Sunday, April 29, 2012

Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt dub trailer released

Funimation has released their trailer for the English dub of Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt. The cast includes Jamie Marchi as Panty, Monica Rial as Stocking, Christopher Sabat as Garterbelt, and Joel McDonald as Brief. The dialogue highlighted in the trailer seems pretty good, though I think the dub will have a difficult time holding up to the hilarity of the original Japanese pronunciations and inflections on particular words/phrases. Though I have to say, Chris Sabat as Garterbelt may have been the best decision Funimation could have made with this dub.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Thoughts on Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale reveal

Over the past few weeks, the internet has been abuzz about the possibility of a Sony answer to Nintendo's wildly popular Super Smash Bros. series. Rumor had it that the likes of Kratos, Sweet Tooth, and even Parappa the Rapper would be appearing in the roster. As it turns out, the aforementioned rumors are true, and Sony will be giving players their own Smash Bros. in the form of Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale. No, this is not some sort of similar fighting game. It is a straight-up copy of Super Smash Bros.

The game has not been released yet, but based on the minimal footage provided in this reveal trailer, it is pretty easy to see how close the game is to Super Smash Bros. The characters move and behave similarly to Nintendo's allstars. The levels have the same kind of interactive elements, and even the player number logos are copied straight from Smash Bros.

I am not surprised that Sony decided to try and release a fighting game of their own to try and compete with Nintendo. But I did not expect that it would take this long. Sony and Nintendo have been competitors since the 1990s, and it seems like shortly after the release of the original N64 Super Smash Bros. would have been prime time for Sony to cook up a response in the form of their own game. Sony could have been way more creative in their approach. I think the concept of a Sony fighting game is interesting. But this is just pathetic. Shame on you Sony, for taking the lazy route and outright copying Nintendo.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

XBLA review: Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I

Some sixteen years after the releases of Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Sonic and Knuckles, SEGA has heeded the cries of many fans who wanted nothing more than the return of the original formula. There have been a few side-scrolling Sonic games in recent years, like Sonic Rush and half of Sonic Generations, but most outings since the start of the 2000s have been from a third-person perspective. Sonic the Hedgehog 4 is being released in two parts, and Episode I seeks to rekindle the flame for fans of the Genesis classics.

For starters, Sonic 4: Episode I controls almost exactly the same as the original three games, though the accuracy of the blue hedgehog's motions have been adjusted to play more smoothly on current generation hardware. The lock-on attack is carried over from the Adventure titles, and makes for a much more enjoyable experience, as there is no guesswork involved in attacking enemies. That said, strategy is no sacrificed, as each enemy has a different method of attack/defense that players will need to work around. Episode I favors high-speed thrills over lethargic puzzle-based segments, though the few puzzles that are included are quite well designed, requiring players to tilt a room to drain it of water or spin giant mobile gears to open doors.

Graphically, the game looks pretty good. Everything on the screen is brightly colored and there is some nice attention to the finer details, while the game design as a whole puts forth a solid effort to recall its classic roots. The new-school Sonic character model is used, albeit with some cel-shading that is a bit rough on the eyes.

As this is only the first half of Sonic 4, there are a mere four levels included. Each has three acts plus a boss fight, so they all last longer than a typical Sonic stage. The first level of Splash Hill Zone follows the pattern of Green Hill Zone and Emerald Hill Zone. Casino Street Zone is a nearly-direct copy of Casino Night Zone, though it does include cannons and card platforms as a means to traverse the terrain. Lost Labyrinth and Mad Gear are the best of the bunch, with the former feeling like a wildly original spin on the side-scrolling Sonic experience, despite a note taken from Donkey Kong in the form of a mine cart ride segment. The latter, Mad Gear Zone, is something of a hybrid between Chemical Plant Zone and Wacky Workbench, but still brings enough new gameplay elements to the table to merit its important role as the final true stage of the experience.

Boss fights are nicely varied and present a decent degree of challenge. At the end of the game, players must face off against all four of these once more, in a 'greatest hits' lineup. However, this is both unnecessary and unmerited due to the fact that Episode I only lasts a little over an hour. It feels lazy on SEGA's part, and they should have just cut to the chase and made the final boss fight more impressive and challenging.

The soundtrack gets off to a bumpy start, as the first few tunes are some of the most boring and uninspired since Sonic Rush. However, the tunes that play throughout all the acts of Lost Labyrinth and Mad Gear, as well as the boss themes, are very well done. They are as catchy as they are befitting of the levels they have been associated with, and are in keeping with whole 'throwback' vibe.

When SEGA says "Episode I", they really mean it. There's not a whole lot to this first chapter of Sonic 4, and the best part of the experience lies beyond the halfway point. Still, if you are a fan of classic Sonic and are in need of a quick fix, Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I should serve as a decent solution.

My rating 7.75 (out of 10)

Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo fan-made trailer

A fan-made trailer for the next installment in the Rebuild of Evangelion film tetralogy was uploaded by YouTube user SicknessMaggot66. I think the choice of music is quite appropriate, given the tone throughout both the series and the film. This video has actually been out for a couple of days now, but I simply neglected to post it here. Much of the footage is recap from the end of Evangelion 2.22: You Can (Not) Advance, but there is some new footage from a trailer that ran this Fall that strikes me as pretty cool. I'm quite intruiged to find out why Asuka is flipping around in space, and how her Evangelion Unit 02 got repaired. Also, does anyone else think the new Evangelion Unit 08 bears a striking resemblance to Unit 01, except with different colors, a slightly different horn, and a visor piece? October 13th cannot come soon enough, but I'm glad that Anno and company are taking their time to perfect Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo before its theatrical debut.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

DS review: Pokémon Black and White

The fifth generation of Pokémon games will likely be the last on the standard DS handhelds as Nintendo moves into new territory with the 3DS. The series has seen a number of aesthetic changes over the years, as well and new additions to the Pokémon roster with each new generation. As evidenced through fan response to the previous generation four titles of Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum, these new Pokémon can sometimes prove a mixed bag, with some not as welcomed with open arms. The generation five games of Pokémon Black and White seek to do two things for the franchise - break new ground with game design and return to some of the basics when it comes to the Pokémon players have access to.

The starters are very well balanced, and are in keeping with the traditional choices of water-type, grass-type, and fire-type. However, assuming you seek out a specific individual early on in the game, you will get one of three monkey-like Pokémon, each of which is also attributed with the water, grass, and fire themes. Whether you receive Panpour, Pansage, or Pansear is dependent on the starter you choose at the game's outset, and can prove a valuable team member early on in combating your two rivals, as well as the first couple of gym leaders.

From there, the remaining one hundred and fifty newcomers feel largely like new spins on old, tried and true formulas. Zebstrika is essentially an electric-type equivalent to Rapidash, favoring speed and special attack stats over defense. Darmanitan, on the other hand, is a heavy hitter fire-type who can take quite a beating, and who can learn a number of fire-type and a few fighting-type moves, a handful of which can allow him to deliver massive damage to enemies in exchange for lowered speed stat or slight loss in health.

Dual-types see perhaps the largest shift, as nearly every one has been designed with a specific strategy in mind. Chandelure can combat both brethren ghost-types with moves like Hex and Night Shade, and can use fire-type attacks to dispatch grass-types and other wild Pokémon who are only affected by traditional physical moves. The three legendaries have been designed with a strategic approach in mind as well, since Zekrom, Reshiram, and Kyurem all have a commonality as dragon-types, but diverge as electric, fire, and ice dual-types respectively. Some of these dual formulas, like steel/grass, flying/rock, and fighting/steel might seem a bit odd at first, but each serves its own purpose. There are very few Pokémon in the roster that are downright weak.

The process of leveling up moves at a much quicker pace this time around. There are a consistently high number of trainers on any given route between the cities, and the sidequests in different towns will sometimes require you to face off against characters before fully aiding them. Double battles occur on a regular basis in the wild, assuming you are walking in the dark-colored tall grass. Early access to an experience share and a wide variety of evolutionary stones only help to increase the pace.

Each gym leader is only allotted three Pokémon, and will generally reserve their single powerhouse Pokémon for last. This is one part of the experience that feels unbalanced. The first few gyms progress at a consistent rate, but the couple that follow throw off the rhythm. Elesa and Clay both have Pokémon that tend to spam a singular, over-powered move, and this leg of the journey can prove frustrating. Past that point, though, the gym leader battles become less and less challenging to the point where they are practically a joke. Thankfully, the variety of Pokémon in the possession of the Elite Four, as well as the significant challenge they present, largely makes up for the shortcomings on the part of the gym leaders.

There's actually a decent story to Black and White, courtesy in large part to the actions of Team Plasma. Unlike previous groups, Team Plasma's vision is to steal people's Pokémon away from them in order to create a world where all the Pokémon are free. It brings into play the question of just what it means to be a Pokémon trainer and whether or not the Pokémon in your party (or anyone else's, for that matter) actually want to be partnered with humans.

Two childhood friends act as rivals, one of whom aspires to be as strong as the regional champion, the other one being a somewhat clumsy and naive girl whose journey as a Pokémon trainer goes against her father's wishes. Cheren (the former) ends up being less rounded out and subsequently less believable a character than Bianca (the latter). Pitting you against two rivals, as well as Team Plasma's ironically potential noble cause presents what is perhaps the most memorable story in the entire Pokémon series. The narrative may not be quite as rich or complicated as the likes of a Final Fantasy title, but it's engaging nonetheless.

New to Pokémon Black and White are triple battles and rotation battles. While these are nowhere near as frequent as standard one-on-one scuffles, they certainly add another layer of complexity to the battle system. With triple battles, planning your team's setup is often crucial, as only the Pokémon in the center is able to attack any one of the three opponents - the two on either side are only able to attack the Pokémon directly in front of them as well as the one immediately next to that one. Rotation battles also see three Pokémon pitted against another team of three, but attack one at a time. Both Black and White version are host to houses in one of the towns visited late in the main game that allow players to visit once per day and challenge the residents to these new battles.

Outside of the main story, the game presents plenty of distractions. In Nimbasa City, there is both a theater where Pokémon can take part in a musical performance to earn rewards, and the Battle Subway which operates similar to the Battle Frontier from Diamond/Pearl and Heart Gold/Soul Silver. Depending on which version you have purchased, you can access either Black City or White forest post-game. Pokémon not native to Unova can be found in these regions, and their level of development is dependent on your actions throughout your journey.

Upon completing the main story, new areas are accessed and allow you to face off against trainers with Pokémon from other regions that are at significant higher levels than those previously encountered. The post-game area that is unlocked in Black and White is nowhere near as sizeable as the Kanto region in Heart Gold/Soul Silver's post-game. But Black/White does encourage players to revisit new sections of familiar terrain in order to track down rare items and the game's elusive legendary Pokémon.

Without a doubt, Pokémon Black and White has what is easily the most groundbreaking soundtrack in the series to date. It's also the best by far, with battle themes that pay homage to its Red and Blue roots and some downright epic battle themes (Reshiram and Zekrom's theme is one such standout number). Graphically, the game looks pretty good, considering it is an RPG with a top-down perspective. The 3D models that grace some of the cutscenes may look a bit angular and rough at times, but are also pushing the hardware of the DS pretty far. Calls on the X-Transceiver phone display characters in the style of the anime. As a whole, environments are incredibly colorful. The urban areas are teeming with activity while the many forests and routes have weather that changes seasons every so often, and this can allow for access to new areas. In battle, each Pokémon is animated, both when standing still and while attacking. The opponent's Pokémon in the distance look quite good, though your own team members that are displayed in the foreground look heavily pixelated.

In short, both Pokémon Black version and White version are beautifully realized entries into the series. Pokémon games have long been revered as some of the best on any of Nintendo's handhelds. With the variety of Pokémon available, exciting areas to explore, and creative gameplay elements, the fifth generation serves a prime example. Its primary concern is a strategic approach that is as engaging as it is enjoyable. Each of the Pokémon available for capture is a worthwhile grab, though every player is going to have his or her preferences. And that's what makes the Pokémon games - Black and White in particular - so well received; the freedom to approach battles with a multitude of strategies.

My rating: 9.25 (out of 10)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Transformers: Fall of Cybertron Grimlock gameplay

High Moon Studios has released a gameplay trailer (with commentary) featuring the leader of the Dinobots, Grimlock. When I first heard they planned to include the Dinobots in Fall of Cybertron, I was a bit skeptical, considering that neither the Autobots nor the Decepticons had traveled to Earth yet. But in all fairness, Trypticon was essentially a giant robot dinosaur too, and there wasn't much of an explanation for that.

It seems Grimlock's combat is almost exclusively close-quarters, as he wields sword and shield and stomps around in dinosaur mode. This should prove an interesting break from the gun-based combat. It seems like High Moon wants to make the experience with Fall of Cybertron a more dynamic one than with its predecessor, as we have already seen Jazz utilizing a grappling hook to reach higher areas and Bruticus smashing everything to pieces while simultaneously allowing the smaller bots that make up his body to branch off and access separate areas.

I love the aesthetic direction High Moon chose for Grimlock - it reminds me a lot of his rendering from the classics toy line. I find it interesting that Swoop's voice sounds no normal when he speaks to Grimlock at the end of the trailer. I kind of like it though - I think I would go nuts if I had to listen to "Me Swoop think..." over and over.

New Super Mario Bros. 2 announced

A new New Super Mario Bros. game is coming to the 3DS. This will be a side-scrolling Mario title in the same vein as the New Super Mario Bros. for the DS and the Wii, and should not come as much of a surprise considering how well-received both of those games were. What does surprise me a little bit is that this 3DS New Super Mario Bros. will be out by August. This Mario title follows hot on the heels of Super Mario 3D Land, and I'd wager there will be a sequel to 3D Land within the next year or so (much like Nintendo did with Super Mario Galaxy).

Pokémon White journal - entry six

I beat the Elite Four. I think the lineup of Shauntal, Grimsley, Caitlin, and Marshal presents just about the perfect variety of types to combat all the Pokémon you will have had a chance to add to your team by the time you've reached Victory Road. The battles were challenging, but thankfully not so mind-numbing or grueling in its difficulty. I had to rethink my strategy a couple of times, but each member of the Elite Four tends to stick to a similar pattern. The fact that they were limited to two Full Restores a piece helped me out as well.

Team Plasma's castle rising out of the ground was pretty cool, if not a bit melodramatic. It definitely set up well for the final battles with N and Ghetsis. I'm rather surprised that I didn't have to face any Team Plasma grunts on my way up to the top of the castle, but I suppose it makes sense in context. N wanted to see which of us was strongest, so he probably didn't want anyone hindering the climactic moment.

Catching Zekrom was surprisingly easy. I've notice all throughout White version that catching wild Pokémon goes much more smoothly than in Soul Silver (and I bought a ton of Ultra Balls in preparation for catching Zekrom; guess I will just save those for Cobalion, Kyurem, and co. later on). Regardless, Zekrom is among my favorite legendaries of all time. Personally, I think the Black and White legendaries are the best since generation II.

While I have completed the main story in White version, I know there is still plenty of ground to cover - new areas to visit and new trainers to battle. It will probably be a while before I put my full review up of this game. I will say this - White version is one of the most fun DS games I've played to date, and among some of the most polished handheld games I've ever had a chance to experience. With that in mind, I venture onward to seek new adventures in the Unova region...

Project X Zone gameplay trailer

The Japanese gameplay trailer for Project X Zone (pronounced "Project Cross Zone") has been released and shows how the RPG combat will work in-game. The game is a collaborative effort between Capcom, Namco, and SEGA, and will feature characters from the major franchises of each company. These characters will progress through the game in teams of two, and include the likes of X and Zero, Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield, Ryu and Ken, Kurt Irving and Riera Maruserisu, Jin and Ling Xiaoyu, and Kos-Mos and T-elos. The full list of characters has not yet been revealed, so more character announcements between now and the game's release.

Admittedly, I'm not as familiar with the cast of games like Tales of Vesperia, Xenosaga, or Virtua Fighter. If I get this game once it comes stateside, it will be primarily for the Capcom roster. Still, I think it is great that they are granting players the freedom to play so many different teams. Hopefully this game turns out to be good - I always like to see companies work together to create something new for the fans.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Anime review: Resident Evil Degeneration

A CG film starring series veterans Claire Redfield and Leon S. Kennedy, Resident Evil Degeneration returns to a formula that is in keeping with the roots of the video games. The opening montage revisits the history of Raccoon City in brief, as well as the Umbrella Corporation's involvement in the outbreak of the T-virus. Flash-forward seven years to present day in the Harvardville airport, and demonstrators have lined up to protest one Senator Ron Davis, as allegations have surfaced that the pharmaceutical company WilPharma has been testing similar viruses on human subjects, and that Senator Davis is supporting them.

Claire enters the scene almost immediately as she is meeting up with some friends of hers who are familiar with a recent viral outbreak in India. It doesn't take long for the virus to find its way into the airport, however, and a plane crashes right into the building, quickly escalating the danger. Claire, the smug and selfish caricature known as Senator Davis, and a few other survivors manage to hole themselves up inside a safe area of the airport while the entire area is placed under military lockdown. When a rescue mission is planned, the White House sends Leon S. Kennedy to personally oversee it due to his familiarity in dealing with hordes of the infected. Leon asks that only two soldiers accompany him, as he wishes to keep casualties to a minimum, and they enter the airport via a rooftop entrance that has been deemed safe.

For the next half hour, the film plays out exactly as one would expect, with Leon and company leading the charge into dangerous territory, running and gunning as they go. It is rather predictable and leans more toward the action-style that Resident Evil 4 and 5 have come to be known for as opposed to the horror-style of the older games. But after their escape, the cast splits into two parties. The first is led by Leon who hopes to track down Curtis Miller, brother of soldier Angela Miller, as Claire claims she saw him in the airport moments before the outbreak. Claire, meanwhile, visits WilPharma in person to see if there was in fact any connection between the company and the turn of events at the airport. It is at this point that the story really gets going, with everything in the airport providing more in the way of setup and an obligatory zombie routine.

The CG looks pretty good, though perhaps not quite as impressive as the likes of similar projects like Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. Resident Evil Degeneration's character models are well-rendered and maintain the look of the more recent video games. Occasionally, mouth movements will not sync well with the dialogue, though the actual voice acting is pretty good overall. Similarly, character models can appear stiff and robotic when engaging in conversation, though they are very fluid when in combat. Lighting effects go a long way in adding atmosphere to the different environments, each of which stands out as being particularly well-rendered. The water and fire effects, though brief, are standout mentions as well. There is some great attention to detail in scuff marks on battle gear and the loading mechanisms of firearms during close-up shots. Dynamic camera angles keep the viewing experience entertaining, while the soundtrack is a combination of moody melodies that add more of an emotional atmosphere and generic, redundant action themes.

There are a few notable logical gaps in the way some of the characters behave that range from slightly odd to eye-roll ridiculous. The fact that Leon and company do not exit the airport with the survivors the same way that they entered seems peculiar, while one character in particular has access to seemingly every restricted area in every building without so much as a convenient plot device to explain this. Also, the number of failsafe mechanisms WilPharma has in place is downright ridiculous. Regardless of any precautions they might be taking with the knowledge of what happened in Raccoon City, the funds it would take to install and maintain all of the failsafes displayed outweighs the amount of money the company would spend on the pharmaceuticals by seemingly exponential amounts.

There is a break in the action between the airport and visit to WilPharma that explores the family history of Curtis and Angela. It serves as a nice change of pace and prevents the film from seeming like it is trying to dish out too much action at once. However, the dialogue that Angela and Leon share here drags on a bit longer than necessary and staggers into the realm of sappy and cliché.

As the intro makes clear, the film does attempt to work its way into the larger Resident Evil Universe. There are even some ties to Resident Evil 5 toward the end of the film. But for the most part, Degeneration stands on its own as a new chapter in Capcom's franchise. That is not to say that the content in this chapter is particularly eye-opening; it revisits a lot of familiar territory. As a tie-in property, it serves as a decent action flick. Just don't expect anything near the caliber of 28 Days Later out of this zombie movie, nor even the quality and quantity of what the video games can convey.

My rating: 7 (out of 10)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Halo 4 release date announced

Halo 4 has an official release date of November 6, 2012. Admittedly, this is a bit earlier than I expected. Originally, 343 Industries had stated it would be a 'holiday 2012' release, which led me to believe the game would be launching closer to Christmas. I also find it curious that the official release date falls shortly after the releases of both Resident Evil 6 and Bioshock Infinite, two titles which have thus far released pretty substantial bits of information and gameplay trailers. Halo 4 has teased pieces of its whole through, but nothing nearly as significant as the other two have presented. I'm still planning to buy Halo 4 when it comes out. I just find it incredibly odd that 343 Industries is so far behind the competition with regards to promoting their product.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Pokémon White journal - entry five

With the last few trainers on the routes leading up Opelucid City, it certainly did not take long for Litwick and Elgyem to evolve. Lampent is growing on me by the minute. I just wish his HP wasn't such garbage. Beheeyem, on the other hand... well, to be honest, I'm not really certain if I like him as a psychic type entirely. That's primarily due to the fact that the vast majority of trainers and wild types along Victory Road have barred me from testing out his moves and stats.

I would like to take a moment to pose a question to Nintendo and Game Freak: In what universe is your dragon-themed gym the easiest of the bunch? Apparently in the Unova region that is totally acceptable. I honestly found the trainers that I battled in the gym put up more of a challenge than Iris. At least when facing them I was forced to change Pokémon a few times. With Iris, all I had to do was set Vanillish up as my main Pokémon and her team was down for the count in no time flat. I came into Opelucid City expecting a gym battle on part with Heart Gold/Soul Silver's Claire and left sorely disappointed.

On the bright side, Victory Road presented a more substantial challenge. It wasn't downright grueling and the wild types in abundance did force me to stick with a few key Pokémon throughout the course of my ascent (thank goodness for experience share). I eventually made my way to the epic location of Unova's Elite Four. And while I did manage to take down all of Shauntal's Pokémon, I did not make it past Caitlin's psychic team. And you know what? That's totally fine by me. I'd rather get my butt handed to me once or twice knowing that it's going to give me a better chance in the long run than simply float through the motions.

As I've mentioned before, I do feel like White version is really good at keeping things moving along at a noticeably faster pace than Soul Silver. It's just that this second half of the game has really been dropping the ball with regards to the challenge factor.

If nothing else, I hope there is one thing that you get out of this most recent Pokémon White journal post. And that is that the Elite Four battle theme for Black and White version is downright awesome. Just give it a listen!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Pokémon White journal - entry four

As Team Plasma keeps showing up more and more frequently and have even gotten so far in their aims as to make people question their own choices to catch and raise Pokémon, I think it is safe to say that I am nearing the end of the main story. I am in possession of the dark stone I have agreed to take on N in the event that Alder cannot beat him. I like the way that Alder's involvement in the main story is relatively minimal, but substantial enough that he plays the part of a believable character. He reminds me of Lance in that respect.

I have noticed that last two gyms were rather easy. In Soul Silver version, the challenge level from one gym to the next seemed pretty consistent. But in White version, it's almost backwards. Some of the gym leaders early on proved rather difficult and spammed a handful of attacks over and over. But lately, gym leaders have hardly had enough time to issue out more than one command to any single Pokémon before I beat the snot out of them. White version has proven to be a much faster-paced Pokémon experience than others, and I greatly appreciate that. The inconsistency with the gym battles just seems... odd to me.

I doubt I will be changing my team up much between now and the conclusion of the main game. I do expect to make some adjustments post-game, however. There are a number of Pokémon that I want to import from Soul Silver in order to provide myself some greater variety in the dynamics my team can present. Interestingly enough, though, I am finding that I use Vanillish quite frequently. During my previous Pokémon outings, I rarely ever used ice-types, but due to the other Pokémon types so frequently found in the wild and in the possession of rival trainers, Vanillish is quickly becoming a staple to my team.

I came into possession of another experience share, the two of which are now being held by Litwick and Elgyem. I like Elgyem a lot more than most psychic types, due to the fact that he learns more psychic moves that are both offensive and stat-based. Nearly every one of his moves is a two-in-one package. Similarly, Litwick is proving much more practical for offensive attacks than many ghost types. Even before I purchased White version, I thought Chandelure looked like one of the coolest new Pokémon from generation V. While a large part of my desire to have Chandelure on my team comes from its aesthetic appearance, I think it will be able to provide something new and different to my team.

I am finding that a lot of random people in-game will give me evolution stones for no particular reason. I'm not complaining - some of these are necessary to evolve Pokémon like Lampent into Chandelure. But with a Thunderstone and both the environments necessary to evolve Leafeon and Glaceon readily available in White version, I think I am going to carry my plans to breed every Eevee evolution over from Soul Silver to White version. I already have Umbreon and Vaporeon ready to make the move once the post-game allows for it. And I have a few low-level Eevees ready for evolution.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Pokémon Black and White 2 gameplay trailer

A Japanese gameplay trailer for Pokémon Black version 2 and White version 2 has been released. It isn't the best quality, but for the moment it is what we have access to. In keeping with the recent details regarding new areas and new gym battles, this trailer provides a glimpse at both. I'm hoping that Nintendo keeps releasing information at the rate they have been for these sequel games. If things keep on the upward slope between now and autumn, this may be a day-of-release purchase for me.

Halo 4 wishlist

Though we still know very little about the campaign mode in Halo 4, a few things have been made clear. The rampancy of the AIs, or the number of years they can operate for before they begin to decay and outlive their usefulness, will be important as it pertains to Cortana. 343 Industries has also expressed a desire to explore who Master Chief is on the inside, territory that has been primarily reserved for the Halo novels and barely ever been touched in the games. On the multiplayer side of things, we will learn why it is possible that some red Spartan-IVs and blue Spartan-IVs can go into combat against one another. What I have compiled below is a wishlist of things I would like to see, not just in Halo 4, but from the Reclaimer trilogy as a whole (ie - Halos 4, 5, and 6). I recognize some of these may be a bit more farfetched than others, but only time will tell if 343 Industries decides to incorporate any of them.

A longer campaign

I'm not asking for Halo 4 to be the length of Final Fantasy XIII. But I am asking that it last around the same amount of time, if not longer than Halo: Reach did. Halo 2's campaign did just about everything right, save for the rushed ending. And while Bungie promised Halo 3 would have a longer campaign, that ended up not being the case. Halo 3 had a lot of ground to cover, and while it did wrap up every loose end that it needed to, the execution of its story was weaker than those of Halo 2 and Halo: Reach because of the fact that Halo 3 rarely slowed down enough to explore who the characters were at their core. I'm not asking for elaborate, hour-long cutscenes in the vein of Metal Gear Solid. But we barely got a sense of Master Chief and Cortana's dynamic in Halo 3, something that seemed to be the focal point of John 117's story.

Greater variety of enemies

343 Industries has already stated that there will be new enemies in Halo 4. Judging from the fact that the new games are part of the 'Reclaimer trilogy', I think it is safe to assume that these new enemies will have ties to the Forerunners. But there will also be Elites and Grunts who have broken away from the Separatists, and who once more view Master Chief as an enemy. Prior to humanity's contact with the Covenant, the many colonies of Earth were plagued by rebel uprisings that, in turn, led to the training of the Spartan-IIs. In the novel Halo: Glasslands, it is made apparent that some of these rebel groups view the victory over the Covenant as a prime opportunity to refocus their own goals. How greatly the Halo experience would be altered if players were pitted against other human characters instead of the many alien species they have become so familiar with gunning down.

More Spartans

While Halo 4 is being advertised with the Chief as the main character, there are still a few Spartans left in the galaxy; most notably the Spartan-IIs Fred, Kelly, and Linda (former squad mates of Master Chief) and the remaining Spartan-IIIs that Kurt trained on the Forerunner shield world of Onyx. Granted, the games would need to provide a brief synopsis of who these other Spartans are and how they ended up in the company of Dr. Catharine Halsey, as not everyone who has played the games will be familiar with the novels. But it could present the opportunity for some rich and deeper storytelling, as the Spartan program is explored to a greater degree. Having Master Chief reunite with his comrades could also present an excellent opportunity to draw out his character.

Return of the Arbiter

Halo 2's campaign split into two separate stories that culminated toward the game's last few hours. In carrying on the torch from the original Halo, Master Chief fought the Covenant forces and the Flood, while the Arbiter provided players with a curious look at the inner workings of the Covenant hierarchy and a concrete idea of what their misguided faith was all about. Prior to Halo 3's release, there were a number of naysayers who complained about the Master Chief not having been granted the spotlight for the entirety of Halo 2. But for me, playing as the Arbiter was a big part of what made Halo 2's campaign the best of the entire series. Forcing players to take on the role of a member of the Covenant expanded the Halo universe in so many ways. To be completely honest, I always found the Arbiter to be a far more believable and interesting character than the Chief because this Sangheili was constantly forced to question the decisions of the Prophets - first in their decision to spare him and dub him the new Arbiter, and second after the changing of the guard and the subsequent schism between the Covenant Loyalists and Separatists. The Arbiter became a tragic hero, a face of liberty for his people.

At the end of Halo 3, The Arbiter and Half Jaw lead the Sangheili forces back to their homeworld to make certain it is safe. Ever since Bungie concluded the main trilogy, I have pondered what the Sangheili homeworld might look like. The Halo Legends anime presented a glimpse of a very primitive Sangheilios, but we have no idea what the planet or its culture are like as of now. In placing players back into the role of the Arbiter, I think it would present a great opportunity to once more expand the story, while simultaneously revisiting what it is that makes the Arbiter tick now that the Covenant has disbanded.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Pokémon Black and White 2 details emerge

Some news regarding Pokémon Black version 2 and White version 2 has finally surfaced. The game will still take place in the Unova region, but is set two years after the events of Black and White. Players will once again be able to choose from either a male or female trainer, who is a separate character from the lead protagonist of Black/White. New areas will be visited, as well as new gym battles. There will also be a new rival character, though no word on if they will have any ties to Team Plasma. Finally, there will be 300 Pokémon that can be registered in the Unova Pokédex, which basically implies that Black version 2 and White version 2 will be debuting 150 new Pokémon, assuming all the Pokémon from Black and White return. As stated when the sequels were first announced, Pokémon Black version 2 and White version 2 will see a stateside release this Fall.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

3DS review: Resident Evil Revelations

Acting as a bridge between the events of Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 5, the highly-anticipated Resident Evil Revelations primarily follows Jill Valentine and her new partner Parker Luciani as they investigate the terrorist group known as Veltro. Jill and Parker are informed that their director, Clive O'Brien, lost contact with Chris Redfield and his partner Jessica in the middle of the ocean, onboard the cruise ship Queen Zenobia. As Jill and Parker soon discover, the ship is infested with zombies that look very different from those in Raccoon City. These infected individuals, known as Ooze, are a grey-blue shade and their skin has been layered over with what looks like putty or clay. Jill and Parker must move quickly if they are to find Chris and Jessica, and unravel the mystery of who is the face behind Veltro as well.

The touch screen menu acts as a sort of simplified take on Resident Evil 4's attache case. You can stock up on herbs and grenades all you want, provided you can find them as they tend to be sparse in the many areas of the cruise ship. There are only three slots for firearms, and players will have to choose an approach that best fits their style, with handguns, rifles, machine guns, shotguns, and magnums all being obtainable over the course of the game. Any guns not on-hand can be stored in a case which can be accessed in certain rooms spread throughout the ship. The resource management aspect is a large part of what perpetuates this Resident Evil's sense of tension, and players will be wise to explore areas off the beaten path to make sure they all well-prepared for the increasingly difficult horrors that lie in wait.

New to Revelations is a scanning device which allows players to detect otherwise-hidden items and ammunition, as well as a few difficult-to-locate enemies. Its primary purpose, though, is to grant players a chance to scan enemies, rewarding them with another herb if they manage to scan a sufficient number. Scanning live enemies will speed up this process considerably, but also has the potential to place Jill in temporary danger, since the scanner's range is limited. It proves a useful means for stocking up on herbs when the count is low, but the potential seems largely untapped. The stylus is also used in a few puzzle sequences that lead the gameplay to feel a bit more varied and interesting.

Enemy designs appear as slight variations on the same general zombie early on, with a standard enemy being followed up with one that is lethal at close-range and another that fires projectiles. As new areas become unlocked, new threats are presented. In partially flooded sections of the Queen Zenobia, Jill and Parker must be wary of fish-like monsters that will lunge out of the water to kill them almost instantaneously. During flashbacks to the Terragrigia Panic (a key plot point that is referenced a number of times), Hunters charge in packs as players provide cover for wounded allies. The boss fights divide into two categories: the legitimately scary and incredibly tense, and the epically-scaled with a higher degree of challenge. It would be a shame to spoil the best of the bunch, but I think it fair to say that the environment can make all the difference in taking on these more powerful baddies, and subsequently having the crap scared out of you.

The Queen Zenobia is comprised of many different areas, from the atrium that basks in a golden glow, to the casino with its flashing lights, to the industrial piping of the lower levels. Most areas are interconnected in some way, and while there is some backtracking to be done, it is never in the style of Metroid. Each area is designed with at least one room to act as a sort of central hub, and though it may not strike players as obvious right away, this saves a lot of time in revisiting old areas in order to access new ones.

Chris shares the spotlight during a sizeable portion of the latter half of the game, while the rest of the cast is comprised of almost entirely new faces. The company of Parker's former trainee Raymond Vester is most welcome, while FBC chief O'Brien fits into his shoes as a commanding figure well enough. The odd couple, Quint and Keith, only play a significant role during a very few key moments. While Quint's obsession with computers and quirky mannerisms can come across as annoying, his behavior is a welcome break from the general 'evil mastermind' or 'heroic badass' formulas that the series has gravitated toward so frequently in the past. The only character in the lineup likely to annoy the hell out of players is Jessica Sherawat. She is obsessed with two things for the duration of each stage of her mission: Chris, and her own existence. She constantly talks about her fit figure and a desire to follow Chris through treacherous areas, then complains when enemies attack. Also, she downright sucks when it comes to providing any sort of assistance. On the flipside, Revelations does well to avoid cheesy one-liners, with only a very few exchanges interrupting the flow of an otherwise well-written dialogue.

Outside of the main story is Raid Mode, a new take on the arcade-style bonus game that Mercenaries was bred from. Instead of managing ammo and items as enemies attack in waves, Raid Mode foregoes any and all emphasis on chaining combos in order to maintain the focus on survival. One enemy after another must be defeated as players make their way through the halls of the ship. Defeating all the enemies in an area will unlock the key needed to access the next section, and ultimately the end goal. The same enemies from the campaign await players, with some variants mixing up the predictable. Smaller enemies might not be able to take many hits before they fall, but their speed and stature can make them difficult to hit. Large enemies move slowly but can take many hits before they are defeated. Players can choose from Jill, Parker, or Chris at the outset, and will unlock new characters as they level up with each new area completed.

While the cast and new T-Abyss virus hold ties to the games that precede Revelations in the Resident Evil timeline, it stands strong as its own individual narrative. With key twists and turns along the way, the story plays out in a very suspenseful manner. Whereas Resident Evil 5 aimed more toward the action side of the spectrum, Revelations presents a balance of the survival-horror and action in the same way Resident Evil 4 did; there are some sections that will require players to stave of hordes of the infected, but by and large the game is concerned with having its characters explore the narrow passages of the Queen Zenobia. The lighting effects and hauntingly gorgeous soundtrack set the creepy tone immediately, and from graphical standpoint Revelations is easily one of the best looking games on the 3DS, if not one of the best looking handheld games ever made.

A few shortcomings hold this handheld Resident Evil from achieving perfection, such as the confusing nature of how the dodge mechanic actually works (even by the end of the game it seems like luck holds greater influence over Jill's ability to dodge enemy attacks than a quick response from the player). The frame rate tends to drop noticeably, if only for a few seconds, when loading new areas of the ship via the connecting hallways. But taking into consideration the polish over nearly every other element of this ten-hour experience, Revelations is a title that puts many a full console retail release to shame.

My rating: 9 (out of 10)

Anime Forecast: Summer 2012

As I mentioned in my summer gaming forecast, I’m going a bit more free form with regards to what anime I plan to watch between May and August, so expect there to be some 'wild card' reviews here. I have found that, with school still going on, it tends to be easier for me to knock a film or two out of the way than a whole series (regardless of how many episodes it is) any given month. That is a large part of the reason that Akira and The Animatrix were among the earliest of my 2012 reviews. In keeping with this, Resident Evil: Degeneration and Ghost in the Shell will be the two anime I will be watching and reviewing toward the end of spring. I have only two episodes left in season two of Sgt. Frog, though, and that may end up getting reviewed before summertime as well. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is a key series for me, and I will likely be viewing the remaining episodes of that along with Victory Gundam and Cowboy Bebop. I’m going to sort of juggle the three over the summer, and because of that I cannot say for certain which one will be reviewed first. However, I think it is relatively safe to assume that I will complete FMA: Brotherhood and Cowboy Bebop prior to Victory Gundam.

There are a few other films and series that I am considering for later this year, though I have not made any definite decisions on them as of right now. The only two that I will say that I would like to check out this year as part of my plan to view every Gundam series ever created are ZZ Gundam and the Zeta Gundam film trilogy. Aside from those, the only other Gundam series I have left to view are the original Mobile Suit Gundam and Gundam AGE. And from what little I’ve seen of Gundam AGE so far, the original Mobile Suit Gundam looks infinitely more appealing. Rest assured that I will be reviewing Gundam Unicorn upon the release of the final episodes. At present I have watched the first three episodes, but I do not wish to write up any sort of incomplete review of the OVA.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Halo 4 soundtrack sampler

343 Industries has released a sampler of the Halo 4 original soundtrack. Composer Neil Davidge explained in a behind-the-scenes look at the recording process that his goal with the soundtrack was to create a sound that paid homage to the original trilogy while also breaking into new territory and defining this Reclaimer Trilogy as having a distinctly different atmosphere. Though this sampler only provides us with a taste of the full experience, I think it does well to accomplish what Davidge wants of it. I can only hope that the coming months see more information regarding Halo 4, as it is about the prime time for 343 Industries to start building up the anticipation for the game's Holiday 2012 release.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Resident Evil 6 Captivate Trailer

A new trailer for Resident Evil 6 has been released, and it highlights the ways in which the three main characters' paths will cross. I'm glad to see that my speculation regarding the previouly-unnamed third protagonist (now know as Jake Muller) was not too far off, though that does seem like a rather significant plot point to reveal in a trailer this early on. Hopefully there will be plenty more twists and turns saved for the actual release date, which has been bumped up from November 20th to October 2nd.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Resident Evil 6 speculation

There are only a couple of things I am going to be covering at present, but they deal with two plot points that I assume will be relatively important in the grand scheme of Resident Evil 6’s story. This will follow in a similar style as my speculation toward The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, and anyone reading this should keep in mind that what I am saying here has in no way been confirmed by Capcom, nor anyone else. It’s just me presenting some theories on what might be. (Warning: spoilers regarding Resident Evil Revelations below.)

Resident Evil 6’s reveal trailer highlighted three playable characters. While I was quite pleased to see the return of Leon and not particularly surprised (though rather indifferent) toward Chris’ return, there was a third character who struck me as a pleasant surprise. This character currently has no name, though I can only imagine we will find out more about him in the coming months building up to RE6’s release. In the trailer, this newcomer is shown fighting one BOW in particular, and most of his combat is physical. While Leon and Chris have been known to punch and kick enemies at close-range, they generally rely on guns to dispatch the infected. This guy, on the other hand, displayed some impressive physical prowess as he dropped a few enemies with a low spin kick and hurdled his way over rooftops and scaffolding.

There is a line in the trailer where this new character indicates that the world is only interested in his blood, implying that it is a valuable asset and perhaps some sort of vaccine to whatever new virus has been unleashed. Taking these two elements into consideration, this newcomer seems to bear some similarities with Albert Wesker and may share some of his attributes. While it has been previously stated none of the Wesker children beyond Albert survived, perhaps someone created a new batch of them (or at the very least, a single new Wesker child). This would also help to explain why this character appears so much younger than Albert.

The second point I wanted to bring up relates to a line Chris says in the reveal trailer, when he asks one of his squad members, “How many of our men are dead because of that bitch?” The teammate then corrects Chris by informing him that while he is upset by whatever turn of events took place, he does not think Chris’ “personal vendetta” should get in the way of their mission. The conversation, though brief, implies one of two things: either A) Chris lost a great number of people whom he was very close to, or B) he knows the person responsible for the death of his troops on a more personal level than some new face on the list of Resident Evil villains. If it is indeed the latter, the only female antagonist still currently alive post-Resident Evil 5 is Jessica Sherawat. Since she took the T-Abyss virus following the events of Resident Evil Revelations, it is possible that she helped to further its research to create a new virus, one that will be seen in Resident Evil 6. If Jessica is indeed tied to the events of Resident Evil 6, I see no reason that Raymond and Parker could not make appearances as well. Perhaps Resident Evil Revelations will serve not only as a bridge between the events of RE4 and RE5, but also as buildup to the events of RE6.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Game Forecast: Summer 2012

There are really only two major retail releases that I am concerned with for this coming Fall. In case my recent posting of their trailers did not provide enough of an indication, those two games are Bioshock Infinite and Resident Evil 6. With the semester wrapping up soon, I have only a few more weeks until I have significantly more free time to focus on gaming and reviews, and I felt this was a good time to provide a forecast of what I am planning to tackle this summer.

The anime aspect of my blog will be a bit more free-form. I only have a few films that I feel a desperate need to view before the end of the year, along with the remainder of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. But I have spent a fair amount of time lately picking up some older video games that I missed out on back in their heyday. As I have made mention of numerous times before, my experience with the core Final Fantasy games is rather limited, and I am going to do my best to remedy that. I am currently in possession of Final Fantasy V, FFVI, FFVII, FFX, and the DS remake of FFIV. FFIV takes precedence over the others simply because of how long overdue the review is, but FFX is second on the list. From there, I can't rightly say at the moment. I've heard great things about FFVI, but I feel like I have a duty as a gamer to play through FFVII. FFV is of little concern right now, and is under the category of "I'll get to it when I get to it".

As I am currently powering my way through Resident Evil Revelations, Pokémon White version will be the next handheld title I plan to focus on. I'm more than halfway through the game, and I feel like I can finish the main game much quicker than FFIV's story. Beyond that, I also picked up a copy of the Gamecube exclusive Resident Evil Zero, which I will play along with some of the Final Fantasy games as a means to break of the monotony and prevent RPG overload. I love RPG games, don't get me wrong. But after a while, it can get to be a tad annoying. I also have The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks to get to at some point.

There are a few other games that I am considering purchasing for the summer as well, though I certainly would not start on any of these until I had broken off a sizeable chunk of the pile I've already amassed. Those titles under consideration are: BlazBlue Continuum Shift II (3DS), Silent Hill: Shattered Memories (Wii), and Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary (Xbox 360). Also, I have every intention of purchasing Transformers: Fall of Cybertron, though I do not know if I will actually pick it up on the August 28th release date or if I will wait until it has already been out for a while and save myself a few bucks.

So there you go; the outlook for my summer games. Even if I do not manage to complete every game listed before Bioshock Infinite and Resident Evil 6 arrive, the only games coming out after them that I'm particularly interested in are Pokémon Black and White 2 and Halo 4, games that I honestly know very little about in comparison to all of the aforementioned.

Pokémon: Nobunaga's Ambition getting a US release

Referred to in Japan as Pokémon: Nobunaga's Ambition, a new tactical RPG based on Nintendo's wildly popular handheld franchise, is getting a stateside release. Pokémon Conquest will be out this June, and frankly I am very interested to see how this style of gameplay works in a fictional Pokémon/feudal Japanese hybrid world.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Top 5 Final Fantasy Battle Themes

For this month's top five list, I decided to focus on the Final Fantasy series and the accompanying soundtracks that are so widely respected. While everyone has their own favorite tracks from each game, one of the defining constants through all the years has been the battle theme. Each game is host to a distinctly different spin on the battle theme, generally as a reflection of the story and setting of that numbered entry into the series. The following is a list of my five favorite battle themes from the core Final Fantasy games. Spinoffs such as Crystal Chronicles and sequels like XIII-2 and FFIV: The After Years will not be considered for this list, nor will boss battle themes or variants of the primary battle theme. Each of these entries is limited to the main battle theme from the respective games.

#5 - Final Fantasy IX: With a classic nineties vibe to it, Final Fantasy IX's battle theme certainly stands out from the rest of the pack. It's something of a nontraditional approach to the battle theme, using heavily synthesized sounds to give it an electronic style. But it's certainly an interesting listen.

#4 - Final Fantasy VI: The battle theme from Final Fantasy VI has a darker tone to it, as if the battle at hand is of a most dire consequence. I really enjoy the way that this tune is coupled with the steampunk-esque world of FFVI, and think it is a strong reminder of the darker territory the series began to explore in FFVI and the games that followed.

#3 - Final Fantasy II: Taking a wildly different approach than that of its predecessor, the battle theme in Final Fantasy II is fast-paced, loud, and reflective of the medieval fantasy roots of the long-running JRPG. It screams action with every note, and despite it being so radically different than the rest, I quite like it.

#2 - Final Fantasy XIII: This song played time and time again during my play through Final Fantasy XIII, and I looked forward to it every time. Final Fantasy XIII's soundtrack is among my favorite video game soundtracks of all time, and while the battle theme does not rank as high for me personally as the likes of "Fighting Fate" or "Born Anew", it's still and awesome track. It's a great fit for the futuristic sci-fi/fantasy hybrid realm that Lightning and friends spend their time exploring.

#1 - Final Fantasy: Above all the rest, the original Final Fantasy battle theme is easily my favorite. Its approach is more simplistic than the rest, but for an NES tune, it's pretty intense. It really captures the atmosphere of the battle, and is an instant classic for me. Plus, it is the formula that practically every other Final Fantasy battle theme followed. It's an oldie-but-a-goodie, for sure.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...