Thursday, March 30, 2006

Something to think about and someone to remember

A funny thing happened today while I was in the supermarket parking lot. A haggard but friendly-looking man approached me near my car, and explained that he was just laid off from his job and was scrambling to get $115 to pay his rent, and was looking for donations. Because I'm a horribly compassionate person when it comes to this kind of story, and because I had just bought Kingdom Hearts 2 the day before (Great game, by the way) and had no must-buy-right-away items, I pulled out $10 and wished him luck.

Now, this man could have very easily been a liar and a con. He also could have easily planned to grab my wallet when I pulled it out. He didn't do the latter, and I'll never be able to disprove the latter. And yet I did what I felt was right because of both the situation and my conscience. If there was so much as the chance that I was really helping someone in need, I hopefully did the right thing. What would you do?

On a much, much, sadder note, tomorrow is going to be a very tough day. Sometime before 10 AM, Nellie, our beloved golden retriever of almost 10 years, will be put to sleep to end her sad battle with cancer. This is a sorrowful and tough experience, no doubt, but I am at least looking on the positive aspects, such as the fact that Nellie has lived a long and happy life, given and recieved much love, and is promised that the last thing she sees will be me holding her and telling her how much I love her.

Free Image Hosting at


Sunday, March 26, 2006



Saturday, March 25, 2006

A tote bag of miscellaneous ramblings

3 AM, work tomorrow morning, and still not sleepy. Curse you, Sunkist, for making your orange soda so tasty.

Something that I didn't elaborate on in my admittedly crazy post on games and animation as art was that something that is still holding games back from being truly immersive is the ever-elusive goal of attaining total immersion. By this, I mean how there is still much fine-tuning to be done in games to make them look less glitchy and more realistic. I'm still seeing cinema scenes where character's heads clip through their collars. As smart as ragdoll physics are, there are still many incidents with them that make deaths look just silly. And, of course, there's the immortal problem of a lot of dialogue being given looped body animations and flapping mouths instead of lip sync. Wether or not this problem will ever become much less noticeable really depends on how much the industry grows and how much time and money a company is willing to spend.

But enough rambling. Let's talk about stuff everyone else cares about.

While I attempt to get the hang of Ghost Recon on the 360 (my first go at trying a realistic squad-based game), I am getting hooked on the newly-released Arcade game Astropop. The visuals and soundtrack are very slick, and the gameplay structure is both very original and challenging. And while many puzzle games offer different playable characters, this is one where the one you play as actually makes a difference- all four characters have different special attacks to charge up that can blow up blocks in an emergency. The game has also been out on the original Xbox's Arcade and the PC, so go try out a demo.

In making Wario Ware Tooned 4, I am continually frustrated by my utter inability to make decent-looking backgrounds. I've basically been forced to stick with stylistic UPAish stuff because I can't do any better- perspective and I have a long and bitter history. On the other hand, the episode is shaping up to be better-written and better-paced, and once again co-written by the very funny Sean of Still no clue of the release date, as not even all the voice recording is done.

I finally got around to purchasing Laputa/Castle in the Sky, and it is still my favorite Miyazaki movie. So I am excited that it will finally get some real nationwide exposure by airing on Toonami next Saturday. If you haven't seen this movie but like any sort of animation, or film in general, watch this. It is perfectly paced, genuinely exciting, and skillfully animated. The only problem is the English dub, something even Mark Hamill couldn't save.

There's a small fortune to be made cleaning out your shelves for eBay selling.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

A plea to all those involved with Futurama

Please, if there's a possibility that the show will be revived with new episodes, DVD movies or whatever, do not go around telling everyone until it's going to happen. Yesterday, Billy West said the next season was almost ready to start production- then retracted it today. This is at least the fourth time this has happened, and many fans are being let down hard by all the false alarms.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Let's get something out of the way

In your typical elitist animation geek's blog, and especially in any gamer's blog, there seems to be a topic that pops up frequently: The argument over wether these fields should ascend to the ranks of painting, film, literature, and so forth, to be considered legitimate art forms by the public.

And so I'll just go and say: Why the hell not?

In their early years, it would be hard to classify either field as art. And yet animation managed to make itself stand out in its infancy with Winsor McCay's famous short/performance, Gertie the Dinosaur. Do a little research if you don't know anything about Gertie; the entire premise is genious and it's a shame that anything like it has ever been replicated.

Animation itself was also limited by the early limits of film itself. Low budgets, deteriorating film, no color and no sound presented obstacles to those with big ideas, and they had to find clever ways to get around them. Nowadays we have digital surround sound, multimillion dollar budgets, high-definition color, and several totally different techniques for animating. Quite a difference.

Quite a difference, too, is what a 30-year difference makes for the video game industry. Pong is not really art. Sure, anything can be called art, but calling Pong that is like calling a kindergartner's crayon scribbles a modern masterpiece. But yet, when you stop and think about it, Pong is art in its own weird way, because it was not only a technological marvel but launched an industry that would lead to truly amazing ideas. It's essentially the seed of a plant.

With animation, the amount of expression and originality has always been totally dependent on the animator and writer. There are now few limits to what can't be done (outside the realm of censorship) because of the techniques and technology available. For games, on the other hand, there are still many limits. Even with all the big features of the Xbox 360 and PS3 being touted, processors are not yet able to handle realtime graphics on the same level as that of a professional CG production. But that is not the only thing- so many aspects of the fact that video games are interactive are actually still holding the industry back. For example, it is simply too costly to have all the dialogue be voice-acted and given lip sync and unique body/face motions for every bit of most 20-30 hour games. It's things like this that prove the industry is still in its infancy.

But the question remains for some: Is it art?

Animation can easily be proven as an art form. One of Walt Disney's driving forces behind Fantasia was to combine visuals and audio like never before, not deliver the same slapstick or fairy-tale adaptations the studio was known for. While there are many who will make an animated project just because it "looks cool" (Think about how many imitation anime ads you've seen), there are also many projects that people do because it would be impossible to pull off in live-action. Cartoons are a way to pull off what you can't do in real life.

And video games? They're a way to escape, in the vein of books. Yes, reading Catcher in the Rye and playing Halo are obviously two different types of experiences, but they're both examples of how one can roleplay. Maybe people who didn't grow up with them in this day and age will never show interest, but I believe this will eventually change.

On a side note, anyone who has a remote interest in animated music videos (I certainly do) should check out the Gorillaz' latest, El Manana. This is how I like videos to be done- the atmosphere of the video goes very well with the song.

Monday, March 06, 2006

My inner clock is on Tokyo time.

Sleep is a funny thing.

I'm pretty sure that most of us take it to simply be the body's way of giving its sensory duties a break- much like applicances are turned off to prevent overheating. But now we have a bunch of scientists who keep studying it, convinced that there's something more to the whole thing and we have yet to fully understand it. I can't necessarily say they're wrong since I have no means to do so, but this is something that I've always found a bit extreme. What are they trying to understand that they don't already know?

The reason I'm posting about sleep is because it is 2:20 AM as I type this sentence, and I still have at least another hour on my clock before fatigue sets in. And on Saturday night, for no real reason at all, I developed a sudden case of tiredness and fell asleep for 2 hours from 9 to 11 PM, got up, and could not fall back asleep until it was 6 AM and sunlight was starting to show.

Stuff like this is the only thing related to sleep that I can imagine scientists studying, but it's still not that complicated: I've turned myself into a nocturnal creature through too many late nights spent on the TV and computer. Voila.

The Oscars were a disaster presentation-wise. I can't remember Jon Stewart dishing out such unfunny material; it would be horrifying to learn if he himself wrote it. Other aspects confounded me, such as doing a pointless bunch of clips from the most obvious films to be considered classics (With the possible exception of The Fifth Element). On the subject of cartoons, the cringeworthy Chicken Little appearance made me realize that I can't recall a time where animated characters have given out an Oscar and been funny. This needs to change. The good part? Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Rabbit, an old-school slapstick film fine-tuned in every way, deservedly took the Best Animated Film Oscar. It's nice that this category finally exists (Though at the same time saddening that it nullifies the chance of an animated film ever getting Best Picture).

I have recently gotten a copy of Dragon Quest 8 for the PS2 to see what all the hubbub was about, and I'm having an enjoyable time. Granted, there's nothing about this game so far that puts it in the hall of fame, but it is a solid game that takes the better established conventions of the RPG genre and uses them. An earlier title, on the other hand, felt less deserving of its hype to me- Tales of Symphonia had a battle system that, while in real-time, ultimately felt clunky and confusing to me, and the presentation was horrid; instead of, say, trying to make character models that emoted, they stuck to ugly-looking semi-deformed ones that relied on emoticons to express themselves. EMOTICONS. (Luckily, the character design in this game wasn't the best to begin with.)

That's Dragon Quest on the left and Tales on the right. Would it shock you to know that no less than four of the Tales characters shown here are male? Yep.

Finally, on the topic of animated features, one I am nervously anticipating this month is the sequel to Blue Sky/Fox's Ice Age. I say nervously because, while the original Ice Age was one of the better non-Pixar CG films, Robots (from the same studio) let its fantastic design and potential get hampered by many juvenile and/or unfunny jokes. I guess I'm also apprehensive about all the new characters being added to this sequel- the distinct personalities of just the three guys in the original was great already. I'll be sure to post opinions when I see it.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Why I Enjoy These #1

Here's the way I've decided things will work: One cartoon and one game will be in each of these review columns. It's here that they will be examined. They will not be given a score or even reviewed. I will simply say what it is about them that causes me to enjoy or despise them.

Animation: Bobobo-bo-bo-bobo
Bobobo is an oddity. I say this not because of the pure wackiness that the show obviously is, but because of the fact that I think you can say the show is a steaming pile or a gutbuster and be absolutely and justifiably right either way. It all depends on what kind of humor you like.

Of course, I have the type of mind necessary to enjoy a show like this, but it still misses the mark quite often. One of the show's greatest jokes is right at the 2nd episode, where one character is turned to stone by a Medusa stare, Bobobo recieves the stare and a similar close-up screaming shot/dramatic music, then everything slows down and zooms out to show that he became a carrot instead for some reason. The execution of this joke is done well enough to get a snicker out of me every time I watch it.

And then we have jokes like Bobobo dressing up as a cat and fidgeting and muttering nervously for almost a full minute. This isn't funny. I don't know how it's supposed to be funny. It seems more like something to fill in time that is also trying to be pushed on the audience as a joke. While there are less dragging jokes in recent episodes, we still have ones that are either likely the victim of cultural differences (Jelly Jiggler briefly turning his head into a lighter) or unfunny ideas to start with (Oh, hey, this talking collar's attracted a dog! The dog thinks it's his! Humor!). In the end, however, the great jokes are worth enduring through the worse ones.

My primary exposure to the show has been through the English dub, and I am indifferent to the numerous puns and minor changes to the script- many of them make bizarre Japanese lines a bit more tolerable, but otherwise they do not amplify the show's quality level (and the same goes for the Samurai Pizza Cats and Duel Masters dubs, only those shows were shit to begin with). The voice acting is primarily the key factor, and Bobobo in English is a winner. Richard Epcar does a great Shaft-y macho voice for Bobobo, and Kirk Thornton, who is faced with the big responsibility of pulling off the many lines and moods of show-stealer Don Patch, succeeds with flying colors. The only real problem I have is Philece Sampler's Beauty- not just because the character is dull to begin with, but because Sampler's voice for anime is one of many screechy and annoying ones that plague dubbing.

Bobobo is not deep in any way. It should not be taken seriously in any way. It is a perfect show to turn your brain off and have play in the background, or sit down and watch on a lazy day. If you do not enjoy totally random humor, then you will absolutely hate it and have a perfectly good reason. It's just one of those love-hate things.

Games: Ratchet and Clank series
Ratchet and Clank gives me hope in today's video game industry. With all the worries and arguments over a lack of creativity and enthusiasm in major titles, this series shows both in a wonderful way.

One thing that Insomniac absolutely nailed in this series is the atmosphere. It may be because I enjoy seeing a sci-fi franchise with a more cartoony look to it, but it may also be because a lot of effort is put into it. There are so many wonderful things crammed into the entire presentation that many people would not appreciate. All of the weapons have their own little popping-up animation when activated, as if to suggest that they have actually been in compact form and are not popping up full-sized out of nowhere. Every bit of dialogue from every character is given full lip-sync and unique, charming animation, and not a looping, bobbing head and flapping mouth job. The characters are also given unique personalities, wonderful voice actors, and many laughworthy lines. As another nice little touch, the beginning of every level always begins with a custom camera angle to give a cinematic view of the wonderful landscapes and backgrounds for each world. The angle quickly switches to a normal view when you start, but you can take your time to stand still and look at what awaits you.

The gameplay is equally great. The enemies are not given health meters or incredibly advanced AI, but they make up for it with strength in numbers and clever spawning points. You never feel cheated, and when you eventually level up your weapons (A nice and addictive RPGish touch) and take them out, you are pumped and ready to keep going. The levels are very linear, but you are given extra incentive to revisit and unlock more areas and secrets upon obtaining other items. The addition of extra features in the Challenge Mode (think New Game+) adds a lot of replay value.

Deadlocked, the latest entry, falls far short of the other three due to the toning down of the adventure elements and the slimmer cast- and yet it is still a great game. That is a good example of just how well-done this series is- It deserves every bit of its success and the Insomniac team all its accolades, and I can't wait to see where it heads upon its return.



For those of you who don't know me, my name is Behonkiss. I am a constant poster on the Something Awful, Toon Zone and Donkey Kong Universe forums and an admin on the last. I have a deep passion for the art of animation and video games, and so far the output has been some crappy drawings and several mediocre Wario Ware cartoons. These will keep coming and getting better.

The purpose of this blog is to share my feelings about certain things. I spend a lot of time thinking about these fields (Way more than a person probably should), and as a result I have a lot to say about them. However, that will not be the sole purpose of this blog. Besides my thoughts, there will be sporadic reviews of games and cartoons I find notable to discuss for both positive and negative reasons, and occasional real-life interjections that I promise will not obstruct things much.

The other purpose of this first post is to, of course, make the blog able to be formatted. Later.