Black Panther review: Wakanda forever

The final film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe before the mad titan Thanos descends on Earth might be one of the best we’ve seen. Throughout the entire development process, the hype surrounding Black Panther grew to astronomical heights. Not only was this movie going to sport a predominately African cast, but also shine light on certain political issues.

Directed by Ryan Coogler, also known for his award-winning film Fruitvale Station, Black Panther’s list of cast members is one to behold. Chadwick Boseman delivered another amazing performance in his second appearance as T’Challa, Lupita Nyong’o was brilliant as Nakia, and Danai Gurira (known more commonly for her role as Michonne in The Walking Dead) played the fierce role of Wakanda’s top general Okoye. But the two shining stars in Black Panther were Michael B. Jordan as the villainous Erik Killmonger and Letitia Wright as T’Challa’s little sister Shuri.

While the Marvel films have become the staple for the superhero genre, they’ve had a recurring problem regarding their villains. Other than Loki, many of the Marvel villains are easily forgotten and lacked any true depth or scope. That’s not the case with Jordan’s Killmonger. Some might’ve been skeptical about Jordan being in another superhero movie given his inclusion in the Fantastic Four reboot, but just as Chris Evans resurrected his Marvel standing with Captain America so does Jordan with Killmonger. Coogler developed an intriguing backstory to the Wakandan villain that will make you think twice about whether Killmonger’s motives are actually evil or if he’s slightly misunderstood. His reasons for what he does in the film are somewhat sound, given how he was brought up in Oakland and what’s happening around the world. The concept of how there are impoverished people around the world and how countries don’t use resources to help them when it’s clearly possible is a main theme throughout Black Panther. Coogler does an excellent job of highlighting these complex issues without forcing the audience toward a conclusion.

Wright’s Shuri steals the spotlight in nearly every scene she’s in. The younger sister of T’Challa, Shuri is the head of the Wakanda science and technology division, and is arguably the smartest character in the MCU (sorry, Tony Stark). She’s responsible for developing the invaluable Vibranium into various weapons and defense systems, while also providing new enhancements for T’Challa’s Black Panther suit. It was also revealed in the Avengers Infinity War Prelude comic #1 that Shuri is the one who cures Bucky Barnes of his brainwash problems that have plagued him since Captain America: Winter Soldier. Given her technological intellect, it would be fascinating to see her and Stark together onscreen.

Black Panther is a tremendous film for Marvel, and has the potential to have an affect on real-world issues. Even if Black Panther and its characters are fictitious, seeing young black people, such as Shuri, have an impact on the world can be inspiring. Many films depict black people as hoodlums, gangsters, drug dealers, slaves or simply uneducated. These depictions tend to generalize how black people are viewed in society by other people, but also how black people generalize themselves. Coogler’s film provides empowerment and a sense of pride for black people. His vision characterizes black people as a demographic that has the ability to blaze their own path and create their own narrative. Black Panther displays an image of self-confidence that not many films have conveyed in the past, and not only do I hope more films follow share Coogler’s vision in the future, but that black people around the world truly embrace his ideals moving forward.

Final Score: 9.5/10


Dragon Ball FighterZ Review: Kaaaa-meeee-haaaa…..

As a kid, I’ve always wanted to perform a Kamehameha. I know, it’s impossible (*whispers* still holding out hope). One year, I even dressed up as Goku for Halloween. If you haven’t caught at what I’m getting at, it’s that Dragon Ball has had quite an impact on my growing up. Once I got into video games and tried The Legacy of Goku games on the Game Boy Advance, I knew nothing would come close to that enjoyment…until I picked up DragonBall FighterZ.

Having skipped out on most of the well-regarded Budokai series and only dipped my toes in Xenoverse 2, the anticipation to jump into FighterZ was over 9,000. Taking many elements from the Marvel vs. Capcom series, Dragon Ball FighterZ (pronounced as “Fighterz”, not “Fighter-Z”) offers 3-on-3 team-based combat. The roster contains plenty of the iconic Dragon Ball characters: Super Saiyan Goku, Super Saiyan Vegeta, adult Gohan, teen Gohan, Gotenks, Krillin, Yamcha, Piccolo, Trunks, Cell, Frieza, Majin Buu, Kid Buu, Tien, Nappa, Captain Ginyu, Beerus, Hit, Goku Black, Android 16, Android 18, and Android 21. In addition to these characters, the Super Saiyan Blue versions of Goku and Vegeta are also available through either paid-DLC, earning enough Zeni (in-game currency), or by completing certain Arcade modes on Hard difficulty.

The plot of FighterZ is split into three distinct, but roughly similar, story arcs: Super Warrior Arc, Enemy Warrior Arc, and Android 21 Arc. The “main” arc, Super Warrior, features Goku as the main character as he and the Z fighters battle a new enemy in Android 21. FighterZ does a creative job in explaining how the player controls each of the fighters by stating certain waves around the Earth have suppressed everyone’s power and only you are able to fully unlock it. The Enemy Warrior Arc puts you in the driver’s seat of Frieza, and the Android 21 Arc has you primarily in control of Android 18. Each arc revolves around the general story-line of fighting Android 21 in some capacity, but taken from different perspectives. The timeline of FighterZ in relation to the anime places the game sometime after the Resurrection F movie.

In order to appeal to a mass audience, developer Arc System Works crafted FighterZ to be very kind to novice players. The mechanics present the standard light, medium, and heavy attacks, while also incorporating special abilities and the use of assists by your idle teammates. Just like any fighting game, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of button-mashing, but learning how to properly string together attacks is quite satisfying. An added bonus in stringing together long combos is being able to secure the Dragon Balls. You must land seven individual combos of 10-19, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60-69, and 70+ to have the ability to summon Shenron. While it doesn’t necessarily matter what order the Dragon Balls are collected or who even collects them (the Dragon Balls are shared in a pool between you and your opponent) the player who has the max seven power bars filled will be able to summon the dragon. Once Shenron is summoned, the dragon will grant one of four wishes: heal your current fighter to full health, revive a fallen teammate with 50 percent health, automatically boost your Ki gauge (power bars) back to max, or restore five percent of your health and grant you a second Sparking Blast icon. The icon can only be used once in a match and it grants you a temporary raise in power. This mechanic is extremely important to master, because it can easily turn the tide in battle.

Aside from the standard fighting mechanics, each individual fighter has their own pros and cons. For example, Cell is able to perform an aerial Ki blast that lays waste to roughly half of the ground on the map, but the android has a grab move that can sometimes mess up a combo if you aren’t close enough to your enemy. Fans have already begun constructing lists online with various team builds that suit a wide-range of players.

Developing a video game is hard enough, but based on a franchise as popular as Dragon Ball can be daunting. Arc System Works and Bandai Namco went above and beyond the level of expectation in FighterZ. While certain parts of the plot are a bit weak, the voice acting and dialogue between the characters rival the anime itself. The bickering between Goku and Vegeta about who will fight first, and the extreme narcissistic attitude of Cell transform FighterZ beyond a standard fighting experience. Coupling the precise voice acting is the beautiful art work. Even though FighterZ is primarily a 2-D fighting game, the special attack animations make the game look three-dimensional and present a smooth, dramatic flow like the anime. The vibrant colors make the art pop out, and each set-piece is as beautiful to look at as nostalgic. Whether or not FighterZ becomes the next big thing in the fighting community, it will absolutely rank high on your own Dragon Ball gaming experience.

Final Score: 9/10