Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Hellgate London: Exodus
The year is 2028 and the Hellgates are open in London. Taking society by surprise demons pour into our world and destroy without thought. The military and police are no match and fall like files while the land begins to transform, a process called the burn. Not all of humanity is caught off guard. An underground, hidden, group called the Templar have been training and preparing for ages for this invasion, but even they are overwhelmed and must sacrifice a majority of their men in the battle of all hollows eve, to convince the demons they are no longer a threat, to save the survivors and allow them time to counter the offensive. Hope for winning the war is lost, but hope for keeping the demons from winning remains. Thomas Cross is one of the Templar to fall during all hollows eve, and it’s his son Simon, living in South Africa, and a bit of an outcast since he left the Templar, with whom the story follows. As Simon sees news of an alien invasion in London his fears, what he was taught growing up, comes to realization. The stories, the demons are real and he must make his way back to London. Simon does indeed make his way back to the island, meeting Leah Creasey on the way, a girl looking for her father. Simon faces the dangers of the journey and makes his way back to the Templar with Leah only to find he is still considered an outcast for his leaving years before. We are also introduced to a sad soul, Warren Schimmer, who finds in himself a hidden power and troubled past, which brings him to the attention of another party, the Cabalist, who look to harness the power of demons and seize control of them while changing their bodies with tattoos, horn crafts and the like. During one summoning Warren encounters a demon named Merihim who recruits Warren after a few tiffs, to be his emissary in this world. Merihim cannot enter via a Hellgate due to some demon invasion rules. Warren and Simon are set on collision paths due to their shared objects of gaining a legendary hammer, an errand High Seat Booth sends Cross on with other Templar. Booth is an old childhood rival of Simon’s and let’s just say they don’t like each other. Simon cuts off Warrens hand, Merihim gives Warren a new hand and Simon cuts ties from the hiding Templar under Booth. The story concludes with a desperate plan hatched by Simon to get refugees out of London via a train, a cause many Templar rally too. Merihim and Warren are both encounter and Leah shows up as not the innocent girl looking for her father.
Exodus sets the stage via Simon very nicely. We are introduced to the world, to what has happened to London as Simon encounters it. The various factions seen in the game are introduced also with specific characters tied to each, Simon, Leah, Warren, Merihim just to name a few. There are plenty of questions to be answered and the pacing of the story is nice with lulls in the action to flesh out the story. Not every side is truly good or bad. There is a reason for the invasion, a might makes right type of order, and even within the Templar there are factions and differing opinions. Not all are noble and there are many shades of gray. After the train escape, what is next? Goetia.
Hellgate London: Goetia
Four years have passed since the train exodus and Simon’s group has grown. More Templar from all the houses flock to his banner to help save those left in London, as few as they may be now. News of other Hellgates around the world bring a damper to escape as nowhere is safe. The burn continues to transform the land and Simon is urged to form his own house, which he of course refuses. Leah helps out Simon during a demon ambush and we learn more about her shadow group. Dr. Macomber, a professor of linguistics, is brought to Simon’s attention as he understands some of the demon language and knows of a book, the Goetia, which contains demons names, one method to have power over the demons. Warren also comes to gain a book, one Merihim orders him to get, but one which communicates with Warren and strengthens him. The secret of this book is revealed later setting the stage for the final Hellgate novel, but more on that later. As we learn more about Leah we learn of Lyra Darius, seen at the beginning of the PC game, her fate and what exactly happened, very nice tie-in. Warren faces off with Merihim and takes on a few of his rivals while Simon is betrayed by Booth.
Goetia continues the story and trials of both Simon and Warren and was a quick read since the story flows. The land and setting is bleak, but it’s the faint hope that keeps you reading as our participants are just part of a larger story. We learn more about the demons past in our world, their reason and rules for invasion, which helps explain Merihim, as well as a bit of history on the Templar, including Dr. Macomber’s interaction with Thomas Cross. Simon is gaining more prestige, not wanted of course, but because he embodies what the Templar are. He is a noble and tragic figure. A budding relationship sprouts with Leah (end of the book) and Warren faces a new set of trials, which I just cannot spoil here. Both books are solid, with some minor editing issues, misuse of works and spelling, but overall great. Like I said before these books made me by the video game and take an interest in a series I would not have ever glanced at. I hope this recap urges you to pick up the books and take a journey to a bleak future where the Hellgates are open and humanity is on the brink of extinction. Good times.
Friday, July 25, 2008
This has to be one of the shortest, vaguest recounts I’ve written, with good reason. xxxHolic is one of those rare anime where each story stands so well on its own, much in the same manner as Mushi-Shi. There is not set destination just an interesting journey to accompany Watanuki on. The stories in volume 2 expand the cast of characters and deepens reluctant bonds among friends and rivals. Those that need help must want help as a computer addicted mother learns while a monkey paw comes with a price for another young lady. Not everyone needing help is alive as a hydrangea experience teaches Watanuki. The arty style is unique, pure Clamp goodness with long arms, legs, bodies and a simplicity that enhances the story and emotion. Indeed it is the story that drives this anime and makes it special. Each story, tasty to say the least. If you liked Mushi-Shi then this xxxHolic is for you.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Volume 9 of D.Gray-Man from Viz begins to hit a nice stride. I’ve said before that this manga is excellent in the art department and character design, but the story can sometimes get confusing, which is odd for a manga where there is more room to flesh out story. Well the Earl explaining the Ark and a bit about Cross and Allen’s revelation about his Innocence begins to tie it all together in a nice way. The battles are getting fast and furious, and there is so much more to come as we’ve not even seen Cross, or any generals, in action yet. Plus we just saw for the first time the truly evil, mad, face of the Earl. I’m really interested to see how this action translates into the anime realm, and we will see that soon. Nine volumes in and there is not too much more I can say about the art and character design, now it’s all about story and we are picking up speed. Story coming together and fights are fast and furious, nice.
Friday, July 18, 2008
"UDON BRINGS THE STREET FIGHTER® GOODS TO THE SAN DIEGO COMIC-CON
Exclusive Street Fighter® Comics, Hardcover Art Book and Art Prints at SDCC
Toronto, ON – July 17, 2008 – The 2008 San Diego Comic-con is only a week away, and UDON is preparing for the studio’s biggest year ever. Come celebrate Street Fighter®’s 20th Anniversary with an all-new hardcover art book, exclusive art prints, and the return of new Street Fighter comics with 3 exclusive covers!
UDON’s featured item is the Street Fighter Tribute limited edition hardcover. Featuring 320 pages of all-new pinup art celebrating the Street Fighter franchise’s 20th anniversary, this gorgeous art book includes pieces by such greats as Adam Hughes, J.Scott Campbell, Mark Brooks, Sean “Cheeks” Galloway, Bobby Chiu, Bryan Lee O’Malley, Penny Arcade’s Gabe, Arnold Tsang, Alvin Lee, and hundreds more!
Also tying into Street Fighter Tribute, UDON will have exclusive art prints for sale of select Tribute art pieces. Contributing artists will also be selling prints of their own tribute pieces at their booths all over the convention.
For those fans who have been patiently waiting for new Street Fighter comics – the wait is over! SDCC is the launching point for Street Fighter Remix #0. This all-new prelude comic features three stories by Omar Dogan, Jeffrey “Chamba” Cruz, and Joe Ng, each of which leads into one of UDON’s three new Street Fighter comic series. Fans attending the con will have their choice of not 1, not 2, but 3 convention exclusive covers, featuring the iconic Ryu, the sexy Chun-Li, or big brawler Alex! The new Street Fighter comic stories all begin here, so be one of the first to get in on the action!
As always at the UDON booth, you’ll be able to get autographs and sketches from your favorite UDON artists, pick up art books, trade paperbacks, manga and posters, and get the latest scoop on the studio’s newest projects! Drop by Booth #5368 and celebrate 20 years of Street Fighter with UDON!"
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Cecil – Noble and menacing all at the same time (bad guys have white hair right?). Cecil is armoured and colored in shades of blue that fad and dither nicely with an intense look of determination highlighting his serious posture, clenched fist and highly detailed cape and clothing. A fine piece of work for something so small.
Rosa – What would a trading arts set be without a lovely lady, nothing I say, just nothing. Rosa will delight any fan with innocent look, green eyes, flowing blond hair twisting in the not-there wind along with her pink and purple cape. Her green cross pendant stands out on her yellow harem-ish outfit with a pink bandanna and purple crown atop her head. She is the picture of elegance with a bit of shazam thrown in for any desktop.
Cain – If Rosa is the tranquillity of the set then Cain is the rage. Menacing blue and black armour is adorned with a long spear and soulless dragon helm. There is not soul in this figure, just a menacing solider ready to dispense with anyone in the way.
Edge – Not that far off from Cain, Edge also has a major … well edge to his stance and look. The green eyes relay a man deep in thought about his next action with a flowing cape and very colourful belt. Edge screams action but in a smooth and masterful way that is not overly complex.
Rydia – The other trading arts sets have four figures, this one has a bonus with the tiny Rydia included. She is half the size of other figures, by far the cutest and most innocent with colourful greens, purple, blues, reds and oranges mixed into an outfit any rainbow would be proud of. Her hair and hip sash flow in the wind as she stands on the precipice of adventure. A classic end to a great set of figures.
Overall the set is solid and fans will dig this title specific collection that gives a taste of the characters in all their 3D glory. A treat and a great price point. Keep an eye out, they’ll be hitting online soon for ordering.
Like the NBA draft this year after the first two picks it’s really a toss-up of who will be drafted next. Ok, so maybe for most gamers an NBA reference is a stretch, but the point remains. After Grand Theft Auto IV and Metal Gear Solid 4 there are some solid games, but really nothing in the same stratosphere are these two titles. This is supposed to be the slow time for gaming, but from what we’ve got below there are some great gaming options with more news to hit from E3 and Comic-Con. Good times, now onto the games (and yes, I’m one guy, this is my list influenced by my playing and research).
Multi-platform – These titles rule the day. More and more games are hitting multiple platforms, which is a good thing for gamers. While we have our licensed titles we are getting more unique offerings. Let the fun begin.
Grand Theft Auto IV – All they hype and it lived up to it, period. No lawyers or politicians on the radar yet, but there is still time. Oh, downloadable content is also on the way so prepare to miss work, family and more.
Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Conspiracy – I wrote this game off when first heard about it, then I played it. Worthy of the movies this game is just solid, innovative and full of action. A true sleeper hit.
GRID – Ah, the first title on the list I’ve not yet played, but I bet, 100% this will be the next great racing franchise to step up with GT and PGR.
Battlefield: Bad Company – From the first game I have not played to the next. Based on reviews I’ve read and a 30 min demo I played (ok, I have played a bit, usually like to spend 1-2 hours) read the reviews, this is a good war game.
Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit – Yes we’ve played this game before, but for me, for fans of Dragon Ball you need to play this game. Why not an A you say? It ends at the Cell Games, what the hell!
Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures – We’ve played this game before, and a bit better, with Star Wars but fans of Indie will dig it and it’s a formula that works. I love the Star Wars references, but their inclusion shows you a bit of Indie’s shortcomings.
Hellboy: Science of Evil – I like me some Hellboy and this title plays solid, delivers the atmosphere you expect from the franchise and it gives great service to fans of the comic.
Guitar Hero: Aerosmith – This is more like a large add-on pack that any Aerosmith fan will dig, and that I picked up for just the Stone Temple Pilots.
Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas 2 – Under the radar. RSV2, like its predecessor is hot and one of the few titles, sequels I’ll cover.
Back of the Class
Alone in the Dark – A next-gen, oft-delayed title that is fun, but just misses the mark on a few levels. It’s not bad, just that plain looking girl at the dance nobody really pays attention too.
Xbox 360 – Exclusives are few and far between for both 360 and PS3. What we have below is one solid titles, one decent re-release (see section below for more on these) and one so-so. The multi-platform ruled the quarter.
Ninja Gaiden II – Not as hard (if you want) as the first game(s) and the controls need a bit of tweaking, but damn Ninja are cool and this game looks outstanding, and, well it does play sweet also.
Command & Conquer 3: Kane's Wrath – It’s C&C, with more story, units, missions and that great, great live-action acting we love. Fans of the series need apply.
Back of the Class
Operation Darkness – Love, just love the art style, but why does a 3rd, 4th gen title look just dated? This is what you like about SRPG’s but the graphics just need a bit of work. Did I miss something? Is this a new title or a port? Anyone?
PlayStation 3 – What was said for 360 carries water here. We’ve got one teaser, one major disappointment and one of the greatest games ever.
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots – Perfection. Every question is answered; the game is beautiful and game play perfect. Its perfection and the proper ending to MGS. Now when do we get to watch every cut scene in a theatre in a row?
Gran Turismo 5 Prologue – Looks beautiful, plays real … yeah that’s all I got. I’m sure my kids will love GT5, the full version, when it hits during their senior year of college (btw, they are 7 months old right now).
Back of the Class
Haze – Damn. My biggest sadness of the quarter. The concept behind haze is so cool, and I really dug the promo vids and game play, but losing your juiced up powers during the game just sets it back. What a cool feature just to lose into the game.
Nintendo Wii – Tons, I mean tons of games have hit the Wii, but only a handful are original, no crap that is worth the purchase.
Mario Kart Wii – You’ve played this game before, but like Madden it’s polished to near perfection and just dang fun. The online could use some work but still great racing fun.
Wii Fit – Good way to get some exercise in while gaming. Both serious and fun this type of use of the Wii is nice to see, when it works of course.
Boom Blox – Yup, another I’ve not played but based on what I’ve read it’s on the list and could move up once I take it for a spin. Google it and read some reviews, that’s what I’ve done so far.
Back of the Class
We Ski – Great idea just feels like a mini-game, not a full title.
Nintendo DS – Fan of role-playing then the DS hooked you up. Like the Wii there are a ton of niche, kiddie and crap titles out on the DS, but these ones do indeed shine, and yes there is a lean towards my type of gaming.
Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift – Yes, this is excellent. Classic strategy role-playing following Square Enix’s plan of re-releases and updates to old titles. FFTA2 is going to get a lot of playing time and is a must buy for any SRPG fan, period.
The World Ends With You – Like so many one-hit titles from Square Enix before it TWEwY is great. It oozes style and the action is unique and fun. On par with some of my favourite Castlevania DS titles.
Guitar Hero: On Tour – Here based on reputation. I’ve not yet played this puppy, but when you mix in great music and a new game play feature that works it’s a worthy title on any system. Will be interesting to see if any other publisher makes use of the attachment.
Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Darkness – A new, non-traditional Pokemon, sequel actually, that comes in two flavours. Pokemon is an easy sell and fun title for both kids and adults, but this title flows more towards the kiddies.
Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time – Re-read what I wrote above.
Etrian Odyssey II: Heroes of Lagaard – Another follow-up title with that old-school RPG grid action we love.
Summon Night: Twin Age – Here because I felt like putting it on the list, period.
Back of the Class
Almost every other title on the DS – Yup, there is a lot of poo out there, but it’s getting sorted out, just check out the discount bins.
PSP – It was a slim quarter for the PSP. Just when the system was looking hot with the Q1 releases it really regressed. I can’t really call out any stinkers this quarter due to the lack of releases.
Secret Agent Clank – Like Daxter before him Clank heads out and delivers one solid PSP adventure worthy of a port to the PS2.
R-Type Command – Who know? A strategy game based on a side-scrolling franchise what just worked … and the model you get when pre-ordering was sweet swag.
Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Heroes 2: The Phantom Fortress – Kinda sad, I really wanted to dig this title but it just did not deliver enough newness. I still love me some Naruto.
Re-release – I’m more calling these titles out as opposed to grading them. This is a good thing for video gamers are there are not many exclusives left, and when there are they have limited timeframes for exclusivity. For good or bad (usually good) these titles have made there way into new systems for all to enjoy, usually with added content. The Wii received Okami and Rock Band, much needed titles, PC received Assassin’s Creed, Devil May Cry, Mass Effect, Turok and Lost Planet, PS2 got an update for Persona 3 called FES (I LOVE Persona), Xbox 360 received a sub-par Supreme Commander and the previously mentioned C&C3: Kane’s Wrath and the PS3 received … well nada of mention.
Overall the quarter was ok. There were indeed a few legendary games released but this is like a football team with a top 5 quarterback and running back, Hall of Fame type players, but a so-so rest of the team. GTA4 and MGS4 must have sore backs from carrying this quarter.
Top 5 Games of Q2 2008 – And the winners are …
5 – Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift
4 – Mario Kart Wii
3 – Ninja Gaiden II
2 – Grand Theft Auto IV
1 – Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
Monday, July 14, 2008
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Naruto Volume 28
He’s back! After two years away, training with Jiraiya, Naruto is back in the Village Hidden in the Leaves and ready to resume his search for Sasuke. Eyes pop when Naruto sees a more mature Sakura, now in full training as Lady Tsunade’s apprentice. Old friends reunite and we learn about old enemies turned allies in Gaara, who is now the Kazekage of his village. Gaara, like many others, learned a lot from Naruto and risk his life for the village that once treated him as a disposable weapon. The battle is with the Akatsuki who are after the one-tailed Shukaku inside Gaara. As he falls in battle it’s up to the Hidden Leaf village to do some rescuing that is after Kankuro pursues Deidara (clay wielding Akatsuki chic) and gets his butt handed to him by Sasori, a puppet master formerly of the Sand Village.
Volume 28 continues the excellent we’ve come to expect from Masashi Kishimoto. He ‘grows-up’ characters in an outstanding way where they are easily recognizable all the while looking, well older. New characters are also introduced in the sands Granny Chiyo and Ebizo as well as Akatsuki Sasori and Deidara. Great art as always and the story loses zero ground as we pick up with the Akatsuki on the move. There is a fun treat of Naruto and Sakura trying to take bells from Kakashi in a repeat of their very first training exercise. There is also a shift as the story becomes more about the story and not just Naruto. Yes, it’s his manga, but other players are figured very up front and in the reader face, very nice. A great start to a new chapter, a new era for Uzumaki.
Naruto Volume 29
Time to face the Akatsuki. Kakashi squares off with Itachi, or more a copy, but the battle is still top notch. Naruto is itching to fight, but held by Kakashi at Jiraiya’s warning. Naruto does get trapped by Itachi’s ocular jutsu, but is pulled out by Sakura and Granny. Sakura reveals her medical abilities by curing Kankuro of a deadly poison, impressing Granny Chiyo (who has some kind of history with Tsunade). In addition to Kakashi’s team we see a revamped Guy’s team on the move and ready to fight, which they do with puppets of themselves as well as Guy facing Kisame again. Naruto also learns the true nature of the Biju, the number of tails and how he and Gaara are looking to be harvested.
Whew, lots to cover. The battles for Kakashi and Guy are kinda a bummer since they are just with puppets, but still shows some of their new powers, ditto for Sakura as she is really coming into her own. The revelations about the Biju are not really surprising, the death of a host is. What really leaves heads scratching is just what does Jiraiya warn Kakashi about regarding Naruto’s power? That will keep me coming back for more along with the excellent story, great characters and fast paced action that does not feel drawn out, it’s just right. Naruto rocks, good stuff.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
FUNimation is strong with titles like Dragonball, xxxHolic and the recently acquired One Piece. They have a great variety of titles, box sets, half season collections and 'best of' collections at great prices. Where ADV and Geneon had issues, FUNimaiton is rolling along with other players such as Viz (Naruto, Bleach, Buso Renkin) and Bandai (Gundam Seed). So first up is Geneon.
The official release reads "FUNimation Entertainment and Geneon Entertainment Sign Exclusive Distribution Agreement for North America." See Geneon did not go out of business, they just shutdown their operations in the states, not surprising due to the cost of anime, competition for shelf space and the fact they had a ton of niche titles. What this acquisition does is allows for a much broader library for FUNimation where they can take those hot titles, revamp them and hook them up proper for fans. What titles are we talking about ... how about Ergo Proxy, Hellsing Ultimate, Black Lagoon, Black Lagoon Second Barrage, Karin, Kyo Kara Maoh Season 2, Lyrical Nanoha, Elemental Gelade, Fate Stay Night, Rozen Maiden, Rozen Maiden Traumend, Shana, Shonen Onmyouji, When They Cry, and The Law of Ueki just to name some of the biggies. I've watched and written about quite a few of these titles but it's going to be great to know their future is secure. Hot announcement, hot titles. Oh, Geneon also has great music, but we shall see more about that in the future ... hopefully.
Now where there is a partnership with Geneon the ADV announcement is more a taking over. The official release reads "FUNimation Entertainment Awarded Rights to Titles Previously Held by AD Vision." So over 30 titles are getting transfered which implies maybe distribution rights were not met? I touched on a few issues with ADV and had suspicion, but this still caught me by surprise. A shame as like I said I worked with these folks and they were top notch. So is life and business I guess. Anyway this agreement is worldwide, not just the states, and since most of these series did see a full run here in the states FUNimation will get stronger with their digital distribution, partnerships and just influence of anime. I believe they hooked up with Apple and I know about YouTube and what it comes down to is FUNimation is in a position to use known anime, published anime, to help build awareness through new avenues. Some of the titles to keep an eye on include 009-1, Ah! My Goddess: Flights of Fancy, Air Gear, Air, Blade of the Phantom Master, Devil May Cry, Guyver: The Bioboosted Armor TV, Jing, King of Bandits: Seventh Heaven, Le Chevalier D'Eon, Sgt. Keroro 1st & 2nd, Tokyo Majin, Welcome to the NHK, and Xenosaga. Gen Fukunaga, President and CEO of FUNimation Entertainment, sums it up best by saying "We are very enthusiastic about these titles. Not only are these excellent series, but they also fuel FUNimation’s major initiatives in social networking, the FUNimation Channel and internet VOD. These new titles cement FUNimation as the leading anime provider for television broadcast and legitimate online content. These shows allow us to increasingly provide the best anime to our fans on their own terms."
Excited, yes. Sad, a bit. I'm excited, and so should every anime fan be, about FUNimation getting hooked up like this. I'm sad to see ADV follow Geneon, but times change. There have been fears that anime is on the decline, I see it as a rebirth. It's like the typical anime hero rising to power then being brought down by a major tragedy just to be reborn with new power, more concentrated power. Hmmm, Gohan obtaining his full power without going Super Saiyan is a good way to look at it. The anime flame was bright and strong, dimmed a bit but is now looking as strong as ever thanks to FUNimations acquisitions. Get excited, the next anime revolution is upon us.
Check out more of these trailers, and other games too, on AnimeSentinel YouTube Page.