Game Bytes: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

Time for a new Game Bytes, where I talk about whatever game has got me sinking my teeth into as of late. This time, I want to talk about Metal Gear Solid V, which I have been playing since it launched back in September. I just recently finished the last mission of Chapter 1 in the the main story, and there have been a few things on my mind I want to talk about.

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Developer: Kojima Productions

Publisher: Konami

Platforms: Xbox One, PS4, PC, 360, PS3

First off, I have to give my utmost praise to the man named Hideo Kojima. The man has created a masterpiece of a game, at least from a gameplay and technical standpoint. I haven’t played a stealth game before where everything felt so open and the possibilities so endless. Each mission felt like it was going to be a unique experience to myself that no one else could possibly replicate, from the method of entry (silent killer, going in loud or not killing a single person) to the point of entry I choose to take and who to take down.

The open world presented in Metal Gear Solid V is my absolute favorite aspect of the game, as it allows for countless possibilities and allows the user to tackle each mission how they see fit. I also love the fact that we were not given one, but two maps to play around in with Snake. Each map had its own unique characteristics and locations to infiltrate. Different camo patterns and sneaking techniques had to be used in each one, as the terrain was vastly different for both maps.

The gameplay complemented these open worlds, by allowing the player to use various weapons, tools and hand-to-hand combat methods in order to infiltrate each area. From the beginning of the mission, the player has complete control on how they want it to go down. The gameplay loop of scouting out an area and slowly making your way through it was also crazy addicting, making me want to go “one more level” after each successful mission.

Unfortunately, the story didn’t live up to the gameplay as it left much to be desired. The first chapter ended the way I expected the game to end, with Snake rising victorious over his enemies. Instead, the game continues on past this point with chapter 2, with the notion that there is still “unfinished business” and that the hardships were not over. Instead of a flushed out second chapter to the story however, we get what feels to me to be more like bonus missions that were added to make the game feel longer and keep everyone playing longer. There are a few story related missions sprinkled in there to serve as follow ups on characters and events that transpire after Skull Face is taken care of, but compared to the first chapter of the game the second chapter leaves a lot to be desired. It does answer some important questions for series fans, but in doing so also creates new questions that are left unanswered (at least for myself that is).

If you have yet to get your hands on Metal Gear Solid V, I highly suggest doing so. The only games you really need to play to understand what is going on are Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater and the Prologue to the Phantom Pain, which is Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. I would even go as far as to say that you only really need to play ground zeroes if you don’t care too much about the story, as it isn’t really the drawing point of the game. What you really want to experience is the amazing gameplay and open worlds that Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain has to offer.

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Review: Claymore (Manga)

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Published By: Viz Media

Story and Art By: Norihiro Yagi

Everyone has those few series which they feel like have been with them forever. Some gamers may relate to the Super Mario series or Legend of Zelda in this way, and anime fans can probably relate to this with shows like One Piece or Naruto which are still airing today. For me, Claymore fits into this category of series I have been following for some time, as it was one of my first manga I had heard about when I started getting into the medium back in late 2006 and early 2007. My friend described it to me as being full of action, “hot babes” and swords, so what 13 year old boy wouldn’t be interested in that? I started reading it not long after my friend had told me about it, and have been following it for 8 years now, with it finally coming to a close back in November 2015. As with all long running series, when it finally comes to the point where you have to say goodbye to the world and characters you have practically grown up with, you end up with a mixed bag of feelings. You are happy to see the final destination of the long journey, but you are also sad to see it go away.

Story

The story of starts off with the introduction of Yoma, which are demons that prey on human flesh and guts. A small village has been infiltrated by a Yoma and the bodies are starting to pile up, but since a Yoma can take on the appearance and memories of those it devours, there is no way you can possibly figure out who the Yoma is. Their only hope is to enlist the help of a “Silver Eyed Witch”, also known as “Claymores”, who are half demon and half human. By taking on the flesh of these demons, young girls are turned into monsters with a human form and consciousness, who are able to detect the energy Yoma emit and defeat them. Other than the ability to detect the Yoma, becoming half monsters also increases their speed and strength far beyond a normal humans limits, as well as the ability for their bodies to sustain incredible amounts of damage and  incredible healing abilities. Some Claymores are even able to regenerate body parts they lose in battle, or reattach severed limbs.

As one would expect, the story follows a Claymore named Clare as she goes from town to town taking down Yoma as the organization she works for gives her the jobs. During the first job we are also introduced to a young boy named Raki, who is saved by Clare after his brother turns out to be the Yoma that has been hiding in town. Raki then decides to follow Clare around, whether she wants him there or not, because of his new found fondness for the warrior who saved him.

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As the series goes along we learn a lot about each characters pasts. Clare for instance eventually warms up to Raki, and they become very close. In a series of flashback chapters early on in the series, we learn that Clare was once a young girl who was abused by a Yoma and tortured, until one day a warrior had saved her. In a similar fashion, Clare began following the warrior who had saved her life, and eventually they became quite close. Other important characters that are introduced throughout the series, including Theresa of the Faint Smile (the warrior that saved Clare) and Priscilla (who becomes one of the most powerful beings in the land) are also given flushed out backstories that tell us of their origins and what they were like in the past. Being able to see what made each character who they were was quite interesting, and it led to being able to enjoy the stories in which they were involved with a lot more.

As the story progresses, an overarching plot involving the organization that creates and sends out the warriors to battle Yoma and powerful Yoma unfolds. The story honestly takes several twists and turns, leaving me surprised on more than one occasion and never knowing what to expect next.

Characters

Clare is the protagonist of the series, with dozens of other warriors being introduced throughout the story. Clare is relatively calm in appearance,  and her facial expressions rarely show excitement or fear. It does not take long to learnt though that Clare is merely putting up a front, and cares deeply about those around her and is just bottling her emotions up within. Clare is also the weakest of the warriors in her generation, being ranked 47 of 47. She lacks the speed and strength of the other warriors, but it does not take long for her true strength to come through.

Raki is the second important character introduced in the story. As said above, he is a young boy who follows Clare around after she saved him. He turns out to be pretty uninteresting until much later on in the series, after going through some major character growth.

Theresa is the next character that is focused on in the series, mostly through flashbacks of Clare’s memories. She was ranked number 1 in her generation, and many thought of her as the strongest warrior to ever be developed by the organization. Throughout the flashbacks we get to see Theresa’s personality change over time from a cold-hearted warrior to someone more kind and caring. Thanks to Clare, Theresa is able to find peace and happiness in a world so cruel. She plays a major role in the story as being Clare’s inspiration to joining the organization, as well as setting off a chain of events that will have tremendous repercussions in the future.

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The last character I want to talk about is Priscilla, a powerful warrior born in Theresa’a generation. Without spoiling the story, Priscilla ends up becoming incredibly powerful as time goes on, and proves to be an incredible foe to overcome. It is hard to talk about her without spoiling a bunch of plot points honestly, so I will just leave it at that.

Art

The art of Claymore is incredible throughout the entire series. Action scenes are dynamic and well laid out, making it easy to see what is going on and the movements the characters are making. The full-page panels are incredible as well, and never ceased to amaze.

One thing I enjoyed about the artwork the most was the character designs, as each warrior is easily distinguished from one another thanks to their unique designs. Even though all the warriors wear the same armor and carry the same swords, each character stands on their own and are easily identifiable. Each character is also given a unique symbol to represent them that is displayed on their sword and armor, and these symbols were often easily seen in most shots.

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The only other thing I want to point out about the artwork was the fantastic designs of the Yoma. Even though the normal, run-of-the-mill monsters all kinda looked the same, the more powerful Yoma all had incredibly unique and twisted designs. The amount of detail in some of them was astounding, and I can only imagine the amount of work it would have taken to draw some of them. The hard work in their designs pay off though, as each enemy is memorable in some way from design alone. There are many characters in the series who I have forgotten whose names were, but can still identify as to what they did in the series and where they appeared based off the art alone.

Personal Enjoyment

Claymore is one of those series that to me seems like has been being released since the beginning of time. I started it when I first got into manga almost 10 years ago, and it continued to be published after I had moved away from the medium and when I came back. It’s just always been there. So I guess what I am trying to say is that I do hold a certain bias for it, as it has been such a long ride and I hold a lot of memories in relation to this series.

That said though, the book is not without its flaws that certainly left me scratching my head. The ending isn’t what I was expecting at all, as it kind of falls flat under the immense pressure that the lead up the series has towards it. Its not a bad ending by all means, but the final battle that the characters go to seems rushed and rather anti-climatic. Without spoiling too much,  just want to say that I wish the characters that we had been following for 26 volumes had just a little more to do with the final battle to save the world. Instead, they are sort of left on the back burner, and we don’t get to see an all out final fight with all the characters involved.

Other than the ending, the only other disappointing aspect of the series I ca think of was the overall story and character development . Its not the type of narrative that will get you deeply invested in the characters or world, but instead just get you pumped up for the next fight against the next monster to appear. By the end, I cared little for who lived and died outside of Clare and Raki, which is kind of a bummer. I would have loved to get to know some of the other characters a bit more and learn about their pasts, but we just aren’t given the chance.

Final Thoughts

As I said in my introduction to this review, by the end of Claymore I was left with a mixed bag of feelings towards it. The story overall was well written, with most loose ends tied by the end of it and everything explained. The ending fell short though, and left me wishing it had been just a few chapters longer and got the entire cast involved. The characters were all unique and interesting, but their development is uneven and I wish I could have gotten to know some of the main cast a little better.

Luckily, the art and action didn’t leave me with the same emotions, and only left a positive impact on me with the final volume. Each fight is intense and dynamic, and the designs of the powerful Yoma never ceased to impress me. If I were to recommend this series based on only two aspects alone, these would be it.

Even though the series is far from perfect, it still stands as one of the best shonen series I have read. Packed with action, interesting character dynamics and a strong story to keep you interested, Claymore is a great series for those looking for their next big shonen.

 

Final Score: 8/10

Recommendation: Read It

 

If You Liked It, Also Try:

Berserk: Equally stunning visuals and action sequences. There is also giant swords, monsters, and lots of gore. The series is significantly darker in both story and artwork. If you enjoyed the action of Claymore, Berserk is sure to please.
Attack on Titan: Monsters that only certain individuals of society could hope to take on, and risk their lives to fight. Unique characters and a focus on teamwork to take down their foes, much like what is found in Claymore. Artwork can get a little sketchy at times, but still a good shonen series to look into.