RWBY Review (Volumes 1-3)

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Category: TV Show

Rating: Unrated

Overview: RWBY (pronounced “ruby”) is an animated web series created by the late Monty Oum for Rooster Teeth Productions, popularly known for their Halo parody Red vs. Blue. It is set in the fantasy world of Remnant, where monsters called the Grimm terrorize humanity. In order to combat the Grimm, young men and women are trained to become Huntsmen and Huntresses, using a pseudo-magical substance called Dust to enhance their weapons and a chi-like energy called Semblance to boost their combat abilities.

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The Grimm

The show follows a young girl named Ruby Rose, who is accepted into the Grimm-hunting school of Beacon at an early age due to her combat prowess. Ruby, along with her older sister Yang Xiao Long and two other teammates, Weiss Schnee and Blake Belladonna, form the Huntress team RWBY and train to fight the Grimm while also uncovering a secret plot to wipe out humanity.

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From left to right: Ruby Rose, Weiss Schnee, Blake Belladonna, Yang Xiao Long

Review:  When Volume 1 of RWBY first came out in 2013, I wasn’t terribly impressed by it. Probably the most interesting aspect of the show was the weaponry that characters used. Each weapon functioned as something short range (like a sword or a scythe) and also as some sort of gun or cannon. The characters would use the recoil from the gun aspect of their weapons to help propel themselves into attacks with the short range aspect of their weapons.

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Ruby with her weapon Crescent Rose

While Monty Oum’s great fighting choreography stood out during the action, more passive scenes lacked the same level of refined animation. It was weird seeing these characters go from doing backflips and cartwheels while fighting giant monsters to watching them move all stilted and slow like they were being weighed down. On top of that, background characters and even parts of the setting were only given outlines for models, leaving them completely blacked out. This was disconcerting because the main characters just stood around in swarms of shadowy figures, making them stick out way too much.

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Gee, I wonder who the main characters are?

Additionally, Volume 1’s plot and characters were pretty formulaic. The “kids go to a special school to learn how to save the world” concept has been done to death since the Harry Potter series. The primary antagonist of Volume 1, while charming, wasn’t too much of a threat to the main characters, and as a result there wasn’t too much suspense or tension regarding long term consequences.

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Roman Torchwick with his henchmen

Ruby is the typical naïve child figure who’s somehow extremely talented, but she does begin to develop into a more fleshed out character as the show progresses. Yang was a bit more complex as she was both the easygoing fun-lover and the protective sibling to Ruby. I would have liked to see a bit more tension between them, maybe Yang having mixed feelings over her younger sister being the leader of the team, but for what she is, she’s a fun character with some surprisingly introspective moments. Weiss and Blake were probably the most one-dimensional of the main cast, with Weiss being the snobby rich girl who thinks she’s better than everyone and Blake being the silent loner with a mysterious past.

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Weiss in particular seemed to mostly just act as a foil to Ruby, constantly questioning her ability to lead.

Aside from team RWBY there’s Team JNPR (pronounced “juniper”), and while they’re a fun group, most of the focus on them centers on a very conventional love triangle between team leader Jaune, his partner Pyrrha, and Weiss of Team RWBY.

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From left to right: Jaune Arc, Nora Valkyrie, Pyrrha Nikos, Lie Ren

Volume 1 was fun enough and had some decent humor, but if it hadn’t been made by such a small studio with such a low budget, I probably wouldn’t have given it that much attention. Volume 2 managed to make some good strides forward. Background characters and settings were given fully realized models and we finally got some more depth to the main characters, as well as a bit more focus on side characters like Headmaster Ozpin, a mysterious girl named Penny, and the new antagonists. The story took the characters outside of the school and into new, more interesting locations of Remnant, helping to build the world itself rather than just a single location. The love triangle between Jaune, Pyrrha, and Weiss reached something of an open conclusion, and the action scenes only got more frequent and better executed.

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Including an awesome and hilarious food fight to start out the season

While the plot did become more complex and the mystery surrounding the antagonists’ plans strengthened, there was still a notable lack of risk or suspense. At no point did I seriously worry about the safety of any of the main characters or even any of the side characters, and even though the season finale took place in the middle of a populated city, there didn’t feel like there were too many lasting consequences.

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Volume 2 finale

With Volume 3, the creators finally pulled through on the suspense factor while still keeping the series fun and funny. Volume 3 starts out with the fairly common tournament trope, but it does it well and the arena-style battles are a lot of fun to watch. The animation, both inside and outside of combat, has gotten much better since the series began. New characters, including Ruby’s charming rogue of an uncle Qrow, and new conflicts were introduced that not only threatened the well-being of the main characters but the world of Remnant as a whole.

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Qrow caught drinking

We finally get to see Team RWBY deal with some more serious scenarios that force them to change and adapt. Yang and Weiss in particular get some much needed development, and the romance between Jaune and Pyrrha escalates into something that tugs at the heartstrings of the audience. The antagonists reveal their plans, raising the stakes throughout the whole season and culminating in a finale that has long-lasting consequences for the series and that leaves the audience shocked and in tears.

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And it introduces a new antagonist

RWBY is above all else a series that has grown and will hopefully continue growing. It’s great to see smaller companies like Rooster Teeth create something so charming and fun and manage to improve upon it as they obtain more resources and opportunities to grow. I think that, given another volume or two, RWBY can evolve into an incredible series on par with anything put out by a larger studio.

Score: 7/10

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Pokken Tournament: Quick Review and DLC Possibilities

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I love Pokkén Tournament. This is the game that Pokémon fans have been waiting for since the series first launched (well, aside from an MMO, at least). We finally have the chance to make our pet-slaves fight in a way that goes beyond the simple turn-based action of the main series and even beyond the simple but chaotic combat of the Smash Bros. series. Now we have real-time Pokémon battles, and in HD no less. Each fight is like stepping into the world of Pokémon and experiencing it firsthand, and it is amazing. It feels so satisfying to land a thousand punches with Machamp, or steal your opponent’s health with Gengar, or body slam a paralyzed Charizard with Pikachu Libre. The key to the game’s success is its combat; the controls are simple enough for newcomers to the genre while deep enough to remain entertaining to more advanced players. Instead of having to memorize long strings of combos, players must learn to properly utilize a power triangle of grapples, counters, and regular attacks in order to win. While not providing anything revolutionary to the fighting genre, Pokkén Tournament absolutely delivers on its promise of providing a fun and fully-fleshed Pokémon fighting game.

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That being said, I do have 2 major problems with the game. The first is that there are only 2 unlockable characters (Mewtwo and Shadow Mewtwo), and the game requires you to go through a repetitive string of battles in the single player in order to unlock them both. We’re talking about well over a hundred battles facing the same 14 Pokémon over and over again, the only difference being variations in difficulty. The game’s single player starts you off at the bottom of each of the 5 “leagues”and requires you to make your way to the top 8 contestants before you can enter a tournament and then challenge the league champion. If you lose any battles while working your way up, you can end up making no progress or even going backwards, forcing you to endure more repetitive battles. Not to mention that each league adds more trainers, with the lowest of the 5 having 40 opponents and the highest having 100. This means that completing the single player could require going through more than 300 battles with NPCs. That’s just too much for a game with such a minimalist story and such a small roster.

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The completed roster

That brings me to the other problem I have with the game: the number of available fighters. While Pokkén Tournament does do a good job of avoiding clone characters (even Shadow Mewtwo and Pikachu Libre, who should have just been alternate costumes, play different than their counterparts), a roster of 16 is just too small for a franchise that has 721 Pokémon as of its latest entry. The developers obviously couldn’t put every pocket monster in a single fighting game, but with no current plans for DLC, it looks like this could be all the Pokémon we’ll be able to fight as. That said, Nintendo has shown interest in fan feedback before when it comes to adding DLC characters (looking at you, Smash Bros.), so here’s a few of my picks for Pokkén Tournament DLC:

600px-214HeracrossHeracross: Heracross’s horn would give it a completely unique playing style. Imagine being able rush in, scoop up your opponent, and launch them into the air to set them up for a combo. A grapple-heavy playstyle would work well to bring out this Pokémon’s design. Also, Pokkén Tournament is completely devoid of bug types, making Heracross a perfect addition.

681Aegislash.pngAegislash: Why Chandelure made it into the final roster I’ll never know. Pokémon designed after objects are some of the least liked in the franchise, but if you wanted to include one in a fighting game, why not choose the one based on an actual weapon? Aegislash’s “stance change” ability could add a whole new level to combat, requiring players to quickly switch between an offensive and defensive playing style.

701HawluchaHawlucha: “Although its body is small, its proficient fighting skills enable it to keep up with big bruisers like Machamp and Hariyama.” Why not put this Pokémon’s Pokédex entry to the test? Hawlucha would make a great speed-type, swooping in and out of combat in a hit-and-run playstyle. Its synergy attack could also act similarly to Pikachu Libre’s, with a hilariously small bird body-slamming a creature ten times its size.

600px-237Hitmontop.pngHitmontop: Of all Tyrogue’s evolutions, I think Hitmontop would be the most interesting. No other Pokémon moves in the same way, allowing it to stand out in both the field phase and duel phase of battles. Like Machamp’s rapid-fire punches, Hitmontop would be able to dish out a huge number of kicks by spinning, allowing for a playstyle that focuses more on quantity than quality of attacks.

497Serperior.pngSerperior: You know what’s better than a four-legged fighter like Suicune? A fighter with no legs at all! I chose Serperior out of the snake Pokémon (others including Arbok and Seviper) because of Chadelure’s status as the only generation 5 Pokémon currently in the game. Serperior’s playstyle could involve wrapping up opponents for grapples or tripping them up with its tail. You know, snakey stuff.

600px-009Blastoise.pngBlastoise: I know there’s already a lot of generation 1 Pokémon in the game, but I feel like Blastoise might be the best option to add out of all the starter Pokémon (I would have selected Greninja, but as it’s already in Smash Bros. I figured it probably already stood a good chance of becoming DLC). Aside from objectively being the best of the Kanto starters, Blastoise’s design could give it a unique playstyle. It could use its cannons to attack at long range while relying more on its defensive shell during close range battles, creating a strategy of breaking away from opponents.

600px-359Absol.pngAbsol: I was pretty confused when I heard Suicune made the final cut. Of all the quadruped Pokémon, why Suicune? While it is a fairly important legendary, its design didn’t seem especially well-suited for an actual fighting game like Pokkén. Absol seems like a much better choice due to the weapon literally sticking out of its head. Attacks could focus on rushing forward with a headbutt and then going into a combo of slices. Plus, who doesn’t want to see Absol’s glorious mega-form in HD?

There are plenty of other Pokémon I’d love to see added to the game, but listing them all would take forever. The point is that Pokkén Tournament is a solid game that deserves to remain relevant, and the best way to keep it relevant it to add in more characters from a franchise that has captured the hearts of players for 20 years.