Wednesday, August 25, 2004
Friday, August 20, 2004
In the past few days, I've seen a fair number of movie trailers and such, and a few have piqued my interest or ire enough to comment on them.
First off, Hero. I actually saw this film some time ago in subtitled form, long before Quinten Tarantino picked up the rights to bring it out over here.
Thing is, the movie they talk about in the trailer has fuck-all to do with the movie I watched. "A hero must fight the strongest army in the world to make the wrong things right"? There's not a single line in the trailer that has anything at all to do with the plot.
This might seem like a minor beef, trailers rarely properly represent the story of thier movie, but in this case they're just making shit up. It's like they showed some videoclips to some schmuck that'd never seen the movie and had him make up a trailer. I can't help but wonder if this is a sign of something more worrisome. As in, Changes to the actual -plot-. Given what an impressive film the original was, I'm going to be somewhat annoyed if this turns out to be a hacked up version.
Another trailer worthy of discussion is Team America, not for the trailer itself, (which is awesome) but for the reactions it has gathered from the fair and balanced conservative community.
I am a registered independent. I try hard not to take -sides- on issues, so much as have -opinions- on them. I think the liberals and the conservatives both have their valid points and arguments. With regards to individuals, at any rate. I do, however, tend to hate the politicians on both sides.
But when I see the kind of knee jerk idiot reactionism that comes from the right when they hear about this movie, it makes me want to go change my voter registration with a big fat "D".
For those not in the know, Team America is an irreverant parody of high budget action movies devised by Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the creators of South Park.
It's about Terrorists, Politicians, Hollywood nutjobs, Kim Jong Il, and lots and lots of explosions. Told through puppets.
It's completely unserious and has pretty much done nothing to slight either side of the political fence. It does what Bugs bunny and numerous other comical figures throughout history have always done. It takes a serious issue, and parodies it. This is neither new, nor is it particularly unwelcome. We need to be able to laugh, people. It's IMPORTANT.
If you forget how to laugh, the terrorists win.
Yet, despite the fact that the film doesn't slam any particular administration, (and in fact seems more unkind to the hollywood liberals then anyone, from what I've heard about the thing) Within days of the trailer's release, The Bush administration was talking about how terrible it was, and how inappropriate it was.
It's a fucking movie, people.
It has been said that the guilty are the first to profess their innocence. The Team America trailer doesn't even criticise the Bush administration. It mocks terrorism and hollywood, and politics in general, but christ, if social satire is so reprehensible in this new America, I don't think I want to live here anymore.
Other conservatives have compared the concept to World War II, claiming that it would have been unthinkable to make such light of the world situation back then. But as Trey Parker himself has pointed out, that's exactly what the CARTOONS of the era were doing. Once again, the right is so goddamn quick to cry foul and spout nonsense that it's hard to trust people like that.
You have to have a sense of humor. I'm sorry, but that's all there is to it. The world is -DAMAGED-. And it's not going to be fixed for a very long time, and we have to -live- through it, if mankind is going to have a future. If we're going to live, we have to have happy, hopeful children. We have to have a concept of hope and levity. You know why people like Osama Bin Laden can justify the wanton massacre of thousands of innocents? Because they have no fucking sense of humor. They look at the world and they see nothing but problems and evil and injustice and that makes them ANGRY. And anger BLINDS. It blinds us to all the good people are capable of. It blinds us to the consequences of taking someone's life. It blinds us to the very real solutions that exist to the problems in this world.
And when we become so angry over a movie trailer that we can't even think straight enough to make informed statements, when we can't reserve judgement...
I don't like the trailers for "Hero", but that doesn't mean I'm going to judge the film, it's message, and everthing about it's theatrical release harshly. I'm going to wait and see and form my opinion based on the FILM. Not some knee jerk reaction to a minuite's worth of -hints-.
Learn to THINK, people.
Tuesday, August 17, 2004
Little updates here and there.
Added one new picture to the Fan Art gallery, for starters.
Also, I've been informed that my submission to the next Gold Digger annual has been accepted! Yay! So I added that to my profile page. I may also have some pieces going into Radio's next "Hit the Beach" anthology, but I don't know for certain.
Lastly, I updated the links page with a link to Studio Udon, the team responsible for the new Street Fighter comic, which is -phenomenally- cool.
Which brings up an interesting trend that I've been noticing lately.
In the past, comics, videogames, and even more accepted mainstream concepts like films and books have always had difficulties jumping media lines. A great film harkens horrible game adaptations and terrible comics. An awesome game makes a terrible movie. Comic movies have been horrible, Novels based on videogames have been immature tripe, and a single pervading attitude that has always followed these things is that the creator of the offshoot media has absolutely no knowledge or respect for the source material. That's the way it's been for years. YEARS. Most of my life, in fact, and it's always struck me as an obviously stupid concept.
Sure, if you make a crappy comic book or videogame tie-in with a popular film, you'll probably sell some of those crappy comics and videogames to hard core fans of the film. You'll have barely risked anything and made some money out of the deal. But at the same time, you're crippling the perception of your license and denying yourself an awesome chance for cross promotion.
How many people do you think walked out of the live-action "Captain America" film and said "Wow! Rubber ears! I gotta get that comic!" Or played "Transformers: Beast Wars" for Nintendo 64 and decided to start watching the show? I'll tell you right now. Zero. Because Captain America was a waste of cellulose and TF: BW was a waste of LIVES.
People spent time developing that turd that they could've spent hugging their children. Damn you, Takara. Damn you and your evil schemes.
But make a good product, that can sell on it's own merit...And hell, it's not like getting word out is a problem. You've got a popular license, that's better then all the advertising in the world. Make a good product to go with that license, and you're bound to turn a good profit, and people who might not normally have picked it up grab it for it's quality.
If Timothy Zahn's Star Wars books had been anything less then exceptional, do you think they would have sold nearly as well, even with the popular brand? Would the resurgence of Star Wars merchandise been nearly as effective?
It seems like common sense, to me. You don't WANT to squander a popular license. It's a waste of money.
The thing I find interesting is that it seems to be happening less. 10 years ago, Malibu got the license to the Street Fighter characters, and they squandered it on a little POS of a comic that set up Ryu and Chun Li as love interests, and had Ken get scalped (literally!) at the end of the first issue by Sagat.
Because Thai kickboxers are well known for their cultural scalpings.
It was horrible. It was so horrible that even back -then- I could tell it was bad. And this was back when I was reading X-Force.
The new comic, tho, is fantastic. The art is incredible, the story is well told, on top of which; and this is key; The writers know the source material. They know how the characters are related, and they know the character's personalities. It doesn't follow game canon exactly, but the -characters- are right, and that's the important thing in this kind of adaptation.
And it's not just comics that are showing improvement in this area, but games, film adaptation of games and comics,and various other offshoots are showing notable improvement. EA's handling of the Lord of the Rings License has been mostly stellar, and Treyarch's Spiderman 2 boasts some truly fun and unique Spidey-esque gameplay.
Respect for the source material is very important when adapting something to a different media. I wish more people would grasp this concept, but hey, you win some, you lose some.
Thursday, August 12, 2004
Wednesday, August 11, 2004
Jason Heavensrun's UNDERRATED GAME RAMBLINGS!
Here we go, I'm taking a break from drawing my GD submission, and updating my Blog.
it's a new feature!
Jason Heavensrun's UNDERRATED GAME RAMBLINGS!
Basically, every now and then, I'm going to play a game that the ignorant gaming media assholes really hate and see a diamond in the rough. When this happens, I've always felt an overpowering urge to make my opinion known to everyone around me. Now that I have a blog, that means I can inflict it on a theoretically larger audience. ;p
Today's topic, "Way of the Samurai", and "Way of the Samurai 2".
The first time I ever played "Way of the Samurai", I was working for Game XChange, which is a used game store franchise that moved into my area a couple of years ago. We got to borrow games for free, and I was on a samurai kick at the time, (my cousin was getting really heavily into the works of Akira Kurosawa at the time) and so I decided to give it a look. As I was perusing the box, I noticed something that I -really- wasn't expecting. The development team was a little known studio, called "Acquire". The studio best known for the sleeper hit/Ninja stealth simulation "Tenchu". (They had nothing to do with the crappy sequel on PS1, incidentally, Tenchu 2 was a different, less imaginative and crappy team)
Needless to say, being created by the developers of one of my favorite PS1 games was enough to make me borrow the thing.
The graphics weren't the best, (it -is- a PS2 game, and by a relatively small studio to boot) but they were solid enough to convey the idea of 18th century japan, (right at the beginning of the Meiji restoration, when the feudal lords were all being stripped of their lands in the name of building what would later become Imperial Japan) and the thing that struck me, right from the beginning of the game, is how much flexibility they gave you in role-playing whatever kind of samurai you wanted to be. You could be a badass who doesn't take crap from anybody, or a mild-mannered but fiercely powerful fighter, you could be the silent type, or a joker who hits on girls all the time. They were basically able to give you a short scenario, about the length of your average samurai movie, and play it out however you wanted. You could side with the local lord, or the rebel faction, or just hang around the town and protect the handful of people caught in the middle of this impending warzone. It felt very, -very- Yojimbo. Which is cool. You could even just walk straight through the valley without talking to anybody and go out the other side, to continue your cool, ronin-esque wanderings.
As a person who likes having the chance to decide your own fate in a videogame, it was very cool, and I didn't even mind the shortness of the scenario.
Atop the ability to customize your character's appearence and play his (or her, as there was one female character model) personality however you wanted, there were several different endings, and many different swords, which all had unique movesets and collecting and upgrading swords added a nifty dynamic of playability to it. It was missing a few things. The valley was relatively small, and there were very few townspeople, but it -was- supposed to be a ghost town. Also, there was no real voice acting for the dialogue. It was all RPGesque text based.
Regardless, I thought it was pretty damn cool, and opted to buy my own copy. I'm grateful to BAM! entertainment for translating it, tho I'm a bit annoyed that they left out one of the secret characters; Manji, from the Blade of the Immortal manga, was, by all indications, left out. I suspect this was because his personal symbol is the swastika. The Blade manga has a lengthy explanation at the beginning as to WHY the swastika is not tied exclusively to the Nazi party, (Basically, it's an ancient mystic symbol, with I think sanskrit origins) which was used often in medeival japan and had, at that time, POSITIVE connotations. Hitler's regime wouldn't corrupt it until much, much later.
Still, I can understand why BAM! took Manji out, since the vast majority of people playing the game would suddenly find themselves playing a samurai with what is commonly thought to be a anti-semetic banner plastered all over his back. Less of an issue in Japan, where the symbol has a much more diverse history, but a pretty dicey subject here.
Still, overall, pretty cool game, left me wanting more, and thus I was excited when I heard about:
Way of the Samurai 2
The first review I saw of this game was in, I think Game Informer. Which is a bastion of fair and honest journalism filled with intelligent individuals. But hey, it's free with my gamestop discount club. You get what you pay for. Anyway, the review was pointedly brutal and gave I think one of the lowest scores I've ever seen GI give, which actually worried me, because usually when someone gives a score -that- low, the game's gotta be pretty damn terrible.
I picked up the game at blockbuster a few nights ago and decided to give it a try, see if it was really as bad as all that, or if the GI reporter was just weak in the head. My thoughts after spending a bit of time with it are as follows:
The game actually isn't that bad. In relation to the first game, there were some things they fixed, The area is larger, (you're now on the island of Amahara rather then the comparatively tiny area of Rokkotsu Pass) but because it's so much larger, and because of the way time passes in the game, they decided to remove the sense of exploration from the first game. Now you simply go to a map screen anytime you leave an area from where you choose your next area. There are plusses and minuses to this. It makes it easier to find your way to specific locations, but it also draws away from the immersion a bit. Another thing that disrupts the seamless nature that the first game had is a much higher occurrance of cinematic cut scenes. I like that they're enhancing the story, but I do miss some of the freedom that the first game offered. This new approach seems tailored to appeal to a broader audience, but I think it's lost a bit of what made the first game so special.
One thing that DIDN'T change is the lack of gender awareness. In an improvement over the first game, you can now choose from more then one head and clothing style for female characters, however the majority of the characters in the game still react to you as if you're male. In some cases, this doesn't bother me. The japanese language features more gender-neutral pronouns then english, so I can understand how some things like "Aitsu" might be difficult to translate in a gender neutral fashion, and I can also understand that if you're going to change it to react to your character's gender, that's a lot of extra coding and dubbing for the company localizing the game. But some things still don't make sense, even in the original japanese.
For one, there's a love interest you can woo in the game. This doesn't bother me so much. So she's open to girl-girl relationships, fine, I can suspend disbelief. But the main thing that bothers me is the bath-house. There are SOME characters who react to your gender properly, so I know that the devs didn't just brush off the idea, yet still, when I try to take the swordswoman I've created into the women's side of the bathhouse, the counter-lady asks me to please use the other side. ;p It seems a silly thing to overlook, particularly since they went to the trouble of -having- a women's side entrance.
Another couple of things that bug me are related directly to capcom's translation. Apparently, in localizing, they decided to take out some of the cheat codes available in the japanese version, which is somewhat dissapointing, since I wanted to see the various things available during my rental period, but it's not a major issue. The thing that is a major issue, however, is the dubbing.
Capcom. Jesus fucking christ, Capcom. You have a SAMURAI game with a cult following. The fans for this game were likely raised watching Rashomon and the Samurai Trilogy. They have the Book of Five Rings on their bookshelf and follow religiously the career of Toshiro Mifune. A lot of the ones that aren't samurai movie fans are probably anime fans. Anime and videogame fandoms cross over a LOT.
Point being, WE LIKE JAPANESE DIALOGUE. ON this game in particular, with it's samurai theme, YOU DIDN'T HAVE TO DUB IT. This is not a game that is going to cater to the mainstream, dubbing was a wasted effort in that vein, and GODDAMN the voice acting ranges from mediocre to absolutely wooden. The theoretically tragic moment where an innocent character is killed is completely destroyed by a voice actor who might as well have read the word "Pause" through his whole death monologue, because we could all tell he wasn't fucking -acting-.
Virtually every aspect of this game that differs from the first is give and take, except for the fucking dubbing.
Still, overall, it holds up fairly nicely against the first. Better in some ways, but a little bit of the magic is gone. I may well pick it up at some point, (if nothing the possibility of lesbian sex in the game colours my judgement slightly) but as an experience, I preferred the first one.
Oh, one other note about WotS2: You can get items to customize your character's appearence beyond simply his kimono and head-type, which is a cool addition, but annoyingly you can only equip one at a time. And some items don't fit so well on the smaller female character models. The former is understandably to prevent silly overlaps, but the latter is, IMPO, just lazy. :p
I've recently found out that Acquire announced Samurai Mishi 3 will be on display at TGS 2K4, so here's hoping they get a bit of the magic back from the first one.