TV Review: Ultraman Mebius: Side Story (2008-2009)

Original Run: 2008 – 2009
Created by: Tsuburaya Productions
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Cast: Keiichi Nanba, Motomu Kiyokawa, Shunji Igarashi, Makoto Miyoshi, Masaki Nishina, Ai Saikawa, Daisuke Watanabe, Kenta Uchino, Misato Hirata, Minoru Tanaka, Takeshi Kusao, Hiroya Ishimaru, Seizō Katō, Hisao Egawa, Daisuke Gōri, Ryōichi Tanaka, Hideyuki Hori, Hideyuki Tanaka, Jirō Dan, Kohji Moritsugu, Susumu Kurobe

Tsuburaya Productions, 5 Episodes, 13-26 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

While these five episodes were originally released as three separate stories, for their American streaming release, they were bundled together as five 13 to 26 minute episodes under the name Ultraman Mebius: Side Stories.

The first episode was originally released as a 13 minute short called Ultraman Mebius: Hikari Saga, episodes two and three were a two-parter titled Ultraman Mebius: Armored Darkness, while the final two episodes were another two-parter, Ultraman Mebius: Ghost Reverse.

All three stories take place after the Ultraman Mebius television show and serve as the official conclusion to Mebius’ story, even though he’s appeared in other Ultraman films and shows since these were released. But in any event it’s the finale for the normal human characters that fans came to love in the Mebius show.

Overall, this was pretty cool to see, as it’s been a while since I watched Ultraman Mebius and this made me properly nostalgic for it. So I guess it really did its job in that regard. And frankly, I would have watched this just after I saw Mebius but it wasn’t available in the US until just recently.

This, like many Ultraman events, was full of multiple Ultramen and multiple villains, many of whom played a major part in the Mebius mythos over the show’s 50 episodes.

The special effects and tone are exactly what one should expect from an Ultraman special event of the time. It truly looked like an extension of the show and could honestly just be five episodes tacked on at the end and most people wouldn’t know the difference.

I thought that the effects were a wee bit better than the norm but this probably had a bigger budget per episode than the television show that had to be more frugal due to the scale of the production.

If you like Ultraman Mebius, I don’t see any reason why you wouldn’t enjoy this, especially the Armored Darkness story.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: the Ultraman Mebius show and other Ultraman movies and specials.

 

Video Game Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles In Time (Arcade)

Being that the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game was nearly perfect, I wanted to play the arcade version of its sequel.

Now I have played Turtles In Time before but it was always the version for home consoles and not its superior arcade counterpart.

This was a blast to playthrough though, as it plays just like its predecessor. The controllers and look of the game are the same and the only real difference is that this comes with new levels, new bosses and the time travel element thrown in. If anything, it’s an expansion of the great first game.

My only real complaint is that the boss battles in this one weren’t as good or as memorable as the first game. I missed beating up on the more popular baddies, as this chapter gives us mostly second and third tier Turtles villains.

However, the final boss fights were a lot of fun. The battle with Krang felt fresh and new and not just a rehash of what was done in the previous installment. Also, the final fight with Shredder was more challenging and the cherry on top of this superb banana split of awesomeness.

Overall, I liked this one less than the first game. However, it is a solid compliment to it and it kept things fresh enough to allow it to stand on its own as a worthy side scrolling beat’em up.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game.

Film Review: Demon City Shinjuku (1988)

Also known as: Makaitoshi Shinjuku (original title), Monster City (UK), Hell City Shinjuku (alternative title)
Release Date: October 25th, 1988 (Japan)
Directed by: Yoshiaki Kawajiri
Written by: Kaori Okamura
Based on: Makaitoshi Shinjuku by Hideyuki Kikuchi

Japan Home Video (JHV), Video Art Co., Madhouse, 82 Minutes

Review:

“Men anger the gods with their pride, and in order to punish them, the gods looked on as Pandora opened her box letting chaos loose. And now here in Monster City, mythology will become reality. ” – Mephisto

I never knew that this was done by the same director that did Wicked City and Ninja Scroll. I guess I should have figured that out due to a similar visual style, especially in regards to the visual effects and flair.

The first time that I saw this was on the Sci-Fi Channel, late at night, in the late ’90s. Seeing it for the first time, I was immediately sucked in by the opening scene, which still, all these years later, looks so absolutely fucking pristine and perfect that it still gives me chills.

Sadly, the movie itself is far from perfect as a total body of work but the strengths far outweigh the negatives and its those strengths that bring me back to this movie every couple of years.

The story isn’t great and the character development is weak but this is such a cool looking anime that it’s hard to turn away.

love the art, the tone, the style and how it all creates a dreary and mystical atmosphere.

I guess my biggest gripe about the film is that the English voice acting isn’t good. While it’s not terrible, it lacks emotion and the characters’ accents are strange. I guess the girl is British aristocracy and the little roller skate dude is Mexican? I would assume that all the characters are Japanese but the voice acting really throws you off.

The real highpoint outside of style, is the action sequences. They are all well done, fluid and exciting. But with that, everything else that happens is sort of boring. There’s a lot of walking and talking and most of it seems like a waste of time, as you’re just waiting for more action or some other creepy demonic encounter.

Demon City Shinjuku has a lot going right for it though. It certainly needed to be fine tuned more and I guess I can blame the poor voice acting on the fact that English audiences hadn’t fully embraced anime when this came out. But, as I said, the positives keep this above water and it’s just a cool flick.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: Wicked City, Vampire Hunter D and Ninja Scroll.

Video Game Review: Ninja Spirit (TurboGrafx-16)

I had completely forgotten about this game. Granted, I never played it but I remember seeing clips of the boss battles in the television commercials and it was one of those clips that really made me want to get a TurboGrafx-16 circa 1989.

I never got the system but I have it now in the form of an emulator, so I’m trying to work through all the games I missed out on. Granted, I think the vast majority of people, except rich kids, missed out on the TurboGrafx-16 system.

Ninja Spirit is fun as f’n hell! In a lot of ways, it reminds me of the arcade version of The Legend of Kage. You play as a ninja in full garb, as opposed to the kung fu looking dude from The Legend of Kage, but that just makes this more badass. It’s like if you mashed up Kage with one of the Ninja Gaiden games.

Anyway, this game is so fluid and energetic that it is lightyears ahead of what was the norm for console gaming in 1989. This kicks Nintendo and the Sega Master System in the dick!

In fact, this is better than what was average in the arcade, at the time.

My only complaint about the game is that it is really hard and when you die, you’re whisked back to a checkpoint. Unfortunately, if you die in a boss battle, you have to work your way back to the boss and then give it a go, once again.

I wish this played more like an arcade game with the ability to respawn in the same place whether through extra lives or continues. I feel like it should work this way, simply for the fact that it plays like an arcade game. And hell, maybe there is an arcade version I can try out.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other 16-bit side scrollers of the era but primarily those released on TurboGrafx-16 a.k.a. PC Engine.

Video Game Review: Crime Fighters (Arcade)

Yes, yes, I know… I’ve been playing the shit out of arcade side scrolling beat’em ups. But I just got MAME a few weeks ago and I’m trying to relive the best that my favorite video game genre has to offer. Well, it was my favorite genre when I was eleven but whatever.

I had some pretty fond memories of playing Crime Fighters as a kid. I even remember being disappointed when my primary local arcade got rid of the machine. It was a dark, dark day.

But now, almost thirty years since that broken heart, I can play this game whenever the hell I want.

For beat’em ups, this one is pretty standard. You move with the screen, you smash foes with your fists and feet and you get to play with weapons the baddies drop after you knock them out.

What’s unique about this game, though, is that it has a bit of slapstick humor thrown into it. I always thought that was amusing as a kid and frankly, I completely forgot about it until playing through this again.

Another factor that sets this apart from similar games is that the bosses are all pretty cool and homages to awesome characters of the time. There is a guy that looks like Freddy Krueger, one that looks like Jason Voorhees, a chainsaw dude, a punk dude, an Ivan Drago looking guy and others I’m sure I’m forgetting.

If you dig this genre, you’ll dig this game. Especially, if you’re a fan of retro gaming, as well as ’80s horror.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling beat’em ups of the era.

Video Game Review: Double Dragon (Arcade)

Double Dragon was a game so good that when I heard rumors about a film being made, I was f’n ecstatic. But then the film came out, looked like absolute horseshit and I never saw it out of protest.

Still, the franchise, as far as the games go, was always solid. The games were superior beat’em ups that seemed pretty immersive, even if they primarily consisted of button mashing and trying to throw that fucknut Abobo into a pit.

Most people have probably played the original Nintendo versions of the first three games. Assuming said people were born before 1985. But only a few of us probably remember that it was an arcade game first. And the one thing I remember about the arcade version, is that it always seemed a lot better graphically, felt more fluid, had much better sound and just came across as way more badass.

Playing it again now, for the first time since the late ’80s, all that still holds true.

Although, I have to say that the NES version does have better level design and feels a bit more imaginative. But I think that was done by the developers to expand on the game to detract players from what it was lacking. Also, the NES version had more baddies and new bosses like Chin… and more Abobos.

I love how this game plays though. And the arcade version is more of a straight up side scroller with simple levels but everything is on point. Plus, this game’s superb soundtrack just sounds so much better in this version.

If you can run MAME or have the money for the original Double Dragon arcade cabinet, it’s worth revisiting.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Double Dragon games, as well as other side scrolling beat’em ups from the era.

Video Game Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Arcade)

I fed this arcade game so many quarters in 1990 that I never had money to buy anything else. I usually had to persuade my mum into giving me more quarters, as well as giving me an extra allowance just for comics.

Anyway, I’m glad that I can play this whenever I want now and the quarters are free because with MAME, I only have to hit “select” to add credits.

This was and still is one of the all-time greatest side scrolling beat’em up arcade games in history. Sure, the genre was going strong by the time that this came out but it took things to a new level. Maybe that’s because the Ninja Turtles were the biggest thing in pop culture in 1990 but even then, this is such a perfectly polished and energetic game that it’s greatness can’t be brushed off simply because it’s associated with a massive franchise.

The controls are superb, the gameplay is fluid and this isn’t a beat’em up that gets dull or all that repetitive. Each level feels fresh and new, the levels aren’t too long and even if you are fighting a dozen enemies at once, you don’t get so overwhelmed that you have to blow through quarters just to get off of one screen.

What’s also great is that this was a four player game. So you and four of your friends could jump in together and kick Foot Clan ass. Even if you didn’t have friends with you at the arcade, there was never a shortage on kids ready to jump in and give you a hand. I actually met some friends this way.

This was an arcade game that I would often play to completion. It was perfectly balanced on its difficulty and every kid felt like they could beat it without completely going broke. There are days where I played through it twice in a row.

The Nintendo port that came out after this was never as good. It always felt like the cheap, incomplete and buggy version of its superior arcade father. Granted, the NES version did add some interesting new levels and characters.

Rating: 9.75/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling beat’em up arcade games from the era, especially involving turtles.