Thursday, February 26, 2015

Dragon Quest Heroes - Coming to America

It has been announced that Square Enix is bringing over "Dragon Quest Heroes" to America!

We've been suffering through a tremendous drought of Dragon Quest games being brought over to America. With the exception of IOS Apps, we've been denied some GREAT Dragon Quest games over the years.

I'm soooo happy to see a title finally squeak through -- probably in part because this action oriented title will be easier to translate and bring over here. And, WOW, what a game to receive -- as its going to have the Next Gen power of the PS4 bringing to life all of Akira Toriyama's incredible art design to life! (Only Japan will get the PS3 version. I guess they want to focus on Next Generation over here.)

What does this game entail, you might ask? Well, it's molded in the Dynasty Warrior's vein -- where you control a powerful character, and fight against hordes and hordes of enemies. You get to feel very powerful and very special playing this way - dealing out devastating damage to enemies, and changing the course of historic battles. Tactics, and some RPG elements, will also be present here. For anyone who played and enjoyed Hyrule Warriors, its pretty similar to that style of gameplay.

This title also features original characters, and the inclusion of popular fan favorite characters from the Dragon Quest Universe. For people unfamiliar with the series -- don't worry -- this would be the perfect opportunity to get to know these characters, as the original story seems to be self contained (even if its cherry picking characters from other DQ stories and games).

Here are two trailers for the game.

This trailer is longer, but goes through the different characters, action, and other info about the game. (Its not translated; but you can understand most of what they are getting at)

Dragon Quest is one of my absolute favorite video game franchises - and seeing it dwindle into obscurity in America was very painful to see. I sure hope that changes with this game. Besides -- the PS4 desperately needed a fun and colorful game in its catalogue.

I urge anyone who wants to see more Dragon Quest games in America -- to please buy this title!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Ninja Turtles Party Wagon Review

At $30 to $35, this is a pretty cool toy to buy. Its reminiscent of the old Party Wagon from the original cartoon show - but also has elements of a regular, but souped up, van.

The vehicle has lots of openings -- from the side door, to the rear doors, and the hatch on the top (which fires spring loaded missiles), and an opening on the front to seat your Turtles (or humans) in the drivers seats. (Characters with weapons longer on their backs, like Leo, Donnie, or Jones, do fit - but you have to position them a bit to make them and their weapons fit.) You can place your Turtles on the back of the red door, or try and stick your Turtle into the space on top (though you might want to slightly close the roof on top of the figure, to make it stay put; there are no foot holds.)

Stickers are nicely applied -- though Pixal Dan of youtube suggested you apply them BEFORE attaching elements, like the grill or bumpers. Venus De Milo- reference even makes it onto a kids toy - giving it a vintage WWII Bomber type ascetic. Unpainted elements of the vehicle, luckily, are made in pleasingly contrasting colors, giving it an over all sense of design. Only element on the vehicle that disappoints is the blast windows on the front; they do not lower; if you try to make them lower, it comes apart (but snaps back together).

Only shame, though, is that this vehicle doesn't totally match up with the cartoon show, which features a giant #2 painted on the roof, and a spring-loaded deer's head, shooting flames, from the roof. There's no functionality to it, but the bright red door has molded spray ports, for the Turtles to dispense and spray mentos-infused cola at the enemies (you have to imagine that function!)

Over all, though, its faithful to the show and the old cartoon line. Only wish it didn't have to take the destruction of the Shell Raiser for this new vehicle to be born.

Here's remembering you, Shellraiser!

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