Tag Archives: Review

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)



I’m going to bring the full brunt of my nerd here, because if there is one thing you don’t mess with it’s my Trek. Star Trek is the newest spectacle from director JJ Abrams and continues to rewrite Trek history in a way that may shock and surprise some fans. While I was very much entertained by the film, it’s plot and visuals; the characters were lacking and there was a jarring sense of incompletion left when the credits start to roll. This review is going to be in depth as I have thought long and hard in the twelve hours since the movie ended.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was a brilliant follow up to the original series episode “Space Seed”, in which Khan attempted to wrestle the Enterprise away from Kirk in order to continue his reign, albeit in the future. What worked about the film is, while Khan had been a one shot villain and was expected not to be heard from again, his return was one of pure vengeance against Kirk. The movie didn’t have to be loud and action packed to be effective and the actors didn’t even have to share the screen at the same time to be able to convey emotions.

Where the timeline changes is that Khan had been found by Starfleet Admiral Marcus, who decided to use Khan’s superior intellect as a tool to create ships and weapons designed for a more militaristic Federation. Kirk and Khan meet for the first time as the former is sent to capture the latter after two attacks on Earth kill many Federation citizens and the senior command of Starfleet’s finest vessels. This change understandably changes the relationship between Kirk and Khan. Both regarded each other as puppets in this film, a means to an end. The adversarial relationship was lost.

While I believe Benedit Cumberbatch to be an excellent actor; I believe this role was horribly miscast. We saw from the original series episode that Khan Noonien Singh, born in India, was played by physically fit and imposing Ricardo Montalban, a native of Mexico. Cumberbatch is in no way a physical presence and this lacking feature makes it impossible to believe he could beat battle hardened Klingon warriors into submission so easily. However, I am in no way stating that he did not play an effective villain. I think it would have been more effective if they had kept his name John Harrison and not play with the classics.

Echoed in this film is one of the most iconic scenes in Star Trek history. The sacrifice that was given in order to restore the warp drive before the imminent destruction of the Enterprise. However, in this film, it is Kirk that gives the ultimate sacrifice by taking the dose of radiation inside the warp reactor. While I still believe the original was a better scene, the heart that was portrayed between Alternate Kirk and Spock. It cemented the fact that they were good friends now. Unfortunately the entire scene is rendered completely useless, for they revive Kirk not twenty minutes later. While the emotional impact that cemented Kirk and Spock’s friendship remains, it is significantly lessened by the fact that the sacrifice is undone. If they wanted the impact to stick, Kirk should have remained dead. If they even wanted to animate him again, why did they need Khan’s blood? They have 72 other Khan-like people sitting right next to Kirk’s bed in the med bay.



The motivations of Section 31 have changed somewhat slightly in this universe. What was once a clandestine and relatively small group of operatives has become a power hungry and militaristic. I enjoyed the original Section 31 as depicted in Deep Space Nine. They were small group of people who were out to protect the Federation from high security threats by using deceit and espionage to complete their tasks. Even in Enterprise, this was founded as one of the earliest and most guarded parts of the Federation. With their inclusion in this universe as a larger and more active role in the Federation, I wonder what they may have in store if used again in the future. That would be a big if indeed.

Where the film excels is in its technical design. You get to see a bit more of the Enterprise’s innards, including the very complex looking warp core; again taking a departure from the clean and tidy look of the series. I very much enjoyed the look of the Dreadnaught class U.S.S. Vengeance, its dark and armoured hull and the bulky edges surrounding the engineering section of the ship. It was another departure from the streamlined vessels and I’ve always enjoyed seeing some of the more boxy looking vessels. Although I’m pretty sure that they just made the Klingon ships out of thrown away Transformer ideas.

Why is this ship such a secret when Admiral Robocop has a model of it on his desk?

Why is this ship such a secret when Admiral Robocop has a model of it on his desk?

I am at odds about the redesign of the Klingons in this one. I feel the look is too far from the original series and The Next Generation at the same time. It was established in Enterprise that generations worth of Klingons would be genetically predisposed to having their ridges removed. However, in the Prime Universe, by the 2280’s, ridge’s had again appeared on Klingons. This might just be an example of prequels retconning certain facts about the universe and causing unintentional continuity errors.  We’re even given strong facts about the established timeline in a quick shot of starship models in Admiral Marcus’ office.

I just don’t know where to put my marker on this one. It was a fast paced action film, which I really enjoy. It’s certainly a JJ-verse Star Trek film, with its lens flare and everything moving so quickly you have no idea what’s going on. However it just falls short as a Star Trek movie. Sure it has the elements of the universe and the characters, but we could really use the feel that was put so delicately into the series franchise. Now that the Enterprise has gone on it’s five year mission, I hope we may see more exploration and less Earth in peril plots, which four out of the last six films in the franchise have had. Until the next one, which I hope has a more original villain.

Final Score: 7/10

P.S. It’s spelt Qo’nos. Get it right!


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The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

While not being as impressive as its predecessor, The Dark Knight Rises is a true testament to what film making is today. It is visually stunning and sounds amazing. Newcomers to the franchise including Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Jason Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard wove themselves in to the universe so well, you believe their characters lived in this universe and experienced what they did. This incredible plot lives up to the hype of the film and raised my interest in the film as it continued.

I wasn’t surprised when I thought as the credits rolled “This wasn’t as good as The Dark Knight”, but found solace in the fact that while it wasn’t; it had elements that I found pleasing. Christian Bale’s performance is a bit more seasoned and far more understandable than his role in The Dark Knight. It was easier to understand his deep and often guttural speech. His presence in the film and the role he played was significantly different, as the story tells of Bruce Wayne well after having abandoned the cowl and cape, eventually returning to free Gotham from the clutches of Bane and the League of Shadows.

Once you have seen this movie, then you have my permission to die.

I have much to say about the casting in this film. I was happy with it, and most of the character changes between TDK and TDKR. You may notice many of the actors in this film appeared together in the 2010 film Inception (Tom Hardy, Marion Cottilard and Jason Gordon-Levitt), and do just as well in this film as they did in their previous Nolan film. The choice of Tom Hardy as Bane continues to fuel my fascinations with his roles, as he was introduced to me in Star Trek: Nemesis ten years ago.  His portrayal of Bane relied heavily on the strength and body language of the character. His confidence in both his training and his strength gives him a malevolent stance when facing off against Bale’s Batman. Jason Gordon-Levitt’s role as John Blake is confusing at best, but certainly entertaining. His character doesn’t really serve any purpose to main plot per say, but does well as an auxiliary character. Anne Hathaway’s portrayal of Selina Kyle is fantastic. She does well portraying a thief on the run, while also keeping composure as both a master of deceit and eventually as a partner to Batman. Her role resembles many of the earlier incarnations of Catwoman, although not named directly, her role as an anti-hero continues to be prevalent.

While I was very impressed with the overall plot of the film, I have to give special praise to giving the Nolanverse Batman a bit of vulnerability. It was the fact that he had met his match in Bane, and again in Selina Kyle, that gave Bruce Wayne the drive to return to Gotham and save it from certain destruction. I enjoyed the fact that it had to do with the return of The League of Shadows, an incredibly powerful group that received much of the same training as Bruce Wayne did under the command of Ra’s Al Ghul. It also had to deal with Bruce Wayne accepting his role as Batman, and finally finding the peace he deserved after his parents death.

Hans Zimmer returns to score the third film, again showing his incredible talent in scoring such an epic film. His co-writer James Newton Howard did not return which marks the first Zimmer only film in the trilogy. His exceptional skill at crafting the music to fit exceptionally into each scene gave compliment to the film, its cinematography and the characters. There were many instances in the previous film that had Nolan using silence as a major piece in a lot of his movements.

As with any review I have written, there are always be a negative aspect of the film that has to be addressed. There were way too many characters in this film, especially minor ones. John Blake, despite having a pivotal role at the end of the film, is shown far too often and Commissioner Gordon is shown far too little. Deputy Commissioner Foley was an incredibly annoying character that kind of served to just yell at characters when they were trying to do things right in the film. He is reminiscent of Deputy Chief Dwayne D. Robinson in Die Hard, a character notorious for his bonehead police procedures.

Aw, shit; I’ve been mentioned.

So would I recommend it? Sure! Whether or not it lives up to TDK as a successor is a moot point. It was hard to gauge this as a film because it loomed in the shadow of a film that broke so many accolades it makes my character on STO blush. If you haven’t seen it, and I imagine you have, see it. If you have, see it again. Especially if you were in second row IMAX and pretty much looked at Bruce’s crotch for the whole film.

Final Grade: A

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The Lorax (2012)

I’ve been seeing a lot of the new animated movies lately, but none had my interest until The Lorax. This is the Dr. Seuss tale that I was completely unfamiliar with. Without doing any research I happy went to see the film. It was not my first choice, but since I waited too long to see The Secret World of Arriety, this had to do. I was actually quite happy with the entire experience. I’ve never seen such a quiet theater full of children. This movie had a message, one that may have been lost on the younger audience, but resounds true with adults.


The film begins with young Ted Wiggins setting out to find the one thing that will win over the girl of his dreams; a tree.  His grandmother suggests speaking to the Once-ler, a strange hermit who lives well beyond the border of Thneed-ville, their artificial city.  Making contact, the Once-ler agrees to tell Ted the tale of the trees if he agrees to do hear it over multiple visits. Even after numerous attempts to be strong-armed into staying inside Thneed-ville, Ted escapes and learns the true nature of what happened to the trees, the story of The Lorax and plans to revive trees in the region to both save the environment and get the girl.

The story itself has a strong message, which may have been more relevant at the time the tale was created. Logging was and is an ever present danger to the natural environment and will cause more harm than good. Business correspondent Lou Dobbs stated that the film is trying to “indoctrinate children”. I find such business first ideals like this are exactly what this film is trying to avoid. I believe the message is a good one and doesn’t necessarily reflect any harm that could be done by creating that message in the film. It was in part of an effort of more than fifty thousand people that there was even an environmental messaged attached to the website of the film, so it’s obviously not corporate Hollywood making a strong effort, but the views of many people, businesses, actors and artists.

The 3D effects were likely the most impressive I had seen since Toy Story 3. The image did at times reach out at me, which indicates that the process of 3D animation is being refined and improved. An animation studio that I hadn’t heard of, Mac Guff, created the film. Alongside this film, as examples of their exemplary work are Dragon Hunters and Despicable Me, both I have seen an enjoyed the animation. Though I didn’t quite understand the way the trees were shown, almost cotton-candyesque, I enjoyed the character animations, the way the environment was created and especially the animation of the water. The animation was very well done.

What can you say about the acting though? Experienced actor Danny DeVito is hilarious as the Lorax, a short statured creature that speaks for the trees, carried the humour of the film. Zac Efron was an excellent selection to play Ted and Taylor Swift, though her role was small, was a good Audrey. Supporting cast includes the amazing elder that we have all come to know and love in the comedy world, Betty White, was the best choice to play Ted’s grandmother, one of the last to see the trees in the area. Other roles included Rob Riggle as Alaster O’Hare and Ed Helms as The Once-ler, both Daily Show Veterans, whose appearances in the film make me miss them a heck of a lot on that show.

A fitting role for DeVito.

What is a film without its music? The score and soundtrack were both exceptional with many of the songs having such humourous tunes, whimsical lyrics and excellent singers. In particular that stand out are “Truffula Valley Fantasy” from the score, “Thneedville” and “Let It Grow (Celebrate the World)” from the soundtrack to the film. John Powell, the composer for the film is best known for his work on X-Men: The Last Stand, Happy Feet and How to Train Your Dragon.

Final Word: The Lorax did have a message and yes it was an environmental one, it did inspire children to promote environmental awareness. Is that really a bad thing? It was a great film with excellent animated movie for early 2012 and the theater was packed with people. On the way out I didn’t hear anything bad about the film from viewers, but the adults understood that it had a message. I enjoyed it, if you can find it in the theaters still, I am sure you would as well.

Final Grade: B

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Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace 3D (2012)

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace is the tumor on the well-regarded franchise that we all know and love. We’ve praised most of the other films to no end, but this giant shit has ruined it for everyone. We all know the complaints about the inherent racism of the film and the fact that it is a kid’s film that involves space politics that no child would understand and the addition of the one thing that ruined the force for everyone, Midi-chlorians.

Recently, George Lucas decided to torture his fans some more by beginning to re-release all the Star Wars movies starting from shittiest to best. This reviewer can argue that they do indeed get better sequentially, although my favorite is definitely Empire. You get the picture. So I went to the theatre to see if George had made any changes to the film beside adding 3D to it. I sat down in my seat, got ready to experience this film in Ultra AVX Real 3D and prayed he wouldn’t add a bunch of CGI Mandalorians somewhere or have the droids make stupid noises; apart from the ones they already made in the film.

Derp. Roger, Roger.

Now I’ve seen Star Wars a bunch of times on a bunch of different formats. I had it on VHS, DVD and BluRay and I’d watched each with ease. However I was very disappointed in the 3D transfer of the film. I’ve seen other more recent works that were not filmed in 3D that had been put into 3D post production and still looked better than this god-awful crap. Things that you thought would have a 3D aspect fell flat against the screen, the most disappointing scenes being the landing of the Trade Federation ships on Naboo and the Podracing at which point Sebulba parks his engines between Anakin’s ears. You think those would be in breathtaking 3D. Nope!

I wasn’t even there for the movie per-say. Instead I took the time to escape the grueling dialogue about trade disputes and whatnot to listen to the amusing audio commentary track that Mike Stoklasa of Red Letter Media did for his fans. There was nothing like sitting in the theater and listening to the partially monotone Plinkett carry on about his cat, his dead ex-wives and interview Emperor Palpatine (also played by Stoklasa). So when you would rather listen to a man talk to himself for two hours and fifteen minutes than listen to Star Wars, you know something is wrong; either with you or the film. You can find the hilarious audio commentary here.

The plus side is, aside from it having the extended Podracing in it, there were no further additions to the film. I was happy that Lucas didn’t start adding crap in just for the sake of more controversy. If he had, I don’t think the 3D release of Attack of the Clones would fare well in the Box Office. The visuals may have been disappointing, but at least there was nothing else to complain about. The film, in it’s entirety, is still a god-awful mess with crappy dialogue, latent racism and awful ideas from the mind of George Lucas.

So is this necessary? Absolutely not. This is George Lucas trying to make a bit more money to fit in his ever expanding waistband. He has turned from visionary to a greedy corporate monster who has no respect for his work or the fandom it has created. You won’t see Christopher Nolan shitting on his Batman movies or Francis Ford Coppola adding scenes into The Godfather. Classic films are not meant to be tweaked in this sort of way. The 3D gimmick, though catching on, is something that should be left to those who know when to use it and not to those who want to just make a quick buck. For shame George Lucas. For shame.

Film Grade: D-

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Pokemon White (NDS – 2011)

The series that needs no introduction produced a new game earlier this year. You’d think by now people would be tired of the mundane travel between Gyms, battling enemies and what I would like to deem the “Team Rocket of the Week”. However, you’d also be surprisingly wrong. Its record breaking sales and critical reception have made Pokémon Black and White two major hits for 2011 in video gaming. The series creates some new features and brings back some series classic techniques that make gameplay all the tougher and the plot all the more exciting.

So where are we now? We’re in Unova region, another oddly named but largely populated area in which Pokémon and Humans live in perfect harmony. Or so we think. Team Plasma, this year’s version of Team Rocket, is running rampant around Unova. In a twist and unlike any other team in the world so far, Team Plasma is not interested in using Pokémon for their own gain or changing the climate of the planet; this team is interested in separating humanity from Pokémon and allowing them to flourish on their own without interference or being captured by people. They do this by using Pokémon to battle other people. What?

I have to admit that they got it right this time. I really enjoyed the plot and it was the first time that I have actually been able to differentiate between Pokémon games using a filter that was not ‘What Pokémon were in the game?” For the first time the script was compelling and the characters were interesting. So you can imagine the surprise when I played this Pokémon game with an actual plot.

The score of the game is your standard affair. However there is one track in particular I thought was above and beyond the normal shtick that  Junichi Masuda and the gang pump out every two or three years. However the ‘Battle – Team Plasma’ track was pretty darn entertaining. Just the first two seconds of it really get you in the battle mood and then you’re trapped in the battle listening to this rocking battle anthem the likes of which any Pokémon game has never seen, until now.

I also praise the overall layout of this Unova Region and the different places in it. From the quiet little town of Nuvema Town to the bustling metropolis of Castelia City, you can’t help but feel at home in this area. There are many interesting routes and with each brings a type of weather condition that you have seen before. Another new piece of content is the ever changing weather, which is supposed to change depending on the month that you’re currently playing in. However I found instead that the season would randomly change when I left a building. Not sure if that was a bug or if it was intentional.

So with a good plot and a good score, what could possibly detract from the game? There are quite a few things that make Pokémon Black and White a little tiresome. I’ve noticed a painfully large amount of enemy critical hits to the players Pokémon when there are no status modifiers that could account for such a frequency. Right in the first battle I took a critical hit and lost, the second time I trained a bit more, got another critical hit against me and lost. Not interested in losing a third time, I made it impossible for me to lose by training well above the enemy levels. I did not receive a single critical hit that battle and won easily. However, throughout the entire game I received an inordinate amount of critical hits.

I was also pretty disappointed with the battle graphics. The Pokémon on your side, are really pixelated and the Pokémon on the opposite side are just as bad. I have a hunch on why. I would go as far to say that this game was originally going to be released on the Nintendo 3DS, which was released merely a week later than the game. When the creators of this game had realized their deadline was a day away they got to work but failed to get the game ready in time. Instead of pushing back the release date, they kept the crappy attempts at a third dimension in the game and released it unfinished. That is a decent explanation for the half-assed battle graphics.

Also, what is with the Pokémon names? Is it just me or are they getting more and more lazy to the point where the names no longer resemble or even fit with what they are attached to. Here are some fantastic examples.

Accelgor: The hell?

Simipour: Eyes... burning...

Do you get it? Neither do I. Half the Pokedex is like this too. There are weird Pokémon names and weird looking Pokémon. Remember a time where it was so easy to spell snake backwards to create the name of a Pokémon that looks and animates like a snake? I do. Kids these days.

Final Word: Pokémon Black and White were great efforts to make an old franchise more interesting and it only fell short in two areas. I would definitely recommend it to fans of the series, but there are certainly signs of franchise stagnation in this beautiful game. Also, they really should have waited for the 3D. That feature would have made the game much more impressive to play.

Grade: B

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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (PS3 – 2011)

Worth it.


I waited out in the blistering cold on 11-11-11 for this game. At the time I had bronchitis for about two or three weeks. It was literally the most uncomfortable line I had ever been in. After one-hundred sixty-five hours and fifteen minutes, I finally achieved what I set out to do months ago; I completed The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. I did everything from the main quest to the Thieves Guild and I did so many other tasks in between. If the Elder Scrolls franchise has taught me anything, it is that games with immersion tend to be the ones you’re going to remember most. I will remember Skyrim for a very long time.

You are Dragonborn, the Dovahkiin, you can speak the words of the ancient language of the Dragon and use it to your advantage through-out the game, a feature I will delve into later. Beginning the game as, you guessed it, a prisoner, you are quickly thrown onto the chopping block only to be saved by the return of the Dovah. While a secondary plot revolves around the war between the Stormcloak Rebellion, lead by Jarl Ulfric Stormcloak and the Imperial Army lead by General Tullius, the primary focus is on the Dragonborn’s journey to return the Dragons to their slumber, especially the most powerful one of them all, Alduin.

The game itself is a significant improvement over its predecessor in numerous ways. The character models are much more animated than the ones in Oblivion, always moving and countering what you say. The combat animations are much more fluid and what I would most enjoy about the movement and character models in this game is that when you get hit while running, you stumble and look to the ground while running. It may be something completely trivial, but it certainly made an impression on me.

The second-most impressive feature in the game are the Radiant Storytelling and A.I. allowing the computer engine to determine new locations for you to explore, populate those areas with enemies who would provide you and interesting or difficult challenge and base the characters interactions with the A.I. off of his or her experiences. The most recent example of this in memory is when I successfully restored the Thieves Guild to its former glory, later a guard in Whiterun commented that the guild’s presence in the Hold had increased, and that the guild had people under their thumb. Radiant A.I. is a fantastic feature, reminding the character that their actions in the world do matter. It will make people angry and vengeful to the point they send thugs after you, or grateful enough that they will follow you through the nearest dungeon.

Or to their death in the Boethiah's Calling quest.

Quite a few skills have popped up or have been removed entirely from the franchise. We’ve seen the removal of Blade, Blunt and Hand to Hand and the inclusion of One-Handed and Two-Handed weapons skills, allowing for use of all three former while categorizing them under the latter two. Acrobatics and Athletics have been nixed, meaning you can no longer scale the most impossible mountains or traverse a town in a single leap; instead relying on the Stamina system to determine your running time. Mercantile and Speechcraft have been combined to create one skill, Speechcraft, which governs the options you have in conversation and the coin it will cost you to buy your most precious items. Removing Security, Lockpicking and Pickpocketing will govern your ability to steal effectively outside of your sneak skill. Mysticism has been replaced by Enchanting, the ability to make your weapons even more powerful by putting one, perhaps two, enchantments on them. Potential for increasing damage output is extreme. My personal two-handed Battle Axe outputs 335 damage with 38 frost and fire damage complimenting that. How did it get that high? Well the addition of the Smithing skill, coupled with Enchanting, increases the potential of weapons until even Dragons dare face you. I personally like the addition of the new skills, although I do miss Acrobatics, it was simple fun.

You may have thought I was done praising the skill system, but I must go further. Accompanying the skill system are the perks, an upgradable skill tree allowing the player to do all sorts of things with their abilities. This is including, but not limited to, removing all weight from your light armor, causing lockpicks to never break, allowing a kill with an enchanted weapon to recharge the item and one of my personal favorites, moving faster with a drawn bow. That perk alone has allowed me to become an evil marksman, bent on using arrows in close quarters and from afar. These perks allow for enhanced customization of the player character, enabling them to be an expert magician, conniving thief or a jack of all trades employing skills of all kinds. If it wasn’t for this screen, you may miss the most impressive art in the game.

This art.

For the things I thought were okay. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t much care for the main quest line. With the Companions, College of Winterhold, Dark Brotherhood and Thieves Guild quest lines providing the most interesting characters, compelling plot twists and comprehensive and interesting dialogue; the story seemed to come from Skyrim as a whole and not just the journey of the Dragonborn. After a while it just became boring. My favorite quests in the game came from the Dark Brotherhood, for the insanity and for some of the more colourful NPC’s in the game such as Babette, the 300 year old vampire in the body of a ten year old, using her innocent look to ensnare her victims. The Dark Brotherhood line was dark indeed and offered substance, while the main quest line became dull. This goes for the same as the Companions and Thieves Guild, giving the character a full and rich experience at the expense of exposition or filler.

As always, the score is one of the most brilliant parts of the entire game, with the music being pleasant at one moment and straying into a battle-frenzied piece in another. This seamless transition between tracks is what gives the game its most stimulating experiences, again bringing up immersion, the fighting is epic, the dungeons are gloomy and the music just makes the experience all the more intense and immersive. There is no particular piece of the score I would like to point out. We all know the epic Skyrim opening theme and it is truly one of the best pieces.

And what would be a popular game if it didn’t create a popular meme. Although becoming increasingly tiresome because of it’s overuse; the arrow to the knee meme caused some minor amusement and to me is actually still pretty funny for its complete interchangeability with anything. To me, that is something spectacular. It is ultimately funny, but has recently grown tiresome.

The are only two problems that I had with this game. Every Bethesda game fails to address this one for the Playstation 3. The save files get big, the games get slow. I do know that it has to do with the way the PS3 processes visuals and data, but I was hoping this would not happen as the game is truly great, but the file size gets large as you get more into it.  The second is that one-handed combat is not exactly perfected. You can only swing one weapon at a time unless you’re doing a power attack; to me that doesn’t feel like you’re dual wielding at all.

Final Word: I’m running out of praise for the game. You may find your experience to be entirely different than mine. I am sure I will give it another playthrough, but for now there are other games to chronicle.

Final Grade: A+

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