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All-Star Superman is a stellar home premiere version of DC’s Eisner Award-winning series

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DC Universe Animated Original Movies has done it again with the latest addition to its series of top quality home premieres,All-Star Superman .

A skillful screen adaptation of that bi-monthlu comic series that Grant Morrison wrote and Frank Quitely penciled. All-Star Superman ranks right up there with the very best installments in this Warner Premiere / Warner Bros. Animation / DC Comics series, Green Lantern: First Flight and Justice League – The New Frontier.

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Dwayne McDuffie (who sadly passed away yesterday due to complications from recent surgery) has done a terrific job with his screenplay for this home premiere. Making All-Star Superman the sort of film that will appeal to the truly dedicated fans as well as those who have never read a comic book in their lives. McDuffie did that by making sure that his script touched on the layers of morality that made this hero hold up for over 70 years. Dwayne also made sure that the prominent players in the Superman supporting cast — Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Lex Luthor and Perry White – all get their moments in the spotlight.

All-Star Superman starts out with a scientific experiment by Dr. Leo Quintum, held in a spaceship hurtling just above the surface of the sun. The experiment is sabotaged by a genetically enhanced man that mutates into a monster. Superman following closely by rescues the ship but not before he is receives an overdose of solar radiation.

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Dr. Quintum runs some experiments and discovers that while Superman has developed enhanced powers his cells are now breaking down and he is dying. At the same time Lex Luthor is tried and found guilty for crimes against humanity. Luthor is sentenced to death and awaits his fate in a prison near Metropolis. Both men begin walking down the same path, how each character deals with their fate frames their existence and purpose in the DC Universe.

The relationships between Clark Kent and his alter ego become more complex as he attempts to resolve his feelings for Lois and his relationship with Luthor. Along the way, All-Star Superman plays out this series of adventures which are a nod to the classic science fiction themes explored in early Superman stories as well as the more fantastic opponents from beyond space and time.

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For example;  Lois is given a gift for her birthday by Superman that allows her to get similar powers for 24 hours, along the way she is courted by the time-travelling super-powered Samson and Atlas and captured by the omniscient Ultra-Sphinx. The adventures are really only starting then. The characters have much more evolving to do and far more lessons to convey to audiences. Clark Kent is allowed to come to terms with his humanity and remind friends and family that the lessons he learned as a boy on a Smallville farm. Those of love, honesty and compassion are still relevant when the world seems to be coming apart at the seams.

The action sequences were some of the best ever for a DC Universe Animated Original Movie. Superman has some interesting battles in this film, including a frightening encounter with Parasite in which Kent has to maintain his identity while trying to protect and escape a prison riot with Lex Luthor. The battle choreography had a real sense of weight and forethought.

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Give how well All-Star Superman turned out, it only makes sense that the director of this particular DC Universe Animated Original Movie, Sam Liu, has worked on other memorable installments in this home premiere series. Among them Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths as well as Marvel Entertainment’s animated features Planet Hulk and Hulk Vs. All four of these films had memorable action sequences and hard hitting fights.

Speaking of hard hitting fights … What makes the Parasite battle in All-Star Superman so memorable is the imaginative way that Lui chose to stage this sequence in the home premiere. As the villain gains monstrous proportions, he then bceomes reminiscent of the creatures from the Fullmetal Alchemist   Japanese anime series. Liu has a distinct anime-meets-comic style that stood out in his earliest work on the Extreme Ghostbusters and Godzilla animated series yet he also directed and designed characters that were on par with his DC contemporary and award winning director Joaquim Dos Santos.

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Joaquim most recently directed the fun Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam animated short. All-Star Superman takes the high production value of that short and then extends it into a full-length feature.

If there was a fault to be found with this DC Universe Animated Original Movie, it would actually have to be with All-Star Superman’s voice casting. Ed Asner voices Perry White, editor-in-chief of the Daily Planet and Anthony LaPaglia voices Lex Luthor. While each actor makes their characters believable, Asner & LaPaglia unfortunately sound too much alike. As a direct result, when Perry and Lex are on screen together, then the audience might wonder if these characters are being voiced by the same actor.

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Aside from this minor annoyance, All-Star Superman has high production values and arguably the best comic book adaptation from DC Universe Animated Original Movies. Again, a perfect title for new and old fans of this character.

Okay. So All-Star Superman is not a letter-perfect adaptation of the All-Star comic book series. But then again, what animated comic book feature film ever is? In the comics, Superman commits 12 Challenges that are not unlike the Labors of Hercules. Impossible feats that test his physical abilities as well his guile, these have been a staple for the Man of Steel for decades.

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Going through all of these adventures would have easily turned All-Star Superman into a trilogy. But the upside is … Thanks to McDuffie’s smart screenplay as well as Lui’s inspired direction, for the first time (especially in animated form), Superman the character is presented as a sympathetic person that audiences can genuinely believe in.

This version of the character has much more dimension than the one featured in Superman: Doomsday and even more than the version highlighted in the Justice League Unlimited TV series.

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The sacrifices that Superman makes over this home premiere, his contributions to humanity and the resolution to his life are made in earnest. The All-Star Superman comic series earned Morrison and Quitely an Eisner Award. Here’s hoping that this home premiere will inspire audiences to go pick up some comics. Or at the very least go check out some o the other titles in the DC Universe Animated Original Movie series.

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“Adventure Time: Pirates of the Enchiridion” game coming this summer

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Adventure Time Pirates of the Enchiridion

“C’mon on, grab your friends … ” A new Adventure Time game is coming out across multiple platforms.

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In this open world game, Finn and Jake will be sailing on a raft (Named Jeff) through the flooded land of Ooo to solve the mystery of why water engulfed their home and to help others & get in hijinks along the way. With a ragtag gang of friends (From a vampire, to an Ice King, to a little robot) Finn and Jake will travel from the melting Ice Kingdom to the Fire Kingdom and fight in turn-based combat like an RPG.

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The trailer shows off some absolutely gorgeous character models and environments. I’m particularly enchanted by the gorgeous Candy Kingdom that’s briefly shown in this footage. The art design sticks close to the show, but brings with it a soft, sweet design rarely seen in adventure games. Which is a refreshing thing to bring to the table. Likewise, it’s a joy to see the characters translate to 3D so well. Outright Games has done some fantastic work here with their art design.

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Likewise, the voice cast for the show will be reprising their roles as characters in the land of Ooo. And they’ll have a lot of lines to record. Not only can you control Finn and Jake, but you’ll be able to play as BMO and Marceline as well. You can upgrade these characters to unlock unique abilities for combat and the map holds plenty of fun mysteries too. With side stories and secret locations, this seems like a game that’ll have hours & hours of fun.

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What strikes me particularly about this game is how much it resembles Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. This is no coincidence. Adventure Time have a history of being direct corollaries to Legend of Zelda games. “Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d You Steal Our Garbage?!” ‘s gameplay references “Zelda II: The Adventure of Link” and “Adventure Time: The Secret of the Nameless Kingdom” has the same top down look & combat stylings as “Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.” With this in mind, it’s absolutely delightful to see a Wind Waker homage with a series like this. Wind Waker was a gamechanger for the Legend of Zelda series, and it feels like “Pirates of the Enchiridion” will be a gamechanger for the Adventure Time games.

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‘Adventure Time: Pirates of the Enchiridion’ will be out July 17th for the Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Playstation 4, and PC. 

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Do you like treasure hunting and/or cooking soup? Then Pokemon Quest is the game for you

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Pokemon Quest

Immediately after the Pokemon press conference on May 29th, the mobile-switch cross platform game Pokemon Quest was available to download on the Nintendo eShop (with the mobile device version debuting later this month). Curious about the ‘Free-to-Start’ game, I snagged a download and started playing.

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Pokemon Quest is a game that feels best letting itself auto-run. You check in several times a day to see what Pokemon have appeared at your camp (The conceit behind this game is that you’re a treasure hunter & Pokemon flock to you to fight their brethren in your honor. They also sometimes just come by because you make really good soup. What can I say?). With the Pokemon at your disposal, you build a small exploration team much in the same style as the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon game series. And you then set them out to fight other Pokemon in open levels. From these battles, you win power stones (which allow you to upgrade your Pokemon’s health & attack power), and ingredients to lure other Pokemon to your camp.

You may’ve taken notice use of the term ‘Free-to-Start’ earlier in this article. That’s because — like many mobile services — this game offers add-ons for purchase. I don’t see any age limit on the Nintendo Switch version to take away ads for purchases (which many mobile games have chosen to add. See Disney’s own ‘Disney Crossy Road’) but the Pokemon Company may be expecting parents to set their own controls over the switch with the parental controls available on the system.

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Still, the game is typical in mobile game fare for trying to wring money out of players. Energy to play the game costs P tickets, which you can earn 50 a day … or you can just buy. The game gives you an amount to start with, shows you how to use them to speed up your game, and then takes you to the shop where you can see an advertisement to buy it — along with Pokemon furniture to help your team.

These packages can go up to $30 and include Pokemon in-game items & exclusive furniture. And while Pokemon Go offered items in bundles like this, it’s still odd to see in a Pokemon game — let alone a Pokemon game on the Nintendo Switch (albeit, this is a cross-platform game). The game itself doesn’t seem to have any sort of hard-pay line for gameplay, though. I’m up to the fifth world in my game without making any purchases. And while the game difficulty has dramatically ramped up, likely to encourage purchases, it’s still completely manageable to play without paying.

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In that sense, for a free game, it’s really cute & enjoyable. The graphics are pleasing and colorful. And if you return to camp, you’ll find all the Pokemon you’ve befriended hopping around adorable decorations. Sometimes stacking on top of each other, other times following each other around in what seems like games of tag.

The ‘cooking’ mechanic to encounter a random Pokemon makes encountering them feel less like gambling and more like strategy. By cooking certain recipes from materials you find on missions, you can draw certain types of Pokemon to your camp. Cooking in certain pots (unlocked by playing through the game) can draw higher powered Pokemon at the cost of more materials. And waiting while your energy fills up means running out of ingredients (At the point of the game I’m at, about half-way through) doesn’t seem to be a problem.

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All in all, I’d say, if you have access to this game, check it out and see if it’s for you. There doesn’t seem to be cross platform support for other Pokemon games. But as a standalone, it’s a cute, fun blip of a game. The hard ‘end’ of the levels within surprises me, especially since it seems to end with 150 Pokemon (out of the over eight hundred available). So I’m not sure what there is to get out of it when you get to the end level outside of getting every Pokemon. But it’s still a fun, very casual strategy game. Just keep an eye on purchases if your children decide to play. 

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“Pokemon — Let’s Go, Pikachu !” & “Pokemon — Let’s Go, Eevee !” to come to the Nintendo Switch this year

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Pokemon Let's Go Pikachu

During a conference in Japan earlier this week, the Pokemon Company revealed three new games : A mobile and Nintendo Switch cross platform game, “Pokemon Quest,” with graphics similar to Crossy Road and some absolutely adorable furniture in a “free to start” format; and for the Nintendo Switch, “Pokemon — Let’s Go, Pikachu !” and “Pokemon — Let’s Go, Eevee !”

Taking inspiration from gameplay styles from the popular “Pokemon Go” for mobile devices, “Pokemon — Let’s Go, Pikachu !” and “Pokemon — Let’s Go, Eevee !’ adopts the thrown Pokeball system. By using one controller with the Switch system, you can make a tossing motion to throw a Pokeball and capture a cute critter for your team.

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Additionally, you can buy the “Pokeball Plus” accessory to act as an additional “Joy-con” controller for your Switch to capture Pokemon. Then load a Pokemon into your pokeball, and take it out on the go.

From there, with the accessory, you’ll be able to interact with the Pokemon you have inside. Although current information doesn’t offer whether we’ll have more options than putting Eevee or Pikachu in the Pokeball Plus, the footage seen in the linked trailer is absolutely adorable.

The game itself seems to be a remake of Pokemon Yellow, a game released twenty years ago for the Game Boy Color. You explore the Kanto Pokemon region, and seem to be limited to the 150 Pokemon available when that game was out (Well, 151, if you were lucky, or good at exploiting glitches). But these games ditch the random encounters of mainline Pokemon games and adopt the overworld encounters of Pokemon Go. What Pokemon you see on the overworld is what you get.

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Additionally, Pokemon can follow you around and you can ride some of them. In footage, we see a trainer riding a giant Onyx (i.e., a giant snake made out of rocks. Who wouldn’t be comfortable riding on that?) and followed by a starting Pokemon, Bulbasaur. Although in these two games, you start instead with the series mascot Pikachu, and the evolution Pokemon Eevee, which can evolve into several different pokemon. You can also put little outfits on them. Which is – frankly — incredible.

Likewise, this seems to have local multiplayer. Hand the left Joy-con to a friend and let them enter your game. Or if you’re feeling really lonely, put the left Joy-con in your hand and pretend you have a friend while controlling the new trainer that arrives. What a fun time!

You and your friend can then team up to capture Pokemon together, or go exploring together- And you can have Pokemon you capture in Pokemon Go (of the original 151 Pokemon) arrive in your game. You can also send “Presents” back to your Pokemon Go game, including a possible new form of Pokemon as the trailer discusses.

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“Pokemon — Let’s Go, Pikachu !” and “Pokemon — Let’s Go, Eevee !” will be arriving on the Nintendo Switch this November. Likewise, a new Pokemon game will be released in the second Half of 2019. With a Mario movie in development and theme park additions on the way, it’s sure to be a busy year for Nintendo. 

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