Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Early Video Game Reaction

Thank Dear Heavenly Father for video tape -- I ran into these wonderful old news clips, showing initial early reaction to NES. This was long (LONG) before the controversies of Grand Theft Auto -- but it just goes to show how insane public reaction can be to new things.

John Stossel reports on the issue, and its really cringe inducing to see them talk about the level of violence in those early video games!

This video shows parent's reactions to the new Super NES - which boasted a revolutionary new level of gameplay and ability; but, DON'T WORRY, there are over-protective parents aplenty back then to protect kids from, at the time, the infantile corporate machine of New Generation Hardware.

It really just brings to mind the kind of fear mongering TV news was and still is famous for -- only given the separation of a few decades, to make that fear now seem laughable.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

E3 2014 and Nintendo

This is coming in late -- but I wanted to give my opinion about the recent Nintendo showing at E3 this year. Nintendo has not been having a great year, with sales of the Wii U not meeting expectations -- as the system still struggles to justify its existence, beyond being the sole platform for playing Nintendo games. I really think they are getting back on track, and this E3 really shows it.

First off, the internet video clip began with a Robot Chicken sketch (minus the vulgarity), with Nintendo actually laughing at itself! They even mention the long beleaguered Mother 3 - which Nintendo refuses to release in the West; but, really, kudos for actually allowing Robot Chicken to make fun of them.

The games they showed, while not groundbreaking in any respects - coalesced into a delightful gallery of what Nintendo has in store for the future. The bedrock of all these games, really, is simply quality.

Captain Toad's Treasure Tracker, spinning off from Super Mario Wii U, initially struck me as a waste of everyone's time - as it will essentially be a puzzle solving game. Yet looking at what they managed to showcase, through mini-games, in Mario Wii U, I can't help but think this will be solid puzzle game for kids and fans alike.

"Kirby and the Rainbow Curse" follows up the DS game "Kirby Canvas Curse" - but with a winsome claymation style that looks incredible! I recently picked up the DS game, and while the stylus controlled Kirby might not be to everyone's taste - it's a solid gameplay mechanic, which will make good use of the Wii U touch screen. Only problem? You'll be looking at the touch screen - and not at your TV!

Yoshi's Wolly World seems like it's ripping off a thread from "Kirby's Epic Yarn" -- developing a game around Wool and Yarn. The exploration gameplay of Yoshi games are always fun -- and now it's just extra cute! The Yarn gameplay mechanics look interesting, too.

What really stole the show, for Nintendo, was nothing less than Smash Brothers. I honestly had ignored this game series for a long, long time up until now. I picked up a copy of the Wii version "Brawl" - and while the game initially didn't wow me -- I found myself continuing to come back over and over again, as the game kept offering up more and more surprises.

Well, I'm officially hyped for Wii U Smash Brothers, coming out later this year! Not only are they including a large and eclectic cast of characters (including Mega Man!!!) - but its boasting a strong competitive edge against regular fighters -- joining the ranks of Street Fighter and other games, and becoming a real competition-level game. Nintendo had a large fight between gamers at E3 -- which the crowd seemed to go wild for!

Another classic video game character has joined the fight! Pac Man!! I'm really surprised by this - but welcome to his addition because of the classic video game effects combined with his character.

Smash Brothers, combined with the already released Mario Kart 8, are going to be BIG system sellers for the Wii U. I really think this is were the system turns the corner. To be honest, being my only current gen system that I own (and being an early adopter of it) I'm quite pleased to see the system get its due. Its simply been mis-marketed, and mis-directed towards fans and hardcore gamers -- but Mario Kart and Smash Brothers are the games that can really change that.

What is also going to REALLY help Nintendo (at least in terms of cold hard cash) -- is the introduction of Amiibo, a collection of Video Game Figures, which interact with various games. This is similar to Skylanders -- which, if the stores stuffed with figures from floor to the ceiling are any indication, are selling quite well for kids. These Amiibo are going to appeal much more to hardcore fans -- yet, their real use beyond collectibility remains to be seen. It will make Nintendo a lot more money -- but its an easy thing for fans to ignore if they want to. As long as that mantra, of usable, but ignorable remains true - I say let Nintendo have their fun. (and money.)

Bayonetta 2 is getting a release on the Wii U, with Nintendo themed clothing options - PLUS, the inclusion of Bayonetta 1; two games for the price of one.

Xenoblade Chronicles X released a stunning trailer, of mech-fueled war -- shooting right into space! Honestly, I was more in awe of this game when they where only calling it "X" last year at E3.

Nothing was shown, but I heard there was talk of two Metroid games in development. Perhaps we'll get a better version of Other M (with less talking from our heroine, I hope), and possibly another Metroid game in the vein of the Prime series. I say, Nintendo: MAKE BOTH!! You can never have enough Metroid games.

Finally - the last thing I wanted to talk about - was the reveal of the new Zelda game for Wii U. WOW -- this looks like it is going to be a defining Zelda game, as its harkening back to its roots of a sprawling expanse to explore!

Nintendo really stole the show at E3 this year, and I hope they continue to keep up the momentum going into the new Holiday season!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Spectacular Spider-Man Animated Series

The Spectacular Spider-Man series surprised a lot of people. It used a very simplistic art style, which at first was bemoaned over -- but it quickly became apparent that this art choice was decided on for a reason: quick, smooth, and elegant fight scenes became the norm for this series. Add onto that the faithful interpretation of Spider-Man's early years by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, and the series became a fan favorite.

Sadly, it didn't go past 2 seasons. It nicely wrapped much of the story up, in the course of 26 episodes -- but the acquisition of Marvel by Disney put an end to this series continuing any further. (Which is a real shame, given the lack-luster animated series they have produced thus far, under Disney's control.)

Still - this is a great series, and for what it produced it should be celebrated for. Thats why I was so happy to find out the entire series has been put onto Blueray. No more hunting for 8 different DVD volumes (which many fans hated) - but instead you get the whole batch together, along with a few special features.

You can find the series on DVD, here on Amazon. When I ordered a copy, it sold for only $25 - which is a pretty sweet deal.

To give you an example of how cool the series is, instead of talking about it, I thought I'd just show you some clips of the series I found on Youtube.

This video, below, shows different highlights from the series

This shows an amazing fight between Spider-Man and the Sinister Six (when Spidey was using the Black Costume at the time.)

Final Fight Between Spider-Man and Venom

Now all they need to do is release DVDs, or Bluerays, of the 90s "Spider-Man Animated Series" Thats the one I grew up on - and I can't fathom for the life of me why they haven't been released yet. Still, until then, this series will serve as a fine substitute for my Spidey-Fix.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Steve Ditko and Spider-Man

With the latest Spider-Man movie quickly approaching, I found myself thinking back to the original origins of the character -- namely those first 38 issues or so, drawn by the incomparable Steve Ditko.

Steve Ditko's original work on Spider-Man was nothing short or revolutionary - and probably could only have been given life like Ditko could create. Instead of a square jawed muscle bound hero - Spider-Man countered every Super Hero Tradition, creating the socially awkward, guilt ridden, teenage super hero we all now love. As Peter Parker, our nerdy hero Spider-Man shared many of the difficulties we find in our own lives -- trying to care for loved ones, dealing with social pressures and difficulties, and simply trying to get bye in life. Above it all, though, Spider-Man showed a tremendous level of moral fortitude -- always struggling to do the right thing, even when it wasn't easy, or glamorous.

I don't know wether this was Stan Lee's influence, or Ditko's, but the evolution of Spider-Man as an awkward teenager, to eventual graduate from highschool, was quite enjoyable to see. The character literally grew up with the readers, evolving as issues went on. The dejected Peter Parker became more confident in certain situations as he was growing up. Likewise, Steve Ditko's art became more and more daring -- using full page spreads on occasion, to express the tension or relief, or action of a moment.

His battle against the Molten Man was probably one of the most daring visual attempts Ditko did, creating a near silent and long, bare knuckles brawl between a glistening golden foe in the darkness.

The upcoming Spider-Man movie is suppose to showcase the evolving Sinister Six -- the Super Villain grouping, which in Spider-Man Annual #1, forced Spidey to face off against 6 of his most fearsome foes. I'm quite excited to see how they manage to do this -- with a slow build-up of different villains being a smart approach for the film - possibly leading into a third Spider-Man film.

The ever present Green Goblin is equally getting thrown into the mix. When originally reading the old issues, I found it compelling, long before Gwen Stacy was thrown off a bridge, how the Goblin made himself the most persistent enemy in Spider-Man's rouge's gallery.

The Green Goblin, for those who don't know, is the center point of the most prominent rumor, as to why Steve Ditko left Spider-Man. The revelation of the Green Goblin's identity had yet to be revealed - and seemed to be coming to a head in the issues Ditko was drawing. The story supposedly goes that Steve Ditko wanted the unmasking to be of someone Spider-Man, and the readers, didn't know at all. Supposedly that would make it more realistic - rather than the Goblin's identity being someone Spider-Man already knows in his life. Stan Lee, though, wanted the Goblin to be unmasked as Peter's friend's Dad, Norman Osborn. To which, Ditko left the series -- which was then left and handled by John Romita Sr who took over the series.

I sort of don't believe that explanation, though. There where other unmaskings, and revelations, done in Spider-Man issues before that - namely concerning the "Big Man" and "Crime Master" - one who turned out to be Daily Bugle worker Federick Foswell, and the other was an unnamed individual who died before he could tell who the Green Goblin really was. So - Ditko leaving simply over Stan Lee wanting the Goblin to be Norman Osborn rings a bit false.

Apparently I'm not the only one who thought this story of Stan Lee's sounded fishy! Visit Dial B for Blog, here, where you can see some great collected info regarding the identity of the Green Goblin, and how it wasn't a reason for Steve Ditko's departure.

Ditko, although readers didn't know it at the time, was quite a conservative guy. Ditko is a believer in Ayn Rand - which might have begun to clash more and more with Stan Lee, who was much more liberal, and voiced his characters as such when writing dialogue. I think this might have been a bigger contributing factor - as Ditko's belief in Objectivism became more and more solidified -- examples of more extreme black and white world view can readily be seen in his later work, like "The Question", "Mr. A", or the dueling Philosophical Heroes "Hawk and Dove".

There is a wonderful documentary, done by Jonathan Ross for the BBC, called "In Search of Steve Ditko". Ditko is a famous reclusive, which adds more and more to his mysterious appeal. He's had arguments with Stan Lee, over the credit he receives as Spider-Man's co-creator - but he never took it a step further, trying to achieve a bit more recognition himself by, say, writing Spider-Man again, or even popping up to receive some of the adulation (or money) to be had as his creator. I believe the reason he has never popped back up in regards to Spider-Man, besides going against his reclusive nature, is because it would also be against his moral code.

The documentary is very well done and respectful. This video is part 1, which you can easily see the other parts, one after another, linked at the end of each segment.

Thematically, though, the documentary doesn't delve into Steve Ditko's return to Marvel Comics - where he drew again, creating some odd but beloved characters such as Squirrel Girl. His style, though unchanged, didn't seem as good or as focused as it was in his hey-days.

Still - I would love to see him come back to the character someday, even if in a small way. Yet, when I think about it, it occurs to me that Steve Ditko might be fine with what he's already created. If there was anything about his art and style - it was that it was definitive, expressive - and probably already said what he would want to ever say about the character.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Dragon Quest on Youtube

I've found some good Youtube videos, featuring info about Dragon Quest, and thought I'd share some of the best stuff I've run into.

Here, on 16-Bit Gems, the beginning history of Dragon Quest is explained. This is a more thorough and comprehensive a detailing of Dragon Quest's rise, than any other video I've seen. Excellent video!

16-Bit Gems has follow-up videos
- One focuses on Dragon Quest VIII
- Dragon Quest I and II
- Dragon Quest III

The HappyConsoleGamer has a good retrospective of the DQ series.

The video is split into two parts
- Part 1
- Part 2

- He Also has a great look at his Dragon Quest merchandise Collection

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Dragon Quest Monsters; STILL Unreleased!

I don't know exactly why, but the Dragon Quest series has been going through a significant drought over here in the USA. It seems such a shame, considering how loved the recent title releases have been; giving us re-makes of Dragon Quest 4 through 6 (6 never having been released in America before), the release of Dragon Quest 9 (which I STILL see in stores, for full price), and the Dragon  Quest Monster Joker series selling two games over here.

Dragon Quest X, being their first MMORPG, not coming over here, isn't as surprising -- as that is an expensive endeavor and possible risk. Yet still, the DS Dragon Quest games always sold well enough - that the departure of the series (and Square-Enix's silence on the subject) leave many Incredible 3DS titles waiting for us overseas.

Well, I finally said "Screw it - I'm buying Dragon Quest Monsters anyway!"

You see - Dragon Quest Monsters: Terry's Wonderland, which released in Japan (and is releasing with another sequel), is actually a remake and update to the original Dragon Quest Monsters on the Gameboy Color.

It was originally lambasted as being a poor Pokemon Clone, which is far from the truth. As for myself - I actually owned a copy, but didn't understand it well enough when I was younger. It eventually ended up being traded in, which I always regretted. That was why I was so happy to hear about Terry's Wonderland -- until it became clear we might not get a state-side release date.

Anyway, I was in luck - because used copies of the game are in supply, and for cheap. I was able to order the original Gameboy Color copy of Dragon Quest Monsters, along with it's sequel of Cobi's Adventure. (Sorry Tara - you're version of DQM2 will have to wait).

The graphics are dated, the pace is slow -- but it was a nice set of games to pick up; bringing me back to the old school Dragon Quest world. You do, however, NEED to have a Gameboy Color system, or a Gameboy Advanced System (that can play original Gameboy games). Luckily I had the clam-shell GBA in supply.

This still doesn't make up for the absence of the 3DS remakes, considering they will be considerably different from their 8-bit forbearers, but perhaps there is hope on the horizon! Translations of these games can take a long time, and Nintendo still can release them in America. So maybe they will change their minds at some point.

Here, you can see what we're missing, with a trailer for Dragon Quest Monsters Terry's Wonderland. It looks like such a stunning game, especially in contrast to the Gameboy Color version!

As for the Dragon Quest series as a whole - there is some good news. A trademark for a Dragon Quest name was recently made in english -- for perhaps the 3DS remake of Dragon Quest 7 will make its way over seas. Who knows, though? All I know, its the series I keep a constant eye out for - and buy on the spot, whenever a game is localized and released over here. Luckily for me, I was able to do a bit of time-traveling, and pick up these older Gameboy games!

Here are two video reviews that show and explain Dragon Quest Monsters on the Gameboy.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Returning to Naruto

Having finished reading Dragon Ball, from volume 1, to volume 42, I find myself franticly looking for the next manga series to read. I look around, with options like One Piece or Bleach before me. Both are good -- but they are soooooo far into the series, I can't fathom being able to catch up - or join them in progress. I thought the same of Naruto -- having only read the first 10 or so volumes, with a few scattered volumes later on, and having followed it for a bit in the American Shonen Jump magazine. Still -- it's currently at volume 64. I mean, really! 64 volumes of Naruto have come and gone -- you wouldn't think I could catch up on that.

Still, I was interested when my comic store had volume 64 on sale, just released. Combine that with the recent Naruto video game, and I felt quite at home and knowledgeable about what was going on in the series.

That game, of course, is Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 (trailers below).

It really, quickly, filled me in on the biggest development of the Naruto series - that of the various Tailed Beasts, and their human hosts called Jinchuriki. We already know two of them -- One Tail and Nine Tails -- in the form of Garaa and Naruto. The trailers below quickly catches you up with the other Jinchuriki hosts -- who you only need to know about, in as so far as the fact that the villains in the series want to capture the Jinchuriki hosts. The destructive 10 Tails is also awakened, which is what volume 64 entails -- with volumes right behind it having revealed the big hidden villain of the series.

I actually do plan on going back, and reading what I had missed -- but it was nice to know, after even 50 or more volumes later, that characters still read and felt like they should -- and I didn't feel like I had missed a beat. The video game just nicely tied up any questions I had regarding all these new Tailed people. Also, Naruto might be more powerful than he's ever been - but he's still the same character, and easily transferable from whatever point any of you might have read about him last.

It turns out, coming back onboard, is quite appropriate right now - as the writer and creator of Naruto has said the series is in its final phase. Volume 65 looks to be returning to the plotline of Sasuke - who Naruto still has yet to save from the abyss.