My First 150 Reviewed Video Games…Ranked!

At least one-hundred and fifty, or more to see! To be a Pokemon master is my destinyyy!

That’s right, the Dojo has finally amassed one-hundred and fifty video game reviews! All of which were written by yours truly, of course. Perhaps one day I’ll sucker in some poor souls to help me write this stuff.

Anyway, with these one-hundred and fifty video game reviews, I figured it would be a fun idea to rank each and every last one of those games from least to greatest. While we’re at it, I wonder if anyone can find a way to make a Pokerap parody out of these games?

I’ll keep this introduction short since we have a lot of games to cover. For my full reviews of each game, just check out the Game Reviews page.

Before we move on to the rankings, keep these little notes in mind.

  • Games are ranked by the score I gave them in their respective reviews. Each number scored is akin to its own category, so a game that scored an 8.0, for example, will be weighted against all the other 8.0 games. The list will begin with the lowest score of 1, and will gradually get higher as each game within each score gets better and better.
  • These games are all ranked by personal taste and how well I think they hold up. Things like historical significance and the like don’t matter here at all.
  • This is not my long-promised list of favorite video games (if it were, why would I be putting the games I graded badly on here?). Some of my favorite games do appear here towards the top of course, and may give you a sneak peak into my upcoming favorites of all-time list. But said favorites of all-time list will be happening at a later date, after I’ve reviewed even more games and stuff.
  • The top four are basically interchangeable. Don’t hold it against me if I say something that contradicts this list later.

That’s really all you need to know. Now, let’s see how these 150 games stack up against each other! Continue reading

Mario Kart 64 Review

Mario Kart 64

There are few video games as synonymous with my gaming youth than Mario Kart 64. The number of hours I spent with its Grand Prix, Versus and Battle modes are uncountable. For a good few years, it was my go-to multiplayer game. The Mario Kart series has come a long way since this second installment hit the Nintendo 64 in 1997, so how well does Mario Kart 64 hold up after so many years of Nintendo perfecting the formula?

The short answer to that is… pretty decently, though there are aspects of the game that haven’t aged particularly gracefully as well.

Being the first 3D entry in the series, Mario Kart 64 was capable of certain feats that the SNES original couldn’t pull off. The new 3D racetracks were more robust, with features like changes in elevation, slopes, and long jumps, among others. This helped Mario Kart 64 create some of the series’ most iconic tracks, many of which have been recreated in subsequent Mario Karts.

Mario Kart 64On the downside, these 3D visuals are now rather ugly to look at. Sure, it’s easy to defend it as being an earlier title in the N64’s library, but that doesn’t change the fact that, when playing the game today, it can sometimes strain the eyes. Not only do the environments look blocky, and the character models downright odd, but you can often only see what’s immediately in front of you, with everything else looking like a pixelated blur. This can sometimes make turns and obstacles difficult to see, which can really effect you during a race. This is all the worse when playing split-screen multiplayer, as the tinier screen space means things look that much blurrier.

On the bright side, the core gameplay is still a lot of fun. The control scheme is simple enough (A to accelerate, B for breaks, and Z to fire weapons), and is among the select Nintendo 64 games that are still fun to control. And it’s different modes bring out a lot of fun in the gameplay.

Mario Kart 64Gran Prix sees one or two players taking on computer-controlled opponents in a complete set of races. Time Trials consist of single player races against a “ghost” player in an attempt to get the best time. Versus mode consists of singular races of two to four players without the computer opponents. Finally, Battle mode has two to four players facing off in enclosed arenas as they gather items and try to pop every other player’s three balloons (this is also the only time in the series where defeated players in Battle mode would become bombs that could ram into a surviving player to eliminate one of their balloons for a little revenge from beyond the grave).

"Where did you learn to drive?"

“Where did you learn to drive?”

The modes are all fun in their own right, with Battle mode probably being the best of the lot. Though there is one huge downside to the game’s multiplayer that should be addressed. When playing a game with the maximum of four players, there is no music to be heard. This was probably due to technical limitations with the Nintendo 64, but it doesn’t change the fact that playing the game without music definitely takes away from the experience. And Mario Kart 64 has a pretty good soundtrack as well, which makes its absence in four player games sting all the more.

This puts Mario Kart 64 in an interesting situation where – despite being an entry in a multiplayer series – the single player modes have probably aged better. Though you can still have plenty of fun playing Mario Kart 64 with friends, the added blurriness to the visuals and the lack of music are really noticeable when playing today.

Mario Kart 64As for the character roster, players can take control of Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Yoshi, Toad, Donkey Kong, Wario and Bowser. This game basically established the “primary eight” characters of the Mario universe (though Rosalina and Bowser Jr. probably make it a primary ten these days), so there aren’t any complaints with the selections (no babies or Pink Gold Peach here), though players may feel a little underwhelmed by the lack of unlockable characters.

Mario Kart 64 is a more basic entry in the series then. But while it may lack the content and depth of many of its successors, it’s still a lot of fun to play. It has its fair share of attributes that show their age, but it’s still way more fun than a lot of other multiplayer N64 titles are when playing today.

If you want a more definitive Mario Kart, just pop Mario Kart 8 into your Wii U and have a blast. But if you want to revisit a N64 classic that can provide hours of fun for you and some friends, you could do a whole lot worse than Mario Kart 64.

 

8.0

Metroid Prime: Federation Force Review

Federation Force

Few games in Nintendo’s history have caused as much of a stir as Metroid Prime: Federation Force. With the Metroid series laying dormant for six years – with it’s most recent release being the atrocious Metroid: Other M – fans had been begging for a new iteration in the franchise like never before. So when Federation Force was revealed, with a cartoony look and simplified action-based gameplay that was a stark contrast to the atmosphere and exploration the series is known for, the game was all but dead on arrival. Now that Federation Force is out on 3DS, does it prove it’s naysayers wrong in the same vein as The Wind Waker? Or were the cries of Nintendo fans actually justified for once?

It’s obvious from the get-go that Metroid Prime: Federation Force is not like other Metroid games. The most obvious differences being the aforementioned art style (possibly implemented to gloss over the 3DS’ aging hardware), and the fact that players do not take on the role of series’ protagonist Samus Aran. Samus still shows up from time to time, but here, players control members of the titular Federation Force, who embark on various missions aboard mech suits.

Gameplay-wise, Federation Force is more than capable. The game takes on a first-person perspective, with the usual controls of the genre being well translated onto the 3DS. The only issue I ran into with the core gameplay was switching between secondary weapons. Though the mechs have a blaster canon as their primary weapon, secondary weapons and items include health packs, fireballs, lightning bursts, and ice attacks to freeze enemies. The secondary items are switched by pressing the X button, and are fired by pressing the Y button. Because you can only cycle through the secondary weapons by going forward, it often gets confusing, since you instinctively think the two buttons would cycle through the item in different directions. I often ended up shooting the items and wasting precious ammo when I was just trying to switch abilities.

A very welcome addition to the game are the customization options. Players can add mods to their mechs, which grant special bonuses like extra damage, double health, and other such things. You can also paint different designs on your mech, and even alter your character’s voice. Best of all, you can swap with mods you’re using in between missions, meaning you can play the game in whatever way you want until you find the method you like best. These mods also give the game a tiny taste of the series’ explorative elements, as players have to search high and low to find the mods hidden within the missions.

Unfortunately, searching for the mods doesn’t add a whole lot of depth to what are otherwise pretty uninspired levels. While the missions at least have some variety with their objectives, the level design itself leaves a lot to be desired. There’s just not much to them. There are a few puzzles, enemy encounters and boss fights to be had, but the puzzles feel bland, the enemy encounters can get monotonous, and the boss fights are just too tedious.

Things can pick up a little if you’re playing with a few friends. Federation Force allows up to four players to take part in the game’s campaign. When all four players are active, Federation Force begins to feel like the game it was meant to be. The largely empty levels begin to come to life with four players working in tandem. Unfortunately, even having all four players on board doesn’t help the puzzles or boss fights stand out more.

Blast BallMetroid Prime: Federation Force also includes a competitive multplayer mode known as Blast Ball, which is more or less Rocket League but with mechs shooting the ball into the other team’s goal instead of using cars to do the job. Though Blast Ball can provide some bursts of fun, the concept doesn’t always mesh with the game’s mechanics, and you quickly feel like you’d rather be playing the actual Rocket League instead.

As a whole, Metroid Prime: Federation Force is not the disaster that Nintendo’s fans made it out to be, and it’s an insurmountably better game than Other M. But it’s also incredibly unspectacular. The gameplay works, and though the art direction may not be what one would expect from a Metroid title, it does help make the visuals pop, especially with the 3DS’ 3D effects turned on. Unfortunately, the bland level design and emptiness within them prevent  Federation Force from putting up much of an argument against its naysayers.

Still though, it’s not Other M. Be thankful for that.

5.5

Nintendo 64 Turns 20!

Nintendo 64

Today, September 25th 2016, marks the twentieth anniversary of the release of the Nintendo 64 in North America!

The Nintendo 64 was quite the trailblazing console. Not only was it Nintendo’s first system capable of 3D graphics and polygonal character models, but it was also the system that really got 3D gaming right, and paved the way for the kinds of video games we see today.

Not only did many of Nintendo’s major franchises make the transition to 3D, but they also opened the door for what video games were capable of with the added third-dimension, and helped redefine a number of genres.

Mario 64It’s true, the fact that the Nintendo 64 was entering new territory means that many of its games, while innovative in their day, haven’t aged particularly well *Cough! Goldeneye! Cough!* others have proven timeless, such as the case with Super Mario 64, Ocarina of Time, and Banjo-Kazooie. And let’s not forget that the Nintendo 64 also popularized four player consoles! Sure, these days everyone does multiplayer online, but back in 1996, playing a home console with three friends was as good as it got.

Whether it was Mario’s first steps into a 3D world, the epic adventures of The Legend of Zelda’s two outings on the console, or getting frustrated at your friends over a game of Super Smash Bros. or Diddy Kong Racing, the Nintendo 64 remains one of the most memorable consoles of all time.

Perhaps not all of its games have aged gracefully, but the Nintendo 64 accomplished things no other console had before… or since.

Happy birthday, Nintendo 64!

Castlevania Judgement Review

Castlevania Judgement

Castlevania is one of the most storied franchises in gaming. It began with many memorable sidescrollers on the NES and SNES, before adopting a more explorative, Metroid-inspired style with the masterful Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Of course, being the big franchise that it is, it was inevitable that Castlevania would also dabble in different genres, though its experimentation with other formulas hasn’t worked nearly as well as other franchises, with a good example of this being Castlevania Judgement, the first fighting game in the Castlevania series, released on the Nintendo Wii in 2009.

The first thing to note about Castlevania Judgement is that it’s a 3D fighter, and history hasn’t been too kind to Castlevania’s 3D entries, especially when compared to just how beloved the 2D iterations are. Sadly, Castlevania Judgement was no exception, due primarily to poor controls, camerawork, and mechanics.

The idea of a Castlevania fighter is actually an enticing one, and at first the game looks to have a lot of promise, with graphics that were quite good for the Wii, there’s a nice (if not limited) selection of characters, and an awesome soundtrack that recreates many iconic tunes from the series’ history. But it won’t be long into your first couple of matches that you begin to notice the game’s flaws.

For starters, the game’s primary control scheme involves the Wii Remote and nunchuck, which is no problem on its own, but quickly becomes one with how the game utilizes them, and how it never meshes with the nature of the game itself.

Players move their character using the joystick on the nunchuck attachment, while the buttons on the back are used to block. Meanwhile, the majority of the characters’ moves are performed with motion controls by swinging the Wii remote. The motion controls simply aren’t well implemented, and often times trying to perform a combo only ends up with you swinging the controller around like a madman, with varying results.

Perhaps the motion controls would work better, if your character were automatically focused on your opponent, and if they weren’t coupled with a poor camera system. Unlike a 3D fighter like Soul Calibur, where the characters are always focused on one another, the fighters here move around so freely that oftentimes, when trying to perform a combo, the first move will hit your opponent and then your character will just keep going past them attacking the air, with the camera trying desperately to keep up with your character.

Castlevania JudgementThe combination of poorly-implemented controls and camerawork are what ruin the core gameplay. Though players also have the option of using Wii Classic Controllers and GameCube controllers (which are most assuredly better options), they don’t fix the camera and character issues.

With all this said, there are some small, nice touches to the game. At the start of versus matches, for example, players can select a secondary weapon to use in battle, with said weapons also being obtainable within the battlefield, and include the usual secondary items from the series like holy water, crusifixes and throwing knives. It’s a simple but welcome way to pay homage to the series traditions, as is the ability to pick up hearts to build up your power meter within matches.

Sadly, Castlevania Judgement’s respect for its heritage, along with the aforementioned visuals and music (which are, again, quite good), are about as far as the compliments can go. Along with the faults in the core gameplay, there are other aspects of the game that are just disappointing.

"Oh my..."

“Oh my…”

Castlevania Judgement has a host of modes in store, but they are nothing out of the ordinary for a fighting game. What’s a bit more peculiar is that the game’s story mode only allows you to play as Simon Belmont or Alucard from the start, with the other twelve characters (including those that are available from the start in other modes) needing to be unlocked.  And once you unlock them, you may even regret what their stories have to offer (Maria’s story – the most infamous of the lot – revolves around her insecurity of the other Castlevania girls having larger bosoms than herself, which feels ridiculously far removed from the nature of Castlevania).

Worse still, the AI in the game is wildly inconsistent in difficulty. I managed to defeat the first opponent in Alucard’s story mode with no problem (at least, no problem outside of the ones innately found in the gameplay). But the second opponent began repeatedly spamming the same combos over than over, with very little breathing room for me to block or fight back.

The idea of a Castlevania fighting game is not one that should have ended up this flawed. It’s easy to see where the potential was in Castlevania: Judgement, but in execution, it stumbles in just about everything but aesthetics and in fan service for the series. Perhaps a better idea for a Castlevania fighter would simply be to make it 2D and to utilize the same kind of fluid controls found in Symphony of the Night. Symphony already utilized moves that were performed like the combos in a fighter, if you put those same controls into the field of a fighting game, and you would have an absolutely incredible fighter.

Instead, Castlevania’s debut in the fighting genre is remembered mainly for its awkward controls and poorly-implemented mechanics. But hey, at least the music’s good.

 

3.5

Artful Vs. Pretentious Game Design or: Why I Don’t Like Many Critical Darlings

*Article partially inspired by Very Very Gaming’s recent write-up on Braid*

Limbo

Games like the Bioshock series, as well as indie darlings like Limbo and Braid all have one thing in common…

…They are all boring as Hell.

Okay, perhaps I should elaborate a bit. Each of these games, as well as many others that have been inspired in their wake in both the indie and mainstream gaming scenes, are all considered to be part of the “artistic” side of gaming, due to their emphasis on aspects like story and atmosphere over “fun.” They’re games that are tailor-made to push the question of “are video games art?” and often receive praise for the massive inputs of their creators over studios, with many people hailing these creators as the video game equivalents of auteurs.

But let’s take a moment to really think about that statement. Who’s to say video games weren’t always art? Just because they were originally created with “fun” in mind, does that really make them unartistic by nature?

"Infinitely more fun, engaging and creative than Limbo could ever be. And thus, it's a better example of video games as art, too."

“Infinitely more fun, engaging and creative than Limbo could ever be. And thus, it’s a better example of video games as art, too.”

It’s all too easy to argue that games like Super Mario World and Tetris, which never even attempt to be anything more than great games, are actually far greater artistic achievements than any ham-fisted Bioshock or Braid ever were. Both Mario World and Tetris, while maybe void of storytelling, are rich and deep in creativity. More specifically, a kind of creativity that is unique to the video game medium. Every stage in Mario World tries something new with the platforming genre, while Tetris is a simple formula that is never the same twice.

By comparison, it’s all-too easy to say that Bioshock simply has a lot of cinematics with a rather pedestrian attempt at social commentaries padded on to disguise what is otherwise a by-the-books first-person shooter. Similarly, Limbo is a platformer so empty in gameplay and content, that claiming it to be a game where all you do is go right wouldn’t be an inaccurate statement, and the only reason it’s remembered is because it throws some stylized visuals and atmosphere on top to compensate for its lack of anything else.

Point being, games like Super Mario World and Tetris have timelessly proven what video games, and video games alone, are capable of, whereas something like Bioshock (most specifically, Bioshock Infinite) and Limbo are rather inept in their own medium, and simply decorate what little they have with “themes” and “artsiness,” which only ends up making those attributes feel shoehorned and meaningless.

What of these so-called “video game auteurs?” Ken Levine, creator of Bioshock, and Jonathan Blow, creator of Braid, are often seen as artistic visionaries in the video game medium. But why, exactly? For the simple reason that they have more creative control over their projects, more or less. While having such input and influence on one’s creations is something any creator strives for, it also doesn’t innately make everything they touch a work of genius. This may be an unpopular statement in this day and age, but big studios are very much capable of creating art. While it may be easier for personal artistry to shine through when a creation is helmed by an individual, that doesn’t necessarily make them innately superior on an artistic level (after all, when George Lucas had full control of Star Wars, we ended up with the prequels. Disney gave us The Force Awakens).

I am very much in support of the Andy Warhol view that the desire to make money off of one’s art doesn’t demean its value as art. If anything, I’d have more respect for someone who creates something and has a desire of making money off of it, than some pretentious hipster who gives the same, generic “I’m not in it for the money” spiel whose work oozes with self-righteousness.

Long story short, it’s not only possible for a big budget, major studio game to be art, but they’ve actually accomplished this feat countless times through the decades. Often times, they did it without needing to tout their own horns.

"Braid is basically what would happen if Mario gave up fun and decided to start looking down his nose at people, all while having a stick up his ass."

“Braid is basically what would happen if Mario gave up fun and decided to start looking down his nose at people, all while having a stick up his ass.”

Jonathan Blow, for example, is always quick to speak about why games “need to be something more,” and yet is quick to make blanket statements like “I don’t play Japanese games anymore.” or refers to games like Farmville as being “inherently evil.” Basically, it’s the same kind of hypocritical, self-indulgent jargon you always here from such pseudo-artists. They love talking about their own work as artistic intellectuals, and then write off differing works with ignorant blanket statements and name-calling. I can’t remember ever hearing of Shigeru Miyamoto or Will Wright giving themselves such pats on the back.

"I'm only disappointed that the critics bought into this hook, line and sinker."

“I’m only disappointed that the critics bought into this hook, line and sinker.”

Then we have Ken Levine, a man who loves implementing social commentaries into his games, but does so about as effectively as a college freshman in his first week of a political science course. The allegories are so blatant they can hardly be called allegories at all (Gee, d’ya think the dude named Andrew Ryan is like, referencing Ayn Rand?), and his themes often have prominent contradictions (Bioshock Infinite can’t give itself enough praise for pointing out the ugliness of prejudice…and then showcases a blatant prejudice against the religious… so I guess open-mindedness only goes so far). The point is people will hail the likes of Ken Levin as artistic geniuses simply because the themes are attempted, but it seems like no one ever stops to actually analyses how effectively (or should I say ineffectively) they are implemented. Just because the man has a voice and puts it in his games doesn’t mean it’s worth listening to.

The major problem here is that there has been a growing mentality that these kind of games are art, and games that may only aim to be “fun” or “creative” are not. It’s starting to grow into something much worse, with some people even having the mindset that any game that emphasizes entertainment and gameplay is inherently bad, and that only these  pretentious “artsy” games are good. It’s a similar mindset to what some film critics and film award committees have, where they’ll only praise/award the works that conveniently pander to their preferred styles and ideals.

What makes this all the more concerning (should I say depressing?) is that, for the longest time, video games were seemingly immune to such things. Because of the unique nature of video games as a medium, no one used to care about how much plot was in Mario or what social commentaries games were carrying. There were still plenty of games with complex plots, and games with themes and commentaries, but they coexisted within the realms of “fun” and “entertainment.” No one wanted games to be anything more than fun, but when they had other attributes, it was seen as a bonus, not the sole requirement.

This put video games in a very unique spot that made it one of the few mediums that could be appreciated for its artistry and enjoyed for its fun factor. Perhaps the only other medium to prominently showcase this combination is animated cinema (most other films choose a side between artsy and entertaining, whereas animated films seem more readily able to be both). But while animated films continue to keep a hold of that combination, it seems like video games are becoming more willing to abandon it in favor of pandering to the “artistic” crowd.

"Undertale tells a meaningful story while also being a fun game that isn't afraid of being weird, silly and immature. You're doing it right!"

“Undertale tells a meaningful story while also being a fun game that isn’t afraid of being weird, silly and immature. You’re doing it right!”

It’s still very much possible for artsy games to still be great games, with the likes of Undertale and Papers, Please proving that indie games can be genuinely rich from an artistic level and engaging from a gameplay standpoint, and titles like Shadow of the Colossus being able to tell stories as only a video game can, while still being a fun game to play. But then we have this increasing wave of developers who, like Jonathan Blow, claim that “video games don’t need to be fun,” which really just seems like a convenient way for them to justify the lack of actual game design in their titles. Perhaps a game doesn’t need to be immediately “fun” on the surface, but it should definitely be engaging to play. No amount of atmosphere, story or social commentary can entice me to pick up a controller if the game itself is flat-out boring.

Would we rather see video games continue to go down a similar path to animated films, which can create works that are unique to their medium, can be both fun and artful, and that we all remember? Or would we prefer them to go the route of the Oscar-bait/arthouse film, which might give a few pretentious snobs something to yammer about for a few minutes, and then have no lasting appeal or value?

Video games have always been art, but the more they try to prove that they’ve “become” art, the more they lose the things that made them art to begin with.

Digimon Adventure Tri. Chapter 1: Reunion Review

*Review based on the English dubbed version.*

Digimon Adventure Tri

When I was nine and ten-years old, nothing was cooler than Digimon. Sure, Pokemon had the great games, and was overall the better franchise. But when it came to TV shows, Digimon was untouchable. Despite its often-lacking production values, it had surprisingly strong storytelling, relatable characters (Izzy was one of my childhood heroes), and awesome monsters that ranged from dinosaurs to robots to vampires. Sure, as I’ve grown older it’s easier to see the cheesy moments and how ridiculous it often could be, but its stories and characters still hold up pretty well.

Digimon has had a few movies released in Japan, though up until now, only one Digimon movie has made it to the western world, and it wasn’t actually a movie. 2000’s Digimon: The Movie was in actuality three Digimon short films spliced together. Though it was well-animated (each short was directed my Mamoru Hosoda, who has since created some of the better anime films in recent years), the fact that it consisted of three largely unrelated shorts sewn together with a shaky attempt at connecting their narratives meant the whole thing was a bit incoherent. Not to mention the additions of popular-at-the-time songs felt out of place and have made it feel dated (nothing says “this movie was released between 1999 and 2002” like Smash Mouth’s All Star).

Though the Digimon franchise has seen a few different television series since then (each with their own continuities and casts of characters), it’s the first two that are still seen as its heyday (the third “season” even bored me away). The first two Digimon series, known as Digimon Adventure and Digimon Adventure 02 in Japan, were the only iterations that shared characters and continuity with each other, and hold the most nostalgic value for longtime fans.

It’s something of a no-brainer then, that Digimon’s most recent iteration is a series of six planned feature films that bring back the cast from the very first Digimon Adventure. The first of which, Digimon Adventure Tri. Chapter 1: Reunion has been released stateside in an episodic streaming format in its original Japanese version for a few months now. But an English dubbed version – which brings back much of the voice cast of the original dubbed series – is seeing its way into special screenings in the feature film form it was always meant to be.

With all that explanation out of the way, let’s get to the movie itself. Suffice to say, I fit squarely into the film’s target audience. Not only does Digimon Tri bring back the original cast of characters, but it also fast forwards six years after the original series, when they’re all in high school (what is it with anime and high schools?), so the characters have aged along with their audience (albeit not as much). This is a movie very much for the old school Digimon fans, which means just about any other audience would probably feel alienated (aside from perhaps children who would appreciate the animation and monsters on their own merits).

Digimon Adventure TriThe film ignores the epilogue from Digimon Adventure 02, which set a pretty definitive end to the classic Digimon continuity (I at first thought it completely ignored the events of the second series, until a trailer for a subsequent film after the movie revealed otherwise). The story here being that Tai, Matt, Sora, Izzy, T.K., Kari, Joe, and Mimi – the “DigiDestined” who saved both the human world and Digital World from evil on numerous occasions – are still adjusting to normal lives in high school. But a connection to the Digital World is once again opening in the real world, unleashing powerful “infected” Digimon, who begin wreaking havoc.

It may not sound like too much of a plot, but again, this is the first in a six-part series, so much of the bigger story and finer details are yet to be revealed. On the plus side, the fact that there’s only so much of a Digimon-centered plot means that the movie actually gets a good deal of development in for the main characters.

The DigiDestined have all gone their separate ways, but keep in touch from time to time. Tai has a big soccer game coming up, and sees it as an opportunity to get all of his old friends together again. The entire first act of the film more or less just deals with each character’s everyday life, with Tai in constant disappointment at his failure to get them all together.

It seems kind of silly, but it works for nostalgic purposes for its target audience. And each character is given a fair bit of attention, which is twice as commendable given how many of them there are (we even get a new character named Meiko, though she admittedly gets less screen time than the rest). Plus, I kind of enjoyed the rather low-key pace that much of the film had. It gives audiences a chance to be reintroduced to the characters and let them know where they’ve been since we last saw them in an effective way.

Digimon Adventure TriAs you might expect, the DigiDestined do eventually band together when evil Digimon start invading, and their faithful Digimon partners all return to help them battle the evildoers. The film even toys with the heroes’ new outlook on the battles they wage now that they’re a little more mature (as kids they see their dinosaur friend fighting a giant insect and just wants their buddy to be victorious, but now that they’re older they worry about the collateral damage they may cause, and the people they might hurt). Though I admit I could have done without the bromantic rivalry between Tai and Matt being reignited, and a sub-plot involving the good Digimon being vilified by the media feels a bit underdeveloped.

Perhaps the film’s best aspect is how successfully it hits all the right nostalgic notes. Even with the slower pace early on, it feels like a Digimon movie. As stated, Digimon Adventure Tri does a really good job at re-establishing the characters, and the battles between Digimon are quite satisfying. Having much (though sadly not all) of the original English voice cast is the cherry on top, with the audience that accompanied my screening erupting with applause every time one of the returning voices was heard. The film even features the iconic photograph the characters took at the end of the first series (though it is obscured by lighting, giving us a good tease).

The film is also pretty well animated. It’s certainly a good number of huge steps up from the quality of the original TV shows, with the animation here being appropriately fluid for a theatrical feature (though some background characters unfortunately seem to be suffering from Hannah-Barbara-ism, as they appear to be frozen in space and time). The backgrounds are often quite detailed and even beautiful to look at. The musical score also had some highlights, especially a magnificently cheesy new theme song that rivals what the original TV shows had to offer.

Digimon Adventure TriWhen all is said and done, one’s opinion of Digimon Adventure Tri. Chapter 1: Reunion will largely depend on your history with the show itself. It has good characters, and good development for them, but the plot – which mostly serves as an introduction to the five films to come – and the emphasis on nostalgia probably won’t resonate with anyone who isn’t familiar with the original shows. So as a standalone movie it may not be too effective. But as an introduction to a new series featuring classic characters, and for those who grew up watching Digimon, it certainly does what it set out to do.

All I know is, even with its flaws, my nine-year old self was doing backflips through the whole thing.

 

7.5