Archive for August, 2010

(First Impressions) Lords of Shadow – You Like Castlevania Don’t You?

August 28, 2010

Do these ice titans just wait around in frozen lakes for grieving warriors to show up?

I can’t help but compare Castlevania: Lords of Shadow to Metroid: Other M. Both long-anticipated, 3D-oriented sequels to well-respected, often troubled franchises trying to do a lot at once to please old fans who hold a certain “Metroidvania” title as the paradigm, while welcoming new players used to God of War and Ninja Gaiden.

It’s an unenviable task!

But from what I played of the final build yesterday, Lords of Shadow seems up to it. I picked up the Dual Shock in the middle of someone else’s playthrough, so after taking a few minutes to acclimate myself to the controls I was whipping and dagger-throwing like a, well, like a Kratos or Ryu Hayabusa.

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Thanks and Goodbye, Satoshi Kon

August 25, 2010

Satoshi Kon, director of Tokyo Godfathers, Perfect Blue, Paranoia Agent, Millenium Actress and Paprika has died due to pancreatic cancer at the age of 46. The world of animation, and film in general, lost an amazing artist yesterday.

This is really depressing news. I don’t know what to say other than he was a true visionary, a filmmaker whose love for film could be felt in every frame, as Mora alluded to not too long ago in his Inception review. Kon’s characters, though animated, always felt real. His scripts always intelligent. His images, indelible. The icepick from his debut movie Perfect Blue. The pop idol dancing in the hand. The dreamlike skipping among the neon city, later repeated in Paprika, the culmination of his tragically short oeuvre.

I loved that movie.

We do have another one to look forward to. It’s being completed by his peers according to a post on his site relayed by Anime News Network:

Later, he remembered meeting with Madhouse founder Masao Maruyama about the final anime film he was directing:

When I conveyed my concerns for Yume-Miru Kikai to Mr. Maruyama, he said, “It’s fine. Don’t worry, we’ll do whatever it takes.”

I cried.

I cried aloud.

He concluded his message with the following:

With feelings of gratitude for all that is good in this world, I put down my pen.

Well, I’ll be leaving now.

Satoshi Kon

Sayonara.

Thanks and goodbye, Mr. Kon. You will be missed.

Grump Talk – Amazing Finds

August 20, 2010

So there I was, doing my errands yesterday. I mainly was waiting around for an appointment at the mall, but since it was an hour and a half away, I decided to drive around the immediate area and check out some stores. I used my birthday gift card to get Park Chan-wook’s Vengeance Trilogy on Blu-Ray. If you haven’t seen them, see them!

Then I went to this somewhat crappy independent used game shop nearby called Gameco. Gameco is the type of used store that A) never has anything good or interesting to sell and B) has terrible, uncompetitive prices. I normally wouldn’t even go there to pick up a run-of-the-mill game there because I could find it just about anywhere cheaper.

So of course I was going there with little-to-no expectations for anything. I always have a few “dream” games that I say to myself, “Wouldn’t it be nice to find this game!” Y’know, wish list-type stuff. I checked the PS2 rack for some of the decent Gundam games and Suikoden V. No dice. To be expected at a dump like this, really. Any good Dreamcast games? Pbbbbttt. Not even any good Saturn cases to serve as a replacement for Panzer Dragoon Saga‘s cracked case.

I’m about to leave when I notice they have a glass case where they seem to put their “valuable” games. I see some SNES and PSone cases in there and figure I was wasting my time looking at the other stuff. I walk over and scan over the PSone games. FFVII, Chrono Cross, yada yada yada… The SNES cartridges aren’t looking too much better, either, with some old copies of Secret of Mana and FFIII(VIj) sitting around.

I almost turn to leave when I turn my notice to a lone SNES cartridge standing on top of the pile. It had annoyed me because it was standing on top of some labels of cartidges below it, so I’d tried craning my head around it. Now I’ve seen everything else and I figure I might as well see what game this one is. It’s slouching forward against the glass in an ugly fashion, almost as if it’s trying to escape notice. I focus my eyes to read the top label (which is upside-down) and my jaw goes slack.

I KNOW, RIGHT?!?!!??!

What were the FUCKING odds? And they were charging a (relatively) reasonable price! So I asked to test it out to make sure it worked, and after it booted up, I snatched it up and paid for it. I don’t even have a SNES! It’s one of those few games where I would just buy it even without immediate plans to buy the system it was on. If anyone has advice on whether to get an old SNES or one of those FamiTwin whatever knockoffs, lemme know. A Mother series of grumps may be in the cards some day… :3

But to bring this all home: What was the best find you’ve ever had, whether it be for a game, movie or WHATEVER? I’ll tell you a few more of mine, to get juices flowin’. A similar story to this one had me just searching Gamestop.com on a lark for Suikoden II and finding out that the store closest to me ACTUALLY HAD A COPY. And then there’s the story of how I waltzed into a Vintage Stock store and found them selling a copy of Possession on DVD for roughly 1/10th of the price it was going for on Amazon. Your turn!

Grumplet – Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: vs. Audience Indifference

August 18, 2010

I will be honest. I’ve sort of actively disdained the Scott Pilgrim franchise pretty much ever since I saw the cover to Volume 3 parody the Super Mario Bros. 3 cover. But the recent media blitz promoting the movie (and game!!) has left me practically frothing at the mouth. Look everyone! It’s indie bands and chiptunes and sly 8-bit game references and Beck!!! It has all the stuff you like!

I hate when I realize I’m being pandered to. It’s like it robs me of any enjoyment I could’ve gotten out of the experience without knowing. I don’t think anyone should be pandered to. It doesn’t help that a Scott Pilgrim movie feels about 7 or 8 years too late to feel thematically fresh. The advent of webcomics inundated the Internet with the quasi-wit of Generation Y slackers that grew up on the NES and the Streamline dub of Akira. Hey guys, the sprites from Final Fantasy are talking about Ranma 1/2! Isn’t that just the geekiest?

Scott Pilgrim, penned and illustrated by Brian Lee O’Malley became the poster child for this vein of storytelling. Geek culture-addled Scott Pilgrim has to fight the seven evil exes of too-cool-for-school Ramona Flowers if he wants to date her. These battles take on a video game-like progression of difficulty, complete with the exes exploding into coins, etc. This EPIC TALE proved so irresistible to the Hollywood graphic novel adaptation mill that the film rights were snapped up by Universal and Edgar Wright, keen pop culture satirist, tapped to direct.

I will admit, Edgar Wright was the ONLY reason I saw this movie. The creative force behind Shaun of the Dead and the much-funnier, much-less-seen Hot Fuzz, has proven to me by now that he has an eye for genre bending, humor, and doing justice to the subject matter he simultaneously lampoons. Hot Fuzz was not only a comedy about the ridiculous nature of action movies, it was also one of the best action movies in recent years.

Why am I harshing on Scott Pilgrim: The Franchise?! Because it’s like we have nothing to say to each other. Scott Pilgrim touches on River City Ransom, Ninja Gaiden (the original), Mega Man, A Link to the Past, the NES and SNES and many other things I never owned or played. Yet I’m still a gamer! I grew up with a Genesis! I played Sonic! I think there were two Genesis allusions the whole movie. And as for anime and music? It references Akira in one of the chapter titles, Scott wears a t-shirt with Astro Boy on it and the character’s name is from a song from some indie band I’ve never heard of. He’s like that guy at a party you try to start up a conversation with, and he’s like, “Yeah, I game. Ever heard of Final Fantasy II for the SNES?” “Oh, you mean Final Fantasy IV?” “No, pretty sure it was Final Fantasy II.” Awkward silence. I mean, it’ll resonate for a lot of 20-somethings out there, but it’s awfully specific in its aim.

So you’re probably expecting me to hate the movie. But I didn’t! Why?! Mostly because that pop culture divide is largely irrelevant when it comes to enjoying the movie. Will you get more out of it if you’ve played DDR or beat ’em ups? Sure. But the searing eye candy Edgar Wright coughed up is enough to entertain any movie goer who appreciates fast-paced film making. And this movie is nearly at Baz Luhrman levels of frenzy. Shots are cut at a blistering pace. CG embellishments make the actors look like comic book characters brought to life. Seriously, this is the first movie that seems like it took a few plays out of the Speed Racer handbook of visual vocabulary. (There’s that made-up term again!) And it’s not just visuals that delight. The dialogue is actually clever and delivered with comic timing for a change.

The music is actually pretty well done for the most part, too. Beck actually composes all of the music for the fictional band Sex Bob-omb and the score is composed by alt-rock superproducer Nigel Godrich, who’s worked with stars like Beck and Radiohead on some of their landmark albums. The soundtrack is loaded with indie acts and garage rock riffs, and totally fits the misfit tone of the movie.

It’s just too bad being good didn’t guarantee success. Limping out of the gate with a paltry $10 million when estimates put the movie at around $60 million, Wright’s most expensive movie to date, certainly makes eyebrows raise. Why would a movie that seemed like such a cultural zeitgeist flop so badly? It hasn’t been through lack of marketing that Scott Pilgrim failed, that’s for sure. It’s proooooobably because its target audience isn’t known for paying for anything. Teens and twentysomethings these days get their nostalgia gaming kick not by dusting off the NES or SNES, but by downloading ROMs and emulators. They peer-to-peer share their music collections. Plus they’re a notoriously poor demographic. They probably would rather see a cam rip of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World than fork over the $10 per person to go to the theater and see it legitimately. Then there was the aforementioned rather limited scope of the appeal. Maybe not as many people have fond memories of Clash at Demonhead or listen to chiptune albums as they thought. At any rate, a perfectly entertaining movie suffered because of it. For shame, readers!

The Expendables – Expendably Delicious

August 18, 2010

Terry Crews, eyes shimmering with the intensity of a thousand nuclear detonations, throws a warhead up in the air to have Sylvester Stallone shoot it so it could explode a helicopter.

Besides Mickey Rourke’s teary, natural monologue about regret that was the best, most surprising thing about The Expendables. It’s exactly what you expect it to be. Not exactly the Commando 2.0 it should be, not as shocking as Rambo 4, but still a fun, stupid, homoerotic manly time at the movies.

And that’s the tooth!

hard-hitting film analysis

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game – A Baller Brawler

August 14, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game is about a Canadian 23-year-old named Scott Pilgrim who, along with his pals Kim Pine, Stephen Stills, and new girlfriend Ramona Flowers, must defeat Ramona’s seven evil ex-boyfriends before Scott can finally date her. A simple premise explained to us, if not by the absolute media overload of the past few weeks, then by the Marvel vs. Capcom 2-style attract demo that plays when the game boots up. Scott: The Game is a classic-style arcade game, calling back to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in TimeThe Simpsons Arcade Game and other classic brawlers, particularly River City Ransom.

Both Scott and River City Ransom have enemies that drop coins when defeated, shops both apparent and hidden where you can buy food and items that increase stats, punching, kicking, and  jumping. There’s also an indelible charm you can’t resist — unless you don’t like fun, nostalgia and gorgeous, gorgeous sprite work.

Hipsters unite! (more…)

Mega Man 10 – The Robots Are All Right

August 8, 2010

Let’s cut to the (Rockman Battle and) chase. Mega Man 10 is not as good as Mega Man 9. Which is okay. Mega Man 9 was the result of 18 years of game design knowledge funneled into a perfect downloadable package. It spoke right to the cereal-munching, Saturday morning cartoon-watching kid in me. It is, in this reviewer’s humble opinion, the best Mega Man game, which makes it one of the best video games, and a tough act to follow.

Though Mega Man 10′s still pretty good!

speed racer and racer x

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