Commentary

April 26, 2013

Fly Over: ‘Injustice: Gods Among Us’, and Saigon Kitchen

For Xbox 360 and Playstation 3:

injusticegodsamongus33

‘Injustice: Gods Among Us’

NetherRealm is still in the game

I am a huge fan of fighting games, particularly the “Mortal Kombat” series. This was a little difficult for me during the latter part of the Midway publishing era, when the “MK” designers were rushed into releasing mediocre installments. However, when Warner Bros. took these designers, and they rechristened their team NeatherRealm Studios, they redeemed themselves by releasing the fantastic “Mortal Kombat” (2011). Fortunately, it seems that this kind of quality is going to be consistent thanks to their latest game, “Injustice: Gods Among Us,” which takes much of what worked in “Mortal Kombat” (2011) while also trying some new things.
“Injustice” takes place in the DC Comics universe, the home of such iconic superheroes as Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. While apprehending the infamous Joker as he tries to bomb a city, Batman and a few others are mysteriously brought into an alternate reality. Here, the Joker not only succeeded, but tricked Superman into activating the bomb and killing his wife, Lois Lane. Superman proceeds to create the One Earth government, a brutal dictatorship meant to stop crime and terrorism once and for all. This splits the heroes and villains, causing a civil war that threatens to spill into both realities.
Personally, I think fighting games should always have a story to them; I like knowing why these characters are trying to kill each other. NeatherRealm studios seems to always do a good job with this, as seen in their latest “MK” game, as each character is given a clear motivation in why he sided with Superman’s regime or Batman’s insurgency. The game’s Story Mode actually felt like I was watching an entertaining movie with some gameplay thrown in. That said I felt the “alternate reality” aspect of the story was a bit of a cop-out, and some characters don’t get nearly as much screen time as I would have liked.
My love of a good story aside, the gameplay for “Injustice” is very inviting. As with “Mortal Kombat” (2011), each character has their own set of combos and special moves, and it’s pretty easy to pick up and play. The “super meter” from “Mortal Kombat” (2011) returns here as well, which the player builds up and then spends on increasing the strength of an attack, countering the opponent’s combos, or activating a flashy and damaging “super move.” What I really enjoyed (and fully exploited) is the gameplay mechanic that allows fighters to use their environment to attack their opponents. For example, as the super-powerful Shazam I can lift up a nearby car and slam it on the enemy; if I was the more human Nightwing, however, I can leap off that same car to the other end of the arena, dropping a bomb in the process. And for added fun, some arenas allow the players to hit each other into different sections, like from a rooftop to the city streets. As for the online component, I had nothing to complain about. In fact, it seems to have been greatly improved from the lag-filled online from “Mortal Kombat” (2011).
From an aesthetic standpoint, the game is strong, but flawed. The in-game graphics are very clean and up-to-date, yet the Story Mode cut scenes looked a little too muddy. Each character has multiple costumes to choose from and, with the exception of a few bland ones, are all detailed. As for the arenas, they too are detailed, but unfortunately they all seem to be drably colored. Voice acting, a huge problem in some of the older “MK” games, is very strong; with veteran voice actors like Phil LaMarr as Aquaman and Kevin Conroy as Batman, this was expected.
I had a great time playing “Injustice: Gods Among Us.” There is plenty to do offline (such as the S.T.A.R. Labs Missions, which is basically a long string of mini-game challenges), and the variety in the gameplay encourages players to experiment with each character.

and then for food:

Flyover---Saigon-Kitchen-photo

Saigon Kitchen

I’ve driven by Saigon Kitchen on Bell Road in Surprise a hundred times and never really gave it a second thought. I’m pretty picky about Asian food and won’t go just anywhere. But, when I was looking for something a little different and one of my food apps popped up with the Vietnamese place, I decided to give it a try. The fact that it had pretty good reviews didn’t hurt.
I was going for take-out, so I scoured the reviews for what to order. I opted for the small order of chicken Pho and lemongrass chicken. I’ve never had Pho before, but after seeing contestants make it on a recent episode of “Amazing Race,” I decided to give it a try. I’m glad I did! All of the components came separate – rice noodles, chicken and fresh onions, basil and sliced jalapenos. It also came with a couple of sides of a red spicy sauce and a hoi son sauce. I thought the flavors were great together and I liked being able to increase the amount of spice to my taste. The lemongrass chicken was delicious and came with Jasmine rice and a small salad.
For the two items, which was twice as much as I needed to eat, the total was around $20.
My family and I decided to go back recently and experience dining in. The place is fairly small with only about 10 tables inside and doesn’t scream “bring in your young children,” but we weren’t discouraged from eating there with our two kids.
My husband ordered the firecracker shrimp, which came with garlic noodles. I went with the shaken beef, which included cubes of filet mignon and onions in a zesty sauce. It came with Jasmine rice, a small salad, and a cup of soup. The shrimp wasn’t very spicy, but it was nicely prepared. The garlic noodles had robust garlic flavor, but didn’t make our favorite list, even though the kids devoured them. The beef was great. The meat was tender, flavorful and plentiful. The salad was tasty, but the soup was slightly bland.
There wasn’t a kids menu, and though our 3- and 5-year-olds are sometimes willing to try new things, I don’t think an adult-priced Vietnamese entrée is the place to start. So, we ordered a chicken skewer appetizer, rice, French fries and after they devoured the garlic noodles, an extra order. I thought the chicken skewers were really good. The fries were delicious and came with ketchup and an aioli for dipping. I don’t think they left hungry, but I do wish there were kid-friendly menu choices.
The service was excellent. With tip, we spent almost $60, which isn’t horrible, but definitely not cheap takeout. The restaurant has a full bar with several draft beer choices. Prices are a bit steep, but the food was pretty tasty. The overall quaint ambiance was nice for something different. And somehow, our children actually behaved the whole time, which always makes for a pleasant evening out.
Saigon Kitchen is located at 14071 West Bell Road in Surprise.
They are open for lunch and dinner 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. Or, for takeout, call (623) 544-6400.




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