Sunday, May 23, 2010

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood Blu-ray Part 1 Impression

Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood Blu-ray
A few years back Square Enix released two PlayStation 2 titles based on the Fullmetal Alchemist anime and manga. While the PS2 and its titles have seen their time come to an end the FMA franchise, the anime, is getting a reboot and fans of the games and Blu-ray owners need to jump on for the ride. FUNimation has released Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood on Blu-ray and DVD and in same manner in which they are re-launching Dragon Ball Z with Kai they are doing the same with the Elric brothers. What is so great about this alchemic adventure, why should fans and gamers care, let’s take a look …

The Story
– Brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric ignore the most basic rule, the one rule or alchemy and try to re-create a lost life only to suffer themselves. Ed loses an arm and leg while his brother’s spirit is confined to an empty suit of armor. As Ed becomes a State Alchemist he and his brother become entangled in government issues and conspiracies that will lead their search for the Philosophers Stone down dark paths.

This is the basic story as Ed becomes a dog of the military to take advantage of their resources but he is also asked to pay for their past mistakes and to faceoff with Homunculi as well as their father’s legacy. The story is excellent and in this new format it’s told at a much quicker clip in the same manner as DBZ Kai. There are adventure and stories left out of the Brotherhood format and they will only be missed by a few as the core content is here. Real emotion, great humor and conspiracies abound in a unique, beautiful and well paced story.

The Design & Animation
– The look and feel is even more amazing than the original, really. The animation is crisp, polished, vivid and dark. The action is fast paced, detail abundant and nothing is lacking in the look and feel. For fans of the original series, they will be amazed at the improved look and feel which is quite a surprise and the only knock on DBZ Kai. Where Kai kept the original animation, FMA improved the look. Looking at Kai’s new opening it makes a fan dream of what could have been but is also a reason for FMA fans to rejoice. Brotherhood is not just a quicker telling of a great story but it’s also an improved visual telling.

Why Gamers Should Care
– PlayStation 3 owners get another addition to their Blu-ray library with a gaming history to it. The PS2 games are well worth picking up on the cheap to learn more about Ed and Al. The story is what gamers should really dig as more and more titles from Mass Effect 2 to BioShock and Final Fantasy XIII put so much into the story that missing out on Brotherhood is a crime. The characters, settings, powers, use of alchemy … it’s all too much to pass on and a great distraction when needing a break from gaming.

Why Anime Fans Should Care
– First Eva. Next Dragon Ball Z. Now Fullmetal Alchemist. Truly classic anime don’t come along every year and when one such as Fullmetal Alchemist gets such a revamping then it’s gotta be paid attention too.

it’s an easy, easy choice. Gamers looking for a top quality anime that was made for Blu-ray need look no further than Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. Beautiful animation and a quality story are just two reasons for gamers to jump in. For anime fans this is a chance to revisit a long and emotional journey which the Elric’s take us on. Reality does surpass memories a fact Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood takes all that fans loved and makes it better … it’s all just better.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Scholastic iPhone Apps Impression

Clifford on iPhone
Not every iPhone game is mindless fun, quite the contrary. Many games will challenge the gamer to think, solve a puzzle or learn something new. Three such games that hit on different levels are from Scholastic and range from early childhood to more mature, in a clean way, fun. So without waiting let’s take a look at three games from Scholastic and see if they warrant purchase on iPhone …

The 39 Clues Madrigal Maze – In order to join admittance to a very secret global organization, gamers must navigate a series of mazes in ever increasing difficulty with traps, switches and more standing in the way. Quick thinking and deduction is needed as time limits will add to the pressure. The gameplay is simple, fun and very addictive. The later levels will challenge any gamer and it’s an app well worth the purchase. The graphics are top down and simple but it’s the solid gameplay that makes this title shine and worthy of younger kids to adults attention.

Clifford’s Be Big With Words – Spell words, hear them pronounced and see them in action. This is one solid app for kids, even little two year olds who drag and drop the first letter of a word are then presented with a variety of second letters and so forth till a real word is spelled and a painting of that word rendered with the word pronounced. It’s simple and teaches a variety of words and its all build around the popular Clifford franchise so perfect for fans. A solid kid’s app and 100% perfect for parents looking for an educational distraction.

I Spy Spooky Mansion – Puzzle solving, using collected keys to escape and advance in a scary mansion. The mansion has a very Clue feeling as it offers up a spooky atmosphere … yeah; title is spot on with spooky mansion. The core gameplay is moving from static screen to static screen finding clues and keys to open doors, gain access to new areas. Look and feel is decent, pulled from any adolescent scary book featuring a mansion. Overall this adventure is enjoyable but not very re-playable. It fits a larger demographic and younger tweens should enjoy the cranial challenge but older gamers won’t get too much from the experience.

these three apps from Scholastic are a mixed bag. Clifford is great for kids while Madrigal Maze is fun for all. Spooky Mansion is more niche. Three good titles and a variety of audiences so while these apps cannot be recommended to every iPhone owner each has its particular audience and the price points are good.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Maoh: Juvenile Remix vol. 1 Impression

Mao: Juvenile Remix vol. 1
Fan of stories involving wolves in sheep’s clothing? A tale of deceit putting on the face of heroism? If yes then check out Maoh: Juvenile Remix volume 1 from Viz’s Shonen Sunday line. This first volume offers up what seems to be a story of a kid just wanting to fit in but quickly transforms into more; what more, let’s see what Maoh is all about.

Ando has a special skill, the ability to make others say what he wants but it’s a skill that put him through much scorn as a child. Due to these past encounters Ando has decided to take the path of least resistance, to blend in and never stand out. Living with only his brother, both parents since deceased, this blending in is thrown for a look by the mysterious Inukai, the leading figure for the group Grasshopper. Grasshopper takes it upon themselves to police the city, help reduce crime and bullying but they are so much more. As Inukai spreads his influence it’s through a chance encounter that Ando see’s the true face of Grasshopper. As much as he’d like to just ‘blend in’ Ando is quickly confronted with a dilemma and choices that will put him front and center questioning the true objectives of the city’s new hero. Inukai, angle or devil and how will finding the truth impact Ando … if he’s allowed to get that far.

The art in Maoh is passable as it feels very anime, and what I mean is it’s got a cookie cutter design that works, is polished but also simple, simple like a Sunday morning comic strip when compared to a high quality graphic novel. The one piece of art that really shines is the cover and this is due to the intense stare of Ando, a look that tells more about the conflicting story to come. The story, original by Kotaro Isaka and adapted by Megumi Osuga, is the star of the show. There are many kids like Ando, not for his power, but just blending in, never getting involved. Ando’s transformation, change, can be an inspiration for all but when adding in a figure like Inukai, which just moves the story to a new level. The way he speaks out against society, recruits those he beats down, hell even his look all speaks to peace but the dark side, the mask wearing troops he commands, it all screams storm troopers and not those seen in Star Wars. The Third Reich had such a figure that could influence and take advantage and manipulate the weak. Inukai is the same figure which is frightening and now readers can begin to see Ando’s dilemma. Even with his power how can he expose Inukai?

And that my friends are what makes Maoh so enjoyable to read. This is an ant taking on a hornets’ nest, the juvenile taking on the heroes. How will Ando’s journey progress, who is Inukai really … gotta read to find out.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Deadman Wonderland vol. 2 Impression

Deadman Wonderland vol. 2
Action, story and excellent art; just three of the reasons readers should check out volume 2 of Deadman Wonderland from Tokyopop. Having covered the first volume I’ve been curious as to how the story continues to develop, if it gains steam of tuckers out. Even the greatest first volume of, well anything, can lose steam with a sad second entry but is this the fate of Deadman Wonderland, let’s see …

As Ganta recovers from his near fatal accident he becomes even more determined to confront the Red Man. Learning about a hidden section in the prison where another blood manipulator resides, Ganta takes it upon himself to infiltrate and take on who must surely be the Red Man he is hunting. As he makes his entry a new world, a world of Deadmen, is quickly thrown in front of Ganta. He learns the power he has is not unique and that he is but one of many Deadmen locked in this wonderland and pitted against each other in life or death fights where the loser dies or worse. As a Branch of Sin what does the future hold for Ganta? A life of combat or eventually vengeance against the one evil that changed his life.

The ride continues folks, no stream lost. Deadman Wonderland 2 ramps up the action, reveals more story and just plain rocks. The excellent art brings to life a world where innocents are framed and the sick and twisted minority revels in death matches of humans with special skills. It’s a sick and twisted story where no right, no good can be found. Know what, it’s sadistically delicious and a true guilty pleasure that I’ve developed as I cannot wait to see how the next battle continues, how Ganta grows and when will we see more of Red Man.

A mature story, great action and mystery mixed with excellent, I mean great art makes for a manga this fan cannot pass on and will only wish for an animated version of.

World of Warcraft: Mage Manga Impression

World of Warcraft: Mage
Seems expansion packs and new quest are not the only way to extend the World of Warcraft. Tokyopop has proven this time and again with their line of comic meets manga books in the World of Warcraft. The latest stand alone class book is World of Warcraft: Mage, written by Richard A. Knaak with art by Ryo Kawakami. What new does this book offer, why should fans care, let’s take a look …

The Story
– Aodhan was born to a lineage of prestige, one which excelled in the art of physical war as warriors. Unfortunate Aodhan has neither the physical gifts nor desire to become warriors. He’d rather be a mage, similar to his ignored uncle Crevan. In order to accomplish his goals Aodhan must abandon his family, be cast out by his father and move to the floating magical city of Dalaran and begin his training. As Aodhan chooses his path he is presented with challenges in training which cause him to make some unwise choices and at the most inopportune time. The city is under attack from blue dragons and Aodhan’s actions will help decide if the city stands or falls.

For a one-shot story Mage does an excellent job of setting the stage, developing characters and getting right into the action. This is done because of the excellent writing Richard A. Knaak brings to the table writing in the fantasy realm. For Knaak fans it’s yet another example of how he can craft a story and characters with limited pages and what Knaak also accomplishes is adding to the mythos that is World of Warcraft without detracting from the source material.

The Design & Art
– Kawakami brings a style closer to mawha (Korean manga) than traditional manga. There character design, body style seems more western and has an old school comic feel to it. Color the pages and split this one volume into a larger format, three issue comic series and the art will feel right at home. It’s a true marriage of traditional manga and western concepts.

Why Gamers Should Care
– The first class volume manga, Death Knight, offered up a nice story with great art that looks into the life of one level, one specific character in WoW. Mage does the same and gives a different visual style to what is WoW. Fans should enjoy the distraction from gaming and as a one-shot the price point works well. True fans will embrace multiple forms of media and this story, backed with great art and the writing of Knaak should not be missed.

this one-shot story can be enjoyed by WoW fans or just fantasy manga fans. Great writing and art create a solid package that will leave the reader wanting more class based books.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

K-20: The Fiend with Twenty Faces DVD Impression

K-20 Fiend with Twenty Faces DVD
I grew up watching Asian cinema on early Sunday mornings and it was a love that blossomed into how I feel about anime and manga now as an adult. Thanks to Viz Pictures I can now experience these feelings all over again and their latest release, K-20: The Fiend with Twenty Faces is everything I’ve loved and a bit more. What makes this live action adventure so great, let’s take a look …

In a Japan where World War II never happened the royal class system is still in place leading too rich nobles and poverty stricken lower class. The wealthy are not trouble free as they are targeted by the mysterious K-20, a phantom thief with 20 faces. K-20’s current target, the Tesla device created by the grandfather of Duchess Yoko Hashiba, brings circus performer Heikichi Endo into the fray. Framed by K-20 and targeted by detective Kogoro Akechi, Endo must clear his name and prove he is not K-20. The deeper Endo gets into his training to compete with K-20 the more he learns about deep plots that expand well beyond Japan. Will Endo clear his name and capture K-20? The clock is ticking as K-20’s ultimate plan nears execution.

The story in K-20 sets up nicely with some quick back-story and character introductions from K-20 to Endo. The overall plot is quite simple, guy framed by famous thief must clear his name and influences the nobles at the same time. I thought I could see through the plot but I was surprised by a few twist. The acting is quite good and while it’s pure cheese at times it’s done in a good way with awkward moments and funny interactions. K-20 himself is a very polarizing figure as he seems to be a Robin Hood but the opposite is true. Endo is closer to being the Robin Hood of this story and is quite a likeable character. The settings and effects reflect the timeframe perfectly and offer up a quality I never got as a child with incredible architecture in buildings and cool personal helicopters. The visuals are really cool but not too overdone, it’s just a fun movie to watch.

If Batman got together with Robin Hood and Jackie Chan in a World War II timeframe then the results would be K-20. K-20: The Fiend with Twenty Faces will take viewers back to a time in cinema long forgotten by the bottom-line studios of today and this is a good thing.

Spectral Force Genesis on DS Impression

Spectral Force Genesis on DS
As a kid almost everyone went to 7-11 and made the ultimate slurpee. Take Coke flavor, mix with manga, lemon and cherry, what’s not to love. They all taste great separate so mixing will just make the ultimate flavor … right? The results were usually a bad tasting brown mess proving mixing too many good things is not always a good idea. Spectral Force Genesis for Nintendo DS is the mixed slurped of games for the DS and it yields the same results. With a huge amount gameplay types there is potentially so much to love but in the end it just does not mix well.

– Pick a country, manage resources, battles, taxes and alliances as gamer’s progress to controlling 40 countries and winning the game. Tons of menu reading, navigating and decisions await as this is more a management simulation than a true RPG title. Prepare to read a ton and spend hours deciding how to proceed into battle with this souped up version of Risk.

– The characters are pure anime gold with beautiful detailed design that reminds of Lodoss War. This is where the beauty ends and the functionality kicks in. The bulk of the game will take place in menus deciding which choices to make for the controlled country with battles taking place with tiny characters in large groups charging at each other. Spectral Force Genesis is about results not graphics.

– Cookie cutter, typical, uninspired. Battle sounds range from canned magic casting to swords clashing and overall the music is just not that great. Since gamers will spend so much time in menus they are better off listening to an MP3 collection than the in-game music.

Design – Confusing levels and objects just add to the steep learning curve that will frustrate all but the most die-hard fans. Character designs are gorgeous and worthy of a high quality anime but they are the only design success in-game.

– The brown slurpee of the DS … nuff said.

, every game has its audience and there is one for Spectral Force Genesis. The steep learning curve and level of detail will not appeal to most gamers so tread carefully. While the brown slurpee taste bad to many there was always that one kid who loved it.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Iron Man Armored Adventures Season 1 DVD Impression

Iron Man Armored Adventures DVD Set 1
Iron Man Armored Adventures is an animated, computer generated animation, telling of a young Tony Starks adventures as he creates the Iron Man armor and deals with both childhood and business issues that come with being a boy genius. It’s no secret that these younger Stark adventures are inspired by the recent movies and look to take advantage of the steam from said movies but is it a cheap knockoff or a truly worthy stand alone, let’s take a look …

The Story
– Tony Stark may be a teenager but he’s a genius on par with his father who created Stark Industries. A tragic accident sees Tony’s father killed while he survives. In the blink of an explosion Tony’s life is turned upside down as his father’s company is taken over and he’s relegated to living with best friend Rhodey while assimilating into school. As Tony continues his father’s work he encounters new enemies from the Living Laser to Crimson Dynamo to the Mandarin just to name a few. Tony must develop new armor and trust in his friends in order to recover his father’s company and figure out just who was involved in his demise. It’s not easy being a boy genius.

The Design & Animation
– The design mirrors those seen in Marvel comics but puts a younger, more polished spin on things with a computer generated (CG) animation style that is more comic than anime. The characters seem a bit puppetish at times but the action is top notch and fast. The look and feel of characters such as Iron Man, War Machine, S.H.I.E.L.D. and even Nick Fury is enjoyable and seems to draw from the recent Iron Man movies. The use of CG makes for a quicker product that may not seem as polished as some animations but it works very well and gives Iron Man a more technologically advanced feel which it deserves.

Iron Man Armored Adventures is worthy of standing on its own two legs. Iron Man is a long, good and storied comic with two good movies behind it and a few older animated series. Armored Adventures adds a new spin to the classic story and formula introducing familiar characters with revamped looks and mechanical designs. The changes to the story, pacing and action really adds up to a DVD set that young fans will dig but older comic geeks will also enjoy. This is not your father’s Tony Stark and these new adventures will only enhance fans enjoyment of the movies and comics.

3D Dot Game Heroes for PS3 Impression

3D Dot Game Heroes
It’s true, it’s all true. 3D Dot Game Heroes is the perfect mixture of nostalgia and modern gaming. Taking all that was great about the original Zelda and improving upon it makes 3D Dot much more than a nod of the cap to the past. This title shines on its own to younger gamers with no inkling of what Zelda was all about and it sparks fond memories in older gamers. With the same charm as recent Lego titles, 3D Dot Game Heroes shines with a simplicity that will sap hours of fun from gamers. Let’s take a look at a few reasons why.

– You are the hero, girl, guy or other, and it’s your task as the descendant of the legendary hero to save the kingdom from an evil bishop. Travel the land, conquer dungeons, and gain new weapons and abilities. It’s in 3D but is straight up Zelda feeling and it’s done so well. Use the right weapons and abilities to solve puzzles in dungeons and complete the quest the king has assigned. It’s that simple and that much fun.

– Simple and sublime. The story of the kingdom going from 2 to 3D is funny and works. Every character, building, weapon, enemy, tree … everything is build with tiny blocks, similar to how the Lego games are build, with bright vivid colors. The game looks great while maintaining such a simple look and feel.

– 8 and 16-bit gamers will love the selection of tunes that are a direct tribute to Zelda and so many other games of that era. No large orchestras here just bits and bytes of music that helps set the mood.

– Brilliant design in taking what was great about titles like Zelda and moving them into 3D from dungeon design to puzzles. The overworld map, areas that can only be accessed with new weapons, heart containers … apples sorry, it all feels from the past but updated. The character designer makes gameplay even more enjoyable as gamers can create whichever iconic design they like, even sharks.

– Being able to pay homage to Zelda while adding in enough modern day tweaks and updates could not have been easy but it’s a fine line that 3D Dot Game Heroes manages to walk. The heroes’ sword reach and power based on health, the fairy companion with a basic name … the tips of the hat to the past, it’s all done so well.

3D Dot Game Heroes does not shy from showing its roots, its inspiration. Being able to accomplish the nostalgic feelings while creating a modern and enjoyable gaming experience is quite a feat. Atlus has crafted yet another sleeper hit that older and younger gamers will enjoy and which none should miss.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Dragon Ball Z Kai Blu-ray vol. 1 Impression

Dragon Ball Z Kai Blu-ray
Can three little letters make that big a difference to a legendary anime franchise? Can three little letters take an anime that’s not seen new material in years and make it relevant again? Can three little letters make fans who have purchased re-mastered, collected seasons and dragon box’s shell out more duckets for the same story again? Answer is a satisfying and surprising yes to all three counts as FUNimation has released on DVD and Blu-ray the first 13 episodes of the newly titled Dragon Ball Z Kai. The first change of course is to the title, adding those three magical letters, Kai, but is this just another release of the long running, outstanding franchise or something truly new and magical that both anime fans and blu-ray owners should check out? Let’s take a look …

The Story
– Goku, Dragon Balls, tons of fighting. This volume gives a recap of who Goku is and the story is condensed down and goes from Raditz appearance to Goku facing off with Vegeta the first time. Yes this is the same story that fans have seen but what makes it unique this time is the editing, how FUNimation has pulled out all the fluff from episodes and gets to just the core story points. This is great for fans, for noobs and makes the purchase much easier on repeat buyers.

The Design & Animation
– So it’s a mixed of new and old. The old is the animation that, while cleaned up, is still dated. Seeing the cast in their younger days if like looking through an old photo album, funny how they’ve changed. The older animation really shows when compared to the newly animated opening and closing as well as intermission images. These are top level quality only seen in the recent DBZ video game segments and will leave viewers dreaming of a DBZ feature with this quality of animation. Seeing the buff, high quality Goku and Vegeta faceoff in the opening makes viewers realize just how far this series has come. The design is classic Akira Toriyama and still unique to this day in anime. The audio tracks have been updated and the voice work is excellent, polished on a level the original dubs could never dream of.

Why Fans & Gamers Should Care
– Kai is not a re-packaged of a great thing but rather a revamp of a classic. Fans should care as the adventure and action flows at a great pace and it looks outstanding on any HD television. Getting over the fact the filler content is omitted will be necessary for die-hard fans but it’s perfect, just perfect for noobs.

Gamers should care because Namco Bandai has revamped the franchise on consoles and there will be more titles showing up so brushing up on the source material and watching it in true HD is not just a treat, it’s a must for gamers taking a stroll with Goku and friends.

even non-fans should know the story and basics of Dragon Ball Z. It would have been too easy to just release the franchise on blu-ray with no major changes but the effort put into Kai makes it a tribute to fans and shows that FUNimation is not just out for a quick buck. Like Naruto, Dragon Ball Z is one of the most relevant anime to gamers and this new release needs to be paid attention too.

Kingyo Used Books vol. 1 Impression

Kingyo Used Books vol. 1
For anyone who’s spent hours looking through an old book store or bins of comics and manga, this manga is for you. Kingyo Used Books from Viz’s Ikki Comix line is a real life type manga that delivers one off stories around a little used manga shop that is sure to spark memories in every reader of their earlier days or become one of those memories in new readers. Why so magical …

Kingyo is a used books store with a specialty. It’s all manga, rows and rows of manga, every type and just about every title ever. Managed by Natsuki for her grandfather the store is very ordinary on the surface but it’s the memories and actions it’s content sparks in visitors that makes Kingyo so special. Old memories are encountered during a class reunion, an art student gains insight into her work, an archer learns to relax, foreign manga is discovered, a mother rediscovers and shares her love of manga and a manga mystery is solved all because of the love of manga and the influence of the shop. Who knew words and pictures could be so magical.

Story and art by Seimu Yoshizaki, Kingyo Used Books will not blow readers away with its art. Art is simple and very real life in how characters are portrayed, how they dress and the settings they are in. Actually the settings have more detail than any character as the rows and rows of manga are the true star of this show. The stories are short and sweet and while captured in very high level above you cannot begin to understand just how enjoyable these are to read. This is the magic of this manga.

I came to love comics at an early age and spent hours in bins of old comics reading titles nobody has heard of with bad art and story along with the top level titles. Kingyo reminds me of these days, hours and summers spent in dusty book stores lost in the adventures created by others. Much like the visitors to Kingyo, I’ve also felt the pings of nostalgia and been filled with that sense of happiness my childhood contained. It’s this magic, this feeling that shows just how powerful words and pictures can be.

Overall the stories are great, art is decent and bonus content from bonus story to summaries of manga is outstanding. The true wild card is what feelings will reading provoke in you? Will the reader have old memoires brought to the surface or will this just be another manga on your shelves. I like to think the good feelings will flow and thus have to highly recommend this simple, subtle and excellent manga.

Chillingo’s iPhone Apps Impression

Angry Birds
Portable gaming has changed since the days of the first Game Boy. The current generation of systems continue to evolve from the Nintendo DS XL to the PSPgo but the usual players are not the only players. The iPhone changed everything as it’s much more than just a phone. For many it’s the personal assistant that you just can’t live without and can be customized to no ends with a plethora of Apps. With the simplicity of the iPhone and low cost, mostly, of games are the traditional portable systems in trouble?

Let’s take a look at a few titles from Chillingo that offer up addictive gameplay at this lower cost and see if they help sway the argument to the iPhone.

Vampire Origins – Third person shooting fest features Vincent, a vampire hunter, out for vengeance on the bloodsuckers that killed his bride. Story is really of no consequence and the gameplay is not too shabby if a little short overall. Moving and targeting is easy enough and the game reminds of earlier PlayStation entries. The graphical look also reminds of these titles. Overall it’s not a bad title but a bit too steep for the price. If you love vampires and have extra duckets then take Vampire Origins for a spin.

Angry Birds – Mean green pigs steal the bird’s eggs and they are angry. Yup, that’s the story but the gameplay is major addictive as gamers utilize a variety of bird types to destroy the pigs in their structures and recover their eggs. Birds are launched with a finger controlled, pull back sling shot and while the concept is simple the actual execution is so addictive. Structures get more complicated and there are star rankings to obtain that make this a must have for the gameplay and price.

Guerilla Bob – Framed by his former childhood friend, Bob takes on the role of a mercenary to get his vengeance. Gameplay is straight up like Ikari Warriors and just as addictive. It’s a shooter with colorful enemies and plenty of weapons to choose. Mid-level on price but fun and addictive.

Overall the traditional handhelds are safe for now. While these titles offer up some great gaming fun they are shorter and feel better built for a wait in the doctor’s office than a long airplane ride. Anything over $5 feels too much unless gamers get into the longer RPG titles but with Angry Birds and Guerilla Bob there is nothing to lose and hours of fun to have.

Monday, May 10, 2010

20 Video Games That Pushed the Envelope

So over on Best Online Colleges (it's an ad thing) there's an article called 20 Video Games That Pushed the Envelope and it's a great article for debate. Right off the bat I've got to ask where is the Leisure Suit Larry series of games? That being said this is a nice list that looks back to even the Atari days and checks in with modern day titles such as GTA.

While the article is a good read I would love to see a title like World of Warcraft added to the list as its the most recent example of a game that consumes the lives of it's players, offers hours and days of gameplay while also having a very negative effect on families, jobs and lives in general. There are very disciplined gamers who know when enough is enough but anyone, ANYONE, who tries to say that WoW is not abused, has not ruined and changed lives is just plain wrong.

What game do you think is missing from the list? Go ahead and add it and argue ... weight in now.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Samurai Champloo Blu-ray Impression

Samurai Champloo Blu-ray
It’s this simple. If you dig Afro Samurai then you will absolutely love Samurai Champloo on Blu-ray from FUNimation. This three disc set contains the entire Samurai Champloo series with a ton special features and while it compares to Afro it stands so well on its own. The mixture of style and action has not been seen on this level since Cowboy Bebop (look it up, buy it) and while the PlayStation 2 Samurai Champloo outing was solid it cannot hold a flicker against the raging inferno that is Mugen, Jin and Fuu’s journey. What’s it all about …

The Story
– Fuu is searching for the samurai who killed her father, the one who smells f sunflowers. Her search takes her to new locations where she takes odd jobs to support her search. One such job leads to a life changing encounter with wondering swordsman Mugen and silent ronin Jin. The two make a deal to stick with Fuu as she frees them from execution. The two agree to help as long as they get to finish their fight against one another. As the journey goes the past of all three comes to the surface and the action heats up.

This is just the beginning of the story as there is so much more, so many encounters, enemies, mysteries and fights to be had. The inclusion of hip-hop music and themes adds a layer of coolness that makes this more than a samurai anime. The story never gets boring or dull; it never slows down right until the end when you’ll be left wanting more. Action, action and more action is just the beginning of this stylish anime. It’s funny too, way too funny at times.

The Design & Animation
– Totally the strength of this series is its unique design which brings in a funk, hip and hop that makes Samurai Champloo so unique and fun. The characters look great and the action is just superb. Settings are pulled from historic Japan while the character designs will sparks memories of Cowboy Bebop. The animation flows, fights feel like choreographed dances that sate the hunger of any action fan.

Why Gamers Should Care
– PS2 adventure aside this series rocks. Afro Samurai saw great success (still does) in both anime and gaming and was right on time. Samurai Champloo was just a bit ahead of its time in its decent, not great, PS2 outing that got nowhere near the pub as Afro. The series on blu-ray should not be missed as it’s a great distraction from gamers time action gaming and will totally get them geeked to login and go crazy in their favorite game. Gamers should care because this is visual Red Bull, action over the top that will get the blood flowing.

, Samurai Champloo is a great series and getting it all in one collection on blu-ray is a must even for fans who own the DVD collection (sell it on eBay). The bonus content includes concept art and opening music, trailers and a bumper gallery which shows off the style. That is just icing on one delicious, action filled cake.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

.hack//Alcor Manga Impression

The .hack// franchise on the PlayStation 2 was an MMO that was not an MMO. The series mimicked the popular massive multiplayer online setting in a single player experience with decent graphics and a deep story built around The World, the online game setting. Hours of gameplay and tons of unique characters stretched the original four game releases and subsequent three games follow-up. Each game came with a related anime DVD while Bandai also released numerous related DVD’s of their own. A trading card game, soundtracks and manga kept the series going and created a unique fan base.

With the games long since gone, the trading card game a thing of the past and the anime complete all that’s left to carry on the legacy is Tokyopop’s line of .hack// manga and novels. For fans, each of these writings offers a unique look into The World and .hack//Alcor is no exception. With a story not tied to the Key of Twilight this is a look at normal players in The World and the challenges they face on and offline. Do you need to be a fan to enjoy, let’s take a look.

The Story
– Nanase is just another gamer escaping reality in The World. She falls in love with her guild master, Silabus, and while she tries to reveal her feelings she is too shy, timid and weak to do so. Her only hope is to become stronger, but in seeking strength she puts herself at odds with Silabus. Can a strong friend in Alkaid help Nanase overcome or will she stand on the sideline and watch Silabus fall?

This is not even a side story as it takes place in The World but has nothing to do with any of the key gaming/anime characters. It’s a visit to a place that seems to be fading with fewer and fewer stories but it’s a welcome story. Simple and fun it is .hack// but only in setting and character class. Story alone will not be reason enough to go with Alcor.

The Art & Design
– Young and innocent. The style is simple yet detailed and relays the softer story that lies inside. The design is straight .hack// as are the character classes and settings. The arena may be new to some gamers but again it all fits. Many stories like this tied to a larger franchise skimp on the art but not Alcor. It’s solid, detailed and easy on the eye while keeping all that fans love.

Why Gamers Should Care
– Fans of the franchise should care for one main reason. How much more .hack//, new content, will be coming out? A new game would reboot the franchise but for now it’s all about the manga and even a story set in The World is worth the read. At this point only fans should apply as any noob will be lost in the overall setting of the .hack//

.hack//Alcor is a solid story, not spectacular, but solid. The art and animation continues the polish this franchise has put out from day 1. Fans should take a peek, all others would be better served picking up earlier .hack// manga.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Soul Eater DVD Set vol. 2 Impression

Soul Eater vol. 2 DVD Set
The second DVD collection of Soul Eater from FUNimation is as much fun, if not more so, than the craziness found in the first go-around. What is there not to love about Maka and soul as this series just gets ‘it’ on so many levels from story to humor and animation to design. Yup, Soul Eater is that good folks.

After a series of encounters that are anything but random, Maka and Soul must get back to normal, normal school work; normal training and they must also get their resonance fixed. Soul must also deal with the black blood running through his system and how, if at all, he tells Maka. Medusa moves her plan along as a faster rate as certain teachers become aware of her plans, plans that end with the unleashing of the Kishin. Death has his own secrets as the academy holds a much darker purpose, as it serves as a … well can’t spoil all the story can we.

Talking about Maka and Soul is only part of the story as Kid takes center stage for a while and as Medusa ramps up her plans so does the story unfold. Finding out who and what the Kishin is makes the tale take shape and gives structure to what has been a loosey, goosey story at times. The black blood also gets resolved, but not spoiling that either. Story wise it’s a great continuation to where the series began and builds on all the characters introduced in the first collection. Fun and stylish characters … annoying also with Excalibur. The animation is fluid and just plain awesome, a perfect match for the design style that is simple, over the top and stylish. If there are no Soul Eater shirts at Hot Topic yet the world is just not right.

Listen, I love covering series as they first come out and have learned that the second and sometimes third collections are more of the same and don’t always need more coverage but with Soul Eater I just have to talk about it. This is a stylish and fun series that is so unlike anything else on shelves right now. It oozes fun and I loved watching it and for this reason I’m recommending Soul Eater on so many levels.

Avatar Blu-ray Impression

Avatar Blu-ray
Awards, records, praise from numerous media outlets. All this and more belongs to Avatar, James Cameron’s latest theatrical epic during its run in theatres, in 3D, but how does the home experience measure up? With so many amazing visual effects surely a blu-ray release would be packed with features, hours and hours of features on how Cameron’s team pulled off such an amazing visual feast … right? The answer is a mysterious, dollar driven, no. Does this mean blu-ray owners should take a pass? Let’s take a look. (If you are a die-hard Avatar fan no need to read, you already own the disc.)

To Buy
– The blu-ray release features 2 disc. One of Avatar in HD, the second in SD. There are no special features, no making-of or interviews … not even a game trailer. Even an Earth Day related message would have been nice since the movie released on this date for a reason. That being said there are many viewers who will never watch 1 minute of a special feature no matter how many hours there are and it’s for these viewers that this disc is perfect. The tale of Pandora, the world is amazing in HD and even with a lack of 3D its well worth the purchase as it warrants multiple watches to appreciate the level of detail. If you are a viewer who cares little for special features and just about a great movie then this first blu-ray release is for you.

Or Not to Buy
– Seen the movie, not impressed or happy with the first viewing in theatres, then don’t buy. Are you a movie collector that loves and lives for special features? Don’t buy this release. Making an Earth Day timeframe is nice but with the level of detail in these visuals there is bound to be a future blu-ray only, no DVD included, that contains the hours of features missing in this release. It’s that simple, if you are a movie watcher who wants special features this release is not for you.

The Wild Card
– For those who own a PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 doing a digital download, rental, is much cheaper and provides the movie experience as seen on blu-ray. Since there are zero special features the only item lacking is the disc and really how many times will you watch the flick?

Bottom line
is the movie is amazing visually and while its story is predictable, in HD it amazes in ways few movies can. Knowing the amount of space on a blu-ray disc it’s a shame nothing made it into this release. The inclusion of a DVD with a blu-ray makes little sense unless you are going to let someone borrow the DVD. You have a blu-ray so why have a DVD too? If Avatar did not receive all the praise it has would its blu-ray release have been so light? Ponder this question if you are on the fence to buy Avatar and know there will be, there must be, another blu-ray packed with features … right?