Incoming Content

Uh oh, this is another filler blog, isn’t it? Maybe. But hey, it’s a good means to write about what I have in store for this site, which in turn is a good way of getting around to writing those things.

Anyway, I am currently in the process of writing reviews for Red Dead Redemption 2, Ralph Breaks the Internet, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and Creed II, in addition to my annual Christmas Special. Admittedly, this is the first time I’ve worked on this many different posts simultaneously for this site, as I usually follow the unprofessional (yet affective) method of writing a single blog all in one sitting, while maybe writing another in bits and pieces at a time on the side.

So the aforementioned posts will be the ones to look out for in the near future. I also have some reviews in store for January, as well as some potential top 5/10 lists (including Top 10 Nintendo Consoles). Hopefully my reviews for God of War (PS4), Ni no Kuni 2 and Pokemon Let’s Go will be among the January lineup. Lord knows I’m overdue on those. Naturally, I also have my movie/game awards planned for January, but depending on how many more 2018 movies and games I’m able to watch and play in the coming weeks, my awards may be postponed to February. I have a few other surprises in store for the first few months of 2019, which I will explain more in my Christmas post. So stay tuned.

Oh, and you may have noticed (but probably not) that I added a new “Specials” sub-page under the ‘Writings’ category. This will be where you can get quick access to my past awards, milestone blogs, and the aforementioned Christmas specials.

So yeah…something better next time… hopefully. Sorry for the filler.

Advertisements

Something about 10/10s, Best and Favorite Games

*This post is something of a follow-up of another one I wrote several months ago on the subject of 10/10 games. That post was from when I still used a .5 rating system, but much of what I said then still applies, so I’ll try not to repeat myself too much.*

I have a weird interest in trying to guess the favorite games (and movies) of people I know based on how fondly and frequently they bring up certain games (and movies). I can tell you from experience that trying to list your own favorites isn’t always easy. As soon as you think you have it figured out, you remember a few others that creep in. This has sparked my aforementioned “weird interest,” as it seems like, based on what people praise the most regularly, that it may take someone else to acknowledge those works as a person’s favorites. Now, obviously this is no exact science (there is no exact science for favorites of anything). But I like to think that the inner indecisiveness can sometimes be filtered out when speaking to others, to some degree anyway (or, I could just be full of BS, which also seems likely).

Anyway, recently this got me talking to a couple of my friends about what our top 10 games are. One of my friends is a big Sonic fan, and naturally had multiple Sonic titles in his top 10: Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic Colors and Sonic Mania. He also had his favorite Zelda game, Majora’s Mask, and a Phoenix Wright title included, as well as Tetris. My other friend’s list featured the likes of Super Mario World, Twilight Princess, Okami, Red Dead Redemption, and BloodBorne (that’s as far as I got with my guestimations on both their lists).

But then, we got around to talking about my favorites, and that brings us to this particular post. One of my friends guessed that Super Mario World and Super Mario 64 were on my list. I agreed that Super Mario World would have a spot, but I questioned that 64 would quite make it into my top 10, as I’d say the Super Mario Galaxy titles and Odyssey are better 3D platformers. But then I got to thinking, with how many times I’ve replayed Super Mario 64, and all the memories I have of it over the years, am I lying to myself by claiming it’s not among my top 10?

Naturally, this brought up the prospect of “favorites” versus “bests” when discussing one’s top 10 of anything. If I’m going by the warm and fuzzy memories, Super Mario 64 pretty much has to be in my top 10. And while it would still find a spot on my list somewhere, if we’re talking games I appreciate by their quality, 64 is bested by a number of titles.

Of course, with my OCD-riddled mind, making big deals about pretty much every thought that passes through my head just kind of happens. And in this case, it means this discussion lead me to thinking about how I score video games I review here on my site, primarily the big 10/10s.

As of this writing, I’ve awarded nine different games a perfect score: Super Mario World, Donkey Kong Country 2, Super Mario RPG, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Super Mario Galaxy 2, Dark Souls, Undertale, Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey. I stand by my giving these games 10s on their own individual merits, but I also started to wonder if all of these games are necessarily my favorites. Like Super Mario 64, they all may rank somewhere on such a hypothetical list of mine, but I’m not sure if they’re all top 10 material.

For example, arguably the game I most regularly praise on this site is Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, which currently sits at a 9/10. Since it was originally released in 2014, I’ve beat it several times over (both in regular and hard mode) and can’t seem to praise it enough. To put it simply, it has as good of a chance at being in my personal top ten games as any game I’ve given a 10/10.

Point being, should that make it a 10/10? As I stated on my prior blog on this subject, one idea I’ve bounced around was to – at this point in time – award a total of ten 10s, to reflect my top 10 (as I stated in the past, I would of course add more 10s should one be released or I discover one from the past I missed out on. But the top 10 would set the precedent). Of course, if I were to go this route, I may have to alter some of my existing scores, if some of my current 10s don’t quite rank in my personal top 10 (should I actually manage to solidify it). I’m not a big fan of altering my scores (although I’ve done it in the past, but not with perfect scores), and again, I stand by my 10s in terms of their quality.

Of course you want to be objective when reviewing anything, but seeing as video games are a creative art form, should my personal taste have a little more influence than I’m giving it? Again, Tropical Freeze (along with Bloodborne, for that matter) is basically a 10 in my heart, so should I really deny it of that because it may not match up to what I’ve designated as a 10 in my head?

Basically, if my top 10 were to be ranked by personal sentiment/enjoyment, there’s no doubt that Super Mario 64, Banjo-Tooie, one of the Super Smash Bros. titles and Tropical Freeze would make my top ten. If I were to go by what I think are the best of the best, my top ten would simply include games I’d award a 10/10. And if I tried to find some middle ground, I could potentially place some 9s in with some 10s. A combination of quality and personal experience, meaning that Tropical Freeze could sneak its way in anyway, seeing as I see it as my ‘uncrowned 10’ (again, along with Bloodborne).

The weird thing is, I don’t feel this same indecisiveness with the films I’ve given 10/10. My perfect scored movies currently sit at only four: Inside Out, Frozen, My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away (yes, all animated so far). I would easily say all four of those films are among my favorites, so there’s no second guessing from me there. But when it comes to my game reviews, I’m pondering if my 10/10s consistently reflect my ‘favorites.’

Essentially, I guess the point of this entire post is to once again display my indecisiveness when trying to concoct my concrete list of favorite games. Perhaps I simply need someone else to point out what games I’ve leaned towards over time. The other point of this post is that it got me to thinking if I should re-evaluate my 10s. Again, I don’t like to change my scores – and on one hand, the idea of altering my 10s makes me cringe – as changing scores seems fickle, and risks devaluing my rating system. At the same time, I’m kind of intrigued at the idea of pulling a Thanos, snapping my fingers and altering the landscape of my 10s.

Now, I don’t want to appear pretentious, and be one of those people who thinks they need to have as minimal perfect scores as humanly possible just because. But at the same time, I don’t want to feel overly generous with my scoring, either. I mentioned how DKC: Tropical Freeze and Bloodborne are akin to my “uncrowned 10s,” and while I have thought about upping their scores to give them perfect grades, the idea that I can award some of my all-time favorites with 9s, I feel, makes my 9s mean something as well as my 10s. I also don’t want to be one of those critics who holds 10s on some pedestal, yet every other score seems interchangeable.

I remember the days when Edge Magazine was pretty conservative when dishing out perfect scores (they still are relative to other magazines, but you can still pretty much guess when they’ll award them these days). Or the (sadly) recently discontinued GamesTM Magazine, which also only awarded so many 10/10s. Again, I don’t want to be stingy for the sake of it, but when those publications give/gave 10s, it meant something (or, at the very least, it tried to). I’ve always kind of wanted to achieve something similar to that. And while I think I have succeeded to some extent, I have to wonder if my flip-flopping of my favorite games should alter my list of 10s.

Yikes, I’m really going off on another tangent, aren’t I? Basically, I guess my point is how difficult it really can be to categorize your favorites of anything in any “official” capacity. Although my taste has remained surprisingly consistent throughout my life, things do fluctuate. Who knows, this entire post may end up being entirely pointless and I won’t change a thing. I already hit a soft reboot when I swapped my ‘.5’ rating system for one consisting of whole numbers, so I’m not sure if tinkering with things at this point alters my site too much. Again, I don’t want my scores to end up feeling pointless and finicky. But at the same time, the benefit of running an independent site is that I can change things to reflect my changing tastes when necessary.

If any of my kind readers have any feedback for how I should approach things going forward, feel free to share.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Impressions

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is finally here, and it’s yet another jewel in the crown that is the Nintendo Switch. Although it may be premature of me to say this, given I haven’t tried out all of its modes yet, but Ultimate may very well be the best Super Smash Bros. title yet.

Like any sequel to a multiplayer title, the gameplay hasn’t exactly changed much, but something about it definitely feels smoother. It just feels right to control. It’s hard to explain, but it seems like every returning character I’ve tried feels more fluid to control than they did in past games, and the newcomers are just as smooth. The gameplay may be the series’ trademark “sumo rules” take on the fighting genre, but it just feels so polished.

Another big improvement over past games is the Classic Mode. As much as I appreciate Super Smash Bros for 3DS/Wii U trying to make Classic Mode into something bigger, it never really enticed me to try it out with every character. But here in Ultimate, I find myself wanting to complete Classic Mode with every new character I unlock. The beauty lies in its simplicity, as Classic Mode sees each character go through six fights, a bonus stage and a boss enemy, with each character’s opponents being vague (or literal) little callbacks to their own games.

For example, Ryu’s version utilizes stamina rules to reflecting the traditional fighter nature of Street Fighter. Meanwhile, Mega Man’s journey ends with a battle against Dr. Mario who, once defeated, becomes Mewtwo, subtly referencing the final fight against Dr. Wily in Mega Man 2). And in perhaps my favorite example, Dr. Mario’s fights are against triple opponents, with each bearing a red, blue and yellow color scheme in reference to the viruses from the classic puzzler. It’s just simple, fun and addictive.

Admittedly, the Adventure Mode, dubbed ‘World of Light’ is one I have yet to play. I’ll get around to it, but honestly, Brawl’s Supspace Emisary story mode was kind of a glorified means of unlocking every character. So I’m not exactly rushing into the story mode when everything else is already so much fun. So no opinions on World of Light for now.

Much to my pleasant surprise, it was actually really easy to play against my friends online! I know, that seems shocking considering this is a Nintendo game that isn’t Mario Kart, but playing against friends is actually accessible. That alone gets huge brownie points from me. I also haven’t experienced any lag issues when playing against opponents on a broader online scale, so that’s also an improvement from its predecessors. I have heard some people say the specific searches for quick online matches aren’t very accurate (one-on-one proponents experiencing repeated multi-man matches and such), but I haven’t tried that myself yet so I can’t comment. But the sheer easiness of playing against friends alone feels like a godsend, given all the hoops you usually have to jump through for such features in Nintendo games (I’m looking your way, Splatoon 2).

Then, of course, we have the characters. The title’s main selling point is that every past fighter from Super Smash Bros’ history is present. And with a small batch of newcomers, as well as ‘echo fighters’ we have about 70 characters (depending on how you count Pokemon Trainer). That’s a pretty hefty lineup of characters. And while the roster isn’t perfect (Geno isn’t in it), there really is such a wide variety of characters that, no matter what your play style is, you’re bound to find multiple characters you like. I personally have quickly become a King K. Rool man (hey, if Super Mario RPG isn’t represented, I’m going with my other favorite SNES title, DKC2).

All in all, I find myself having trouble putting Super Smash Bros. Ultimate down. In a weird way, it doesn’t feel quite as “massive” as the past few entries in terms of what it adds compared to what came before, but it does feel better. It takes the best bits and pieces of past Super Smash Bros. games and makes something that feels like one of those ‘special’ Nintendo releases on par with Breath of the Wild or Super Mario Odyssey.

But seriously, can we please get Geno?

My Thoughts on Persona 5’s Joker in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is finally out (and it’s pretty great). A day before its release though, it was revealed that the first of the five upcoming DLC characters for Nintendo’s brawler is none other than the protagonist of Persona 5, Joker.

*And yes, I am aware that by internet standards this news is old by now. But guess who doesn’t care and is going to write their thoughts about it anyway….. Me, obviously. I can’t very well write other people’s thoughts.*

To sum up my feelings about Joker being added to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, I direct you to this classic prequel meme.

Now, I’m not going to pretend like I’m a major fan of Persona who knows the series by heart. Persona 5 is, thus far, the only Persona game I’ve actually played. And even then, I didn’t get very far as I was intimidated by the game’s sheer length (though I guess I really have no excuse for not going back to it now that I’ve trudged through the campaign of Red Dead Redemption 2. I’ll get back to it). However, Joker’s addition to Super Smash Bros. not only showcases how far Persona has come as a franchise, but also can give Smash Bros. fans a collective sigh of relief, as all our concerns over the fact that Nintendo chose all the DLC characters were maybe a bit misplaced. That is, assuming Joker isn’t a one-off and the rest of the DLC characters don’t end up middle finger-y towards fans in the same vein as Piranha Plant (yes, I’m still salty about that).

Not only are third-party characters still in the cards, but so are fresh character ideas that are unexpected and different. Granted, I still (obviously) expect some of these DLC characters to be from Nintendo franchises (why wouldn’t they be?), but it’s kind of nice that the first one announced is so promising, and not just another random Pokemon or Marth clone. Maybe we can finally get Dixie Kong as an expected (and well overdue) character, and then get a bunch of surprises for the rest of the DLC (because, honestly, aside from Dixie, what major recurring Nintendo character isn’t in Smash already?).

Basically, Joker’s presence in Super Smash Bros. – like Snake’s all those years ago – opens the door to seemingly anyone. Especially seeing as Persona 5 isn’t on Switch (though I assume that his inclusion could mean a port is in the future), it feels like all the gloves are off. And that’s awesome.

Most importantly, let’s hope this means we can finally get Geno.

The Grinch Review

Of the many works of Dr. Seuss, the most iconic has to be How the Grinch Stole Christmas (sorry, Cat in the Hat). Not only is it the most famous of Dr. Seuss’ books, but in American culture it has become synonymous with the Christmas holiday. Its 1966 television adaptation has become a tradition of the holiday season, and the titular character – despite being a curmudgeon who disdains the merry holiday – has become almost as associated with Christmas as Santa Claus himself. This 2018 animated film by Illumination is the second feature length, theatrical adaptation of the classic tale, following the 2000 live-action film starring Jim Carrey (which, despite its muddy critical reception, has become a nostalgic favorite for many, myself included). How well does Illumination’s take on Dr. Seuss’ classic stack up against its predecessors?

Well, in short, it’s a pretty good adaptation. But it’s also an incredibly safe one, as it doesn’t really add anything new to the timeless tale. The key ingredients remain the same: The Grinch is a lonesome creature who despises Christmas. He lives on Mt. Crumpit with the only creature who could love a curmudgeon like himself, his dog. The Grinch’s ire for Christmas is magnified by the fact that his mountain home looks down on Whoville, a happy town obsessed with Christmas. Tired of hearing the joy of others below him, the Grinch sets out to ‘steal Christmas’ by dressing as jolly old Saint Nick and stealing every last present and decoration in Whoville.

The plot is simple and timeless, so a direct retelling isn’t any unforgivable sin, but it does mean that Illumination’s film does suffer a bit from a lack of its own identity. There is, however, one notable change that clashes with the message of the story.

In Dr. Seuss’ original book and the TV special, the Grinch is simply a cold-hearted individual, unable to love anything but his dog. His reasons for hating Christmas never needed a backstory, but it’s implied that he sees Christmas as a shallow celebration of gifts and loud noise. But the Illumination film, like the 2000 live-action Jim Carrey vehicle, gives the Grinch a backstory to justify his grouchy disposition. It’s understandable that the filmmakers would want to flesh out the story a bit to justify its presence as a feature film, but there’s something about this Grinch origin story that feels misplaced.

In the 2000 film, it was being bullied by the kids of Whoville that lead to the Grinch’s self-imposed exile. And since Whoville loved Christmas, he loathed it. Although its execution didn’t always work (he’s upset because kids made fun of him for cutting himself shaving? Really?), it still made sense given the narrative was that his anger and disdain were misplaced by being targeted at Christmas. But here in the Illumination film, the Grinch (voiced brilliantly by Benedict Cumberbatch) was an orphan who grew up alone. His loneliness is no fault of his own in this depiction, and so his anger and frustration with the Whos and Christmas comes across as more of inner confusion and insecurity than it does a man who has grown bitter. So this version of the Grinch doesn’t really seem to have a heart that’s two sizes too small (even though that iconic element remains). He’s more sad and in need of a hug than he is bitter and in need of a change of heart.

So the Grinch’s backstory is a little misplaced, given the message of the original story that carries over here. Still, the film is a lot of fun. Illumination has never been a heavy hitter with animated storytelling in the ways that Pixar or Disney are, but they do excel and delivering high energy cartoon antics. And that’s as true here as ever.

The many gadgets and gizmos the Grinch utilizes to carry out his Christmas-stealing schemes are fun to see in action, and the characters frequently lead to some zany comedy. And in typical Illumination fashion, the animation is colorful and lively. For an animation studio that’s known for making ‘smaller’ films in terms of budget and recourses when compared to other animation studios, you’d never know it with how fun their films are to look at. The Grinch just oozes a visual charm that captures the Dr. Seuss look in a way the live-action film simply couldn’t.

Like in the live-action feature, Cindy Lou Who (Cameron Seely) is promoted to a main character, who is determined to ‘trap’ Santa so she can ask him for something too important to be written in a letter, to help her mom be happy. And Whoville now houses a man named Bricklebaum (Kenan Thompson), who is not only the antithesis of the Grinch (always jolly, loves Christmas), but also the closest thing the Grinch has to a neighbor, as his house sits at the foot of Mt. Crumpit. Cindy Lou helps add a bit of heart to the film, while Bricklebaum provides some of the biggest laughs.

One of the film’s biggest highlights is Benedict Cumberbatch’s aforementioned voice work as the Grinch. Big name celebrities often phone-in vocal work for animation, and seem like little more than a means to help advertise the film. But Benedict Cumberbatch goes all out by creating a ‘Grinch voice’ that’s unrecognizable as the actor. To have a big name actor care that much for voiceover work is always welcome.

Illumination’s The Grinch may not quite capture the purity of Dr. Seuss’ original book or the classic TV special, and the Grinch’s new backstory may somewhat contradict his supposed status as a curmudgeon, but it’s still a fun take on the iconic tale that should delight younger audiences, and maybe even some older ones as well.

 

6

Mirai Review

Mirai, the latest animated feature from Mamoru Hosoda, is one of those movies that combines the simple joys of life with the fantastic and surreal. While Hosoda’s last film, The Boy and the Beast, was a delight in its own right, its later half seemed to fluctuate with what kind of story it wanted to tell, with its wonderful monster world being largely forgotten for a lengthy stretch of time, and a final battle that felt like it was from another movie. By comparison, Mirai feels a lot more focused and consistently true to itself. And while Mirai may suffer from an occasional slump in pacing, it ultimately provides one of the most charming anime films in years, and one of the best films of 2018.

Mirai tells the simple but timeless story of a young boy growing jealous of all the love and attention his new baby sister receives from his parents. The boy is Kun, a rosy-cheeked child who loves to play with his dog Yukko and has a strong interest in bullet trains, with toy models of them strewn about his room. His newborn sister is Mirai who, like all newborns, understandably starts taking more and more of their parents’ attention. Of course Kun, being a young boy, doesn’t quite understand the situation, and only knows that he’s getting less attention from his parents.

This, of course, means that Mirai is a story about Kun becoming a more responsible and loving big brother. As stated, it’s a tried-and-true, though timeless, storyline. But Mirai is able to make a unique identity for itself by the ways it tells its story.

The film does a fantastic job at telling its story through a child’s perspective. For example, the only named characters are Fun, Mirai and their dog Yukko. The parents are only ever referred to as ‘Mom and Dad,’ even in the end credits. And the remaining characters consist of Grandma and Great Grandpa. Mirai puts audiences firmly in the children’s viewpoint, which really adds to how the film turns rather simple, mundane events into something fantastic.

Mirai features a number of fantasy elements, which may be real or simply creations of Kun’s imagination. The most notable being that Kun meets up with an older Mirai from the future, who needs Kun’s help in a few different instances, as she can’t directly affect moments from her past. Fun also meets a human version of Yukko, a child version of his mother, and his recently deceased great-grandfather during his younger days. As stated, whether these elements are literal or allegorical is up for interpretation, but they do all have a common thread.

The house in which Kun and his family live is as much a character as any of the humans (or the dog) in the film. Built by Kun’s now stay-at-home architect father, the house of the film – much like the house in anime classic My Neighbor Totoro – is one of those places from the movies that really stands out, and you’ll vividly remember. A doorway leads to a stairway leads to a garden leads to the house which, in itself, is a series of small rooms on top of each other like a staircase. But it’s whenever Kun exits the house and into the garden that the seemingly supernatural elements take place. There’s never a reason given why this happens, which always feels infinitely refreshing in this day and age when movies feel like they want to hand deliver an explanation for everything to the audience.

Mirai mostly plays out like a series of episodes, each one bringing a different otherworldly occurrence to Kun, and each helping him grow and learn his role as a big brother (even when his baby sister from the future is older than he is). On the downside, some of these ‘episodes’ can drag on a bit. This isn’t too noticeable at first, but when you realize that the future version of Mirai isn’t in the film all that much, it does feel like a little bit of potential is missed in the film’s most unique element to its core brother-sister relationship.

The inconsistent pacing is a small price to pay, however, for how charming and sweet Mirai ultimately is. The characters are believable and easy to sympathize with (again, Kun is just a small boy, so his jealousy for his baby sister never comes across as petty, just a confused child who doesn’t understand the change around him). And as stated, it’s unique to see him interact with a future version of his sister, as the older Mirai appropriately reacts to Kun as someone she’s known for many years, while also remembering she’s speaking to a child version of her older brother. It’s the same kind of topsy-turvy take on familiar relationships that made Your Name feel so unique.

Much like Hosoda’s previous work, Mirai is an absolute marvel in the visual department. Featuring some of the most fluid animation in years, as well as some of the most charming character designs, Mirai is instantly pleasing to the eyes. And it only grows into more and more of a visual spectacle as it goes, and Kun finds himself in even more otherworldly encounters. While the CG wonderlands we’ve grown accustomed to in animation are also eye-striking, there’s an ethereal element to traditional, hand-drawn animation that just feels so mesmerizing – maybe even uplifting – to look at. It’s great to see the world of anime keep traditional animation alive, and Mirai is among the best looking ones.

Although animation in the west is often stigmatized as exclusively child’s fare, it really is a medium that can present stories for any audience. And films like Mirai sum that up on their own. Mirai is simple, sweet and cute enough to delight children. But it’s also complex and deep enough to hold any adult’s interest. Mirai is simply a wonderful movie.

 

8

Pokemon the Movie: The Power of Us Review

The Power of Us marks the twenty-first Pokemon movie, and the second in this rebooted continuity of Pokemon movies, following Pokemon the Movie: I Choose You. While I Choose You served as a retelling of the beloved first season of the Pokemon anime, The Power of Us can feel like a spiritual remake of Pokemon the Movie 2000 (known in Japan as The Power of One, which makes the connection between films all the more apparent). Like I Choose You before it, The Power of Us has more than its share of narrative bumps, but if you’re a fan of Pokemon, it will leave you with a good feeling by the time it’s done.

As stated, the movie seems to be something of an homage to Pokemon the Movie 2000, as it features Ash Ketchum traveling to a new town celebrating a festival in honor of the legendary Pokemon Lugia. But whereas its predecessor was a direct remake of the series’ earliest episodes, The Power of Us does create a distinct identity from Pokemon 2000.

As was the case with I Choose You, this continuity only sees Ash Ketchum and Team Rocket Members Jessie and James as the only returning human characters from the series (of course Pikachu is back, as well as Meowth).  The story takes place in Fula City, which is about to have its annual festival celebrating Lugia. But a sacred flame – which serves as a beacon to summon Lugia – ends up missing, which marks the beginning of things going awry for the festival. As more and more things start to go wrong, Ash finds himself helping various citizens of Fula city with different hardships.

“Risa is best girl.”

If there’s one aspect of the story that proves really entertaining, it’s how The Power of Us creates a fun community of characters within Fula City: Margo is the daughter of the city’s mayor, and is secretly friends with the mysterious Pokemon Zeraora. Risa is a Pokemon novice and former athletic runner who has lost her confidence. Toren is a scientist with severe social phobia. Harriet is a cranky old woman who dislikes Pokemon. And the film’s best original character, Callahan, is a compulsive liar who just wants to impress his young niece. The Power of Us serves more of a story about Fula City and its citizens than it is a traditional Pokemon story. Ash doesn’t even seem like the main character for much of the film, playing more of an Obi-Wan Kenobi role and helping people like Margo and Risa with their problems.

For the most part, the movie plays like small episodes focusing on different character stories, and how they eventually come together, than it is a story about legendary Pokemon, which is a nice change of pace for a Pokemon movie (though on the downside, this means that Lugia – my favorite legendary Pokemon – is barely featured in the movie, more or less being built up through the whole thing for a small appearance at the end like Luke Skywalker in The Force Awakens). It’s refreshing to have a Pokemon story that doesn’t really have any villain or epic battle, and is instead about the daily lives of people in the Pokemon world.

Unfortunately, the film does hit some notable bumps in the road. Although the movie doesn’t revolve around a villain as previously stated, a duo of Pokemon poachers are introduced in a brief second, only to have a lackluster payoff of being featured in a single scene. Why even add them into the picture when those extra minutes could have been spent with characters who actually feel like part of the story?

Even bigger issues ensue with elements to the characters’ different stories that often feel underdeveloped and rushed. A brief moment sees Callahan’s niece taken to a hospital, to which Callahan explains that she’s “always lacked energy.” And then it’s never really mentioned again and the girl is fine. Meanwhile, Harriet’s disliking of Pokemon is resolved immediately after she explains her reasons for it.

Granted, no one is expecting Pixar levels of storytelling with a Pokemon movie or anything, but it’s still a shame to see a number of elements in otherwise charming stories get shortchanged (just like in I Choose You, Team Rocket seems to only show up out of obligation, as they’re always in the background of the story). With that said though, the aforementioned nature of the movie being a movie about different people in the Pokemon world is pretty refreshing, the characters ultimately win us over, and it has a nice message about helping others in need. Plus, you get to see all kinds of Pokemon both new and old, and who doesn’t love Pokemon?

On top of all that, the film is also one of the best looking Pokemon movies, with unique character designs that are a notable improvement over the forgettable ones in I Choose You, and fluid animation that is among the best the franchise has ever seen. The only downside are some notably aged CG background characters, but that’s a small price to pay for what ultimately is a lively and colorful animated feature.

Pokemon the Movie: The Power of Us may not be a technically great movie with all the shorthanded subplots, but it still has the franchise’s unique charm intact. And as commercial as Pokemon is, the series has always had a genuine heart about it, and that’s as true here as ever. If you’re a fan of Pokemon, it should put a smile on your face.

 

6