Archive for the ‘John Mora’ Category

Landing on Saturn – Panzer Dragoon Saga: Forgotten Treasure

January 27, 2011

Panzer Dragoon Saga may not have much cachet with gamers these days (what does, besides Call of Duty? olol), but make no mistake: the name used to be whispered amongst gamers beyond just the hardest of the hardcore. Sega’s last hurrah for their doomed Saturn game console. The bizarre RPG follow-up to a rail-shooting franchise. The pathetically small print run which ultimately led to its infamy. Panzer Dragoon Saga was critically acclaimed when it released, but its legacy afterward became the stuff of myths, due to the fact that it printed only 6,000 copies initially, with the final units shipped at the end of its production run totaling 30,000. Keep in mind that most games these days have to sell through at least more than 100,000 units in order to be considered successful. Panzer Dragoon Saga is something of a holy grail amongst video game collectors, a unicorn. One rarely spots a copy in the wild, and if one does, one must be ready to pay dearly for it.

I never, ever thought I would come across a copy outside of, say, eBay. But one day, I found myself on the end of an offer to sell me the game for a price which, while still quite high, I knew I would never beat. I grimaced, forked over the change, and waited for the copy to arrive in the mail. You readers already know full-well the joyous bounty of the package I received, but the question still remained: Is Panzer Dragoon Saga all it’s cracked up to be?

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Mecha Scramble! – Macross Zero: Return to Zero

September 9, 2010

Welcome to the first in a new series we’re going to try out here on Grump Factory: Mecha Scramble! We’re fans of anime on this blog, and one of the enduring genres of the medium is mecha. What is mecha? Mecha is a Japanese term describing animation that focuses on robots (giant or otherwise) or complex machinery in general. Mecha is the place where mechanical designers are king! A good example of a mecha show is the original Mobile Suit Gundam; so iconic that it’s become as inextricable with Japanese pop culture as Star Wars or Star Trek is here in America!

But Gundam and all its myriad offspring shall be dealt with in due time. Today the focus is on the origins of another revered series: Macross. But not the original Super Dimensional Fortress Macross series, but the chronological origin story, Macross Zero! Macross has been mentioned before on this blog, but now it’s time to go back in time and uncover the shocking beginning of the Macross timeline!

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Toy Story 3: Sobbing Man-Children

July 8, 2010

It’s difficult to remember what theatrical animation was like before Pixar. I remember that a Disney movie would come out every year or so and I’d beg my parents to take me and that’d be about it. I wasn’t stupid enough to go see a Don Bluth movie in the theater, at least. And pretty much all the animation was 2D! I remember when it was a giant fucking deal that Aladdin had 3D CG mixed in. I remember when people’s jaws were dropping during the ballroom scene in Beauty and the Beast. You’d occasionally see a 3D CG animated short on Nickelodeon (especially on Thanksgiving), but other than those, that was about it. Computer graphics were a delicacy, like caviar for the developing eyes of a cartoon-addled child. This was back when 3D viewing was still considered retro and gimmicky, too!

But then it was 1995. Disney was quickly losing their shit (Pocahontas? HUNCHBACK?) and no one was stepping up to take the doddering king’s place. Except for one studio who dared to look toward the future, and saw the potential in the shiny, plastic-looking aesthetic of computer animation. And Disney still had enough sense left in them to see the potential, as well, and released Pixar’s film Toy Story into theaters. And it was a success! The rare non-Disney animated feature to garner universal acclaim and commercial success! Combining heartfelt storytelling with sly, inventive humor, Pixar created a franchise.

A franchise that’s never quite sat well with me.

I mean, I liked Toy Story well enough. I could appreciate it for the way it pioneered a whole new medium and for the relative sophistication it had compared to other offerings. Even as a child, it seemed a bit sharper than the competition. But the movie’s aesthetic just didn’t age very well (see: any human in the film) and then there was John Lasseter’s unhealthy taste in Randy Newman. It just didn’t resonate with me the same way Aladdin or other films did. And seeing Toy Story 2 years later, when it was rereleased in 3D, I can see why people consider it a marked improvement. The added characters actually ADD to the proceedings rather than detract and it explored some interesting aspects of toy culture. But it still wasn’t yanking me like I wanted it to. Was it the indifference to stars Tom Hanks and Tim Allen?  The still-uncanny-valley human characters? The seemingly recycled bit where the gang has to deal with another fresh-out-of-the-box Buzz Lightyear? The world may never know.

So it was with some chagrin that I learned that Pixar was going back to the well again with Toy Story 3. I mean, I’m not surprised. Aside from Cars, it’s probably their most profitable property. It also has that nostalgic glimmer of being their first feature animation, and enough time has gone by that super-fans of the original might have kids of their own to take to a sequel. Canny Disney thinking at work, there. So after enduring months of breathless Toy Story fans spazzing out over the idea of a threequel and the outpouring of praise from the rest of the press, I decided to go see it to give it a fair shake. If anything, I probably wouldn’t hate it.

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D: Dial D for Distinct

June 3, 2010

There were several reasons why I decided to get a Sega Saturn, and one of them was to experience the unpredictable mind of Kenji Eno, founder of the dearly departed developer Warp. Never heard of Warp? I wouldn’t be surprised. Their reputation has faded into nothing more than a piece of video game trivia  from the mid-to-late 1990s. An esoteric Japanese game developer, Warp was helmed by Eno and taken in some rather interesting directions. Their first stateside release was Puyo Puyo rip-off Trip’d on the 3DO, which I guarantee no one here has heard of or played. Their second, however, was D.

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Year in Review – 2009: SMELL YA LATER

May 20, 2010

There’s been several reasons why this list is late. First of all, thanks to limited theatrical releases, it becomes necessary to wait until home video for a lot of potential “movie of the year” candidates to make themselves available. And then there’s the increasingly common practice for big studios to make deals with services like Netflix, which I use almost exclusively for home video, to give them greater streaming options at the cost of instituting a mandatory 28 day waiting period after home video release for availability in their system.

And then there’s the obvious: 2009 was just a so-so year for movies. It’s sort of ridiculous that the year that saw the highest-grossing movie of all time also had one of the weakest outputs in recent memory. Yeah, good movies got released, but almost none that really galvanized me emotionally. It took some doing to make this list. Originally I wasn’t even sure I could come up with 10 movies I liked enough to put on my list. Even then, there hasn’t really been a clear winner, in my mind, so ordering them became impossible. Any ranking I could give them would just be arbitrary and pointless at this point, so I’m presenting them in no particular order.

Also, this year I had no job, so next-to-no money with which to buy those expensive $60 coasters we call video games. I mostly took a look back into older games, such as the Phantasy Star series, which you can read my thoughts on in earlier Grump Factory posts. When it came to new games, I enjoyed the SMT: Persona remake on the PSP, and the reimagined Silent Hill on the Wii. Left 4 Dead 2 is great fun if you can find 3 other people to reliably play with. Aside from that, my time was spent playing games from 2008 or earlier, so hopefully Magus can give some better insight on gaming in 2009. Just don’t listen to anything he says about Monster Hunter. Ever.

Now, on to the movies!

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Grump Talk: The Double Life of Veronique

May 15, 2010

Every now and again you find a movie you just fall into an easy relationship with. It’s a little weird and embarrassing to use the R word in regards to a movie, but I feel the word is called for in a circumstance such as this. I recently saw the 1991 French/Czech flick The Double Life of Veronique. It explores the possibility of doppelgangers, people out there that look exactly like us, who act like us, who think like us, but lead slightly different lives. Of course, the focus of the story is on women who share the same face and name, as well as an ethereal connection that neither one is consciously aware of, but nontheless permeates their lives. Czech Weronika is a young woman with an aspiring singing career who tries to pursue her dream regardless of a serious heart condition. French Veronique is a music teacher who falls in love with a puppeteer who seems to have vague insight into her nature as a double.

Within the first few minutes of the film… it had me. It just resonated on exactly the right frequency to make me relate and understand it on a level deeper than conscious, rational thought, which makes the whole thing a bit of an odd bird to try to describe. I understood it emotionally more than I grasped it intellectually. The scenes are framed just-so to create dreamy visuals that give the sense that you’re watching some sort of real-world fairy tale. The story makes just enough sense to fool you into thinking you can figure it all out, but the revelatory moment that you always think is just around the corner never quite comes. Unless I’m some huge idiot. Which I may be! But just about everything in the movie’s perfect and if you wanna treat yourself to something fantastic, find a way to rent the Criterion Collection DVD. Broaden your horizons, grumpeteers~

(grumplet) Up, Up and Straight Up My Ass: Kick-Ass

May 5, 2010

REMEMBUH ME?

There comes a point in every genre where straightforward explorations of the genre’s tropes and variations are abandoned and you enter a period of deconstruction. Look at the difference between something like classic Golden or Silver Age Superman and Alan Moore’s Watchmen. One’s a simple, honest story and the other’s a story about stories that came before it, perfectly post-modern. It’s taken until now for big screen comic book adaptations to reach the same level of self-awareness and post-modern snark that modern comics have been, and the result is the recent Kick-Ass. But why should you care?

Dual-wielding dildoes

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