Monday, December 27, 2010

Tales of Christmas

This Christmas was an odd one at best. At times it didn't even feel like Christmas. We held our usual Christmas activities during Christmas eve this year, including the opening of gifts, the big ol meal of awesome and so on... (due to work conflicts with various family members) so Christmas day (or rather the 25th) didn't really feel like Christmas... just a boring day :P Again because of work conflicts we didn't really go out and see anyone or do anything... twas an odd Christmas. Everyone's in decent health tho, so that's one plus.

How about you all? How was your holidays? Even if you don't celebrate Christmas, it's still tight to get some down time, right?

I've seen a number of blogs with people listing all the kewl stuff they got this year and decided I'd share something too. But rather than just flat out list a bunch of crap, I'll just include a few of the very kewl items that meant most to me:

First off, a simple Calendar. A Dexter Calendar at that :) Really kewl to begin with - as I LOVE Dexter - but what really shocked me is that it came from my father. Dad never seems to be the one who pays attention to one's likes and dislikes enough to pick up a kewl present like that and it really made me smile when I pulled it out of the random bag of goodies he presented me that morning. Very kewl indeed.

Next - another simple little item that just made me smirk and made my day. It's a small figurine of the mascot used by the phone company I currently have my cell through - Koodo Mobile's little Mucho-libre wrestler dude. The commercials involving this guy always make me chuckle and it's kewl that my bro picked up on that. *I got the one second from the left.

The third item I'm going to list... wasn't actually a surprise (as I stole the $10 movie cash out of it to see the new movie) but over all is still mega kewl. Tron Evolution for the PS3 as the Collector's Edition. Not really much in it for a "Collectors Edition" besides the aforementioned $10 ticket it included just the model Light Cycle... which is kewl... but I think they could of packed more in. The light cycle looks great... tho is a bit more plastic-y than I had hoped. Now I've got to figure out a place to put it :S

Last thing on my list... came from myself. It's something I've been looking at getting for a while now and thanks to some great pricing for the holidays, I finally just gave in and got it. A Sony Bravia 46" LCD HDTV and it's f'n gorgeous. It's replacing my Samsung 32" HDTV that I've owned for a number of years now and holy crap it makes my games (and blu-rays) shine. Kewl thing is, my sis offered to buy my old one (even before I got my new one) as she knew I was looking to upgrade and she needs a new one for her apartment (she currently only has a 20") and so it'll pay for like half of my new TV. Mega kewl.

Some games, movies, a new winter jacket along with odd little bobbles and nick-nacks fill up the rest of the list. But really... it's the top few things that really made my Christmas this year. Gifts from people who took a few minutes and looked for something they knew I would dig - really beat the hell out of just flashy crap any day.

Hope you guys had a good holiday as well :)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Holy Crap! Costume Quest is AWESOME!

I thought about doing a review... but then decided against it. Instead, I'm just going to write up this blog and explain to you how awesome costume quest is... it'll be review-ish, but w/e.

I noticed Costume Quest for two reasons, the first being the art style which really stands out above most other downloadble games as it seems to replicate a style not unlike a proper cartoon series. The second reason is the name Double Fine which I know to be Tim Shafer's studio and thus the man/team behind titles like Brutal Legend and Psychonauts... which means the title in question is at least worth a look.

Come launch day I go and download the demo for the game, hoping to find something I like. Roughly 15 minutes into the demo and I'm hooked, then a few quick button presses later and bam, I own the full copy and dive right into the story. The story itself revolves around 2 characters, Wren and Reynold whom are identical twins that have moved to a new town and set out to do some trick or treating. You get to choose which of the characters you want to play and before long, your sibling ends up getting kidnapped by monsters who think he/she's candy.

Your quest is to save your sibling from the monsters. This is achieved by completing various tasks given to you by NPC characters around the world as well as defeating monsters in turn based RPG style battles. The RPG system sounds a little odd at first but it really does work. It's light in that you have one attack button per characters and then one super move built up after a few turns. Your attacks, as well as defense rely on quick time button presses in a few different flavors, so the game always has you paying attention. As you progress the story you collect parts for costumes which you wear in the actual word - some of which have unique abilities, such as the quick roller skate glide with your robot costume or the shield protection with the knight costume - but also transform into amazingly awesome suits for battle when you transition into one of those RPG style battle scenes.

You gather a number of costumes and even a few friends along the way to aid you in your quest. Each of which is unique and really add to the story. The story itself is all text based - there is no voiced pieces at all through out the entire game. Jutting at first, you quickly learn that voice over is really not needed, as the script of the game is strong enough to hold up and make you laugh all on it's own. I did however, enjoy the hell out of the music that's in the game. Not once did it get old, or tiring or boring. There was always the right amount of enthusiasm in the score which you grow fond of as the game progresses.

Like I mentioned before, the art-style is superb and really above and beyond what most games try for. It's a simple cell-shading... but not once while playing did I see any noticeable imperfections or weird technical issues that take you out of the illusion that this is a cartoon.

The only thing that I found to pick on was A) an occasional FPS slow down at parts which helped break the illusion just as bit and B) your character (or ones following him/her) can get caught on things in the environment which takes some screwing with the joysticks to get loose. Other than those small technical issues... the game is near perfect in my eyes. I thoroughly enjoyed it and can't wait for more. Seeing as an expansion is being prepped as I write this... I guess I won't be waiting long.

Friday, December 10, 2010

My top Anime (series) list

Okay, so a gamespot budd of mine has pushed me into this... or rather he's inspired this. The gamer with all the lovely Valkyria Chronicles avatars and banners, of course I speak of LightChaos :P His blogs outlining his favorite Anime series/projects really made me realize that we shared near none of the same tastes in this genre of entertainment... and so I thought I'd drop my 2 cents on what series matter to me.

How's about a top 10 count down? Sure, that's how we'll do it. This blog will only be for series, if I choose so in the future, I'll do a top list for anime movies.

Honorable Mentions:

These series didn't make my top 10, but are still worth looking into. They didn't make the top 10 because they were either bumped out or I haven't finished them and thus I'm not going to give them a final line of what I thought of them.

Black Lagoon - Decent so far, kewl main character.
Pokemon - Ahh good ol pokemon. The games made me like the series.
Elfen Leid - Bloody, dark, violent, heart-warming.

The top 10 list:

10 - Card Captor Sakura

Yep, Cute ^_^

Ahh, Sakura. A rather childish anime in which a young student is pushed into a world where she gains powers and must spend her time collecting these magic cards of which beasts and creatures come out of. Along with 2 friends and a little bear shaped guardian, she must set out to capture all of the cards and return the book (which the cards go into) back to it's resting place. It's an odd concept but the show is all charm. It's like... if you mixed Sailor Moon with Pokemon and came up with something that was uber cute. lol.

09 - Ergo Proxy

Vincent's story is a bit of a sad one

Ergo is an odd one. I really liked where they were taking the project... but it seems that the ending was rushed and tacked loosely together. It's got a few useless, crappy filler episodes and like I said, the end just kind of happens without a lot of build up... I would of liked if they spent more time fleshing it out. That said, what is there is pretty good. The story follows a guy and girl who are almost complete opposites, living once in a well maintained future city and later forced to wander the underworlds of earth which was abandoned long before. Technically it's well rounded, tho the animation is hit and miss. I think I dug the atmosphere most in this series with the characters coming in second to that. It's also got a decent emotion attachment linked with those characters. You feel sorry, proud and angry with them. Like I mentioned, the story just kind of ends... so that's why its much further down my list.

08 - Ah! My Goddess

Keiichi and Belldandy

This is one of the few comedy based animes that I really latched onto. It follows the trials of a boy who summons an angel (whom works for an angel hotline?) and is granted one wish. His wish is for this angel to stay with him forever... and lone behold that's exactly what happens. He deals with going to school, participating in his motorclub and trying to please his angel friend Belldandy. Belldandy, being an angel and all finds it difficult living in the realm of mortals and all kinds of crazy things happen all the while the main characters start to fall for one another. To mix things up nicely, Belldandy's sisters show up, furious that the main character would wish for such a thing and take their sister from them. It's wacky, funny and over all very light hearted.  Superb IMO.

07 - The Vision of Escaflowne

Main characters Van and Hitomi

This anime I grew up on at one point in my life, before I knew what anime was. Decent production values all around, but nothing that stands out technically. It's about a psychic-medium like character whom is teleported into another world by her mother's pendant. Once there she is caught in the middle of 2 loves whom are connected to a massive power struggle in the land. Giant battle suits and mythic armor is the name of the game and again the action is decent. The characters really shine through as a stronger part of the series however. I simply love the characters.

06 - Speed Grapher

L-R = Saiga, Kagura and Choji

Speed Grapher was an "Out of nowhere" series which I just randomly saw on sale and decided to drop some cash on to nab the DVD set of. Knowing near nothing about it really allowed me to get an unbiased opinion of it... and it paid off. The series felt kind of short and more or less was an escape plan by two main characters. The two character's aren't the strongest I've seen, nor the narrative too complicated...  but there's just enough weird bits mixed in with some decent voice acting, action and even an oddly strong sexual undertone - which actually works for the series. It follows a photographer whom has the power to kill people by shooting them with a camera (taking pics) which is given to him when he accidentally stumbles on a rich-person cult that worships this one girl whom they think is a god. The girl is drugged and forced to kiss these cultists in a ritual that either kills you instantly or brings forth a power like the aforementioned camera killer thing. The whole rest of the series revolves around him taking this girl and trying to escape the organization whom wants her back.

05 - DragonBall Z

It's over 9000! :P Vegeta - my fav character

Ahh, DragonBall Z. While not the most sophisticated anime and really... the entire plot of the series boils down to beating up the bad guy and screaming when there's free time... it's something that I enjoyed the hell out of when I was growing up and I will always have a fondness for. The video games made from this series have kicked some major anime-game butt and are a ton of fun to play. Over the top action and struggles are what propel it along with some rocking music and flashy animation. It's definitely not your thinking show - like others in my list - but it's a guilty pleasure of great fun.

04 - Eureka Seven

A good portion of the E7 cast

Eureka Seven... I love... but find annoying at times. The whole idea around the series revolves around love. Pure simple love. That said, you've also got a band of space pirates, giant mech battles and a cast of great characters. While the characters are great most of the time... there seems to be many a moment when those characters get on your nerves because of their stupidity. The back and forth between the two main characters is frustratingly hard to watch and you really wish they'd just get to what they want to say, rather than tip-toeing around it. The music is something special in this series, I even have it on my ipod for listening at times :P The animation too is clean and superbly done.

03 - Neon Genesis Evangelion

L-R = Rei, Shinji and Asuka
Evangelion was a bit of an obsession with me for a bit. I really latched onto the odd series and even joined a fan forum for the anime, which both A) got my introduced to forums and B) was the first place I ever discussed anime with others in such detail. Sadly that place is long gone... but the Eva series sure isn't. It's currently getting a re-cut as a 4 part movie series which aims to cut some fat and streamline the story of the series into something that is up to date. Personally I think the series is great the way it is... but seeing them add new stuff and tweak old stuff is really kewl. The story of this series evolves around 3 main characters of vastly different personalities who are thrus together as some of the few who have the ability to control these mech units which have been made after a discovery made by a science team. It touches on religions, the human condition and Oh so much more. This series really takes a number of views to keep getting stuff from it and even then it's not laid out, you've really got to think about it. The more you think of it... however... the more questions there are. It's quite like a poem, hiding beauty in even the most simple things. Some of the english vo for this is hit and miss but each character is portrayed perfectly to what I believe they should be, so it's a trade off.

02 - Cowboy Bebop

L-R = Spike, Ed, Jet, Ein, Faye
Cowboy Bebop screams originality. There's really no other anime out there like it. Like others in my top list, Cowboy Bebop was taken care of when it came to english voice acting dubbing, as it sounds very natural, matching the characters perfectly unlike many anime of today which seem to half-ass this idea. The idea of the series revolves around Spike Spiegel and his budd/fellow bounty hunter Jet Black, who team up with Faye Valentine and Ed (along with dog Ein) on their life of bounty hunting criminals. It's got an "old western cowboy" meets Jazzy interludes and futuristic technology vibe to it which sounds strange, but it's charming as hell. Yokko Kanno does the music and is superb. The movie (made after the series) got me into CB... but the series is equally awesome.

01- Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
L-R = Togusa, Motoko, Batou
This series brought me into the idea of Cyberpunk, an idea that resonates very strongly with me and is probably one of my fave settings for stories, no matter the medium. Superb characters, properly done english voice dubbing, incredible music (by Yoko Kanno), clean and lavishly done animation all wrapped up in a wonderful package of thought provoking story lines and equally impressive action sequences. It's a smart series that makes you think - not only about the story and what it's saying, but also what it means to the world today. The story revolves around Major Motoko and her team at Section 9 - a fictional intelligence department under the Japanese government - who are the cream of the crop when it comes to fighting cyber-terrorism and related activities. Think, super special, small policing group who has resources to the awesome tech and whom are called in when others can't handle the job.


Welp, that sums it up. My fav series thus far. Spelling mistakes and such are likely dispersed through-out as I have no interested of re-reading and editing it :P