Monday, December 13, 2010

Disappearing in polygons

The Haruhi Suzumiya series is a story and experience which holds a rather high place on my personal list of quality media. Amongst the rolling sea of mediocrity it is something I always find myself returning to in one manner or another. I love it so much I may go so far as to say I'm blind to it being bad in any manner.
Regardless of weather or not that's the case it's a series that still makes money, as proven by the most recent commercial endeavor related to last years movie.



It's a game for the PSP and PS3, and from what I'm to understand both are more or less the movie in an interactive form.
It may not be fantastically original, but none the less it has struck a chord with me. In fact the bare idea resonates with me so much this may be one of the very few titles I choose to import. Even if it's only because I just want to own the game, and not to play it.

----CP Out----

Thursday, December 02, 2010

The Conundrum of Quality Calibre

What makes a good anime? The answer to this question has remained elusive to me, and has persistently become more difficult for me to define. Though some things are clear, and I know when I've found something good.

Allow me to elaborate.

Over the years since I acquired a taste for the anime genre I've watched shows that have been absolutely fantastic, and some that have left me wanting my wasted time back. Finding good shows isn't easy, and I've usually left the discovery of quality productions to chance. Doing this has obviously resulted in some amazing finds, but it I more than often leads to disappointment. By doing so however I've come to realize how shows composed of great art and animation can royally suck, and shows substantially lacking art direction and complete animation can be fantastic.

It's puzzling, and a bit confusing, at least at first. Of course it makes more sense when you take into account the quality of the story. While I'm not arguing that visuals don't' count for any form of televised entertainment, I am saying that ultimately the story makes or breaks the deal most often. American shows like CSI or House MD don't succeed on their visuals and effects alone, it's the story that carries the program. A good example of a show being lost without story would be HEROES which was a originally big success, but was cancelled when the show lost it's direction after the first season.

I digress, this post is about Anime not American TV. A few examples of shows with quality visuals but end up feeling somehow empty would be Bakuretsu Tenshi, and Canaan. While these two shows looked great they were terribly difficult to watch, and finish. Why? Because they simply lacked compelling story. They had their pros like good actions sequences, and quality character design, but when something lacks proper execution things rarely work out.
The contrast is shown in a show called Birdy Decode. This show while lacking quality visuals, and using VERY raw cell animation at it's end, was successful. It even received a sequel, but why? Because for some reason the story, it's direction, and the way it played off the characters WORKED. Nothing more can really be said other than that. There was a compelling connection between the characters and their struggle. In the end that proper execution helped to draw myself, and other viewers in, resulting high enough ratings to warrant a sequel. Meanwhile Bakuretsu Tenshi and Canaan, while looking great, receive no succeeding seasons, and only one or two easily OVAs.

Proof, in my opinion, of how story matters far more than visuals ever will; Because in successful productions visuals service the story, not the other way around.

I've ranted long enough,
---CP Out---

Monday, November 01, 2010

Faux Tone

Related to the recent release of Fable III I thought I'd bring up a unique track by the artist Matti Paalanen. Amongst other things Paalanen composed a host of music known as the "Celestial Aeon Project". The compilation of tracks in the Aeon Project mimics three of my very favourite composers; Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman, and Jeremy Soule. Why are these artists some of my favourites? Well just look at the list below for tracks or pieces scored by them.

Jeremy Soule - The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Danny Elfman - Fable (one) theme, The Simpsons theme
Hans Zimmer - Inception (2010), Sherlock Holmes (2009)

Anyway the music tracks in the Fable games have always helped the series, because the tracks do such a good job of setting the mood, and being catchy. For this reason the music just tends to stick in my head for the unique sound. This brings me to the Celestial Aeon Project.

While Listening to the music I ran across a track called "Masquerade" which immediately struck me as authentic Fable music. I double checked the tags and was surprised to learn it was written to sound like music from Fable. I have to say it was resounding success, as it totally fooled me.

I digress, if you've ever herd the music from fable the track below will sound VERY familiar.

Celestial Aeon Project - Masquerade


----CP Out----

Monday, October 18, 2010

Fur, Feathers, Horror

Fitting for the month of October I thought I'd cover something from one of my all time favourite games, Banjo-Kazooie. More specifically the music track from the level called "Mad Monster Mansion". Ever since I played the N64 classic back in 1998 I found myself humming the theme from the level at odd times. This brings me to the fan site called OC Remix.

For those of you who don't' know, OC Remix is a website dedicated to updating the tracks from video games and making them fresh. The site is fully driven by community submitted remixes, and only the best are posted since they have to pass a panel of judges. Anyway while it's not new, below is what I consider to be a great remix of the original Mad Monster Mansion theme. Has a real Halloween feel to it, or maybe that's just the level design attached to it.

Banjo-Kazooie - Malevolent Mansion


----CP Out----

Friday, August 13, 2010

Square One

The big summer blockbuster, Inception. I can understand why people have given this movie rave reviews, because it's a good definition of "out of the ordinary".

I won't dwell on the quality of the visuals and depth of the story, or it's paradigms. All of those elements were great, and made the film worth while, but I think the original soundtrack is what's really worth mentioning.

Hans Zimmer really is a stand up composer. His music was different and original in Sherlock Holmes last year, and the music in Inception is so well written it stands out from the film. Themes from movies like Lord of the Rings, or Pirates of the Caribbean are well remembered for being catchy, however Inception's soundtrack is what you would call subconsciously memorable. Meaning you probably won't remember the music, but if you herd it again the film would come rushing back all at once. At least it would (and does) for me. Granted that probably wouldn't be the case if the movie wasn't as gripping, well written, and so well edited. But the fact stands, Inception is a good movie, and there's not a doubt in my mind that the quality of it's soundtrack is largely (though not chiefly) responsible for it's success.

The following track does a rather stand up job of capturing many of the feelings from the movie in one go.

Inception had everything I could hope for:
Action, Paradox, Twist, Emotion, and a Conclusion that leaves you thinking.

----CP Out----

Friday, July 30, 2010

Tetra Guise

After being dominated and ruled by Persona 3 for a near complete two years, I decided my tactics had to change for Persona 4. After recklessly grabbing the beast by it's horns I have emerged victorious.

Long story short, Persona 3 took me 2 years or 200+ hours, but Persona 4 took me two weeks or 80+ hours. Big change in speed.

What can I say about person four? It was a good game, but I feel that it somehow lacks the epic feel that Persona 3 has. I'm not suprised though, Persona 3 didn't waste time getting started. It threw you into the struggle almost as soon as you booted the game. However, in P4 you're eased into the experience, and, because of this, the actual game play is withheld for a considerable amount of time.

This tactic results in having a greater understanding of why your fighting, and more interest to know WHY things are happening.

There are other reasons for why P3 was more epic than P4. In P3 you find out who your ultimate enemy is, and are given time to let your impending fate sink in. Yet with P4 the final Enemy is elusive, and you won't even have an opportunity to fight it unless you know to look for it at the last second.

There's also the contrast between the two games with how character development progresses. In P3 the characters are chiefly expressed during meetings, where the group discusses intel and strategy. In addition when displayed one at a time, each character's development is usually connected to death somehow, giving the game a mroe serious tone.
But in P4, characters are initially presented when their suppressed desires are displayed (due to supernatural phenomena). And subsequent development is mostly shown through misadventures, usually related to school activities.

Simply put Persona 4 is more light hearted. Your enemy is faceless, so there's less to get you down. Characters inner selves are displayed first, so less serious events follow to show what you don't know about them. And the main story is primarily a mystery, which takes time to solve, so the gaps between new data coming to light are filled with fun times.

Don't get me wrong, event though I'm comparing Persona 4 to Persona 3 I'm not saying anything bad. P4 was is just a very different experience. Above that it fixed a lot of the nuisances that P3 had.
It was a great game, I had fun playing it, But like most jRPGs I won't likely go back to it any time soon.

Persona 4 Intro Montage


-----CP Out-----

Monday, June 28, 2010

Festival of the Third Guise

Some time ago I blogged about having intrest in a little game called Persona 3 FES (the extended edition of Persona 3). I spoke on the game back in 2008, and I hadn't even touched it when I wrote the post, but mentioned that it looked like something worth looking into. Well I ended up buying the game on (according the receipt I found tucked away in the box) the sixth of july 08. Now I'm back to say that eight days short of having the game for two years, I've finally beaten it from front to back.

Overlooking "The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion", P3F (as titled on the box) is the game that has resulted in THE most bang for my buck I've ever purchased. FES is divided into two games, "The Journey" which is the main story, and "The Answer" which extends the story, and gives additional closure. The game is advertised as having 100+ hours altogether. However, since I love to play RPGs exhaustively, I spent a rough total of 180-200 hours on the game. Most of that is because of my OCD for grinding, but none the less that's a value of $0.16 and hour VS. the traditional $10 an hour value (6hrs for a $60 game) I'm used to getting.

I digress, The entire point is that P3F was a fantastic game, and it shows that others agree since it's about to have it's third release for the PSP in early July (ironically the same day I bought FES two years ago). I spent an exhaustive amount of time on the game, and for good reason. It's story was well written, the game play was good (though it had it's quirks), and all the characters were properly fleshed out so you knew who they were and why they acted the way they did. Besides that it's structure was a breath of fresh air, allow me to elaborate.

in most RPGs you have minimal control over what happens in the game world other than how you choose to level your character, and fight enemies. However in Persona 3 game play is split into two different domains, traditional combat, and a simulation of high school life. At night you fight monsters, level up, and engage in all the traditional RPG elements. However during the day you go to school and hang out with friends. This part may seem like it's useless, but because your character has the special ability to combine summons (personas) to make new ones leading the life of a highschooler has it's useful purpose.

All personas in the game are classified by arcana (based on the tarot card system). The purpose of the highschool life sim is for you to make friends (or in some cases girlfriends), and forge strong bonds that correspond with a certain arcana. The stronger the bond between you and the friend that represents that arcana, the more powerful a persona created under that arcana will be when made by fusion. This results in one game with two very different appeals, which, through this system, are woven quite tightly together.

Anyway that's the basic rubdown of how the game's structure that caused it to be such a UNBELIEVABLY different experience. With a radically different spin on the traditional turn based RPG something was bound to happen, in this case it just so happened to be good.

Well I'll cut off here since I've rambled long enough. Check out the special montage seen at the beginning of P3F below.



Now here's to hoping that I get through Persona 4 faster. Oh did I mention that while in the middle of Persona 3 I bought Persona 4 on it's release day?

----Cp Out----

P.S. Right now I'm experiencing shell shock from finishing a game I've been playing for so long.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Life After "The End"

Upon completing the new game Red Dead Redemption I found myself pondering the general evolution of game endings. Why did I start thinking about this you ask? Well, it's quite simple, But it will take a bit to explain, so bear with me.

Red Dead Redemption is a game very similar to the Grand Theft Auto series, not only in it's play style, but also how it looks and generally feels. Because it was produced by RockStar Games (the same people who make GTA) this is to be expected. However, I also expected it to follow the same story formula which the GTA games have, even though I knew it would be somehow different.
Yet when I drew to RDR's close I was faced with some very surprising plot twists, and even more surprising were the choices the developers made to allow you to continue playing the game after finishing it. The ending of Red Dead Redemption aside, I came to realise the general constraints on story telling in games which allow you to continue playing after the main story ends.

This phenomenon is generally tied to the sand box/world builder gene. I suspect this is primarily due to how much there is to do in such games, even after you finish them. This means it makes more sense, and is more critical, to be able to keep playing than in traditional linnear games, such as first person shooters, turn based RPGs, or adventure games.

Now if it is expected that you can continue playing after completing the main story of the game, what does that mean about how the story can end? Well for one it means the main character has to survive, you can't play a tragic hero. Secondly, the world cannot end, everything has to still be there after you finish. Third, your empire, achievements, power, money, etc. has to stay intact, otherwise it feels like you played through the game for nothing.

Looking at those three stipulations it becomes rather clear that open ended games will all likely have a rather similar and predictable ending. This in turn means repetition is inevitable for the genre. However Rockstar seems to have anticipated this little issue, and in turn decided to make some bold moves to alter the fate of a "play after the end" game like Red Dead Redemption.
I'm not certain of exactly how I feel about how Rockstar decided to change this trend. In their efforts to prevent a predictable ending but still allow you to play afterwards they looked at those three rules with contempt. One rule they obeyed, another didn't apply to how the story worked, and the other one they directly disobeyed. It took some creative writing to pull off, and I have to say the story was far more unpredictable, further into the game, as a result.

In the end Rockstar has made it clear that they are making profound efforts to refine the open ended game, and change it. And even though I'm uncertain of how I feel about how they did so I can say one thing. If a game can be defined as good by weather or not it was worth the money it cost, then Red Dead Redemption can be called a good game.

Red Dead Redemption D├ębut Trailer


Now I'm off to crack into a non story heavy game called Super Mario Galaxy 2.
----CP Out----

Monday, May 17, 2010

Crash

In my aimless wander across the internet the other day I ran across an old flash game that I used to spend hours on. It's called NANACA†CRASH!!, and it's an interesting twist on the traditional how far can you throw something game.
What makes this instance so special is how it's based of the traditional shonen school drama concept. You know the drill, some guy goes to a school, meets a ton of girls, ends up in love with one, etc. In the process he probably gets slapped around by the girls for having some rather perverse incidents occur, weather they be intentional or not.
Anyway Nanaca Crash launches the main character into the air after having a collision with a girl on a bike. Like any game of the type you can gain boosts by hitting special objects, or lose speed, or stop entirely by hitting others in this case the objects being different girls and your male friends respectively. What makes this version special though is how there are combos you can activate.

I'll stop there, if you want to know more just check the link above.

----CP Out----

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Disturbing Advertising

A while back I blogged about an item available on NewEgg during a valentines sale. It was odd and humours at the very least. However the item has returned in their most recent sale for... Mothers Day.

Ok, I know that husbands buy gifts for their wives for mothers day, but I think MOST people think of their MOM on mothers day. Which made me nearly rip my brain out when I saw the item in NewEgg's advert.

I am Disturbed
----CP----

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Pixelated Heroics

In my youth just at the dawn of the internet, I was caught up in the rolling tidal wave which was the first generation of fully 3D console video games. I was armed with a Nintendo 64 and I found my first solid videogame addiction, "The Legend of Zelda Ocrina of Time". Not too long after completing the game I moved on to mastering it, and subsequently played through all other Nintendo produced Zelda games. This addiction, though not as strong as it once was, still continues today. I successively dedicate my time to any new Zelda games that come out, and a thorough play through of fresh releases is an activity I still engage in.

With such a long running love affair I can't overlook games that clearly parody or spoof the original series. For that reason in addition to the unique visual aesthetic, I look forward to playing the game "3D Dot Game Heros". A current gen idea with a throw back feel to the classic eight and sixteen bit games of the 90s. In addition it takes an unbelievable number of cues from the Zelda series.

Watching the video below will explain a WHOLE lot more.




----CP Out----

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Rendered Youth

Hopefully one day I'll be able to achieve the quality that this video has in my own productions. Until then I guess I'll just have to watch this video in awe.



----CP Out----

Friday, April 09, 2010

Trip

I know I don't usually post about things that pertain to my professional intrests here but I couldn't help myself in this case.

As a graphic designer and motion graphics artist I'm always looking at thins in such a manner so I can get new ideas. As a result I often browse youtube for interesting videos and am suggested unorthodox design videos.

Well recently I was advised to view the video below from a company call E-spaces. The video gives me some great ideas and also I feel really retro when i watch it for some reason. On a side note though I don't understand how any of that footage could be considered useful, even as a background for blue screen.



---CP Out---

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The thirteenth time



Finally beat Final Fantasy XIII (64 hours of play time), and I'm not really certain of what to say. This instalment is so similar to Final Fantasy X it's unbelievable.
First off the world is similar, the fashion is similar, the battle system is similar to the one in X2... I could just keep going. However as much like X, XIII is by no means as good as X. How do I put this, it's like they didn't put enough effort into the proper development of the story.

Honestly there's a massive conflict. The protagonists are great, strong, and very well fleshed out. However the purpose driving them over all is very poor, and even now I'm puzzled for as to why they had to do what they did. Sure they have their own individual reasons of starting the fight, but not all of them have a good one at the end of the game. That's not the only problem either.
Directly linked to the lack of overall motivation is the fact that it is devoid a properly defined antagonist. There are a few larger bad guys here and there. Yet the one you fight in the end is never given enough screen time to feel like he fills those big bad guy shoes sufficiently. Aside from that the world design is done in a way that make you feel like your the only one in it. No real towns, social hubs, and the full lack of a traditional mini-game makes the world feel desolate. You can also throw in bad pacing, awkwardly timed character emotions, and a slew of special terminology that can only be understood after reading the in-game encyclopaedia; and you have yourself a game that just doesn't come off right.

The only problem with all that is how the combat system is very well done, and fun. I don't know why but it hits a lot of keys in the right ways. If you've ever played FF X-2 then you know the VERY basic idea of how the battle system works and looks. However all the problems and timing issues have been removed. Proper strategy makes a difference, and thinking before the battle is just as important as having fast reaction time during combat.

It's a give and take scenario really.
++ The main characters are VERY well defined, yet lack proper opposition and a unified reason to continue their quest.
++ The game looks fantastic, but lacks NPCs to populate it, and feels empty as a result.
++ The story is poorly paced with many puzzlingly awkward moments, yet it has some very good and rock solid gameplay.

Though I think it has more cons than pros the gameplay is what really masters since it IS a GAME. So In the end I think that I'm pleased with my purchase, and just hope that the nest one is... somehow better.

----CP Out----

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Other than L and N

I just don't know what to say about Metroid other M, it's weird to see Samus with a face, a voice, and above all a story to go with them. The metroid games have never been known for having a strong narrative, or for even having a narrative at all for that matter. Naturally for that reason the most recent trailer for Metroid Other M kind gives me a fish outta water feel.

It's odd too, because the way that Samus sounds and looks is very familiar to me. I personally feel that the developers are trying to make her more like Deunan Knute from Appleseed.

I just don't know what to think.
----CP Out----

Monday, February 22, 2010

du-du-du- Dunst!

I just don't know what to say, Kirsten Dunst (Mary Jane from Spider-Man) did a video to the song "Turning Japanese". In order to do it she danced around Akihabara in a pink skirt with a blue wig on. Who would have guessed she's that type of person...

WARNING: NSFW



----CP Out----

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Retween R and H

So I ran across this story while reading articles on the Escapist earlier today.

I'm not certain of what to say. The gist of the report is that the man Christopher Handley was arrested for possession of child pornography. Only catch is that it wasn't what you would call full fledged kiddie porn, it was Lolita Hentai Manga. What more is that he was prosecuted for having a small portion of it, in comparison to his full hentai collection.

I just find it interesting, Japan is struggling with how to categorize Lolita hentai. If Japan is having trouble (the country that produces the stuff) than obviously America can't even comprehend how to handle it as anything other than flat porn. I'm not surprised he had Lolita manga being a hentai collector. Myself being a mainstream anime collector (non-hentai), know that it just impossible to avoid lolita, it's simply everywhere. So I can only imagine how bad it probably is on the hentai scene.

I'm not surprised by the trouble he got in though. If nothing else he was moving a form of pornography over international borders. Being a customs agent, I know that porn and international travel don't mix in any way, shape, or form.

ahhh, culture shock.
----CP Out----

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Valintine Techie

For those of you who don't know I frequently shop new egg for computer components, and I really do love the site. One thing about New egg is that they always look for an excuse to have a sale, so no matter how unrelated an occasion may be they will have a gadget sale just because there's a holiday.
Well Valintines day is coming up, so obviously they have a sale for the oh so unrelated occasion. Now when I think of new egg I think of gadgets, computer components, and deals on similar accesories.

However this time around I found This on the sale page...

I don't know what to say.
----CP Out----

Monday, January 18, 2010

Vanish

Seeing as how I was a bit loquacious in my last post, I'll keep it short this time.

I'm a fan the Haruhi Suzumiya series, and I am looking forward to the new movie covering the fourth book entitled The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya. Even though I'm far past this story arc in the novels, I still want to see it in motion.

This trailer may not be new but It still makes me giddy.

The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya


----CP Out----

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Fate

Some time ago back in the year 2004 there was a slew of memorable things happening in the anime related area of entertainment.

Ok, I'll drop the odd wording, and cut to the chase. Back in '04 type moon released a game called fate/stay night. The story was about a boy who was the soul survivor of a great calamity, and how at the age of 17 he was drawn into the re-occurrence of a hidden war involving magic wielders called magi. The game was infinity popular, and as a result it spawned several sequels, a manga, as well as an anime series that followed the original story. However I thought all of the hype had calmed down by the year 2006, as that was when the anime series was released. However I seem to be wrong.

I don't know what it is that has kept this game/anime/manga/story so popular for a solid six years now rolling into its seventh. I've watched the amine, read the manga, and above all played the game. While I have to admit that it is good I don't think that it deserves all of the attention it's been getting for years now. Regardless of my opinion though there's a new fate/sty night movie coming out fairly soon. Honestly this simply baffles me.

That being said I will admit that the soon advent movie (which is a retelling of the main story) is something I'm looking forward to. However the reason is not for the story. I'm looking forward to it for it's high quality art style. Usually when anything is in anime format, if a movie should follow at some point it is typically far superior in every way. Examples of this would be Ah! My Goddess or Escaflone.

After seeing the new trailer I am by all means waiting for the next incarnation of the story. I don't really know how to explain it, but the original fate story has some sort of pull to it. Though I'm unwilling to analyse it at current, I would bet that the pull is somehow related to it's cast of characters.

Well it looks like I've rambled enough, so I'll just cut off here.

Fate/Stay Night (Unlimited Blade Works) Trailer


----CP Out----

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Dusk

Back in the day I played a little game on the DS called Hotel Dusk, and it was kick ass. Now there's a sequel coming called Last Window, and I'm well anticipating it.

Not only was the story in the first kick ass but the visual aesthetic is different and refreshing. In Last Window the visual quality has been upgraded without losing the great gritty sketch effect that made the first game distinct.



GAME ON!
---CP Out---
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