Delving back into Dragons but newly into Bunnies.

Wow. I’m really bad at this whole sticking to writing a lot resolution thing!

Video Games – Dragon Age Origins: Awakenings: So after beating Dragon Age 2, I decided to go back and finish up my archer-rouge dwarf Warden in Dragon Age Origins and finally go into Dragon Age Origins: Awakenings. And I’m having more fun with it than I expected! Perhaps it is because when Awakenings first hit a year ago the reception for it was pretty luke-warm, and so my expectations were lowered for when I actually started it up this past month. Although, I can see why people were down on it, as it’s very much an “expansion pack” that’s more an epilogue than an actual sequel. Awakenings is much more in line of their DLC quests they’ve made, only a bunch of them at are tied to together than a bunch of separate individual quests. That’s said, the quests are pretty fun in and of themselves, and do seem to tie up a few of the questions left by Origins. And in some ways does a better job than Dragon Age 2 at adventuring in small, localized area, as you can actually determine how well the area holds up to attack and decide the fates of criminals and other people in the arling.

Anime – Tiger & Bunny: So far this is the first anime that I’ve watched this season that has caught my interest and attention. Thankfully, it’s also pretty darn good so far! It’s Sunrise doing their thing of throwing a ton of money at something, and so it looks pretty,  but it seems to actually house of bunch of neat ideas inside as well. The basic concept is that there are superheros saving a city, but they are all corporate-sponsored and news of their exploits in solving crime is delivered in the form of a reality TV show that rates them on just how superhero-y they are. More over, the main character that it seems to be focused on is a middle age man who’s dealing with issues of obsolescence and a family he has to ignore for duty, while being upstaged by a younger superhero with the same powers as he has. That’s way more issues than many anime deal with in a season, and this is just the first episode! I’m looking forward to see how this show develops.

Manga – Sakura Hime: The Legend of Princess Sakura: At some point, probably in a lack of sleep-induced haze, I order the first volumes of manga written by Arina Tanemura, which were Mistress Fortune and Sakura Hime. In case you haven’t figured out by the names, these are both shoujo comics. Further more, they are shoujo comics about young teenager girls that meet the love of their lives, initially dislike them, but quickly come to fall in love with them over the course of the first volume. However of the two, Sakura Hime seems to have a much more interesting overall premise. Our heroine Sakura is a decent from the Moon Kingdom’s Princess Kaguya, and thus is the only one that can call forth a mystical sword that can actually kill the demons that infest their land on Earth. She’s also betrothed to the local prince of the land, whom of course she dislikes, then falls head over heels for.

Trick is (spoiler alert!) the reason why Sakura is the only one that can destroy these demons, whom are also descended from the Moon, is because she shares the same heritage as the demons and will one day become one herself. And so now this prince WHOM SHE HAS JUST FALLEN IN LOVE 4EVER has in fact wanted her dead from the beginning. Ok, now I want to read the second volume.

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Cross Story E

I made only one resolution this year: To write more. So in order to keep on top of that, I’m going to try and bang a weekly post on the various things I’ve been checking out. HERE WE GO!

Anime – Level E: This show is by far my favorite show of the new season, and it kind of came out of left field. Life’s looking up for Yukitaka Tsutsui. He’s a first year high school student, who’s moved to a new town thanks to a preemo baseball scholarship. But when he shows up to his new dorm, there’s this long haired blond pretty boy there, wearing his clothes and refuses to leave. By the way, he’s also an alien amnesiac who crash landed to Earth is an entitled asshole. You see, aliens have been living on Earth all along, they just disguise themselves as humans and said humans have no clue they’re there. Thankfully, it tuns out that Yukitaka is a total punk and the result of the show is hilarity by way of MiB with a dash of Cromartie. Unlike most anime comedys that tend to rely on references or puns to get their humor across, Level E instead uses bizarre situations with really clashing characters that horrible to each other, but are perfect for each other. Crunchyroll is streaming it.

Manga – Cross Game: I finally plowed through the second volume of Mitsuru Adachi’s latest baseball manga the other night, and god damn do I love this series. (Although really, this should come as no surprise to anyone that knows me.) In this volume we finally get to see the “portable” team take to the field against the actual Seishu High School baseball team, built from the ground up by Coach Dickface Daimon from around Japan. Daimon thinks this game is easily in the bag, but hey they’re just srubs that would only get in the way of his ace ringers, right? Ko Kitamura and company then go out and show him just how wrong he really was. I’ve always said Cross Game was more a character drama that just uses baseball as a setting, and Adachi once again knocks it out of the park. From Aoba giving commentary in the bleachers, to the players interacting on the field and in the dugouts, you see the characters grow and change over the course of the game, and signs for things to come start taking shape. Awesome volume.

Video Games – Cave Story: I recently discovered that Cave Story had already come out on DSiWare. While I already owned the Wii version, I really wanted to try it on my DS. As it turns out, that was a good idea as I’ve found that I like it way more as a portable game than a console one! Is it because I can play it in chunks wherever I go, or the pixel-y old school graphics just look nicer on a smaller screen, I don’t know. But I do know I’m coming right in on the final boss, whereas I only got halfway through the game when I was playing the Wii version. Although, I noticed that as I’ve been playing the game, there have been characters that I figured I could talk to as I played through the game that wouldn’t really talk to me. Since I knew that I was about to beat the game, I went back to see what I missed, and it turns out I missed a lot, including the path to the best ending.

Now, that sort of bugs me. You see, this game has an example of awesome design, and not so awesome design. Awesome design: Earlyish-on in the game, you are given an option to switch your basic weapon to a way more awesome version. However, if you keep a hold of it, you are given a chance to make it into an even more awesome one. And if you wait yet still, you have a chance for arguably the best weapon in the game! However, the first weapon you can switch for is probably the best weapon for a first time player, so it would make sense to frontload that choice, and then in subsequent playthroughs maybe the player will get curious as say no, just to see what happens. Not so awesome design: In the later half of the game, you will see a character lying on the ground right in front of you. If you talk to them, they give you an item that increasing your mobility. However, if you ignore this person, you can later get a better version of that as well, and it also gives you a chance to get the best ending. But why in th e world would you not want to talk to this character? The character is your friend, and it’s just plain common sense to interact with them. And the game never, as far as I can tell, gives you a reason to NOT do so. In say, Symphony of the Night, the game gives some pretty obtuse clues to find the better ending, but you can figure it out. Cave Story doesn’t, and that’s kind of lame. If it gave me the choice to take the item or not, even that would have helped. That said, the game is still super fun! And considering it was a homebrew game to begin with, I can give one disappointing design issue a pass.

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Because Ghost Treat wouldn’t be as much fun.

Way back in the heady days of 2005, a video game developer by the name of Capcom tossed out a lawyer-theme adventure/visual-novel game for the Nintendo DS called Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. It was an incredibly clever game, with interesting if not kooky characters, catchy music, and for many gamers, a fun underlying story and gameplay that most gamers either had never experienced before or hadn’t in some time. The initial release of the game was incredibly small, and quickly sold itself out of print due to more people actually wanting to play this game than Capcom realized. As people looked into the origins of the game and it’s history of development, it turned out what new and interesting for us English-speakers was but old-hat to our Japan counterparts. The 2005 game for the Nintendo DS turned out to be a port of a 2001 game for the Game Boy Advance. Which got people thinking, if the director Shu Takumi and his team at Capcom was able to pull off this fun stuff on the Game Boy Advance, what could they do with improved capabilities with the Nintendo DS? We thought that the answer was in the extra fifth games in the first Ace Attorney game, or possibly the eventual DS-only sequel Apollo Justice.

But no.

The actual answer, was a game called Ghost Trick.

(more…)

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HAMACON MINICON 2010

There's a one day anime con tomorrow in Huntsville, I am doing stuff for it. Here are those things:

Anime Fall 2010 Season Overview: There was a bunch of anime that aired this latest season, and some of it’s pretty darn good! Some of it, not so much. This panel is all about that.

Getting you Anime Groove Back: Perhaps you have fallen off the anime train. Maybe Japanese cartoons just aren’t doing it for you anymore. Or it could just be now with so many shows out there, you  just have no idea where to start anymore. Or perchance you may a friend going through these same issues. I’m going to try and suggest some shows to help get you back into the anime swing of things, by talking a Reverse Thieves post and turning it into a panel!

Talking About Satoshi Kon: Because GODDAMMIT that guy wasn’t supposed to die yet and still no one that I know who he is and that’s BOGUS. Dude made awesome movies and if you’ve seen anime you probably have seen his stuff at some point and had no clue who was behind it. WELL WONDER NO MORE.

The Pain Train Xpress Holiday Edition: My own take on the Anime Hell-styled clip show full of wacky videos, short films, and what not. This time with a holiday twist.

Also we are doing something a bit wacky with the anime viewing room for the minicon. At most (all) anime cons, the viewing room is a pretty quiet affair. You go in, they are showing anime, you watch some, you leave. For the minicon we decided to experiment somewhat and introduce some interaction into the mix. We’ve set aside some extra time before and after the episodes, and are going to have people that already know and love the shows in question on hand to talk about the show in question. They’ll open up some explanations on the show, who made, what’s cool about it, some things to look for. And them after the show, there will be time to actually chat about what you just saw. It’s kind of like introducing some mild panel elements to the viewing room. Will it work? We have no idea! But, there is only one way to find out.

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AWA 2010

Was a total blast. Finally actually met Gerald from AWO, met up again with Miko after missing each other for like, 3 cons straight, got to hear Dave Merrill tell the world how awesome General Daimos is, and got to talk Tezuka and Giant Killing in equal measure with Ed Chavez. Drew and I had a line for our first panel where we blasted Engrish at people and they didn’t leave, even when at the start it was just audio. Oh and we then talked about Sports Anime and it wasn’t just us in the room! Also I got to see Greggo again which was very cool who also ABUSED, ABUSED his power of being an anime game host host to canvas guests for Dragon Quest IX! The AUDACITY. And that was just Friday! And I’m also leaving out a bunch of stuff I’m sure. Carl Horn showed off a book filled with design ideas from Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise, on how they had 5-6 rejected design ideas for items for every one they used. (Gainax took common household items that we take for granted like spoons and reinterpreted then for the movie’s setting, such that they are instantly familiar but still completely unique. And apparently did this several times for each item!) Mind. Blown.

And how I locked my keys in my car immediately as I park at the Waverly on Thursday night. Although I guess getting the low point out on Thursday was a plus!

But yeah, AWA as always a ton of fun, can’t wait for next year.

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Carl Macek RIP (1951-2010)

He was a man who did what had to be done, and in the end the anime industry was better off for it.

He was instrumental in the creation of Robotech, the crazy Blackjack-level surgery of three anime productions into one US TV cartoon epic. And Robotech got a lot of folks into anime, including myself. He then went on to help found Streamline Pictures, where his crazy antics would continue on but brought us such greats as Akira, Fist of the North Star, and the original Vampire Hunter D. His Streamline Pictures Part-In-Crime Jerry Beck posted about the details.

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So I'm going to Ohayocon…

Another year, another slew of cons! This year I’m starting early with Ohayocon! Since Nekocon in 2008 Emily DeJesus has bugging me to bring myself and fellow OSMites to Ohayocon at each convention I’ve been to since, culminating into the podcast interview with herself and her husband the amazing artist Robert DeJesus where she told us and the world, “Just fucking go!” at MTAC last year.

Look out Ohio!

So I’m going! As is Kevin, and Brad, at least so far. Of course, it wasn’t good enough to just go, oh no. The sly fox that she is, has hoodwinked us into running some panels as well!

On Saturday at 1PM in Panels 3 (Union D-3) we’ll be hosting the Podcast Jamboree! It will be a panel about podcasting. This is something we’ve done several times before, should be aces.

However on Friday at 4Pm in Panels 6 (Grant/Harding) we’ll be running the panel Tsundere: Why We Love the Ones That Hate Us Most. This will be a look at the popular character archetype, where did it come from, and why it works. This one will most likely have pictures and PowerPoint and snazzy stuff like that. In other  words, we have to work at actually making this panel happen, with research and stuff! This is very scary! This will be the first ever “real” panel I have done, so it should be very interesting. If nothing else, it should be fun to watch us crash and burn. And it will give us a real chance to see how the whole thing works which is really good since I’ll be pitching this panel (and more!) to both MTAC and AWA.

Which reminds me, I should email Dave at some point soon.

In other news, my only resolution this year is a simple one. “Write more.” So hopefully this blog will be updated waaaaay more than it is currently. We shall see.

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