Video Game Review: Lifeforce (NES)

Despite incredibly similar graphics, gameplay, game mechanics and developer, I never really knew that LIfeforce was a spinoff sequel to Gradius, especially since there were numbered sequels to Gradius.

It wasn’t until the ’90s or so that I pretty much figured it was either a sequel or designed by the same team, building a new game off of the Gradius model.

Well, in Japan it was called Salamander. For whatever reason, they re-titled it Lifeforce in the U.S. But some of the changes and gameplay additions ended up being adopted by future Gradius titles. Salamander itself wouldn’t get a direct sequel for a whole decade.

This was originally designed for the arcade but was quickly ported to several systems. I’ll probably check out the arcade version soon, just to compare the two.

Lifeforce is fast paced, intense and one of those games where you can find yourself completely overwhelmed in the blink of an eye. That being said, most people, myself included, probably can’t beat this game without the Konami Code. Like its use in Contra, the Code here gives the player 30 lives.

Unlike Contra, however, this game feels short on levels with only six. And honestly, that’s about my only complaint about the game. It’s so much fun, I just wish it were longer; at least an extra two levels to bring it up to eight like Contra.

What’s really unique about Lifeforce, though, is that it is both a side scroller and a vertical scroller. Odd numbered levels are sideways and even numbered levels are vertical.

The boss fights are all pretty fun too. Granted, most of the bosses are a cakewalk if you are able to upgrade your weapons quickly and then maintain them by not dying. The more suped up you are, however, the easier it is to survive and thrive.

I really love the weapon enhancements in this game. They just make you feel more badass and they make the game more fun and action heavy.

Lastly, for a simple 8-bit scrolling shooter, this has pretty solid level design. There isn’t a dull stage and some of them are kind of breathtaking. I especially love the level with the fire and flares, as well as the Egyptian-looking one.

Lifeforce is a great game for its era and for its genre. Also, it had some of the best box art in Nintendo history.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other games in the Gradius series, as well as other 8-bit Konami action shooters.

Comic Review: Detective Comics, Vol. 7: Batmen Eternal

Published: September 11th, 2018
Written by: James Tynion IV
Art by: Alvaro Martinez

DC Comics, 151 Pages

Review:

After the previous volume, I was really hyped for this one, as it was the last of Tynion’s lengthy and mostly solid run on Detective Comics.

While this started off with a bang, it fizzled out about a third of the way through and kind of went out with a whimper, focusing on a new plot thread that I didn’t find interesting, especially when the larger arc of Tynion’s complete run didn’t feel like it was properly resolved.

It’s not that this was a bad story, I just felt like I was left holding my dick in the cold wind on top of a mountain. I climbed all the way to the summit and there was nothing there to greet me. No party, no fanfare, just cold wind, thin air and no sense of real reward.

Honestly, there’s not much else to say, really.

I wanted certain plot threads closed and followed up on and everything just sort of splintered off into different directions with no clear path to follow.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other collections of James Tynion IV’s run on Detective Comics.

Vids I Dig 169: For the Love of Comics: ‘Akira’ Edition Comparison: Marvel/Epic Comics Vs. Kodansha 35th Anniversary Hardcovers

From For the Love of Comics’ YouTube description: A quick comparison between the new 35th Anniversary Edition of Akira and the ‘88 Epic Comics edition, focusing on: production and content differences.

Comic Review: Devil Dinosaur – The Jack Kirby Era

Published: 1978-1979
Written by: Jack Kirby
Art by: Jack Kirby

Marvel Comics, 165 Pages

Review:

I always thought that Jack Kirby’s Devil Dinosaur looked like a cool comic book for its time. Mainly, because it featured a badass red T-Rex-looking dino with a little caveman dude riding on his back. I never picked up and actually read any of these until now, though.

So working my way towards being a Kirby completist, at least with his Marvel and DC work, I figured that reading Devil Dinosaur was long overdue. Plus, the entire run is only nine issues and clocks in at just 165 pages – a nice afternoon read.

What I wasn’t expecting but found surprising is that this feels like a sort of spiritual successor to some of the ideas, concepts and narrative style of Kirby’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, a comic series that went beyond just the story of the famous film and tied together stories from Earth’s prehistoric past and its possible future in the stars.

Where Machine Man spun-off from 2001, after Marvel lost the license to continue that series, Devil Dinosaur picked up where 2001 left off in how it focused on prehistoric era characters and their eventual confrontation with cool-looking aliens from outer space that were very much Kirby creations. I’d say that makes this more of a real successor to 2001 than Machine Man, which became more of a sci-fi superhero series tied to regular Marvel continuity, leaving behind its 2001 origins.

In fact, one alien group, whose story takes up three issues, are very reminiscent of the Celestials that Kirby introduced in The Eternals. So while this is directly tied to the Marvel universe, especially since the Devil Dinosaur character exists in modern continuity, it also feels tethered to The Celestials, Machine Man and again, 2001: A Space Odyssey. That all just makes Devil Dinosaur a weird, unique series.

It would’ve been interesting to see where this could have gone had it lasted more than nine issues. Hell, I wouldn’t have been shocked if this would’ve somehow crossed over with Conan or Red Sonja because it already bridges a gap between multiple franchises, even if it does so indirectly.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other Jack Kirby stuff from the ’70s, specifically his work on 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Comic Review: Conan 2099

Published: November 27th, 2019
Written by: Gerry Duggan
Art by: Roge Antonio, Geoff Shaw
Based on: Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard

Marvel Comics, 33 Pages

Review:

I like Gerry Duggan’s Conan work. He’s written a few stories since Marvel got the famous barbarian back a year ago.

Since I kind of dug the 2099 stuff back when it all debuted in the early ’90s, the thought of a futuristic, cyberpunk-centric Conan story wasn’t something I was willing to pass up.

While this is really just a one-shot, it is part of a much larger 2099 crossover event. Not having read the other stories, I felt a bit lost here and honestly, this just made me wish that there was a Conan 2099 miniseries that was self-contained. Because it is an interesting concept but it needs its own room to breathe and space to play.

The plot here follows Conan in the future and he runs into Morgan le Fay, as well as Nova. Well… Nova is… um… huh… I won’t spoil it in case you want to read this 2099 event.

So some stuff happens, Conan is a badass in the future but ultimately, this was barely enough to whet my palate with the idea of a future Conan. And I’m sorry, I don’t want to read the whole massive crossover just to make this one comic make more sense.

The art is okay, the cover is better than the interiors but I guess that’s typical in 2019.

Honestly, if you want me to get excited for this future Conan thing, make me a series. I’ll add it to my pull list with all the other Conan titles.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: I’m assuming the other comics tied to the current Marvel 2099 event.

Film Review: TRON: Legacy (2010)

Also known as: TR2N, TRON 2.0 (working titles), TRON 2 (informal title)
Release Date: November 30th, 2010 (Tokyo premiere)
Directed by: Joseph Kosinski
Written by: Edward Kitsis, Adam Horowitz, Brian Klugman, Lee Sternthal
Based on: characters by Steven Lisberger, Bonnie MacBird
Music by: Daft Punk
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, Bruce Boxleitner, James Frain, Beau Garrett, Michael Sheen, Daft Punk (cameo), Steven Lisberger (cameo), Cillian Murphy (uncredited)

Walt Disney Pictures, Sean Bailey Productions, John Thomas Special FX, 125 Minutes

Review:

“Life has a way of moving you past wants and hopes.” – Kevin Flynn

It took a really long time for TRON to get a sequel but I was glad that it did, even if this film wasn’t quite what I’d expected.

Compared to the original, this film is incredibly polished. But that’s also due to 28 years of special effects advancement and the use of modern CGI, which didn’t exist in nearly the same way in 1982.

That being said, this is a beautiful and fine looking motion picture. However, despite its enchanting otherworldlyness, it kind of lacks the spirit and magic that was present in the original film. Call me old but I prefer the primitive effects and matte paintings, as well as the simple digital 3D models.

Before ever seeing footage of this film, I had hoped that the filmmakers would maintain the look of the original. I understand why they didn’t, as it might not appeal to a new generation but this film feels like too much of a jump aesthetically.

Now even though the CGI within the computer world looks solid, it was actually done pretty poorly in the real world sequences. Primarily those that featured old actors with their faces de-aged to look like they did almost thirty years earlier.

For the most part, I liked the story in this film. It was a good logical future for where the previous movie ended up. The only thing that I wasn’t crazy about is that the real world stuff in the beginning was too dragged out.

Although, I like that this doesn’t show you the computer world until the protagonist is sucked into it. I wish the original film wouldn’t have shown the computer world almost immediately, as saving the reveal to be the exact moment where the hero arrives, astounded by his surroundings, has a sort of Wizard of Oz colorization effect.

The film is also full of colorful characters and everyone does pretty well with their roles. I especially liked Michael Sheen’s over the top, Bowie-esque performance. But with everyone being really good and having a lot of personality, sadly, Garrett Hedlund’s Sam was pretty dry and boring. I don’t think that’s necessarily Hedlund’s fault, as his character was written as a straightman type, but he was overshadowed by just about everyone else, which doesn’t make for an exciting protagonist.

While TRON: Legacy doesn’t blow my socks off, I did like it enough to hope that the film series would rage on for years. Right now, it looks like that’s not going to happen but as long as Disney owns the brand, it will eventually get a sequel, a remake or a reboot.

I didn’t even mention the score because do I need to? Everyone’s heard it, everyone loves it and you can’t avoid one of Daft Punk’s songs from this movie creeping into every station on Pandora.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: it’s predecessor, the original TRON, as well as the animated series, TRON: Uprising.

Comic Review: Uncanny X-Force, Vol. 6 & 7: Final Execution – Books I & II

Published: April 10th, 2013, August 29th, 2013
Written by: Rick Remender
Art by: Mike McKone, Phil Noto, Julian Totino Tedesco, Jerome Opena, David Williams

Marvel Comics, 271 Pages

Review:

Well, I have finally reached the end of Rick Remender’s highly respected Uncanny X-Force run.

I’ve got to say that this end was fairly satisfying and that the series, as a whole, was good. However, I don’t quite feel the same about it as many of the others who hyped it up for me. I mean, I’ve only heard great things about it. But I wouldn’t call it great, I’d just call it good, sometimes solid but sometimes aimless. Or, at least, sometimes it felt aimless.

And I guess that some of what seemed aimless wasn’t but not all of those things were resolved and some of them didn’t really seem to have much of a point when looking at the whole picture.

The series, I thought, ended up putting so much emphasis on Psylocke that this didn’t feel like a team book. It felt like a Psylocke book with recurring side characters. That’s not to say that Wolverine, Archangel, Nightcrawler, Fantomex, Deadpool, etc. weren’t pretty involved in the proceedings but it’s to say that sometimes I forgot they were involved unless I was reminded by them showing up in a panel.

Ultimately, this is a neat series with an ending that tied up the important bits but I don’t feel like it adds much to the X-Men mythos and that it spent more time trying to be edgy and cool than actually trying to better the X-franchise.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the earlier volumes in Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force run.