Monday, May 20, 2013

Project X Zone

There has been a depressing trend among Japanese publishers - deciding to pass on US Localization for games, because of a misguided perceived notion that American gamers don't like Japanese games. Its wrong - flat out wrong. I know First Person Shooters do currently dominate the landscape - but there is a desperate thirst for the games only Japan can create.

Its been slow, but I think its finally begun to dawn on companies, that while First Person Shooter might dominate - there still is a market for Anime-Infused video games. We saw a recognition of that, when Xenoblade Chronicles was brought over to the US, after initially only being brought over to Europe. Fan interest and good word of mouth really drove home that there was a market for such a game.

Another company that seems to be going out of its way, to serve foreign US fans, is Capcom. (They still don't get why we like Mega Man, over in the States so much; but I think they'll catch on soon enough.) They brought over the incredible title "Tatsunoko vs Capcom" on the Wii - jumping through legal hurdles bring that game over Stateside. Why the legal hurdles? Well, unlike in Japan - many of the Anime Tatsunoko characters are licensed over seas by various different companies. In Japan, it's all under one roof -- so bringing all so different-licensed characters into a single game must have been an insane undertaking!

Capcom, though, is doing it again - bringing over the ultimate Fan-Service Fighting RPG: Project X Zone. It's a combination of characters from Capcom, Namco-Bandai, and Sega. Mixing the three different universes into an RPG-like setting, with fights played out as Hyper-Stylized battles. It, quite frankly, looked awesome!  BUT - surely something like that could never come stateside, right? To literally EVERYONE'S surprise, Capcom announced the game would be coming to America, in June 25. It will cost $40 - as it comes with bonus content, a booklet, poster, and game soundtrack. (Essentially we'll be getting exactly what Japan got, in their limited edition version of the game.)

Every single character had to be re-negotiated for, to bring them overseas. And this game does not skimp on a cast of characters - boasting 25 teams of 2, equaling 50 characters! That isn't even counting the thrown-in characters, who join the battle as solo fighters -- John McClane, of Die Hard fame, even makes an appearance - though under a pseudonym. (I didn't even know they made a Die Hard game!) No characters are missing - even Tatsunoko vs Capcom came up short of one character.

The game looks like a wild ride, and I intend to get it. I have to admit, there are a lot of characters I don't recognize - but there are enough familiar faces, that I should be just fine. The likes of Ryu and Ken, Chun-Li and Morrigan should be familiar with any fan of Street Fighter, or Marvel vs Capcom series - but even some rare oddities, I never thought possible Stateside, are in here. Sakura Wars really stands out to me - as it's a game that caught my eye because of their stellar theme song. That series only made one US release - and you can tell why, just by the description, as it's a Dating Sim/Tactical Battle RPG. Still - that song has stuck in my head for years, and getting a chance to see it in this fighting game seems really cool.

One thing I have to note - is that while everything is translated - the original Japanese voice-overs remain. This is both a cost-saving decision, but also a fan-based one - as many fans love the original Japanese voices, and seeing them reproduced in this version is another testament to that fan-niche, that Capcom has been wise enough to cater too. Its because of fans that an untranslated portion of the game is both acceptable and desired. I think fan reaction to the game, simply put, showed Capcom that there was a market for this kind of product.

Here's a trailer for the game. (This is the english trailer, and noticeably doesn't have voices. Trust me, the original Japanese dialogue is going to be in the game.)

This trailer shows the Japanese version of the game, with voices - and highlight of many of the characters featured in the game.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Brainiac, Superman Unbound

Superman Unbound came out today - the latest in DC's stellar line of Animated Movies. Sadly, I see no hide nor hair of Bruce Timm's name on the project - and I have to wonder if that effected the quality of this film.

The movie, by no means, is bad at all -- it faithfully adapts the Brainiac storyline, from Geoff Johns' run on Action Comics. Yet it didn't seem to live up to the same bombastic sensibilities you expect from a movie (even if that means being unfaithful to the original source material) What it relied on, sadly, seemed to be scenes of violence, blood, and body mutilation (His Eyes!!!) While a Superman story can have violence, it seemed gratuitously added, to make Brainiac more frightening. In that way, at least, they succeeded - giving us the same Matrix-Inspired Collector developed by Johns and Gary Frank. Brainiac was expertly voice casted with John Noble (Fringe), perfectly captured the analytical monstrosity, but underlaid with a seething anger.

It seems like every time they do a new movie, they take the opportunity to cast someone new as the Man of Steel's voice. Matt Bomer does a good job here - but his voice likewise doesn't stand out as distinct or noteworthy as the Man of Steel. The same can be said for Molly Quinn, who voiced Supergirl -- she fit the part spot on, but nothing special was added to the character or roll. It didn't help matters that Kara, while being a relatable Super-Person with problems, instead came off as indecisive and annoying. Stana Katic, on the other hand, did a great job portraying Lois Lane, adding that sense of fierce competitiveness and brashness the character embodies.

The art design of the story, also, felt like it could have done so much more. Superman looks fine -- but, at times it felt like the story might have been served better with a more bombastic art style, like from the Elite movie -- or at least anything that didn't depict Superman as so skinny. That, contrasted by his many muscles, seemed like an odd contrast.

Also, as far as art direction, I feel like there where some missed opportunities, when it came to depicting Brainiac's ship. They captured the feel of it, but didn't seem to take advantage of it; I felt like, it should feel more scary - more alien. (I hesitate to say more cables and wires would have made it more creepy - but it really might have helped!)

I was also confused as to why Supergirl's parents where written into the movie, when steam-lining, and leaving them out of the story, would have made so much more sense. The emotional impact, of Superman finding them, was completely absent; making their inclusion all the more perplexing.

One last thing to mention -- the ending. It ended quite similarly to the original storyline, which excellently had Superman use his wits, in addition to his brawn. Still, there was a problem after the fight. I don't want to spoil anything - but I thought the gratuitous need for violence went over the top, concerning Brainiac's demise - with Superman looking on, no less! Superman doesn't have to save everyone - but it seemed very off-putting, to see Superman stand there while the villain self-imploded. (He could at least show a little concern)

I am being overly critical on some issues, to what was otherwise a good movie. The story arch for Superman, contrasted against Brainiac's ambitions, seemed like a decent direction to follow in; but they made it corny by what they added at the very end. It just feels like this movie could have been so much more!

Special features seem decent -- but only if you get the Blueray Combo pack - as DC Warner always seem to be trying to stick it to anyone who dares buy the cheaper DVD, which apparently isn't even worthy of having Audio Commentary (that was saved for Blueray only) They always seem like cheap manipulative jerks, when it comes to this.

BTW - Target might be you're best bet, to buy this movie - as they include a code for a Free Digital Copy of Action Comics #866, Part 1 of the Brainiac Story.

If you're interested, at all, in the original story -- they have a great value TPB, on, featuring the Last Son storyline, in addition to the Brainiac Storyline. Geoff Johns is a superb writer - and he brought his A-Game to the Superman titles. So if you're curious, especially with the upcoming movie coming out, this is an excellent volume to start with.

I really hope my disappointment about the DC Animated Film franchise will be put to rest, if the next film "Justice League: Flashpoint Paradox" turns out to be good. Bruce Timm might be gone - but there are still many immensely talented people still working there; I would just suggest to them; don't always play it safe. If a movie can be better, by changing something in the original story, then change it. It just felt like this movie kept too much to the original script - and what played excellently in comics, didn't work as well as it could have in film.