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[REVIEW] Kingdom Hearts III

NOTE: This review will contain mild spoilers and then will break into major spoilers after the main review. I will make a break in the article to note where the major spoilers start.

I was admittedly worried in the weeks leading up to the release date of Kingdom Hearts III. I mean I’ve been burned several times in the last five years alone from games making a major comeback. The most obvious one for me was Mass Effect: Andromeda, a game that I was 100% positive at the time, that it couldn’t fail. Not only did it fail, it crashed and burned to the point that I’m not sure I can trust BioWare ever again. So with Kingdom Hearts III being not only a similar situation, but one with an even larger gap in time between the last game I played from that series and the game I was about to play.

So when I finally held the copy of the game in my hands, there was a hint of doubt along with the massive amount of joy I was feeling. Then I plopped in that disc, hit ‘New Game’ and the train started a’rollin’!

From the moment the intro cutscene started playing, hearing that orchestrated version of Utada Hikaru’s “Don’t Think Twice”, I felt every bit of nostalgic emotion flooding back into me. I may not remember exactly how I felt playing the original PS2 games, but I felt all the memories of those two games returning back to me. It truly was a “shiver up my spine” level moment and served to pump me up for the 50+ hour journey I would go on.

To put it simply, Kingdom Hearts III for me was a 14-year long wait that was well worth the patience I somehow mustered. With the main story completed and I’d estimate around 75% of the entire game completed in terms of content, I have no problem saying that this game not only was worth the wait, but lived up to any and all expectations I had for the game. That’s not to say it’ll live up to your expectations or anyone else’s mind you, but for me as someone who has learned not to over-hype myself, the game does a damn good job in every single way.

I didn’t play any of the side games really in between KH2 and KH3. I gave Birth By Sleep a try, but I’ve always had a problem getting into handheld games, so I struggled to stay interested on the PSP. Had the game been available later on through the PS TV (if it was, it’s only digital and I didn’t buy a single digital title for that device), I might have given it a shot, same with 358/2 Days, but the interest wasn’t there. So I’m looking at the differences in the series from the PS2-era games and this one. And boy oh boy does the game improve on so many things.

First of, MY GOD THE GAME IS GORGEOUS!!! Timing it perfectly, the game came out just before I moved out to my new apartment, so I started the game on a small 24″ 720p TV and moved to a 53″ 1080p TV, so I’ve seen both levels, aside from 4K, cause good lord that’s still expensive for my budget and at this point there’s no reason to be upgrading to a PS4 Pro anyways. Regardless, as I set before, HOLY FREAKING HELL THIS GAME LOOKS AMAZING!!!

This really hits home in the Disney worlds. Working on the Unreal 4 engine, I can’t imagine playing the older games ever again after seeing how the various worlds look today. Out of all of them though, I couldn’t have been more awestruck than in the Toy Story world, specifically the first time you leave Andy’s house and see the world outside. It really hits home that this is what a current-gen Kingdom Hearts game looks like, after countless games on handheld and mobile devices.

In most cases though, the game transitions between all these worlds seamlessly, mostly retaining the core look of the game, while altering slightly for most worlds, except for the Pirates of the Caribbean world, which has a much more realistic look, aside from Sora and company, of course. That world is also a marvel to look at. Speaking of which…

Since I’m going to talk about the gameplay, might as well start with the bit I’m going to remember the most. The Pirates of the Caribbean world really shows how much the series has evolved. No longer just world after world of smacking around endless respawning waves of Heartless (not that I ever had a problem with that), with small rooms that needed separation through short loading screens. This world alone is massive for what you’re used to in Kingdom Hearts, akin to a fraction of the entire world in Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, which the world is basically quite reminiscent of. Ship battles, islands to explore, that world has become in my opinion the most memorable world in the series thus far through its gameplay. And it’s not the only unique one, the Tangled world has some interesting ideas with exploration, though I wish they’d done a little more, the Toy Story world has mechs you can pilot in the world once you enter the toy store that functions as the main dungeon there, hell even the Monsters Inc. world, that I figured I’d just want to breeze through, it ended up being a lot of fun with its various little quirks, like gliding across rails and various doors to go from place to place.

But anyways, enough world gushing, now to gush about the gameplay. In terms of traversing the worlds, not much has changed in that regard. You still walk, run, jump and eventually through leveling up, gain the ability to glide. Oh and I guess there’s the ability TO RUN UP WALLS! It’s the lone notable change in movement and yet it adds so much to each world. Rooftops are easily accessible (see the Big Hero 6 for the primary example of that), battles can actually be waged completely above ground and the overall verticality makes each world feel a lot bigger than the worlds of old, where at best you can jump up to a second floor. Now you run as high up as skyscrapers. I guess there’s also improved underwater fighting, as you see in the Pirates of the Caribbean world, and it is certainly better, but after a small usage of it in the final boss battle, I kinda wish they’d just erased it. Underwater + Kingdom Hearts has always been a bit of a struggle.

The battle system overall however, is no struggle at all. In fact, I’m amazed just how improved everything is. Aside from the absolute fluency through the entire game (never noticed any major framerate drops), the chaotic fighting is very much still around and better than ever. More moves, more abilities, more available options, more strategy (that I don’t use), more fun. Smaller changes of note include three sets of 4 shortcuts, making it easy to organize spells, summons and items without having to go digging through the menu during the heat of battle. You can also cast spells in the air, which is especially helpful during your constant need to heal. MP is also a little different, as battle spells use portions of MP, while a Cure spell or summon takes the entire bar and puts it in a cooldown mode until it refreshes your bar to the full amount. Which means if you can stay out of trouble, you won’t be chastising yourself for not buying one more Ether or Elixir. They’re all nice touches, helping things along while other improvements do the heavy lifting.

For example, Keyblades actually have meaning throughout the entire game. With the ability to upgrade each and every Keyblade, every weapon is viable if you want it to be. Though the Ultima Weapon is back and is still far ahead of the rest, all the other Keyblades are worth something, depending on your style of play. They all also come with special transformations, kind of like the various Forms from Kingdom Hearts II. For example, my favourite Keyblade, the “Favorite Deputy” has three forms, the first being the default Keyblade, the second being a hammer and the third being a drill. I also enjoyed the Pirates of the Caribbean “Wheel of Fate”, especially for its second form, the spear-wielding “Highwind”, naturally intentionally named after Final Fantasy VII party member, Cid Highwind. I didn’t try every Keyblade mind you, specifically the ones geared for magic users, but they all have their quirks. Hell, even the Winnie the Pooh Keyblade has a form that you can use to attack while using the Dodge Roll ability. It’s awesome!

The lone complaint I have is in the extra attacks you can have during battle. Through Goofy, Donald and the Disney party member you get in each world, there’s bonus attacks you can activate, and they’re all fine. It’s a different bonus attack that causes a bit of an issue with me, that being the “Attractions”, which are essentially summons you gain from landing an attack on a specified enemy, which summons a Disney park attraction such as the tea cups, or the pendulum-swinging Pirate Ship. At first, they’re absolutely fine and fun, and in a way they still are, but the problem is that they’re very easy to get and break the flow of battle. I played on Easy mode as well and man oh man are they overpowered. You can’t turn them off either, so the only way to not use them, is to simply ignore them and let the timer run out, which is an eyesore having to stare at that timer for a good 30+ seconds. It’s certainly not a deal breaker, but they could’ve either reduced the amount of times you can pick them up, or at the very least take them out of boss battles. They feel out of place there.

Lastly, the story. Without major spoilers (which I’ll have further below after I end the main review), the story is about what you remember from Kingdom Hearts games. They’re a total mess, you get lost over and over again, and yet you’ll still love the majority of it. The Disney worlds are large in part either re-tellings of the subject material or in Big Hero 6’s case, an original story, post-film. They’re perfectly fine, though the Toy Story and Frozen worlds each miss a great opportunity that could’ve really set them apart from the rest, which again I’ll get into in the spoilers section later on.

The main story however, is certainly a challenge, especially to those not familiar with every bit of lore the series has had. Even after watching videos that tell every ounce of detail I missed in games outside of the PS2-era games, I found myself lost and confused a number of times. Though admittedly, I can’t distinguish between the times I was lost because I didn’t know the material, and the times I was lost because the villains always spoke in riddles. However in the end I did find myself catching up and by the final world of the game I understood everything I had been working towards and thus there were two scenes back-to-back that nearly brought me to tears.

This game closes a lot of stories, ties up a lot of loose ends. This is the end to the “Dark Seeker Saga” with Master Xehanort and Organization XIII, but certainly not the end of the series. There are two major cutscenes at the end that show that we are far from anything being over. Sora’s journey may have only just begun. In the end, I felt satisfied with the ending, a little underwhelmed by the final boss battle, but not to detract from anything. I was left just wanting a tiny bit more.

Like I said at the top, this game was well worth the wait. Massive improvements, a gorgeous looking game, though a few bumps in the story. Which quite honestly, is exactly what Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2 were. They were never perfect and I didn’t expect KH3 to be either. What I wanted was a game that I felt was at par with KH2 and I feel I got just that. I honestly can’t tell you which is better, I feel both games offered the same level of emotional value, the difference is the kind of emotions. At age 17 and now 31, I treated the two games differently, KH2 was a wonderful achievement, while KH3 was a massive flood of nostalgia. Neither feel better than the other, they just offered different feelings for me.

The important thing is that both are worth your time, so if you’re a veteran to the series, this game isn’t a disappointment in any regard. And if you’re new, I think this game is still worth looking at. I’d tell you to take a look at the re-packaged older games that are being offered, but if you don’t want to go through 100+ hours of content before playing this game, I think there’s still plenty to enjoy. Just watch a video about the story up to this game so you don’t get too lost and you’ll be fine.

I waited more than a decade for this game and now that it’s over and done with, I cannot wait to see what’s next for one of my favourite series in gaming.


***MAJOR SPOILERS INCOMING!!!***


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All right! Let’s get into all the juicy stuff, shall we?!

Who called this son of a bitch being Luxu?! I mean if there’s anything that shocked me right off the bat, it was finding out that Xigbar is the apprentice that the Master of Masters gave that giant black plot device, I mean box to.

By the way, let me make this perfectly clear, I have a vague understanding still of the lore that will be making this new storyline with the Master of Masters in the future games. I know little about him, the six apprentices and other pieces of information relating to that part of the series’ lore. So this first scene was a bit of a wash for me, as I admittedly didn’t get most of what they were saying, though I imagine most of it is the game’s love of speaking nonsense and riddles. Though I’ve seen various hints to what’s to come, like for example the seven pieces that Eraqus put on Xehanort’s side of that game board containing the seven symbols of the aforementioned Master of Masters and his six apprentices, meaning those seven may be our villains in the next game or set of games, depending on how deep this goes.

The secret ending, or the “Yozora” ending is what really intrigues me. I mean, that world is either a The World Ends With You World that would likely mean a DLC sidestory, in my opinion…OR THE NEW GAME WILL HAVE US PLAYING IN OUR OWN WORLD!!! Either way, I’m stoked to see where this goes, but I have to imagine there must be a connection with the Verum Rex game that we see in the Toy Story world and/or The World Ends With You, so I’m more inclined to think this will be either DLC or a small side game.

I mentioned I nearly cried twice during the time I spent playing this game. This beautiful girl is one of the two things that made me well up a bit. The first was Terra’s return, just seeing the three of them together again and especially seeing Aqua truly happy again for what was more than a decade for her, that meant a lot, even if I didn’t know much of the story.

But Xion coming back, being revealed as one of Xehanort’s new Real Organization XIII members, that was a big moment. And then once Roxas made his triumphant return, that was it for me. Watching Xion absolutely break down as not only did she finally see Roxas and company again, but people remembered her, she was no longer a forgotten shadow. Those two moments were awesome and especially being back-to-back like that.

Lastly, I wanted to talk about a few missed opportunities the game had. Right off the bat, HOW DID THEY FUCK UP A POTENTIAL BOSS BATTLE WITH A DARK BUZZ LIGHTYEAR?!!! How awesome would that have been, especially considering this game really went out of its way to not have you fighting Disney villains aside from the Titans in Olympus? It seemed all but set in stone that you were going to have to face Buzz after he got possessed and yet they just made it so that you brought him back to the good side and then faced another big Heartless boss. It was still a good boss fight, but man oh man could’ve a Buzz Lightyear boss battle have been awesome!

Secondly, the Frozen world really fucked up by not having Elsa being your party member. I thought after showing that she could defeat Heartless with her magic, she was a shoe-in to be your party member in the world. Instead, you get shafted with the snow golem she creates to guard her castle and his bonus attack is meh at best. Massive missed opportunity there.

Finally, let’s address there being no Final Fantasy characters at all during the entire game. Unless there’s going to be some DLC arena that includes another ass-kicking from Sephiroth, while I don’t mind there not being a Final Fantasy presence in the story, it really does feel like we’re being cheated out of content with no one being around. Leon, Aerith, Yuffie, Tifa, Cloud, Sephiroth, even Yuna, Rikku and Paige, how are none of them in there after being around for so long?! And come on, it would’ve made so much sense for Cindy to be your Gummi ship mechanic!!!


So that’s everything from me here, folks! If you’ve got anything to say about the game, or if I missed something really important, leave a comment below!

BEYOND LATE REVIEW: John Wick

WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW!

So I finally got Netflix again after a three-year hiatus. Why have I not used it for three years, asks all the pissed off and shocked Netflix faithful? Honestly…I chose Crunchyroll over Netflix. I prefer anime. So when I’ve only had time for one over the other, what was the point of paying a monthly fee for a service I might used once or twice a month? But now I’ve had the chance to put some extra time in, so I got a free monthly trial in and I started watching shows and one film so far that I missed the boat on, that of course being John Wick.

When the movie first came out in theaters, I will fully admit that I couldn’t have cared less about it. I was beyond done with Keanu Reeves, so another action movie with him in it really didn’t grab my attention at all. But between then and now, I’ve heard only good things about the first film from all my friends, so I’ve been really wanting to check it out.

And boy was I surprised just how much mindless fun it was.

John Wick unlike most films these days, it doesn’t try to rely on a twist and turn filled story to get you involved in it. The movie makes no buts about it where it’s going. He’s an ex-hitman who used to be connected to the mob and when that mob boss’ son steals his car AND KILLS HIS DOG, he decides that the correct response is to kill the entire mob. I think the entire world would agree with that assessment. You killed a man’s dog, everyone who’s ever known you should probably die for that.

From then on out, the movie goes into an endless parade of action sequences that doesn’t go too over-the-top in the way that movies featuring legends such as Jackie Chan and Jet Li will go into, rather Reeves spends most of these sequences methodically putting bullets to heads, there’s only a handful of times where it gets into real hand-to-hand combat. Granted, are there a few moments that shouldn’t be possible? Of course, but then it wouldn’t be a mindless fun action movie, would it? The film just doesn’t go so over the top that the other action scenes have to follow it, every scene is just as good, just as fun and just as well shot, there isn’t a moment in the film where it feels like a bit of a lull.

The addition of the only other actor I know in Willem Dafoe (John Leguizamo doesn’t really count, he’s in it for about a minute in a minor role) is a fantastic addition, though I will admit I was a bit disappointed by the lack of insane Willem Dafoe. He plays the old assassin friend role relatively well and does a great job of playing both sides during the course of the movie. The villains are all okay at best, none of them really shine, the son is a idiot piece of shit, the femme fatale is well…the femme fatale. The end boss in the Russian mob boss, he tries to play a dangerous man, but at times he comes off more like a bit of a loof and not really as threatening as you’d like him to be.

And that’s what really takes away from the film in the end, all the villains go down in a not as epic way as I would’ve liked, especially the one who kills the dog, he should’ve had a much longer death than one in the leg and one in the head. Even the end boss, after that entire journey of bullets in brains, his death is so non-eventful, it’s extremely disappointing. For a film all about revenge and epic kill sequences, why were the most important deaths seemingly given the least amount of time and importance?

In the end though, I still absolutely adored this film. It’s a ridiculous action film, but without the overly ridiculous set pieces. The plot is so stupid, it’s funny and it sets you up perfectly for what ends up being a constant enjoyment filled with blood spatters and holes in heads. If you’re looking for a mindless action movie that won’t leave you with questions (because it doesn’t give you any reasons to ask any), this is a film right up your alley.

Just…if it’s going to be hard for you, might wanna fast forward to after the break-in. It’s a tough one to get through…

REVIEW: The Lego Batman Movie

01

Right off the bat, I think the mistake lied in people telling me that this was the best Batman movie ever made. That’s already something that gets into your head. How can something be so good that it beats The Dark Knight, which remains one of the best movies I’ve ever watched. So going into the movie, I was already a little cynical going into the film.

In the end, it wasn’t anywhere close to being the best Batman movie, but it certainly wasn’t terrible either.

What the movie does well is creating the Batman universe in its entirety in a single film and manages to make sense of it. Batman is a walking, talking badass who no matter what you throw at him, he wins, so the Joker goes for the biggest gamble and brings all the villains together, himself, Two-Face, Catwoman, the Riddler, Scarecrow, Mr. Freeze, the Penguin, Calendar Man, Polka-Dot Man, oh yeah, they put all the villains in this film. ALL OF THEM. Yes, even the shitty ones. Not only that but the voice cast for a lot of these characters is impressive. Aside from Will Arnett’s Batman, you’ve got Zach Galifianakis as Joker, Michael Cera as Robin, Ralph Fiennes at Alfred, Billy Dee Williams as Tw0-Face, Conan O’Brien as Riddler and that’s just counting the Batman characters, we’re not even talking about other Justice League characters and the random villains they throw in towards the end! Seriously check out the voice cast for this film, it’s insane how many notable names are in this movie!

In terms of the film’s story, it’s your typical cheesy kids’ movie kind of story, mixed with a little bit of the Batman charm we all know and love. DC wishes it could write this kind of comedy in their films, it might make them more enjoyable. The entire plot is really the story of Batman learning to work with others, as really the entire first half of the film is Batman refusing to work with anyone and denying the Joker the admission that he needs him to keep himself going. Bruce Wayne is pretty much a 16 year-old high school kid who listens to heavy music and thinks he’s the lord of darkness, or in this case, he is the night. He’s Batman. In the early going this part of the film is really funny and silly, but as they continue on with the same couple jokes related to this part of the story, it starts to get really stale and it really started to take away from the film for me. I wanted things to move forward and it felt by the end of the movie that the entire film was hinging on a single joke.

I suppose I should be a little miffed by what I watched, after all this movie wasn’t exactly tailor-made for my demographic, this was a picture more or less designed for kids and families, not for older fans of a certain popular franchise that is used to a much more darker tone of storytelling. However, I absolutely loved the charm and silliness of the original Lego Movie, so you’d figure a film solely based on the Batman character, which I loved in that original film, it’d be even better. Instead, I got a movie that I felt had less charm and certainly less jokes in them. It’s not to say I didn’t smile and laugh in the film, but I certainly didn’t walk away from this movie with as many jokes to re-tell as I did leaving the first Lego film.

When it’s all said and done however, I did leave the film content, I wasn’t upset or anything. I just felt disappointed with all the hype people put on me with the film and I certainly left the theater wanting more and feeling like I got played a little bit. What the Lego Batman Movie does in a positive manner is that they opened the entire universe up for everyone to see, made fun of a few of the ridiculous parts of Batman history (dumb villains, bat nipples, etc.) and gives fans who remember them a chance to laugh and feel like they’ve been catered to as well. The voice cast is so damn solid and the addition of the extra villains to the film just throws in that ridiculousness that the Lego films are now showing us will be a constant, no universe is safe.

But in the end, the film doesn’t do enough to be all that memorable, the reliance on the “Batman is alone and is moody” jokes just brought the film down as they kept going back to the well one too many times. I’m sure with the younger crowd they enjoyed it, but in my case it droned on and I really got bored of the film at times. There just isn’t a significant moment in the film that really stands out, it’s just either good or it’s not.

Overall, the film is decent at best, offers enough for fans of the Batman franchise to leave happy, probably offers more for the younger crowd and the more PG crowd, but for those who were looking for a really strong Batman film and wanting to re-capture the wonder that was the first Lego film, you’ll likely leave a little disappointed on that front.

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REVIEW: EVOLVE 58

01

Johnny Gargano/Drew Galloway (w/Kota Ibushi) def. Anthony Nese and Caleb Konley – Evolve Tag Team Championships

  • Feed immediately for this show sucked, stopping at very short intervals
  • Galloway catching Konley’s suicide dive was awesome
  • Then the stream died, I don’t know who won until half an hour later checking Twitter

Score: Huh?/5

(No Contest) Matt Riddle vs Timothy Thatcher – Evolve Championship

  • It’s weird seeing a UFC kind of match happening in pro wrestling
  • Which also means to me (I don’t care for MMA) this was relatively boring to watch
  • Massive number of Fujiwara Armbars and Cross Armbreakers between these two
  • Match ends with Riddle breaking Thatcher’s arm and is declared a no contest? Why is that a no contest?

Score: 2/5

Marty Scurll def. Fred Yehi

  • First time seeing Marty Scurll, he’s like a steampunk Penguin, I like him
  • He’s a good heel, a lot of real dirty moves, like he’s actually trying to hurt his opponents
  • Them damaging each other’s hands, feet, fingers, toes, it was entertaining
  • How long has it been since I watched someone win with a chicken wing?

Score: 3/5

Sami Callihan def. Ethan Page

  • Always weird seeing someone I know wrestling on TV (went to college with Ethan)
  • It’s great to see Sami hitting his stride again now out of NXT and the shitty Solomon Crowe gimmick
  • Geez, Sami gets red as fuck during a match!
  • Liger Bomb into a submission, interesting combination from Sami
  • I love the sadistic smile Sami had when the crowd started cheering “Fuck him up, Sami, fuck him up!”
  • Always love Ethan’s jumping Diamond Cutter from the apron
  • Weird with a match ending with a running forearm, but a good match nonetheless

Score: 3/5

TJ Perkins def. Ricochet

  • “He’s like a Puma!”, funny exchange with Ricochet (aka Prince Puma, don’t tell anyone, it’s our little secret) and the fans
  • Ricochet never ceases to impress me with his agility
  • Little bit of mudhole stompin’ from Ricochet, nice Texas callout
  • The People’s Moonsault…awesome
  • Lot of really good leg-based submission holds from Perkins
  • Great submission sequence from Perkins to win the match, that was a fun watch
  • Nice little addition promo for TJ Perkins being in the Global Cruiserweight Series

Score: 3.75/5

Zack Sabre Jr. def Will Ospreay

  • I noticed after about five minutes I didn’t write anything yet cause I was paying so much attention to the match, they’re mesmerizing
  • Both men are going to be incredible talents in the future, I wasn’t aware Opsreay’s only 22!
  • Sabre’s submissions never cease to amaze me
  • Ospreay’s reactions to the submissions as well are fantastic!
  • A nice thing about not-WWE shows, people do RKOs aka Diamond Cutters
  • A second-rope Phoenix Splash?!!!
  • Shooting Star into a submission?!
  • Stream starts to lag at the worst times, the match seems about to end
  • And with one of the sickest submissions I’ve ever seen, Sabre wins

Score: 5/5

Chris Hero/Tommy End vs Drew Gulak/Tracy Williams

  • I know he can still move well and wrestles like one of the best, but man Hero looks unhealthy to me
  • A ton of hard hits, holy shit
  • The double knee spot with Hero/End looked brutal
  • The stomp/piledriver combo was awesome
  • Gulak wins with the Dragon Sleeper

Score: 3.5/5

Overall Score: 3.75/5

REVIEW: BABYMETAL – Metal Resistance

01

I’ve been looking forward to a second BABYMETAL album since hearing the first one, but I was unsure if I’d ever get to hear one. Japan is a strange beast when it comes to musical acts. I wasn’t sure if the band would be around long enough, as the girls may “graduate” from the group, perhaps it’s a whole new set of girls, there were a lot of possibilities I wondered about. But luckily it was all me freaking out and the second album is a real thing, released on April Fools no less.

So here’s my first album review, we’ll do it by track.

01. Road to Resistance

This song has been around for a while, even longer than the single ‘Karate’, which we’ll get to. I’m surprised this song was on the album, I did not expect this song to be put on it. Right away you can hear the Dragonforce addition to this track and it creates a much different style than we’re used to hear with BABYMETAL, there’s no extra gimmick to this song, it’s a straight-forward speedy melodic metal track. Even Su-metal’s vocals are set up similar to how Dragonforce songs are song. The only thing I don’t like about this song is that the pre-chorus sounds a bit rushed, lyrically, like they’re trying to fit too many words in so little time. I’ve actually tried to play this song due to fan-generated Rocksmith content, minus the crazy solos the song is actually super fun to play, I love the chord progression of this song. Also, the clear Dragonforce “Whoa-oh-oh-ohhhhhh!” is sung is this song as well, which never gets old honestly.

02. KARATE

I’m absolutely fucking addicted to this track. Ever since the single was released I’ve been listening to it non-stop, this song got me super hyped for the new album. The opening riff is badass, I still need to figure it out myself, want to play it so badly. Then the song devolves into the usual routine, cheesy verse with Moa and Yui and then Su just takes it over. Her pre-chorus and chorus vocals in this song are off the charts tremendous, it’s badass and beautiful at the same time, it’s mind-blowing for me that something so beautiful can also be so badass. Another thing that’s really incredible about this song is just how well the drums really pound this song into your head, particularly in the opening riff and chorus. Finishing near the end with that softer part, this song really comes off like a legitimate heavy metal track you might actually hear on the radio. Honestly if this song wasn’t in Japanese, I’d expect to hear this on the radio and if it were up to me I’d have this on the radio regardless. An incredible track, my favourite one on this album without question.

03. Awadama Fever

Hello crazy techno intro. This song is super happy for a track with such a tough, scratching guitar track. I could see a song like this being edited down to 90 seconds for an anime intro, it’s happy enough that it could work in spades for a show. I’m a little disappointed in this track with how none of the instruments are really easy to hear, it’s all meshed together into this techno-ish track, over-edited a bit to match the style they were probably going for in this song. This song though really lets Moa and Yui get their stuff in a little more and it works wonders vocally. It’s really the music that bugs me on this track.

04. YAVA!

Holy crap I thought I was about to face a final boss listening to that intro. This is a much better sounding track with techno influence, the guitar in the verse has a rough ska feeling to it as well, which is double awesome. They let the instruments sound much clearer in this track, which works wonders compared to the previous track. The drum track in the chorus is perfect, makes it feel even faster than the song actually is, it’s a lot slower than it sounds but the drums really hammer it home. My favourite is definitely the synthesizer sections in the track, they really give the song its own charm here.

05. Amore

Time for a slower track, something more similar to Ijime, Dame, Zettai…or at least that’s what I thought. Then the dueling guitar solos start and holy shit I’m way into this track. This song actually sounds a lot more like a mixture of Ijime, Dame, Zettai and Akatsuki, a bit of the softer stuff but then going right back into the faster, harder section. Also, holy shit that bass solo! This song is full of great soloing sections, a guitarist’s paradise to say the least. Just kick back and listen to your wrists getting sore from the craziness of the guitars in this song.

06. Meta Taro

I thought Anamanaguchi was about to play a track for us instead. The transition between that 8-bit intro and the actual song is so odd that I’m not even sure whether I like it because it’s such a weird transition, or if I’m actually weirded out by this choice. We went from Anamanaguchi to Van Canto or something like Nightwish without warning in this track, it’s definitely a weird amalgamation of musical styles. My ears were not prepared for this track. AND THIS ISN’T MY FIRST TIME LISTENING TO BABYMETAL, HOW DID THEY DO THIS?!!!

07. From Dusk Till Dawn

Right off the bat, this song does tell me they’re trying to commercialize the band a little more, likely due to their viral success overseas in North America and Europe. This track sounds a lot like your standard emo metal music that you’d hear in a Hot Topic or something. This is a BABYMETAL track that actually sounds like something and not its own, I’m not sure whether to be disappointed that it’s not overly weird or happy with them because they’re making an effort to gain real traction worldwide. There’s more to the song though, get that little bit of dubstep mix in there like Uki Uki ★ Midnight did on their last album, but it’s not nearly as prevalent as that track was with it.

08. GJ!

I imagine this song will be an opening track for a lot of their shows, they can use that intro riff and extend it as long as they want to get the crowd ramped up for the girls’ arrival. The song also is a great introduction of what the band is, a bit of everything you expect from BABYMETAL, the heavy rift, the cheesy talking verses (which they’ll probably have really silly dances to), the silly sound effects added in like the cartoon doink at the 2-minute mark. Now that I think about it, this might actually be a song where Su isn’t the center focus of the track, it sounds like Yui and Moa are getting the majority of the work in this track.

09. Sis. Anger

There’s clearly a lot of Western influences throughout this album, I feel like this song has a lot of Slipknot influence to it, of course getting the ever-so-awesome BABYMETAL treatment put over it. The chorus is creepy as fuck too, it sounds like a happy death march, a set of three words you didn’t think would work together. If there’s anything I can criticize about this track is the lack of melody with the vocals, it’s not that great with BABYMETAL having the same small range of vocals with these girls. The track is still badass, but I would’ve liked a little more of that Su-metal vocal flair to it.

10. No Rain, No Rainbow

Awww shit, now we’re breaking out the piano. It’s like a cheesy romantic track, only in Japan can you have that on an album with this much speed metal and have the double bass going on in the background with the piano. The song keeps ramping up, adding in the guitars and some violins. Now that I think about it, it comes off a lot like a Queen track, that’s really awesome now that I think about it. Anything with Queen having to do with it is going to be a soft spot for me. Nice slower guitar solos as well, which are always great (and not just because I might be able to play them) to me.

11. Tales of the Destinies

Wow, the mixture of progressive metal influences in this song. Let me rattle off a few names just to give you an idea of how many different acts I heard in this song. Dream Theater with those beautiful synths, Opeth with the soft, yet super heavy riffs, Between the Buried and Me with the very quick and sometimes silly guitar melodies. That’s just three acts that I heard within the first 30 seconds. This song might as well be called “Tales of Prog Metal”. Though as the song drags on longer, the Dream Theater influence becomes the shining majority, the cheesy wild west piano, the synths, the Mike Portnoy classic drum beats, yeah I could see this being on one of their albums. This is song is so awesome, it’s a shame that KARATE is so good because I’d love to show this track to people first, but KARATE’s just gotta be that first track.

12. THE ONE (English Version)

Where was this song released in Japanese? I haven’t heard it before. Upon research, turns out this track is in Japanese if you buy it in Japan. That’s bullshit, why not release them both? The song was the second single put up on their YouTube channel which was badass, though the song is a little weird to me, mainly because since I hear it all in English, it ruins the experience of not knowing if the song is repeating itself constantly with its lyrics. Having the song in full English ruins that experience, since I can understand the lyrics being sung. However, Su-metal’s English is actually really good, she doesn’t have the usual funny syllables that Japanese singers always struggle with, she’s clear 95% of the time, a few syllable transitions she doesn’t quite get out fluently, but it’s still great nonetheless. This track is also coming with a lot of Dream Theater influence I think. The main problem with this song, Yui and Moa are barely present at all in this song. Is it because they can’t sing English much? Either way, the song suffers without the two of them being an integral part of the song as much as Su always is.


Final Thoughts

I was so hyped for this album and while it wasn’t as amazing as I thought it would be (after all, I’m basing this off the incredible previous album) it’s still one of the best albums I’ll be listening to this year, I think. BABYMETAL is such a different beast musically and that’s a large part of why I love them as much as I do, they’re so different from anything else I listen to. There are a few fantastic tracks on the album with of course KARATE, Tales of the Destinies and Road to Resistance. There’s your classic weird ones like Awadama Fever and YAVA! and of course the newer more Westernized additions like THE ONE and From Dusk Till Dawn. There’s a lot more for outside audiences to find and like, while their first album was purely something you had to be really open to enjoy if you’d never listened to anything Japanese before. But man, if you like metal at all, you have to give this album a listen for sure!

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