Thursday, June 30, 2011

Why it's Good the JSA is Gone


The Justice Society of America is one of my most favorite series in comics. I thought for a long time that if I ever needed to drop all my other comics - the JSA would be the one title I'd still keep getting. Through Geoff Johns' tenure on the title, I just feel in love with the series and characters. I eagerly went back and read all I could about the history of the JSA. I love older pop-culture, as I always feel like I'm learning something about the people of the time, based on what they used for entertainment. I got books collecting the issues of All-Star Comics, where the JSA first appeared. The Justice Society of America was essentially the JLA of the 1940s. The grouping of heroes like The Flash (Jay Garrick), Green Lantern (Alan Scott), Hawkman, Doctor Fate, Hourman and others seemed like a whole never level for comics - the idea of a shared universe between all of these dispart characters.


I even loved lesser known characters like Johnny Thunder, who along with his magic genie Thunderbolt where on the team more for laughs than anything else.


The JSA eventually gave way to the more modern title of Justice League of America, which revived the concept in the 1960s by teaming the likes of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and others together. The JSA where gone, but not forgotten - as the older version of the Flash from a parallel Earth meet his successor. This lead to a revival of the JSA, active again on Earth-2. There began an annual tradition in the JLA comic for the JLA and the JSA to team-up.


The JSA continued to grow in the background of the DCU, with titles like JSA All-Stars, Infinity Inc, and other titles. It wasn't until during the late 90s that, during Grant Morrison's legendary run on the JLA, that a team-up between the JLA and the JSA saw the reformation of the team -- the older generation now tasked with mentoring a new generation of heroes. James Robinson launched the series to incredible success. The JSA suddenly where no longer hanger-on characters in DCU books -- they where becoming an intrinsic part of the DC Comics landscape. Geoff Johns came onboard and began writing alongside Robinson. Eventually Johns took over the title himself.


The JSA exploded with even more legacy-characters when Alex Ross came in to help with ideas of a quasi-sequel to the legendary Kingdom Come mini-series.

Eventually Geoff Johns left the title - which sadly began a decline for the series. It had happened before, when Johns left the JSA in the hands of Paul Levitz - which resulted in an unpopular arch featuring the Gentleman Ghost, and saw the series end and put on hiatus. The JSA came roaring back with a new #1, with Alex Ross onboard -- but after 26 issues Johns again left the series.


There where some valiant efforts by the likes of Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges as new writers, but the decline in quality was readily apparent. It only got worse when Willingham and Sturges split the team up between the older group, and the younger JSA All-Stars team. Sturges and Freddie Williams II started off strong enough for a new series, with exciting new energy -- but it quickly became clear that both the writing and art where wildly inconsistent. Later issues became some of the worst JSA Comics I've ever read. (I'm talking about the New Gods story arch) It was just horrible. Willingham, on the regular title, at least was telling a coherent story about an alternate world Nazi-controlled America, but it was still underwhelming and depressing. He eventually left the title, and Marc Guggenheim and Scott Kolins took over.


Like before - Guggenheim and Kolin's new arch showed lots of promise, but quickly became too sprawling for Guggenheim to handle. He did begin an interesting plot, where a battle between the JSA and a villain nearly destroy the city of Monument Point. The JSA decide to help rebuild the city, essentially adopting it. Jay Garrick is unwittingly made Mayor, and Alan Scott faces a great personal tragedy when he's paralyzed during the battle - but makes a stop-gap measure by creating a suit of armor to protect his paralyzed body. Again, it was all good -- but the focus and quality of the series still waned.

DC is now rebooting the DC Universe, and the JSA concept has been retired for right now. I believe two issues of Guggenheim's JSA run remain - so I hope me manages to wrap up the series well enough.


The reason I think this is a good move by DC isn't just because of my disappointment with the stories since Johns departure. Another good writer would eventually have come along and brought back the magic of the series. Yet I think it's the connection to the JSA, which is built upon World War II heroes, that has been holding DC back. The mental tether of connecting modern heroes to WWII era heroes was a lot easier to do in the 1960, or 70s. There was ultimately only a 20 to 30 year gap, which just meant the characters where older. As more and more time progressed, elements like magic, limbo, and reincarnation kept the characters alive in the modern day. There is now a 66 year gap between the end of World War II, and 2011. As a fan of the JSA, I could still manage to stretch that mental tether - even if a lot of the legacies not based on magic no longer make sense. (Unless the original Black Canary gave birth when she was in her 70s or 80s, it just doesn't become plausible that her daughter, the modern-day Black Canary, would be around now in her 30s.)


So I'm strangely OK with the JSA ending for the time being. I still think, down the line, DC Comics can bring the JSA back again - but a new dynamic would have to be established; if the WWII connection had to still exist, either time-travel, or parallel dimensions would have to be involved. I think it could work -- a few choice characters like The Flash, Green Lantern, and Wildcat could be interjected into the modern day -- and the rest of the team could be filled with heroes taking up the mantle of grandfathers, or great-grandfathers. Or, on a more simple route we could have the JSA reintroduced in the pages of Justice League (which Johns is writing), and re-introduce them the same way that was done in the 1960s, with an alternate dimension! Yes, yes - the DCU Multiverse got way too confusing because of multiple dimensions; but writers and creators these days have been a lot smarter by not abusing multiple dimensions too much in stories.


For now I'm willing to wave goodbye to my favorite group of Superheroes. We'll probably see them again, in one form or another -- but I really do believe their absence will prove to be good for the DCU in the long run.

DC Relaunch Trailer


Yesterday DC's blog "The Source" had a significant hiccup, where it was being labeled as having malware. DC still hasn't put out any information, but I'm beginning to think it was the result of people falsely reporting to goggle that the site had malware, when it really didn't. Essentially a form of cyber attack. So I'm just going to move past it.

Bleedingcool put up a presentation video DC made for the new Relaunch of titles.


Friday, June 24, 2011

OMAC, One Man Army Corps


With the new OMAC series in September giving the character a fresh new start, I thought I'd look back on the history of the character and all it's various incarnations during the last decade.

OMAC, the One Man Army Corps

A creation of legendary comic artist Jack Kirby (Avengers, X-Men, Thor, News Gods), the first issue of OMAC was released in 1974. The series came about as a replacement for the recently canceled New Gods series. While OMAC would prove to have an even shorter run, it still managed to spark the imagination and give a glimpse into the ever-expanding future Kirby was imagining. The series only lasted 8 issues, and was abruptly ended when Kirby had finally finished his contract at DC - a cliffhanger in issue #8 had to be concluded with a single new final panel added in to give some kind of conclusion to the story.

Every time someone, including myself, tries to explain OMAC, it's usually along the lines of being insane, ahead of it's time, or just plain weird. OMAC was a series set in the near future, always referred to as "The World That's Coming!". OMAC is a super-being made to protect us from the ever changing world. For a series that was written in the mid-70s, the themes in these issues have a lot more relvancy today than they did back then. Technology is increasing at an ever-alarming rate, nuclear war is more and more a real possibility -- and what I liked most about OMAC was his fight to take down Hitler-style despots, which our modern world has plenty of these days. Essentially OMAC was a God of War-styled fighter (explaining the mohawk) who would protect us from destroying ourselves.

A lot of the concepts developed in the series, and Kirby's weird and dark vision of where the future might take us, involved things like the rich being able to rent out entire cities for themselves, lab-created monsters and humans made into monsters. One of the most shocking concepts was revealed to us in the first page of issue #1, that of synthetic "build-a-friend" robots.


I have to tell you, this was probably one of the most disturbing images to find in the pages of a comic - but it showed the kind of disturbing future OMAC was suppose to protect us from. The synthetic "build-a-friend" robots are exactly what you think they are - sex bots. Nothing beyond the disturbing disassembled pieces are portrayed, but it's a subject frighteningly more real today was in was over 40 years ago.


The first issue featured Buddy Blank, the hapless pawn in the series who is chosen for mysterious reasons to become OMAC. He works in the building where they make these robots, but an illegal section was being run to send these robots to world leaders, and subsequently explode and kill them. Buddy stumbles upon this scheme and discovers that who he thought of as a friend, Lila, was actually just one of the robots. Right as Buddy becomes saddened and enraged, his transformation into OMAC began. Out of nowhere Buddy Blank's body is transformed into a fighting force for good. OMAC no longer had any of the memories of Buddy, but he could tell something deeply inhumane and tragic was involved with this disassembled robot Lila. OMAC preps the entire facility to explode.



OMAC is partnered with Brother Eye, a powerful Satellite which sends power and enhancements to OMAC as needed. The two are bonded, essentially like brothers. OMAC is also joined by the Global Peace Agency, who where the ones who began the project and assigned Buddy Blank for Brother Eye to transform. The Global Peace Agency are the series primary good guys - sort of akin to the UN. They all conceal their features with a cosmetic spray; supposedly since they have to represent every nation, they must appear neutral in appearance.


OMAC helps to bring a dictator, General Kafka, to justice, under the GPA's orders. They supply him with support, and help clean up the aftermath - but they are not allowed to engage in violence themselves. The main purpose of OMAC is that, in this world, large armies are outlawed - because the repercussions of nuclear war would destroy the planet. So OMAC's "One Man Army Corps" capabilities allows the GPA to handle threats with a single agent, instead of a large army.


The next disturbing threat in the World That's Coming are Body Snatchers - a criminal network being set up around a new technology that allows the elderly to switch their brains into the bodies of young people. The powerful and aging crime lords are willing to pay anything to achieve revived youth. OMAC has to track down the so-called "Body Bank", where innocent people are kidnapped to be used in this procedure.


The last two issues of OMAC began a story where a mad scientist had developed a way to condense all the water of the oceans into contained cubes of matter. The end of issue #7 sees the return of Buddy Blank, as the connection between OMAC and Brother Eye is interfered with. Buddy has no idea where is is now, and Brother Eye is put under direct assault at the end of issue #8. The final panel, which would have been the cliff hanger, was changed to explain how the villainous scientist's machines where strained in the attack against Brother Eye and subsequently exploded. For one panel the change did it's job, but it pretty much meant Buddy Blank would have died along with the scientist, and Brother Eye would have crashed to earth in defeat. I believe John Byrne came in many years later and gave a more cohesive conclusion to the story of OMAC. It was a short-burst of insane creativity by Kirby, but the series simply didn't prove successful.

Since OMAC essentially was a stand-alone tale set in a possible future, connecting it to the regular DC Universe wasn't immediately necessary. There where some attempts, but nothing stuck. After Kirby left there where some connections made with Kirby's post-apocalyptic series Kamandi, where it was revealed that Buddy Blank was Kamandi's grandfather.


OMAC made a triumphant return in DC's Infinite Crisis, where Greg Rucka developed a new and modern angle. In this version Batman created Brother Eye, but lost control of it to Maxwell Lord, the villainous leader of Checkmate. Max wanted to exterminate all meta-humans, and used Brother Eye to create an army of OMACs, this time termed "Observational Meta-human Activity Construct". These versions of OMAC, like Buddy Blank before him, where ordinary citizens who where infected with a nano virus that would transformed them into powerful cyborgs whenever they encountered a meta-human.


With an army of OMACs under his command, Maxwell Lord began a crushing assault on the meta-human population. Superman, the most powerful, and thus most dangerous meta-human of them all, was Lord's primary focus. Having powerful telepathic powers himself (yes, he is indeed a hypocrite), Lord successful took control of Superman's mind. Under Max Lord's control Superman nearly killed Batman, and only through a vicious battle against Wonder Woman was Superman finally stopped. With the magic lasso of truth wrapped around Lord, Wonder Woman asked him how she could stop him from controlling Superman. He answered truthfully: kill me. In a shocking turn, Wonder Woman did just that and snapped Maxwell Lord's neck. This would prove to only be the beginning - as Wonder Woman's actions where recorded for the whole world to see. Brother Eye began a campaign against Wonder Woman, not only making the public turn against her, but also launching an army of OMACs in all-out assault on Paradise Island.

It wasn't until a one-shot during Infinite Crisis that the now power-mad Brother Eye was able to be destroyed by a strike force of heros lead by Batman.


The re-interpretation of OMAC proved very successful, but after Infinite Crisis there came a long series of attempts to make OMAC a permanent presence in the DCU. A regular series was started where Brother Eye is trying to reconstitute himself and activated a back-up OMAC in a human named Michael Costner. Costner has to struggle to regain control of his body and his newfound powers as an OMAC, and eventually fights back against Brother Eye - eventually destroying him.


During a year-long weekly series called "Countdown to Final Crisis", we saw a number of Jack Kirby concepts revived and utilized. The 52 issue mini-series didn't prove as successful as the weekly series of the previous year, but it did have quite a few nods to otherwise completely ignored Kirby concepts. From the biker gang in the pages of Jimmy Olsen, to a virus that would wipe out the world and give us the animal controlled future of Kamandi - Countdown was trying to do a lot, all on top of preparing the News Gods for their eventual final tale in the pages of Final Crisis. Brother Eyes resurfaces yet again, this time trying to assimilate the planet of Apocalypse. The entire series was a mixed bag - but did prove to involve OMAC near the very end. In an alternate dimension, that would eventually be labeled as Kamdandi's world, we see a scientist-version of Buddy Blank. After the virus that de-evolved humans, and evolves animals has spread and destroyed the Earth, Buddy Blank is saved by Brother Eye - and transformed into a classic version of OMAC.


Since that version of OMAC took place in an alternate dimension, and since Countdown wasn't very successful, this version of OMAC was never seen again.


Showing that someone at DC just really likes the OMAC concept, DC did yet another attempt at the character. In the pages of the Outsiders a disabled OMAC body is recovered by Batman. All memory and data is deleted from this OMAC, to make it a force for good on Batman's Outsiders team. Dubbed ReMAC, this version of the concept didn't last very long.


During the Final Crisis mini-series OMAC helps the restored Checkmate organization in it's struggle against the conquering Dark Gods of Apocalypse. Their partnership is a matter of mutual survival. Meanwhile Renee Montoya is approached by figure-head of a soon-to-be new group called the Global Peace Agency, which they want Renee to lead. Since Renee has taken on the faceless persona of "The Question", this seemed in-line with the faceless look of the GPA. This proposition to Montoya was predicated on the idea that Darkseid and the Dark Gods where going to win and take over Earth, so the plan on leading the surviving remnants of humanity on another world never actually panned out.

I don't know this for sure, but it seem pretty obvious that someone high-up at DC really likes OMAC. What Jack Kirby created is dated and off-the-wall weird, but the subject matter of the dangers the future holds for us ring more true today than ever; so I appreciate the many attempts DC made. Even though it never lead to anything stable, it did give us the perfect analogy for Big Brother (Eye) watching us.


In a big surprise, OMAC actually made it to TV in an episode of Batman Brave and the Bold. Since the series reguarly pairs Batman up with the lesser known heroes of the DCU, and the series seemed to have an afinity to Jack Kirby's creations with appearences by The Demon and Kamandi, it seemed natural to see OMAC likewise get a chance in the limelight. And it worked out pretty decently.


The episode showed Batman coming in to help the Global Peace Agency bring General Kafka to justice. This series re-worked the mythology Jack Kirby devised and sort of jammed it into the modern-day world of Batman, all with pretty good results. The GPA had more of an edge, though, possibly being just as dangerous as the villains they pursued. This was high-lightened in their treatment of janitor Buddy Blank, who they unwittingly transformed into OMAC for missions. Unlike the folksy Buddy Blank, OMAC he was gun-ho and militaristic. Batman objected to this, thinking of what Buddy would think of OMAC's violent actions. It was a really good episode, and while the setting and characterizations weren't exactly like the comics - it definitely seemed faithful in heart to the source material.


Now the DCU is being rebooted in September, and a new reinterpretation of OMAC is being made. I believe this one is going to be the one that sticks. Keith Giffen is drawning and co-writing the series with Dan Didio. Didio, I believe it's safe to say, is probably that higher-up person at DC that has been pushing the character to succeeded.

Keith Giffen just got done with an incredible run in the pages of the Doom Patrol, where he brought his insane and unique ideas to the table each and every issue. I'm expecting just the same from this new OMAC comic. The series is going to revolved around a new protagonist named Kevin Kho, who in yet another unwitting pawn destined to be OMAC. (This time standing for "One Machine Army Corps"). Kho is supposedly going to be caught in the middle of a war between Checkmate and Brother Eye.


I don't know what, if anything, is being carried over from the old DCU continuity. I would suspect very little is remaining, and everything will be starting from square one. I hope this new iteration of OMAC proves successful. It already seems to be attracting attention as the odd-gem among the swarm of new series starting in September.

Comic Book Resources released an interview with Didio and Giffen, discussing the new series and showing some of the incredible new art. We got a preview, in the recent Legion of Super-Heroes annual, of Giffen's new faux-Kirby style. It's really impressive looking, especially with digital coloring and effects. It's been described that Giffen is essentially trying to channel Jack Kirby as best he can for this series. I'm so looking forward to this new series and urge anyone to at least give issue #1 a try.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Comic Review: Kirby Genesis #1

My review of Kirby Genesis #1 can be read at Comic Book Revolution. You can find it by clicking here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Comic Book September Solicitations

The offical solicitations for Marvel and DC where released this week. With DC's big reboot, I've decided to try and slim down my comic pull list. The main problem right now is how expensive Marvel's books can become. It's not just the extra dollar on Avenger books, it's titles that are continually releasing two books a month. Here are the books I plan to get come September:

Marvel
1. Amazing Spider-Man
2. FF
3. Avengers
4. New Avengers
5. Uncanny X-Force
6. X-Factor
7. Hulk (Red)
8. Venom

.....costing $46

DC
1. Action Comics
2. Justice League of America
3. Batman Inc
4. Batman & Robin
5. Green Lantern
6. Green Lantern Corps
7. Green Lantern New Guardians
8. Superman
9. OMAC

......costing $26

......for a total of $72 in September. Now, DC's books are primarily all 2.99, with two exceptions of an extra sized issue costing #3.99 in September. Batman Inc isn't coming out for a while, so it didn't add to the total amount either.

On Marvel's side, it really wouldn't be that bad in comparison if not for the constant extra demands of all the books. New Avengers has a $5 Annual, plus a Point 1 issue for $3. X-Factor is also having a Point 1 issue, but it's the same price as the regular issues ($3), so it's really just another double issue month. (Which this title does far too often.) Hulk is shipping double that month as well.

I really wouldn't have a problem with these extra issues, if not for the fact they come out with such regularity. Given how much I'm saving in comparison with the DC books, down the line I might hack even more off of my Marvel pull list. And really, this all annoys me to no end because, essentially, the Marvel and DC books aren't that more expensive in comparison. It's just the extra books tagged on, month after month that's making me look at DC's titles and value in a much better light.

Canceled Books

Here are the books I'm canceling, and the reasons why.

Wolverine -- I've been very much enjoying the series written by Jason Aaron. Yet each issue cost $4, and this title has been among the constant double-shipping books. So after the big ending in issue #13, I'm leaving the title. And it was such a good title too...

Herc -- I've simply adored the adventures of Hercules of Amadeus Cho. Yet after the Chaos War, when Herc was lost his powers, the series has just felt too different. The "Conan of Brooklyn" was a cool angle, but it just hasn't been the same kind of fun adventures. Worse yet is the absence of Amadeus - who was the real draw of the title for me. Given how attached to the character I am, and how I might otherwise try to stick it out to see it if gets better, I'm just going to cut my losses at issue #4 from last month. The series is only $3, but in September Herc has become another double-shipping book as well, which has really cemented my decision.

Thor -- This is another title I really like, but it's also been a very slow moving title. I don't have enough money to wait around for until issue #4 for something to actually happen. I think I'll jump ship right now, at issue #2, before I get any more emotionally invested in the story. The book costs $4, which is too much for such a slowly paced story.

Moon Knight -- This is the real hard one. I love Bendis' books, for all his faults. I keep thinking back to Daredevil, Jinx, and the Avengers - and thinking that if I stick it out, this might prove to be as successful and creatively full-filling as those other books. Yet it costs $4, and so far Moon Knight has gotten the stuffing kicked out of him - in another hero's costume no less. I feel this book is the one I most urgently need to drop right away, unless I get more invested in the series. Seriously - this is a hard book to cut. But the more $4 titles are the books I'm most intent on cutting out my life. The run could turn out to be just as grand and epic as Daredevil - but I'm simply going to have to read it in TPBs, if at all.

Flash -- I've talked about this book before, and how disappointed I was at the constant delays the Flash series suffered under Francis Manapul. And now Manapul is writing the series in addition to drawing it? This was probably the easiest book for me to cancel.

JSA -- I'm not actually canceling this, but it seems to have canceled itself. I heard Dan Didio confirmed that DC is retiring the franchise for the time being. The JSA is one of my most favorite comic books in the world, but I've also been very disappointed in the lack-luster runs of recent years since Geoff Johns left the book. Rather than see the series flounder anymore, I think a rest might do the series well. Quite frankly, a new re-invention of the JSA should be developed for this new DCU. The gap between WWII and present day has just become untenably wider as more and more years pass. So a new concept for bringing the JSA into the modern era could be the right move for DC. And, best of all, they could do this a few years down the line in the pages of Justice League - renewing the old JLA/JSA team-up tradition.

Fear Itself -- I know this is a mini-series, and I usually don't count them towards my pull list -- but this mini-series has simply been disappointing. It's slow moving, with more awe than actual spectacle. I'm dropping off right now after issue #3.

In Danger of Being Canceled

My current pull list comes to about 17 books in total. It's an improvement from 21 or so books, but I was hoping I could do better. Luckily there are still some titles that I'm either holding out hope for, or other books that I'm merely testing out.

Venom -- The first two issues of Venom where great, but issue #3 just felt lacking. I hope the series picks up as more time goes on - but I can't wait around forever. The only reason this book is still on my pull list is because it only costs $3, and because of Rick Remender is writing it. I absolutely adore Uncanny X-Force, and Venom showed just as much initial promise. But it has to keep doing better to stay on my list.

Green Lantern The New Guardians -- This is a title I thought would be a natural to keep on board. I wanted to read Tony Bedard on Green Lantern Corps - and figured at least I'd get the same deal in the pages of this new series. But I am very disappointed by the preview cover, showing shilouettes of the potential representives of each colored Corps. I was expecting the likes of Larfleeze, Atrocitus, and Indigo-1 to be the stars of this book. From the shilouettes, the only New Guardians from recent GL issues are Carol Farris as Star Sapphire, and Blue Lantern Saint Walker. (And that doesn't even have to be Carol. It could easily be Miri, the Star Sapphire developed in the pages of Green Lantern Corps.) The reason I'm not immediately passing on this book is because the solicited cover could easily be a ruse. DC has done this plenty of times in the past, so those shilouettes could mean nothing. Another reason I'm giving the book a chance is because it might, honestly, be really really good - even if it doesn't have the cast I was expecting. So I'll give the series a try. It might not make it, but who knows?

Superman -- I wasn't wowed by the announcement of George Perez leading this title, but I also don't discount that it could be really good. I'm hoping it will bounce off enough from the themes Grant Morrison is no doubt going to be doing in Action Comics. If Action Comics stands alone, without needing you to read this second Superman book, then I might cancel it. But I want to give this new Superman a chance.


OMAC -- This series is simply a gamble. I like Keith Giffen, and I imagine he'll have a lot of surprises in store for us with this new take on Jack Kirby's OMAC concept. Yet it's easily a book that isn't necessary, so if it doesn't amaze me I probably won't stay on long.


At heart, I've always leaned more to the Marvel side of the comic debate. They always seemed to have more interesting and dynamic characters. Yet DC has just been wowing me in certain titles - especially with the leadership of Geoff Johns, Jim Lee, and Dan Didio driving the company forward in recent years. The reboot of the DCU is their biggest challenge to date, and while I'm still nervous they could really be screwing things up - DC is just giving me a better and more dependable price-point for their comics. It also doesn't hurt that they have the likes of Grant Morrison trying to push ahead new ideas and concepts all the time. I obviously still like Marvel - but their constant double-shipping books each month is slowly but surely driving me away.

One thing to note about all this. I could change my mind by September. I've really tried to think this through, and not make any rash decisions. Formalizing my thoughts in this post has helped. Here's hoping things go well this September!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

E3 2011

E3 this year seemed generally disappointing. Many new things we where hoping for either didn't happen, like a release date for Star Wars MMO, or left us confused, like with the Nintendo Wii U. Here's some of the stuff that caught my attention.

Transfarring

Hideo Kojima is one of those creators I idolize because of the sheer amount of both quality and crazy they bring to their products. The new announcement from Kojima is their new feature called "Transfarring". The idea is, if you want to keep playing a console game - you can transfer you're progress and information to a PSP, and visa-versa. This really only seems applicable with games that can be supported, graphically, by both the PS3 and the PSP. I'm sure Sony's next generation PSVita is also going to be in on this gimmick, but right now that's all it appears to be: a gimmick. Maybe video gaming culture in Japan is different, and mobility is a real issue - but over here I just can't see many people taking advantage of this. Heck, I play most of my portable games at home --something like Transfarring just seems silly. Plus, how many people play video games this much, where they can't even take a break when they go out of the house? Kojima has often proved himself to be a genius, but that doesn't mean all of his ideas are winners. What is genius, though, is this self mocking ad G4 showed. (The video below.)

What is worth being excited about is the HD Package Re-release of Metal Gear Solid 2, 3, and both Zone of the Enders games. While being able to play Metal Gear Solid on a modern console is cool, I've played those two games so many times, playing through them again isn't that appealing. Plus, if their looking at selling an MGS collection, then I have to ask why Metal Gear Solid 1 wasn't included? Zone of the Enders, games I've never had a chance to play, sound like the best part of the deal.



Wii U and Nintendo 3DS

This video really helps clarify many of the immediate questions people have about the Wii U. It's going to have much improved HD graphics. The biggest shock is no doubt the iPad style controller. This looks like it could be a real mess for Nintendo, and I'm only just happy that this system will essentially be able to act like a graphically enhanced Wii, because any games using this overly complicated and strange remote are going to be left waiting until I more fully understand what the heck it is. Nintendo kept saying it's giving developers more options. More options doesn't necessarily make for a better gaming experience. I distinctly get the feeling Nintendo might just be trying to innovate for innovation's sake - which really makes us, the gaming public, the ginny-pigs in a big experiment. I might have a different opinion later in the year, as more information comes out, but right now I'm just confused.

As for the 3DS -- this is a system I wanted to buy, but I'm simply not going to spend $250 until there are some decent games for the system. I think my sentiments are echoed by most people, as the 3DS has had a dramatic drop in sales, especially after having the largest launch-sales for a handheld ever. This could be a very good system, long term. But 3D, no matter how good it is, might not necessarily be the wave of the future everyone in entertainment is hoping for. The games announced, like Mario Kart and and Starfox 64 sound good, but games like Luigi's Mansion make me think Nintendo is running low on ideas. The only game I was excited to see was Mario 3D - which looks like a combination of Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Bros. 3. The return of the Tanooki suit sounds great. Over all, I'm seriously disappointed to not see more news about upcoming games. Maybe that's for the best - I don't want to go out and buy the 3DS any earlier than I have to. Heck, maybe it's simply a system I'll be skipping. I thought the exact same thing about the Wii U, maybe I won't buy this generation of Nintendo console. That seems pretty damning for Nintendo's future, all things considered. Nintendo soared so high these past many years - and if they aren't careful, they could come crashing down really easily.



Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword

Even as a longtime Zelda fan, I was very skeptical when they announced Skyward Sword. One of the great things about Twilight Princess was the ease of play and light integration of wii-motion controls in what was otherwise a standard-controlled game. Now we're getting a Zelda game designed completely around the Wii-Motion Plus controller. First off, I've successfully avoided having to plop down any more cash to get a fancier controller, so buying Skyward Sword would force me to make this additional purchase. Also, even if the controls are as accurate as everyone hopes (of moving the sword exactly like you move the wii-remote) - it sounded both tiring and irritating. (At least for me). I personally have yet to play a sword-based wii-game that didn't just involved hacking as fast as you can. (Dragon Quest Swords is the closest the concept ever came.) The added complexity, of having to actually think about how you swing the wii-remote... it's just not been as successful so far. Not saying complexity can't be fun - but Zelda has never been a short game, and it's simply the mental hurdle of learning to play video games differently than I'm use to. So I just wasn't that trilled about it.

Now that Nintendo is finally releasing more info about the game? My opinion is changing, and if there's any title I might put the extra effort into learning how to play differently, it's Zelda. The features and gameplay elements look fun. Will it work for such a long-term gaming experience? We'll just have to want and find out. But I am deeply impressed by the art-style, which at first seemed cartoonish, but now seems very atmospheric. The story seems very Zelda-esq, but with the significant twist of starting the game up in the sky. Again, I'm still weary of this new Zelda game - but it's quickly looking like a title I'll be trying anyway. The hope is my initial fears will be proven completely baseless. (Let's hope!)



Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Being a big fan of Fallout 3, you'd think a game from the same celebrated developers would be a natural favorite for me. It's not, despite how impressive the game looks. I got and played Elder Scrolls IV. Despite feeling completely out of my depth, I managed to defeat the first demonicly under siege town. I haven't played the game since. I think it's the sheer breadth of the game that scares me, if anything else. And Skyrim looks to be even bigger and more detailed. It's a good game, to be sure, but not one I'm particularly interested in.



My sentiments regarding this year's E3 where really summed up in the "Hey Ash" Gametrailer episode, here:

Friday, June 10, 2011

Playstation Network Still Disappointing

I'm actually not speaking in reference to my disappointment with the recent "Welcome Back" Package, to make up for the disaster-level hack and downtime customers experienced. What I'm disappointed with is this - the HD Re-release of "Beyond Good & Evil" was suppose to come out on June 8th, but still remains unavailable.

I watch X-Play regularly, and every so often you can tell when Morgan Webb or Adam Sessler are more than just saying a game is good, they are specifically advocating people check it out because they genuinely love a particular game, and what it to succeed. Adam Sessler seems quite enamored with the Sly Cooper franchise, and Ratchet and Clank get tons of praise. I don't always take their advice - but every so often they do convince me to but a particular game. Okami is a great example - that game was simply a shining light of quality that exceeded all of my expectations. The latest game Morgan Webb is particularly pushing is Beyond Good & Evil. It became a vastly under-rated title that did horribly in sales, yet had such a vocal fan following that a sequel is now in the works, and what Morgan is now touting - the HD Re-release of Beyond Good and Evil for download on the Xbox360 and the PS3. The game isn't initially the type I'd buy, but it's simply been getting such high praise - for $10 I thought I'd take a chance and buy it.

The PSN, of course, was hacked during the release schedule for the game. So it's May release didn't happen. June 8th was announced as their new release date. I though, great - that's literally the next day for me!

It's now June 10th, and Beyond Good and Evil still isn't available on the Playstation Network. Serious - WHAT THE HECK?! I finally decide to buy this passionately advocated game - and it isn't even available for purchase? It's already out on the Xbox360, so why not the PSN? If there are more details that have to be worked out, that delay the game from the June 8th release - that's fine. But why leave us in the dark like this? There's no announcement, explaining the further delay.

It's this, right here, that really deeply annoys me. The lack of respect Sony is giving fans. First they endanger all of our credit card information, then release a lack-luster "Welcome Back" package, and now they won't even keep us informed on the release schedule of already delayed games? I'm literally waving money at them, willing to keep doing business with them and buy their products -- and they simply aren't paying enough attention to actually keep their already frustrated customers up to date.

I've really had it up to here with Sony not getting their act together. I really did have a lot of good will towards the PSN, and was more than willing to forgive them. I wasn't trilled with the welcome back package, which really began to erode my support for them. Though, my displeasure about it really is on my end - many other people are happy with it; I'm upset about it, but it will pass. Now this? It's not so much an actual detriment to me (I probably should save my money on the game anyway) - but it's just sooo annoying and, intended or not, disrespectful to leave already frustrated customers hanging on an issue like this. A simple post on the Playstation Blog, explaining the delay, could have solved everything.

Anyway, I hope the game does eventually release on the PSN. Weather I'll still want to buy it by then is another question. Again, it's not really a big deal at all - but it just feels like we're not getting any respect from Sony on this entire debacle. Considering their continued risk of being hacked again, I'm truly considering just canceling my credit card and not buying anything from them again. I'm just tired of this.