Reviews

Converse Chuck Taylor All Star Renew Crater Review

The most sustainable Chucks ever

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Today we’re looking at a really special sneaker — its the Converse Chuck Taylor All Star Renew Crater. As you can guess from the name, it is a sustainably made shoe as part of Nike’s Move to Zero initiative.

These actually dropped in North America back in July 23rd, but they only just went on shelves here in Asia, available in Converse stores in Malaysia and Singapore and online at Lazada.

Sustainability is the way to go

The Converse Chuck Taylor All Star Crater is a complete re-imagining of the classic Chuck Taylor 70 silhouette, but with completely new and updated recycled materials.

The entire shoe uses at least 40 percent recycled materials by weight.

The midsole is made entirely out of Nike’s Crater foam which is made from 12% recycled rubber. That recycled rubber comes from Nike Grind, which is made from recycled surplus manufacturing materials.

Meanwhile the upper inherits from Converse’s Renew initiative, and is made out of a new material called Morphlon. It combines recycled polyester with industrial textile waste scraps to create a material that feels like classic canvas.

Converse’s popular Renew line has always been a personal favorite of mine in the way they use recycled materials. It gets a nice little jumpstart thanks to Nike’s Move to Zero initiative and the use of the new crater foam.

The Converse Craters might not have the same hype as Nike’s Sustainably made Space Hippie Collection when they dropped, but I really think these are one of the most interesting takes on the Chuck Taylor 70s in a while.

They come in three colorways right now, there’s the Charcoal Chambray Blue, which is the one I’m checking out.

Then there’s the White/Chambray Blue which looks okay, and then there’s the Black Chambray Blue which is my personal favorite of the three.

ICYMI: Nike owns Converse now

Starting from the box, I have to admit it’s still weird seeing the Nike branding on a Converse box.

It’s the same Nike Move to Zero Box you’d get with any of Nike’s Move to Zero shoes, like the Space Hippies, the Air Jordan 1 Crater, or any of the new Air Force 1 Craters as well.

Only difference here is the Converse branding. I feel like this box is going to be very confusing for people that don’t know that Nike owns Converse, so imagine you head into a store and buy this shoe and get a Nike box.

It’s weird but I’m guessing Nike was hoping that the branding power of their Move to Zero initiative would give some hype to this shoe. That’s why the Nike branding has been used on the box.

Materials and design

Coming to the shoes themselves, the first thing you notice when you take them out of the box is how crazy light they are. Usually with a pair of Chuck Taylor 70s you expect some amount of weight but these, they’re just so light. It’s crazy.

Starting with the upper, the Morphlon material feels smooth, like canvas, but is made from a blend of recycled polyester and waste scraps, putting old materials to new use.

As you might already know, Morphlon is a 100% recycled blend composed of 50% recycled polyester and 50% recycled post-industrial waste scraps.

It actually feels and looks pretty great, in this Chambray Greyish color here.

Snazzed up Chucks

Like all Chuck Taylor 70s, the lateral side has a clean, minimalist look while the medial side has the Converse Chuck Taylor All Star badge which also seems to be made out of recycled materials.

The lateral side also has these two ventilation holes at the bottom of the mid-panel to help with breathability, with a little bit of white stitching around it to give this area a bit more structure.

Moving on to the toe box area…

The toe cap is one of the most iconic parts of the Chuck Taylor 70s and the reinterpretation here looks a little weird admittedly.

They’ve given the toe cap an unfinished kind of look which you’ll either love or hate but the material on the toecap, which is also the material used for the eyestays, is 85% recycled, which is awesome.

Moving upwards, you’ll see that the eyestays also have this textile overlay in a unique unfinished rough design to them, almost seemingly broken up into three sections by this orange stitching.

This is different from the usual minimalist metal eyestays you’d see on a usual pair of Chuck Taylors.

The webbing and stitching you see around here is all 100% recycled as well. Apart from that, you’ll see these charcoal colored flat laces weaving through the eye stays.

Underneath the laces, there’s the tongue which is made from the same recycled canvas material as the rest of the upper, with this white pull tap nylon piece on top. that has the Converse logo branding in different orientations, and “2020” stitched on.

This pull tap fabric on the tongue seems a little unnecessary to me but I’m not sure if it’s here for just aesthetic reasons or whether it was necessary to hold the laces in place.

Coming to the inside of the shoe…

There’s a 100% recycled dark grey mesh sockliner, with a neon green cushioned ortholite insole that is 20% recycled, and looks very similar to the one on the Nike Space Hippies.

Apart from that, coming to the back of the shoe, you have this orange stitching that is done throughout the back that I think is supposed to simulate a heel cup.

There’s a tiny bit of reinforced material here as well, so this section is a little stiff to ensure no heel slippage.

At the back of the shoe, you’ll see more of that white stitching that runs up the sneaker towards the white pull-tab on the heel that has black stitching.

That entire upper sits on a full length Nike Crater Foam midsole that is shaped to look exactly like the midsole on a pair of Chuck Taylor Highs.

Crater foam holding things down

We’ve seen Crater foam used on several of Nike’s sustainable series of shoes, from the Space Hippies to the Jordan Crater, the Air Jordan 1 High Crater, the VaporMax 2020, and even the more recent Air Force 1 Craters.

Nike’s Crater foam basically uses about 12% Nike Grind rubber for a lightweight and responsive cushioning. Nike Grind materials are created from recycled athletic footwear and surplus manufacturing scraps.

So basically, they’re taking all leftover materials from outsoles and midsoles in the manufacturing process. They grind them all up together and create the Nike Grind Rubber that is used in the Crater Form in this midsole and outsole.

A fun little bonus of this process is that no two midsoles will ever be the same because of the sheer amount of different recycled materials used with all these different speckles of materials.

What I love about the implementation here is that instead of the vulcanized midsole you’d see on a usual pair of Chuck Taylor All-Stars, you have this one piece Crater form that is shaped exactly like the midsole on a standard pair of Chucks.

Even moving downwards, the thread pattern on the outsole is exactly the same as a standard pair of Chucks, with the Converse All Star branding.

It’s just so awesome and so well done.

But the main advantage here is that instead of the usual flat kind of feeling you’d get from a standard pair of All Stars, with the All Star Craters you have a really lightweight pair of shoes that also feels a lot more flexible, plush, and responsive compared to the flat stiff cushioning you’re used to getting from All Stars.

Granted its not Nike React or Adidas Boost levels of cushioning but it’s much better than a standard pair of Chucks, which makes these probably the most comfortable pair of Chuck Taylor All Stars you’d ever wear.

Which was a fun surprise because I really did not expect much from these shoes.

Fit and sizing 

Coming to sizing and fit, these fit the same as any other pair of Chuck Taylor All Star Highs.

All Star highs generally tend to fit a little large so you’d want to go down half a size for sure. For example I’m a UK 11 but I generally go down to a size UK10.5 for All Star Highs.

Of course, the best way to know for sure is to head on over to a store and try out a pair.

Is this your SneakerMatch?

All in all, I think Converse has actually done a great job with the All Star Craters.

As a huge Converse fan, from a purist point of view I will admit that there’s a few things I wish they did not do here. The orange stitching at the back for example, to simulate a heel cup, is a little out there. Maybe if they used a more subtle muted color, or just left that area alone, it would have been a much cleaner shoe.

Honestly, I’m just not a fan of the little orange stitching everywhere, so it’s mostly just the color choices, maybe. But I get that they were going for a more unfinished look here.

From a comfort point of view…

You guys have to check out this shoe. If you’re a fan of the Chuck Taylor All Star Highs and you want a more comfortable version, this is where it’s at.

It’s quite impressive how Converse and Nike made such a lightweight shoe here. With the soft recycled materials used and the soft Crater foam, it’s just way more comfortable to wear than a standard pair.

I just wish that maybe they made a more purist version but that’s just me.

I also feel like a low top version of these shoes would just be crazy popular.

These do seem to be sitting in stores though so if you want to know what I’m talking about, just head on over to a Converse Store to try out a pair and let me know what you think about them.

At the end of the day, the Chuck Taylor All Star Craters are Converse’s most sustainable shoe ever. They are literally reducing the carbon footprint of footwear manufacturing.

I’m really hoping these shoes catch on. Maybe if Converse makes a more purist looking version because that might catch on really well, and more people switch to that shoe instead of the standard All Stars which almost everyone has.

Now that might actually make a huge impact for sustainable footwear.

Gaming

NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… Review

Playable Anime

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NieR Replicant

An earnest protagonist, a “tsundere” who’s also kind of there for fan service, an almost fourth-wall breaking character, and a world dealing with an underlying crisis; NieR Replicant ver. 1.222474487139 (which we’ll refer to as NieR Replicant henceforth) has all the elements of a wonderful anime. Except, it’s a game — one that goes out of its way to offer multiple types of play.

After getting through a single playthrough of NieR Replicant, I found that most of the things I said I liked in my first impressions (music, gameplay, combat, dialogue) were the ones that will endear me to the game even further.

Everything for your sister

As the protagonist, you play the role of a brother who will do just about anything and everything for your sister. The game starts off with you looking for a way to cure the mysterious illness that’s befallen your sister.

This is the main driving force of the main character. All his actions in the main storyline are all in the service of doing what’s best for his sister.

A memorable cast

Along the way you meet the rest of the main cast. This includes a magical, talking, floating book named Grimoir Weiss who serves as both a helpful ally and a backseat protagonist who never fails to point out the obvious in every situation in a way that almost feels like it’s being directed at the player.

You’ll also build a certain level of kinship with people in your town as well as key characters in every main area of the game. This includes the two other members of your party: Kaine and Emil — both of which also have interesting backstories which I will not spoil here. Just know that all these relationships and it resonates with you, the player, will determine much of what you’ll feel about the game’s story.

NieR Replicant

“Fan Service” Kaine

Dealing with loss

One thing that you will constantly encounter in the game is the feeling of dealing with loss. It already feels heavy on its own, but if I may step back a bit. Having to deal with loss in real life recently and feeling the collective grief of people in my circle also having to deal with the same just amplifies the general feeling of hopelessness and emptiness of experiencing loss.

This feeling, however prevalent in the game, is perfectly balanced by the injection of humor from Grimoir Weiss and the happy memories you have with the ones you’ve lost. Memories also play a part in key points of the story.

Multi-faceted gameplay 

Shifting the tone a little bit, the overall gameplay of NieR Replicant will keep you on your toes.

It’s not just a mindless hack and slash game. There are sections where it’ll turn into a 2D platformer with some sprinkles of puzzle solving.

The level designs are fantastic. One thing that stood out to me is how the Square Enix and Toylogic very intentionally frames certain levels. Since this is, after all, a sort of remake of game that was first released in 2010, it is free from the burden of giving the player full camera control. This results in beautifully framed scenes as you play.

There’s one particular area that reminds me of the camera work on the original Resident Evil games on the PlayStation One.

Later on in the game, you’ll enter a deeper portion of that area and it will give you an entire section of the game that looks and plays like Diablo II. 

These areas are all perfectly placed in different sections of the game that certainly adds to the overall pacing. It can feel draggy, especially when you’re doing side quests, but having levels and areas like this make it all better. Oh and yeah, take some time to do side quests, it’ll help with getting gold (the game’s currency), some useful items, and immerse you further in the game’s world.

Here’s a quick look at the combat in the early part of the game.

The music is just… *chef’s kiss

I’ve already talked about this at length in my first impressions. But even then, it would be a disservice to not mention it here again. The music in this game is just my cup of tea.

It’s the kind of music that really transports you into the game world. If you’ve ever had fantasies of being whisked away to a different reality, the music in this game is what you would imagine to be playing.

It perfectly evokes the proper mood in every area of the game. The main village gives off this “going on an epic adventure” vibe, the area filled with robots sound robotic, and the aforementioned Resident Evil-like area fills you with horror. You can even say it almost foreshadows the fate of some levels and locations. That’s how good the music in this game is.

You can listen to the 2010 versions of the music here. Bear in mind that most of these were re-done/re-recorded for NieR Replicant ver. 1.222474487139.

Should you play NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… ?

Anyone who’s into narrative-driven games should give NieR Replicant a whirl. That’s also especially true if you’re an anime fan. It will feel familiar because of certain tropes, some fan service, and a time skip.

It’s a fantastic entry point into the whole NieR franchise. It will get you curious about the NieR world at large and will certainly make you want to explore or replay the 2017 hit game NieR:Automata. But of course, not before you give NieR Replicant ver. 1.22474487139… all the playthroughs it deserves.

NieR Replicant ver. 1.22474487139… is available April 23 on PS4, Xbox One, and PC on Steam.

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realme C25: Your budget content creation companion

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realme C25

During this pandemic lockdown, many of us maximized the advantages of being online and ventured into selling our products or creating vlogs and podcasts to keep us sane and productive.

In these unprecedented times, it is highly essential to have a smartphone that is reliable not just for your day-to-day activities but also for your digital content creation. 

And truly, realme commits to providing us with amazing options for that, such as their new follow-up to the C series, the realme C25.

For starters, let’s check out what this smartphone has in store for us.

Pleasing to your senses

Similar to realme’s budget gaming phone narzo 30A that they recently launched, the C25 flaunts a large 6.5-inch screen but with a 1600×720 display.

Despite it not being in full HD+, the phone’s resolution actually shows pretty accurate colors and good viewing angles. The screen has peak brightness of up to 480 nits which is already bright but could’ve used some improvement especially if you’ll be using it outdoors. 

Up front, you will notice the selfie camera at the center which is a bit intrusive for my taste. Luckily, the bezels surrounding the screen are not thicker than today’s standards.

realme C25

The C25 comes in Water Blue and Water Grey and I was actually glad to unbox the Water Blue variant since I can see the details clearer on the back cover.

When it comes to its construction, realme put this phone a notch above the rest. They processed it using the industry-leading German fixed-axis precise radium engraving machine, making the device more appealing, comfortable to the touch and less susceptible to fingerprints and smudges.

 You can also see its square camera setup cut-out and a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor at the upper middle part.

realme C25

While on the right side of the phone are its volume rockers and power button.

realme C25

Gives you enough space

As someone who is largely dependent on my phone for casual photos and preview for my shoots, one thing I really liked about the C25 is its large storage. You have 4GB of RAM on this phone and have two storage options, 64GB and 128GB.

And when you check the left side of the phone, you’d see that there are two nano SIM card slots and a dedicated microSD card slot to bring you more network and storage freedom as you can expand it by up to 256GB.

Snap and create

One big advantage of the realme C25 is that this is their first phone belonging to their C-series that features a 48MP AI-triple camera. Its camera setup consists of a 48MP primary camera, 2MP monochrome lens and  2MP macro lens.

realme C25

I tested all cameras and noticed that its main camera produced vibrant colors but isn’t very detailed. You can also notice the graininess on this photo.

As for its night mode, the camera produced decent exposures but its processing is not at par with flagship phones.

Its macro lens on the other hand, showed great details which would definitely be helpful if you have an online business and you’d be using your C25 to take shots of your products.

Power under the hood

One amazing feature about the realme C25 is that you can find the MediaTek Helio G70 processor at the core of this device, ensuring a powerful and swift performance for content creators and gamers alike, giving people another reason to compare it to its brother, the narzo 30A.

realme C25

Another big advantage of this phone is that it runs on realme UI 2.0 on Android 11, making its interface pleasant and easy to navigate.

Battery that you need

The winning feature for the realme C25 is that it is equipped with a whopping 6,000 mAh battery that can let you do your daily tasks, watch videos, play your games and even do your shoots for your content all day long without worrying.

On the first day that I had it, I fully charged the battery and left it open for 24 hours without much activity and its level just went down to 98%. For the next couple of days, I used it for my usual activities, and it just went lowbatt after 3 days.

This phone even has some helpful battery settings such as App Quick Freeze which can minimize your battery use by background apps, and Screen Battery Optimization that can tone down some of the phone’s display effects to save power.

realme C25

Complementing this huge battery is a 18W fast charger which can fully charge it in two hours. Another bonus is that despite it being a budget phone, the realme C25 has reverse wired charging in case you have an emergency and you forgot to bring a powerbank for your other gadgets.  

Unrivaled durability and reliability

Though in denial, I must admit I can be really clumsy that I tend to drop my phone or splash it with water from time to time. With the realme C25, I don’t have to worry too much about these situations as it is the first smartphone that passed TÜV Rheinland Smartphone High Reliability Certification. 

This means that this phone encompassed daily use test scenarios such as drop, wear and tear, extreme environment test scenarios and component reliability test scenarios based on the three- year life cycle of smartphones.

For realme to take this further step and invest on such an upgrade for the C25 definitely sets higher standards for other budget phones.

Is realme C25 your GadgetMatch?

This phone is really targeted for people on a budget but are looking for a smartphone with a high battery capacity, good cameras, performance, latest software and durable and reliable for your day-to-day tasks and content creation.

If all these features tick all the boxes on your checklist, then the realme C25 is definitely your GadgetMatch.

But if you’re looking for a smartphone with a better screen, faster charging and other camera features such as an ultrawide lens, you may opt for a higher end smartphone.

The realme C25 is available in Water Blue and Water Grey variants and is priced at PhP 7,490 for the 4GB RAM + 64GB internal storage and PhP 8,490 for the 4GB RAM + 128GB internal storage.  

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Balan Wonderworld review: A theater for young ages

Facing the reality behind the curtains

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Balan Wonderworld

Have you ever had those moments in your younger years that hurt you a ton? Have they also happened as you got older and a bit wiser? Such is life on our own planet Earth: full of ups and downs. With each moment, we learn new things about ourselves and from our own shortcomings to become better people. However, there are times when things get too overwhelming.

We all need an escape, no matter how young or old we might be. For the older ones, it’s having some time alone, watching movies or TV shows. With the younger generation, it’s playing video games or window shopping online. For our good friends Leo or Emma, their daring escape from their problems led them to the mysterious world of Balan Wonderworld.

I decided to give this game a shot, seeing as it’s one of those less-hyped titles from Square Enix. I want to know what it could offer to a semi-casual player like myself when I need stress relief. Also, Square Enix loves to draw you in with some lore in between to keep you hooked from start to end.

So, what exactly is happening here?

Balan Wonderworld starts off with a story that provides little context to the main characters. Essentially, you play as either Leo or Emma, two children experiencing some personal troubles. I decided to play as Leo mostly because his opening cutscene was him dancing on the street, which is quite relatable. Apparently, in Leo’s case, a group of equally skilled dancers took notice, but he just shunned them away for unexplainable reasons.

Eventually, he and Emma find themselves in this mysterious theater guarded by Balan, a magician-like figure. According to the game’s lore, the theater only shows up to those who are experiencing troubles in their lives. I guess you could consider Leo/Emma extremely lucky, but they’re also confused as to why they’re in the theater. A few moments later, they find themselves in a magical world behind the theater — essentially pulling a Narnia on you.

Balan Wonderworld

Leo in the Island of Tims

You may be wondering how all of this just happened, and I’m here to tell you that I have no idea. In its early stages, the game doesn’t explain to you a lot of details in hopes of putting the pieces of the story together. As I progressed through the story later on, I’m still trying to understand how these things happened. Not the kind of start I was expecting.

The simplest gameplay mechanic for Square Enix

After the intro cutscene, you find yourself on the Island of Tims, which is pretty empty to start. It’s mostly just grassland with some flowers, lakes, and bridges. Eventually, you will slowly rebuild the Tims Tower, which doesn’t seem that important initially. Part of the rebuild involves the inhabitants of the island: the Tims which aids you for the main completion quest.

Now, this platforming game features twelve Chapters, each with two levels and a boss fight. In all the levels, you only ever need to press one button to get through the entire game: the X button. See, every other button and trigger on your controller allows you to jump and platform around — something the X button does anyway. However, the X button is this game’s primary action button because of another gameplay mechanic.

Collect-a-thon Platformer

In each level, Leo/Emma will collect a set of costumes that grant them special abilities. From jump attacks to increased air time, these costumes allow you to explore the game’s vast stages to look for collectibles for completion. As mentioned earlier, almost all of the abilities are bound to the X button — something you don’t really see with Square Enix’s other prominent titles.

Balan Wonderworld

Some of the costumes you will collect throughout the game

Apart from the costumes, you will also collect Drops, Tim Eggs and Balan Statues in each stage. Collecting Drops allows you to grow your Tims to grant you boosts when playing every stage. Meanwhile, collecting a certain number of Balan Statues opens the next set of Chapters and worlds to explore.

As somebody who is fond of stage-by-stage platforming, this was pretty standard stuff even in an open-world setting. Personally, I found myself getting side-tracked with all the collectibles if I wanted to progress further into the game. However, it also makes the game roughly easy to breeze by when you’re not out to complete it. In essence, I felt it doesn’t motivate you enough to complete it 100 percent.

Uncovering your troubles and rising above them

Let’s tackle what I think is the main reason why you found yourself platforming in Balan’s magical world. I mentioned earlier that the character you control is going through some personal issues, and that the magical world showed up for them because of it. With each Chapter, Leo/Emma encounters people who also have undergone some life problems, as well.

Balan Wonderworld

One of the main boss fights in the game

Before each boss fight, a cutscene introduces you to the main story of each person you encounter in the Chapter’s stages. Essentially, it highlights the following aspects: how they started, the rise, and the fall (and eventual shift to the dark side). You are basically tasked to free these people from the Negati, a demon-like presence that is the manifestation of their troubles.

The happy ending in one of the early chapters of the game

After beating each boss, another cutscene starts that shows an epilogue of sorts, detailing the events that happened after you free people of the Negati. You see people get back on their feet, or become more open to other people about their interests. Also, each ending cutscene starts off with a performance with the AI versions of the costumes you collect. I found it quite cheesy and a little extra in some instances.

A game that doesn’t explain much when it should

Everything about Balan Wonderworld made me ask myself, “why is this all happening?” To be honest, I felt that nothing about the game was explained properly the moment you start playing. From the simplistic gameplay mechanic to the storylines in each chapter, it all feels like it lacks purpose. Furthermore, even your role in lifting these people up from their troubles isn’t explained properly.

While playing through this game, I got the feeling that this was intended for kids even if some of the issues tackled here applied to adults. In its raw gameplay alone, it’s simple to understand and easy to navigate that even five year olds will get through the mechanics easily. The collect-a-thon element only somewhat adds a level of depth to the overall gameplay.

Gameplay mechanics aside, the entire story behind Balan Wonderworld just happens with little to no context or purpose. You aimlessly go into each Chapter, uncover the story behind each character, beat the demon inside them, and they’re freed of the negativity inside them. If you’re a child playing this game, it’s something that you’ll enjoy. As an adult, however, it doesn’t do much to draw you in for long.

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