Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Avengers vs X-Men


I get a certain number of books, and plan on what to by from month to month at the comic store. Marvel has been particularly egregious in regards to releasing two issues of the same series in a single month. When the title costs $4 to begin with, and it happens to multiple books I'm getting, then that really starts to hurt. I have definitely dropped some books as a result, and am glad to see certain titles I buy come a conclusion (willingly, or sometimes canceled. As an example, O.M.A.C. is getting canceled with issue #8, and Jason Aaron is leaving Wolverine with issue #304). Anyway - in short - Marvel is really pushing me to make more cuts in the future.

So I found myself conflicted with the announcement of Marvel's new Summer Event: Avengers vs X-Men. This has apparently be building for a long time on both sides of the aisles. It's going to be a 12-issue mini-series, shipping two issues a month. That equals $8 each month, in addition to a supplementary series, titled "A vs X", which is a 6-issues, published alongside Avengers vs X-Men, highlighting the fights between certain characters.


I was really planning on skipping this entire thing. Marvel's last big mini-series, Fear Itself, left me unsatisfied, with a mediocre story and less than entertaining shocking moments. Yet, looking at what this event is offering - I'm getting more and more excited for it. You might point out that this is just a smashing together of franchises -- and it is that; but it's coming along with the culmination of long standing plotlines, about the fate of Hope (the possible Mutant Messiah), and the Scarlet Witch (An Avenger who lost her sanity, destroyed the team, and warped all reality.) Add onto that the long hinted return of the Phoenix Force -- and it begins to feel like a can't miss event. At the very least if should be an entertaining and fun event; so, despite $8 or more, I'm signing onboard.

The Avengers and X-Men have actually had a few skirmishes between each other in the past. This past decade Marvel has transformed the Avengers into a best selling franchise, eclipsing Marvel's previous front-runners: the X-Men. The X-Men have seen a big of a resurgence, as spinoff titles like "Wolverine and the X-Men" and "Uncanny X-Force" have captured fan's imaginations. So it seems appropriate to see both groups challenge each other, now on a little more equal footing.


The Avengers first took on the X-Men all the way back in the 60s, with X-Men #9, by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. The story basically was a set-up for the Avengers and X-Men to fight each other - while Xavier fought against a villain, dubbed Lucifer, who was trying to destroy the Earth.


Crossovers where pretty rare back in those days - which made them special when they did happen. I bet seeing the colorful heros fighting against each other was pretty exciting back then; I've only been able to read the issue in the black & white reprints of the Essentials series.


There wasn't that much cross-over between both teams again for a long, long time. There was, however, a very obvious cross-pollination, with the Avengers recruiting former Brotherhood of Evil Mutants members Scarlet Witch and her bother Quicksilver. Wanda and Pietro went on to become great heroes and long-standing members of the Avengers. So right there was a deeply set connection between both teams. The connection became even more pronounced when it was revealed that Magneto, the X-Men's biggest enemy, was really the father of both Wanda and Pietro.

The X-Men came into conflict with the Avengers again during the Secret Wars cross-over mini-series. The X-Men where really at odds with the rest of the heroes during that series, intentionally separating themselves from the others, with a mutual suspicion against the other group of heroes. Although a lot of Avengers where part of that series -- it really was more of a whole Marvel Universe-crossover.


The real Avengers/X-Men Crossover took place during the 90s, in a storyline called "Bloodties", which ran through Uncanny X-Men, X-Men, Avengers and West Coast Avengers titles. It was actually kind of a personal crossover, rather than a sweeping event; the story was essentially fallout from the X-Men "Fatal Attractions" cross-over, where Xavier, to stop Magneto, erased Erik's mind - rendering him comatose. Fabian Cortez, one of Magneto's more fanatical followers, tried to take over leadership of the Acolytes. He was unable to hold onto the position, though -- as an upstart villain named Exodus took the lead. Cortez subsequently fled and kidnapped Luna, Quicksilver's baby daughter. Fleeing to the mutant slave island nation of Genosha, both the Avengers, X-Men, and Exodus where hot on their trail -- sparking civil war in the already politically turmultiotus country.


The X-Men and Avengers both managed to save Quicksilver's daughter. It was a good cross-over; yet will always be overshadowed during that time in X-Men history, as there was a constant stream of cross-overs nearly every single month. Bloodties was a relatively small one.


So, during the last decade, a lot happened with the Avengers. Brian Michael Bendis took over the franchise, using Wanda Maximoff as the central character to destroy the team, before later rebuilding it from the ground up. The Scarlet Witch has the mutant ability to change probabilities, usually depicted as an energy blast called Hex-spheres, where she can change the probabilities of something in the favor she desires. Like, for instance, she could Hex-blast a book case and make it fall on top of a nearby enemy. Her powers, though, had exponentially increased over the years - to the point where she is able to alter reality itself. John Byrne, during his run on West Coast Avengers, famously had a storyline where Wanda's powers went out of control and she became evil. That plotline was reignited by Bendis - where Wanda's powers had completely overwhelmed her and made her loose grip on reality. There's certainly plenty of precedent to support this course change -- Wanda, married to the robot Vision, "magically" given birth to twins. She had also brought Simon Williams, aka Wonder Man, back from the dead simply by willing it. So Wanda's ability to alter reality was becoming quite dangerous. She killed a number of Avengers, wounding the team so much that they called it quits. The Avengers soon re-grouped, dubbed "The New Avengers"; through the group was very different, with the likes of Spider-Man, Wolverine, Luke Cage, Spider-Woman, and the Sentry being members.


Wanda was actually still alive, recovering from the trauma since being defeated by her fellow teammates. Magneto and Xavier were trying to care for her - but the potential danger she posed, if she acted up again, was too great to be ignored. So Xavier called the X-Men and Avengers together. Quicksilver feared that they where going to opt to kill his sister; so Quicksilver tried to get Wanda to save herself.


A brilliant white light subsequently engulfed all of reality. The X-Men and Avengers suddenly woke up in a brand new world - the House of M - in which mutants where the dominant species, and Magneto ruled over the planet. Bendis and Oliver Copiel did a wonderful job, crafting a compelling alternate reality, and having characters finding themselves leading very different lives. Wolverine had Nick Fury's job, being the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. Spider-Man found himself a celebrity, keeping quite on the fact he wasn't really a mutant. Humans essentially where the outcasts of this society. Eventually a young girl, Lyla Miller, was found to have the mysterious ability to awaken people to their old selves. A large group of heroes where all gathered together and decided to confront Magneto and try and change back reality. Since Magneto was the ruler, the Avengers and X-Men naturally thought it had been Erik who had used Wanda to transform reality. At the end they found out it was really Quicksilver - and during the ensuing chaos of the battle Wanda broke down again; and said these famous words:

"No more mutants."

Reality went white again, with everyone waking up to the world restored. Yet there was a significant change for the mutant community. Wanda had essentially erased the X-Gene from nearly all mutants on the planet. Perhaps because of her familiarity and connection with the X-Men (and the fact Marvel didn't want to end the franchise), most X-Men retained their powers. An estimated 198 mutants where determined to be all that was left. This was a complete decimation of the mutant species as a whole. Where once mutants where projected to be the dominant species within 4 generations -- they where now shunted to near extinction.

The Scarlet Witch was no where to be found.

The mutant race was forced to pull together - with most remaining mutants on the planet all coming to Xavier's mansion. The government tried contain and monitor the X-Men (for their own protection, of course), turning Xavier's school into a mutant reservation.


Things began to change, though, when the seemingly first mutant birth in years occurred. A mad rush to retrieve this girl took place; as the Mutant hating Purifiers, warned of her birth, tried to kill her. Mr. Sinister and his Marauders where also vying to obtain the child. The time traveling mutant, Cable, was able to rescue her. Yet no place was safe for this little girl -- as prophetic warnings abound, either labeling her as the Mutant Messiah, or the Mutant Anti-Christ. One of the X-Men's own, Bishop (another time traveler), even tried to kill her - saying she was the one responsible for the ruined future world he came from. Finally it was decided that to ensure this baby's safety - Cable would take her into the future (very much like had been done with Cable himself, being the son of Scott Summers, aka Cyclops - who sent his son Nathan Christopher Summers to the future to save his life). Cable essentially raised this girl, now named Hope Summers, as his daughter.

When Norman Osborn, aka the Green Goblin, inexplicably gained power in the government - the X-Men, having already fled from Westchester New York to San Francisco, where facing increased threats from both the mutant hating public and the government. So Cyclops enacted a plan, raising the sunken Asteroid M (Magneto's old lair) from the ocean, and making it into an island. Dubbed Utopia, this was to be a place where the last remaining mutants on the planet could live, outside of US Shores. Osborn did not like this, and sent his Dark Avengers (bad guys dressed as Avengers) to try and stop this plan.


Osborn, at the time, had a tentative alliance with the X-Men's Emma Frost. Seemingly both on the same page, Emma donned a black costume and lead a group called "The Dark X-Men"; Osborn's own mutant team, to help form and control public opinion. Emma, though, eventually revealed her true colors by betraying Osborn - allowing Utopia to be established.


Hope and Cable eventually return, with Hope now a young woman. Hope fulfills a bit of her prophesied destiny, using her powers to awaken 5 young people as mutants.

Cyclops, who has become increasingly militant in protecting Utopia, begins to show cracks that will tear apart the team. Magneto even comes to join the X-Men, hailing Cyclops as a true leader of the mutant race. This was quite symbolic; it wasn't Magneto that was changing his ways, but rather the X-Men under Cyclops' leadership becoming more in line with Magneto's way of thinking. This eventually causes a split for the X-Men, as Wolverine decides to open his own school (where Xavier's use to be) - so that the next generation of mutants didn't have to stay and risk their lives as soldiers protecting Utopia.

And that's the story so far, of the X-Men and the Avengers. Osborn eventually went crazy and lost his position of power - and the Avengers returned to prominence, with Captain America now the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. The Scarlet Witch made a return in "Avengers Children's Crusade". I personally didn't read that series; but there are hints Wanda might use her powers in the future to restore mutant kind.


A kind of prelude, to the Avengers vs X-Men mini-series, was done - featuring Cable returning to try and eliminate the Avengers. "Avengers X-Sanction" essentially served as a brief return for Cable, making one last time-traveling effort before dying to protect his daughter, Hope, who he believes is going to be killed by the Avengers in the near future.


Coming this March Avengers vs X-Men #0 will be published, officially kicking off the big event. The storyline is going to feature Hope and the Scarlet Witch -- with an impending return of the Phoenix Force to Earth. The Avengers are going to be convinced that this will spell disaster, and destroy the World. Hope has frequently been hinted to have a connection to the Phoenix Force - so Cable's prediction of the Avengers killing her may prove true. The X-Men see the return of the Phoenix Force as a prelude to a revival of the mutant race. So a war is going to break out between both teams.

Marvel has a large number of creators bringing their talent to this mini-series. Aprils issue #1 lists Bendis as writer, with issue #2 by Jason Aaron - both issues drawn with John Romita Jr.


Marvel has been releasing teasers of the rivalries between the members of both teams. Like Iceman vs Spider-Man, Storm vs Thor, Cyclops vs Hawkeye, and Wolverine vs Captain America

I don't know exactly how these fights are going to be dealt with in more length in the A vs X companion mini-series. In fact, I don't know who's even going to be writing those issues -- though A vs X #1 announces a split between characters -- featuring fights between Iron Man and Magneto, and The Thing vs Namor.

I really didn't think I'd be excited for this mini-series, and the extra $8 a month it will cost; but it actually is sounding better the more I hear about it. I probably won't buy A vs X, though. Regular issues of Avengers also promise some cool tie-in issues, though. Certain characters are bound to be pulled in two different directions, as Wolverine, Beast, and Storm right now serve as both Avengers and X-Men. I hope it all turns out ok. With different writers and artists collaborating - if not done well it could be a jumbled mess. Fingers crossed.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

DC Sex and Violence

I told them so. A FOX News Station has finally picked up, and sparked outrage about the violence and sex going on with DC Comics. (Bleedingcool shows the video here.)

When looking into the New 52 I wrote this, reacting to some of the violence I was seeing in certain DC Titles:
"I've really enjoyed almost everything about the new DCU Reboot. The comics are fresh and exciting again - but there is one noticeable stain upon the whole initiative: the Batman books. I like the Batman books. I tried two of them this month - and while the issues I tried where good, and not too violent -- that cannot be said for the likes of Detective Comics #1, which had a final page showing the carved-off face of the Joker nailed to a wall. That just added to my disappointment with the Batman-office in general lately, as the previous Detective Comic arch was utterly inappropriately labeled - as it featured cannibalism. I kept hearing how good the story actually was; but I for one was quite disgusted by it - and I'm not even a little kid, which Batman books are more than likely to be given to. The less said about the utterly pornographic Catwoman #1, the better. It's a rather large disappointment to see - that such violent content is being mislabeled as either "T", or "T+" - when it's content that should be getting an "M" rating. Yet DC doesn't want to put an "M" rating on a Batman book - which begs the question why they are allowing such content on one of their lead characters to begin with?! I for one would like to read a Batman book that isn't marred by psychologically scarring violence and sex. I was intending to buy the new Jonah Hex book -- but I put it right back after seeing the prominently displayed dead hooker, nailed to the rafters as a warning for Hex to get out of town. I quite frankly don't know whether to trust the Batman books in the coming future, or the title Green Lantern Corps, written by Batman and Robin writer Peter J Tomasi, which stacked a mountain of dead bodies up as warning to the GL Corps, in addition to slicing up disposable Green Lantern characters every which way. Seriously - DC - get the violence under control!"
Five months in, what I've been reading hasn't been overly violent or worthy of controversy in any way. So I've been pretty happy.

At the time I emailed and told DC what I thought -- asking them to tone down the violence. I said to DC "Does some right-wing family values group need to make an outrage of this kind of content, before you finally start toning things down?" Well, unexpectedly, here's FOX News.

This news report, while making a valid point about violence in books kids have easy access to - also makes some wrong headed assumptions; that comics are only for kids and that violence in media cause aggression in children. That kind of mentality is a holdover from Fredric Wertham and the 1950s Senate Hearings -- all of which was largely debunked, and now considered a sad example of the worst kind of government censorship.

Comics aren't just for kids -- it's a medium, especially for the last four decades, that can easily be compared to the likes of TV and Movies. Yet DC has indeed dropped the ball in regards to their own rating system -- and neglected to remember that little kids do indeed get their hands on these titles regardless: especially the likes of Batman. I'm in no way advocating any kind of censorship -- just some common sense; especially in the face of over-reacting news organizations.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Batman: Court of Owls


I use to read a lot of Batman titles. Robin, Batgirl, Nightwing, Birds of Prey, ect. Eventually things changed and I began just reading only the main titles. After Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee's famous Batman: Hush storyline, it became a struggle to find a new defining creative team for the character. Luckily Grant Morrison came in and worked his usual insane magic. I've really just been following his work on Batman, Batman and Robin, and then Batman Inc. When the new 52 line of comics began, I was going to continue reading Batman and Robin until Morrison came back to finish up his Batman run with his upcoming Leviathan story. I also picked up issue #1 of the new launch for Batman, curious and willing to give the first issue a try and see why people where raving so much about Scott Snyder. I've since dropped Batman and Robin -- the storyline there was just moving far too slowly, and without clear explanation about things. As for the regular Batman book? I decided to keep on it until issue #6, for one reason: The Court of Owls.


I don't know what it is about the concept for this new group of villains for Batman -- maybe it just strikes the right cord about secret organizations and conspiracies, wrapped up in an Owl theme.

Or, it could just be the invented children's rhyme used to explain the myth about the Court of Owls in Gotham. Supposedly an urban legend (A real urban legend. Not like that Batman fellow!), the Court of Owls are supposedly a secret organization that has watched over Gotham for centuries.

"Beware the Court of Owls, that watches all the time, ruling Gotham from a shadow perch, behind granite and lime. They watch you at your hearth, they watch you in your bed, speak not a whispered word of them or they'll send the Talon for your head."

A pretty evocative rhyme, huh? That rhyme alone sparked my imagination, and prompted me to read further into the series.


Batman has run afoul a mysterious figure claiming to be the Court of Owl's personal assassin, dubbed "The Talon". Batman isn't one for just buying into rumor or superstitions - he just figures this is someone using the myth about the Court of Owls to target and kill certain people. Bruce Wayne unenviably is on the Talon's hit list.

While Batman steadfastly refuses to believe there is such a thing as the Court of Owls - the evidence keeps piling up. Even in Bruce's own family history -- his great, great-grandfather Alan Wayne, who near the end of his life suffered from aggressive senility, became obsessed about birds. He claimed they where conspiring against him, and eventually he was found running in the streets in his nightgown, claiming that they where everywhere - their nests all around and even in his home. When found by the police they turned away for a second, and Alan Wayne fell down an open manhole to his death. The police don't even know wether he had jumped or had been pushed.


One of Alan Wayne's final words that night had been him warning that they where coming; that the 13th hour was coming. Taking this clue Batman stumbled upon a rather large piece of the puzzle. You see, Alan Wayne had been the person who had built and owned a number of buildings in Gotham. Superstition, fear of the 13th floor, was common-place. Buildings would simply skip the 13th floor, and go from 12 to 14. A space was still built inbetween those floors, supposedly to trap all the bad luck. Batman went to all of these locations, and was shocked by what he discovered. Every building, hidden in that tucked-away 13th floor, was a base of operations for the Talon. Building after building, lairs where found dating back to 1891 and all the way to 2006. These places where the nests of every succeeding generation of the Talon. Finding Batman having stumbled upon his lair, the Talon blew the entire floor of the building up, nearly killing Batman.

Still, after all this, Batman refused to believe in the Court of Owls. It's revealed in issue #4 that, after his parents where murdered right in front of him, a young Bruce Wayne began his first investigation, because he was convinced that the Court of Owls must have killed his parents. Making connections, a conspiracy to kill them, was comforting to this young boy - his mind attempting to create structure to his now shattered life. Even though very young, Bruce was determined - and even nearly lost his life when he accidently became trapped in a building he had thought might be where the Court of Owls are. That one case taught Bruce a very important lesson for being a detective: Never let emotion drive an investigation. After being saved by the police, Bruce accepted that the Court of Owls was merely a myth.


Batman still believes the Court of Owls are a myth. Investigating further Batman was once again attacked by the Talon, who was able to smash Batman's head right against the wall. Batman awoke to find himself in a large maze, with a screen showing people with owl masks, welcoming Batman to The Labyrinth!

The story and writing of Scott Snyder is simply gripping. Greg Capullo's art gives an otherwise serious story energy and fun, but while not loosing the dark mystery of the story.

It makes you wonder, also, why the idea of Owls haven't been used before in Batman stories. Apparently Owls hunt Bats. What I once thought at first was going to be a cool new cadre of villains are turning out to be Batman's worst threat ever. This isn't ending at issue #6, and I'm onboard for the ride. Shows you what trying one issue can get you?

Starting with issue #7, the Batman title is going to feature a back up tale, with a price of 3.99, only a dollar more. I don't really like having needless content being added to each issue - but it looks like DC has realized they have a bonafide hit on their hands. So the Court of Owls is expanding into a crossover event - "Night of the Owls". The backup tales in each issue are going to explore the history the Court has had in Gotham over the centuries. Snyder is going to be writing those stories, with Rafael Albuquerque on art. Here are some sketches by Albuquerque:



So while it's going to cost a little more, I'm sticking around until this Owls storyline is over. I do hope reading just Scott Snyder's Batman series will be enough, and won't force you into reading too many chapters in other series.

Still, I'm pretty happy to see that this storyline is getting the attention it deserves. I think Batman is DC's best selling of all the 52 titles. I just hope it doesn't cross-over into too violent a territory. Scott Snyder wrote some pretty disturbing Batman stories, with cannibals, before the relaunch. Those stories where apparently very, very good - getting rave reviews all around; but it seemed like far too mature a subject to see in a Batman comic. I blame the editors for that. So far the Court of Owls storyline has an acceptable, and less disturbing, level of violence. So for me trying that first issue #1 was a risk. But it's happily turned out to be a risk worth taking.


I only wanted to caution you about that, seeing as I recently voiced a problem with DC and violence. Yet I don't want to undercut how impressive and fun this storyline has been! Snyder creates a living world for Batman to occupy, with detail and explosive action you'd come to expect from DC's premiere Super Hero. Even before hearing the official announcement for "Night of the Owls", I was excited about this story - and I absolutely loved this tagline DC's 52 Sneak Peeks:


"Every generation of the Court of Owls employs its own assassin - always called the Talon. The Talons live their lives in their nests, waiting for orders. They only take orders from the Court, who remain faceless to them. And on a single night in Gotham, generations of Talons will attack."
-- Scott Snyder

This year, Batman will discover that the city he has fought so hard to protect... was never his at all.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Next Console Generation

It's not here yet completely, but it feels like we're about to move into the next console generation cycle. The Wii U has already been announced, and rumors about the successor to the X-Box 360 are already flying.

Nintendo 3DS and Wii U

I recently jut got a 3DS - which is obviously the next generation for the Nintendo DS System. I'm very impressed by it -- the 3D isn't as nearly eye-straining as people have said, at least on the titles I've played (Super Mario 3D Land, and Mario Kart 7) What I've been most impressed with is the wealth of other features - Augmented Reality Games, Gameboy and DSi Ware downloads. The only problem I've had with it is the joystick. I'm always more comfortable with a D-Pad. It works fine for games meant to work with a D-Pad, but not for nuanced control with older platforming games. This is mitigated by a D-Pad provided right below the joystick - and works well - except for the fact I found it squeaking when using it for a long time. It went away - but it's making me keep hold of my old DS Lite, just for DS games needing a regular D-Pad. Also a word of caution - know what kind of buttons you'll need to use when buying downloadable Gameboy games. The Legend of Zelda Links Awakening plays great, but pressing the select, start, a and b buttons all at the same time - which is how you save the game - is nearly impossible. Luckily saving in-game is made redundant with the Restore Point Save feature.

Oh yeah - and I don't like the Street Pass. I turn it off every time - I wish Nintendo would stopped pushing it at us so hard. It's far too easy to press Power Off, when you're trying to press Start.

Anyway - the 3DS, while having a disastrous start out of the gate earlier this year, looks to be improving. The new lower price and release of quality games obviously being a factor.

The faltering release of the 3DS, though, makes me worried that Nintendo might have become too arrogant about their success with the Wii. I believe their over-reliance on cool gimmicks might have tripped them up. Steps being taken by the company just bring to mind a possible repeat of the 3DS' release. The Wii U's unveiling left fans more confused than excited. We're all taking a step back and relying on the usual dependability of Nintendo - but a second screen controller just seems too weird; like they are trying to do something new just for the sake of doing something new.

What concerns me the most, though, is their proposed line-up on Wii U games. They are obviously trying to bringing back hardcore gamers -- but for me, games with blood and guts doesn't always mean quality or a mature game. I've in fact been a little dismayed with some of the thinking Nintendo has given to bringing us quality games for these systems. Super Mario 3D Land, Mario Kart 7, and Legend of Zelda are their obvious successes -- but looking at Pilot Wings or Steel Diver being launch titles is just disheartening. I was also surprised with Nintendo not bringing over Xenoblade Chronicles Wii. They have since changed their minds, and are releasing it this April. I hadn't been expecting that game either way, but once word of mouth began to spread, it seemed foolish that Nintendo didn't release it in America to begin with. It sounds like an excellent game - and the reasoning for not bringing it over becomes doubley baffling when you consider they released it in Europe, so a translated version WAS made!

Decision making like that makes me concerned about Nintendo's entry into the next console generation. The only title I'm so far excited about on the Wii U is Dragon Quest X -- with a monthly Online fee already being a concern.

X-Box

For Microsoft and the X-Box 360, they seem to be going in the route of creating a true multi-media gaming machine. Not just for playing games - but also having TV, Internet, and other features. That's all well and good - but it's not immediately appealing to me. I only want my console to play games - not become a host to iTune video downloads. (I don't need more ways to waste my money).

I am somewhat biased about this, though - as I never got an X-Box 360. It looked like a fine system, but their over-reliance on multiplayer games, and requiring a fee for X-Box services shied me away. The one game that was making me consider buying that system was Blue Dragon. I didn't like seeing such frame-rate stuttering in videos, and a total of 4 disks to contain the game... I haven't seen something like that since the Playstation One.

Playstation

For the PS3, like the 3DS it had a somewhat shaky start. I was one of the original adopters, getting the larger 60 GB version of the system. They have since made the system cheaper and thinner -- but I was really happy with how it turned out, as I love having the backwards compatibility of PS1 and PS2 games. Also handy for the occasional Blueray movie! I've generally been pretty pleased with the system -- with the large exception of their loss of User Information to hackers.

The biggest thing about the transition from this console generation to the next is about graphics. With HD Graphics both the X-Box 360 and PS3 have created some truly beautiful and stunning games. Add to that the higher degree of computing power - and the games also became more and more technically impressive. And it's not just been about slapping on a better coat of paint - developers have simply been able to do things on these systems that they could never have done on the likes of a PS2. The graphics have actually become a bit too impressive for some systems to handle. I was very, very excited about LA Noire - but was very unhappy to see it crash and overheat my system. The fatter PS3 apparently was most susceptible to this. I don't know if those issues where ever fixed - but for me, it made buying the game a horrific experience. I was luckily able to return it and get my money back. That title is probably one of the rarer games I've seen technical faults on, though. News of the glitches and lag in a title like Skyrim on the PS3 was very disheartening; and surprising too, since I played both Fallout 3 and New Vegas without much trouble. (Fallout 3 did have some game-stopping glitches at first - but they seemed to be weeded out with patches. Every once in a while something would freeze the game - but generally they both where excellent experiences for me.)

Dependability

That's the thing the PS4 has to do! The same goes for the X-Box 360 -- dependability! The advent of HD Graphics has sort of made video games, visually, hit a wall in terms of getting better. Now all we need from our systems are the same excellent graphics and technical prowess - but without any of the hassle. Video games, nearing the end of a console cycle, usually always show signs of developers trying to do something newer, and better, that the hardware can't always handle. Like their ambition is outstripped by their ability. The next generation of consoles should aim to make a system better able to utilize that ambition to it's fullest, with room to grow.

Sooooo... in short - I'm anxious and concerned about this upcoming console generation - but in generally am pretty please where video gaming has gotten us already. They only need to make it more reliable.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Dragon Quest Art Exhibit


I heared once it being pointed out how marvelous and miraculous the technology of photographs are. That without what is now a common technology, we would never really know what things in foreign lands actually look like. Photos, and by extension video, allow us to see such things like the Pyramids -- to actually see the immense grander, unfiltered through description or drawing, what the Pyramids look like. This post isn't about the Pyramids, but that was the example that was used when I heard that saying about photographs. It's true, really - photos let us see amazing things from around the world. Coupled with the internet, there's almost nothing that you can't look up and see for yourself - things you maybe never could see in person. So it struck me how wonderful it was that photos on the internet where able to show me something I could never visit: a Dragon Quest Art Exhibit in Japan.

The Mori Art Museum, located in the Roppongi Hills Shopping Center, late last year had a Dragon Quest Art Exhibit. Besides the fact that it's since over - even if I had known about it earlier, there's simply no way I could ever visit such an event. Yet a wonderful article on Siliconera.com gave readers a tour of the exhibit. Dragon Quest is a huge franchise in Japan, and it's history with the country pretty much is the prime example of the Japanese's love of Role-playing Games (RPG). It's one of their pop-culture staples. It was a slow journey for Dragon Quest to gain some measure of acceptance in America (especially in favor of shooter games these days) - but it stands as one of my all time favorite series, stemming all the way back to my childhood and the original Dragon Warrior.


Anyway, the article I read had pictures and gave details to parts of the exhibit they weren't able to photograph. Some of the photos are blurry, but it nicely gave a look at what the museum had to offer. Statues of the famous monsters of the series, screenshots, memorabilia and behind the scenes displays where shown. Although it's something they couldn't photograph, I found it interesting that they had a display showing the gameplay balancing the designers went through, about how much experience and money defeating a monster got you, with them ultimately deciding to making the game more challenging -- little details like that just sound fascinating.

- You can read that article here: Let's Take A Trip To The Dragon Quest Exhibit
- This site also talks about the exhibit, with more pictures as well: Chronicle of a Quarter Century
- Here also is the main Japanese site advertising the event, here.


Looking at the photos from their main website, it looks as if Dragon Quest creators and developers made appearances.


They also had a restraunt serving Dragon Quest themed food, called Ludia's Bar. (A place in Nintendo DS Dragon Quest 9.) In the image above you can see some of the food they had on the menu. The Slime Meat Bun, though... Thinking of eating it sort of makes me ill. Ever since they started selling them as a novelty food, it immediately seemed like a ill-appetizing food to me. It's the idea of eating a cartoon character, I guess, that grosses me out! Plus I alway picture the usually smiling Slime not smiling anymore, scared of being devoured! But I digress...


Photos from the website also show cosplayers greeting visitors -- playing the roles of Ludia and Erinn, from Dragon Quest 9.


Anyway - while I could never have been able to see such a place first-hand, it was nice being able to investigate it through the internet.