Sunday, July 31, 2011

New Hampshire Bound!

Greetings all. As of today, I have come with my family to vacation in the state of New Hampshire. It's a very pretty state for those who don't know, with wonderful mountain areas, trails, rivers, and Mom & Pop shops galore, especially as you get closer to the state's edge near Maine (which I'll also get to visit for a day). This area (known as the White Mountain area) was more or less the first place to ever truly give me an appreciation for nature, and I can't speak highly enough for it.

While I'm up here, I'll also be seeing Captain America in theaters finally (as none of my friends will shut the hell up about it, knowing full well I would have seen it opening night given the chance. I'm expecting great things, especially regarding the end credits scene, which I won't talk about for those who don't know already, but I expect to also blow me away. I'll also be sure to write a nice Deadpool review for those interested.

I'd also like to write one more review this week if I get the chance (That's right, I never take a break from informing others!). In catching up with all of my comics (which I'm still working on currently), I started the first two issues of Lady Mechanika, and feel that they've definitely earned a review from me. The mix of crafty story-telling with downright beautiful artwork lay down one hell of set up that I hope more people will want to check out after reading about it more.

Well, that's all for now I think. I promise I'll keep getting some sunlight in the meantime. I mean, I have to keep working to build up an immunity to it, right? Later!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Thundercats (2011) Episode 1 And 2 Review

Seeing as how I have no life, I had no problem checking out the new Thundercats cartoon last night when it had its one-hour premiere. The original 80's series almost needs no introduction. Lion-O, Cheetara, and the gang save the day from the evil Mumra and the other forces of evil, while little darker plots would form behind the scenes. Cue 2011, where up to this point we've already had countless reboots of shows like Transformers and He-Man (most to very positive effect), and now, after all these years, Thundercats gets its chance to shine. Was it worth the wait, or having I been getting my hopes up these last few months?

I'll start off by going into the story. One can already see this is MUCH deeper than the plot that preceded it. We've got a wonderful setup of the planet of Thundera, with a castle and wonderful, detailed desert and plain lands. Lion-O is set to become the king of the castle, but his brother, and other members of his royal family are not so thrilled about this. They feel he is unfit to run a castle, and not yet matured. We notice other interesting positions for out main characters. Cheetara is a cleric for the castle, Panthro is a companion of Claudus, Lion-O's father, WilyKit and WilyCat are common thieves on the streets, and Snarf even returns, but instead of an annoying character, quite cute and funny this time around. There's plenty of other interesting characters, both new and old, and with very interesting positions.

Lion-O sees a strange vision of Mumra in the Sword of Omens, and they become attacked by the lizards they've been at war with for years not long after. It becomes up to our main characters to save the land, but the story is not quite so basic as it appears. There's plenty of plot twists and surprises that I won't reveal, but just trust me when I say that for an animated series, they are VERY well crafted and well executed.

It must be said the animation is absolutely gorgeous. Beautiful scenery and landscapes surround, while the characters are all bright and colorful, with a nice polish throughout. The look of the main characters is a bit more anime-style than the previous outing, but it is not to the point of obnoxiousness and I don't see many having any type of problem with this.

Overall, this episode has everything a premiere needs, great story, wonderful action sequences, even better characterizations and set up, and I for one can't wait to see where things are going next. I finally have a reason to watch cartoons on Friday night again. This series has quickly become a must watch.

9 out of 10

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Capcom: What The Hell?

I am writing this blog due to a few too many trends I'm seeing with a gaming company I once loved; Capcom. Not since the rise of Activison's Bobby Kotick have I seen such horrible and disloyal business practices of this level.

I think the first sign of trouble I witnessed was the leave of former Mega Man, Dead Rising, Onimusha, and Lost Planet producer Keiji Inafune. He was with Capcom for 23 or so years (that's one year less than my actual age, so that's really something to me) before quitting and making it known that he "hated his job." After reaching a higher position in his company, he started to feel stress almost constantly, to the point where he couldn't take it anymore and left. The strange things begin...

Almost four months after Inafune's departure from the company, Mega Man Universe, a title that was going to be released for Xbox Live and Playstation Network, allowing users to create their own levels and customize characters all in the style of the original Mega Man 2, was canceled due to "various circumstances." While I heard that the game had some initial negative feedback due to response time issues and the like, I fail to see how they couldn't have been addressed, as I must point out once more that this game was using the same engine seen in NES-era Mega Man titles.

Later in the same year, Capcom makes another strange and controversial decision. I admit this one could still turn out positive in the end, but it's still odd all the same. Devil May Cry, the famed series which began on the Playstation 2, is getting its fifth outing. Capcom chose to give the development of this fifth entry to Ninja Theory, known for the game Heavenly Sword. Capcom's lead producer had stated that Heavenly Sword had a huge impact on them and they wanted to see better narrative done in the Devil May Cry series. Cue the new game, simply titled "DmC." While the controls of the game do at least appear to be of a similar engine to the previous games of the series, Dante, the main character looks nothing like he used to. Now, if fans trace back far enough and work around the strange continuity patterns of the series, they'll know that Dante began embracing his half-demon side more with each entry of the series. This title is an origin title, something very strange considering Devil May Cry 3 was already a prequel, making the chronological order of each game even more scrambled than ever. But I'll finally get to the point of it all now. He looks like this...

... as opposed to what he once did...

... and that's just weird. Again, I'd like to be proven wrong and see this game reach critical acclaim like (most of) the other titles in the series, but it's very off-putting when things like this are put in front of us.

Now we get to one that personally stabbed me in the heart. One of my favorite series of games on the Playstation 1 (and based on the reaction to what I'll describe in the paragraph, I know I'm not the only one) was Mega Man Legends. This series brought a fresh new spin on the Mega Man franchise, by not only bringing it to a 3D-like environment, but giving us fun and exciting new characters and stories to experience. I have played many Playstation 1 titles in my times to the point where I’ve lost count, and yet titles like that stick more firmly in my mind than ever. The sequel only made things even better with its new lock-on system and improved camera angles, not to mention the scope of the story. They were highly underrated games at the times of release, and as a result, have been even more highly sought after since (If you look at ebay or Amazon sellers, you’ll know what I mean.).

After 10+ years of anticipation, Capcom and Inafune had finally announced they were beginning development on a Mega Man Legends 3. I don’t think I’ve ever seen internet message boards and IMs light up like I did the day this sequel was revealed. The excitement started to die down a little when Capcom announced it was going to be a Nintendo 3DS launch title. Despite this, gamers still remained hopeful and were even willing to support it out of sheer love for the past. Some more exciting developments were revealed when Capcom had showed everyone their plan to create the game. They were going to put out what they called a “prototype” demo game as a free download to go with the launch of the system. This demo was going to not only be an early stepping stone for those who couldn’t wait to sink their teeth into the new title, but also serve as a beta of sorts, where problems could be fixed overtime and bugs could even be addressed. After a few months, suddenly the news stopped coming. The 3DS had been released and there was still no word about the Prototype demo. Suddenly, on July 18th (the day after my birthday nonetheless!!!), Capcom announces the cancellation of the title. It would have been one thing if Capcom admitted that they simply didn’t feel like it was going to make them as much profit as their other titles, but instead we got something much more outrageous. From CapcomEURO’s twitter page:

This is not only completely false, but an insult to the fans all at once. Never did Cacpom state previously that the “dev rooms” would impact whether the Prototype would get released. I wasn’t even aware of this taking place until after it was well too late to do anything. Does anyone reading this recall Capcom putting any real marketing into this whatsoever? In an earlier post by the company, they had said they felt some worry over the concept of the fans having so much impact of the game. Now, they are basically saying the opposite, and that we didn’t do enough? Ridiculous! They were near completion of this Prototype and could have very easily released it as intended, and even more so, could have allowed THAT to determine whether there was an “audience” for this game.

I’m going to add one more little stipulation on the company’s part as icing on the already stacking cake. Literally MONTHS after the release of Marvel Vs. Capcom 3, as well as additions of new characters and costumes and the like for downloadable content, and almost right after the announcement of Mega Man Legends 3’s cancellation, we receive another announcement stating that Capcom will be releasing an “Ultimate Edition” of Marvel Vs. Capcom 3, not only with all of the new characters, costumes, etc. for a cheaper price ($40 to the $60 I already paid for the original), but to add salt to the wound and pretty much guarantee a purchase, it will also be adding characters that will not be available as downloadable content at any point in time, as well as a more updated and balanced fight system. They’ve made it imperative to buy now if you truly want the full game experience now.

As of late, Capcom has been heading in a very cruel and heartless set of practices, and others are starting to take notice. Instead of putting out any new or unique ideas, or even ideas that can branch off of others in clever ways, we are only given what these companies feel will make them money. None seem to afford to take any risks in the industry anymore, and if this trend continues, I feel it is the gamers and the industry itself that will continue to suffer as a result. Think about how many new game titles we’re getting this year, as opposed to the number of sequels and remakes, and once again, I think you’ll quickly understand the point I’m trying to make.

So what can we do about these horrible practices and lack of new innovations? Well, we have at least a few options. The first, in the case of Capcom I feel, is to contact them. Tell them how disappointed you are with the business practices they have been following. Even more so, give them the biggest blow of all, by not giving them anything. Would it be a sacrifice to not buy the Ultimate Edition of Marvel Vs. Capcom 3? Yes, it would. But I’m willing to do just that. Even if the idea didn’t work, or I simply bought the game used later on, I would at least know that I tried something. The only way to stop these practices is to remind these companies that if we are their customers, the idea is still to cater to us, not what works best for them. Thank you for reading, and I hope this has at least caused you all to think a little about what gaming is still all about, just as it always has been about: it’s fans.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Deadpool's Review Of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Parts 1 and 2)

As the sunset loomed and the clock reached the 12:00AM mark, millions of nerds all over the planet gathered with their fake glasses, taped-on lightning-bolt scars, and plastic wands held high. They wanted the conclusion to their favorite saga of all time that is even being called “this generation’s Star Wars” by multiple douchebags across the country. A title like that is not easy to carry, but after getting into these books and movies year by year, it’s not difficult to see why people draw this conclusion… I mean, there’s been seven bloody installments of these things (8 if you count both parts of this movie separately, which I don’t, haha), and they’ve been for the most part, bloody brilliant mate! ... Did you like my character there? I had to have tea and crumpets for 8 straight weeks to get into it. Did I waste 8 straight weeks of my life just to make that stupid pun? … Well, who the hell asked you!? Moving on! ...

I was originally asked by many to write a review for Part 1 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows when it came out. After seeing it in theaters, I decided that it was not a good idea to do so. Contrary to popular belief, this is not because I hate you. No, no, the meaning lies much deeper than that. Simply put, these movies were called “Part 1” and “Part 2” for a reason. I didn’t feel it would be right to review one without the other unless I had them both as the complete story. Anyone who read the books certainly wouldn’t have reviewed the first half of it without bothering to talk about the second half… Right? I hope I’m right, because how anyone could have put down that giant hardcover to stop and waste time on the internet without finishing it, is simply not a true Potterfanaramalamadingdong. ALL the true fans waited in line behind those crappy Snape cosplayers who acted like they were bigger fans, even though we really were, but were just modest because we knew our lives were clearly more fulfilling than their non-existing fantasy-driven poppycock. Okay, I was one of those Snapes you saw… and the one who caused that riot after shouting “Snape Kills Dumbledore!” the night the Half Blood Prince came out… and the one who lost in a brutal wizard duel where I had to give up my Snape replica wand to a bunch of snotty Ron wannabes. They DIDN’T even get the HAIR right! Non-grateful phonies…

To review the entire set of Deathly Hallows films, one must examine all aspects of the film equally. First and foremost, this was easily one of the best, if not, the best example of the book coming to the screen. Were things changed around from the book? Yes. Did they make that girl sitting next to you shout obscenities when Harry’s relationship with Ginny was barely explained at all? You bet your broom-sitting butts it did, as my left ear still has yet to regenerate… But were these things really that bad of changes? Despite the fact that I know someone is going to cast Conjunctivitis Curse on me for this, I don’t think the changes made were really all that bad. There are some things that were completely left out that should not have been; that much is true, and Half Blood Prince made me want to rip out multiple people’s locks of hair. While that act of desperation did result in me grabbing a stash of Daniel Radcliffe’s hair that I now keep under my pillow every night; that is not the point! The point I was making was that this film was one of the only since the first two to truly attempt to be more like its book-y counterpart, and I for one applaud them for it. Did they separate them into two parts for more money? I don’t know, but they got a hell of a lot of mine in the process for it which I’ll steal back later. Hahahahahaha, they thought they could disarm me, but little do they know about my Gryffindor sword replica hidden in my trousers. MUAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! My life is so cool!!!

Now I’ll go into the story without actually spoiling any of it somehow. Since I cannot come up with a witty or ironic remark to make while doing so, I have elected to write the next portion of my review in the most obnoxiously offensive British tone I can muster. Deep breaths… Okay… Here we go:

Blimey! That story was bloody brilliant in the veins of hip hip and cheerio! The bloke outdid himself like mum’s black pudding last week. A bum bag couldn’t contain the excitement I felt, and I almost had to use the loo multiple times, it was just that nutter! Okay, I can’t do this anymore… Even I think this is offensive now! Hehehehe... They say “Johnny” when they’re talking about a condom…

But no, this was overall a very good and enthralling story that brought just about all of the main events from the previous books and movies together. Just about every kind of emotion that could be let out was let out in that theater. Magic was literally made in that story. The music and sounds were also quite good, as they carried the tone perfectly. Who doesn’t get goosebumps when hearing that theme song playing in the background? Also to note, there is a wonderful animated sequence of the “3 Brothers” story from the “Beetle and the Bard” book for the Harry Potter mythos; A nice change of pace from the already constantly changing atmosphere around them.

I have to say that as good and satisfying as all this is, and as wonderful as this series has truly been for all, I cannot go with the whole notion of “this generation’s Star Wars.” That series is in a whole other league that we should not be speaking of. Whether it’s better or not is a matter of opinion, but putting those two things up for nerd debates is not fun, unless you’re watching others dressed as Yoda, beating up a stray Malfoy in the distance. Something has to be brought to attention about this though… Ever since Half Blood Prince came out, the Harry Potter soundtrack has been borrowing just a few too many cues from John Williams’ soundtrack for Star Wars. I also noticed that one particular climactic fight scene near the end borrowed what was almost the EXACT same camera angles as a certain famous lightsaber duel of the ages. Did this bother me? You bet it did. I’m all for Rowling and all for these movies being made, but things like this deserve proper credit and they will most likely never get it in this case. Pooh! Pooh I tell you! POOH!

Overall, despite the length of these two parts, you’ll hardly find yourself bored as the plot is pretty darn gripping if I do say so myself, the effects are top notch, the actors are perfect at what they do, and it all comes together very nicely in one big super omega sugar-coated ending sequence. This is going to be remembered for a long long time, and deservedly so. I for one applaud this over-hyped series as one that actually deserved most of it. See!? I can be giving too!

9.5 out of 10 golden snitches… Oh, that poor half of a snitch…

This really is most likely the best movie you’ll see all summer, and possibly all year. So why not give in like everyone else? You’ll be cool for it. We even have cookies now (TM Deadpool, while supplies last, no further purchase necessary. Consult your doctor before usage)! Now, I must bid you all adieu. I have a date planned with Mrs. Rowling. No, she doesn’t know about it yet, but isn’t that half the fun? Oh, you don’t think she’ll agree to it? *slides out Gryffindor sword from trousers* I think she just might. Later ya blokes! :D

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Alice: Madness Returns Review

“We’re all mad here.”

Taken from Lewis Carroll’s original, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” this quote very much stands out for me regarding the review at hand. In the year of 2000, Rogue Entertainment released the original American McGee’s Alice on the PC and Mac. A Playstation 2 version of the game was also planned, but got canceled early on. As a result of this, many missed out on it, as they either didn’t have computers that had the capability to play it, or simply couldn’t find a copy, as it became very difficult to snag one after a certain point. Cue 2011; we finally receive the highly-anticipated sequel, “Alice: Madness Returns. Is this one a sure-fire winner, or does it simply fall down the rabbit hole?

The game takes place immediately after the events of the original, with Alice being released from her asylum and sent to an orphanage to be taken care of by Doctor Bumby. Bumby is said to help children with their troubled pasts with hypnotism, in the hopes that the harshest memories will disappear. Alice continues to feel pain and suffering over her family’s death, having many hallucinations and outbursts. When sent to get some medicine, she notices a white cat and begins to follow it. It is at this point that she stumbles into another rabbit hole and her new adventure begins.

I will start by saying what is probably going to be obvious to most. The graphics and scenery in this title look absolutely gorgeous. The first game brought a memorable vision of a gothic and macabre Wonderland, and this sequel extends upon that in ways I couldn’t have even imagined. From brush landscapes and bright mountains, to dark caves and fiery depths, it’s hard to not to get caught up in some of the unique and imaginative lands. It’s true that there is a bit of a graphical inconsistency with one stage as opposed to the next, but I don’t think anyone playing this is really going to mind all that much, as it is not a hugely noticeable inconsistency, and they’re all truly sites to behold. Some cutscenes are told in a fashion where the characters are all appearing in a form similar to pop-up books, but in motion. They provide another interesting approach to viewing the game and its unveiling story. One more point of interest to note is the real world in the game itself. It creates a dark and brooding atmosphere, combined with Alice’s hallucinations, to make for one truly terrific ride.

The next bit of info I would like to get out is the music and sound. The music in the game is overall superb, and helps set the tone for the game very nicely. I would have liked a bit more variety than what was present, but the music certainly good enough that I didn’t mind it so much. The voice actors are all very well-done and match with their game characters quite professionally. The biggest departure in the voices from what I could tell, was definitely the Chesire Cat, who’s voice appeared much deeper this time around. It wasn’t a bad voice-job; just drastically different from what I remember him sounding like in the original.

The next few sections I’m about to describe, are the cause for the mixed reviews the game has been getting. It is with this understanding, that I hope everyone will now know what to expect and determine if this title is for them or not. I’m going to start with the gameplay mechanics. The first thing that one who has played the original will want to know is what was improved, if anything at all. I am happy to say that quite a bit has been touched up in the last 10 years. The combat in the original American McGee’s Alice was one of its biggest flaws, making hits difficult to land on your enemies, as well as making it difficult to tell if you were even doing damage to the enemies in front of you. In Madness Returns, we have a system similar to that in “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time,” and “God of War,” borrowing a few elements from each. While this doesn’t give the game so much of a unique feel, one will remember the fighting in the game much more positively when trekking through this sequel. Alice can slash with her knife, bash with her Hobby-Horse, shoot, dodge, and lock on to enemies while doing all of these things at once. As the game progresses, you learn to take advantage of these abilities far more effectively. The combat in the game is the reason you’ll keep playing until the end.

The other gameplay aspect to mention, and probably one of the biggest reasons for the mixed reviews, is the platforming elements of the game. While taking away the ability to grab the edges of platforms in order to climb them, the jumping is much improved, allowing Alice to bounce herself back up at least three times, as well as glide in order to reach the next platform in the distance. As a result of this, many levels feel very much spaced out in places. Some reviewers see the platforming in a disappointing light, calling the gameplay too dated for this generation. Others like myself, found quite a bit to enjoy about the platforming. It’s not perfect and the camera angles could still use a tremendous amount of work, but it was overall a very fulfilling experience, especially to fans of the original, as well as fans of 3D platformers in general.

There were a few other gameplay modes added to break up the monotony, and all of them come off in very interesting ways. The biggest stand-outs were the 2D side-scroller sections, where Alice moves along a 2D plane, timing her jumps and dodging enemies in order to make it to the following location. In one stage, Alice eats the cake that says “Eat Me” and grows gigantic, enabling sort of a “stomp the crap out of everything” stage that proves to be quite entertaining. There is also a neat little mini-game in which you control a doll’s head around a 2D/3D plane to reach the next goal for Alice.

The story of the game carries everything through nicely, but not right away. Of the 6 chapters in the game, I felt that the story didn’t start to truly pick up or have any real developments until about the 4th chapter. This is why a bunch of reviews have also labeled this game as “boring.” I imagine not many of these reviewers actually stuck around for the entire game. Otherwise, they might have seen some of the interesting plot twists and maybe even changed their mind. Gamers will really need to rely on the scenery and the combat to get them through the first half, but after that, I imagine the experience will start to become much more rewarding to those who stuck around. With that said, half of the game is a long time to wait in order to start really getting into things.

I do have to note one more thing in particular that irked me about this sequel. Near the end of every chapter, you usually encounter some type of giant or menacing creature, only to have it destroyed for you by some outside force or cutscene, just as they were building the scene up in the fashion of a bossfight. The only actual bossfight in the game is the one you face at the very end. It’s a decent fight, but this one out of what could have been nearly 6 was extremely disappointing to me. I was really hoping for more in this area, and you likely will too.

In conclusion, I think that anyone who played and loved the original American McGee’s Alice will find a lot to appreciate about the way the game was changed and updated. Those who did not get to play the original may still want to pick this up, as both the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of the game come with a code to download the original game (also downloadable for $9.99, using the Madness Returns disc to play). Getting to experience this classic, as well as its sequel in a complete package make the whole thing much more worthwhile in the long run. While a flawed experience, it’s hard to peg this game when we’re getting almost nothing but “Shooter 5438954” thrown in our faces constantly. This is a nice change of pace from that line of gaming, and something truly worth checking out. Just bring your patience with you for the first half of the ride.

8 bashful Hobby-Horses out of 10

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

What I've Been Reading Lately

I thought I'd make this post as a way of talking about things I've been reading, and inviting anyone who reads this to post whatever they're reading as well, or maybe even just things you'd like to read, but haven't quite gotten the chance yet.

As for me, I've been on a bit of a classic literature vibe these last few years, reading everything from the Divine Comedy, all the way to Sherlock Holmes. I'm a sucker for fancy (or old) hardcover editions of classic stories. Barnes and Noble is ridiculous with those, as they've put out all sorts of neat leather hardcover titles. I picked up an H.G. Wells collection, an H.P. Lovecraft collection, a Lewis Carroll collection, and The Divine Comedy all in this fashion.In between these titles, I also read the first Ender's Game (many already know of this book's significance to science fiction), a series of books called Malice and Havoc (great pre-teen demographic story about kids going into a horrible world within a comic book, standing up against a dark and powerful foe), The Hunger Games series (similar to Battle Royale, the story of a girl forced into a game of death with other kids her age by an evil Capitol that she hopes to one day take revenge upon), The Book Of Lost Things (an excellent romp into fantasy, making nods at classic stories like the Grimm's Fairy Tales and many others), Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (does this one need an introduction?), and plenty more stuffed on my shelf.

In the comic book side of things, I've been trying to play a bit of catch up. I've only just recently been getting back into the big Marvel and DC events, by starting up Fear Itself and Flashpoint. Amongst these, I've also been reading the events that preceded them, like the prologue issue of Fear Itself and preludes to the events of Flashpoint, like Brightest Day and the Flash issues. I have (like always) stayed caught up with Amazing Spider-Man and very much look forward to issue #666 and the Spider Island story. I've also tried to look into more independent works and came out loving them all (Finder is the greatest comic you're not reading, Scud: The Disposable Assassin is once again incredible (this one really has to be read to be believed), and hoping to give Blankets a try, as I hear it is a very touching story).

So, that's my generally over-the-top and unnecessarily huge reading list. How about the rest of you?