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Save the princess? No! It's the prince who needs saving this time!
DISCLAIMER: I originally wrote this review in 2004 on another site, this is a revised version of my review for IMDb.
This video game is the equivalent of a "chick flick" film. Could it be a "Dame Game"? It's so cute & sweet that you can't play it if you're diabetic. I'm often saddened by the fact that the general impression of gamers is a bunch of guys with no social life who never really outgrew adolescence. I know that is not the case, but in a market that produced such hits as "Tomb Raider," "Fear Effect," & "Danger Girl," I can see how bad it looks to the world at large. Which leads me to rejoice whenever I see a video game that wants to break out of the usual mould of gaming. Thus, when I saw Rhapsody, a game which advertises having a pancake-attack on the back of the box, I knew I had to give the game a try. But, of course, what if I got was mislead by the promise of food? It wouldn't be the first time, which reminds me; I ought to stop thinking with my stomach.
Rhapsody starts out with Cornet Espoir, a young lady who is hoping to find her perfect match. She is also trying to figure out how to deal with Kururu, the animated puppet that follows her around. Obviously, this is not the usual set-up for a video game. What, playing a female main character without a centrefold's body? What a novel idea! Well, Cornet does get to meet her prince, Ferdinand Marl E., & even dances with him. On a switch from the normal way games go, this game features the handsome prince getting kidnapped, & Cornet having to chase after him. Meanwhile, the witch that kidnaps the prince turns out to have more up her sleeve than just making off with royalty.
The game's story is not that complex, but the characters are rendered fairly well. You get a fairly strong impression of all the personalities of the characters, from the degenerate Minister Golonzo to the gerascophobic Witch, Marjoly. Moreover, you are accompanied by puppets, which all have their own side quests that add to the story. It turns out that Cornet carries around a magical horn, which can make puppets become animate & do her bidding. This is how you'll get most of your party members. The other way being to defeat monsters with your horn, then they may join you. Which an astute gamer will note as being shades of the Mediator class from "Final Fantasy Tactics." This also makes sense, if you consider Cornet can also raise the stats of her puppets.
Actually, the game also owes one more large debt to Final Fantasy Tactics; the battle system is a simplified version of F.F. Tactics' system. You are placed on a map, although this map is not two-dimensional. You & your party then face off against a group of enemies with a range of attacks. Made available based on each character's speciality & element. This is similar to "Chrono Cross." While derivative, the battle system is easy to understand and get into, and it does work rather well for the game. The game also does a fairly decent job with the graphics; they are pixelated, & the game looks like it could have been done back on the SNES. There is nothing wrong with that; if it looks good, then why nitpick about what level of graphics it has? You can easily discern everything on screen, & the graphics have a bright, clean look to them. You won't encounter eyestrain on these graphics, even if they aren't Rembrandt's level of art.
The music of the game is rather strong, as the title suggests. At several points in the game, one or more characters breaks out into song & you can even select whether the game gives you the original Japanese track with anglicized lyrics or the full translation. Of course, some of the songs can get annoying, but for the most part, they're fairly strong. You'll just really have to be in the mood for a more melodramatic score (composed by Tenpei Sato). Odds are you'll even appreciate the soundtrack CD that comes with the game. What sets this game apart from other games, though, is that the game is made in the Shojo tradition. In short, this is the "girly" subset of modern Japanese pop culture. This means that the characters are more into emotional concerns such as love & fulfilment, rather than the tired "rescue the prince, kingdom, & world" plot motion. You also get some traditional anime-style shenanigans, such as Kururu getting slapped by Cornet with a fan after the former suggests that the puppeteer starts wearing her underwear on the outside.
The game is interesting in that I can't really point to a flaw, per se, in the game. Mind you, that doesn't mean I think this is the most wonderful game that has ever graced my presence. It's just that while it's fairly strong in all areas, it's not a mind-blowing game. Its graphics are good, but I've seen better & the same apply with the sound, story, battle system, & the rest. Ultimately, though, the fact that it doesn't have any glaring weaknesses, as well as having a fresh concept, means that Rhapsody is one of the better games to have come out in quite a while. The game is definitely not for the excessively macho or the insensitive lout. On the other hand, for someone looking to see what Shojo is all about, or for a gamer looking for a small change of pace, this is the kind of game that you're looking for.
Bakugan Battle Brawlers (2007)
Combining Crud & Mediocrity equals Success apparently.
This is one of those times when I loath being an uncle because I get to stubble across what is considered gems to the youth of today. I feel like this genre of anime is deeply reaching out by mixing/matching past ideas from shows that were cancelled (for good reasons) to create something that might sell if only for a little while. That is what this show is based off of and it's really bad, but hell the kids love it. I can only wonder the agony I must've put the adults through when I was watching Pokemon back in the late 90s.
Basically if you list the shows before this one and mix them up in some sort of combination you'll receive this show. Pokemon(not cancelled), Digimon, Bayblade, Battle B-Daman, Medabots, Chaotic(not cancelled), then Cardcaptors, and Yu-Gi-Oh!. Now pour those shows into a barrel, toss it down the cliff of unoriginal-shame and behold Bakugan at the bottom.
I'm now seeing advertisements and merchandise of this franchise everywhere. I don't understand it because even for the shows I watched as a youth had decent writing and character development. I can say that the toys are quite unique and I was amused by the way each toy transformed from spheres (& now they have other shapes) into another form. Aside from that the show does feel like it compiled the interests that got people to watch the other cartoons into this on vessel and it's doing great.
It does have poor writing and the characters are bland, but what can you expect from a youth show. It does feel repetitive from the start if you've seen the shows I listed, but if you're a kid and haven't seen them then you'll enjoy this show. No doubt if they had re-runs of the cancelled shows, the kids would may enjoy those more then again they were cancelled for a reason. As much as I find this show to be just as bad and should be cancelled, I can't deny the amazing success it has generated for itself. I feel sad for the kids, but they don't so I guess we should let them enjoy this.
Zeke and Luther (2009)
Very Poor, Mediocre at Best.
The show is a very poor formula that's been overly used by Disney shows a good decade before this. It's not even the fact that it's basically a reincarnation of previous productions smashed together with a Skateboarding twist. It's the fact that everything is done in such low quality that make this lack-luster. The humour doesn't make sense in its entirety. The humour I got from this show was watching the blank unimpressed faces of my niece(7yrs) and nephew(5yrs). I've never seen such an astonishing thing seeing as they love almost anything that Disney produces.
I can't just fault the jokes, but the writing as a whole; The dialogue & the plot(s) were low quality. It really did feel like they hired some random humour-lacking 6th graders to write for the show. The writers are all 30yrs+ old and this is what they are producing... shameful. Everything in this show was predicted by my niece and nephew minutes before it happened. The 1st episode was horribly structured and rushed. Taking 2 kids which are virtually strangers to the audience then quickly making them pro-skateboarders in which the mischief and awkward situations ensue to an anti-climatic ending. The only dilemma in the episode was Zeke's(Hutch Dano) toe in the faucet and Luther's (Adam Hicks) bad neck. The whole situation with Zeke's Toe and Faucet is, well, as my niece said "dumb" and she said that with great distaste. Luther's neck injury just doesn't make sense overall. Someone that young would need a more forceful and violent action to sustain a neck injury like he did; It's not like he was 40yrs of age.
Then there's the acting, very heavily exaggerated and sarcastic to the point that everything they do displays these two emotions and nothing else. It's almost as if the talent doesn't care about the characters in which the characters look like they care about the situations they encounter. Not surprised that they went through 3 directors in 9 episodes, the actors looked slightly confused and lost in their performances. The only talent doing their job well was Ryan Newman, but again very unoriginal character and the writers didn't develop her character enough to be meaningful to the show.
The only thing they got right was the complex love/hate of the skateboarding community. The skateboarding community is very much an Elitist community, however respect is given conditionally. They did capture this with the camaraderie between Zeke, Luther and Kojo(Dan Curtis Lee) in the first episode. After that however writers become to fictional. They make it seem like becoming a pro is nothing but a snap of the fingers. There are so many steps and hardships involved with the progression of becoming a professional skateboarder that this is nothing but a huge insult to any skateboarder out there doing it as a career or aspiring to go professional.