Dead Man’s Worst

“Pirates of the Caribbean II” was, as expected, seriously terrible. Worse than I expected, actually, and that’s despite my desperate attempts to enjoy it. Ticket prices these days are far too high to waste money on movies you hate, you see, so I do my best to make the most of everything I see. But some things are too awful for even the best of intentions to salvage. The occasional moments of humor and the interesting monster designs couldn’t offset the unrelenting dumbness on display. I didn’t really enjoy the first movie, but the sequel gave me one of those Xenogears/Xenosaga moments where I realized that the original, for all its flaws, could have been so much worse.

Sometime last week, I read an article that discussed why modern CDs sound so awful: they’re being engineered for loudness, so the dynamic range of older recordings has been abandoned in favor of a constant torrent of full-throttle sound. The result is that there are no moments of quietness to give your ears a break, just non-stop forceful excitement. This has the net effect of making the sound incredibly boring due to its sheer monotony. “Dead Man’s Chest” is the cinematic equivalent of that — it’s always blaring at maximum volume, so to speak, making it the most tedious action movie I can ever recall having watched. By the time the crew headed into the swamp to sort out what to do about Jack Sparrow, I was close to tears at the thought of the 30-45 minutes of drudgery that this new sidequest would require. Needless to say, I’ve never been so happy to see a cliffhanger ending.

At the other end of the quality spectrum, Mega Man ZX and Loco Roco are pretty much pure blissfull happiness. Loco Roco is probably, technically speaking, more blissful and happy than ZX, but it’s ZX (pronounced “zechs,” like “sex” for you filthy-minded types who live for mnemonics) that has me sneaking away from my current review obligations to put in a few more minutes of game time whenever I can.

Capcom has created its very own grand unifying theory of Mega Man games here, a title that pulls together the best parts of the classic series (the boss-derived power-ups are the most streamlined and practical they’ve been since MM2), the X games (the loving nod to the original MMX is enough to bring a tear to your eye), the Zero series (for obvious reasons) and even Legends (with its open-ended world design built of interconnected stages focused around a central hub city area). That does leave Battle Network out in the cold, but tough luck.

The most impressive thing about ZX is that it has the aesthetics and play control of the Zero games — which have always been exceptional — but tones the difficulty down slightly to something that actually feels balanced. (Masochists take heart: there’s an unlockable Hard mode which will have you reaching for your GameShark.) And despite its Metroidvania-esque feel there’s no shortage of challenge, including some tricky platform jumping that’s just as tough in reverse. And here you thought it couldn’t be done.

Anyway, unless the finale turns out to be mind-blowing, ZX won’t become my favorite Mega Man game. But it’s definitely jockeying for a top-five slot. Will it convince me to forgive and forget Mega Man X6? Mmmm… nah. Nothing is that good.

Edit: Heidi MacDonald reams Pirates with far more panache than I could bother to muster.

31 thoughts on “Dead Man’s Worst

  1. Man, ZX sounds great. Now you got me willing to buy a DS Lite, a copy od Dawn of Sorrow, ZX, and… that’s pretty much all I could afford if I started selling my body on the streets like, starting tonight.

  2. You know a movie is losing you when you start analyzing the choreography of a fight scene. “Oh, yes, look how they’re using vertical space. Quite clever. And the locked camera, yes, that was the way to go for that sequence, definitely.” This is not the reaction one should have whilst watching a three-way swordfight.

    And don’t get me started about a guy with a seashell for a head’s complete inability to instill fear and/or awe.

  3. As much as I liked the undead pirates’ design aesthetic, they really should have skipped the overblown CG and gone with real costumes on actual humans. Then it might have looked like the actors actually existed in the same space as the monsters. I know, I know, crazy talk.

  4. the worst part for me was when I realized those 30-45 minutes of drudgery were actually 90 minutes.
    and can I just say – spinning wheel of doom? no thanks.

  5. If I were you, I’d feel very dirty knowing that I contributed to giving this film the highest grossing opening in history. I’ve been expressing my righteous indignation with extreme prejudice to all the people I know who saw it.

  6. It was a “dutiful boyfriend” thing, not any desire of my own. And I figure I’ve earned some grace from also having seen both “An Inconvenient Truth” and “Wordplay” within the past week.

  7. My frothing anticipation for ZX has just increased. Great to hear that they’ve actually managed a solid challenge into the Metroidvania format. Zero 2 would quite possibly be an all-time great if the challenge were dialed down just a bit. (Not to mention if they also got rid of the weapon leveling system. Didn’t care for the grinding.)

    The Battle Network series will live on in spirit in the immediately following ZN. They really should take a stab at another Network Transmission, only with a more quickly recharging gauge meter.

  8. I never played Network Transmission, but the series proper just needs to be locked away and never bothered with again as far as I’m concerned. I’m usually not one to complain about random battles in rpgs, but the BN series has the most mind-numbing, psychosis-inducing encounter rate in history. It’s a way pad out a game by several hours. Not a very good way, but a way nonetheless. I personally applaud Capcom for putting the series away, at least for the time being (how long can you ignore a cash cow?)

    Oh, and X6 wasn’t all bad (mostly bad, but not all). Sure, some of the characters are as brain dead as rocks, but at least they have more dignity then just about any Sonic character since Amy Rose (which is to say, just about all of the 2,543,769 or so of them.)

  9. Hearing about ZX has me pretty psyched. I’m just hoping they didn’t pull insane impossible crap like they did with MMZero. Like placing cyber pixies or items in areas that require jump-catching ledges that were designed perfectly for jump height/length and only offered about a single pixel’s space to catch onto. And you’d end up with roughly a fraction of a second to jump again before sliding off. Not to mention the bosses being way stronger than you. I swear Capcom must have made that game on the principal that ‘gamers are not happy that megaman is not difficult enough’. Maybe it was all an elaborate scheme to get people to commit suicide out of frustration. Hey! I got a great idea! Lets make the final boss a giant platform with spikes and small moving walls where you fall off and die on the spikes constantly! GENIUS!

  10. I’m going to hold out for the US release, but MM ZX sound right up my alley. Thanks for the good impressions. Inticreates are pretty talented. Did you ever check out the Crayon Shinchan game that came out for GBA a few months ago? They developed it and it’s pretty darn fun. I picked it up in Tokyo and was surprised at how high quality it was for a licensed character game. Plus there is a RAROO costume Shinchan can don.

  11. The Battle Network angle in ZX would have to be that you can play as Megaman or a human. And I still say Zero was only hard if you’re obsessive/compulsive. Hell, the bosses are rendered copmletely immobile by using the proper element on them. Now, collecting 100% in the game, that can be hard. But I prefer sanity and a new game in this case.

  12. Actually, the MMBN angle would be that the hero/heroine’s power-ups are given as special suits that combine the Model X armor with Zero, Harpuia, etc. to take on that character’s attributes. Pretty much like cross-fusion (or whatever it was called) from the later Battle Networks. But the MMBN series ran out of steam midway through #2 so I’m disallowing it.

  13. What was the last action/adventure movie you enjoyed Mr. Parish?

    Oh, and fuck MMBN.

  14. Heidi MacDonald says “Where the real danger lies is that even intelligent movie-goers can no longer tell the difference between videogame action and good movies.”
    I like how she sounds so terrified that people might disagree with her arbitrary decisions about what makes a movie good.
    Oh no! People might have different tastes than me! Mass market action crap might stop catering to my specific tastes! WAAAAAH.

    … maybe I would feel more sorry for her if her fears were even justifiable. But no. There is still clear mind-share in making movies like she likes. Her paranoia is just dumb.

  15. So you say Wordplay?

    I’ve seen a lot of commercials for it lately– worth the price of admission?

  16. I’m still a little on the fence with ZX, since I hated the Zero games so much. But I did like the stage I played at E3, an amusment park with Hard Hat Guy ferris wheels and a giant Hard Hat Guy for you to beat. Now Loco Roco, that’s right up my alley, no question!

  17. What about Superman? That one’s pretty awesome. And if a pirate doesn’t own a computer, it’s never worth watching (here’s hoping for the next big hacker movie, or a sequel to Pirates of Silicon Valley).

    And Johnny Depp is an ass, he is proud to be a smoker, enough said.

  18. nah, lots of things make life worth living – loco roco is just the icing on the cake. Or the top of the muffin. Or the skin on the pudding. you see where I’m going.

  19. “And Johnny Depp is an ass, he is proud to be a smoker, enough said.”

    I’m anti-smoking to the point where I cover my mouth and nose when in proximity of cigarette fumes (hey, I have a history of asthma), but ultimately it’s a person’s business whether or not they smoke. Hopefully Depp won’t come down with lung cancer a la Warren Zevon. Besides, judging from his multiple appearances near the top of Autograph Collector’s annual best signer lists, he seems like a cool guy in person.

  20. More to the point, the man can act. What difference does it make if he smokes, or even if he’s a complete fucking ass?

  21. Because no one likes an ass. It’s like that one chef who has that reality show on Fox, Hell’s Kitchen. I’m sorry, I don’t care how good a meal you can cook, if you treat people like that you ought to be out on the freaking street dumpster diving. Then he’ll see what bad cuisine is.

    That said, Depp is a pretty good actor, though admittedly the only things I’ve seen him in is the first Pirates and… uh, what was the generic thriller he was in a few years back… it was shortly after Pirates… Rear Window? Wait, that’s a Hitchcock movie. Back Door? I can’t remember.

    Anyways, I’m not really going anywhere with this, so yeah.

  22. That’s the one. I thought he did a pretty good job considering, but yeah, the movie was about as memorable as bran flakes, as evidenced by the fact I couldn’t even retain the memory of it’s title.

  23. My family wants to see the movie, so I’m going. I’m quite good at shutting my brain down for hours at a time.

    I like Johnny Depp, he isn’t always in brilliant movies but he’s quite the character actor. And Tim Burton must have him on speed dial these days: apparently Burton is now helming the upcoming ‘Sweeney Todd’ flick, and you can probably guess on who he’s got planned for ol’ Sweeney’s role.

  24. Pirates 2 was quite enjoyable and if you don’t agree with my opinion obviously it is your own failure as a human being. It’s the internet, we get to make random, sweeping generalizations here.

    I might pick up ZX. I keep meaning to get into the Megaman series but have never been able to do so. Perhaps if I see it cheap and used I’ll give it a whirl.

  25. Unless Capcom has the foresight to mass produce the game, something that few commpanies, Nintendo notwithstanding, seem to be doing with DS games at this point, ZX will likely become ebay fodder in no time flat.

    So by might consider trading ‘cheap’ for ‘brand spanking new’. You might save yourself some frustration and money in the long run.

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