Thursday, August 30, 2018

Borderlands 2 (Xbox 360) Review

Growing up, I never had access to M-rated games.  Since my parents were overly decisive on what I could or could not play, I was deprived of amazing titles such as Grand Theft Auto, Saints Row, Dead Rising, most of the Call of Duty franchise, and more for most of my life.  That all changed when I turned seventeen, and after receiving a ton of money and gift cards for Christmas in 2013, I went nuts, to say the least.  I bought M-rated titles left and right, and amongst my purchases were Borderlands and Borderlands 2.  I became obsessed over the two games and played them religiously the following year.  Now, it's 2018, and I've found myself revisiting this series after all of these years to see if they're as good as I remember them to be.  I already have the first game under my belt, so let's take a look at Borderlands 2.

At the end of the first Borderlands, the vault hunters discovered the vault; unfortunately, instead of becoming wealthy and all-powerful, they got to kill a giant space-squid.  Disappointed, they went their separate ways.  In the aftermath of this discovery, a mysterious element known as Eridium starts appearing around the planet, causing environmental and climate changes to take place.  Handsome Jack, CEO of the Hyperion Corporation, sets up various mining facilities on Pandora to harvest Eridium and more importantly, find another vault hidden somewhere on Pandora.

This vault houses a beast called the Warrior, which he wants to control so he can eradicate all life on the planet and build anew.  To summon the Warrior, he needs the pieces of the vault key, and more importantly, vault hunters to find them.  Handsome Jack lures a group of vault hunters, consisting of Axton, Maya, Salvador, and Zero, to Pandora, but after getting double crossed and left for dead, the vault hunters begin searching for the original vault hunters, so they can work together and stop Handsome Jack's evil plan.

When it comes to the writing, storytelling, and character development, Borderlands 2 trumps its predecessor in every conceivable way.  Gone is the threadbare plot with occasional glimpses of something better; instead, we have a story that's interesting, funny, and even a little emotional.  The characters are twisted, bizarre, yet weirdly likable, and the villain is quite possibly one of the best antagonists in gaming history.  It's also very funny, rather than deliver the occasional joke or two, the game goes all out with the humor, featuring lots of black comedy and satire.  Some of the references, especially to then popular internet memes, date the game somewhat.  Seeing a "Double Rainbow" Easter egg back in 2012 might have been amusing, but now it's irrelevant due to the constantly shifting nature of internet culture.

This is Handsome Jack, who you'll learn to love to hate.

As alluded to before, the writing does a great job at expanding upon the world of Pandora and the people who inhabit it.  The likes of Dr. Zed, Scooter, Marcus, Moxxi, and more return, and although they still act as quest-givers, they frequently interact with the player during and outside of missions.  Plus, the original vault hunters are no longer blank slates.  By splitting them up and having each one pursue their own goals, it allows us to see how much they've changed.  Roland is in charge of a resistance fighting back against Handsome Jack, with Mordecai acting as his wingman, scouting out locations of interest while keeping himself in isolation.  Brick is in charge of a local bandit clan and goes by the name Slab King.  Finally, Lilith has gone into hiding, assuming the alias of Firehawk and using her phase-walk powers to keep people away.

It's impressive how far these characters have come since the first, and what happens to them as the plot unfolds is quite surprising, to say the least.  Disappointingly, the new vault hunters are largely silent protagonists, but audio logs scattered around Pandora provide backstory as to where they came from and how they ended up on the planet.  However, the real show-stealer isn't any of the good guys, but the villain, Handsome Jack.

Jack is the CEO of Hyperion and an all-around douchebag.  Throughout the game, he frequently chats with the vault hunters, taunting them at every turn and reminding them of his evil plan.  Some of his dialogue is quite morbid; in one scene, Jack tells the vault hunter how when his robots were tearing apart a village, a man came at him with a spoon, trying to kill him.  Jack retaliates by grabbing the spoon, and proceeding to gouge the man's eyes out, while his children watch.  Did I mention he's trying his best not to laugh while recounting this tale?  Weirdly though, you understand his reasoning for why he wants to destroy all life on Pandora.  This is a planet teeming with bandits, murderers, and people motivated purely by greed, so by unleashing the Warrior, he's actually doing the planet a favor.

Conceptually, Borderlands 2 is similar to its predecessor.  This is still a first-person-shooter/RPG loot and shoot-fest where you'll kill marauders and other nasties while finding new and hopefully powerful gear to make your character better, but many of the gameplay mechanics have been overhauled, tweaked, and refined to the point the gameplay is a lot more satisfying than its predecessor.  When the game begins, you can choose from one of four characters, six if you have the DLC.  These are Axton, Maya, Zero, Salvador, Gaige, and Krieg.  Like Roland, Axton is the soldier, capable of deploying a turret to assist him during combat.  Maya is a Siren, just like Lilith, but instead of using phase-walk, she uses phase-lock, a telekinetic orb that holds bad guys in place.

Zero is a cyborg ninja and he is able to become invisible, creating a decoy to distract foes and sneak up on them for an attack.  Salvador is the Gunzerker; instead of using his fists, he dual wields weapons, no matter what type they are, and he is nigh-invulnerable.  Gaige can summon a robot to help her out, and Krieg's ability is reminiscent of Brick's in that he becomes nearly-invincible but pulls out a massive, bladed club to unleash the pain.  For this playthrough, I played as Axton.

Lock and Load!

To stop Handsome Jack, you'll traverse the varied landscapes of Pandora, killing all manner of wildlife, bandits and Jack's never-ending supply of robots while completing quests and earning experience to level up.  In the first Borderlands, the quests were generally repetitive, consisting of nothing but fetching items or activating a certain number of panels or valves.  Although the sequel does have you doing such tasks, the overall variety of things to do has been greatly increased, and frequent dialogue exchanges makes completing missions all the more satisfying.  May of the side missions feature their own overarching stories; for example, one series of side-quests has you setting up a clan war between the Irish Zafords and redneck Hodunks, and in the concluding mission, you'll pick a side and take on the opposing forces.

Other side missions play up the game's satire, such as a mission where you travel down to the sewers to deliver pizzas to four brothers who are fans of ninjutsu.  Plus, some give you the option of choosing who you want to turn in to, which will grant you a different reward.  All missions still reward the player with experience, as well as cash, a weapon, or a shield, but there's also a new currency called Eridium.  Eridium crystals are used to upgrade your capacity for things like inventory, ammo, and storage space.  Indeed, the storage system from "Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot" has been implemented into the sequel, making it a lot easier to store away valuable loot for safekeeping.

Speaking of which, Borderlands 2 carries on the tradition of offering a s*itload of guns and other equipment for the player to find and use.  The rarity scale remains unchanged, but a new color, cyan, has been added.  Cyan-rare items are extremely hard to find but are the cream of the crop when it comes to quality gear.  Of course, there are also vending machines scattered about that allow you to buy items and sell gear.  The guns themselves are more visually identifiable as each manufacturing company has their own specialties.  Dahl weapons utilize burst-fire when you zoom in on the sights, while Hyperion guns increase in accuracy the more you fire them.  Bandit-brand firearms trade large bullet counts over accuracy, Maliwan utilizes elements such as fire and electricity, while Jakobs guns are old-fashioned in look and function, and Torgue weapons fire explosive rounds.

Of course, you need enemies to use your newly-acquired guns on, and the game features many returning enemy types, plus a slew of new ones.  You'll fight bandits, psychos and brutes, plus contend with vicious skag, rakk, and spider-ants, but there are also now bully-mongs, gorilla-esque creatures with large bodies but tiny heads, and varkid, which start as harmless larva but can go into cocoons and hatch as tougher flying variants.  Bandits are now joined by nomads, who wield a shield to protect themselves from weapons fire, and goliaths.  Goliaths wear helmets, which, when shot off, enrages them, making them attack anyone nearby.  The catch is that the more carnage it creates, the stronger it gets.  Then, there are Handsome Jack's Hyperion forces.  He has an army of robots and drones, plus mercenaries fitted with robotic equipment.

Once again, each character has three skill trees to put points in.
Capping off Axton's "Guerrilla" skill tree results in a
secondary attachment on the turret that launches slag rounds.

By killing enemies and bosses, as well as completing quests and discovering new locations, you'll earn experience, and in turn, level up.  Skill points can go to a character's skill tree, offering up new skills bettering their abilities or combat prowess.  By putting points into Axton's turret, I was able to turn it into an accurate, rapid-firing device capable of teleporting to its location and unleashing a hail of bullets and rockets, which, when combined with a skill that increases his rate of fire for a few seconds, turned him into an unstoppable killing machine.  Luckily, the amount of experience earned from beating missions has been balanced out, so you can't go up five levels and trivialize the immediate threat.

Borderlands 2 is wholly satisfying on the gameplay front.  Many of the game's issues, both major and minor, have been ironed out; on that note, the visuals have received an upgrade.  Gone are the drab, rundown but stylized environments; instead, you're treated to snowy landscapes, lush fields, arid deserts, burning volcanoes, and an industrial megalopolis under construction.  It's colorful and very pleasing to the eye.  The voice acting is also a step-up from before.  Everyone does a fantastic job and much of the dialogue is hilarious yet quotable; meanwhile, the music carries on the motifs established in the original, but incorporates a host of new themes designed to reflect the environment your character is currently in.

Borderlands 2 is a fantastic sequel.  The set-up is the same, but everything under the hood has been overhauled tremendously.  Gone is the non-existent story and in its place is a hilarious but thrilling narrative featuring a fantastic villain, and the gameplay, while similar in style, is smoother, very hectic, and immensely satisfying.  Quests are no longer repetitive grinds and are actually worth playing through, both for collecting the end-mission rewards and to hear more of the funny dialogue.  Pandora may be filled to the brim with all sorts of nasties, but it also makes for a heck of a good time.

Final Score: 9/10

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Borderlands (Xbox 360) Review

Ever noticed how you can take peanut butter, mix it with something else, and create a concoction that is surprisingly tasty?  I don't, since peanuts are a death sentence for me; regardless, taking two different things and putting them together can lead to surprising results.  In 2009, developer Gearbox Software and publisher 2K released Borderlands, a game which asks what one question: what would happen if you took first-person shooting mechanics and sprinkled in some RPG elements?

In the far-flung future, a group of treasure hunters have come to the planet Pandora in search of a fabled vault.  For years, legend has said those who find the vault will gain access to unlimited power and wealth; yet, no one has dare laid a finger on the planet due to its hostile environment.  Bandits, marauders, and vicious wildlife have turned a once-thriving planet into an arid wasteland.  Yet, the four vault hunters, Roland, Mordecai, Lilith, and Brick, are not deterred by this challenge, and with help from several of the planet's friendlier inhabitants, along with a mysterious AI known as Angel, the gang shall hopefully find the vault and reap the rewards within.

Borderlands is lite on plot and the writing, save for the occasional joke, is purely expositional.  Many of the characters the vault hunters meet act as nothing more than quest-givers, and don't have much to say, outside of reminding them of the end-game goal.  The vault hunters don't fare better either, as they remain silent throughout the adventure, save for the handful of one-liners he or she spouts off during combat.  It's frustrating because very once in a while, the game shows glimpses of what these character can truly be when the comedy comes into play.

Quick!  Use that "water gun" to douse the fire!

Much of the humor is of the darkly comedic type or plays off the eccentricity of the individuals you'll meet on Pandora.  For example, a doctor called Dr. Zed frequently reminds the player he's an unlicensed medical practitioner, while Scooter, a redneck mechanic, talks about how one day he'll find out what exactly second base is.  In one of the DLC add-ons, the vault hunters meet Mad Moxxi, a woman not afraid to express herself, sexually speaking.  However, the true star of Borderlands is Pandora.  Though its look apes much from the Mad Max series and westerns, it lends itself to an interesting look and feel.

Borderlands is a first-person shooter/RPG hybrid where gamers will traverse Pandora, killing bad guys, completing quests to earn XP, and amassing a stockpile weapons so big an NRA member would blush.  When the game begins, you can choose from one of four characters, each of whom has their own special ability and weapon preferences.  Roland is the soldier and specializes in shotguns and assault rifles.  His special power is he can deploy a turret that provides supporting fire and draws enemies' attention away from the player.  He's also the character I played as for this playthrough of the game.  Mordecai prefers sniper rifles and revolvers, and he can send out his pet bird, Bloodwing, to attack foes and collect supplies.  Lilith uses SMG's and repeater pistols, and she is capable of phase-walk.  Phase-walk renders her invisible until she starts attacking again.  Finally, Brick uses rocket launchers and his special power lets unleash a flurry of punches while remaining nearly invincible.

Though each character has their own preferred guns, they can wield any type of weapon in the game, and the more they use a particular firearm, the more this increases their proficiency with said gun.  One of Borderlands' unique features is its randomly generated loot system.  No gun or shield is ever the same, and their quality varies depending on what color of rarity they are and their weapon level.  The colors are white, green, blue, purple, and orange.  White means the item is common and not particularly useful.  Loot marked in green indicates its decent and gets the job done, but blue items are when things start getting good.  Purple indicates the item is rare, while orange-colored goods are the rarest items to find and are also the most expensive.  Orange-rare loot is quite powerful, usually having stats far higher than those of other gear.

Shootin' guns!  What more could a man ask for?

Loot can be found by scavenging junk piles, finding treasure chests, killing enemies and bosses, and completing quests.  An inventory system lets you stockpile everything you've found.  To increase inventory space, you must find and repair broken claptraps, robots which act as tour guides to Pandora.  If you're carrying too much stuff, you can sell items at any of the vending machines scattered about the planet or you can drop the items all-together.  The DLC "Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot" adds a storage system, letting you store items away for safekeeping.

As the vault hunters travel the wastelands of Pandora, they'll complete story quests and optional side missions given to them by a host of different characters.  Story missions are quite lengthy and will be how you reach new areas in the game.  These quests have you tracking down another piece of the vault key, garnering the trust of a person, or finding someone of interest.  Side missions involve collecting X number of items, activating a particular number of switches, or killing a high-powered target.  All missions reward XP, as well as cash and additional goods like a gun, shield, or class mod.  When enough experience is earned, your character levels up and a skill point is earned.  Skill points can be put towards one of three skill trees and putting enough into a particular branch unlocks more skills to acquire.  Cash can be used to buy new stuff.

Pandora is a planet filled with all sorts of life, both human and animalistic, waiting to kill you.  The local wildlife includes skags, dog-like creatures that can pounce the player or use their long tongues to attack, rakks, winged creatures that are easy to kill but use their numbers to overwhelm the vault hunter, plus spider-ants, scythids, and giant enemy crabs.  Human enemies include bandits, psychos, brutes, and the Crimson Raiders, a PMC group also looking for the vault.  The DLC campaigns introduce new enemy types to contend with, including zombies, new types of Crimson Raider soldiers, and Claptraps.  A baddies' difficulty depends on their current level, and as you venture into uncharted territory, it's best to make sure you do as many side quests as possible, or you might be in for a challenge.

Borderlands can be an immensely enjoyable experience; there's something thrilling about searching Pandora in search of loot and danger and finding new ways to kill things or make your vault hunter better is quite fun; yet, it's far from perfect.  The biggest problem is its repetition.  The limited variety of mission types means playing the game can get tiresome, especially during long play sessions.  Also, the lack of proper balancing in how much experience is earned by completing quests means it's possible for your character to reach a position where challenge is trivialized as he or she is capable of killing everything in sight.
The Secret Armory of General Knoxx and Claptrap's Robot Revolution
can be pretty challenging  on New Game Plus.

Borderlands utilizes a cel-shaded art style to bring the world of Pandora to life, and it gives the trashy, desert landscape some personality.  However, the limited color palette consisting of nothing but brown, grey, beige, and green does make the locales a bit dreary to look at.  Secondly, the physics can get a bit wacky, resulting in dead enemies getting stuck on walls or your vehicle flipping over from just . a small bump in the road.  Sound is a mixed bag.  The guns sound great and pack a punch, but the voice acting is fine, to say the least.  Depending on the character, they might sound decent, or like they're phoning it in due to their monotone deliveries.  Luckily, the music fares better.  The ambient tunes enhance the game's "cowboy in space" attitude, as does the titular song, "Ain't No Rest for the Wicked" by Cage the Elephant.

Borderlands' greatest strength is its gameplay.  The mixture of first-person-shooting and RPG elements works tremendously well, and it's quite satisfying to kill some bad guys, find some loot, and earn a little experience to make your character stronger and deadlier.  Yet, the plot holding it all together is barebones and does little to hold your attention, as do the characters, who show glimpses of an interesting personality, but it's buried beneath walls of quest ext.  Also, play the game long enough, and things might get a bit tedious.  Still, when everything's in place, Borderlands can be a thrilling experience.

Final Score: 7/10

Monday, August 6, 2018

Xenon Valkyrie+ (Cubed3 Exclusive) Review

Welcome to another edition of "Adventures in Freelance Writing."  In this review, available to read on Cubed3, I cover Xenon Valkyrie+.  This old-school adventure side-scroller lets you control one of three characters and guide them on a perilous journey to stop an evil witch from destroying the world.  You'll defeat bad guys, do lots of jumping, and collect loot and experience to make your character more powerful.  Be aware, though, if your character dies, it's game over.

A fun enough throwback to tough-as-nails games from the 8-bit and 16-bit era, Xenon Valkyrie+ can be enjoyable, albeit at best in short bursts.  Read more to find out!


Thursday, August 2, 2018

Return of the Living Dead Part II: Collector's Edition Blu-Ray Review


You know, I just can't escape this movie.  This marks the third time I've sat down and written a review on Return of the Living Dead Part II.  Last year, I published a pair of reviews covering the first two films in this series.  I'm not proud of them, but I was given another chance to cover the second one when I contributed an article to VHS Revival, which I'll post below.  Whereas my original article was hastily thrown together, I allowed some time to pass before I gestated any opinions on Part II.  I didn't expect to revisit this film again; then, a funny thing happened.

In May of this year, Scream Factory announced they would be putting out Return of the Living Dead Part II Blu-Ray this August, plus, the original soundtrack, absent since its original VHS/Laserdisc release, would be restored.  Two months later, I pre-ordered the film, and on July 29, 2018, it came in the mail.  After years of putting up with the Warner Bros. DVD that replaced the original score and most of the licensed music with synthesizer garbage, fans of the series would finally see this film be done justice.


Due to my history with the first one, I never saw the sequels, at least the second or third entry, for many years until 2017, when I finally snagged a VHS copy of Part II, followed by the infamous DVD in December.  Return of the Living Dead Part II is a mixed bag.  It has some funny moments and inventive zombie gags, but the story retreads familiar ground and the characters aren't as memorable and in certain cases, are carbon copies of ones from before.  James Karen and Thom Mathews return playing a pair of grave robbers, and happened to them in the first happens again.  Though it does lead to a couple of amusing callbacks, the whole ordeal feels lazy, especially since after they become zombies, the two disappear from the film, never to be seen again.  Thankfully, the movie isn't a total loss, and is still a fun watch, despite the problems.

Return of the Living Dead Part II has had a troubled home video history.  Although the VHS and Laserdisc releases kept the original score, composed by J. Peter Robinson, the 2005 DVD release from Warner Bros. swapped out his melodramatic score for cheesy, cartoonish music which didn't fit the film's tone.  Additionally, certain songs were removed, swapped around, or altered to start at a later point than intended.  There's also some ADR heard on the alternate score not present elsewhere.  These changes infuriated fans, and for years, they begged Warner Bros. to do a re-release of the film with the original score.  The frustration of people was best summarized by writer/director Ken Wiederhorn, who, on the DVD commentary said, "There's something wrong with this music.  It sounds familiar, but it sounds misplaced."

This changed in 2018 with Scream Factory's announcement they would be putting out a Collector's Edition Blu-ray.  Besides the original score being restored to its former glory, we get a host of new, interesting special features detailing various aspects of the film's production.

Picture and sound are solid on this release.  Some of the colors and shadows look quite sharp, especially the Lorimar Pictures logo seen before the film begins.  The picture can look hazy at times, most likely because of the camera used, but it's not too distracting.  The restored soundtrack sounds great, and all of the music and songs sound sharp.  Of course, if you want to torture yourself, the alternate audio is available as a secondary option, but there's no point in bothering with it, unless you're listening to the commentary from the prior DVD release.

Like most Scream Factory release, the Return of the Living Dead Part II Blu-ray comes packed with audio commentaries, featurettes, and archival material for people to feast on.  Two new commentaries have been added, one with author Gary Smart and filmmaker Chris Griffiths, and another with actress Suzanne Snyder and Michael Perez, executive producer of More Brains: A Return to the Living Dead documentary from 2011.  Additionally, the commentary with Ken Wiederhorn and Thor van Lingen is also available.  The first one, featuring Smart and Griffiths, is a fun listen.  Whereas Smart grew up watching Part II, Griffiths didn't, so the two have varying opinions on the film.  They also delve into the film's production history and discuss alternate sequels cast members from the first wrote, such as Don Calfa's (Ernie from the original) The Revenge of the Living Dead, which is currently being worked into a graphic novel.

Suzanne Snyder's and Michael Perez's commentary is a good follow-up, as is the one with Wiederhorn and Van Lingen; however, the latter was two separate commentaries weaved together into one, so both are switching back-and-forth throughout.  With the extras, the first one created for this Blu-ray is Back to the Dead: The Effects of Return of the Living Dead Part II, featuring make-up artists Kenny Myers, Andy Schoenberg, and Mike Smithson.  Kenny Myers was put in charge of make-up for The Return of the Living Dead after the original artist, William Munns, was fired from production.  Myers notes that with Part II, he had proper time, crew, and money to get things set up and rolling.

The three discuss the process for creating the zombie make-up and the techniques they used in creating a host of different undead looks with just a handful of actors.  They also highlight certain corpses they created, including the infamous Thriller zombie, which was a throw-it-in moment from Myers and his crew.  Next up is The Laughing Dead: An Interview with Writer/Director Ken Wiederhorn.  This one is quite interesting.  As Wiederhorn notes during the interview, he wasn't a big fan of horror and ended up directing primarily those only just because.  When producer Tom Fox approached him about doing the sequel, he actually reached to Dan O'Bannon to seek his permission, which he agreed to.

However, filming wasn't easy for Wiederhorn.  A tight shooting schedule consisting of mostly night shoots, a worker's strike because of Tom Fox's decision to use a non-union crew, and an on-set accident that resulted in an entire set having to be rebuilt were a few challenges the writer/director faced.  He also notes during post-production, Tom Fox brought in a Russian fellow with little to no experience in composing music to do the score, which was awful.  After Wiederhorn reached out to Lorimar, the studio hired J. Peter Robinson to rescore the film.  It's most likely this particular score is what is heard on the DVD release, meaning Warner Bros. mistakenly obtained the wrong print.

Other new featurettes include an interview with composer J. Peter Robinson and an oh-so-short interview with Troy Fromin, who played the pot-smoking truck driver seen at the beginning.  Lifted from the More Brains DVD is They Won't Stay Dead: A Look at Return of the Living Dead Part II, which features actors James Karen, Thom Mathews, Michael Kenworthy, Suzanne Snyder, and effects artist Kenny Myers, among others.  What makes this documentary unique is the conflicting thoughts on the making of the movie.  Whereas the likes of Kenworthy and Snyder enjoyed their time on it, Karen and Mathews, to name a few, didn't as much.  In fact, Thom Mathews notes his favorite part of the film was crafts services (i.e. catering).  Ouch.  Additionally, there are trailers, still galleries, and an archival "Making Of" featurette available for viewing.

Return of the Living Dead Part II isn't exactly an underrated sequel, but it's nowhere near as bad as some make it out to be.  The humor doesn't always hit its mark and though it features two actors from the first one, the movie doesn't do much with them, aside from having the two go through what happened to them before all over again.  Fortunately, when it comes to technical specs and extra features, Scream Factory hits it out of the park with quality picture and audio, as well as a slew of extras, both new and old.  Campy, silly fun, Return of the Living Dead Part II offers goofy humor and is an enjoyable watch.

Final Score: 6/10 (Film)
9/10 (Blu-Ray)
VHS Revival Review:

Dirty Pair: Project Eden (1986) Review

Throughout the decades, the entertainment industry has produced many iconic duos, but what makes a great team-up?  Usually, the two characters must have fleshed out personalities and a sense of camaraderie between one another; without those elements, you just have two dudes or dudettes who do stuff for the sake of getting it done.  From Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid to Tango and Cash to Mario and Luigi, there are plenty of iconic team-ups to choose from.  When it comes to anime, no pair is quite as awesome as the Dirty Pair, Kei and Yuri.  At the height of their popularity, the gals received their own motion picture, released in 1986.

Things are going awry on the planet Agerna.  Mysterious attacks at the planet's mining facilities have the two governments who control the planet up in arms.  The planet is rich with Vizorium, a mineral necessary for space travel.  Because of the increasing tension, Kei and Yuri are put on assignment to figure out what's going on.  After running into a criminal whom they failed to capture in the opening prologue, the three are attacked by vicious monsters, who were responsible for the attacks.  The creatures were created by Dr. Wattsman, a mad scientist experimenting with Vizorium with the intent to create a new species to succeed mankind.  Eventually, Kei, Yuri, and Carson find their way to Wattsman's lair, and must put a stop to his plan before it's too late.

He's like a Doc Brown hopped up
on too much coffee and Red Bull.

Dirty Pair: Project Eden is fun to the nth degree.  The story isn't mind-blowing, but his film isn't here to be a thought-provoking piece.  Instead, this ninety minute film offers up a tour-de-force of creative action, goofy but likable characters, and a pair of good-looking ladies who kill a lot of aliens in skimpy outfits.  Taking on the loony Wattsman are Kei and Yuri, a fiery redhead and long-haired blue beauty whose job is to put an end to life-threatening situations, but often tend to create more destruction than necessary.  Much of the film's comedy involves massive scenes of destruction often caused by a hapless mistake.  Take, for instance, the opening prologue.  Kei and Yuri manage to arrest the head of a Vizorium smuggling operation, but they forgot to take care of the bomb he left behind in the meeting room, which then explodes and causes a chain-reaction that destroys the resort he was hiding out at.

Keep in mind, Kei and Yuri are by no means idiots, it's just that their aggressive nature causes a lot of unintentional consequences and in turn, earned them the nickname "the Dirty Pair."  One thing is for certain, though, the two girls offer plenty of eye candy; after all, their definition of proper attire to wear when busting crooks is a bikini-like outfit.  Although Project Eden plays up the girls' sex appeal, it rightfully avoids going too far with the fan service, but that's not to say there are some titillating moments, like when Kei and Yuri find a bath station while investigating an abandoned Vizorium mining facility, so they hop in and relax, until Carson, a suave thief, accidentally falls in on them.

Speaking of which, the other characters, while light on depth, make up for it through their quirky personalities and bizarre goals.  Carson D. Carson (yes, that's his real name) is a smuggler and somebody who ends up becoming a romantic foil for Kei as the film progresses.  So, why is he on Agerna? Because Wattsman's butler stole a rare bottle of wine from him some time back, and he's been looking for it ever since.  To be fair, there are crazier reasons to risk life and limb, just ask Pee-Wee Herman.  Then there's the bad guy, Dr. Wattsman.  He's the quintessential mad scientist; he's not trying to take over the world, but just wants to perfect his scientific experiment, which is causing trouble for Agerna, unaware to him.  So delusional is this villain that when Kei, Yuri, and Carson end up in his test chamber and awaken a never-ending horde of Vizorium beasts, he believes they're the by-product of his tests, given their impressive combat skills.

It should be noted Dirty Pair: Project Eden takes a lot of inspiration from then-popular films prevalent at the time of its release, particularly aping from the likes of James Bond and Alien.  The strongest indicator of the Bond influence is the film's structure.  The movie begins with an action-packed prologue that sets up plot points and characters who come into play later in the picture, very much like the secret agent series.  After a mesmerizing opening credits sequence, complete with catchy theme tune, the film begins proper.  As for the Alien influence; well, just look at the creature designs.

Project Eden's animation is vibrant, colorful, and, at times, a bit surreal, especially during the opening credits.  Additionally, some of the environmental and background designs are gorgeous to look at.  The dub is a unique case.  Project Eden was licensed to two companies at different points in time, first by Streamline Pictures in the 90's, and then by ADV Films during the 2000's.  Luckily, Nozomi Entertainment's re-release of the movie contains both dubs, in addition to the original Japanese audio.  Of the two dubs, Streamline's is better.  The voice acting is a lot more lively and its helped by the writing, even if some of the lives are a bit cheesy.  Plus, this dub has my personal favorite voice acting pair for Kei and Yuri, Laura Ann Cody and Wendee Lee, out of everyone who's voiced the characters over the years.


Though thin on plot, Dirty Pair: Project Eden offers ample amounts of entertainment for the viewer.  It's campy, doesn't take itself too seriously, and knows what we're here for, lots of action delivered by an ass-kicking pair of women.  Fans of the franchise will no doubt enjoy the Dirty Pair's big-screen adventure, but this is also a great starting-on point for newcomers too.

Final Score: 8/10