Monday, June 24, 2013

Superman for a New Generation


Superman has been reinterpreted in many different ways, ever since he grew beyond his initial hit popularity starting in 1938. He's been interpreted as a Science Fiction themed comic, a love triangle romance, and all-American Superhero. Beginning, I believe, with Grant Morrison's Action Comics, as part of the New 52, a new Era for Superman in well underway! I've been a stellar supporter for Morrison's re-interpretation, re-casting Superman as a Sci-Fi Action Hero, with the magic and creativity only able to be captured in the Comics medium. Since Morrison's departure, though, it's been a little rough sailing. Andy Diggle's run on Action Comics clocked in at a grand total of 3 issues, jumping ship before the first issue even released. Scott Lobdell has been propping the series up during this year, and while he doesn't come close to Morrison's skill, he' been doing a passable job giving us entertaining, if not well written, Superman stories. (His writing actually feels like a throw-back, to how he wrote X-Men comics, back in the day. His writing it, while not great, is familiar and comforting, in a way.) Luckily, the standard for having far-fetched, fun and outrageous plot-points has been continued from Morrison's run.

After writing some Action Comics issues, Lobdell will be replaced with new regular series writer Greg Pak, with Aaron Kuder on art. Still not on the same level of Grant Morrison; but I'm excited to see a finite direction for Action Comics finally put underway, and Pak should do a fine job. As for Aaron Kuder, I think this is a great choice - as he showed us all what he could do, in the Action Packed issue of Superman #20, where Superman fought against Orion of the New Gods.

Adding Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder to Action Comics sounds great; but it's still not A-Game talent. Luckily that can be found in new Superman title "Superman Unchained" - written by rising star Scott Snyder, with art by the legendary Jim Lee. The first issue definitely did not disappoint - as Snyder brought in a new level of complexity, mixed with familiarity, to the Superman Universe - with a new threat, of the Government having their own version of a Superman, operating since during WWII. If there is one Superman title you should be following, this one is it.

(Warning: Large Image)

Their first issue, also, introduced a blatant gimmick, but one I really liked: a 4-page pullout, depicting Superman crashing through a space station. It was one of those magical comic moments - as the storytelling was actually uplifted by the boom and spectacle of this large poster-sized page. Do I want to see this as a regular thing in comics? Heck no! But for a one-off experiment, it really did impress me.

DC isn't letting up just yet, though - as they have a new Media Blitz coming, with September's Villains Forever month, featuring 3D Cover Comics. Now this, this is a stunt -- but, wow - it's an exciting stunt, highlighting various Villains of the DCU, and specifically bolstering Superman's Rogue's Gallery, with issues focusing on Zod, Lex Luthor, Bizarro, and others. I'm going into this event, planning to pick and choose which issues to get - focusing mostly on Superman's titles. The number of fill-in artists and writers concerns me, as to the quality of the issues; but this feels like a rare opportunity, as DC are doing these 3D Cover issues at a loss, even at $4 price point. Don't expect them to do this that often, or again in the near future. It's all about smashing through and grabbing attention of the media, fans, and new readers.

So, while in comics the New Modern Superman is slowly being solidified and catered to, for this new Generation - it's at the Box Office where Superman is truly getting a new start. The new film "Man of Steel" has been raking in the money - despite a number of negative reviews and fans responses.

For me, I land somewhat in the middle, concerning the film. I thought it was good; it did things very differently, from Lois knowing Clark's secret from the get-go, to the level of destruction caused by Superman's fights. This is a darker, more brooding emo Superman -- but not one devoid of hope and inspiration. Everyone immediately compares this new Superman to the legend of Christopher Reeves' version, which I think is a mistake to do. Simply put, there can be two Supermen -- the classic one, which no one will, or should, forget; and the new one. They don't necessarily cancel each other out.

For the next Superman film, I think the introduction of Lex Luthor will be paramount. DC, for a number of years, has been going the "Mad Genius/Concerned for Earth"-version of Lex Luthor - and I think, after the destruction caused by the fighting, Lex will have a welcome entry into audiences' minds, giving us a complex and fulfilling Lex Luthor, than that of movies past. I think, of all the actors they could choose - I'd urgently plea for the directors to consider Bryan Cranston for the role. Not only does he have the incredible range, depicting both befuddled father in Malcolm in the Middle, and morally astray meth cooker in Breaking Bad -- but he's an actor who would definitely draw people into theaters, as his appearance in small roles, like Argo, and Total Recall, elevated those films considerably. (I know, I know! Not enough to save Total Recall, though.)

The dramatic ending, for which I labeled this entry for Spoilers, of Superman snapping Zod's neck, is probably one of the most divisive moments of the film for viewers, and especially for Comic Book readers. While I love the the rule "Superman doesn't kill", I remind myself that Zod was always the big exception. John Byrne wrote a compelling issue, in which Superman, in a pocket/other dimension, made the hard choice to condemn Zod to death for his crimes. Now, the reasoning behind this was that Zod had killed, literally, everyone - Superman was all that was left, in terms of justice in this Pocket Universe. Still, fans sort of deny the event, ignoring it as not counting, the Pocket Universe-Zod being less than real, in some way. End of the day, though, Superman performed an execution, which could be considered by some even more cruel than a last minute, "people will die the next second unless he acts", kind of moment. So for me, the neck snapping moment wasn't what bothered me about the film.

What really irritated me was him showing up as Clark Kent, of the Daily Planet, at the end of the film! I know it was necessary - but, really, his secret identity was blown wide open in any number of ways -- showing up for work in a News rooms just laughingly seems absurd! I guess Lois will keep her trap shut, and no one else really saw Superman up close; but it still seems like a grinning--"if they only knew"--kind of move, that stains credibility. Though, really, Superman's secret identity has always strained credibility; so I guess I'm ultimately OK with it!

This new Supemran, for a new generation, might thrive, especially given all the money the movie has made. I think, for anyone looking for a less grim Superman, they only need look to the Comic books, which I think will support the franchise inbetween movies very nicely.

So what's you're opinion, about the New Superman? Will this new Era of the Man of Steel stand the test of time?

Friday, June 14, 2013

E3 2013

Since the demise of X-Play, and the entire G4 Channel, where to get my gaming news has been a difficult subject. That is until I found out where Adam Sessler has moved to: Rev3Games. You can find all their coverage of E3 - and the same kind intelligent and entertaining style of X-Play is brought to this new channel. Seriously - subscribe to it; they have a lot of good coverage, and listening to Adam Sessler talk about games, quite frankly, just makes you feel smart.

So thankfully I got my E3 Coverage Fix through Rev3. Here are the impressions I got from it.

Microsoft: X-Box One

One, the X-Box One is not garnering praise. Their insistence of forcing the Motion-detecting Kinect peripheral is a real red flag - all on top of having limited (or fee based) used games, and the unclear topic of wether you need an active internet connection at all times. I never got an X-Box 360 -- favoring the PS3 instead, and nothing in Microsoft's presentation convinced me to change that stance.

Lewis Black, on the Daily Show, pretty much summed up all the negative feelings I have about the X-Box One Kinect, in this segment.

The Daily Show with Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Back in Black - Future Technology
Daily Show Full EpisodesIndecision Political HumorThe Daily Show on Facebook

Sony: Playstation 4

Sony, on the other hand, came out refuting the X-Box model, saying that used games will not be monetized, the system will be region free (good for fans of foreign gaming), and a constant internet connection is not required. It did sound like the days of free Multiplayer will be gone, as a subscription service will be required -- but, since I don't care for Multiplayer, I'm not worried about it. BEST OF ALL: Sony is coming in at a $400 price point, a $100 less than the X-Box One.

Good games that look like they are coming to the Playstation 4 are the likes of Kingdom Hearts 3, Infamous 3, Final Fantasy XV, Final Fantasy X HD, and much much more. The Playstation 3 immensely impressed me during it's tenure, and it looks like the PS4 will not let me down in regards to the future of gaming.

Nintendo: Wii U

As for everyone's favorite video game giant, Nintendo? They decided not to have an E3 Press Conference, instead having a Nintendo Direct Video announcement. I don't know wether that was the right more or not - but they came loaded for bear when it came to games.

They are bringing out all sorts of core Nintendo franchises - like Super Mario 3D World, Super Smash Brothers, Zelda Wind Waker HD, Mario Kart 8, (which looked really spectacular in HD!!!). The 3DS is also hosting some great titles, like New Yoshi's Island, and Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.

Frankly, it just looks like Nintendo is making up for lost ground, bringing out their standard-bearer franchises, to make everyone happy. As an early Wii U adopter, it's quite appreciated. I actually think the Wii U has a bright future, all things considered. They certainly opened up to a disastrous start, with too few games available to players -- but, like with the Nintendo 3DS, they are poised to make the system a great contender for being people's 2ed console system. All they needed where a bunch of Mario and Zelda games.

The two games I wanted to point out, though - are exclusive to the Wii U - and make me excited, and forgiving of the far-too-early opening launch:

Wonderful 101

Wonderful 101, from the creators of Okami, simply made me scratch my head - wondering what the heck I was even looking at. This new trailer, though, helps narrow down the concept - of a group, controlled, Super Hero Squad, with both Japanese and American Super Hero elements.


The other game I wanted to highlight is simply titled "X" (for now, at least) - coming from Monolith Software - and this is the game I think people should consider buying a Wii U for.
The graphics of this game, in HD, just looking stunning and awe-inspiring, Monolith created Xenoblade - a much favored Wii title, which showed how much beauty that system could create. This game, frankly, reminds of Avatar. Watch; I'll bet you this becomes the standout game of the Wii U.

So E3 seemed to go over well. I'm hoping this generation of console system will last longer than the previous -- as the graphical power is reaching a limit, that doesn't need to be updated every 5 years. And if anything - it looks like Sony is the one who is going to come out on top; offering that powerful Next Gen Console - but for an affordable price.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Zelda Oracle of Ages: Goron Dance!

Nintendo recently released two great games - The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages, and Oracle of Seasons, for the Gameboy Color, on the Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console. When I was a kid, I absolutely adored Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. These duel titles, though, never came to my attention. So these games, releasing on the virtual console, seemed like a great deal - I bought them both (they link together, if you play them end to end, revealing a hidden finale for both titles)

This seemed like a great purchase! It even cost only $5 each - instead of the higher price each title will sell for after the 20th of June. (Only a few dollars more, I think) I was weirded out by the strange setting they place Link in - but I quickly acclimated, and discovered that this was, by and large, the same Gameboy adventure "Links Awakening" provided.

Then, it hit. I was sailing through the various dungeons, coming up to Dungen #6, which requires not 1, but 2 Mermaid Keys (used in different time periods). Looking for items, spells, what-have-you, is par for the course in Zelda titles. Yet these items are obtained though a mandatory rhythm game - which you have to pass twice, to be able to progress through the game. I was nearly about to give up, because the rhythm game of the Goron Dance, is so punishingly precise, and so sparingly instructive, that it felt like a miracle I managed to make it through as all. (By the Grace of God, really.)

Turns out, I'm not alone in my distaste for this required mini-game; sending millions of gamers playtime to screeching halt - if you sadly come up short in having "rhythm".

Here's a motivational meme I found about it.

So I wanted to both warn, and also help anyone who bought these games - and give you my tactic for winning those Goron Dance games.

What I basically did, was use the 3DS's Save Function, to repeatedly save my progress, though each dance move, to hold my progress - and also practice more quickly, and see what errors I was making in button presses, by loading and reloading each time I failed to complete the dance correctly.

This doesn't erase the challenge - but it darn well helps. I went from dreading I'd ever be able to finish either of these two games, to in a single session being able to overcome this obstacle.

As for the details, in how to procure the Two Mermaid Keys correctly (there are a lot of steps, trading, ect, involved), you can read here for information about it.

I'm only half way through Oracle of Ages, and while I dread the rhythm game, noted to also be in the sister title, I've heard its much easier to beat. It makes me wonder why they let these Game-Ending sequences go into the finished product. I'm not talking about bad game design, or having high difficulty -- its a sequence that, I assume, they must have seen people have difficulty with during play-testing. Oh well -- it's over. I hope this might help anyone who's thinking about downloading the titles, or anyone who already has and are stuck at this very same problem.