Monday, April 28, 2008

Street Fighter Tribute Hardcover

If you're into gaming then you know about Street Fighter. Be you a hardcore fighting game fan or just casual gamer the Street Fighter franchise is known to you, it's a staple in the history of game. Udon has long kept the story alive with unique books and comics set in the Street Fighter universe and their excellent art is also the design of the downloadable remake. Now gamers get a special treat as Udon is releasing (pre-order now) the Street Fighter Tribute Hardcover. This gorgeous book will contain not only professional art but fan art as well giving a truly unique look at all things Street Fighter from the folks who grew up playing. I for one am excited for this book, just some of the preview images are HOT! Here is what Udon has to say ... "UDON Entertainment would like to let all its fans know that the Street Fighter Tribute Hardcover Edition art book is now available for preorder! This 280+ page book features hundreds of skilled artists’ interpretations of Street Fighter, including top artists like J.Scott Campbell, Adam Hughes, and Penny Arcade's Gabe, UDON mainstays like Alvin Lee, Arnold Tsang, and Omar Dogan, and many, many more!"

Valkyria Chronicles PS3 Trailer

Coming to the PlayStation 3, Valkyria Chronicles is set in a fictitious continent reminiscent of 1930s Europe, divided in two and ruled by the Empire and the Federation.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm PS3 Trailer

I'll admit, I did not think it could get much better than Path of a Ninja on Xbox 360, but the game is on. Namco Bandai is stepping it up with Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm on PlayStation 3. If you've ever wanted to play an anime, this is as close as you're going to get right now. Take a look at this trailer and I promise to post some pics very soon.

Bleach DVD vol. 6-7 Impression

Ok, so I’m fully up to speed on the Bleach manga (rock solid btw) and now it’s time to get up to speed on the anime. Moving manga to anime can sometimes be tricky. Take Naruto for example. In the manga we are about two years down the road with a more mature Uzumaki while we have over 100 episodes of filler anime to watch to get to the same point. Dragon Ball GT, created for TV, no manga. So popularity can be a very good thing and sometimes confusing. So far with Bleach it’s the former. The anime leaves out little story points, to be expected, but overall it delivers an excellent telling of Ichigo’s adventures where the characters truly come alive, the music sticks with you and the action, oh yes the action is as fast paced and crazy as you imagined when first reading the manga. The anime also stands 100% on its own, but I prefer the two a complements to one another (especially knowing where the story goes, much anticipation).

Usually I talk about the manga or anime first then get into my rant, but it’s backwards time for me right now. See I’m loving Bleach right now, and volume 6 and 7 of the anime on DVD, well it’s just the bee’s knees. The animation is fluid and stands up very well for such a long running series. Emotion, humor, action, each piece is translated excellently. The voice work is tip notch as each character has a true personality, there is no fluff here … ok maybe Uryu could use some work, but that’s nitpicking. The opening and closing themes are staples on my iPod (yes, I found and bought them). All of this, story, art, animation, music, mixed with the excellent story makes for a set of DVD’s no anime fan should be without. Long did I hear about Bleach from my buddies before it hit the states, through fan-subs (bad) and I’m glad I waited for what Viz has delivered. Tip notch DVD’s with stickers and sometimes patches for a good price. Now onto the recap with more to follow, very, very soon.

Bleach DVD vol. 6
Yoruichi, Ichigo, Orihime, Chad and Uryu enter the Soul Society, the outskirts called the Seireitei. The gates to the actual society are sealed upon their arrival as they are detected so it’s time to breach the gate. Each gate has a massive gatekeeper and Ichigo steps up to the challenge taking down one such keeper, who in turn opens the gate for Ichigo only to give views a taste of what a captain is all about Ichimaru Gin appears, cuts the gatekeeper causing him to drop the gate and thinks he’s finished Ichigo and crew (nope, not that short a series friends). Now to find another route into the society, enter Kukaku Shiba who helps our heroes become human cannon balls, with her brother in tow Ganju and voila, DVD over.

A great beginning to the Soul Society saga as we as viewers enter the realm, see the class structure in place, the power of a captain and some of the interesting personalities such as Ganju who will be with us for a while in the series and now Kukaku has a fake arm, interesting choice for the anime as she did not sport this in the manga. Good volume leading into …

Bleach DVD vol. 7
Now we’re cooking with gas. The team is in within the society walls, but they have been separated. Rukia is not in the repentance cell, the Shishinro, and it’s here she gets news about outsiders being in the city. Besides a lot of running around each member of the group encounters various levels of opposition. Ichigo takes on a 3rd seat Ikkaku Madarame who warns him of his captain, Chad is running around, Uryu and Orihime take on a reaper with an aerial weapon and the stage is set for some first seat and captain showdowns.

Now we are up to speed … through volume seven. With volume 10 right around the corner I’m rushing to write a bit about volume 8 and 9. Hey, my volume 7 description was light because the upcoming action just buries it by comparison. Bleach is about to hit all new levels and there is much more to this story than Ichigo and his crew, just you wait.

O-Parts Hunter vol. 9 Impression

Fight! This is the main theme of O-Parts Hunter volume 9 from Viz as the contestants arrive at Olympia ready for the preliminary rounds. Jio has been knocked out, but gets included in the finals, along with Yuria (young girl form another ship) as two of the ships only had one entrant … everyone killed by winners. There is a case of mistaken identity as Jio is dumped with the rest of the losers form the ships. Yes he survives, but this shows you just how little regard the folks of Olympia have for the world below, just dumping bodies from their ships, brutal! So, the tournament begins and first up, Jio vs. Anna, the larger chested lady who sucker punched him in the ship. We learn about her reasons for entering the tournament right before she loses (naturally) to Jio. We are also introduced to Lord Ikaros of Rock Bird, who has an evil aura surrounding himself. There is something fishy about how the city stays afloat and the frequency of these tournaments … hmmm. In the background we learn more about the Zenom Syndicate and their demon reverse Kabbalah, the Ten Sephirot, the Stea Government and the ten angels of the normal Kabbalah and all the weirdoes intertwined. New players such as Kite and Yuria are introduced, each with their own reason for fighting and there are secret agendas at work everywhere. Not your normal tournament indeed.

The art, impeccable as always with variety and flare just perfect for the setting. Evil guys look evil, good guys look tough and nice and the oddballs, yeah they are all wrapped up like a mummy. The story or I should say it’s take on the tournament storyline, is fun. From Dragon Ball to Naruto the tournament in manga is indeed a staple, and it’s never, ever just a true fight. The going-ons behind the scenes of Rock Bird is what allows this tournament to stand apart as you’ve got two government factions working on angel and demon Kabbalah’s, their agents sprinkled around, hidden agendas for each tournament participant, they mystery of the cities leader and that’s just the beginning (there is a guy running around with fish weapons!) O-Parts hunter is not breaking any Shonen molds, nor does it break any new ground. What it does is take excellent art mixed with superb character designs and takes the staples of the Shonen world (super powers, tournaments, journey, etc) and weaves a tale that is just as enjoyable to it’s core as any title out there. At the end of the day this is all you can ask for from a manga, one that leaves you wanting more and happy with what you just read. This is O-Parts Hunter, a fun engaging action ride that you don’t want to get off of and you cannot wait to get back on. Nine volumes in, not too late to pick up every last one and get rolling.

PiQ Impressions

Alas poor Newtype, you were that beautiful supermodel that was just too expensive to maintain, the one that was easy to approach but nobody ever did for fear of your glamorous look and content. Yes, I’m comparing Newtype to a super model because DAMN I loved this magazine. I don’t speak, read or write Japanese but I would get Newtype for the artistry and content. When it was announced here in the states I was thrilled and signed up from day one.

Imagine my surprise when I received an issue of PiQ with a note about the demise of Newtype. Well, surprise may not be the right word. For a time we’ve, the anime fans, have seen a grand influx of anime of all types, manga too, that was just too much for fans to keep afloat. Geneon goes under, anime companies begin to package series as box sets, and it was a golden era that is now getting slim in a good way, but more on that later. So enter PiQ a new magazine set to incorporate the anime fans of Newtype with a more broad cultural appeal. Anime, Comics, Games, Movies, Music, TV and then some. This is actually how my blog started before I narrowed down to just a few topics, a course I believe PiQ will need to follow. I love the game, anime and manga coverage but I really don’t need in-depth movie, Blu-Ray or not, coverage. Entertainment Weekly will serve the purpose there my friends. Give me what Newtype did, the anime and manga news mixed with a more American gaming coverage and the cool swag you see in any import store. I want to know about cool music, but not mainstream, please leave the mainstream alone. I want to know about gadgets without thinking I’m reading Wired.

I want to know what Entertainment for the rest of us is. Fans of Newtype, me folks, me, will miss the DVD, the giveaways, but PiQ has a chance to serve up the great feature stories, gaming coverage, swag and more. This is a bus of limited size. Not everyone will fit on board so make sure you take care of the Newtype audience and don’t ignore us, or bore us, with mainstream coverage. I please with you PiQ, before time for renewal come up, to listen to some advice from a fan. There is a magazine niche you can fill, a more robust Anime Insider for lack of a better description. The fans are here, we want to love you, but following up a super model like Newtype is not easy to do. Just a few notes from a concerned and interested party. Thanks for listening.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Trinity Blood vol. 5 manga Impression

Sister Esther must cope with seeing Abel’s released Crusnik form while Petros makes a tough choice to assist the Earl of Memphis in his quest to stop Radu from destroying the city of Carthage. Yes, the story in Trinity Blood volume 5 from Tokyopop is straight and to the point, all about action. Picking up where volume 4 left off there is no slowdown as choices must be made and quickly in order to prevent a cities destruction and ensure the safety of Catherine. The Earl of Memphis makes a plea to the recovered Petros, a plea that is answered while Abel takes it upon himself to disarm the weapon causing the sandstorm. We learn a little about Abels background while seeing the emergence of a stronger Esther.

The story in the Trinity Blood manga shares some similarities with the anime, but they are indeed their own works to be appreciated together but not tied to one another. Radu’s betrayal is the same, but his means of acting against Carthage are not. I found the Earl of Memphis to be a much stronger character in the manga. The are is as beautiful and gothic as ever and helps to show a more mature Earl and a less girly Petros. The triad of Story b Sunao Yoshida (story), Kiyo Kyujyo (art) and Thores Shibamoto (character design) is a seamless as any I’ve read. This volume of Trinity Blood flew by with great action and story development all carried by outstanding art. The anime may be over but Trinity Blood is going strong in manga and novel format. Before you check out volume 5 go back and catch-up a bit with at least volume 3 and 4. A worthy read any fan of the anime will love.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed Web Documentary #4

When it comes to gaming what comes to mind? Xbox 360, PlayStation 3? Well guess what there are still a few other players in the gaming market including the not-just-for-casual Wii, portables DS and PSP and yes even the PlayStation 2. Why do I bring this up, well for this trailer of course, to show that Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, while being highly anticipated for the next-gen'ers is also getting original (not ports) for the other sytems listed. Check out this trailer, no Jedi mind tricks here, just one solid looking Jedi/Sith romp.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Iron Man The Video Game Making-of Video

Take a look inside SEGA and get the scoop on the inner workings of the Iron Man Video Game hitting aroudn the same time as the movie.

Doors of Chaos vol. 1 Manga Impression

Doors of Chaos volume 1
Keys to the doors, one to open, one to close. This is the fate of twins Clalisa, to open, and Mizeria, to close, a fate that never seemed too burdensome until their coming of age 16th birthday. Raised together away from the rest of society the girls are always in the company of their protector Rihitel and their time together is that of dreams, which turn to nightmares when Rihitel betrays and kidnaps Clalisa and begins to open the doors, the Four Doors of Chaos. There is a delicate balance between two worlds, one the land of humans where the girls reside, the other a dark and twisted land of demons. Long separated by the sealing of four doors, portals, it’s Rihitel’s betrayal and the opening of one of the doors that sets everything in motion. While trying to take Mizeria, Rihitel is thwarted by a savior in white, his opposite a protector who is protecting Mizeria. Now it’s Mizeria’s time to hunt for her sister while avoiding demons around every corner, her betrayer as well as the reality of the world outside her protected realm.

The story crafted by Ryoko Mitsuki is gothic in look and feel. There is a very medieval vibe to the settings with kings and royalty, long flowing elegant gowns and dashing heroes with swords at their sides and very real and discernable bad guys around every corner. While it’s clear who’s on which side it’s the why that will get readers hooked. The naivety of Mizeria and the sudden betrayal she must face will consume readers as it does our main actress in this cross-dimensional drama. See I’m leaving out some of the groups and characters because part of the joy I took from this book is having these new groups thrust on you as you read, but what I will share is he story and it’s progression. It moves very fast from its secret garden origins to the party being crashed, which is great, get right too it. I love a good build-up, and this book very easily could have spent a few volumes fleshing out the back-story, but it’s this fast pace that is the real hook. I don’t yet know how deep these characters are, but I do know I want to find out, find out why Rihitel betrayed those he swore to protect, find out what’ sup with Clalisa, is she going along with it. I also have the hunch the demons may not, big maybe, be as bad as they seem. White and black are not always solid colors after all. The art style also seems to be evolving as you can tell Mitsuki is getting better with each page, characters more unique and the detail outstanding down to every frilly piece of clothing.

With more to come, so much more story to flesh out, Doors of Chaos volume 1 from Tokyopop is a manga any guy or girl will enjoy for a variety of reasons. Part Shojo, part Shonen you won’t have difficulty getting into the gothic action of Doors of Chaos. Preview and enjoy.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Gaming Report, Q1 2008

A Look at the First Quarter of Gaming in 2008

It’s official, 2008 is 25% done. Two slices of the pizza pie gone with six left to consume. Just how tasty has 2008 been so far for gamers, lets take a look at each system, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii, DS and PSP and see how each has fared, just who is delivereing the goods to gamers … and no comments on PC gaming, that’s a whole other bag that I just don’t have the knowledge to get into. Some games are good, others just worht commenting on. Please keep in mind that I’m looking at recent, new and original titles. Some of these are sequels, continuations in a series of games, but you won’t see games like Burnout, Need for Speed, Dynasty Warrior … games we’ve seen many, many times on every system possible. One or two sequels, ok, seven or eight, we know what we’re getting.

Games are listed in order of their release. If you want to know the Top 5 games, no matter the sytsem, you must play … scroll to the bottom of the list.

Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 – I’m grouping these two together as they’ve had quite a few nice multi-platform titles. I’ll specify which hit both systems and be a general as I can for each.

Grade A – These are games you’ll want to buy, keep in yoru collection and play again years from now for the same joy the first go around gave you.

  • Devil May Cry 4 – Capcom – Multi – Yes the story is not going to win any Oscars but the gameplay, the characters, graphics, levels, boss fights, combos … the whole package and a decent difficulty level make this one hell of an early season release. This was also one of the first games I budgeted for in 2008.

  • Lost Odyssey – Microsoft Game Studios – Xbox 360 – The best RPG on 360. I know, not much competition but even stacked up against the deep RPG library on PS2 in recent years Lost Odyssey holds it’s own. Great music, beautiful graphics, standard cookie-cutter story and an evolving main charcter hook gamers from start to finish. You won’t be converted to an RPG fan by Lost Odyssey, but if you’re already into the genre you want this game.

  • Condemned 2: Bloodshot – SEGA – Multi – As scary as any survival horror game has been in recent years. I spent just a bit of time with Condemned 2 (rental) and it made that much of an impression on me. The game is bloody, and based on my playtime and what I’ve read and heard around the net I’m giving this a passing grade.

Grade B – Good games with a few holes that just don’t quite make the grade when it comes that legandary status which makes you remember them for years.

  • Army of Two – EA – Multi – Delay and worth the wait? A little of both as AoT delviers on very unique co-op gameplay, much better with a live body, but serviable with the CPU AI. Yes the dialogue can get cheesy at times, but the graphics deliver the goods and there is some good level design to be had. Solid is what Army of Two is, I just felt something was lacking … story maybe, we shall see in Army of Two … 2.

  • Frontlines: Fuel of War – THQ – Xbox 360 – Just not enough her to make this war title stand out, not with the likes of Call of Duty 4 in it’s way. You will enjoy the online component, but won’t remember too much about single-player.

  • Turok – Touchstone – Multi – A really good FPS with the added third party apsect of how to use dinos against foes mixed with top notch voice acting and a very Sci-Fi made for TV story. Fans of the series should enjoy, but why not go with Turok’s comic roots?

  • Viking: Battle for Asgard – SEGA – Multi – Still playing this puppy, but so far it is mesuring up quite well to the God of War it feels so similar too. Before I’m done here we may, MAY, move this puppy up in grade.

  • Dark Sector – D3 – Multi – Another title I’m still mixing it up with and so far so good on this third party action game that just makes me want to watch Krull over and over. References aside Dark Sector offers up an interesting story of a virus gone bad that mutates people in different ways. Now that I think about it Dark Sector is the love child of Krull and Resident Evil … good times.

Back of the Class – These titles are not bad, they just appeal to a specific gaming audience is all.

  • Kingdom Under Fire: Circle of Doom – Microsoft Game Studios – Xbox 360 – Fans of Kingdom Under Fire need apply, all others, rent first. You get to learn more about the KUF world and the humor is great.

  • Culdcept SAGA – Namco Bandai – Xbox 360 – A solid card game without a real life componet … interesting, but this card/board title is great fun, especially when played with friends.

  • Lost Planet: Extreme Condition – Capcom – PS3 – What you got on the 360 you get on the PS3 with downloadable content included. If this released on both systems at the same time it’s much higher on the list, but hey, PS3 owners get a hot game none the less.

Nintendo Wii Is it a casual machine … yes, but it’s also not to be overlooked by serious gamers. Just take a look at the sweetness to hit in Q1 as well as a few borderline titles.

Grade A

  • No More Heroes – Ubisoft – Some say good, others say bad. Me, I’m in the good court. See what Ubisoft has done here is create a Wii game for gamers, one that’s mature, looks great and plays fun, yes fun, without using all kinds of gimmicky controls. I mention Ubisoft because they are really the first company to hook the Wii up wiht a grade A title not named Nintendo.

  • Super Smash Bros. Brawl – Nintendo – Let the brawling begin. So many characters, best graphics on the Wii … just … too … much fun! Another game I’ve rented a few times but trust me I will be buying soon enough and so should you.

Grade B

  • One Piece: Unlimited Adventure – Namco Bandai – I wrote about One Piece before, and yes I did not have much good to say, but fans of the series will enjoy this game. I just wish the graphics were better and the stupid costumes would not have been used. Having played more since I last wrote I will say I enjoy this puppy more now than then.

  • Dragon Quest Swords: The Masked Queen and the Tower of Mirrors – Square Enix – Big time fan bias here. I love Dragon Quest, and this short, simple on rails sword swinging game just made me giddy.

  • House of the Dead 2 & 3 Return – SEGA – Do you like light-gun games? If yes, buy this dual pack of zombie shooting fun. It’s what you played in the arcade in your home, on the Wii, and really it’s a part of the ever fading arcade era you need to remember.

Back of the Class

  • Furu Furu Park – Majesco Games – Another mini-game collection, but one with a more Japanese feel. Titles worth mentioning are ... well it’s a good rental.

  • Samurai Warriors: Katana – KOEI – Bad, bad KOEI. A sword based game set in the Samurai Warriors rich world shoudl not feel this much like a chore with bad control and early-gen GameCube graphics.

Nintendo DS Ah, the system I spend the most time with, thanks in huge part to Square Enix.

Grade A

  • Advance Wars: Days of Ruin – Nintendo – The first Advance Wars on DS was great with outstanding gameplay and solid graphics. The sequel offers up more of the same, makes the DS a must own system and also gets dark and moody with it’s story-telling. Right up there with Revenant Wings for me.

  • Professor Layton and the Curious Village – Nintendo – Out of left field, that’s where Professor Layton hits gamers from. I’ve been that impressed with what I’ve read about this title that I’m telling you to buy it, even when I’ve yet to make the plunge.

Grade B

  • Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates – Square Enix – The game that promoted me to buy a GameCube gets new life on DS, cleans up some of the issues, offers up a new story and delivers a solid RPG. I still have trouble grasping the graphics, but Revenant Wings took over 30 of my time, and that was cartoony.

  • Ninja Gaiden Dragon Sword – Tecmo – Reputation alone title here. Story is the same as big brother, but gotta give props the control scheme. Now if only I can find someone to borrow this from …

Back of the Class

  • Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney – Capcom – More of the same, but not a port of a Game Boy title, this one was made for the DS, but it’s more of the same. Go get Harvey Birdman.

  • Naruto: Ninja Destiny – D3 – Getting updated and tweaked games that have been out in Japan for a while just sucks for us anime gaming fans. While I like what is being done here, it just is lacking. Naruto on the DS just does not measure up.

PSP Gaining steam with some top notch, original tiles, some of which are getting ported to PS2.

Grade A

  • God of War: Chains of Olympus – SCEA – Not as long as it’s older brothers, but this is God of War done right, in all its glory on the PSP. It’s the best, plain and simple the best.

  • Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII – Square Enix – Ok, what did I just say about God of War … well apply it to Crisis Core, another franchise I have a huge bias towards, but this time it’s not needed. Besides being the best looking PSP title I’ve played, FFVII fans finally get a good game in the franchise.

Grade B

  • Patapon – SCEA – There are few games on this list that I’ve not played. I made a point of renting, borrowing or buying all here, with a couple exceptions. Patapon is one of those, and the more I read the more I’m tempted to purchase. Grade B just on reputation thus far, maybe a higher level at the end of the year if and when I play.

  • Wild ARMs XF – Xseed – Love the gameplay, strategy goodness, and the character design is rock solid anime fare, my favorite. I’m a few hours in and really enjoying it, but Disgaea is still taking so much of my on the go gaming time.

  • Wipeout Pulse – SCEA – The franchise that keeps on keeping on. A great on the go racer with trippy music, nostalgia for older gamers and a great intro for newbie’s to a form of racing that really needs to be revived.

Back of the Class

  • Pursuit Force: Extreme Justice – SCEA – It’s ok I guess, if you liked the first game.

Top 5 Games of Q1 2008 – And the winners are …
5 – Lost Odyssey – Microsoft Game Studios – Xbox 360
4 – Devil May Cry 4 – Capcom – Multi
3 – Super Smash Bros. Brawl – Nintendo – Wii
2 – God of War: Chains of Olympus – SCEA – PSP
1 – Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII – Square Enix – PSP