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Luca review

Posted : 1 year, 11 months ago on 19 June 2021 08:02 (A review of Luca)

Shot by Genovese Enrico Casarosa - former story artist of Ice Age and several Pixar films, such as Arlo's Journey, and director of the short film La Luna (The Moon) - Luca is set in Portorosso, an imaginary coastal village inspired by the Cinque Terre, between the late 1950s and early 1960s. Long shrouded, until the "marine plot twist" shown by the first teaser, in an aura of mystery, the plot of Luca centers on the adventures of the eponymous protagonist and his friend Alberto. The two boys find themselves in a race that enlivens the summers of Portorosso, after befriending a girl their age named Giulia. But Luca and Alberto are aquatic creatures, coming from a world of their own that lies at the bottom of the sea. On the surface they acquire a human appearance, but just the contact with water is enough to show their true aspect.

The very fact that Luca and Alberto's shape-shifting nature has been revealed has triggered a series of preemptive criticisms on the Internet, for that sport that is so fashionable on social networks of judging something before having seen it. It's The Little Mermaid in male form, it's this, it's that. In reality, Luca draws, if anything, from much more universal sources. The thirst for adventure and discovery of kids of that age, the team of losers that faces and defeats (in life, not just in a summer competition) the insufferable rich bully, the desire to follow their own aspirations, the parents who have to learn what is the right balance between the instinct to protect their children and the need, at a certain point, to let them go their own way.

It is not by chance that Luca explicitly quotes Collodi's Pinocchio several times. And not only because he is one of the most beloved Italian fictional characters of all time, just like a moustachioed plumber who lives among mushrooms. Sea creature or not, Luca Paguro, like any thirteen year old boy, is a shy boy, but easily influenced by a Lucignolo when he finds one in his path. Alberto shows him the flattery of a new and unknown world, a toyland where Gianni Morandi sings Fatti mandare dalla mamma a prendere il latte and everything seems splendid and full of life. Portorosso is only a (delightful) little village with four souls, of course, but if you come from the depths of the sea and up to that moment have only been a shepherd boy of fish, it's all life.

Flattery that, obviously, in a cross between the Dolce Vita years and product placement needs, acquires here the features of a Piaggio Vespa. A Vespa, object of desire and glorified as if not even in a Cremonini song.

This too was a much-discussed topic on the eve of the event, in a jumble of judgments that had already become final. A whole row of "But what do they know about Italy at Pixar?", talking about a film conceived and directed by an Italian, and based on his childhood in Genoa. Okay. But also a string of criticisms about the lack of credibility of an overly stereotypical seaside village, where even the kids play barefoot football. Now, apart from the fact that the writer of this article used to play football at the seaside in the summer, barefoot until the mid-80s, in the company of a band of savages of the same age (but not for anything else: with rubber slippers it was impossible), it is obvious that this is not a documentary on the Cinque Terre, but a stylized, idealized vision of a place in the past, almost sixty years ago. In an animated, FANTASY story, in which those places are visited by sea monsters. In fact, watching the movie, you have to remember every time who put their hand on it, not to be surprised by all those signs, posters, corrected writings.

If anything, we should wonder why Italy and its Italian character continue to have appeal, as a setting, always and only by resorting to the master Fellini, to Mastroianni, to the Vespa rides of Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn, and their Cinderella on vacation in Rome. It seems that if you want to make an Italian setting charming, you have to go back to sixty years ago. On the other hand, can you think of any pictures as charming, appealing to the international market, damn beautiful and dreamy as those? It is not Italy at the turn of the 50s and 60s, not the real boom years and their real boomers, but the glossy vision of them, made immortal by cinema. Which we carry with us and will carry with us until we have something cooler to offer the world. And if you add a "probably never" of your own, it is not so easy to be wrong. But that's another matter.

Luca, however, of the fashionable side of those years there does not give a damn. Dream-Vespa aside (whose presence fortunately slips into the background in the second part, because at the beginning too much, even less), the only fop is in effect the villain of the story, and you want to kick him in the teeth from the first moment. Portorosso is a small fishing village, a small old town. As a viewer, it's a close second that you can superimpose on it the little seaside town you've spent years and years vacationing in, wherever it is.

The other question that has taken the sleep out of half the Internet, it seems, is whether or not Luke is a minor Pixar. The great success of Pixar films has unfortunately made it so that from every new work of the animation studio we expect "the new Toy Story". As if that were ever possible. To have that kind of impact, I mean. Each film is its own story, it involves a lot of different people, it has different ambitions and maybe different budgets, and it tries to set up its own discourse. Luca, if anything, moves away from the line of "metabolization of death" that has characterized the latest films in the California studio, and chooses the path of a classic coming-of-age story. Marrying the theme, if you want simple but extremely universal and never as important as today, the acceptance of the different.

In his daring escapes, in the breakneck bike rides (very, very, very Miyazaki-like. At least as much as Giulia's cat, Machiavelli, and his father, Massimo), in the rascality of the gang of bullies who act like bullies, in all those involuntary contacts with the water that (like in an episode of Ranma 1/2) change the appearance of the two kids who come from the sea, in his trenette al pesto, Luca forcefully reiterates what everyone should know, that is, that the common condition of human beings should be enough. In the film's metaphor they are the "sea monsters", who come from the sea and are feared and hunted, in life out there they are "the others", of all kinds. And they often come from the sea, too. Everyone should know this, yes, but for many it is easier to pretend to forget it.

The ending is a bit Heart of the Book, but it fits, it fits too, and personally I found it successful because of that tone. It doesn't have the visual splendor of other Pixar films, Luke, that is, but it has its own style, and that's enough. Light, classic, with a flavor somewhere between an Amblin film - with a "gang of losers" chasing victory as much as the meaning of life - and a Japanese anime (a stated passion of Casarosa's and embraced by the team of artists who worked on the film), Luca is a typical film that is truly suitable for any age. If you're a kid, you cling to those dreams, you become friends with the main characters, you root for them, you understand the underlying discourse. If you're an adult, there's a chance that nostalgia will come to tie a wool sweater around your neck, reminding you of summers a million years ago (or maybe two). Bringing back memories of great summer friendships cut short by a return to the city. We have all met our Lucignolo (and every Lucignolo has met his Pinocchio), we have all dreamed of adventure and of discovering the world, behind the profile of a big building, in a remote vacation resort. Whether swimming with sea creature fins or pedaling upright on a bike, it makes little difference.

I hope you enjoy it!

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Chernobyl review

Posted : 2 years, 4 months ago on 20 January 2021 12:04 (A review of Chernobyl)

In "Considerazioni Inattuali" Nietzsche says that man is a historical animal is as such needs history to survive. This series in my opinion, is one of the most well done of the last decade, unheard of testimony that we humans need to remember the suffering that made our history. An ode to the truth (although this version has not been accepted by Russia) the series follows scene after scene the true historical events, thanks also to the help of Svetlana Aleksievič (2015 Nobel Prize for Literature) author of the 1997 book "Prayer for Chernobyl", in which she collected the testimonies of all those who, that tragedy, really lived it. Jonah Renck's direction cannot but leave us astonished, he was able to tell the disaster with images as heartbreaking as intense, the pain was not spectacular thanks to a narrative that despite everything, is of a disarming delicacy. Although you might think of a purely political series, the real protagonist of the scene is the pain, the series is in fact dedicated to all those who have died and suffered, is dedicated to human frailty and truth that despite everything always finds a way to overcome the lies (or at least that's what we hope). Let's stop and look at the attention to detail that characterizes every scene, every frame is well studied and thanks to the choice of an extraordinary cast the series is overall endowed with a charisma that leaves us anything but indifferent, on the contrary keeps us stuck in front of the TV and shocks us when we remember that: this is not a simple series, all this really happened.

I believe that all this can pass unnoticed some mistakes, such as the fact that the original version is not in Ukrainian, but in English, this in fact takes second place to the spectacular acting of the entire cast in which stands out the name of Jared Harris, who stands out for his performance playing Professor Legasov, physicist who was part of the team to put out the fire and cover the reactor discovered in Chernobyl and the man who first revealed the truth about the reasons for the incident, next to him we find Stellan Skarsgård in the role of Boris Shcherbina and Emily Watson in the role of Ulana Khomyuk, a fictitious character, invented in order to give space, within the narrative, to the position of scientists who had a decisive role in discovering the truth about the rbmk reactor, even this choice has been much discussed by the public. Well, I think that you really have to have guts to criticize this series exactly as Johan Renck and Craig MazinMa had guts to deal with a theme so big that it affects the whole of humanity, not a single nation, not a single continent, but all of us. Chernobyl despite some minor technical errors, is one of the most beautiful series ever made, a painful journey and a tribute to the lives of millions of humble people who sacrificed themselves for a greater good and that until now have never been properly remembered.

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Bicycle Thieves review

Posted : 2 years, 4 months ago on 20 January 2021 12:00 (A review of Bicycle Thieves)

De Sica's neo-realism paints post-war Rome with lively, raw strokes, fishing among ordinary people rather than professional actors, yet without losing an ounce of class. "My aim is to trace the dramatic in everyday situations, the marvelous in the small chronicle, indeed, in the very small chronicle," said the director of Sora. And this beautiful portrait of the Roman populace, made of robberies and restaurants, masses of the poor and pawnshops, is about the smallest chronicle. And as sadly often happens, even a small matter of chronicle may ruin a whole life.

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Olé review

Posted : 2 years, 4 months ago on 19 January 2021 12:37 (A review of Olé)

A horrible film. One of the worst of Italian cinema.

Among the worst of both Vanzina and Boldi and Salemme (who in truth have made many bad ones). No comment on Enzo Salvi.

A film that proves to be bad since the crude headlines, made with an animation technique at the limit of amateurish

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Hibernatus review

Posted : 2 years, 4 months ago on 19 January 2021 12:34 (A review of Hibernatus)

In my memory, Louis De Funès is one of the three "unrepeatable" comedians who made "at least" a generation laugh out loud: Totò and Jerry Lewis are the other two.

Three "greats", not recognized as such by the critics of their time, but hailed by the public. 

 The great Totò, Antonio De Curtis, made a couple of films with De Funès (one of which - "I tartassati" - was truly remarkable, also thanks to Aldo Fabrizi) and the two remained bound by a true friendship; furthermore, Louis dubbed several of Totò's films for the French.

And it was Jerry Lewis who, in a touching ceremony, presented De Funès with a much-deserved César for Lifetime Achievement in 1980, three years before a second heart attack killed him.

For my family, the release of a new Louis De Funès film was an unmissable appointment, in 1970 and the surrounding area; we saw many of them and I have a wonderful memory of them: we had a lot of fun, always and all four of us.

This "Hibernatus" was the first film "reviewed", after a long time and not in a movie theater but today on TV.

What happened? With almost 40 years more, am I a different person? Will I feel the same way when I see other films by my beloved Louis? Or maybe this film, which is credited as one of the best, was not to my taste even then, since I only remembered one gag?

I want to lean towards "the last one I said." Otherwise I wouldn't go beyond a pass: but feeling guilty.

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The Queen's Gambit review

Posted : 2 years, 4 months ago on 19 January 2021 12:25 (A review of The Queen's Gambit)

Whether it was the settings, perfectly realistic down to the last period detail, or the incredible strength of the all-female protagonist (played by an extraordinary Anya Taylor-Joy) that made The Chess Queen the last great revelation of Netflix, i can't say for sure. But what's for sure is that this new series quickly captured my attention, leading me to devour all seven episodes in just a few days. The perfect combination of drama, subtle comedy and torment, mixed with the intriguing world of high-level chess competitions, makes it difficult to detach ourselves from what is certainly one of the most successful productions of recent times.

Beth Harmon, the protagonist, has everything: the determination of those who want to get to the end, to show the world what she's worth. A difficult past that she still can't completely overcome and that, like it or not, comes back in her daily nightmares. The charm of the beautiful and damned that leads her to get close to everyone, but never really reach anyone (and here emerges all her more tormented side). And, finally, the spiral of addiction to anxiolytics and alcohol, the only apparent source of salvation from the pain and stress that grips her. A perfect mix that leads the viewer to become more and more attached, rooting for her cause.

The story begins in the 1960s when, after a car accident, Beth loses her mother (we later find out that she had been suffering from mental illness for some time and had removed the child's father from their lives) and arrives at the Methuen Home for Girls. Life at the orphanage is marked by the strict rules of Miss Deardorff, the institute's director - with her affectionate but austere character - who tries to integrate young Beth, still shaken by all the events of her childhood. Where the guardian fails, Jolene succeeds: another child in the structure, with a restless soul, and a sort of leader of the group. It is she who explains to Beth how to use the anxiolytics that are prescribed to the girls, leading her, unintentionally, to an early addiction.

One day Beth, who finds herself in the basement of the Methuen, makes the acquaintance of Mr. Shaibel, the janitor, a solitary chess player. The little girl is immediately fascinated by the game, by the fluidity of the moves and by the chessboard that - as she will later admit as an adult - is a sort of entire world that she can easily control (unlike the real one). The man, initially gruff and grumpy, becomes fond of the girl and decides to teach her everything he knows about the game of chess, noticing first her incredible skills.

Beth will begin to associate the anxiolytics, which she takes every night to tame the nightmares about her childhood, to the repetition of the moves she learns from her master. And that she relives every night, when in bed she imagines a giant chessboard on the ceiling, where she replays all the games she could have played. Thus entering, slowly, into an early whirlwind of addiction and obsession. Which, once discovered by the director of the institute, will lead her to be removed from the game.

Everything changes when, at the age of fifteen, Beth is adopted by Mr. and Mrs. Wheatley, Alma and Allston, and finds herself having to deal with a new "family", which, although on the surface may seem traditional and well-to-do, in reality (like all of them) hides its own problems. Allston and Alma are in fact about to break up. Shortly after Beth's arrival, Mr. Wheatley will leave for Denver, abandoning his wife, addicted to alcohol and suffering from strong migraines, and their new daughter.

But his departure will only benefit the two women who, finding themselves alone, will establish a new partnership. This laid the foundations for Beth's future success, as she resumed playing chess and entered local tournaments. Immediately affirming herself as a new, young champion and destroying all the competitors in front of her. And here we finally get into the heart of the narrative, arriving at the chapters dedicated to tournaments, regional and otherwise. The competitions show how fierce the world of high-level players is, along with the incredible strength and ability of our protagonist. Her talent quickly brings her to the forefront, gaining more and more success and fame. But it also brings back her addiction to tranquilizers, with which she will fight all her life.

Along with the first important victories, Beth will also know the teenage heartbeats. The world of chess masters is in fact populated by bold young men, some of whom manage to attract the attention of the young girl, causing her new and unknown sensations. Alongside her rise to success, she will discover sexuality, unrequited love and the need to open up to others (which, for her, is extremely painful) in order to create lasting bonds.

So far I have listed some of the main elements, which i find in the plot of The Queen of Chess. But I don't want to spoil the whole story for you (hoping that among readers there is still someone who wants to start this compelling series), so i will leave you with some final instructions. Beth, an unstoppable chess machine, makes an incredible rise, destroying many international champions. But her goal is only one: to beat Vasily Borgov, the number one player in the world. Will she succeed? And between loves that come and go and few friendships, who will remain next to her when another mourning hits her young life? Will her addiction to anti-anxiety drugs, which she has had since she was a child, affect her future? That, is for you to find out.

What i can tell you is that certainly, The Queen of Chess, is a perfectly orchestrated series, able to combine the precision of the game of chess - with all its rules and moves - to human introspection (only in the season finale Beth will really be able to overcome, and understand, the ghosts of his past). A work that investigates the value of human relationships, loneliness (another main theme of the story), talent and passion. A challenge against everyone and, first and foremost, against oneself. A checkmate that makes the production win hands down.

The Queen of Chess is a little gem in the Netflix collection. A series that, although born under the pretext of celebrating the community of chess grandmasters and lowering even the most inexperienced viewers into the exciting high-level games, actually shows all the colorful varieties of the human nature. More than recounting the talent of young protagonist, it shows her intimate weaknesses: the irreparable wounds of childhood, the desire to assert herself and gain status (for example, there is frequent mention of Beth's love for high fashion clothes, a passion she has had since she was a teenager and a sort of redemption that represents her victories).

In addition, of course, to the necessity of love. Not only in relationships, but entirely in life. The love of a mother, of a father, of a friend, of a mentor. The love for a game, the game of chess, which can give you much more than you could have imagined.

In addition to the plot and narrative twists, certainly intriguing, The Queen of Chess also impresses with its shots, particularly well cared for. In addition to multiple close-ups on the gaze and face of Anya Taylor-Joy, which focus attention on the emotions of the protagonist, eviscerating them, i often find sequences designed to exemplify its genius in the game. I was catapulted into the mind of the protagonist and observes the rapid movements of the pawns that take place in her imagination (with flashbacks to her childhood games), even before the game is played on the chessboard. A ploy that brings the audience closer to the figure of the player himself, making the different games much clearer and more interesting.

In addition, another note of merit, must surely be given to the soundtrack of the series. Although the songs proposed are few, they are chosen for the most opportune moments (and alternated with the numerous, symbolic silences). In addition, the songs selected for The Queen of Chess have been specially composed by Carlos Rafael Rivera, a faithful collaborator of Netflix productions.

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Commando review

Posted : 2 years, 4 months ago on 17 January 2021 08:10 (A review of Commando)

The ancestor of all the vertical scrolling shooters that depopulated in the '90s is undoubtedly Commando, a title that has also paved the way for the subcategory of arcade games of war. Back in 1985, with this simple shooter, Capcom managed to create the prototype of many productions and series that are still going on today.

commando-arcade1Even so, Commando had nothing of the masterpiece nor was presented in a particularly spectacular: controlling the classic lone hero (obviously a U.S. soldier) we had to clean up the levels from the enemy presence trying to maximize the score. There were still no upgrades, vehicles or secrets: only endless shootings and a difficulty that define "exaggerated" is little.

Since the enemies kept arriving at a constant rate, we couldn't stop and plan any strategy, but only advance upwards by shooting wildly. In addition to the trusty machine gun, there were hand grenades that could only be thrown in one direction. This detail, along with the exaggerated amount of enemies, made surviving a jackpot. In fact, a good way to stay alive was to "flail" with the joystick while shooting, thus hitting multiple targets at once.Commando-arcade2Commando, thanks to the almost total absence of competitors, was one of the first great successes signed Capcom in the 80s. After the arcade version, it came back regularly on almost every single platform of the time: from consoles to computers. And it was the home versions that highlighted how, at game level, it was very limited and repetitive. Yet the coin-op was ubiquitous in all the arcades and often crowded with people.Thanks to Capcom's far-sightedness in presenting a title with a military setting when science fiction and cartoons were still dominating, as inspiration for video games. The rest is history: apart from sequels and conversions, there have been many shooters that have used the same setting over the years. First with bitmap graphics and in more recent times with polygonal graphics, including the first person shooters.

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Ghosts 'N Goblins review

Posted : 2 years, 4 months ago on 17 January 2021 08:00 (A review of Ghosts 'N Goblins)

The first memory I have of Ghost 'n Goblins is olfactory. My cousin, older than me by a good five years, had placed in his dilapidated garage a ZX Spectrum 48k, a small monitor, and his good box of GNG. And what better setting, if not that gloomy basement, in which not a single ray of sunlight filtered, constantly in the dark and that exuded a smell of old and abandoned, as well as an unpleasant feeling of damp rot ... almost as if it were really a cemetery. One day I found him there intent on playing it and I was struck: in that title there were zombies! I stared at it for quite a while, almost as if I were watching one of those horror movies that I liked to peek at night in secret from my parents, often hoeing, because in fact a little 'scared on me put it. Then I also had the Sinclair computer and GNG was one of my favorite titles, although the abnormal difficulty did not allow me to pass the second level. Later I bought the C64 and, as fate would have it, I found that game as a gift. I managed to finish it and, despite the minimalist graphics and the levels' cut that made my nose twitch a bit, the exquisitely lugubrious music, with ghostly choirs (and that historical bass line), and the typical grey/metal palette brought the atmosphere back to a thousand. And then... there were the zombies!

However, it's not easy to explain what GNG represented to us 80s teenagers. The risk of being taken for a ride by the new generation of gamers is just around the corner. Then again, how can you blame them? Let's face it, there is some embarrassment in admitting that GNG was the Resident Evil of our childhood. And I can already hear today's kids laughing their asses off, comparing the images of the two titles that have in common only the presence of the living dead and the Capcom logo. However, try to go back in time. In a world, that of platformers, seen in the collective imagination as colorful and fun, populated by platforms suspended in the air with sparkling colors, in which the opponents were so pretty that when they took you out, apart from a sudden disappointment, you could not bear them a grudge, well, in that pacioccoso universe that had in the likeable Mario the rising star, Capcom entered to leg tesa tense upsetting the canons that the moustachioed Italian plumber aspired to set as standard, with a title from the dull colors, a protagonist ugly from the uncultivated beard, of the horrible monsters and to the base of all a difficulty that gave the nerves. And maybe that was the gist, the ostracism of every single step, the repulsion towards every single opponent. Not only the final one, representing the summa of wickedness, the climax of hatred, the goal to be reached and defeated liberatingly, but every single moment, every damn little monster, even the tiny ones, seemingly insignificant and harmless, were little bosses who made claims on our existence and often succeeded in their evil intentions. Those creatures were really scary, and not because they were graphically horrifying, or mentors of atavistic and childlike frights, but because they were capable of killing us at any time. The terror of GNG's monsters was their cruelty, their ruthlessness. The buzzing and obsessive idea of having to start all over again, or maybe from that damned checkpoint placed too far behind than where we had left us the pens, put authentic shrinkage. The reverential fear not only of coming face to face with a horrifying creature, but also with the futility of our efforts, fearing, at every moment, that a zombie would appear from the ground or from above a little devil to make us unexpectedly killed. A constant emotional tension throughout the course of the game, to try to hang on with his teeth to life, armor, even the boxers of the protagonist.

Seeing it again today, GNG appears in a different light, filled with tasty irony, in some cases I don't know how voluntary. Think of the beginning, with the brave Arthur lying on the ground in a cemetery (!), in his underwear (!!), with his beauty next to him doing I don't know what (!!!). But look also at his temporary transformation into a frog, with a hilarious croaking, in case you hit a tombstone too many times (you know, never awaken the eternal sleep of an evil magician) and the fearless knight who faces the monsters without spot, without fear, but, in case he loses his armor, with his boxers in full view. Yet this condition has never made us laugh, because we feel naked, uncovered, without a barrier separating our mortal body from those stinking creatures, which actually seem more spiteful than disgusting. Above all the Red Arremer, a recurring mid-boss and true centerpiece of the game, equipped as it is of those seemingly random patterns that have made damn more than one generation of players. In the unfortunate event that takes flight, we find ourselves to rejoice if you can defeat him, or to curse in the event that a dive sorties the right effect (for him) and to stare at the face full of evil satisfaction, for a few moments mockingly imprinted on the screen. Capcom's graphic designers must have been geniuses. Today we would like to smack them, but obviously, if this is the result, some credit should be given to them. But the charisma of the red gargoyle has been noticed by the same Japanese software house, if it came to repropose it as a playing character and even the protagonist of other titles (above all, the never too praised Demon's Crest/Blazon for SNES). But GNG is also a mechanism that needs to be assimilated in all its dictates, in the hope that in those few random points the luck will come our way. GNG is not synonymous with fun, not right away. Only after so much dedication you can get some results and the secret is just that: insist, do not be demoralized, because the results come. And once you have entered its inflexible schemes, once you have acquired the right rhythm, then you will have fun. But at what price! The title is comparable, perhaps a little 'unfairly, almost to a laser game, a sort of dark fairy tale of Burti's memory, with a beautiful story to live spread over the scary but fascinating views, prior torture with the cumbersome game system. GNG is two sides of the same coin, only that to discover the other, you have to arm yourself with patience, patience that not everyone is willing to invest, and to tell the truth there is no blame. There are those who will insist, clinging in moments of discouragement to those minimal but tangible progress made so far, and those who will decide that the game is not worth the candle, pardon, the lamp.

GNG is a seminal hymn to innovativeness, a melting pot of ideas, with its diversified and transcendent levels, even with the graphic limitations of the period that conditioned its rendering. Paradoxically, a constraint that blocked its construction but that acted as a stimulus to our fervid imagination, which would have probably come to figure out what would have represented the official sequel, Ghouls'n Ghosts. But we know very well that in that distant 1985 our imagination made up for the obligatory lack of technique. The design of the stage is commendable and the imaginative power of some breathtaking sections is immense: glissando on the historic cemetery initial, you can not leave out the striking bridge on fire and the last two, in an anxious climb to reach the summit, where waiting for us we will not find the beautiful to us ignobly stolen, but his relentless kidnappers. In the meantime, it will happen to curse because of the difficulty in piloting Arthur when crouching or near a ladder, and to discover that, of all the arsenal available, apart from the initial and trusted spear, the only valid weapon is the quick dagger, while the torch and the axe are to be avoided like the plague, with their descending and limited trajectory. In the midst of this trinkets, the shield (or cross in the less difficult Japanese version Makaimura), the ultimate weapon, and not because the best of the lot, as the one required to finish the sixth and final level, able to parry the opponent's blows (but not the final boss, a huge Lucifer) on the one hand, but from the terribly short range on the other, forcing a dangerous face to face with enemies. And, like it or not, you have to take the courage in four hands. Always having in mind that the shining armor is inexorably disposable, providing protection only once, after which you will remain in underwear, figuratively and practically speaking. And, after the boxers, the next step of this strip is extreme, coming directly to the skeleton. This is not enough, even if you reach the aforementioned Luciferone with the required weapon, once defeated you will learn that you have to repeat the entire round, because the one you have just laboriously completed is pure illusion! Yes, but the neurosis will be real, especially thinking about the increased difficulty of the whole thing. And to finish it again will be an epochal enterprise, perhaps with the help of a pinch of good luck (and some providential bugs ...), but certainly not by chance: how many can aspire to enter in this restricted hall of fame? GNG would have already had the better of most players hands down, but to want to win and ridicule them, to show off playful meanness to such an extent, is not exactly fair. Nevertheless, a title to love unconditionally, it's up to you to decide whether to do it despite or because of this.

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Final Fight !

Posted : 2 years, 4 months ago on 17 January 2021 07:11 (A review of Final Fight)

Final Fight has bewitched all the arcade goers of the late 80's and early 90's thanks to and especially to its graphic/artistic/technical aspect, as well as immediate and fun playability. A riot of blows and POP culture of the time. It was probably, in those years, the best thing to do in the company of a friend and a bag of coins playing.

A group of thugs called Mad Gear, in order to put Metro City in check, kidnap Jessica, the beautiful daughter of the city's mayor. It's too bad for Mad Gear that the mayor in question is Haggar, a mountain of muscle, a former professional wrestler and a "woe to daddy's heart". What's more, the mayor is accompanied by an angel-faced but extremely badass street fighter and a pissed-off martial arts master by default. If I was the boss of Mad Gear I would have minded my own fucking business....

There was something magical about Final Fight: you just had to start the game and its style, colors, sounds, designs, immediately let you know you were about to play something massive, something beautiful, something rewarding. Final Fight was the beginning of the new era of the accompanied bludgeons, which would then rage in arcades around the world. Because Final Fight was all about graphics in 1989. You could not see around fighting games with characters so big, so animated, so much everything. On the technical front Capcom had spared nothing, laying the groundwork for what they would offer a few years later with King Street Fighter 2.

But there was not only the technical "revolution" of the genre in Final Fight. With this scrolling fighting game we have witnessed the concept of Strong, Balanced and Fast that so much influenced the productions to come, not only of Capcom, but of all other software houses. Haggar made the enemies tremble with his power, his plastic grips, with that flying that when you subdued an enemy, ending up landing on other poor unfortunate, you felt a kind of eternal father. Cody, also Jessica's boyfriend, galvanized you with his balanced style, precise punches to the face, flying kicks and assorted "coolness". And then there was Guy with his "ninjesque" speed made of fast punches and kicks, acrobatic holds and oriental pissing off in plain sight. Explained in this way, the three protagonists seemed to be sketches, the classic characters of the POP culture of the late 80's, but in essence they were so iconic that they generated clones to die for. Capcom may have plundered Western culture for many characters and more, without inventing anything new, but no one, until then, had transported them in a video game with such conviction and overbearingness. The scenarios, the music, the situations, the atmosphere, the screams, the names, everything has a familiar 80's flavor. It is said that one of Final Fight's major programmers admitted during an interview that the person in charge of finding names for each character was a girl who was in love with 80's music.

Final Fight was also simplification. Everything that was behind Capcom's title seemed almost complex in front of the minimalism of the controls that the programmers thought for their work. And so two buttons were enough to make monumental fistfights. One button you jumped, one you gave blind blows through a combo of kicks and punches. The combination of the two created another set of flying moves and the unprecedented desperate sweep that took away that millimeter of energy that made you not abuse it. Even to grab the opponent you only had to get close to him. If this was not immediacy! Too bad that Capcom had not implemented the race, a possibility present for example in the legendary Golden Axe among other things, which would make it even more varied set of moves.

And yet, our favorite scrolling beat 'em up was born from the observation of two Japanese programmers that the game that was racking up the most coin in American arcades (and therefore in the largest market) was the legendary Double Dragon. So why not make a new game and not present it to the world using an already familiar name? So it arrived as Street Fighter '89, and then changed its name because Capcom realized that the change of genre, compared to the first Street Fighter, would have generated more confusion among players than anything else.

Who knows if Capcom had ever imagined that many years later, even today there are those who insert the virtual coin and go down to the side of Haggar, Cody and Guy ready to make the deck to Mad Gear, once again.

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Burger Time - my review

Posted : 2 years, 4 months ago on 17 January 2021 07:03 (A review of BurgerTime )

There are conversions whose value goes far beyond their fidelity to the original, because they influence the life of a console to the point of marking the history of videogames tout court. Thinking about the Atari VCS, Space Invaders and Asteroids come immediately to mind, while you can not even start a discussion on Colecovision without mentioning Donkey Kong. Speaking of the Intellivision instead, the conversion par excellence and perhaps the most representative title of the machine is certainly BurgerTime, published between 1982 and 1983 by Mattel.

The game structure is based on the formula of the homonymous Data East coin-op, a puzzle-action title composed of several fixed-screen stages. Inside the latter we discover a complex of platforms connected by stairs, according to a different layout for each level of the game. Lying on the horizontal planes are the ingredients of huge hamburgers, consisting of two slices of bread and a companion more or less rich in layers (meat, tomato, lettuce) depending on the stage. The player controls the sprite of Peter Pepper, a white dressed cook whose task is to move through the screen, literally stepping on and crushing the different ingredients, which, when they are completely compressed, fall down to the floor immediately below, with a chain effect whereby when one falls on the other it causes the descent. Peter's final intent is to push all the layers towards the bottom of the screen, in order to join them together and complete the preparation of all the sandwiches corresponding to the ingredients scattered on the stage.

Pepper's job would be quite simple, if it weren't for the presence of enemies that roam each level in the form of hot-dogs, eggs and cucumber slices, chasing him incessantly. Peter can crush them by dropping the different layers of hamburgers on their heads, but this is a fleeting satisfaction since after a few seconds the eliminated opponent pops up again as if nothing had happened. The simple touch of one of them is instead the ruin of our cook, who thus loses a life (of the initial five, plus one free gift every 10,000 points). Paradoxically, however, with a minimum of shrewdness these antagonists can be even useful to our cause: it will be enough to compress the last part of a layer while one or more of them are walking on it to make both the ingredient and the enemies fall two horizontal levels, due to the additional weight of the opponents sent in this way to take a trip to the lower floors.

If our character should find himself in a tight spot, we have a supply of pepper that Peter can use to temporarily knock out his pursuers and pass through unscathed. The reserves of pepper, obviously counted, are replenished through special items that appear occasionally on the screen after you have completed the descent of a certain number of layers, different for each stage.
An examination of the gameplay of BurgerTime, however, would be incomplete without mentioning a detail often overlooked but certainly essential to the success of this title: the rivals of Peter Pepper always try to catch him, even anticipating his moves to cut him off, but they are forced to a continuous motion and are unable to reverse their direction of 180 degrees, in other words they can not go back on their feet. All this can and indeed must be used by the player to prepare a tactic useful to evade their attacks and, in the best case, to "group" them as much as possible, in order to limit the risk of being caught between two fires.

A green hamburger between two slices of bread of a sinister yellow oriented to gray: would you eat such a sandwich? I don't think so, but from a chromatic point of view it's a very good choice, that matches divinely with the blue stairs, a happy deviation from the coin-op where they were made of white pegs. The final result, punctuated by notes of orange, red and bright green, is a palette on the whole very pleasant and in my personal opinion much preferable to the original arcade, which already did not stand out particularly for the graphics package. The character animations are also flawless, especially that of the cucumber slice that rotates fluidly on itself. To put the icing on the cake we think the animated screen introduction, consisting of the credits included in the context of a stylized stage with moving characters, and the intermission scenes. The latter, a real novelty compared to the original, appear at the beginning of each new life or a different stage and show four enemies who approach threatening our Peter, while the same image is repeated almost identically after the exhaustion of the last life, but this time with the evil now in close proximity to the protagonist, lying on the ground with his legs in the air.
The sound is, quite simply, an excellent representation of the original, with the inevitable music borrowed from the coin-op, those that after a long gaming session remain in your head as a mantra for days. The effects instead are few but good, especially that of the launch of pepper.

The most relevant and somewhat innovative aspect of this conversion, however, is the playability in the strict sense. First, it must be said that the levels of the game (which are repeated in a loop) are different in number and characteristics than the arcade: not six but seven, also, while in the version of the room sandwiches to complete were four for each stage, with the exception of only two hamburgers from eight layers of the fifth level, here we are to prepare three sandwiches in the first and fourth stage and four in the rest. More generally, the level design has been profoundly rethought, with the effect of achieving a more forgiving layout overall, with more open-ended schemes that are less tied to long-term strategy planning. Even the on-screen layout, more distinctly horizontal than in the coin-op or the more faithful conversions, helps to make the gaming experience less frustrating, especially when trying to drop layers of hamburger along with enemies, since the surface of the ingredients is larger and allows you to more calmly assess the propitious moment to cover the last stretch, placing more distance between Peter's sprite and his antagonists.

All of this should not make you think that this BurgerTime is a watered-down version without bite: it is true that the level of challenge is significantly lower, but the ability of the tactical player is certainly rewarded, and levels such as the fourth and especially the seventh stage require a good dose of strategy or at least a large supply of pepper. In practice this is a perfect difficulty for a home title, which certainly does not have the vocation of a coin-op and must first and foremost entertain.

And here we come to the crux of the matter: does this BurgerTime entertain? Yes, a lot! The essence of the arcade title is still there, but it has been stripped of the elements that made it too difficult for less experienced players. In addition, the control of the protagonist is extraordinarily fluid and sometimes, for brief moments of madness dictated by playful enthusiasm, even induces you to appreciate the directional disk of the Intellivision controller.
The options are few, in fact at a closer look are resolved only in the mode with two alternating players and the choice of game speed. And yet, it comes to think that you could even do without any variant: both because the most suitable speed is the default one (fastest, while the others available are fast, medium and slow), and because the game is really a perfect mechanism, which revolves around the exact point of balance between fun and challenge, between tactics and fun, between action and relax.

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