Saturday, January 24, 2009

Dragonball Evolution PSP Screenshots

Dragonball Evolution, the next Dragonball title for the PSP but not quite what was expected. This fighting game is based on the upcoming Dragonball movie, the live action movie which you can confirm from the Dragonball movie trailer and the fighter images below. Seeing the trailer, well this is not the DBZ otaku have come to love, but it seems to really draw on the spirit of Dragonball, Goku's younger adventures, with a mix of the older action. Not quite sure how the movie will be or the game but hopefully this game is not slated to be like the Street Figher video game based on the movie what was based on the game ... the DB game based on the movie based on the anime, based on the manga ... it could be ugly, but should be fun for fans and the PSP is always in need of unique titles.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Bleach DVD vol. 13 Impression

A quick detour and Bleach volume 13 is back on track. Don Kanonji returns for one funny adventure, assembling the Karakura Superheroes to battle hollows. As this quirky story comes to a conclusion the action back in the Soul Society hits new levels as Ichigo continues his Bankai training and Renji departs to free Rukia. A fateful encounter with Kuchiki leaves him close to death. The true power of Bankai begins here and continues as a certain power hungry captain frees Ganju, Chad and Uryu then takes on two fellow captains who show what it means to be a member of the court guards. As Rukia’s execution time approaches, and keeps getting moved up, it’s not just Ichigo and his team the Soul Reapers need to fear for the entire society becomes split on what is wrong and what is right. Just who will come out on top … that’s for volume 14.

Volume 13 of Bleach is everything there is to love about this series. Yeah, the first episode is fluff, made up of one page chapter beginning snippets from the manga, but the next three episodes really kick into gear and utilize the excellent, solid animation, design and voice work. Ichigo continues his training, but the action with Renji, release of his Bankai as well as three captains facing off, now we are hitting the ground running. Volume 12 offered up a lot of background and now, while there is still some history to tell, the action and confrontations begin to make sense and there is no turning back. Yeah there is still more background to learn (like what the hell happened to Aizen) but with these type of special powers, Bankai being unleashed there is so much to love about Bleach and very little to dislike.

Street Fighter IV Trailer Impression on The Examiner

Over on The Examiner I've posted my impression of the SFIV trailer released today. Check out the trailer below then head over to see what I've ranted about, but know this, I think this game looks sick, not new but very well done. The SF formula has survived on strong game play and memorable characters and SFIV just seems to get better. So money I must say.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Q4 2008 Video Game Report

On The Examiner I've posted a three article feature, last week, that takes a look at the top games from Q4, fourth quarter, of 2008. These pieces were divided up in next-gen, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, Nintendos systems Wii and DS and finally the PSP, PS2 and a few PC games.

The multi-platform market rocked reducing exclusives for both systems whil e Gears of War 2 and LittleBigPlanet were sweet exclusives.

Nintendo Wii was plain sad while the DS gave innovative Castlevania goodness and plenty of RPG action.

The PSP saw nada while PS2 rocked with Persona 4 by itself as well as some Chain of Memories action.

Overall a good quarter, duh when you consider it's all about holiday sales. See more on the full articles, but if you've not time to read then enjoy what ... well what you just read. Best game of quarter, tie between Gears 2 and P4.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Dragon Ball GT Season 1 Impression

Dragon Ball GT Season 1 DVD Box Set
This is how Dragon Ball GT should be done. The Dragon Ball GT Season 1 box set from FUNimation delivers one comprehensive set of episodes, 34 total, finally doing justice to the lesser paid attention to DB.

As Goku emerges from seven years of training in the time chamber with a new grown Uub he is faced with thieves in the tower, Emperor Pilaf and his badly aged cronies. He is after the black start Dragon Balls which nobody knows exist. As he summons a red Shenron, Pilaf unwittingly makes a wish that turns Goku back into a child, after which the Dragon Balls scatter. The catch, they spread around the universe, not just Earth so now it’s time to head into space to find them before a year passes, case oh yeah, the world will be destroyed. So Goku, a grown up Trunks and stowaway granddaughter Pan all head into space to start the search. Along their journey their dragon radar is consumed by Giru, who himself becomes the radar.

The search for Dragon Balls encounters the usual run ins with bad guys and bullies, but it’s the emergence of Dolltaki, reporting to Dr. Myuu as well as General Rilldo and his robotic Sigma Force, also reporting to Myuu, that things take a turn for the sinister. Seems Myuu, in his quest to create the perfect mutant robot is also looking for the Dragon Balls. Things get worse as these encounters lead our trio of heroes to encounter Baby, the last of the Tuffles, a race long since wiped out by the Saiyans. Baby heads to Earth, takes over and plants seeds in humanity to recreate his long lost planet while taking out the Saiyans for vengeance. The battle rages between Majuub (merged Buu and Uub), Pan, Goku and Baby as volume 1 comes to an end.

So why is DBGT so great, well it’s more Dragon Ball, shows the future of our hero’s years after Dragon Ball Z ended, no secret there nor is the lack of Akira Toriyama’s involvement. What makes this box set great is it finally gives DBGT in its proper order with nothing cut out. The charm of GT is that the first handful of episodes goes back to DB’s roots with a young Goku seeking out the Dragon Balls. Slowly the action picks up with Goku going Super Saiyan and new bad guys being introduced, but it’s the step back to the past before coming back to a very Z fight with Baby that is great. The story, while not official canon, does stand well on it’s own as many of the races encountered in space are familiar with the Saiyans, another tie to DBZ’s past lost in the later stages of Z. The fact Baby comes from the first race the Saiyans wiped out is pretty cool. Secondary, black star, Dragon Balls is a stretch, couldn’t this have been done with the existing balls stating the amount of wishes causes the balls to move further each time they separate? The bad guys are also not are good as Cell, Freiza, Buu. Baby is an overcomplicated mess of a baddie, his look that is, and when did the future turn so bright with so many pastels and vivid colors?

Overall this box set is long awaited. Unlike the other (great btw) DBZ box sets, these GT episodes have not been released in order like this. FUNimation is doing a fine job putting out such a long series in easy to watch sets that don’t take up much shelf space (less than 3 standard DVD cases) and are also easy on the wallet. Dragon Ball, Z and GT, have both aged very well and I highly recommend this series. I’ve been watching Dragon Ball series since the early 90’s and I still found so much to love in this set and episodes I’ve not seen. DB fans, get it now, others get the DBZ box sets first then GT later, but get it.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Hunter x Hunter DVD Boxset 1 Impression

Hunter x Hunter DVD Box Set
Hunter x Hunter season 1 box set on DVD from Viz does justice to the manga and delivers 15 episodes of action fans will dig.

Hunters are the best of the best, treasure seekers, trackers, researchers, doctors and more. Anyone who can pass the Hunter exam will be free to seek their desired path in life, but they must first prove they are worthy through a series of grueling physical and mental test, only the best, brightest and most gifted can ever become a Hunter. Gon is one such individual who seeks to become a Hunter, to follow in his fathers, Gin’s, footsteps, a father he’s never met as he was raised by his aunt. Now is the time for Gon to leave his home for the first time and to seek out the test, a journey that takes him over ocean (part of the test) over land and town (part of test) and even underground (part of test). These test challenge potential candidates, testing when they don’t know they are being tested, eliminating the weak. Gon meets Leorio, Kurapika and Killua during these test, three others seeking to become Hunters, and grows close to Killua. Will they each become Hunters … that is for their skills to determine.

The story is no secret for fans to the manga, already into the 20’s in volumes. Seeing the anime, long released in Japan, finally hitting shelves in the states, and in box set form is just great. Anyone familiar with Shonen manga, or anime like DBZ or Yu Yu Hakusho will recognize the formula. Boy grows innocent, comes into power and or seeks to explore that power and the world. The characters and settings of the manga come through superbly in the anime. The only, only drawback is the dated animation. Current anime, Naruto … even Bleach looks very sharp and crisp. Hunter x Hunter has that look of an older animation style, process, which it not bad but will remind viewers they are watching an older anime. Should this stop fans from buying, hell no. The action is still here and as the series moves along it just gets better and better, there is no denying a great story and as a box set at a good price point, perfecto. Keep it rolling Viz, me likes.

Hayate X Blade vol. 1 Impression

Hayate Cross Blade volume 1
Hayate X Blade, or Hayate Cross Blade from Tor/Seven Seas is another pleasing manga that offers up the action and humor any Shonen fan will enjoy and a few Shojo fans will be intrigued by for the relationships.

Tenchi Academy, prestigious all-girls school where the students don’t strive just for good greats but also for great fights, sword fights. Tenchi Academy allows for these fights for both money and fame as the head of the school, a student herself, Amachi Hitsugi, determines who stays in school and supplies the money as combatants obtain wins. These “Sword Bearer” along with their sister-in-arms challenge other girls in fights, 2-on-2 or 2 against many in bouts which take place in ranks, D being the lowest. Conditions for winning mean taking stars from your opponents within the match timeframe. These rules as well as many more await the latest entrant into the school Kurogane Hayate, a young girl taking her sick sisters place at the school so she does not lose her place. What begins as a venture in blending in turns into full fledged indoctrination into the ranks of the fights once Hayate learns of the dept her orphanage owes to the Yakuza. Now to find a proper sister-in-arms, problem is starting late in school there are only lone-wolfs to choose from, most freaky looking, but there is one girl, Mudou Ayana.

Shizuru Hayashiya has created one fine manga, a fun take on the whole fighting school genre. It does not hurt that the art, pencils, are so crisp, backgrounds pleasant and characters look and relay their personality. Hayate is goofy, quite funny while Ayana is the serious one offering beat downs that don’t seem to hurt more than the funny bone of the reader. Hitsugi looks the part of the rich, smug girl but with her assistants is also humorous in a serious way, really. The story is just perfect for anime, which I believe is in Japan now, and looks to offer up the fights and powering-up seen in so many Shonen manga and anime. The characters are very likeable with issues besides fighting and fame. Hayate’s dealing with the Yakuza, Ayana’s history with her former sister-in-arms as well as what happens when Hayate’s sister is better.

The story is just getting started but has done what a volume 1 manga should do, hook the reader with good story points, engaging characters, great art and a mixture of humor and action that any Shonen fan will dig. I must give extra props for not taking the overly … busty, approach to the female students design. Less is more, this is a good manga.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Blu-ray Roundup, Jan 09

1080p, 16x9 delicious anime goodness from FUNimation on Blu-ray. As with most of FUNimation’s Blu-ray releases these anime have already been released on regular DVD, even remastered. The two Dragon Ball releases fall into this category but it’s Vexille that really ups the ante and shows a sign of anime to come. Each of these titles is viewable in 1080p and scales up to 16x9 with full stereo and surround sound, so that’s out of the way, now let’s take a quick peek at the other features in each.

DBZ Lord Slug & Tree of Might on Blu-rayDragon Ball Z: Tree of Might & Lord Slug
Pre-Super Saiyan these two movies show Goku in some of his earlier fights, first with the Saiyan Turles then with Lord Slug. One is looking to establish the Tree of Might, the other is an old man looking to regain his power and youth. Typical DBZ, the action is fast and furious, but the bad guys are forgettable and with no glowing hair power-ups the best part of DBZ is missing which takes away from the nostalgia. The animation also feels very dated even in HD as there is only so much you can do to restore these classic anime.

Fans of DBZ who must have every copy of every movie and episode should pick up this disc, otherwise there are more recent DBZ movies with more action. A great rental, but not when you have action as seen in …

DBZ Cooler Double Feature Blu-rayDragon Ball Z: Cooler’s Revenge & The Return of Cooler
Action is the name of the game as these DBZ movies really kickoff the action DBZ is known for. Two features as is the norm fully restored and looking pretty sharp I must say. These two movies featuring Cooler, Frieza’s brother, both on Earth and new Namek, offer up the Super Saiyan action fans love. Clocking in at just over an hour each these movies don’t beat around the bush, they get right to the action. First up in Cooler’s Revenge the pissed off brother shows up with his own goons to Earth to teach Goku a lesion … he loses but returns in … Return of Cooler where he is absorbed into the Big Getty Star and becomes a self replicating machine. Yeah, he loses again, but the action in-between is excellent and seeing Goku team up with a Super Saiyan Vegeta is always pure joy. Before fusion or Buu or any level two there is this pure Super Saiyan action.

Unlike Tree of Might and Lord Slug, during the Saiyan Saga, these post-Frieza movies are the best since you get all the glowing hair fights you can handle. I really enjoyed these as they are pure DBZ action in a very nice looking HD picture, even with dated animation.

Vexille Blu-rayVexille: Isolation Special Edition
The future, an isolated Japan engaging in banned robotic technology and research, isolation about to end as the world governments decide to send in a special task force, S.W.O.R.D. to investigate if indeed Japan is engaging in illegal robotic bio-technology. The truth is revealed, fate of Japan determined and all questions will be answered in Vexille.

The CGI animation feels stiff at times, but the action is great and fast-paced. The same cannot be said for the story which could have been run as a 12-26 episode series fleshing out each character and setting, so you will feel rushed at times in the story. This being said this is one good looking Blu-ray feature. It looks so sharp and crisp, just built for HD. The special features are the future as viewers are treated to a plethora of making-of, behind the scenes, interviews and trailers quite a few to go into but there is real meat here.

Where the two DBZ titles offer up exactly what is expected, it’s Vexille that shows just how much, and how interactive a Blu-ray should be and where high-quality anime needs to go. Fans of Goku with a Blu-ray player should look into these movies, fans of anime or CGI most def should check out Vexille for all it has to offer. More on Blu-ray anime as they roll out.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Momo Tama vol. 1 Impression

Momo Tama volume 1 manga
Don’t let the pink cover fool you, Momo Tama from Tokyopop is not a fluffy manga. The story goes in ancient times the mythical Japanese hero Momotaro defeated and banished the Ogres from their own island. Fast forward a few centuries and the 9th successors, descendant of the Ogres has returned to the island. Kokonose has just a few things going against him, his size, age and how cute he is. His infiltration does not go as planned and he ends up enrolled in the training school for Ogre hunters that the military runs on the island. They have a hint for which he is, but instead of eliminating him he’s enrolled as a student. Now if only he could cause some real damage, but so far all he’s managed to do is annoy his new roommate (who seems to have some powers of his own) and be looked at as very, very odd by the rest of these reluctant students. How will Kokonose retake the land of his ancestors and will anyone take him as serious as the current Momotaro?

Nanae Chrono, you have surprised and delighted me. Momo Tama is not what I expected based on the cover art with a cute Kokonose surrounded by pink, puffy lettering and a pink spine. The symbolisms of the peach on the scepter and back cover is explained in a very fun and surprisingly deep story. Kokonose is deeper than the cuteness he portrays. He shows a naivety to the ogre he’s supposed to control as well as the history of the ogre and the island. Here is this little boy, supposed to be all evil but seems more Dennis the Menace than Freddy Krueger. There is also a question of the abilities, the extent of, for the students at the school as well as the ogre attacks, how often, how powerful, so there are a lot of questions to be answered. The development of the story and characters is well paced with questions and history filled in without boring the reader. The mystery and upcoming action is what really makes this story enjoyable, but the art is also top notch. These characters are very well designed and drawn, lines are crisp, sharp and there are no wasted strokes, nothing messy to see. Seriousness, humor, anger … all emotion is captured flawlessly; it really is an excellently drawn manga I must say. The mechanical side of the art is spot on also.

So Momo Tama volume 1 is a manga with excellent art, fun and engaging story and characters that just fit (and remind of Disgaea from time to time). I have a tough time recommending this manga for any one particular type of fan so I’ll say … anyone who likes manga based loosely on history, mythology such as InuYasha, then give this one a try. Makes a man unafraid of pink.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Tales of Phantasia The Animation Impression

Tales of Phantasia DVD
Ah, first post of the new year, yeah I’m a tool, whatever. Anyway lets start the new year with a look back at an anime re-released by FUNimation as seen by Geneon.

Tales of Phantasia, the anime based on the video follows the struggles of a warriror, cleric, witch, summoner, archer and ninja in their battle against the Demon King. As the warrior Cress and cleric Mint pursue the Demon King Dhaos they are joined by archer Chester, witch Arche and summoner Claus. All have a reason for wanting the Dhaos destroyed and they must travel across time to accomplish their goals. The abuse of the land and it’s mana is at the core of this conflict, one that will only end in the utter destruction of one side or the other.

Yeah, quick summary, but this is a quick series, 4 episodes on one disc. While this would have made an outstanding 12-17 episode series packing it into 4 works well, and not just for fans of the series. Lets touch on that first, I’ve not played the game, but I totally dug this anime thanks to my love for Lodoss War, Slayers and the such. I’m sure fans of the game will enjoy the anime as it does not abuse the source material, meaning it’s not stupid. It’s enjoyable and a well told (if not short) adventure. It’s a surprise to see how well these characters are developed and the land set up. The animation is stunning delivering great settings and unique characters that stick in the imagination, it’s a fantasy fans dream (but short).

Fantasy fans, RPG fans, Tales of fans this is an excellent purchase for you, a must have. I was sad to see the series end so fast given how well they tell the story and capture all the aspects of a good RPG. Highly recommended and since it’s a one-shot DVD, easy on the wallet. Short anime, short impression.