Monday, July 21, 2008

Rock Revolution- What's the point?

We already have Guitar Hero World Tour and Rock Band for the complete virtual band experience, but Konami's trying to hop on the bandwagon with a crappy-looking knockoff that has no master tracks. Their E3 presentation did absolutely nothing to convince people of the game's merit (Watch to the end):

On a positive note, it was very smart of Activision to make the Rock Band instruments compatible with World Tour. Now I can pick up both.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Hey Activision, Stop Playing Copycat

To recap things: The company Harmonix developed Guitar Hero 1 and 2. Activision published them. MTV bought Harmonix away from Activision. Now Neversoft and Vicarious Visions develop Guitar Hero. Through EA, Harmonix made Rock Band, an expansion on the GH formula that added drums, bass and vocal playstyles.

Guitar Hero 4, or rather Guitar Hero: World Tour was recently announced, with the press release stating, "For the first time, guitar players can also play bass, play drums and sing vocals!"


It also seems that the controllers for each game may be incompatible with the other. In other word, you'd have to pay almost $400 if you wanted to play two songlist's worth of what is essentially the same game.

I have no plans to get World Tour but do plan to get Rock Band and its announced sequel. The only positive announcement has been Activision announcing the "Create-A-Song" feature for World Tour, giving players a music-making application and letting them upload their creations online for all to play. If Activision wants Guitar Hero to stay a viable property, they need to do more like this, and add unique and creative features that Rock Band didn't beat to the punch.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Kung Fu Panda, Number One Super Guy

When I saw the trailer for Kung Fu Panda in the theater, I rolled my eyes. I turned to my sister next to me (She's 11) and said it looked like crap. She agreed wholeheartedly. In fact, it becamse a running gag between us over the next couple of months, ie, "Kung Fu Panda, MOVIE OF THE YEAR!" every time we saw a mention of it. And then it came out, and people started to go crazy over it. So we went and ate our words.

This is a good movie. The humor doesn't have any soon-to-be-dated pop culture references that I caught, there's some good elements to the story (A villain with a REASON for his ambitions?!), and a surprisingly authentic Asian look to the whole thing. The action sequences make the movie. The most stunning scene to me involves a prison escape, and all I'll say about the craziest shot is that it involves lots and lots of arrows. There are also some neat looking 2D sequences at the beginning and end, the former of which is super-stylized and could hold a movie on its own.

I'd actually recommend this not just to cartoon fans and kids but fans of martial arts films, because they got the Crouching Tiger-style fighting down pat. The only real bad news about the film's success is that Stephen Katzenberg is hoping to make not one, or two, but FIVE sequels. I smell some crap headed our way if they try to rush these out.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

User-made content: The next step in rhythm games?

Let's do a review.

Stepmania is a still-thriving Dance Dance Revolution PC clone, with the ability for users to take their own MP3s and make custom levels based around them. Osu! does the same with the Ouendan/Elite Beat Agents playstyle, and Frets on Fire with Guitar Hero.

On the professional side, Phase, from Harmonix (the same people who brought us Guitar Hero and Rock Band) automatically analyzes your songs to make a game that is essentially a simplified version of their premier series for your iPod. Beats does the same for the PSP. As does Audiosurf for the PC.

Combine this with dozens of amateur Flash games, and it becomes obvious that music games supplied by the input of the masses is getting big. And the next big step may come with Rock Band, as a Harmonix rep has mentioned that they are interested in a similar system being released for the game at some point.

In other words, get those MP3s, check these programs out, and have fun making your own levels.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Genius Party

The fairly new (It's been out in Japan for a few months) anime anthology Genius Party made its US premiere at the Kennedy Center a few hours ago, and I was lucky enough to be there. Shinichiro Watanabe (AKA director of Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, and the detective segment of The Animatrix), who directed the last segment, showed up and talked about the film before the screening, with the help of a translator. I grinned like crazy when, instead of exiting the room, he went and sat down three seats next to me and watched with the rest of us.

Genius Party is a treat. It is a great display of creativity and variety, in the vein of classics like Robot Carnival. I have a feeling that whenever the U.S. is able to get a widespread look at it (either through limited release or a DVD), it will be quite popular. Now for a look at each short and my thoughts:

Genius Party (Intro Short)
An abstract and engaging short. A field full of head-shaped rocks, many glowing hearts, and an odd-looking bird at the beginning make up a barely cohesive story, but the visuals and music are compelling, getting more and more intense as it goes on.

Shanghai Dragon
A shy, bullied little boy finds solace in chalk doodling on the walls and floors, and everything changes when he discovers an odd glowing pen that makes everything he draws a reality. But this is not an unexplained mystical object- it's a secret weapon developed by a far-off alien planet at war, and it must be recovered before the enemy gets it first.

This is definitely one of the better shorts. It is engaging, gorgeous, funny, and fast-paced, with some amazing action sequences and clever visuals. The ending, though, feels a little abrupt.

Deathtic 4
The only short done in 3D CGI, and the visual style is perfect for it. In a bizarre gothic world of zombies and odd creatures that feels like the lovechild of Tim Burton and Jhonen Vasquez, a zombie boy leaves for school only to be shocked by a frog falling out of the sky- not just any frog, but one that's actually alive. He discovers a team of three misfits who know of a way to return the frog to its own world, and they set out on a wacky ride in a shopping cart while chased by small red policemen who talk through cans that make cow noises and ride tricycles. (No joke.)

A definite favorite, the visual design is excellent and the overall short very engaging and funny, despite a few fart jokes. If the characters were ever to be merchandised, Hot Topic would be all over them.

Door Bell
The middle of the road short, both in order and quality. A young Japanese man inexplicably has a double come out of him, who begins to take over his life by somehow causing him to vanish from sight and sound for his family and friends. Eventually, he is still able to contact her girlfriend, and heads to her in hopes that the double will not beat him there.

After the craziness of the previous shorts, this one is down to earth despite the odd story. There's nothing that stands out about it, but it's an entertaining diversion and a fun watch overall. Not so much...

Limit Cycle
A guy who seems to be a living hologram stands still and looks around as random people and computerized images dance around him, while monolouging endlessly about God, the soul, technology, and other stuff. There is no true plot to the short.

This is junk. There is not much to gain from the dialogue, which is more pretentious than insightful, and the image rush soon becomes repetitive. It's a real chore to sit through, but thankfully it's the only stinker in the bunch.

Happy Machine
Though also abstract and with very little plot, Happy Machine avoids the problems of Limit Cycle and focuses on visual wonders and little else. A baby is inexplicably in a room where he is nursed by a robot made of monitors displaying a live action girl, but that breaks down, and the room soon falls apart. The baby finds himself in a bizarre world, sparse and stylized. He curiously explores the world, making friends with creatures and discovering new and exciting things.

Entertaining and endearing, the baby is both animated and voiced in a very appealing manner, and you grow to care for the creatures he befriends as well. Though the animation style is simplistic, a lot of emotion is brought out of it, not to mention a creature walk straight out of a 1920s 'rubber hose' cartoon. The ending is ambiguous, but not in a sense that will make the viewer feel cheated and abruptly cut off.

Baby Blue
Feeling ambitious, a male student decides to skip school and invites a friend who is a girl to wander about the city for the day. They screw up a subway trip and have to get home the long way, and some interesting events happen that result in both their return home and a last conversation that reveals a bit more of their personal lives and feelings for each other.

Watanabe described Baby Blue before the movie with a single phrase, "Genius Party is a feast, and you can consider Baby Blue the dessert."The final segment stands out in that it is the only completely down-to-earth segment in a movie dominated by the fantastic, but this does not have an effect on its quality. Character and vehicle animation is very nice, the voice acting is great, and Watanabe's directing style shines through. My only real gripe with the film is that it feels like it saves all of the character development until the end, but it still manages to have a touching final scene.

Overall, I highly recommend seeing Genius Party whenever you get the chance. It is not limited to anime fans in terms of enjoyment, as it also can appeal to arthouse film fans, artists in general, and probably stoners. Go see it.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Sony Defense Force- One of the greatest comedy blogs ever

I don't think there's anyone who visits Sony Defense Force and not think it's run by Sony themselves. And if it actually isn't, then it's by someone hilariously insane. An example of their stuff that makes the rounds on various sites:

Overall, to say Mario Galaxy is a disaster is an understatement. If you’re an easily amused child with a hard-on for nostalgia, pick up Mario Galaxy. Otherwise, if you’re an intelligent gamer that is interested in a real videogame experience, pick up a Playstation 3 and have a turn at Uncharted, easily this year’s best.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Short Circuit 2: The Comedy Series

I've never even seen the Short Circuit movies, though I've seen enough bits and pieces to get the idea, and yet this absolutely cracks me up. A lot of foul language is ahead.