Sunday, February 28, 2010

Hanako and the Terror of Allegory vol. 1 Impression

Hanako and the Terror of Allegory vol 1

The more I read suspensful, scary, mystery manga the more and more I realize how much I enjoy them. The latest is volume 1 of Hanako and the Terror of Allegory from Tokyopop. The title and cover art may not scream suspense but this title is as much fun as Future Diary or Case Closed.

Detective Aso Daisuke takes on all types of cases from missing pets to investigation cheating spouses. He also takes on special cases as Kanae Hiranuma discovers when a chat room points her in Aso’s direction. Seems Kanae has a bit of trouble at home with a man with an axe under her bed. This allegory, urban legend, has somehow attached itself to Kanae and as she returns home from her visit with Aso she’s attacked by this ‘myth’ only to be saved by Aso. He truly is a special detective, even if his office is lined wall to wall porn mags. From time to time Aso explains that allegories attach themselves to humans, come to life and can only be brought down by, well him. He has a few allegories of his own and with Kanae saved and now employed, must take on the cases of the Slit Mouthed Woman and the Human-Faced Fish. With every new case a new side of Aso is revealed and Kanae is along for more than just the ride.

My first gripe with Hanako is the title. Urban Myth, legends; these would have been better words to use over allegory, just not that familiar a word in manga. Second gripe is the cover art. Aso with Kanae at his side like a scared damsel, what is this title homage too? Why do I bring up these very minor items first? Because they could end up turning away readers from such a wonderful manga. The art style is not as polished as some of the more well known manga but it really lends itself well to the story. There is a nervous tension and horror revealed in each panel that begs the reader to turn the lights down and pull covers over their heads and enjoy as you’ve not done so since you were a kid. It’s the storytelling where each chapter is tied to an urban legend that makes this such a wonderful read. Everyone at some point in their life has heard one of these stories and while there are only three covered in this first volume there is so much more source material for Aso to tackle and seeing how these tales manifest and are taken on by Aso and company is the pure joy. My two minor gripes aside this is one series I plan to follow and if you’re a fan of suspenseful, horror manga then pass go and get volume 1 of Hanako now.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Prisoner Online Graphic Novel Impression

The Prisoner online graphic novel
A few years back Konami released two very unique UMD’s for the PSP. These titles for Metal Gear and Silent Hill took the IGN comics and put them on disc, made them very interactive and offered up a unique concept to the gaming public. A success, not really, but worth mentioning when talking about the online graphic novel for The Prisoner. Written and produced by M. Scott Veach with art by Mitchell Breitweiser (Book 1) and Cliff Richards (Book 2), this offering is similar to the above mentioned UMD’s in it’s offering up of unique content tied to another medium. In the case of The Prisoner it’s the AMC miniseries.

I’m not going to try to recap the entire miniseries, just know this; the graphic novel takes place after the events on TV. If you are waiting to watch the series then don’t read the novel, and vice-versa, if you’ve watched the series then don’t wait, jump in and read the graphic novel. So how is it from a story and art standpoint, what about overall interaction? Let’s take a look.

Story – Knowing the mini-series will really help but overall those, like me, new to the franchise can still enjoy this tale. The first chapter does a good job setting the stage and the action begins right away. With all ten chapters already out there is no reason not to dive in and read. The back-story, full of spoilers for the miniseries, will really help before reading so weigh if this is worth ruining. I really like this avenue for rewarding fans of the series with more story that’s free. Similar to what SyFy did with Tokyopop and its Battlestar Galactica manga, not free, but a telling of content not seen in the series.

Art & Interaction – This is where The Prisoner shines. The style is very artistic with all settings and characters grounded in reality … in a sense. The detail is there but brought to life by paints, colors rather than detailed lines and pen/ink shading. This feels like the art see in various IDW novels, such as Metal Gear Solid, not as abstract but very close. Each chapter moves along with a ‘next’ button taking viewers to the next panel where the text appears in order and the action unfolds in appropriate movements based on the panel. Is a character walking, they don’t move their legs but rather slide across the screen. These movements take the still pictures of a comic and bring them to life without true animation. Like I said it’s an experience similar to those seen on UMD.

Bottom line, The Prisoner graphic novel expands on a decent story and uses an art style and interaction style that many video gamers will recognize. Having a free graphic novel online with this quality of art and storytelling is great. It’s not the first to pull this off, nor will it be the last. Check it out and maybe it peaks your interest in the series and gets you into or back into comics and graphic novels. They ain’t for kiddies folks.

Q4 2009 Gaming Report on The Examiner

New Super Mario Bros. Wii
I just posted the second of my two quarterly looks at games released in Q4, 2009. There were a lot of good games released and the PSP was surprisingly strong. Took a while to get these out, guess being sick will do that. The first part covered the PS3, Xbox 360 and PSP. Overall best game of this group has to be Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. A top level, very rare beyond just a game experience. For the Wii and DS, second entry, the image to the left says it all as it was something old made very new and relevant. New Super Mario Bros. Wii is just a great and fun game, even as a rental (how I played it).
The consoles all clocked in with solid grades thanks to a great lineup of games and the handheld held their own, DS being consistent and PSP making owners happy. More in about a month with a look at Q1 2010 games, and this will be more on time.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Soul Eater DVD Set 1 Impression

Soul Eater DVD Set 1
Fun, stylish and addictive. Three words that begin to describe Soul Eater DVD set 1 from FUNimation. If there is a friendlier version of death I’ve not seen it and when it comes to unique anime then Soul’s and Maka’s adventure is the way to go.

At the Grim Reaper’s Death Weapon Meister Academy humanities protectors are trained to fight the supernatural forces of evil that roam the land preying on human souls. These Meister’s wield powerful and unique weapons. Maka’s weapon is a scythe named Soul. When in battle Soul transforms into the scythe and with their souls resonating on the same level, Maka and Soul go ape bananas on baddies. Battles usually end with Soul eating the delicious souls of the baddies. The more souls they consume the stronger the get, the closer they move towards becoming a true death weapon. Maka and Soul are joined by fellow Meister/weapon Black Star and Tsubaki as well as death’s son Kid and his dual sister pistols. Each group must learn new lessons from not only Death but also crazy teachers like Master Stein. This ain’t any Harry Potter adventure and a plot by a devious witch will push Soul and Maka’s relationship to new levels, both good and bad.

As always, let’s begin with the art, the style of which Soul Eater has tons. Fooley Cooley was the last series I’ve seen that came close to the level of detail, simplicity and just plain awesomeness and cool seen in Soul Eater. Yes, detail and simple. The designs are clean, sharp, great use of colors and expressions while sporting a detail that makes each character and even the settings so unique. The story is … well it’s developing. There is plenty of time spent introducing characters then of course teaching, having them hone their skills, a few back-story episodes and finally the storyline with the big bad witch kicks in. It’s the off the wall world, story and art that really make this series shine. It’s just full of style and plain fun to watch.

That’s it. That is the best way to describe Soul Eater. It’s fun to watch, period. With such a unique art style, fun characters and a crazy world not to mention Death’s voice Soul Eater is that unique series that can really refresh anime fans in a sometimes stale market with more of the same over and over.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Linebarrels of Iron DVD Set 1 Impression

Linebarrels of Iron DVD Set 1
Linebarrels of Iron, the latest big robot anime from studio Gonzo and FUNimation proves that Japans legacy of big robo anime is alive and well. It may look and feel like Fafner and Gundam SEED but with a quirky intro Linebarrels stands on its own two feet and shines as a truly enjoyable, fun and intense series. As with most mech anime the story begins with a youth dreaming of things grander than his normal life, enter Kouichi and things begin to change …

Kouichi is not the geekiest or worst student but he’s not far from the bottom. Picked on by bullies, protected by childhood friend Hideaki and comforted by Risako, another childhood friend, Kouichi can’t catch a break and can only dream of the day he becomes a ‘Hero of Justice’ which is closer than he could ever dream. While fetching some tasty pastries for these bullies Kouichi’s life begins anew, literally, as a mecha crushes and brings him back to life. His fate is explained to him by Emi, a young girl who happened to show up, nude and unconscious, on the same day Kouichi was killed. As crazy as it may sound Kouichi is now bound to Linebarrel, a mecha that shares his life and while he sees this as a chance to become the ‘Hero of Justice’ he’s always dreamed of it’s actually a ticket into a battle between the Juda group and Katou Organization. These two forces control their own groups of machinas, mech, and their pilots known as Factors. Kouichi is forced to choose a side as one seeks the worlds destruction, the other not so much. In joining Juda not only must Kouichi learn to follow orders he also must deal with a bevy of beauties and some personal loss. Being a hero is not all he expected and as truths are revealed life will never be the same for Kouichi and the members of Juda.

Yes, it’s another mecha anime with a young pilot, and yes it shares a similar look with Gundam SEED and Fafner but it’s these reasons that should and will cause viewers to tune in and enjoy. The character designs are great as the above referenced series can back up. The mech designs are each unique and match their pilot personalities and yes these are pretty standard cookie cutter personalities. So look and feel is solid but what sets Linebarrels apart … Kouichi. The story about an earth bound and an alien force going at it in big robots is nothing new, not even the different pilots with their backgrounds and the sexually charged encounters; nope it’s one boy that makes this a unique series.

Kouichi is kinda nuts. He gets picked on and bullied and when finally presented with similar powers he’s not exactly the nicest guy anymore. He neglects his true friends and fights with both Juda and the Katou Organization. He has a crush on Emi and cannot seem to escape the perilous (and funny) situations the director puts him in. He is not some tragic, guild ridden hero who broods in his own power and responsibility, he’s a kid hand the keys to a big shiny robot and a give a relationship with a beauty he could never dream of. Top it off, he really does not handle any situation well and sometimes friends get hurt. As he grows so do those around him from a beach trip to a fight in space.

Overall Linebarrels of Iron is a well animated, voiced acted, designed anime with tons of action, good character development a nice mix of humor and drama all wrapped into a nice two disc set. Fans of Fafner, Gundam SEED and really any mecha anime should give Linebarrels a spin as it’s a lot of fun and once you watch the Proud music video, you will be hooked.

Bayonetta on Xbox 360 Impression

Bayonetta on Xbox 360
Over the top, addictive, amazing, fun and just a bit naughty. Bayonetta is all of these and so much more. This amnesic witch would be right at home in any Devil May Cry, even better as characters in DarkStalkers, but as a standalone heroine she does just fine. The Bayonetta demo offers just a glimpse of the gameplay but it’s the full game that reveals Bayonetta to be more than eye candy in a solid action game. Why does this witch not deserve the bullet fate of others, let’s take a look …

Gameplay – Action so over the top at times once it’s over a cigarette is needed. Bayonetta can run, climb (walk on walls) glide and more as she unleashes brutal attacks from kicks and punches to swords slashes and insane shooting from her hands and feet, guns on each. The influence of Devil May Cry is an easy one thanks to Bayonetta Director Hideki Kamiya, DMC’s original creator. The action, puzzles and use of magic/skills is all so fluid and getting combos, dodges and attacks just right while in a mass of angels, there is no better feeling in gaming. Some exploration is available but the path and battles are linear. Move to an area, solve puzzle, move on, fight baddies, mix, and repeat. Customize weapons, unlock moves and increase health and magic. The core functionality is established but how Bayonetta executes her moves, she is deadly, this game is deadly to the hours it will consume. Not to be missed are special torture attacks that have some button presses involved but don’t make this feel like a God of War clone.

Graphics – Bayonetta looks great and she’s just the beginning. The graphics just highlight the design put into each character, weapon, setting, you name it its looks great. While Bayonetta is one of the best playing action games it’s also one of the best looking with a level of style more fit for a club than an angelic battlefield. She looks great, that’s all that need to be said about Bayonetta and her game.

Sound – Bayonetta sounds like every possible fantasy and fetish wrapped into one beautiful package. Her accent is over exaggerated, phrases so over the top at times it’s humorous and her cool manner just highlights the way she fights. In a nutshell the voice acting is great, a treat to listen to from Bayonetta to Rodin. The background music is poppy but overall forgettable but there is one tune that is so addictive it sticks in the gamers head and will cause them to head over to iTunes for some Fly Me To the Moon. The game sounds as delicious as it looks.

Design – Her hair; its clothing, it’s a weapon; it’s over the top and works. Bayonetta is gorgeously designed and not over exaggerated like some tomb raiding gaming leads. Her looks are so unique, her moves sensual and her accent is drool inducing but she’s no bimbo. Falling through the sky while fighting hordes of angels and big dragon things while uncovering a missing past … yeah, the level, angel and character designs hit on all cylinders. Some of the city based levels feel, well like a city but at times levels can look and feel very cool even if it involves falling through the cosmos. The angels are cookie cutter but there are so many varieties of cookies to taste. Gamers will be challenged by uniquely designed enemies that don’t give any quarter and challenge not only the gamer but the designers skill in crafting a witch that can move fluidly leaving no doubt this is a masterfully designed game.

Miscellaneous – Besides the action it’s Bayonetta and her back-story that’s fun to follow (please make this into an anime ala Devil May Cry from FUNimation please). She kills angels, she gets her weapons and items from demonic arms dealer Rodin at the bar Gates of Hell, she’s a witch but not the bad a guy. There are the ancient orders of the Lumen Sages (light) and Umbran Witches (dark) who one time maintained a balance then fought and, fast forward, leave Bayonetta as sole surviving Umbran. She awoke from 20 years of sleep at the bottom of a lake and she slowly encounters pieces of her past, unlocks new powers and moves the plot along. The narrative moves along the gameplay and like a good movie, it all fits at the end but will present some confusion while playing. Don’t think about it too much, just enjoy and comprehend later.

Overall, Bayonetta rocks, period … really, why are you waiting, go buy, play now. Bayonetta is everything there is to love about action games. She will remind gamers why many fell in love with the hobby in the first place. Testing your reflexes, feeling a sense of satisfaction and the guilty please Bayonetta brings … what a great package.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Dragon Age: Origins on PS3 Impression

Dragon Age: Origins
Over 3 million games sold, 30 industry awards and its triple platinum in sales. There is no doubt BioWare has crafted another masterpiece with Dragon Age: Origins but what makes this title so great? Could it be the engaging story, impressive battles or slew of fresh downloadable content including Awakening, the most recent? Well the answer is yes and then some as Dragon Age is one of the rare games that can justify buying a gaming system on it’s own. It has legs that most console titles can only dream of and is on par with the best of the PC only RPG’s. High praise, yes, but the industry can’t be wrong and when the weather is so cold, blizzard is passed and power back on what else is a Grey Warden to do?

Gameplay – Go back to the fantasy setting in which BioWare made it’s name, pick your character class, gender, looks and initial attributes then enter one of six unique stories, play the linear tale for a few hours then join an epic quest in a world rich in history, characters and settings. The gameplay is not a Diablo style hack-n-slash and it’s not a straight RPG. Gamers must control and manage their party from putting characters on auto-pilot, setting their actions based on how the battle progress to constant pausing to setup their next move and manage resources. There is a lot of live action fighting but the brain is never turned off while playing, thinking and the next move is always required. While not as unforgiving as the difficulty in Demon’s Souls, what Dragon Age: Origins does it challenge gamers to manage their party and feel a true sense of accomplishment in any and every battle. This is a simplification of what is a deep and engaging battle experience and while titles such as Jade Empire and KOTOR were great, Dragon Age really takes it to a new level that does not have an end in sight thanks to downloadable content.

Graphics – While not the most gorgeous next-gen title Dragon Age is no slouch when it comes to graphics. Starting from the beginning with the creation of your chosen character the level of detail is great and supporting characters are unique and fit the fantasy world but some of the levels feel bland and generic in a fantasy world sense. There are awe inspiring moments but the real focus is on combat where magic spells can be mega impressive. The game looks really good but feels so familiar. This may be due to BioWare’s excellent history from KOTOR to Jade Empire the skins, lands may change but they all feel familiar.

Sound – Voice acting can be very cheesy in a fun way and dead serious but no matter the avenue it’s all good, well above the industry standard. The soundtrack kicks in with the action and adds just the right feel to the atmosphere. It’s a very worth fantasy soundtrack. The lack of sound, of a voice, on the main character actually hurts the overall experience as there are no real replicas, just shrugs and gestures to go with the phrase choices the gamer picks.

Design – While the levels may feel familiar they are no less fun to traverse. The world of Dragon Age has been created in great detail as Tor’s line of novels will reveal and the game world shares the same depth as so much has been spelled out. Much to see, do and accomplish especially with six unique starting paths that last for a few hours before joining a main quest. The real treat to the design is the downloadable content. This shows how flexible and expansive the world is, but more on that in a minute.

Miscellaneous – The reason for writing this late in the game, the downloadable content. New characters, quest, items, settings … just so much more. This is the future of console gaming that PC gamers have had for years. Buy a game, enjoy it and don’t wait for a sequel, download more, more and yes, more. There is a cost association but when gamers can compare this to buying a whole new title it’s very preferable. The upcoming Awakening, characters such as Anders (attitude pulled from the high-collar 80’s), Velanna and her … assets, the creepy as hell children; these are just a few of the downloadable items that warrant a game by themselves but which gamers will be soon getting their hands on without waiting years for a developed sequel. It’s not only the amount of content available for download but also the release cycle. Every few weeks, just enough time to play prior releases, there is new content, new characters and stories to explore. Dragon Age: Origins can receive a review weeks, months later as there is fresh content, there are new gamers jumping into the world, and it’s this freshness that really sets Dragon Age apart from it’s preceding cousins.

Overall, Dragon Age: Origins is not a fire and forget title. It’s one of the few, thus far, titles that show how PC gaming meets console gaming with staying power. Gamers get a deep and re-playable title that offers up different story elements depending on how nice or mean the gamer is in their conversation and relationships. The amount of downloadable content is also amazing and keeps the game very fresh and relevant. After gamers are done with hours of off the shelf adventuring then it’s time to download hours more at a decent cost. Mass Effect 2 is outstanding and due it’s accolades and it’s a very safe bet Dragon Age will be right behind even with a very quite protagonist.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Evangelion Asuka and Rei Maid Statues from Kotobukiya

Asuka and Rei Maid Image
Neon Genesis Evangelion stands as one of the greatest anime of all time. Even with its controversial ending fans embraced it when anime was still trickling into the states and on the expensive VHS format. FUNimation is in process of releasing an updated Neon Genesis Evangelion and with their deep download to own and rent FUNimaiton is making anime easier for PlayStation 3 owners to get into. Gamers love a good action figure be it Master Chief or Kratos so why not something a bit prettier to decorate the ol’ gaming shelf or home office? Say hello to Rei and Asuka, the two female Eva pilots who fans know and love and gamers need to meet.

Kotobukiya has made great strides into the US marketplace with their English website as well as their Marvel and Halo product lines just to name a few. Their craftsmanship is excellent and beautiful and well worth checking out. Want to see a product in person, then check out specialty stores such as Anime Sekai in Leesburg, VA. This brings us back to the matter at hand, two new additions to Kotobukiya’s Eva lineup that puts both Rei and Asuka in maid outfits and fulfills a guilty pleasure of gaming and anime fans everywhere. Don’t believe me, check out the various anime cuties downloads on PSN. What makes these figures so special, let’s take a look.

Neon Genesis Evangelion Rei Ayanami Maid Ani*Statue – The first child is first. No need to take her out of her case as it’s a design worth of display. Rei comes in a seated position with a fairly detailed chair, even sows wood design on the bottom. The cushion is crafted to fit her … backend with easy and keep her in position. Rei’s uniform is her signature blue with a yellow scarf and a great amount of detail in the lining an apron with bows. The frilly stockings and short skirt is what will give many a fan their guilty pleasure and the creators sure took a fair amount of time on Rei’s panties. All about fan service. Rei has a very serene, peaceful look on her face, not often seen in the anime. Her hands are gently in their appearance and the tea cup she holds look real enough to spill. The materials will hold up well as it’s not a very breakable material. A fine figure right down to her red eyes and blue hair. Rei does well by herself sitting in her chair but she has a partner we need to look at.

Neon Genesis Evangelion Sohryu Asuka Langley Maid Ani*Statue – The second child is second. Asuka was always the more extravagant of the two pilots but she is given a run for her money by Rei in this set. As Rei shows a rare peaceful look, Asuka shows a joy not seen too often either. First off Asuka comes with a white stand marked with the Nerv logo and has space for Rei’s chair, so both are needed for this set. The dress follows the same style as Rei but in Asuka’s red with a slight change to her choker and of course her panties show a bit more as she’s standing and prancing around. The tray she carries comes with a detailed tea pot, the compliment to Rei’s tea cup and the cake she carries is ready to eat with Asuka having a piece prepped on fork already. While both figures are almost identical in body and dress its Asuka’s prancing position vs. Rei’s sitting that highlights the personality difference in these two (and makes it tougher to put Asuka on your office desk).

Overall what these two figures highlight is the craftsmanship that buyers get with Kotobukiya and it’s worth noting the sweet Halo figures they have. Yes, these images may appeal to the guilty side of most readers but the end product cannot be denied. Far easier to display than the Lolita versions, these two figures show how timeless and classy an anime series can be. Check out more from FUNimation on PSN then check out not only these but other figures tied to your favorite video games. Visit a local specialty shop and see for yourself. These are the types of gifts that will surprise and delight and are just a few button presses online.

Ultimo vol 1. Impression

Ultimo volume 1
Sometimes the old dog has the best new tricks under his sleeve. Stan Lee’s latest concept, Karakuridoji Ultimo from Viz, Ultimo for short, is a story about pure vice, pure virtue and the various shades of gray in between. A unique collaboration between Lee and the very talented Hiroyuki Takei has led to a manga that bridges the gap between East and West and should be embraced by both sides. What’s it all about …

Karakuri Doji, mechanical dolls that embody the purest of good as well as evil. Without human emotion the Karakuri Doji’s creator Dr. Dunstan hopes to find out which is more powerful. To accomplish this each Doji is paired with a human partner that shares some traits and will form a bond with the Doji in the battles to come. As a group of bandits in ancient Japan assault a lone man travelling with two boxes it’s the bandit Yamato who is first exposed to Ultimo and Vice. The fight begins as Vice slaughters Yamato’s friends only to see Ultimo step in and … Dunstan vanishes and we are thrown into modern day Japan. We now meet a more modern Yamato and friend Rune with normal school issues such as Yamato’s crush on Sayama. Of course he forgets her birthday and must rush to buy a present, is drawn to a unique story and faced with a face from what seems to be a past life, the face of Ultimo. A new fight begins as Vice makes an appearance and all hell breaks loose and … we are thrown back into ancient Japan. This Yamato has teamed with Ultimo on a mission of justice against an unjust lord but the lord has his own Doji and another battle begins which fast forwards to modern times, again, where the lord also is reincarnated and makes Yamato an offer he can’t refuse. Is money worth the ultimate good?

So readers of Shonen Jump already know where this story goes but fans of the manga will have to wait for volume 2. While Stan Lee is the big name attached to this title what’s significant is he was never too … flattering of anime/manga in the past but now he’s engaging in a very good manga that is very Japanese in its feel. If the art feels familiar, it should as Hiroyuki Takei is the creator and artist for the excellent Shaman King (sadly messed up and made kid friendly here in the states, the anime that is but check out the sweet manga). Takei has taken an idea from Lee and infused it with life, with character designs that are unique yet familiar feeling and pacing that spans different eras but all ties together. The art is fantastic as I’ve always been a fan of Shaman King and style in Ultimo is so refined, benefiting from all the work on Shaman King. The action is fast paced, over the top and easy to follow and Dunstan is a great tribute to Stan the Man. The overall concept of good vs. evil is not new nor is the pairing of the Doji with human partners; again this feels very Shaman King-ish.

Bottom line; Ultimo has fantastic art a fun (if not familiar) story and great action. Stan Lee’s involvement is a boon to the manga business as he is exposed to a medium not too unlike American comics yet so unique in their base and creation. If Stan Lee can grow to learn and love a new medium then traditional comic fans can so it’s to you I plead. Give Ultimo a try. The art is not Jim Lee, the story is not Bruce Wayne’s but it’s not all big eye stereotypes either. For good or bad Ultimo is here to stay.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Deadman Wonderland vol. 1 Impression

Deadman Wonderland vol. 1
Twisted, sick and oh such a joy to read. Deadman Wonderland volume 1 from Tokyopop offers up a mystery filled story that kicks into high gear from page 1, never lets up on the throttle and brings the whole package to life with some of the best character design and art seen on the market.

The Great Tokyo Earthquake devastated many lives including those of the very young. One such child at the time was Ganta Igarashi. Having survived the devastation Ganta now goes to middle school and lives as normal a life as possible, until the “Red Man” shows up and rips Ganta’s classmates apart. For some reason Ganta is spared and accused of the crime, sentenced to death and sent to the unique and bizarre prison Deadman Wonderland. This prison is a privately held facility where the prisoners serve as entertainment in an amusement park unlike any other. Death sentences are carried out through brutal discipline and ‘accidents’ while each inmate is equipped with collars that inject poison daily, and the cure is only available through candy that must be purchased with prison money called CPS. These are just a few of the rules Ganta must deal with while also trying to prove his innocence, figure out who the Red Man is and learn about his unique new female friend Shiro. She’s quirky and seems to have a past with Ganta which he does not recall, but in order to survive Shiro’s help will be invaluable. Seems the prison has its own secrets, one of which is the Red Man, really known as the Original Sin, and Ganta is not as helpless as he seems, possible due to an occurrence when his classmates were killed. What is a new resident, a branch of Sin and why is Ganta in the middle? Things are just getting stared in Deadman Wonderland.

So I open with some pretty high praise but its worth is as the very Eureka 7 and Jinsei Katauka and Kazuma Kondou should be proud as the book is just gorgeous. The high quality paper, colored pages that begin the book is just the beginning. The characters from wimpy Ganta to Chief Prison Guard Makina are each unique and ooze a coolness that may not always be intended but is a carryover from the Eureka 7 compare. The character emotions are fantastic which is needed when a kid is accused of murder and thrown into one twisted prison. The background and settings are also very detailed and not one blood smear is left unaccounted for. Oh, this book is not for kids, very violent gruesome and tasty. The story matches the art as there is no buildup; Ganta is free then in prison. Most of the first volume goes in this flow. Ganta to school, to prison, intro to rules of prison, enter a deadly race, learn more about prison, encounter a branch of Sin, fight back and end. Yeah, it’s a lot of stuff going on and the mystery is there to be peeled back, but this is only the skin of the onion, so much more it will make you salivate as a reader wanting more.

Yeah, I get excited about this book. It’s beautifully illustrated and has a mature, action packed story. It’s been a long time since I’ve said 100% get this book, but I’m saying it now. Deadman Wonderland is that good.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tekken 6 on PS3 and PSP Impression

Tekken 6
As long as there has been PlayStation there has been Tekken. The latest entry, Tekken 6, was released in late 2009 on both the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable. Both games offer up what fans have come to expect but what else? Is there more than a roster update or has Tekken 6 redefined the fighting game genre yet again? Let’s take a look as the answers are good and not so good.

Gameplay – Both the PS3 and PSP share the same core gameplay elements. Front and center is the arcade experience where gamers progress through each fighter’s story. Training and challenge modes are also present but what really separates the two is how they handle online and ad-hoc multiplayer. The PS3 offers a very easy to navigate online mode which pairs fighters based on skill. Easy to get into, easy to get pounded, good times. The PSP offers ad-hoc that is a bit disappointing but still serviceable. The use of ghost fighters/data on the PSP will give gamers on the go a bit more of a fo-online experience but it’s still not a deep as the PS3 component. The PS3 also offers gamers the noob Lars in his own, amnesia driven, story that feels like Final Fight but gets old fast. The controls are instantly familiar but beating up the same baddies stage after stage gets old and really the story driving it is not as good as each characters core story. The best aspect of both versions is that gamers don’t have to spend hours unlocking characters. All 40 are available to play right off the bat which is great since gamers are dishing out so many duckets for this cart they should get all the fighters at once.

Graphics – The PS3 looks freaking amazing with level detail to spare and mucho customization available eon characters, one of the best aspects of the game. The PSP version looks equally as impressive which could be thanks to Namco Bandai’s previous outings on the PSP with both Tekken and SoulCalibur. All the character models have been set for a few games, minus the noobs of course, and facial, body, clothing, and hair look great especially in the FMV’s. In game there is no loss in detail but the characters still have that ‘not quite real’ feel that permeates most games mainly in the hand movement.

Sound – The background music has some catchy tunes, as always, and the soundtrack is worth picking up. The music in this franchise has always been solid and unique. The voice work can be as cheesy as the lines dictate but when the main characters speak in Japanese with sub-titles, that’s just rock solid. With such a large roster the voice work did receive a nice amount of care. The campaign has basic level sound effects, not super great but so be it. Both the PSP and PS3 sound great, nuff said.

Design – Character design, unique is all that need be said for 40 characters. Every type of fighter is accounted for. The truly nice design is in the levels themselves which have breakable components but they are not forced upon gamers. Hit the right spot and spill into another level of the level or in multi-player on PSP span the fight over four levels. For a long established franchise there is not too much more to be done with level design so improvements are minimal on both PS3 and PSP. The PS3 scenario campaign is about as generic and cookie cutter (and enclosed) as you can get in a game. It does not feel original or unique and really is not as much fun as Tekken Bowl.

Miscellaneous – For fans of the series it’s got to be the story. Six games in and the Mishima family is still butting heads. The King of Iron Fist Tournament is always entertaining with wacky characters (Panda) and bosses ranging from long since sealed away great grandfathers and Aztec gods to crazy Egyptian monstrosities. Anyone who’s play from the beginning is going to love the story and for those new to the franchise the recap of the previous tournaments is very handy.

Overall, Tekken 6 is not about the new but rather the polished. The online, ad-hoc, vs. and adventure ‘Final Fight-ish’ mode offer up more of what fans love, feels instantly familiar and will satisfy but not innovate. It’s more Tekken which for this gamer is just fine.