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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Gundam Seed Destiny Anime Legends Remembrance

Gundam Seed Destiny
Anime Legends; The reduced price naming which Bandai gives to their older anime series in order to repackage and appeal to more anime buyers. Gundam Seed Destiny falls into this category with two very nicely priced collections taking up the space of 1 regular DVD case each. Six disc in each set, 26 and 24 episodes respectively in each set. This is a lot of anime in a space saving setup at a great price, but why am I talking about it now years after it finished? Simple put the follow-up to Gundam Seed maintains a style, storytelling and mix of action and great voice acting that even the most recent, cutting edge anime are rare to match. Let’s take a look at how well GDS holds up …

Animation & Design
– Character and mecha design is beautiful. These are the best looking Gundam fans will find this side of the other pond. The character design will seem familiar to fans of Fafner or the more recent Linebarrels. The characters are a mix of Gundam’s past by pulling in the teen idol looks of Gundam Wing but mixing in the heritage and seriousness of Stardust Memory and the original Gundam. It is Gundam Wing meets Gundam with character designs both familiar and new. Destiny is actually the second 50+ episodes in the Gundam Seed universe so many of the characters are already established. As for the various Gundam’s they look fantastic with nods to the past.


The animation is still perfect. For a longer running series to have the quality of all 100+ Gundam Seed episodes is rare. There is usually a drop-off but not in the case of Bandai’s best series (yup, I said it). All the launch and combine sequences are canned animation but this does not detract from the solid action. The animation flows, characters look great and the entire package will leave you wanting more even after 50 episodes.


Action & Storytelling
– The second story arc, one that sees the Earth Alliance and Orb back at it again shows that, even with the original conflict ended, there will always be those who want to bring war. Before hitting on that more let me just say the action is awesome. The battles are epic, span more than just the core characters and speaks to a grander epic in much the manner the original Gundam did. No matter how powerful or how much Kira wants to end the fight he is only one man. The story has many predictable plot points, reunions, conflicts but it’s the new kid, Shin Asuka, who’s the real wild card. He is not as engaging as Kira or Athrun but since those two are still present Shin is allowed to blend in an do his thing. That’s the interesting point, what is his thing? He has the power of Kira, at times, but a hate and rage not seen since Kira and Athrun thought they killed each other.


Killing each other, emotions, this is another part of the story worth mentioning. Yes it’s anime, yes it’s fictional but damn if the viewer won’t come to care what happens to these characters and feel a true sense of sadness when someone you’ve come to root for dies. There are also cheering moments of joy, one that gives me shivers as I think about it but I’m not here to spoil the story just tell how well it picks up where Seed left off and continues to shine.


Voice acting & Music
– The intro and ending music is out on CD and a must for anime music fans, J-Pop fans and really anyone looking for some good, catchy music. The music, the background music also, helps tie the fans emotions to the series and will get you jazzed for the action to come. The voice acting is excellent and all original cast return from Gundam Seed so it’s a rare treat to have so much talent. The sounds bring the whole package together.


Overall,
Gundam Seed Destiny is best enjoyed having watched the original Gundam Seed but that’s not the point. Great movies, great stories transcend time and while the original Gundam’s story does just this it’s animation does not. Gundam Seed Destiny holds up and surpasses much of the animation seen today, it’s just plain solid and so well done. The universe, characters, Gundam designs all should be savored by fans looking for something new that is not necessarily new. Gundam Seed Destiny was a great purchase when it first hit a few years back but now with it’s reduced priced collection there is zero, ZERO reason to pass. Older anime rocks, just do some homework before purchase as dollars are tight today.


Hard to find; yes and no. Since there are still plenty of the original, individual DVD’s floating around don’t get tricked into buying only 4 episodes. The collection is the way to go and Amazon and Right Stuff will hook you up if your local DVD shot won’t.

Dragon Ships: Secret of the Dragon Impression

Secret of the Dragon
Poor Skylan. Being young and full of ambition does not always guarantee success and leads to hard lessons learned, if not death. The brash youthful leader seen in Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman’s Bones of the Dragon is learning that the favored of a god does not guarantee success and many lessons must be learned through hardships and suffering. So where is Skylan on his journey of hardship and discovery … how about in the shackles of a slave …

Secret of the Dragon, what secret do the gods hold that can save mortals left to fend for themselves while their gods battle for their own survival? Skylan’s crew, fresh off their battle on the Dragon Isles now finds itself prisoner to one of their own, the betrayer Raegar. They sail into enemy lands and must serve a very benevolent master who looks to enter these warriors into a game called the Para Dix. Learning the game is not all Skylan will need to learn as he must adapt to serving another while keeping his hopes for freedom alive and burning. He must also recapture the faith of his crew and learn a secret about the Vektia Dragons that could be the salvation of the entire Vindrash nation.

Skylan sees a level of growth that will amaze readers as he is so different from the brash youth seen in Bones of the Dragon. The world is suddenly much, much larger than Skylan could have ever dreamed and journeying with him as he changes in such drastic manners is fun. The other characters around, different parties with their own agendas and a few mysteries make this another fine story and world. Telling more would be a disservice to those waiting to read Secret of the Dragon, just know that this Viking type world is as deep and engaging as Krynn … a bit more realistic even.


Why Should Gamers Care?
Why, because these are the folks who helped build the D&D, board game based, stat building game genre to what it is today. For you video game only gamers these are the hobby shops with cool miniatures, multi-sided dye and tons of D&D, Warhammer type posters. The world of Dragonships is deep, engaging and deserving of a video game in the vein of Dragon Age (hint, hint BioWare). The D&D roots of the authors and potential for a truly interactive game world is too much to pass on and the world is still young so get in now before tons of offshoots.


Read the Bones of the Dragon interview with Margaret Weiss & Tracy Hickman


Overall the Dragonships series is shaping up to be a fine a series ever created by any fantasy writer, ever. Yes, it’s that good and pulls together the years, decades, of experience that both Margaret and Tracy have established. The world they have created is so very realistic to human past yet brings to life the fantasy heritage they are known for. The fate of man is influenced by gods but in the end its man who makes the choices and when this fact is paired with the realism brought by Dragonships then the winner is the reader. Gritty hardships await Skylan and his crew but only reading bliss awaits fans of Dragonships.

Friday, June 25, 2010

My Bride is a Mermaid, Season 1, Part 1 DVD Impression

My Bride is a Mermaid season 1, part 1 DVD
Question. How do you freshen up the tried and true harem anime formula? Simple, throw in some mermaids, sharks, squid, yakuza, submarine, crazy shell sized assassin and one Total Recall reference and it’s quite simple. FUNimation’s My Bride is a Mermaid, Season 1, Part 1 on DVD takes these pieces and mixes together for pure anime bliss. It’s funny and fun, makes you want to keep watching and will leave you sad that it’s only the first 13 episodes. Let’s take a look …

Nagasumi takes an ordinary summer vacation to the beach with his parents only to find himself drowning. Just as life is about to bubble away he’s saved by a beautiful mermaid, Sun. As he tries to explain this unbelievable story to his parents and grandmother a young girl shows up and ask for Nagasumi to be her husband. Sounds like a fairy tale, well it is as Nagasumi and his parents are introduced to Sun’s father, the head of the Seto crime family … yup yakuza mermaids. He wants Nagasumi dead as that’s the rule for a human seeing a mermaid but Sun steps up to protect the boy she saved. Nagasumi agrees and as vacation ends Sun moves back to the city with his family. Not only Sun but her father, mother, family assassin and pet shark all take up positions within their school making life anything but ordinary especially since getting wet turns Sun back to a mermaid. Throw in a pop idol from Sun’s childhood, also tied to a rival crime family and childhood friends and the chances of Nagasumi seeing his wedding night continue to dwindle. Would it have been so bad to just admit he could not swim? Hindsight is 20/20 as Nagasumi deals with the face his bride is a mermaid.

Funny, damn funny and not expected. From its surface art, very anime-ish, and title one would expect this to be a sappy, semi-Tenchi harem knock-off but oh how wrong that is. This is a harem anime with the very odd twist of two of the ladies, including Sun, being from mermaid crime families. Throw in some childhood friends and the formula is set but throw in two crazy fathers and now the funny begins to happen. See Sun’s father Gozaburo wants Nagasumi dead while Lunar’s father (the other mermaid) is a buff copy of Arnold from back in the day. The interactions, over the top emotions and integration of living styles makes this series shine. There is a bit of Excel Saga mixed in, it’s funny just plain funny.

The animation and design is solid, clean and a pleasure to watch. The characters themselves are very anime in their look, don’t set any new standards but really gets the job done. Lunar in particular reminds of a certain Disgaea star with her hair and evil looks. The shifts to serious, more grown up art styles at times of seriousness or silliness works so well. This is funny delivered in a structured manner and it looks good doing it.

Overall, while I feel a bit scattered in my description what I will say is My Bride is a Mermaid is an anime that fans to funny harem anime will enjoy as well as fans of crazy and zany anime. I thought I was getting into a soft and sweet series but I’ve been blindsided by a series as funny, offbeat and engaging as I could ever wish for. Plenty of fish in the sea but this one is a keeper.

Masa is so dreamy!

.hack//Link manga vol. 1 Impression

.hack//Link volume 1
With online gaming, built in wi-fi and the current generation of consoles going strong it’s time for a new .hack// that does not just mimic massive multiplayer online gaming but see’s it realized. While fans wait for this reality we’ll just have to continue to make do with Tokyopop’s line of manga and novels based on the .hack// universe, which is not a bad thing. The latest offering, .hack//Link volume 1 is unique in that it brings together every major story arc, the characters in a new and unique setting that adds a layer of freshness to the franchise while maintaining the mystery fans love with .hack//.

The Story
– The popular MMO The World has been shut down for three years and is nearing it’s much anticipated re-launch. Avid gamer Tokio Kuryuu masters every game he touches and cannot wait to play The World as he was too young to play three years prior. The day is here and only one problem, Tokio did not enter the drawing to receive access to The World R:X.There is hope as new transfer student Saika Amagi approaches Tokio with the game disc he desires. No sooner has Tokio inserted the oddly colored disc then he’s waking in the The World to a battle between legendary Kite as he battles Fluegel, leader of Schiksal. As Kite falls he asks Tokio to take up a quest to retrieve the Akashic Records, to help restore the world. As Tokio finds and helps Tsukasa, meets Subaru and battles a member of Schiksal he reveals hidden powers and players hidden in the shadows. Just what kind of game has Tokio been thrust into by Saika?


A .hack// story that does not involve direct player characters but rather a more Digimon sucked-into-game experience that’s full of mystery and recognizable faces. The setting is the world in which The World exists and has a history involving all the major players from Haseo to Kite and Tsukasa. The World is alive and well but throwing a normal person, Tokio, into the game, one being hacked yet again by a mysterious group continues the mystery heritage of the franchise while spicing it up with a sweet new twist. As a fan and gamer the story really shines by taking such great content in a new direction.


The Design & Art
– The Digimon comparisons really shows in Tokio’s design with big spiky hair and goggles. The character design is already set for the main characters while the new Schiksal baddies fit right in with a few hacked changes to their design. The world settings are also established and familiar so nothing new there. The use of odd sized and placed panels on action based pages highlights said action and allows the story to jump off the page. The art, by Megane Kikuya, is delicious, some of the best seen in any manga adaptation of .hack//.


Why Gamers Should Care
– Fans of .hack// will love the new twist on The World and the teaser about a new game at the end. The core story separated from past .hack// titles is more like a Digimon title in the kids sucked into virtual world, which is cool. Bottom line is this is one gaming franchise that is still very relevant thanks to the manga line. Fans, no question why you should care, for other gamers check it out and hope, wish for your favorite game to get such good manga treatment.


Overall,
it’s new .hack//, a new twist on a great franchise that brings together all the main characters in an art design that is serious, happy and fun all at the same time. Easy to read, follow and enjoy the past is explained in easy detail to noobs while bringing back fond memories to fans of the franchise. For the more hardcore fans check out the parody based
.hack//4koma.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple, Season 2 DVD Impression


Kenichi is not the most amazing anime in any one sense but it does so many things right, most importantly the story. Season 1 was that weak boy gets stronger by training story while season 2 really kicks in with a Tenjho Tenge vibe. Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple Season 2 from FUNimation should not be missed by martial arts and school rival/fight fans. So what’s the mightiest disciple up to, let’s take a quick peek …

Season 2, Part 1
– Kenichi continues his training in the most brutal manner possible. Niijima and the Shinpaku alliance keep things interesting as they continue to challenge Ragnarok. Ragnarok members Loki and Siegfried as well as Hermit and the new battle are in full swing. Throw in a new love rival in Renka, a certain master’s daughter, and fighting seems to easiest path for Kenichi. Taking the fight to Ragnarok, Kenichi seeks out and challenges Thor while later getting involved as Kisara is targeted by former ally Freya. Time to step up the training as the true big wigs of Ragnarok are taking notice.


… solid, and it leads into …


Season 2, Part 2
– A fated meeting, Kenichi and Odin. They share a history, one sadly forgotten which involves Miu and a certain pin. Seeing that he needs accelerated training the Elder takes Kenichi into the mountains for seven days of training. Meeting a former disciple and Odin’s teacher, Kenichi realizes what his true path is and makes the move for his final confrontation with Odin. The Shinpaku alliance is falling thanks to one man, Berserker but in order for Kenichi to challenge Odin at full power it’s time for Hermit to step in. As every master looks on the accumulation of Kenichi’s training and drive is put to the test, a battle not to be missed and one without a clear conclusion.


My comparison Tenjho Tenge is really driven from the school age kids with amazing fighting abilities. Before it was all about Kenichi, his training with insane masters and varied challenges but with Ragnarok and the Shinpaku alliance it’s now a gang war. What is great is the story creates a nice flow of training and back-story that makes sense and drives the story. Kenichi’s ties to the past, his present training all wraps up in a nice rounded manner. The new characters are insane power wise and run the range of fighters. The animation is another story as it’s not as good as I’d like to remember from season 1 (it’s still the same), maybe I’m just noticing now. The animation is not poor but is a step below solid, longer running series. Just look at a 50+ episode Gundam Seed or Fullmetal Alchemist and you will be amazed at the animation difference. I point this out as Kenichi spans two full seasons. It stays true to the manga but there is polish missing. The only other knock is how insane the body types of these kids are. Yes, the masters are crazy buff also and that does add to the humor at times but some fans may be turned off in the same manner some otaku no like panty shots or bouncy cleavage.


What’s it all mean? Simple, if you liked season 1, season 2 ramps up the story and provides a very satisfying journey. If you are a fan of sports/training and fighting anime with some humor then check out Kenichi. Questionable animation aside it’s a solid purchase choice and plain fun to watch.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

World of Warcraft: Shadow Wing vol. 1: The Dragons of Outland Impression

World of Warcraft: Shadow Wing
Love it or hate it Warcraft fans there is no denying the World of Warcraft manga series from Tokyopop has helped to expand the footprint of the franchise. Building out the world, characters and events beyond the games enhances the online experience but there is always risk. With stories and art that may stray from what the fan base loves, there is always the possibility to alienate fans. The latest offering, World of Warcraft: Shadow Wing volume1: The Dragons of Outland, brings together the excellent writing of Richard A. Knaak with the splendid art of Jae-Hwan Kim and delivers a story that picks up where the Sunwell Trilogy left off. What’s it all about and why should gamers care, let’s take a look …

The Story
– Blue Dragon Tyrygosa and disgraced paladin Jorad Mace are reunited in the Outland on the other side of the dark portal. Having not seen each other since their encounter in the Ghostlands the two are quickly thrust into a mystery where black dragons are involved and nether dragons roam. Armies prepare to clash but at the moment survival is all that’s on Tyri and Jorad’s mind. Having an understanding of the Sunwell Trilogy will help greatly in understanding Jorad and Tyri’s relationship but it’s not mandatory as the stage is set with some well delivered thought updates, in other words Jorad going through the events of the past. He’s a fallen paladin and must do whatever is necessary to get back his powers, make amends for his past. But, there’s always one, he is put in a situation that again sees him team up with Tyri who is not quite herself. There is something making the blue a bit off and its mystery time again. Knaak delivers his same, excellent storytelling and it’s only enhanced by Kim’s art.

The Design & Art
– Jae-Hwan Kim rocks, nuff said. The characters look great, are not very manga-ish and should not be given Kim’s roots. It’s more a mixture of American fantasy and Korean manwha that is very detailed, expressive and captures the emotions of each character. Just check out King of Hell to see more of this excellent style that’s unique and not to be missed.

Why Gamers Should Care
– First if you cared about the Sunwell Trilogy then Shadow Wing is a must. It is a piece of the World of Warcraft franchise one that does not try to replace or rewrite the world gamers love but rather expands on that world. Just like Star Wars fans who love the games and novels so too will WoW fans love the manga.

Overall,
Shadow Wing continues the open ended story that Sunwell began. It’s an excellent story with outstanding art that has three fan bases. First is Richard A. Knaak, second Jae-Hwan Kim and third and of course the main is World of Warcraft. As the game goes strong and continues to grow so goes the spine off pieces of the franchise from novels to manga to action figures and more.

Alan Wake Impression

Alan Wake on Xbox 360
Is it dream, a nightmare, or reality? Alan Wake is a bestselling author suffering a bit of writers block, one which leads him to Bright Falls, WA with his wife, to get away and try to rediscover his missing key stroke. No sooner has Alan left the ferry then odd things begin to happen. Very rapidly the gamer is pulled, along with Alan, into a psychological experience that crosses the boundary of reality and dream. With comparisons to Twin Peaks and X-Files as well as Stephen King how does Alan Wake stack up on the scare and gameplay front, let’s take a look.

Gameplay
– Gamers assume the role of Alan Wake, a bestselling author looking to get away with his wife. What seems to be an escape from writers block and haunting dreams soon deteriorates into a life changing mystery. Alan must find out where his wife is while taking on characters from his books and ones he’s never seen. Set from a third person perspective the most useful weapon Alan has is his flashlight which, when utilized with the revolver, can weaken foes for the kill. There is a mystery to be solved but no real frustrating puzzles and the pacing is linear and well delivered. There is even a throw-back thermos collecting exercise. The controls are smooth and seamless and will not detract from the gameplay experience one bit.

Graphics
– Settings are photo realistic with great looking characters, both playable and non. The level of detail is fantastic down to the keys on the typewriter. The use of the flashlight to illuminate settings shows off some impressive graphical lighting. The world of Alan Wake feels alive, a real destination, not a game, it’s just fantastic to play through and adds to the psychological horror aspect.

Sound
– Haunting or no background music sets the mood while well delivered voice acting steps up the chill factor. Alan Wake takes the genre to it’s roots with a perfect mixture of appropriate sounds (engine starts, you’ll see) and creepy voices to keep the gamer on edge, well done indeed. The licensed soundtrack is setup and used as needed, for example on the episodic ending/beginning sequences.

Design
– Moving in and out of dreamscapes, reality and fantasy and the mixture of both, it is a horror novel come to life. Alan Wake was designed to be thrilling and exciting while maintaining it’s secluded realistic setting and everything from the story pacing to the look and feel nails what Alan Wake set out to do. While very linear it is a very well designed game.

Miscellaneous
– The story, feeling like one is playing a horror story crafted by a master of suspense. The secluded setting, use of flashlight as weapon, nightmares come to life … it all works well and delivers a chilling gaming experience, but not in the super zombie with rocket launcher kind of way.

Overall,
the story is superb and haunting, well delivered in an episodic manner that will leave gamers feeling as if they are playing a mini-series on SyFy. Fans of Silent Hill will enjoy the thrills and for those looking for an excellent thrill fest with no umbrellas to be seen, then Alan Wake is an excellent pick-up and one that truly no of age Xbox 360 owner should miss.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Kekkaishi Free Episode Impression

Free Kekkaishi Episode on iTunes
I LOVE free downloads on iTunes from weekly music to free episodes of TV shows. Not only does it give plenty to watch on the go, new content to be exposed too but it also builds an audience, which is the purpose. There is mucho anime on iTunes and one such provider of this content, Viz, has hooked up iTunes owners with a free episode of Kekkaishi. Now can this one episode build an audience … yes and no. Here’s the thing I’ve always said. An anime series needs to capture the viewer with the first disc, the first 4-5 episodes. If a buyers is not hooked after 1-2 hours then no dice folks. The same is true of most TV based series, animated or not. So what about Kekkaishi? Let us delve away …

Yoshimori is a kekkaishi, a human tasked with guarding the barrier which stands between supernatural creatures and their potential, unknowing, human victims. His job is to guard the Karasumori region taking care of these beasties, containing them and then eliminating them. With childhood friend (and rival) Tokine Yukimura it’s up to Yoshimori to protect the barrier as has been done for generations. Balancing his night job with being a full time student is challenging especially when Yoshimori seems to ignore his lessons on both jobs. Night approaches, time to fight.


Yeah, kinda vague description but that’s what you get with one episode. Set to air on Adult Swim, Kekkaishi offers up standard animation and character design with … well can’t really tell what else. The first episode sets the stage for Yoshimori and Tokine, shows off their powers, their heritage, families, rivalries but that’s it. The stage is set but not much beyond the basics is seen. Again the animation is standard, meaning good without looking like poo. It’s a solid looking anime as most would assume an anime looks. The premise holds promise as mystical anime are always enjoyable from Inu-Yasha to Shonen Omniyoji. There is a foolish boy growing into his power thing at play here so if the whole young boy coming into power is your bag, then please check it out.


Overall a great free download that will satisfy anime fans and hopefully create a few converts. If anything else check out Adult Swim for more as it needs more anime and not re-runs of the excellent, dated Cowboy Bebop.

Iron Man 2 on PS3 Impression

Iron Man 2 on PS3
Movies based on comic books. Bad history but good recently. Spider-Man, X-Men and Batman have all made the leap from great comic books to good if not great movies for fans. Iron Man 2 is the sequel to the tier-2 of these recent good movies. The first Iron Man surprised many and was a good movie with cool special effects. The sequel takes it down a notch but still offers up plenty of comic fan goodness. The pre-requisite video game is an improvement over the first Iron Man title from Sega but still comes up a bit short. What is it about video games based on movies based on comics that makes a title like Iron Man 2 on PlayStation 3 suffer? Let’s take a look and then ponder why.

Gameplay – Fly around, run around, attack from close (bad) and attack from far (decent). Customize your suit, new weapons and load outs. Sounds like a rock solid formula built around the Iron Man universe but sadly controls lag, do not give the responsiveness gamers should expect, should get. Iron Man could have used the Zone of Enders formula, or even Dynasty Warriors Gundam to mimic one robot/mech/armor taking on waves of cookie cutter bots but for some reason it does not. The cut scenes, the movie, show what Iron Man and War Machine can do so why not in the game? All this said it’s an improvement from the first game, so by Iron Man 3 Sega should have this one nailed down.

Graphics – PlayStation 2 delicious. Yup, with all the graphical power we have Iron Man 2 offers up good looking armor but robotic looking characters, bad animations and just blandness. There is no wow factor in the look and feel of Iron Man 2, it gets the job done but when has anyone bought a game because it gets the job done?

Sound – Background metal is not bad at all for fans of the genre and moves with the action. Sounds are decent from weapons to explosions but it’s the voice acting which needs mention. Don Cheadle and Samuel L. Jackson reprise their roles and do so in fine manner but the rest of the cast utilizes sound alike which doesn’t capture the wit of Downey or anyone else. One liner, jokes, banter feels off and very forced, a shame since the movies actors did so well with their parts.

Design – Bland at times, pulled from the movie at others. The story design is the biggest flaw as it contradicts the movie on a few occasions. The armor design is set while the creation, look and feel of Ultimo and Crimson Dynamo is pretty decent, something fans will enjoy. Levels, objectives are not well designed; it’s just not a lot of fun.

Miscellaneous – Holes in the story. How does Tony’s house get fixed so fast and what about Ultimo and Crimson Dynamo? Their creation is a bit off in the overall movie universe as is Tony’s interaction with S.H.I.E.L.D.

Overall, Iron Man 2 was a good theatrical sequel. Iron Man 2 the video game was better than the original, an upgrade in every area from the first Iron Man game but when gamers can point to a last generation title like Zone of Enders, to show better mech/armor combat, one has to wonder why with all the background and tech can’t publishers improve upon the formulas of old. Hey, we don’t see Tony Stark using his original armor do we? Iron Man 2 is great for fans of the comic and much better than most licensed gaming titles but still falls short of how good the Spider-Man video games were.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

DC Comic Animated Movie Impressions


A look at Wonder Woman, Green Lantern: First Flight and Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths

Three movies, one universe. DC Comics, much like Marvel, has been putting out animated features that pull from a variety of their comic properties. DC has a rich history to pull from with excellent animated series for Batman, Superman and Justice League, series which introduced an entirely new generation to characters and settings higher priced comics may have missed. These animated series have set a high bar on voice acting and how characters are seen so how do these three new features measure up? Lets take a look.

Wonder Woman
– Princess Diana, born and raised on the secluded island of Themyscira, longs to see the world outside her tiny island. The crash landing of pilot Steve Trevor and escape of imprisoned God of War Ares gives Diana the chance she’s longed for. Assigned as an escort for Steve her mission is changed when she must hunt down the escaped Ares and prevent his planned rise to power.


This is an origin story, one updated a bit but delivered quite well. An opening explains the history of the Amazons and quickly jumps into present day with a grown Diana. Enter Steve Trevor and some chance events and it’s Diana vs. Ares. The story moves along quite well and the voice acting is great. The strongest part of this movie is it’s rock solid animation that feels similar to Justice League: Unlimited but is unique in it’s own way, almost anime-ish. This feels like an extension of what DC animated is known for going back to the TV roots and who knows, maybe it’s a pilot for a longer running series.


Bottom line,
great story, animation and voice acting make this a must for all DC and Wonder Woman fans.


Green Lantern: First Flight
– A crashed alien ship, a mysterious ring and a new life begins for test pilot Hal Jordan. Chosen by the ring, Hal is summoned to Oa to stand before the Guardians and be judged worthy of being a Green Lantern. Senior Green Lantern Sinestro takes Hal under his wing as they investigate the location of the missing yellow ore, the only power that can challenge the incredible power of the Green Lantern Corp. As they continue to investigate Hal is quickly faced with revelation that not all Lanterns are good. When the fate of the universe is on the line can one human make a difference?


The second origin story of the three that thrust Hal, the white Lantern folks, into his new role really, really fast. Strange thing is he takes it all in stride, flying, aliens, space travel … quite amazing. The rest of the story feels like an extended Justice League episode. The animation is unique, maintains the plain look and feel DC is known for (sharp, solid colors and minimal shading). The action is fast paced and there is quite a bit of humor mixed in like a giant fly swatter, funny stuff. The voice acting is classic DC minus the too cocky Hal. He just comes off as a bit full of himself, something just strikes him as off.

Bottom Line,
First Flight is a decent origin story with decent animation and good voice acting. Sadly Green Lantern’s adventure, fight against Sinestro is not as cool as those first encounters of Wonder Woman, Bats or Supes. Fans of Lantern should most definitely give this one a spin but for most DC fans take a rental first.


Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths
– A parallel universe Lex Luthor travels universes seeking the help of the Justice League to combat the evil Crime Syndicate on his planet. This syndicate made up of Ultraman, Owlman and Superwoman among others utilizes mafia like tactics to control the world from behind the governments. As Owlman puts his own agenda into motion not only are two Earths at risk but all of reality.


This story was done before, and better, in the original Justice League episodes. The story feels forced and very Watchmen like especially once Owlman puts his plan into motion. Nothing about this DVD feels good. The voice acting is not bad but it’s a slap in the face to fans of DC animation as there is no personality in these voice actors, they are not Superman, Batman or Wonder Woman. The animation is way different than the established DC Universe look and feel and it’s just ugly. The character designs suffer at times, it just does not feel right. The other universe counterparts are stereotypical from Ultraman’s Italian mafia look to Black Lighting wearing a ‘bad ass’ vest showing off his chest. Why not just slap a goatee on every character so we know they are evil?


Bottom Line
, is this movie is sub-par on so many levels. The design and animation are poor, voice acting, while not bad is like wrong sounding muppets to quote Stewie. A re-cut and piecing together of the original Justice League episodes would have been better. Sad considering the other quality DC has put out recently.


Overall,
Wonder Woman is top notch, Green Lantern a step below and Justice League … well that is just sad. A great time to be a DC Comics fan with so many series being put out but tread carefully as not every offering is of the best quality.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Chaos Rings on iPhone Impression

Chaos Rings on iPhone
Square Enix is known best for their excellent RPG work from Dragon Quest to Final Fantasy. These titles are beautifully crafted filled with deep character driven narratives and tons of hours of gameplay. These titles are ambitious and quite complicated with tons of customization and menus for the gamer to tackle. So how do you take these more complicated role-playing features and tone them down for the iPhone without losing the oomph Square Enix is known for? The answer is simple, Chaos Rings. The latest entry from Square Enix on the iPhone offers up deep RPG gameplay with unique characters, engaging combat and an experience that will fulfill the gamer while keeping it simple. Why should gamers care, why should iPhone owners shell out the money for a double digit dollar app? Let’s take a look …

Gameplay
– It’s an RPG at its most basic as players guide their duo through random encounters, maze like levels and puzzles and level them up, equip them as needed to move the story along. Stopping short of calling this a beginners RPG but it does simplify everything from battles to the sometimes complicated menu system seen in the genre.

Graphics
– Well executed 3D graphics are some of the best seen on the iPhone for an RPG. The game looks great and the in-battle characters look excellent. For seasoned RPG fans Chaos Rings will remind of some of the better PlayStation 2 RPG’s and is easily on par with RPG’s on PSP if not a tad better.

Sound
– The soundtrack is well rounded when compared to other Square Enix titles but not as memorable. A great pair of headphones will be required to truly enjoy what Chaos Rings brings.

Design
– Characters are gorgeously designed and fall into obvious RPG roles from the sophisticated woman to the jaded hot head. Just look at each character and their personalities shine. The level design is bland but moves the narrative along while the creatures are varied and unique. The control design, menu layout is great for the iPhone as its simplified yet loses none of the charm an RPG should have.

Miscellaneous
– It’s an iPhone game and one that could make the jump to other handhelds with a few more tweaks.

Overall,
Chaos Rings offers up a very orthodox RPG gaming experience with a level of polish shown by the pedigree that is Square Enix. This is the whole package and offers replay value, quick saves and easy to get in/out gameplay that should be ported up to both PSP and DS at a download, discounted price. One of the better portable RPG’s, funny how taking a simpler approach to design works sometimes.