Mighty Morphing Batman: A Batman Ninja Review

Trailers for Batman Ninja had started spreading early 2018 for the movie produced by Warner Bros. studio. Kazuki Nakashima and Takashi Okazaki were contacted for the story and character design respectively.*  With each having success in previous outings and making landmark pieces in anime, it seemed like a great experience waiting to happen. Perhaps it is for the Japanese version, but I’m reviewing the English version since I’m interested in how well they can localize such a fusion of American pop culture and the style of anime.


Visuals

The visuals are amazing, as to be expected from Afro Samurai’s Takeshi Okazaki.  With beautiful animation and visually eye-catching designs, the colors work well against the cell shading resulting in some very good and sometimes interesting moments.  None of the designs stray far enough from their character origins to be unrecognizable, (save Jason Todd) but still remind you what time period the story is in.

Consistency does come as somewhat of an issue with the film however. There are points of exposition or an attempt at an emotional scene where the animation takes a sharp direction or becomes more like an adventure role playing game. Some of the action scenes seem reeled in a bit with a few even having a random color background instead of keeping the viewer in the moment of the battle.

Maybe it’s just not possible to have that much action going on at once and move as smoothly, but it did become distracting in some of the later scenes.


Plot

The movie really comes down to Gorilla Grodd vs the Batman Family with Joker coming in to steal the spotlight to… rule everything? Or… cause immeasurable chaos to inspire senseless anarchy?  In all honesty, the Joker and Harley Quinn are here to be the most insane and goofy characters they can be, within PG-13 limits.  It makes you wonder if they just added some other characters to have a full Voltron-sized team of five for the villains. After all, there were many underused characters in this feature. There are even two enemies who do more in exposition than on screen, represented by either short animations or still shots.

Characterization is very odd, in the sense that it does follow the premise of most of these characters, but not in a way that makes sense on how they are known to behave. The way every character acts would make more sense if this were an alternate timeline where all these characters already naturally existed in Feudal Japan. The plot would make more sense as well.

Disappointingly, the plot as provided makes Batman seem like he forgot how to be Batman while being time displaced.


Audio

The music itself may be polarizing. Good music in its own right, but how it was applied in the movie makes it feel like a different movie altogether at times.  The characters had fairly generic voices for their respective characters in other recent media of each respective character.  The delivery isn’t always emotionally moving, and often comes off as a flat reading, making some scenes fall flat, despite still having great visuals.


Final Critique and Thoughts

This film felt scattered and so jammed full of anime cliches and tropes. Think of it as an anime movie with the parody of One Punch Man, the emotional depth of a Pokemon movie, all dressed up in Batman’s intellectual property. There were a lot of ideas in this movie that I think could have worked under different settings and explanations. Instead, most of the movie feels like it stumbles along making changes without payoff, pretending there’s been a completed character arc when there is none, and under utilizing the full cast.

Bane has regressed to a mute strong man in the form of a sumo wrestler, and Poison Ivy just wears bits of Samurai inspired armor, because… it’ll help the environment somehow?  Some of their characterizations have been given some liberties which is fine. And the premise of a Bat-family that includes Damien Wayne as Robin makes the idea of Batman learning how to fight his criminals without all his tech and trust his team more appealing.

In the end everyone seems a bit campier, and there is some silliness to a lot of the premise. All this is to say that it’s just isn’t a good film. The visuals are splendid. And while the voice acting was passable, these weren’t enough to overlook the poor characterization, changes in animation that distracted more than enhance the film, and overall plot. It might be good for a single viewing just out of curiosity but there are plenty of other, more cohesive pieces you could go watch.

 

Reference(s):

Kotaku First look*

Raging Bethesda

bethesda-e3-2018Bethesda, one of the most well-known gaming companies in 2018 has come to E3 for their fourth showcase.  If E3 were a game of poker among these game developers, then Bethesda just showed their hand, and it seems like a high-end full house.  Starting the night off with an opening from Andrew W.K performing Ready to Die while leading into the RAGE 2 demonstration.


 

Rage 2

The sequel to their 2011 release, Rage 2 seems to be offering the same formula with a few new auditions giving a large selection of ammo, weapons, and vehicle combat.  There seems to be more story if the lack luster opening narration is to indicate anything other than setting the mood of the gameplay.

 

Elder Side Scrolling

Following Rage 2’s display, the audience found themselves  swept into news about Elder Scrolls; specifically Elder Scrolls Legends.  The App based card game centered around the lore of the series. Elder Scrolls Legends will be coming to the PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo’s Switch after being available on mobile for a year.  The announcement did not end with a port plug, but a complete overhaul of the graphics and content with the port as well.

 

The Elder Scrolls Online

Elder Scrolls Online was the next to be presented with it’s updates.  More DLC coming including their new dungeon expansion and further lore building DLC with an Argonian center.  Showing a bit of what has come before, then previewing the new before closing their video.

 

Doom has Risen

This was the first real shocker of the night. Doom already seems to have a sequel in the works.  The smash hit from 2016, bring back the crucial elements of the original to an updated world of gaming and pushing it further by providing a memorable narrative with minimal dialog.  Having only seen Doom VR as a following title, it was uncertain if we would see more Doom related content for a while, let alone a sequel. Yet we get just that, a strong presentation of a world gone to Hell and one solid stomp of a very commanding boot ready to resume some demon slaying duties.  

Aside from the usual hyping the game up with a traditional “bigger and better” pitch, not much else can be confirmed other than there may be some part of the game that takes place on Earth and that there will be harder enemies and more ways to kill them.

 

The Revival

A historic title, Quake Champions is introduced by Joshua Boyle talking up the history of the franchise while showing off that Bethesda formula of keeping the good and upgrading the better. That formula is at play here, with all the changes going on with First Person Shooters this will be interesting to see if Quake’s return stands as another turning point for the genre.

 

Prey

Another hit, prey returns with the news of a free update happening that night, which will include Story Mode, New Game+, and Survival Mode for the hardcore of the group.  Then launching into their spot for their DLC: Moon Crash. This DLC boasts the ability to provide unique runs every time for the player. To add to those announcements there is a new game mode available where it is one human player vs five mimc players in Typhon Hunter.  A very exciting announcement for the series.

 

Wolfenstein

Two parts to this announcement from Machine Games:

  1. Wolfenstein II is coming to the Switch
  2. It’s getting a sequel

Just more good news all around, but to add to it we are seeing the addition of co-op and having the story follow BJ’s twin daughters, picking up his mantle in 1980’s Paris.  The design looks great, and if they can improve on Wolfenstein II? A tall order but a welcome surprise if it is handled innovatively.

A VR game is coming out as well called Wolfenstein Cyber Pilot where you play the role of a hacker that controls robots to kill nazis.  That’s the description we got almost verbatim.

 

Todd Howard

 

Quite possibly the high point for energy as far as presenters went.  Starting things off with a pseudo-parody of porting Skyrim: Very Special Edition to Alexa with Keegan-Michael Key.  This is actually available now.   

After getting a rousing set of applause, before talking about what everyone was waiting for, Fall Out 76 click here for the trailer.  We are given confirmation on some of the rumours floating around, it is set in West Virginia, there will be green trees, and it is going to require an online connection to play.  Although it is promised to just be a few dozen in the area the player would be participating in.

There also seems to be a focus on building, and being able to move it wherever you want to.   Through a little narrative, and then using demo clips along side of the good old Vault Tec instructional videos  to present the landscape, and highlight the idea of PvP and being able to launch Nukes on the map. There will be a Break-it-Early-Test-Application later this year, and you can sign up through Bethesda’s website, with the full game having it’s release date announced for November 14, 2018.  Also coming with a Power Armor edition that includes a glow in the dark map, a wearable Power Armor helmet with headlamp, voice modulator, and more.

We continue with Todd informing the crowd about Fallout Shelter coming to the PS4 and to the Switch, but also the announcement of their newest mobile contribution in Elder Scrolls Blades.  Seemingly, a less mobile version of an Elder Scrolls game, and the visual presentation makes it seem like another paper-rock-scissors battle game. It is very impressive graphically for a phone, however it was very limited in precise information.  This game will also have a VR version that plays with players on any device. Elder Scrolls Blades will be available later this fall, and you can pre-register to get the game when it comes out, this can be done through Bethesda’s website or through the Google Play/Apple stores.  

Todd’s presentation ends with no more news for 2018 but slightly further ahead, with a very brief tease of their original science-fiction space themed I.P. that is Starfield.  The presentation lulled the audience into a warm sense of wonder, just to have violent curiosity thrust at them through what seems like a tear in space and time tearing through the fantastic image before the viewer.  

Then to make this presentation truly memorial, Elder Scrolls VI is confirmed to be in the works.  With the crowd going wild, the presentation comes to a close for the night.


 

What does the presentation mean?

It means that Bethesda has been busy, most people probably only expected one or two of the titles that were mentioned, but to get a new Quake, Doom, Fallout, and Elder Scrolls updates everywhere? It would be hard to find much fault with being excited.  

It is Bethesda, and generally they make some great games so there really shouldn’t be much to worry about, and yet here we are.

The Presentation was good overall. Lots to be excited about, and there was plenty of humor and nice sneak peaks.  However, some portions of the presentation felt longer than they needed to be, and the focus seemed to be more on App based games than that of PC, Xbox, PlayStation, or Nintendo.  When we got to see a bit of Doom, Wolfenstein, and Starfield felt so small in comparison to the attention Rage 2 or Elder Scrolls: Blades received.

Fallout 76 being the stand-out exception of possibly feeling like there was too little.  We may have received too much and too little information at the same time. With the direction being presented, it is still very vague as to how Fallout 76 is going to pan out. On one hand it could be amazing, if they can balance a Fallout experience of exploration and fighting with other players forming a story could be a masterpiece. With what has been presented, it leaves worry about the game becoming Minecraft with built-in Nukes, or devolving into a post apocalyptic Battle Royale game. Despite the wants and worries of the presentation, Bethesda delivered on what was expected and gave the fans more, hopefully it’s more of what will work. And if you liked that check out @tehlunchboxpub on twitter for more E3 news.

Fighting Familiar Puzzles

 

I need to start this review with a warning, this game is meant to be addictive and does have gambling elements to it. If you are aware of being susceptible to any form of gambling or have issues spending money in-game to the point it impacts your everyday life; then please turn away now. I am not putting this here as a slight against Puzzle Fighter alone, but this cash grab model that is in most of the mobile games out there. I would feel disingenuous without giving attention to this aspect of the game.


Puzzle Fighter from Capcom, has been one of the bigger puzzle games in history. Nothing too special about it, it is a Tetris-style game with exploding gems instead of pre-shaped blocks, break the blocks down to attack your opponent and first one to cause their opponent to overstack wins. This game gained fandom by featuring Pocket Fighter renditions of Street Fighter and Dark Stalkers characters as playable avatars just clicked.

The game has been re-released and has had some slight tweaks to gameplay since its original PlayStation release. Some of them consist of it includes being available for download on the Playstation Store (PS3) and Xbox Marketplace (360). However, the mobile release now features 3D character models and a roster expanding with more Capcom characters such as Viewtiful Joe, Dante, Nash, and Phoenix Wright.


GamePlay Change

With it being a mobile game you obviously can’t have matches going on too long, and I think that this aspect of the game is pretty interesting. With the inclusion of health bars you need to cause enough damage through breaking chains of gems, as well as combine larger gems to accumulate enough damage to defeat your opponent. Also, destroying enough gems will build your special bar which will allow you to perform a single press Super Attack that deals direct damage to your opponent. And to keep your opponents guessing, the moves your avatar performs can be changed out to perform more damage or cause status changes to make the matches a bit more strategic and dynamic. To top all of that off, you play with a team of 3 and their affinities and assists will help to add wrinkles to your gameplay style.

Gameplay isn’t flawless though. A level up system has been added, along with a card collecting aspect to level up your avatars and their moves. However, unlocking characters seems to be done so by pure luck. To add to that, you have to rank up to gain access for the chance to unlock a new character at random. All of these aspects are built in as a clear attempt to make the game pay to play. Annnnd, it kinda does?


Randomizing

There is a level of excitement to be had in getting something at random. It makes getting the thing you want feel more significant than if you could just purchase it (hopefully with in game currency), but the game has so many randomized elements it grows tiring really quickly. You see, part of the appeal of this franchise is playing as your favorite character and playing with your skill to compete or just play a quick mindless game. When the player has to worry about leveling up their character constantly to stay relevant or have to use characters they do not want to in the hopes of unlocking MegaMan X through ranking up it lessens the experience. Winning enough boats and chests, or paying for an in game loot-box(chest) that will guarantee a character and some random cards and in game coins doesn’t seem very exciting either. To add frustration to anxiety, in order to upgrade a character; not only must an increasing amount of cards be collected to keep level up a character’s moveset, an in game currency is required to upgrade those moves. The standard pay out of these items is definitely tipped to make you either grind to unlock what you want, or cave and pay to be the best.

Really there is just too much randomized chance in this game and not enough player choice. If you have a friend or look online for people to post their ID Names to add them, you can choose to play with someone from your friend list if they are online as well, but the search option isn’t a search option. You’d need to know the exact ID to add someone and cannot search for active players. The Rank up matches would be your only access to other players online. And since winning those matches comes with prizes, that would most likely be the best option for a quick player vs player match.

To be completely fair, there are some milestone chests that can be unlocked through doing daily missions, playing the mission matches, and playing lots of PvP ranked games. Season and Mid-Season chests given to every player to which the contents vary depending on the player’s rank which break up the monotony. And there’s also a fair amount of drops for every kind of item in the game that makes it feel a bit fair. The high spikes in costs for items however, (you’ll start hitting them around level 6 for most characters) quickly unbalances the game with level caps at 15.


Satisfaction

The gameplay itself stays true to the series. Customizable characters, an expanded roster help a lot. And the addition of supers as well as a health based win system feels different in a good way. However, it’s slowed down by the money grab being done by Capcom with the game’s grind/pay to play nature. I still enjoy having a game or two if it’s just for a couple of minutes and if I am worried about my connection, I can do a mission for a for sure quick uninterrupted game. On a side note, I’d recommend this on tablet over the phone, as interruptions can ruin some PvP matches.

For those who do not like the changes, there are occasional classic style events where you can win up to 12 matches, but if you lose more than 3 you are out. I really like the set up of these tournaments, and while every player has their character set to max level to even the playing field, you are still limited to characters and moves you have already unlocked. But it is an event so it is not always available.


Final Thoughts

The game itself is good for a quick match every now and then. I turn off the notifications and just play it when I have an itch. If you have friends that are into this game it’ll be fun to play with them from time to time, and the gameplay is enjoyable, just some of the mechanics are broken purely for greed.


Recommends

Honestly, I think this game shouldn’t be free. I would have been willing to pay mabey $3-$5(?) for a complete offline mode of this game to really enjoy quick matches on the go with optional online features. I’d also either remove the level up system or make it less of a hassle to do. I wouldn’t even have everything unlocked right away either.

Bring back in-game unlockables. I mean, there’s no better feeling than pulling off a combo, or beating a certain opponent, or completing a character’s arcade mode run. Then there’s the added bonus of getting a reward in the form of a new character or a secret special move. Unlocakbles don’t need to be insane to achieve, and I’m sure there would be people to double their payment to unlock everything. But honestly, both those ideas beat the all to common loot box scheme going on everywhere else.


Pros:

Updated gameplay that stays faithful to the series
Large cast of characters (Still expanding as of the writing of this article)
Strategic layers
Easy to pick up and put down

Cons:

Pay to win
Limited Player Choice at first
Hard to make friends in-game
3D models (This is my preference, but the 2D models from previous entries are superior)


Riley R. is a contributing writer for Teh Lunchbox Publications! For all your news, up to date information, previews, and reviews on the entertainment world, keep it here on tehlunchboxpub.wordpress.com and LIKE and FOLLOW us on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitch!