Saturday, December 26, 2009

New Super Mario Brothers Wii

Mario is one of the corner stones of the video game world - giving us the first glimpse of how a truly great game can be designed and made. Since his early NES appearances, the series has spread out in lots of different directions. Many people cite Mario as being a nostalgic property, with his most revolutionary innovations in gameplay being far behind him. Mario might indeed be nostalgic for many people, but he's not behind the times by any stretch of the imagination.

The New Super Mario Brothers Wii game harkens back to Mario's side-scrolling roots, and shows why he's still the best Goomba stomper in the business. This game gives you a welth of classic style gameplay, deriving inspiration from many past Mario games - but it also innovates the platforming concept in new and surprising ways. The use of Wii-Motion functions, while ham-fisted in many other games of this nature, works incredibly naturally here. It takes a little getting use to, wiggling the Wii Remote to make Mario spin into the air - but it quickly becomes second nature and an intricate part of this new gaming experience. New spins on power ups are introduced, like an Ice Flower, giving Mario the ability to freeze his opponents and even use them as stepping stones. Not an original concept, many games have had similar powers - but the slick ease and implementation of his power is but one example of what this series does best - platforming. Mario might sell-out for any Sports Related video game under the sun, but whenever he goes back to platforming, wether it be 3D or 2D, it always comes out as a first class piece of work.

Super Mario Brothers 3 was my first major video game. It's the one I always looked at in the store before I got an NES for Christmas, and it will forever stand as a testament to what a first class title should be like. Mario 3 was essentially the next evolution for Mario - as Super Mario Brothers 2 was simply a harder re-tread of the original (I'm speaking of the Lost Levels, which was the real Mario 2 in Japan. We got a repurposed title with Mario characters stuck into it) Super Mario Brothers 3 was a HUGE leap forward in design and implementation. The levels where beyond imaginative, giving endless new forms of challenge and fun.

One of the best features of that title where the introduction of the Koopa Kids - Bowser's 7 rug rats who you fought each level. I absolutely loved the Koopa Kids. As a kid I used tracing paper to draw the characters from magazines. This odd assortment of enemies simply seemed to expand Mario's world in grand new directions. They did appear again in the SNES Super Mario World - but they changed the style of the Koopa Kids so much that it simply wasn't the same. The Koopa Kids eventually faded away, eventually replaced by Bowser Jr. This new Mario Wii title not only brings back the Koopa Kids, lead by Bowser Jr, but restores the fun of these villains, giving them back their wands - and giving you the same objective you used to defeat them in Super Mario Brothers 3: Stomp on them 3 times! It's such a simple attack, but it's so fulfilling.

Like I said before, whenever Mario sets out on a main-platforming game, Nintendo does it right. They did it right with Super Mario Galaxy - and they have done it right again with Super Mario Brothers Wii.

I'd highly recommend this game to any Wii owner. (It's in fact been quite a long time since I used the system myself) The game is fun and challenging - but never too challenging. (It begins to be ridiculous how many 1-Ups you can gather) New and veteran players should both find a fullfilling game experience. I'm not sure addition of multiplayer, since I only have one Wii remote. From all I've gathered it's a fun addition, but not the reason you should be buying the game. The single player experience is the reason to buy this game.

Here's a review from Gametrailers.com

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Mega Man 10

The trailer for the upcoming Mega Man 10 has arrived. For any Mega Man fan, this recent resurgence of classic Mega Man gameplay has been nothing short of a dream come true. The graphics are just like on the NES - but with gameplay able to challenge even the most dedicated of Mega Man players. (And not in a frustrating way, either.)

It looks like we'll be able to play as Protoman from the beginning, instead of having to pay an extra $2 to play as him in MM9. I really couldn't be more pleased with this game's announcement. Mega Man was one of my core childhood video game experiences - playing Mega Man III first. Both the gameplay, the design, music and story captured my imagination - and continues to bring a smile to my face replaying those games years later.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Comic Review: X-Factor #200

This is the make it or break it point for X-Factor, as far as I can surmise. The book is being given a reboot of sorts, with new more Marvel-Universe (not just X-Verse) centric story line and a return to the original X-Factor numbering. The book has received quite a bit of buzz, and Marvel has seemingly given the title it's best shot at grabbing new readers.

I am one of those new readers, only jumping onto the series two issues before hand. I was quite pleased with what I saw in those two issues, and this newest one, issue #200, really did it's job in giving us a great new direction and a great story.

The main story consists of Franklin and Valeria Richards going to X-Factor because the Invisible Woman has Disappeared. It's a cleaver title, which the story points out in a nice way. Something is definitely up at the Baxter Building (home of the Fantastic Four). Sue has gone missing and Mr. Fantastic isn't acting worried at all. Something's up with him, if seeing him murder a man in the first few pages wasn't a clue. So Madrox, the Multiple Man, and X-Factor Investigations are on the case! This issue doesn't yet delve into the mystery a great deal, mainly building up suspicions and having the usual friendly fight between opposing teams. The fight between Strong Guy and the Thing is quite good, with Shatterstar making a great Gladiator-Inspired end to the fight. While the story mainly consists of that, it also weaves into the regular X-Factor situations - like Madrox pining over the missing Siryn, and Monet finding out her father is being held by terrorists. So while the series is stepping into the Marvel Universe more as a whole, it's still doing it's own thing as well, and making some good compelling storytelling to go along with it.

Lately I've been hearing about Marvel perhaps not living up to the promise these big anniversary issues deserve. I recall Thor #600 being stuffed so full of reprints that I passed on it. This comic, for you're hard earned five dollars, is well worth the price. You get a second story telling us about how Siryn is doing over in Ireland. She's still broken up about her father, the Banshee's, and his passing. (I'm quite interested in her soon finding out that he was resurrected just recently, in issues of X-Force, as part of a brain-washed mutant undead army.) Siryn runs into the last person she wants to see, namely Madrox - but not the Madrox she's actually mad at. It's one of Madrox's Duplicates who never came back, and subsequently became a priest. They have a nice philosophical discussion over why bad things happen to good people. Peter David has a habit of getting too caught up in these theoretical debates - but I did like his idea that the Lucifer beat God in Heaven instead, and all of this on Earth has been one long cover up. It's a nice story, and while it might be padding to fill out the issue - it didn't feel like a waste of storytelling space either.

This issue does have one Reprint, but boy was it a good one - reprinting Madrox #1, the first issue of the mini-series that began this new era of X-Factor. I had never read this issue, but I found it incredibly compelling and very informative about the series. Madrox basicly has to solve the murder of one of his Duplicates. It's a compelling concept from the get-go, with good character development. It makes me want to go buy the TPBs of the X-Factor series.

There is one problem with this issue, though, that I thought really should have been addressed, considering it's a relaunch of the series to draw in new readers. It didn't fully explain everything about these characters. I happen to know a lot about these characters, even if I haven't read a lot of previous X-Factor issues, and I was stilling asking myself "Who's Terry?", when mentioned in Madrox's internal monologue. Terry is sort for Theresa, aka Siryn. It's not a big deal, but if I know about these characters and didn't even realise her nickname, then what about fans who know even less about X-Factor? There are quite a few pages giving biographies on all the cast, but there are still some easier ways to introduce characters into new reader's minds. There wasn't even an explanation of Longshot's "Psychometry" (to read the events and emotions a person leaves on an object) It wasn't until recently this year, reading Essential X-Men Vol 8 that I even saw these powers in use, and knew they existed. A thought-box from Madrox would have cleared any confusion about that right up.

Those are small complaints, though. This was an otherwise outstanding issue, and I hope more fans will give the series a try. I promise you - if you give the series a chance, you'll quickly be caught up in the lives and adventures of these characters. This issue was a great deal, with great art and a whelth of content, and I can't wait until the next issue comes out.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sunny in Philadelphia Christmas Special Unavailable on Netflix

I am pretty upset about something. See, my sister and I love the series "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia". We watch all the new episodes and have gone through most of the DVDs of previous seasons. It's a great show - with a twisted sense of humor that breaks the boundaries while always remaining hilarious.

That said - I am very annoyed about their DVD-Exclusive Christmas Special. Without this two-part episode, the season seems shorter - and we're limited to only being able to see this episode on DVD. I am certainly not shelling out $20 for a 45 minute episode. Much as I love the series, I just can't bring myself to buy something that, 1.) Should have been on TV to begin with, and 2.) Will probably be in the Season 5 DVD set.

So, the best solution is renting the episode. I have a monthly subscription to Netflix - so I'll just put it on my query. Wait - it's not listed on the site. I know this DVD special sort of snuck up on everyone, releasing seemingly out of the blue, I tell myself "so maybe it will be put up soon". I wait, and eventually call Netflix's customer service number (1-888-638-3549). Flash forward to December 14th, and Netflix still has not listed the disk. It was released in November, and there's no conceivable reason it shouldn't be listed on the site. I called four other times - eventually asking for some kind of compensation for the trouble I've been going through looking for this DVD. They said no, that they don't do anything for the customer in this kind of situation. I'm very much considering dropping Netflix over this. I more of less kept the monthly subscription for this very kind of rental situation. I sure as heck don't want to pay the $20 for this DVD - I'd rather rent it. But Netflix doesn't seem to be able to get their act together on this matter. Why should I keep renting movies at $15 a month?

On a whim I decided to check out Blockbuster's website. It always seemed like the lesser version of Netflix. Yet they seem to have come through on this one - they had the Sunny Christmas Special all ready to rent. Even more lucky for me, since I'm a new customer, I get a free two week trail.

It certainly has occurred to me that this might not be an error on Netflix's part - that perhaps Blockbuster has some sort of deal with the network to exclusively be able to rent this DVD. If that's the case - then I'm even more ticked off. It seems like an entirely crummy way to treat customers and the viewers. I can forgive them for wanting more money by having the Christmas Special on DVD in the first place. What I can't forgive is them making it so darn hard to be able to rent the episode.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Final Fantasy IX

I recently finished replaying Final Fantasy 9. I had such a good time reliving that adventure. I know it's not the favorite of many FF fans, but for those who understood the change in style from previous iterations, it was a wonderful look back on the history of Final Fantasy. I've also been enjoying two recent figures I got of Zidane and Vivi.

Here's something you might not have known about - FF9 had a Coke Commercial in Japan Here's a video of it.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Comic Review: Fantastic Four #573

I was looking forward to this issue of the Fantastic Four, but found myself very much disappointed with it. See, this issue Ben and Johnny go on vacation to Nu-Earth. For those who don't know, Nu-Earth was a fantastic concept introduced a while ago during Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch's run on the FF. Nu-Earth is an artificially constructed duplicate of Earth in the Negative Zone. It was suppose to be a fall back planet when Earth becomes uninhabitable. That doesn't work out, though, as survivors of the ruined Earth, from 100,000 years in the future, come back to the present. They colonize Nu-Earth instead.

Anyway, it was a great story - and it introduced a lot of fantastic new characters. Bruce Banner Jr (from Old Man Logan, another story written by Millar), Lightwave, and Psionics are a few of stand out characters. I was looking forward to seeing them again in this issue.

This story really sort of ruins the Nu-Earth concept. Ben and Johnny arrive on a ruined Nu-Earth, where the sun has turned into a black hole and the planet is on the verge of destruction. There's a time differential, and 8 years have passed on Nu-Earth. Things have changed. Lightwave and some form of Ultron have taken over the planet. Alyssa Moy, the engaging former collage flame of Reed Richard's (superbly written by Millar), has been reduced to being a brain in a robot. Her husband Ted Castle takes the lead in this story, as the one resisting Lightwave and Ultron. Bruce Banner Jr, thankfully, hasn't changed much - but he remains sitting in jail, a prisoner of Lightwave. The absolute worst character change, though is Psionics. She was the cute and engaging former girl friend to Johnny Storm - but now she's become a heartless and angry woman, who even goes so far as to kill what's left of Alyssa Moy by stepping on her brain.

I was only too thankful this story didn't continue any longer. The only real bright spots of the tale where of Valeria and Franklin Richards, who stowed away with Johnny and Ben on this trip. Valeria is super smart - even more so than her Dad - and she shows it off a lot. That might sound like an annoying character trait, but it comes off very as being very charming, seeing such a young girl talking about complex science to adults. Valeria fixes the gate between Nu-Earth and regular Earth - allowing Johnny and Ben to go home. Things remains utterly screwed up on Nu-Earth.

I might be inclined to dump all the blame on writer Jonathan Hickman. He only took over the title about three issues ago - and while his first arch was very nice, it wasn't ground breaking. It got by more on it's high concepts and touches of family moments. It's very good - but I'm not wowed. So - do I blame this entire reshaping of Nu-Earth on Hickman? I'm inclined not to, because since Millar and Hitch created Nu-Earth, it got a bad shake by being renamed Fantastic Force and given a mini-series. I didn't read it, but I did hear it was dead on arrival, so I imagine it didn't do very well. So, I'm thinking perhaps Marvel wanted to dump the whole Nu-Earth idea, or at least make it a less frequented location in the Marvel Universe. I noticed the cover of this issue was quite misleading, showing Ben and Johnny (with Franklin and Val) having the vacation they where expecting. So maybe plans where changed; I don't know, I'm only speculating. All I can say for certain is that this issue ruined the Nu-Earth concept, and that's a real shame.

I hate to say this, but I'm dropping the FF for now. I love the FF, and I love seeing the adventures of Reed and his family - but I need to drop some books from my pull list anyway.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Super Street Fighter IV

A trailer has come out showing 5 of the new fighters being added to Street Fighter 4. Super Street Fighter II characters D. Jay and T. Hawk round out the original Street Fighter II cast. A brand new character, Juri, is being introduced - filling the apparently long absent Taekwondo fighting style. From Street Fighter Alpha we get three fighters, Adon, Guy, and Cody. I'm not sure, but it sounds like there might be two available spots left open for other characters.

I gotta admit, I was planning on scooping this game up right when it came out. Since the original SF4 only came out about a year ago, we're at least getting a reduced price. BUT - hearing that two slots have been taken up by Guy and Cody (former Final Fight characters) - it just makes me grimace. I want Street Fighter characters - not Final Fight characters. Also, it really seems to annoy me how the character Cody is dressed up in prison garb - apparently a fate that befell him in the Final Fight series. That's great, being all continuity conscious - but it just looks odd next to all the regular SF characters. I didn't mind hin as much in the Alpha series - I had gotten SF Alpha 3, so I had access to three times the regular amount of characters - but for Super SF4, it just seems like a wasted space better filled by another character. I just don't know if I'm going to buy this game now.

That said, I will probably buy the next SF4 iteration. (SUPER Super Street Fighter 4, I suppose) The 3ed updated version is usually the final edition of a Street Fighter game, and it seems like I'd get more bang for my buck if I wait for that, when more and better characters are added.

Oh - and, let me leave you giving my two cents on who should be added to the series: Street Fighter 3 characters. I really don't care if SF4 takes place before the SF3 (in it's, *ahem* continuity) I don't care - I want characters like Ibuki and Makoto added to the SF4 series. Everyone else in Street Fighter history is getting added, so why not the SF3 cast?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Final Fantasy Tactics A2

I don't know why I skipped this game when it first came out. I loved the previous Final Fantasy Tactics games, but for some reason this game just slipped past me. Well, years later, I gain the benefit of reduced prices - and was able to buy this game for dirt cheap, only $18 at Gamestop. This was definitely a great purchase.

The game seems to have improved on a number of aspects on the Turn Based Tactical Strategy formula - improving the Judge System, give us more races to choose from, and a plethora of new Jobs to acquire and master. The plot line is cited as one of the game's biggest faults - but it makes up for it with even more gameplay and a deep and rewarding gaming experience. You can easily spend hours gaining experience for your squad, gaining territory - and making your Clan more famous. It all sounded a bit overwhelming to me at first, but it's surprisingly easy to get into.

Also, of note, are the lush graphics the game has. Final Fantasy are the masters of sprite based game design - and it really shines here, with interesting monsters and characters. All lushly animated - and enhanced by some very slick special effects when casting spells.

I'm not that far into the game yet - around Level 12 or so. I only just entered the phase where you gain territory for your Clan, and have finally been able to invite new characters into my Clan. This game is very fun and engaging - and not without challenge. I've run into quite a few Quests that ended in failure. It's challenging - but a good kind of challenge, giving you lots of fun gameplay.

Anyway, for anyone like me who didn't get this game when it came out - I'd highly recommend getting this game. It's ultra cheap now - and you get so much gameplay for your money.

Here's X-Play's Review of the Game (4 out of 5)


Here's Japanese Trailer of the game

Thursday, November 19, 2009

My Free Final Fantasy XI Experience

I am a huge fan of RPGs (Role Playing Games) - and absolutely love the Final Fantasy series. That said, I am conversely not a fan of MMORPGs. (Massive Multiplayer Online RPGs) I just don't like the concept of continuing to pay for a game over time, and also dislike the idea that such a purchases would become useless after I'm unwilling to keep paying for it, or time moves on and the company no longer supports it. Like many Final Fantasy fans, I just skipped over FF11 - hating that it was even included in the numbered series. MMORPGs and me just don't get along.

So, anyway, that was my general opinion of MMORPGs at the time, and more or less still is - but I've become more willing to give these games a chance, especially when they are offering the game to me for free. I tried World of Warcraft on it's free trial period and found it fun, but ultimately found little reward in constantly leveling up. Now I'm trying Final Fantasy 11 - and I have to say I am enjoying the experience. Like the World of Warcraft there is also a lot of leveling up, but so far it feels like it still has a point to it. Perhaps that's just because it has the famous Final Fantasy logo, and instantly inspires more good will to it than other fictional MMORPG realms.

I thought I'd tell you about my experience so far trying this game out. For starters - this game is horribly hard to download and get into. I clicked on their website's Free Demo and went through and downloaded the all the instillation and software. I had to do it through my Safari Browser to get it working, but it all got downloaded to my computer. The PlayOnline screen came up and I happily went to register myself so I could play the game. First problem - during Registration it said it needed a Registration Code. I had not yet been given such a code, and it seemed (becuase of it's name) that I should perhaps get this code AFTER registering. But, nope, you absolutely need the Registration code to get in. So..... What Registration Code? I looked at their website, and found a link that said Registration Code - but it only was detailing information about people who bought the game and who where adding Expansions. I got quite frustrated with this, checking my email, my spam filter, everything - and not getting any answers about how I'm suppose to get the Registration code. You'd think you'd be directed to such an essential thing when downloading the demo - but, nope, you're left alone to figure it out. PlayOnline's FAQ wasn't much help either, and eventually I just had to email a request for help. Luckily, before they emailed back the next day, I found what I needed through a search on Google. Seriously - I needed to Google this darn Registration Code, even though I was combing through the actual website holding the code hostage! For anyone attempting to try the free demo, here's a link to the Registration Code. This really should be simpler.

Second problem - you have to download even more of the game, something like over 10000 files; it it took 10 hours to do this. It really must be the Final Fantasy logo, because I continued to trek along. I went to sleep and the next morning it was downloaded.

After that entire un-user friendly experience, I finally got logged it to Final Fantasy 11 and dove right into the game. I chose to be a male Elf, Red Mage. He pretty much looks like this.

I named my character Andolf and began my adventure! The graphics are quite nice, though a bit dated nowadays. My first mission in this game - learning the controls! This experience could not be any less user friendly. I got how to move the character with the mouse, and controlling the camera through the directional buttons. I wanted to look through the city, but for the life of me I could not find out how to access the Map. The introductory NPCs (Non Playable Characters) where absolutely no help, only suggesting I use my map, accessed from the main menu. What button do I press for the main menu? The letter M, or any other number or letter key, isn't it - as that's all used for text. I literally was attempting to find this button by pressing all the buttons - yet to no avail. I NEEDED HELP! Luckily I found another player catching fishes next to the bridge. I asked how you accessed the main menu. It's essentially on the Keypad on the far Right Side of the Keyboard - press the "-", for Minus Key, to display the main menu. Then I found myself unable to run, and again had to ask for help. Luckily the person explained that this dash button, "/" would fix this. This person was very helpful, and I simply would have been left there crying if not for them.

Now a master of my controls I set out on my adventure. As luck would have it, the next introductory NPC was much more helpful, explaining many of the elements of combat. I've reached Level 4 and have since bought myself a new hat. I plan on setting out north of the town to fight some stronger enemies.

Bottom Line
That's about all I've done so far. I gotta say, for my first day at this, I'm finding this game much more fun than I thought it would be. The combat is a little hard to get use to at first, but after killing a few Giant Wasps - I feel a tremendous amount of pride at being able to finally get into this game.

I'm probably not going to buy this game, but I can definitely see this being a very rewarding MMORPG experience. I'd definitely choose it over World of Warcraft. I have 13 more days to play this game - so I'm sure I'll have gotten my fill of it by then. This does redeem the concept of MMORPGs in my mind, though. I was able to successfully communicate with a person, kill a few wasps, and bought myself a hat. A very exciting day indeed!

Final Fantasy XIV
This makes me wonder about the next Final Fantasy MMORPG - which has already been selected as FF14. I know, again in the numbered series - Good grief! I think it's just so they can have another development team work on FF15 and have less of a gap between sequels. As far as the game it's self goes, perhaps I'll try the game's free demo too. Maybe it will be more user friendly. I can only hope.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Final Fantasy XIII Release Date and Developer Commentary

Final Fantasy 13 is a game I, like many other players, am highly anticipating it's upcoming release. North America finally got a firm release date of March 10th 2010. I at first thought it was going to be here for Christmas, but then heard January as a date - and now it's three whole months away. It will be worth it, though, from all indications.

Square-Enix released a video with developer's comments on the game. I was sort of disappointed with the announcer they had in the video - as he boldly proclaimed Final Fantasy 13 to be the most anticipated gaming experience of all time. Way to jinx the whole project, buddy. Plus, that makes Square look arrogant as heck. Yet - FF has the long standing tradition of meeting those lofty expectations. Let's hope they do well here too.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Gatchaman and Alex Ross


Learning about the characters due to appear in Tatsunoko vs Capcom - I got interested in seeing for myself what Gatchaman is all about. The full name of the series is Science Ninja Team Gatchaman (科学忍者隊ガッチャマンKagaku Ninjatai Gatchaman). You can check out some of the episodes through Netflix. The Animation style of the series is truly praise worthy - with a level of detail in faces and atmosphere not even seen in Anime today. The DVD sets are available, showing the series in it's original and unedited condition, both dubbed and subtitled. Some people might know the series by other names, like "Battle for the Planets" and "G-Force" when they where ported over to America through the decades.

The person you should thank for getting the real original Gatchaman brought to America is Comic Artist Alex Ross. He was apparently a big fan of Battle of the Planets and wanted to do a piece based on the property. His interest in the series caught the eye of the license holder - and a series of Battle of the Planets comics and art were produced. Ross' art also appears in the unedited DVDs.

Here an interview I found on Youtube detailing how he got involved in the series. Also below is the opening of the series.

Part 1 of the Alex Ross Gatchaman Interview


Part 2 of the Alex Ross Gatchaman Interview

The Opening of Gatchaman

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Comic Review: X-Factor #50

I've been a long time fan of Peter David's writing. Before I even realised he was actually writing X-Factor issues I was getting, I was already reading his prolific line of Star Trek novels. Of course, once I realized he was a comic writer, I quickly dove into back issues of the Hulk - and later reading the adventures of Captain Marvel. But, I stopped reading his work after that. See, during the Bush Administration I quickly found out how liberal he is. (I know, it wasn't exactly a secret - but I was young and just didn't catch onto those things) Basically, it got old hearing about how horrible Bush was. (This is why he was elected twice, because he came out very much as the underdog) So when Captain Marvel got canceled I wasn't exactly in a rush to pick up PAD's next project - Madrox (the Multiple Man), and later X-Factor.

Now X-Factor has reached it's 50th issue, and while not gaining as many readers as Marvel may want - it sounds like it's still a stable and good title to bank on. After this issue the series is going back to it's original numbering at #200 - with a new and fresh direction for the series. It all sounded interesting, and I decided to jump onto the band wagon - beginning at issue #49. So, like many other people who might be trying X-Factor for the first time too - this issue #50 is an odd place to start reading the series.

All that said, I gotta say I wish I had stuck with Peter David's writing all along, as this series is great. Two issues in, where probably 4 years worth of plot-lines are being resolved - and I still got pretty easily into the swing of things. Basic setting of this issue involved Madrox facing off against one of his rouge Duplicates, called Vortex. Madrox is in the future, inbetween Sentinel forces and a Summer's Mutant Rebellion - so a lot of stuff, that I honestly don't know everything about, is all happening. It can be quite confusing - but the centeral fight between Madrox and Vortex is easy enough to understand, and the fate of President Falcone has a nice beginning and end for even new readers jumping in. Layla Miller, the girl who "knows stuff" has grown up since the House of M mini-series and is now an adult. It's revealed Layla has a power no one else knew of - and there's a pretty big revelation about her character at the end here. (I won't spoil it)

Over all the issue was entertaining and good. It might not be the best place for new readers to jump into - but it's got me hooked. The real place to jump into X-Factor is issue #200, which this issue has a small preview of. The art simply looks great, and the redesigned costumes of the characters look very nice (despite Strong Guy being bald now). X-Factor is going to step back a little from the mutant world and become the Marvel Universe's quintessential detective agency - and their first case is very cleaver - to find the Invisible Woman, who has disappeared. This small preview of the next issue looks stunning, and I'm very much looking forward to it.

In a nut shell - try out this series. Maybe not with issue #50, but with issue #200. I really does make me wish I was reading the series all along.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Heroes Dying, Sounding the Call of a Crisis


In the first issue of James Robinson's run of Justice League of America, issue #38, we see D-List hero Blue Jay heroically try to warn the Justice League of an impending new menace. Blue Jay dies in this effort - but it made me recall all the other heroes who die trying to sound the call of an oncoming crisis. Wether they where successful in their warning or not, here are the ones I best remember.

These are the only ones I can readily think of off-hand. If you recall any other heroes who died trying to warn everyone of danger - then feel free to contribute and leave a message.


Blue Beetle (Ted Kord)

Ted famously gave his life in the opening preview issue of Infinite Crisis. Ted was trying to put the pieces together of an on-going mystery threatening the DCU. Despite his efforts nobody was actually listening to him. So, going it alone, he went to confront the mastermind who was working behind the scenes. It was non-other than Justice League backer Maxwell Lord, who was revealed to not only know every Super Hero's secret identities - but had high-jacked Batman's Brother Eye Satellite to create an army of OMAC Meta-Human Killers. Ted found all this out, and got a bullet right in his face for his trouble. His final defiant message "Rot in Hell, Max." was not lost on the readers. While Blue Beetle did die, his death helped signal the other heroes of the upcoming crisis, as Blue Beetle's shot-apart goggles managed to reach Batman and the Justice League. A lesson in not ignoring your friends when they need help.

Mr. America II (Trey Thompson)

In the pages of the newly relaunched Justice Society of America, Mr. America arrived at a murder scene to help the FBI. When they said they needed to notify the next of kin, Mr. America took off his mask and said they already knew, as it was his family who was killed.

So Mr. America went on the hunt for the killer, and found the origin of the threat - Vandal Savage, who was attempting to wipe out the blood-lines of all the heroes. Mr. America was then murdered, but before dying managed to crash through the sky-light of the JSA's meeting room, and die right on their table, giving them warning of the threat against them.

Oh, and as for trying to kill off the Mr. America blood-line, Trey's FBI partner, Jeffrey Graves, took over for his friend and serves in the JSA.

Flash (Barry Allen)

This is a weird one - where Flash did indeed give warnings to his friends and fellow heroes of the danger ahead - and did later die. I'm not positive wether that all happened at the same time - relatively speaking - given all the rips in time Flash was appearing in to give the news. But he did Warn people, and then died. So, does he count on this list?

Orion

Orion of the New Gods also heralded the end of things and died for his trouble. In the Final Crisis series, Orion washes up on the docks and dies, with the warning that "They" did not die, and that "He" was in all of them. Orion died for his trouble, but his dead body helped get the League on the case - only eventually to find out that Darkseid had indeed not died (along with all the other New Gods) and that he was indeed inside all of humanity - corrupting Earth and it's people from the inside out. Darkseid, evil, had won. With the heroes on the case, though, Darkseid's reign over Earth wasn't a long one.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sgt Frog - Bad Dubbing

I just got my rented copy of Sgt Frog, Volume 1 in the mail today. Boy, I gotta say I am both elated and disappointed.

See, this series is great. Sgt Frog is actually called Keroro Gunsou. (Which means, you guessed it, "Frog Sergeant") Frog Like Aliens attempt to invade Earth - but fail miserably at it. Sgt Frog is captured by the Hinata family. Sgt Frog is abandoned by his fleet, and is forced to live with the Hinata family, where he quickly becomes like family. He's soon joined by his Platoon Subordinates, all of who have quirky details about their character.

Anyway - I watch the first episode. The subtitles go by pretty quickly, so it takes a little getting use to - and it doesn't help that Japanese Text (explained at the top of the screen) is appearing every few seconds. For someone not versed in Japanese, this gets a little hard to follow. Yet that's why God creased pause buttons! I know, not the easiest way to enjoy a show - but this seems worth it.

Now, usually when it's very hard to follow the subtitles, I naturally go to the dubbed audio - which usually simplifies things. Yet, here's where everything starts to really stink - the dubbed script is... simply horrible. You see, I watched the first episode in Japanese, and then went to hear it in English. Not only is the dialogue different - but it changes the nature of the characters. Sgt Frog is no longer the overly excited charming character he usually is - suddenly he's this conniving little sneak. Mind you, Sgt Frog is sometimes always planning to get back to trying to conquer the Earth - but that's very much in the background to his usually grateful nature to the Hinata family. He might complain about having to do chores - but he never seems ungrateful, and even seem elated to be called "Friend" by Fuyuki.

The best way I can explain how badly the dialogue is rewritten is this: it's like Shin-chan. When bringing it over to America, they found the potty humor, while gross - was still aimed at young kids, and might not satisfy an American audience. (And, trust me, these aren't jokes American kids are use to hearing.) So they decided, in addition to subbing the show, they would add in tons more gross humor more in tune with young adults in mind.

Now, that might be all well and good for Shin-Chan - who's target audience different when shipped overseas - but there is nothing wrong with the humor of Sgt Frog as is. We don't need added jokes. For example, the mother comes home. In Japanese she announces that her artist finished early. In the dubbed version she says something about him working quicker without pants. WHAT THE HELL?! Do we need that extra joke? It's damn insulting to the American fans, who might naturally want to hear the dialogue Dubbed - and not get an accurate translation!

I hear Funimation put out some tests of dubbing the show, to gauge fan reaction. They got in trouble for needlessly changing names - which angered many fans. While it's all well and good that they took those criticisms to heart - that doesn't mean fans also wanted a different script.

Dubbing means actually, simply, translating the voices. This isn't even a case of having difficulty trying to synch up the lip movements - this is having the characters say something completely different.

Suffice to say, I'm not going to follow the Anime. The Manga looks better and a damn bit more accurate. If you can deal with subtitles - then I urge you to give Sgt Frog a try. Otherwise, don't watch it. Your simply not getting the real Keroro Gunsou that the Japanese have enjoyed for so long.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Tatsunoko Anime Openings

I am really just sooo excited about Tatsunoko vs Capcom now. Since it's perhaps not the most accessable cast of characters, I've tried showing videos of the upcoming game, and profiles on the characters themselves.

But a few lines of text doesn't really help explain some of those older-Anime characters that much, does it? So, to help familiarize more with these cool characters, here are some of the Anime Openings they come from.

Science Ninja Team Gatchaman

Neo-Human Casshern

Space Knight Tekkaman

Tekkaman Blade

Hurricane Polymar

Yatterman

Karas Trailer

Gyakuten! Ippatsuman

Golden Warrior Gold Lightan

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Tatsunoko vs Capcom: Meet the Fighters

OK, I've been digging around the net, finding out more and more about the upcoming Tatsunoko vs Capcom game. I was previously undecided - but after getting to know some of the less-American-known characters, I'm happy to report that I'm definitely buying the game when it arrives state side.

What might confuse some prospective fans are the unknown characters. So I've put together a list of all the characters that are listed to appear in the game - and an explanation of what I found out about each character. I hope this helps!

Here, also, are openings to the Anime from Tatsunoko's lineup: Tatsunoko Anime Openings

Capcom Line-Up

Ryu
Origin: Street Fighter Games
Ryu is the standard-bearer for Street Fighter games, and again is leading Capcom's roster of characters.

Chun-Li
Origin: Street Fighter II, Street Fighter Games
Like Ryu, Chun-Li set the standard for female fighting characters - and brings all her awesome footwork to bear in this game.

Alex
Origin: Street Fighter III
The third representative from the Street Fighter franchise is Alex, the brawling New Yorker from Street Fighter III.

Batsu Ichimonji
Origin: Rival Schools Games
Here's a new character for us Americans, from Capcom's School-Themed fighter "Rival Schools" Batsu here is the lead character in those games.

Morrigan
Origin: Darkstalkers Games
This popular lady Vampire comes from Capcom's Darkstalkers series.

Mega Man
Origin: Mega Man Legends
The old Blue Bomber is back again - but this time not as his regular self, but from the Mega Man Legend series. Sporting a more cube-centric look, Legends Mega Man was the first 3-D Mega Man game series.

Roll
Origin: Mega Man Series
Roll has always been Mega Man's even faithful robotic sister. Like in previous Capcom vs games - Roll is stepping up to play with the big boys too. Though, this time, she's bringing a broom. Way to break that glass ceiling!

Zero
Origin: Mega Man X series
Fan favorite Zero, from the Mega Man X series, joins the cast of Tatsunoko vs Capcom. Wielding a powerful laser sword, Zero is one of the toughest Maverick Hunters around.

Viewtiful Joe
Origin: Viewtiful Joe Series
Joe was sucked into the world of movies and became the Blockbuster Action star Viewtiful Joe! With stunning acrobatic techniques and trick photography - Joe should prove to be a cool addition to the game's cast.

Saki Omokane
Origin: Quiz Nanairo Dreams
Saki is another new Capcom character for us in the US. She's actually derived from a quiz game/dating sim. Saki is supposedly a normal 16 year old girl, but is actually a member of the International Earth Defense Force.

Kaijin no Soki
Origin: Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams
This is a character I'm unfamiliar with, but only because I haven't played the Onimusha series. Soki apparently possesses the dark power of the Oni. Expect some cool sword play from this character.

Frank West
Origin: Dead Rising
From the popular Capcom game Dead Rising, Frank West, Zombie photographer, brings his bombastic fighting style to this game. Oh, and he comes with an awesome attack where he stuffs a Sev Bot's head onto the enemy, in reference to the Sev Bot head easter egg in Dead Rising.

PTX-40A
Origin: Lost Planet: Extreme Condition
This mech suit here comes from the Lost Planet franchise.

Yami
Origin: Ōkami
The finale boss of Okami is also the finale boss for Tatsunoko vs Capcom. This character isn't playable, most likely because it's going to be one of those sprawling large boss fights.

Tatsunoko Line-Up

Ken the Eagle
Origin: Science Ninja Team Gatchaman
The leader of the Gatchman group, Ken is the lead character for Tatsunoko's group of fighters. You might know this character better from the American adaptation of Gatchaman from "Battle of the Planets".

Jun the Swan
Origin: Science Ninja Team Gatchaman
The girl of the Gatchman group, Jun will be able to fight alongside her other fellow Gatchaman team mates in this game.

Joe the Condor
Origin: Ninja Science Team Gatchaman
Joe here joins Ken and Jun to round out of the Gatchaman line-up. You'll only find this character in Wii and not in the Japanese Arcade.

Casshern
Origin: Neo-Human Casshern
Tetsuya Azuma is a cybernetic neoroider (Neo-Human). He transformed himself for the purpose of destroying robots that have taken over the world. Tetsuya is aided by his faithful cyborg dog Friender, who can transform into a jet, motorcycle, or submarine.

Tekkaman
Origin: Tekkaman Space Knight
You might recognize Tekkaman from the american adaptation known as Technoman. If so, you might be asking why the different costume, with rainbow coloring. Well, this was Tekkaman's first incarnation as Tekkaman: Space Knight. The later series that was adapted to be Technoman was from the second Tekkaman series, Tekkaman Blade. You apparently are able to use both incarnations of the costume .

Polymar
Origin: Hurricane Polymar
Takeshi Yoroi is Polymar's secret identity. He uses his special suit to fight crime. The suit is made of plastic memory, enabling it to assume any shape needed.

Yatterman-1
Origin: Yatterman
Calling himself Yatterman No 1, Gan Takada uses a weapon called a kendama, which he is able to use as a flail and grappling hook.

Karas
Origin: Karas
Karas protects a city that is inhabited by humans and Yokai (Japanese Spirits). Karas embodies the spirit of the city. Karas are suits of armor animated by human souls, and act as the city's appointed agents.

Doronjo
Origin: Yatterman
Doronjo is a villain of the Yatterman series, leading the hunt for the Dokuro Stone. Her associates Boyacky and Tonzura help Doronjo during special attacks.

Ippatsuman
Origin: Gyakunten! Ippatsuman
Ippatsuman fights for justice and brings his talents to Tatsunoko vs Capcom.

Gold Lightan
Origin: Golden Warrior Gold Lightan
This huge character fights to save the world from King Ibalda. A young boy, Hiro Taikai found a gold lighter - which fits in his pocket, but then can transform into a huge towering robot.


Hakushon Daimo
Origin: The Genie Family
A humerous Genie, who grants wishes to anyone to sneezes - and lives in a bottle with his genie daughter, who grants wishes to people who yawn. Sadly this character is the sole excluded character from the Japanese version of Tatsunoko vs Capcom. Legal rights prevented his trip over to the US. For anyone from Europe, you might know him Bob in a Bottle.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Tatsunoko vs Capcom

I've slowly been hearing more and more about this game - but unsure what to make of it. Yes, it's one of those rare times where a company is making a concentrated effort to bring something Japanese-centric over to America, and not with great ease, either. See, Tatsunoko, an Anime Company, has obviously licenced many of it's series to different companies over seas. It's no trouble to have a big Tatsunoko/Capcom brawl over in Japan, where all the characters are legally under one tent. Yet try and bring that over to America, and you have a host of legal rights you have to confirm from various different companies. In fact - some characters aren't going to be available because the rights are so tangled up. That's not to say us Americans aren't going to get a good deal - as some newer characters have been added to make up for the missing ones, like Tekkaman Blade (known here as Technoman).

While this is all great, and I love that Capcom is putting to much effort into this game for us - I'm still left wondering wether to buy it. I see a list of probably over 20 characters, but my Marvel vs Capcom 2-spoiled brain keeps saying that's simply not enough, especially when I know so little about the Japanese characters appearing here.

That said, I've been watching the trailers, and the announcements of new characters being added - and it's looking better and better. I still haven't made up my mind wether to buy the game or not, but here are some of the trailers and videos I've seen so far.

This is the opening cinematic


Here's a video listing all the characters, with the game's theme song too


Here's game play, with Zero and Batsu vs Tekkaman and Ippatsuman


Here's gameplay of Condor and Swan vs Morrigan and Chun-Li

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Dr. Slump


Akira Toriyama is one of the best and most talent Manga artists - with his classic work of Dragon Ball and art style of Dragon Quest, he's been slowly introduced and become familiar to us Americans.

Before Dragon Ball he was famous for another Manga gem: Dr. Slump. A humor strip - the series followed the adventures and exploits of Senbei Norimak (則巻千兵衛 Norimaki Senbee, "Seaweed-wrapped Rice cracker") and his robotic daughter Arale Norimaki (則巻アラレ Norimaki Arare, "Seaweed-wrapped Mini-rice cracker").

The strip is famous for it's juvinle humor (bathroom jokes) and references and in-jokes to popular culture. (At least during the time in 80s Japan. You'll notice a lot of Star Wars references, for example) Senbei is the beleaguered mad inventor of Penguin village. As per his name "Dr. Slump" he isn't the best inventor. Arale is by far his best creation - but even she's weird. The manga is extremely charming, even if it's humor is a bit juvenile, and I'd recommend it - especially to any Akira Toriyama fans who want to see his work before he made an even bigger hit with Dragon Ball. (Which, if you'll remember, is where he took many of his bathroom jokes before Dragon Ball turned into an action comic)

Here are some images I have of his art, and videos of the openings to the Anime series based on Dr. Slump.



This robot here is how Mr. Toriyama would frequently depict himself in the Manga.




Original Series Opening


The New Anime Series Opening