and people.
Matt’s arsenal of tones delivers a stronger impact with less effort as the story dives deeper into the heart of America. Matt has an eye to break up a plain page with complementary colors to keep the reader excited to view everything taking place from the action to the dialogue. He is always aware of the light source and gives proper shading when blending colors or placing shadow. The main colors to take over are red, pink, blue, and black.
Undiscovered Country will be for people who like post-apocalyptic stories that have no rules. The ongoing series thrives on anarchy as the heroes must survive this unrelenting world to save another.
Sony has finally introduced the world to its next-gen console, the PlayStation 5. During the company’s showcase, we got a glimpse of what the future holds for the game console with the PS5, learning of its features as well as the new games that will be coming out for the system. The upcoming console has already given so much hype among gamers after the event, prompting for praise for the newest addition to the PlayStation line-up. As we dig deeper into the PS5, here’s what we learned so far from the presentation.
The PS5 Comes In Two Versions
Seeing what the PS5 would look like, viewers also got to see how the new system will be distributed with two versions: digital and a disk version. With the digital edition, players can simply download all their games onto the console without the use of a disk, which is why a disk drive is missing here. For those who would rather let their system run via a disk, the other version has a disk drive that runs on ultra HD Blu-ray. No matter which version you pick, it’ll be able to play all the games that the PS5 has to offer, so no one will be missing out.
The Controllers Has Some New Features
Most of the controllers that Sony has offered has adapted to the rumble technology where we would feel the action during gameplay. With the new DualSense controller, the PS5 will be able to tell the different between many sounds, whether it’s a football tackle or the footsteps of a giant monster. Using haptics, this technological feature will broaden the range of feedback on the controller during gameplay. The other feature being introduced is adaptive triggers, It’ll incorporate the back trigger buttons to allow players to feel the tangible perception when one accelerate a car or when shooting with a weapon. There’s also a microphone built in to the console so a headset would no longer be required to voice chat online. With these features, it’ll be a huge departure from previous controllers in the past.
PS5 Will Have Accessories Available
With the console’s new look, we were also shown some accessories that would accompany the new system. The first was a wireless headset that supported 3D audio and uses noise-canceling technology to help you become immersed in your game. Next up, we have the HD camera that uses dual lenses to help players broadcast their gameplays in true 1080p. For those who want to stream movies and music, there’s a media remote with a built-in microphone to make navigation much more seamless. Finally, we also have the DualSense charging station for charging up to two controllers. These accessories are definitely some good additions to the console.
PS5 Will Be Backwards Compatible With PS4 Games
Prior to the showcase, we were given some tidbits on what the PS5 could do, and that included being able to play PS4 games on it. Since both these consoles run on similar hardware, it makes sense that the PS5 would be able to play games from the previous generation. It should be a relief for gamers who were upset that the PS4 lacked compatibility with previous generations of consoles that came before. However, we don’t know which games would work on the system since it hasn’t been revealed yet. We do know that at launch, at least 100 of PS4’s most played games would be playable on the new system. Since the PS5 runs faster, having it play PS4 games should be a breeze for faster load times.
The PS5 Supports 8K and Has Better Specs
As resolution continues to evolve with our TV screens, consoles are also stepping up their game to adapt to the landscape of televisions as it goes into 4K and beyond. Just like the PS4 Pro, the PS5 will also support 4K TVs using 120Hz. The AMD chip installed uses the third-generation Ryzen, which can be found on current gaming PCS. Even the SSD has been improved to give better loading times with many games. This should make installations and patches load more quickly as you move fast from one level to another seamlessly. The audio will be much more immerse through 3D sound to make you feel like part of the game.
Release Date and Pricing
We are still months away from seeing the PS5 in the market as there’s still so much we have yet to learn about the new system. It’s all but confirmed that we may be looking at a holiday release for the upcoming console. As far as pricing goes, we still don’t have the numbers, but the Asian market listed a pre-order for around $700. However, the folks down at Sony have said that the system will have a retail price that would attract gamers. We don’t expect Sony to play around with their pricing just like their past two systems. With two versions of the PS5, it seems likely that the digital version may be somewhat cheaper than the disk version.