Saturday, December 27, 2014

Dragon Quest IOS Apps

There has been such a drought, when it comes to Dragon Quest, here in America. Dragon Quest X has all but been forgotten in regard to us, and multiple 3DS titles have come and gone, with little word as to wether US releases will ever happen. (Dragon Quest VII on 3DS being an exception. But the cost of translating that HUGE game makes me again doubt we'll see a release.)

So, checking up on the app store, imagine my surprise to suddenly find the reverse: a flood of Dragon Quest games! Dragon Quest 1, 2, 3, 4 -- and even DQ VIII!

These games have been clearly lovingly translated and recreated for easy use on the iphone or ipad. In the case of Dragon Quest 1 - 3, we're treated to wonderfully updated graphics, mechanics, and wonderful music.

Dragon Quest 1, being the first entry in the series, this title sells for only $3. The game is challenging, if you haven't played the game before -- but hints and clues are still there, just like in the NES Classic. The music is bombastic and operatic - and while there aren't as many tunes in this entry, it contains some of my favorite melodies.

Dragon Quest 2, ups the ante on everything DQ 1 offered -- giving you three characters to command, with an expansively larger world to explore. Menu design is top notch, and while I am only half way through the game, it stands as a remarkably fun experience. Also - the music is just stunning! (a lot more tunes are featured in this game)

Dragon Quest 3 -- This entry stands as many people's be-all, and end-all of what a Dragon Quest game can be. You are given command of four characters, built with your choice of comrades to accompany you. The game is larger than DQ2 - and much more challenging. Be prepared to look up hints online, as you get deeper into the game. Still -- a must-play experience!

Dragon Quest 4 - This entry in the series requires 6.0 operating system to work. Given that I have this entry on my Nintendo DS already, I haven't bought it yet for the iphone. Still - its an excellent entry in the franchise - following the tales of different characters. Excellent entry for new players, I think, as it gives you easy to grasp stories to follow before beginning the game with the lead hero.

Dragon Quest 8 - Originally brought over onto the PS2, this game is an utter gem in every regard. Its story is stunning, its gameplay is engrossing - and to my surprise - its all able to be squeezed onto either the iphone or ipad. BUT! This game has some requirements! It must have an operating system 6.0 or above. Its optimized for working on the iphone 5. They say flat out, in the description, that while it works on iphone 4s, and ipad 2s -- it can sometimes crash, or have other problems. Its urged you save your game often, and sometimes turn off and start the system in case of a freeze. (Its also urged you use the "Recent Tasks" menu, to close the game entirely; so it isn't running in the background.)

Now -- this all sounds bad, doesn't it? BUT - they had the game on sale for 12.99. (instead of $20). I knew my iphone 4 would never work with it -- it doesn't even have a 6.0 OS. I do, however, have an ipad 2 with 7 and up Operating System. So, I took a gamble. My first playthrough, while short, proved successful.

I also MUST mention something about the music and voice acting. The PS2 version had a score played by an orchestral philharmonic. We got that version of the music in the US. The Japanese, strangely, did not. This IOS version features the Japanese non-orchestral version. Also, voice acting is NOT included, like it was for the American version. (The Japanese never got voice acting either. We're essentially getting the Japanese version of the game). This, seriously, is a disappointment. The music is MUCH less impressive than it was on the PS2.

BUT -- don't let those negative comments detract you from one of the most wonderful gaming experiences EVER! If you have a system that can handle it, then by all means, buy it. The PS2 version is the preferred version - but, that isn't always an option for everyone (as we get farther away from PS2-playable systems).

Also - as a Christmas present for everyone -- Dragon Quest 2 and 8 are discounted until January 5th.. For a mere $3, you can download Dragon Quest 2. For 12.99, DQ8 is yours.

Beyond those deals - another thing struck me, especially in the listed description for these titles. There are NO hidden fees. Nothing is left out of the games, to make them more profitable. In a world where apps try so desperately to trick us into paying more, after the initial download -- these are games you can trust, to be getting the full experience.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Usagi Yojimbo Stop Motion Movie

This video is apparently a proof of concept presented to Stan Sakai, to secure the movie rights to Usagi Yojimbo.

A DVD is planned, from what I hear -- but what would help is to spread this video to others (so possible investors) can see it.

This looks like it would be a fantastic way to introduce Usagi Yojimbo to a wider audience. I sure hope it's successful!

BTW - Senso, issue #2, comes out September 3ed (I'm very much looking forward to the continuation of H.G. Wells' aliens landing in Usagi's Japan)

I also wanted to point out, for anyone interested, there is a FANTASTIC VIDEO, of Mike Richardson and Stan Sakai going over the history of 47 Ronin, and their work on their own rendition of the famous story. It's really fascinating!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Usagi Yojimbo and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

One interesting thing to note about Usagi Yojimbo is that for many fans - their first exposure to the Samurai Rabbit came from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

You see, Peter Laird and Stan Sakai were friends -- and their respective characters launched around the same time. This self portrait of the two illustrates their friendship, and occasional crossover with their characters.

The first cross-over between the characters occurred in Usagi Yojimbo #10 (Volume 1). It was a short back up tale - and featured Leonardo and Usagi crossing paths, and teaching Usagi a lesson about respecting everyone.

Usagi made his transition to television for the first time in the original TMNT TV series. Two episodes guest starred the rabbit - though they mistakenly named him "Usagi Yojimbo", instead of his real name as "Miyamoto Usagi". Outside of independent comic fans, his appearance here was probably what made most people aware that Usagi Yojimbo existed. He even received two action figures (a normal one, and a Space Usagi toy) - both with wildly different interpretations of what Usagi really looked like. The regular Usagi figure was apparently one of the most sought after characters (besides the Turtles themselves) on store shelves!

The next cross-over between Miyamoto Usagi occurred in his newly rebooted second volume, with a three-part storyline. (These issues where in color, at the time; though reprints of this story, in Volume 8 "Shades of Death", the story is in black and white)

Usagi and his bounty hunter friend Gen, becomes engaged in protecting a wizard from the Neko Clan of Ninja. Note; the wizard looks conspicuously like Splinter! Fearing that two Samurai would not be enough to protect him and the village he lives in, baby Turtles are brought to him -- which the Wizard uses to summon...

...The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!

Not just Leonardo, but the whole group appear in Usagi's world. The brothers are amazed in be in ancient Japan - though confused as to why everyone are anthropomorphic animals. Leonardo is at least able to vouch for Usagi.

So the Turtles help protect the wizard, defeating the Neko Clan Ninja's ambitions, and eventually returning home. It was a wonderful 3-part story; and I hope helped bolster Usagi's name to new readers through use of the popular Turtles.

In 2003, Peter Laird helped develop a new, more serious, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles show -- which, like in the late 80s and early 90s, would once again feature Usagi Yojimbo as a guest star. This time, however, Usagi would be in a much more serious storyline than from his appearance in the old cartoon show.

Traveling to another world, the Turtles are exposed to the Multiversal "Battle Nexus Championship". In a spectacular 4-part episode, we're shown how the Battle Nexus Championship brings people from all across the multiverse to participate in a grand battle of skill and honor. Evil trappings are afoot, though, as the Turtles become embroiled in an attempt to take over the Championship. This is where Leonardo and Usagi Yojimbo meet, helping each other foil the plot of the villains.

This depiction of Usagi was simply done perfectly! Gen likewise guest starred in the episode, further fleshing out Usagi's own world to new fans.

The Turtles and Usagi would meet again, though, when the villains from the Championship return - sending the 4 Ninja Turtles across the Multiverse! Leonardo lands in Usagi's world -- and we are treated to an awe-inspiring actual episode based in Usagi's world.

Characters like Tomoe, Lord Noriyuki, and the evil Lord Hebi are featured. Its even noted that Ninja, (like real Ninja in history) are usually not to be trusted; Ninja and Samurai are like oil and water.

During the course of the 4th season of the 2000 Ninja Turtles series, Leonardo faces a harsh blow from the Shredder - which leaves him in an emotional tailspin. Sensing his son needs the help of a friend, Splinter uses the Battle Nexus Tournament gateway to recruit Usagi - and bring him to the modern world. Its a fun episode - showing Usagi and Gen seeing a world they could never have imagined.

They even make use of Gen, a Rhino, and dress him up like Rocksteady from the old cartoon! Sadly, Usagi's visit wasn't enough to bring Leonardo out of the depression.

Plans where made, during TMNT: Fast Forward series, to have a cross over with Space Usagi (a future version of Usagi Yojimbo). Since Fast Forward didn't continue further, those plans went undeveloped.

That was the last time TMNT and Usagi Yojimbo crossed over. I sure hope it isn't the last! Stan Sakai has been asked wether Usagi might appear in the new Nickelodeon TV series - but it sounds like there would be issues with contracts, and it simply isn't a possibility.

It is worth noting, though, that the recent TMNT movie featured a small reference to Usagi Yojimbo. When mentioning the drug trails, the Turtles where experimented on, it was referenced that bunnies where first used (in reference to the close date Usagi appeared in comics, shortly before TMNT debuted.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Usagi Yojimbo and The Sakai Project

Usagi Yojimbo is a fantastic series - blending the best parts of American storytelling, and Japanese setting. Created by Stan Sakai, over 30 years ago, the Rabbit Bodyguard Miyamoto Usagi, is loosely based after real life Samurai Miyamoto Musashi. Thoroughly researched, the stories of Usagi Yojimbo detail elements, both major and mundane, of Japanese history and culture. It was a fantastic learning experience - all while being entertained by the hero of the book on his adventures.

Usagi Yojimbo has been on hiatus for 2 years, while Stan illustrated the epic comic "47 Ronin". Now, finally, Usagi is back -- and he's coming back in a HUGE way, with a special mini-series called Senso (War). This mini-series is unique and exciting - as it features a story where, it's posited, what if Aliens from H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds landed in Japan first - during Usagi's time period. Its a wacky, but extremely fun premise, which shocked me to see! A space ship crash lands, during an epic war, in Feudal Japan!

As if that wasn't exciting enough - Senso also shifts 20 years into Usagi's future. He is now once again a full Samurai, serving under the Geishu Clan - leading their army. Gen, another former Ronin Bounty hunter also acts as a general for the Geishu Clan. Usagi's son Jataro (who supposedly doesn't know Usagi is his father) also serves as a Samurai in the war. All these revelations -- it's mindboggling to me, who's been reading the series on and off for years -- seeing the Wandering Ronin Samurai, suddenly engaged in a massive war again.

The proper Usagi Yojimbo (without aliens) will return after the Senso Mini-series concludes. It's a wonderful series, and I hope if you interested, to visit a comic store and check it out. (They might have to order the series for you, though; the series isn't always heavily ordered. BUT - books and volumes are ALWAYS available on Amazon, and other book carriers.)

The Sakai Project

Here is a video, showing Stan appearing at San Diego Comic Con, answering questions about Usagi Yojimbo, and about the Sakai Project. (its sort of hard to hear; I also sped it up to where they start talking)

The Sakai Project is a wonderful outpouring of help and support from the Comic Community, when Stan Sakai's wife fell ill, and they needed help with medical costs not paid for by insurance. Comic creators from all over contributed artwork, to sell on ebay -- and so much art work was given, they decided to create a Hardcover volume, showcasing the artwork.

The volume, though, ISN'T available on, or other major retailers. You have to order it through specialty comic stores. Most have probably already ordered their copies -- so online stores are the best bet. I bought mine here, at Dreamlandcomics.

All proceeds of the book go directly into a fund, to help with care for Stan's ailing wife. Thats why Amazon doesn't carry it; Darkhorse Comics wanted all proceeds to go directly into the fund. If you want to help support Mr. Sakai, ordering the book certainly helps. Reading Usagi Yojimbo, and buying issues or volumes, probably helps too ^_^

I really look forward to seeing the amazing artwork from all these generous creators.

Ninja Turtle Interviews

Watching and enjoying the current TMNT series on Nickelodeon, I've been interested to see interviews with the cast and crew. Luckily Youtube has some great cast interviews, some of which I'd like to direct you to.

Interview with: Rob Paulson (Donatello), Sean Austin (Raphael), Greg Cipes (Michelangelo), and Ciro Nieli (Executive Producer)

Click here for it!

Interview with: Rob Paulson (Original Cartoon Series: Raphael, Current Series: Donatello)

Here's a HILARIOUS interview with Rob Paulson, about not only his work on Ninja Turtles, but on Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain.

Heres yet another video interview with Rob Paulson.

Interview with: Mae Whitman (April O'Neil), Sean Astin (Raphael) and Rob Paulsen (Donatello)

Interview with: Greg Cipes (Michelangelo) and Hoon Lee (Splinter)

Interview with the Original Cartoon's Voice Cast for Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Donatello

Friday, August 15, 2014

Ninja Turtle History

I've always considered Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to be a very American property. Not just American -- but definitively American -- as it details that central American dream, that if you create something that is great, or people want, and you work hard enough -- you can find success through that creation. Add to that, the idea that this property began as a satyrical parody, of Daredevil, Ninjas, and Mutants -- but from that, it quickly became a theme and story unto itself. It became a modern day mythology -- and through care and attention it has retained its popularity through not one, not two, but now 3 generations of kids and adults -- with an appeal that can shift gears between a wide variety of fans and tastes.

With the new Ninja Turtles film in theaters, it seems like a perfect time for the release of two INCREDIBLE Documentary experiences! One, a Hardcover Volumes called "TMNT The Ultimate Visual History", and the other a long awaited DVD Documentary "Turtle Power The Definitive History of TMNT". Both are incredible products, that I highly urge anyone interested in the history of this franchise, to pick up. (Both are well priced; $13 at Target for the DVD, and around $30 on Amazon for the book; it costs $50 in stores.)

Turtle Power The Definitive History of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

This documentary takes us on a tour all the way to beginning of the TMNT history, beginning with that original sketch Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman drew, simply trying to amuse themselves. Through a slew of interviews and home video, we are shown a near step-by-step process of how the original comic came to be, how it began to be a financial successes -- and most importantly, how it became an international phenomenon.

I hesitate to say this, but I came away from the documentary with the feeling that, in some way, God wanted this franchise to happen. There where simply so many aspects, and details, that could have easily derailed the entire process of the series becoming popular. From how Kevin Eastman meet Peter Laird, to the action figure line, to the TV show -- and even after all of that, things like the original TMNT movie, aiming for a more mature version of the Turtles, having the right director, funding, technology, ect, ect -- all of which succeeded in taking the franchise beyond anything their creators could have hoped for or envisioned.

The documentary happily gathered up all the original voice actors of the original cartoon series. Even James Avery (who played Shredder, and Philip Banks in "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air") was able to be filmed here, before his death last year. Getting to see the people behind those voices is quite a treat, and one of the highlights of the film.

For anyone who lamented a lack of special features on the original TMNT movie DVD release -- take heart, here we are treated to a plethora of behind the scenes information. The Jim Henson puppetry, which was breaking new ground with these animatronic suits, managed to bring the Turtles to life in a way never before thought possible. These suits enabled the film to show emotive, responsive faces of the Turtles, while also being versatile enough to do action sequences involving martial arts. We found out how the production managed to be able to funded, and other aspects to the film.

What disappointed me, and what became a real failing of the film nearing the end, is the LACK of attention of the later movies -- the sequel, third film -- and not even a mention of the 4th CGI film. I was particularly taken aback that the TMNT cartoon show from 2000 was never mentioned, much less the current one - which easily could have extended the documentary happily for another half hour. Instead we are treated to a sappy song, detailing the estrangement between Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, with their eventual reunion for an Anniversary of the franchise. No info about the 2000 series, the current 2012 series -- or even the slump TMNT experienced in the late 90s, with Image Comics. Peter Laird's 4th Volume of TMNT black and white comic was briefly expounded upon.

Don't get me wrong - this is still a worthwhile, and MUST HAVE documentary for TMNT fans. I'm just saying, the ending really, really, was bad. I know everything can't be included in a single documentary -- but the ending of this film could have been SOOOO much better, if only the recent, and current TMNT history was taken into account and celebrated, like the rest of the history was.

TMNT The Ultimate Visual History

I haven't been able to read through all of this yet, but for now I merely wish to give you my impression of this book, which I received in the mail, and am astonished by the amount of content included in this book! For everything that was lacking in the ending the Turtle Power Documentary -- this book seems to step in and give you EVERYTHING about the Turtles history!

This 192 volume encompasses all of TMNT history, from the beginning, all the way to the current cartoon and newly released movie. While this might be dubbed a Visual History -- it's not a tomb light on text. I expect to be reading through it for quite a while. I've heard that it's been well and thoroughly researched, and it shows, mere by inclusion of the inserts.

These inserts, which litter the book, include reproduced documents from all areas of Turtle history. I didn't want the inserts to interrupt my reading -- so I peeled mine out (be care doing it, though!!!) There is thankfully a pouch, at the back of the book, where all these many, many, MANY scraps of paper can be included. The pouch at the back also includes a fold out poster (of the cover of the book), along with a reproduction of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles first issue!!! The paper quality and durability of the inserts and poster are above reproach, too.

My only complaint, though, is that the included comic is smaller than the average comic. I'm unsure -- wasn't the original issue #1 a little larger than the average comic? Unless I'm mistaken about that, I really think the issue could have been produced (and fit along with this book) at standard comic size.

That is a small gripe, though. This is really a splendid volume, encompassing all the history of TMNT. I love that all the movies are paid attention too. Even the bad history, like the third TMNT movie (Can someone tell me why that movie is hated so much?), the Image Comics run, or the Next Mutation TV series are all detailed here.

There are so many interesting things, just from flipping through the book initially. Here (above) you can see drawings of what April O'Neil could have looked like, in the current TMNT series. I also noted a picture, about the current TMNT movie, showing the character Eric Sacks wearing a gauntlet of the Shredder (fueling, again, speculation that he originally was going to be the Shredder, in the movie).

This is simply an astounding value, (especially if you order it online, saving $20) -- and, along with the DVD film, should be considered a Must Have for collectors and fans.

Turtle Blimp Review

The Turtle Blimp was a unique toy, to tie into the TMNT universe. Even when I was little, with the cartoony TV show -- it was an icon of the vehicle line they had available, which was doubly reinforced because they actively used it for transportation on the TV show. I never owned the original toy -- but that nostalgia bug, from the old TV show, drew my attention to it -- it seemed like a fun thing to pick up when I found it on sale at Target.

The package it comes in is deceptively small when compared to the size of the actual blown up vehicle.! There is some work to put the toy together -- it's suggested you plug the balloon into the toy base before you blow it up, including the wings on each side. I initially had to detach, reattach, and detach again all of these parts, because I accidently put pieces on backwards. Here are some tips when putting it together:

- Make sure the balloon head is facing towards the front of the vehicle.
- For the wings -- a good guide to putting them on is to check wether the wings are slightly pointing downwards. The smaller wings go on the front - while the larger ones go on the back.
- Before blowing the balloon up, make sure all the strings are not crossing back and forth over the top of the bottom vehicle.
- If you don't have a pump, give yourself a lot of time to breath into the balloon. It takes a lot of effort to inflate the entire thing.

For young kids, this toy is going to be a blast. For only $30, it delivers a lot of fun. Using action figures with it, you can repel your Turtle toys down along a line -- they have clips to hold them in place, until they need to repel down. The string does not reach very far, though. Also, of note, to use the repelling feature - you have to connect the Turtle toy to the back of their waist bands (where their weapons are holstered). I found it hard to use on, for example, the Battle Shell Raphael - because his Sai holster is so small. Also -- this was designed mainly with the Turtles repelling down in mind; the Casey Jones, or April figures would be too skinny to clip into the holders.

To help negate potential breaks, with rough play or an accident, clear stickers are provided, to patch up any holes in the balloon; though it initially seems very sturdy and well put together.

For a display piece -- you have to make sure you'll have space to park this vehicle - as its size is quite big. Sitting down, the clipped in Turtles hang nicely - while the vehicle seat provides enough room for different sized figures (either Casey Jones, or one of the Turtles), with a movable steering wheel.

The design of the Blimp is probably the best part -- taking elements from the old blimp, and cleverly using them in this new design. Notice, also, that from above the blimp turns into the shape of a Turtle, flippers and all!

Its ultimately a silly toy -- heck, a silly concept, which I'm curious how they will justify it's existence if they have it appear in the new TV series. Yet its a fun nostalgia trip, and a cheap enough one that I thought I'd take the plunge and pick it up. Its not a "Must Have" item, though.

Also - remember - to keep the box it came in! When you want to store it away, I imagine deflating the balloon will be easier to do than inflating it - and should be able to re-folded, and be put away for storage.