June 2008

Well the New York Asian Film Fest just got underway, and thus far its been, not surprisingly, pretty damn awesome. So without wasting any more time, let’s take it from the top…

The Shadow Spirit

The very first offering from this year’s festival is already the clear winner of the show in my book (yes, even more so than Big Man Japan), as well as one of the finest films I’ve seen all year. So explaining why is gonna be a real bitch since, as the clich? goes, it’s just one of those “impossible to describe” kind of deals.

The setting is post WWII Tokyo, and things kick off innocently enough: an ex soldier turned private dick, who also happens to have psychic abilities, is hired by the head of a movie studio to aide his star actress… her daughter has gone missing and is feared kidnapped, due to a vast inheritance she holds the key to. Cut to… a box filled with four severed arms, all originally belonging to different girls, found in the offices of a pulp magazine, and left by the killer that the rag has been exploiting, which is no doubt a message of some sort. One that a crime investigator/budding writer, along with his editor from the aforementioned rag and another writer from another publication, the requisite gal friday of the movie, all decide to investigate, leading them all to a religious cult that interestingly enough holds much reverence towards a box. Next, onto…. a pair of detectives, one of whom is obsessed with the actress and who pretty much spends every waking moment in a movie theater, re-watching her celluloid glory, with every single line clearly memorized. Making his duty later on, which happens to be cross-examining the woman he admires so much after her daughter is run over by a train under bizarre circumstances, all the more difficult. Who also apparently lives in a large box shaped complex! And the person that helps tie everything together? Why, the book-keeping exorcist that’s best buds with the psychic detective and the reporter/wrtier? Did I forget to mention the creepy dude sporting the trench-coat, leather gloves, and bad teeth, who’s also a budding author?

The film does retain a few of the traditional qualities that make a classic, old Hollywood style whodunit, such as how it begins with a seemingly open and shut case that steadily becomes bigger and stranger, with fresh faces and wacky circumstances constantly thrown in the mix. There’s even a few staples, such as the tried and true “oh great, now what?” back to square one moment around the 70% mark, but for the most part, the movie is refreshingly honest and straightforward for a whodunit. It doesn’t play dumb little tricks, like when the prime suspect is introduced in the very beginning; there’s no stupid attempts at psyching out the audience. Instead of coming up with “clever” who’s, it instead spends it’s time and energy wisely on genuinely clever why’s. Granted, even I was scratching my head when things shifted gears from traditional detective yarn to a vaguely sci-fi set-up, but instead of it being totally ridiculous, I simply sat back and let director Masato Harada take me where he wanted. Which wasn’t exactly a chore thanks to the absolutely stellar cast and the ultra sharp and going at a hundred miles and hour script, with snappy dialogue that more than keeps up. But the real star is the direction and the editing; the camera never stops moving, and the before you can even stop to think about what you’ve just seen, we move onto the next subject or discussion at hand, yet its all done so gracefully and flawlessly that it never becomes tiresome or confusing, which is quite the feat considering how long and jam-packed the movie is. The camerawork is also quite simply stunning, with brilliant composed shots, and the soundtrack that is equally amazing. Though best of all is the rich sense of atmosphere, which really can’t be explained, though I guess I’ve been trying to for the past whatever odd words. I just can’t say enough good things about this movie, and it’s unfortunate that this movie is only playing once more, and during the daytime yet again. Everyone absolutely NEEDS to see this movie, period.

Adrift In Tokyo

The one thing I love about Japanese cinema is their take on film conventions from the West. The Shadow Spirits is your typical old fashioned Hollywood detective tale turned upside down, and Adrift In Tokyo is your standard buddy flick/road movie, al la Hope and Crosby, deconstructed and reconstructed.

The movie centers around Takemura, a down and out, as well as dead broke, college student that’s been a shit magnet his entire life, and Fukuhara, a hard boiled Yakuza whose assigned to collect the large sum of money that Takemura owes to the mob (and which the poor kid simply does not have). When all seems lost, the gangster makes an offer that seems too good to be true; simply accompany him as he walks around Japan, and in the end, Takemura will receive more than enough money to appease the mob. So what’s the deal here? Fukuhara is on his way to turn himself in. How come? Because he killed his wife. So along the way, Fukuhara wants to take a last stroll through all the familiar haunts that him and his now deceased wife used to frequent and love (they used to just walk and walk around the city, with no place in particular to go). What follows is, as one might guess, more than just a simple walk but a journey of self-discovery for both people. Naturally, when one travels with another, especially a person they don’t know all that well, you start asking questions, and mixed with the backdrop of Japan, wackiness ensues! Like when Fukuhara asks who the first girl Takemura ever kissed was, which leads to them tracking her down… to a cosplay party, where the once heart breaking 7 year old girl is now all grown up, as a chain smoking Rei Ayanami wannabe. Another highlight is the anxiety Takemura goes through when he suspects the one older woman he almost had sex with might be Fukuhara’s wife, when she was being unfaithful, and how Fukuhara still seeks to find and kill that man, who because nothing happened, lingered in her mind till the very end.

Thankfully, the film spares the audience with coincidental nonsense, such as how Takemura’s parents abandoned him in his youth, and how Fukuhara slowly appears more alike than dislike the kid as things progress, but it’s made quite clear that the old man and the young kid are not related (we actually discover that Fukuhara and his wife tried to have a child, though things did not turn out so well). But a father and son relation does being to develop, and as expected, things become quite sentimental and rather mushy, yet it all works thanks to the two lead actors who are quite believable and charming.

The Beauty Chanbara & Retro Game Master Episode 1

I’ve actually already written about both over at GameSetWatch, which can be found here. But once again, re: the Onechanbara flick, just as Mooney sez, “Four boners, way up!” If you love zombies, tits, and swords, than this movie is for you! And re: Retro Game Master, once more, I’d much rather watch some nice and friendly older dude play NES games from my youth, and struggle, than some snot-nosed punk calling himself Hadoken316 waltz through today’s hardcore next gen titles, thank you very much G4!

Arch Angels

The folks at Subway Cinema describe it as a mix of Harry Potter and Charlie’s Angels, which is pretty apt, but I was mostly reminded of the stuff produced by pleix to be honest. Anyway, there’s this all girls Catholic school in Japan run by white people, and Fumio is it’s newest pupil. The place is hardly her first choice, thought that’s where her rich brother chose for her (I think) now that he’s in charge, with mom being dead and all. He clearly believes in the finer things in life, and figures his sis will get a much needed does of culture at the place, St. Michael?s Academy. Since, you know, nothing sets a woman straight more than Jesus!

Early on, Fumio manages to endear herself to quite a few of her fellow classmates, despite her believing that they’re all uptight squares and not having anything in common. At one point she says “screw this” and disappears in the woods, to take a break for the monotony, the conformity, and God, for some alone time, as well as to cook up some ramen. Two girls, Yazuko the class president, and Kazune, the star athlete go hunting for her, and right after Fumio is discovered, the fire that was started goes out of control. So… and I’m still not sure about this part, but I think… they put the fire out with some kind of magical dust or whatever, causing a big explosion which ends up granting each girl super powers! But instead of immediately going out and kicking ass, they just go along with their regular lives (their families don’t want them getting into any trouble). But duty calls when their classmates are kidnapped… I forgot to mention how all throughout, you hear about pretty young rich girls are going missing… and the three rush to the rescue. Eventually, after much punching, kicking, and shooting of electric bolts, it’s a one on one showdown between Fumio and the criminal mastermind behind it all, one of the nuns at the school, some Romanian broad that’s always been eying students in a funny way all throughout (and you just think she’s gay or something), and who is the second character to do the Go Go Yubari shtick thus far at the fest (and only two days into things no less).

Not to give anything away, but the highlight is how Fumio ends up doing the Jesus thing near the end, meaning she bites the dust but comes back again to save the girls…. though despite not being all that familiar with the Bible, I’m pretty sure when he did rise from the dead, Christ didn’t return 50 feet taller. Anyhow, it’s just a cute, goofy little young chick flick that was directed by a music video director, and it clearly shows. I guess my only complaint is that, shockingly, the garb that they make girls wear in Japanese Catholic schools can’t hold a candle to what they were around here.

Big Man Japan/Dainipponjin

I had been dying to check this one out for weeks, and man, did it ever deliver; Big Man Japan tells a story, mockumentary style, of Dai-Sato, a 40 year old loser that everyone simply cannot stand. Not only has his wife left him, taking their daughter in tow, but the entire nation of Japan is more or less sick of the guy. Why? Because of his job, and how he’s not so good at it. Early on we simply witness him sitting around his messy apartment or wandering around town (always with an umbrella, despite the clear skies), and living a life of loneliness and constant complaining, regarding how little he makes and how his family, who all did the same things as does now, had it better back in the day. Until he gets that call, to come to a power plant, to get jolted with 40,000 watts of electricity, making him grow super big, as to face off some big bad threat that’s tearing up Japan!

The main problem is that the Dainipponjin is yesterday’s news; folks could care less about his exploits, which is televised, but relegated to late, late night schedule. They’re also annoyed with how he tears shit up makes too much noise. His manager who is supposed to help does nothing more than remind him of how much the ratings suck and broker deals with various companies that buy ad space on his body while he’s at work. The movie splits its time between Dai-Sato as he struggles with everyday life, like attempting to spend quality time with his disaffected daughter or dealing with the increasingly negative press, and his exploits as a gigantic warrior, which includes facing off with a line-up of ever increasingly ridiculous monsters, all of whom are not called monsters really but “baddies” since most of them do not appear to be ugly or all that evil, though they don’t exactly do stuff that’s good either. Basically, they’re all just huge pains in the ass, like the stink baddie who simply stands in the middle of the city, tying up traffic, and letting off her noxious fumes, as to attract a mate. When the Dainipponjin asks her to move it, instead of a some big Kaiju fight, we get a silly Kaiju argument, that only ends when some other baddie, a horny one, pushes aside the Dainipponjin and next thing you know, monsters are having sex right in the middle of public, much to the horror of the citizens of Tokyo, especially those with children. Though the public backlash from that pales in comparison to when the Dainipponjin comes across a baby baddie and accidentally drops it, eliciting mass fury across the countryside. Poor dude just can’t win… but worst of all is how ratings only increase when some bigheaded red devil baddie shows up and kicks the Dainipponjin’s ass. People simply love seeing their protector get the shit beat out of him. But at the end the day, who shows up to help lend a hand? Why America’s greatest protectors, that’s who! Setting up, and I’m dead serious here, the absolute greatest big monster fight scene in cinematic history.

Dainipponjin is written, directed, and starring Hitoshi Matsumoto, who is Japan’s highest paid comic, and the film shows why. Not only is Matsumoto awesome, but the rest of the cast is equally strong, and I believe most of the monsters are portrayed by other famous Japanese comic actors. The special effects is top-notch… especially the ending, and big monster fans in general are sure to eat this shit up like cotton candy, no doubt. The film is often compared to This Spinal Tap in terms of presentation, but it?s also just as damn good.

The Mad Detective

Moving from Japan to Hong Kong… The crazy cop genre has been pretty much done to death, especially here in the States, so leave it up to Johnny To (as noted last year, I still have no idea why To is still a relative unknown on these shores, when directors such as John Woo and Ringo Lam regularly recognized, despite To’s output being, to be honest, stronger and more consistent at this point, and this coming from a diehard Woo fan) along with frequent collaborator Wai Ka-fai (who helmed the absolutely brilliant Too Many Ways To Be Number One, which also stars Mad Detective’s star) to inject fresh blood into things. For example, instead of wasting the first thirty minutes with one dumb little bit after another to show the audience “look, this guy is nuts!” or “look, this cop is a genius!”, To and Ka-fai manages to drive the point how in a little less than five minutes; to get into the mind of killer, detective Bun (played by Lau Ching-wan, who is seriously one of the finest actors working in Hong Kong today) basically goes through the same motions that one victim, who was found dead, stuffed into a suitcase, went through… which is stuffing himself into one and asking the new guy Ho to push him down the stairs. Next thing you know, the killer’s id comes to him instantly, and Bun solves yet another unsolvable case. Cut to a going away party for a senior officer, and what does Ho present as a parting gift? His right ear.

Which is why, five years later, we find Bun unemployed and cranky. Meanwhile, Ho is trying to crack a case involving two cops who went into the woods to pursue a suspect, with only one coming out, and now there’s a crime spree going with the missing cop’s gun in the center of it all. But Ho is totally stumped as to how to proceed; hence why he visits the man he admires the most for some help. And Bun is more than happy to assist, though his wife is less than thrilled, hence an argument breaks out between the two. Thing is, watches on as… Bun argues with himself! Dude’s got no wife! We later discover that Bun is able to see and hear people’s inner voice, and the prime suspect behind the crime is, not surprisingly, Wai, the missing cop’s partner who has… multiple personalities! So we see what Bun sees; seven different people representing the various facets of Wai ‘s inner mind, whether it be a cowardly fat guy, headstrong and temperamental tough dude, or the calm, cool, and calculating woman that acts as ringleader. And given that he has the gift, Bun is able to interact with each personality independently, which naturally leads to the film’s most interesting moments, though things really get interesting when Bun’s wife, whom everyone assumes is a figment of his imagination, turns out to be a very real person, one that dumped his ass years back due to all those voices in his head, and is not happy that her ex-hubby hasn’t been taking his medicine….

While not the complete, epic package that Exiled was, it’s still Johnny To plus Lau Ching-wan, which should already be good enough for most people, but along with an interesting spin of a somewhat tired convention, even if it does kinda peter out in the end. Now, for whatever reason, there was only one screening of the film at the fest, which has obviously passed, but it was mentioned how the IFC will be brining it back themselves later in July, though in what fashion (whether it be a one week only limited engagement, or for midnight Friday/Saturday screenings) is still unknown.

Sasori

Ever hear of Female Convict Scorpion? It’s considered the quintessential prison chick flick from the 70s, and one of the prime influential forces behind Kill Bill. Well, Sasori is the remake, a crazy combo or arty farty and pure exploitation, both going at around 2000%.

Nami is your average ordinary girl, engaged to an absolutely wonderful guy, a cop, and everything just seems totally perfect. And it is, until the cop’s enemies decide to use the love of his life to destroy him emotionally, but forcing her to kill the cop’s sister and confess to the murder of his dad (which is all a set-up, of course). Nami is then sent to a tough as nails woman’s prison where she’s slapped around by primarily the big bad bitch that runs the asylum, who goes by the name Dieyou. Nami does her best to stay alive and sane, which includes trying to befriend the crazy fat girl with a metal plate in her head. While watching various girls fight each other in the mud, all over a shot of whiskey, fat girl explains to Nami that to survive, she’s gonna have to learn to fight back, so she begins to observe all the dirty girl’s dirties tricks. Eventually, she begins to take each girl down, one by one, culminating in an absolutely insane fight scene in the showers against Dieyou, where yes, there is nipples among bones breaking and blood spilling. With the winning weapon being, naturally, said fat girl’s severed metal plate!

The once docile, now deadly Nami is literally hung out to die by the prison officials, and she presumably does. That’s when the corpse collector comes into play; he takes Nami’s body and several others back to his place to wait for one of them to rise from the dead. Why? Because his theory is that those who return from the other side apparently brings with them deadly kung fu skills. Which Nami ends up proving true! Though the corpse collector certainly helps her refine those skills, and when the time is right, Nami heads back to the city to extract her revenge. One by one, the chumps set her up go falling down… though things become very complicated when her ex re-enters the picture (who tried strangling her prison last time she saw him, over the murder of his family which he obviously believed to be true). Turns out, he was so torn up over all the shit that went down that he sought out hypnotherapy to literally forget his woes… hence why he’s no longer a cop and instead is a guitarist for some shitty bar band? Anyhow, him and Nami end up hooking up, we later discover that the hypnotherapist is actually one of the bad guys (a reason is given, but I’ll be damn if I could understand it), and even more ultra stylish swordplay goes down. No joking: you will simply not see prettier trash on the big screen anywhere. Catch it if you can!

Dororo

Sasori wasn’t the only big screen adaptation of a comic from last night; Dororo is based on a manga by the legendary Osamu Tezuka, though I’m actually familiar with the story via the vide game from Sega (called Blood Will Tell, which was kinda decent). The story goes something like this: there’s this Japanese warlord who simply cannot hang with the competition, so he begs some demons for some help. 48 of them to be exact. They agree to give him all the power and strength he would ever need, in exchange for his son, which he is more than happy to offer up. But since there’s 48 demons and just one kid, each ends up taking a part of his body, leaving nothing more than a blind, deaf, mute, limbless hunk of flesh. Which his mother sends down the river, presumably off to oblivion. Instead, a herb doctor recovers the poor thing and decides to make him as human as possible, by crafting for him legs, arms, eyes, vocal chords, a heart, the whole shebang, from the remains of dead children, all victims of the reign of terror brought upon the kid’s dad, who apparently ended up on-top, vanquishing all foes and becoming ruler supreme. One thing of note is how the good doctor decided to place blades where the kid’s forearms would be… one of which is a special blade forged out of vengeance (the creator’s family was wiped out by goblins, with the sword’s creation being a result), placed on his left side. And on top of them are fake appendages that act as sheaths that can done away with if the need for battle arises.

Anyhow the kid, Hyakkimaru, grows up and scours the land in search of the demons that have what belongs to him and to get them back. Though everyone is pretty much freaked out by his less than human attributes, which includes damn near invulnerability, and is therefore identified as a demon by the populace at large. Though that doesn’t stop a spunky young female thief from tagging along (who is basically wants the goblin blade when Hyakkimaru finally drops it), and the adventure begins! Hyakkimaru and Dorororo…. which is actually a term that villagers call the wandering demon hunter originally, but since she refuses to reveal her real name, she simply steals one of his… go around, vanquishing demon after demon, and helping poor villagers in the process. It’s a fantastic tale, the kind that’s somewhat standard fare in Japanese cinema, but after the 60% mark something happens… all of sudden we discover that Hyakkimaru’s dad (btw, he has no idea who his real father his, let alone how he’s responsible for all his trouble) has fathered another son, Tahomaru, and not only do sparks fly when him and his long lost brother meet (though they have no idea that they’re related at first), but when Hyakkimaru is reunited with his mother. Things slowly become surprisingly complex and emotionally deep, which for me is usually not the case; perhaps its’ a cultural thing, but I’ve never been able to get into the climaxes of most Japanese fantasy flicks. Then again, most (or at least the ones I’ve seen) do not deal with issues dealing abandonment and the sins of the father, which is something that transcends all cultures. But the fantasy elements are not the least bit a distraction, but a perfect compliment. It should also be noted that the special effects are pretty top-notch, and the interesting use of color helps to further paint a gorgeous picture. A most definite and very pleasant surprise.

… And I guess that’s it for now! There’s still plenty of movies on my must see list, and I’ll be writing about each and every one of them, of course! And I haven’t even talked about the rest of the past couple of days, which admittedly is all that much, since I’ve been mostly at the movies. Though I’ve been playing plenty of Space Invaders Extreme, and is completely AMAZING… First Pac Man Championship Edition, and now this! All of a sudden people are finally updated older games the proper way! I also started playing Rock Band for the Wii… got the entire set-up last week, but Harmonix forgot to include the game! Oops. Apparently some poor intern’s head is gonna roll for that one. But thus far, it’s pretty ace… at this very moment, Katie is playing it, via the drums, right behind me. Oh, and on a semi-related note, I’ve got an appointment with Activision tomorrow regarding their next iteration of Guitar Hero, plus I’m homing they’ll have the DS version, which I haven’t had a chance to check out yet. And finally… earlier today i saw something that I’m not supposed to talk about, but I was say that it’s also related to music, and it’s gonna be huge. Stay tuned!

2 comments

06/18/2008

Okay, Now, Cop A Feel! Hit The X Button! Hurry!

by Matthew Hawkins

Man, where does the time go?

Excuse Me, Mr. Kojima-San, I Forgot To Bring My Copy Of Metal Gear Solid For You To Autograph, So Could You Please Sign This VHS Copy Of Ernest Goes To Camp Instead?

Last Thursday saw Hideo Kojima at NYC’s UNIQLO store in SoHo, to help commemorate the release of Metal Gear Solid 4, the final chapter of the MGS saga, along with a line of limited edition shirts based on the game. And not surprisingly, all did not go as planned, though that’s hardly a surprise…

That there is a pic of Kojima signing a bag of wasabi flavored Doritos from Japan. And that there is also pretty much the ONLY pic I have from the entire event. Which meant I didn’t capture the dude dressed up as Naked Snake, all decked out in camo gear. I know… So what happened? Basically, I was running really late that day; some last minute freelance gig dropped onto my lap, which meant I didn’t get a chance to head over to the store in the early afternoon as originally planned, and instead had to rush out the door and get there just as things were kicking off. And in my mad rush, I totally forgot that my camera was without a SD card, meaning only one single pic could be taken and contained. I actually took several pics, but each one I liked had to take the place of the previously saved on, plus its slow as hell with a card for whatever reason, so I was just too late when it came to Naked Snake. Oh well. Though things didn’t exactly go as planned for the event either, and as previously noted, that wasn’t exactly a shock; it seems any MGS-release celebration ends up being a clusterfuck, though compared to the Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence launch, this one was nice and calm, aside from the shoving match I saw ensue.

Long story short, only 300 of those aforementioned limited edition t-shirts were made available (and only three of the six designs as well… naturally, the UNIQLO in Tokyo got the cooler ones), and were originally supposed to go on-sale at 5, which is when the event started. But by the time I arrived around 4:30, they were pretty much all sold out. Huh? Thing is, the event was organized by New York-Tokyo (this was easily the most high-profile game-centric event, and as a whole, their most successful one… though I still have to give props to their Mizuguchi appreciation night, in which Rez was projected on a 30 foot plus wall), along with Konami and UNIQLO, and it was clear that not everyone was on the same page, or at least UNIQLO, who decided to put the shirts out when the store opened around ten in the morning, though one store representative I spoke with explained that they were only for display. But I guess no one told this to the customers, or to the sales people, so by the time NY-T and gamers wanting to meet Kojima, and also get something signed, arrived they were pretty much all gone. There were a few available, but all the large sized shirts were long sold out. Instead you had small, extra smalls, and a very few mediums… for gamers. And we all know that most, at least here in America, generally wear large and sometimes extra large. So yeah!

Also by the time I had arrived, almost all three hundred of those alloted to see Kojima were waiting in line outside the store, but there was also a second line inside, waiting for the final batch of shirts (so obviously, the original idea of a shirt for each person was out the window). And when they arrived, it was a mad scramble, with a mini riot almost ensuing, requiring security to break up a minor scuffle (the previously mentioned shoving match). Making things worse were certain fellow members of the press, who decided to be greedy and cut the head of the line to grab the goods. The thing is, we generally get preferential treatment a lot of the time, which leads to a sense of superiority and entitlement, and granted we were promised a chance to get a shirt as well as an autograph from Kojima, but when things are clearly not going to plan, one has to realize what the deal is and respect the people the event is really for, specifically those who had waiting in line for a lot longer than any of us were there in the first place. That’s why I went straight to the end of the line, knowing full well that I probably wouldn’t get a chance to nab a medium, cuz I’d like to think I’m a nice guy. And what do you know… the design I really wanted was available in medium, which no one wanted, and passed down the line, till it ended up in my hands, plus by the time I actually made it up there, another in the same size was also in reach! The third design, which I really wanted, was all sold out, but I still consider myself lucky.

… Meanwhile, this one camera guy, for a news outfit that shall remain nameless, was later spotted in line for a cash resister with all three shirts, and in large no less (which would explain why I saw him literally shove some girl aside, to nab the absolute last ones), had the largest, shit-eating grin I had ever seen. I so wanted to slap him in the back of the head. I also feel the need to mention that the store also has the absolute stupidest and laziest clothing store cashiers I have ever encountered, and that’s saying a lot for NYC…

But enough bitching about UNIQLO; otherwise, things went fairly smooth. Though initially, there was some fear as to whether Kojima would indeed stick around to meet all 300 folks in line; the night before he was at a midnight launch event in Times Square, for a signing at the Virgin Megastore, where folks acted pretty unruly. Aside from some constant yelling and screaming, he was asked to sign loads of stupid like, like condoms, and eventually became so annoyed that he bailed, despite there being several hundred people still waiting (I also hear that he hates doing autograph sessions in general). But things went far smoother this time around, though it was strictly controlled; just one signature per person, say your thing real quick, maybe take a picture, then move along please. Most folks had copies of MGS4 for Kojima to sign, or assorted Metal Gear goods. A few brought copies of Zone of the Enders, and even one dude brought his copy of Policenauts. Very nice. Though here’s the thing… it wasn’t just Kojima signing stuff, but also one of the voice actresses from MGS4, who is a model in Japan, though I also hear she’s done porn. And as soon as Kojima had put his signature on something, it went to her… you could tell that the dude who brought Policenauts didn’t want her to sign it since, well, she didn’t work on it! But either she didn’t understand, or the dude was too nice to say anything.

By the end, the line had thinned down, and I myself had a chance to get something signed. Now, I normally think autographs are kinda weird… I mean, I’m always up for meeting people that I respect or admire, but I’m happy enough to just exchange words, maybe a handshake. But to ask them to sign their names for you? I see no real point… though I guess it’s supposed to be some sort of concrete proof that the encounter happened, but it all just seems so awkward and impersonal. But, since it was advertised as a signing, I figured, what the hell, and had intended on bringing my copy of The Metal Gear Saga Vol 1 DVD, but of course, I forgot that too. Though they had the MGS4 coverslips for those who hadn’t purchased the game yet and had nothing to sign, so I decided to utlize that, though I mostly wanted the chance to ask Kojima a question (another reason why I wanted to be there early was the possibility to chit-chat with the guy). What did I ask? If there’s gonna ever be another Botkai title (remember that GBA game with vampire hunting that had the solar sensor built into the cart, so if you played during sunlight, there wasn’t much to do, but you could build up power, so when night fell and the vampires came out, you could do battle?). His answer?

[chuckles] “Sorry, but never!”

So there you go… I also nabbed a copy of MGS4 that same day, to further mark the occasion, the Limited Edition package with the special behind the scenes Blue-ray disc. Both of which I haven’t been able to play, of course! And I’ve had a burning desire to run out and nab a PS3 to experience the damn thing ever since, though it just hit me that there’ll probably be a super, gussied up director’s cut later down the road, so I may as well wait for that. Or… one last thing: the big joke of the event among all the other game journalists? “Can’t wait for the 360 version!”

Afterwards I went to Katz’s for another ex-Funny Garbage meet-up, since I’m tight with the gang of Jason, Dave Savage, and Sean Taggart. No Danny Glover this time, though. BTW, here’s a look at those shirts I got…

That Was The Worst $10 I Ever Spent… Scratch That, That Was The BEST $10 I Ever Spent!

The following weekend was pretty low-key. On Saturday I went drinking with Joe Salina and Mooney at my fave get drunk for cheap spot, Kenka, and it was pretty epic. One somewhat relevant moment was when I asked Joe if he thought Resident Evil 5 looked racist. And instead of repeating the entire argument, I’ll just share my two-cents: it doesn’t at least to me, and most folks claiming it is are simply projecting, IMHO. It’s already something I’ve discussed in detail, though on the podcast that no one has heard, though that part might be available soon. Though anyone wanting further elaboration around here can simply ask for it.

Otherwise, I just worked on various projects, plus messed around with my new iMac (which has thus far been totally awesome, though the screen is less than perfect; it’s true what they say about the 20″ iMacs, in comparison to the stellar displays the 24″ model has, yet then again, CRT over LCD any day in my book, and eMac for life, yo), and played a few games naturally…

The World Ends With You – I was pretty intrigued by this game when it first surfaced, given how it appeared to be not your typical Square Enix RPG-fare (with the exception of the Tetsuya Nomura character designs… which btw, I don’t mind; I know everyone hates the guy for ruining Square, but honestly, you have to blame the fans on this one). But, like lots of stuff, it fell off my radar when the moment of truth came, i.e. when the thing was finally released. But when picking up the MGS4 Limited Edition, plus Blast Works (more on that later), the guy at Gamestop noted that a few copies of this one was in the same box, and noted how it was a surprise since it’s apparently already a rare tile, which may or may not be true. But it worked on me, and another copy was sold! Anyhow, I’m still very early into things, but I already LOVE the aesthetics, as well as the soundtrack, plus the storyline is pretty intriguing. I’m actually a sucker for any RPG that’s not placed in some fantasy or sci-fi driven setting, but in contemporary times. I guess I just find the prospect of exploring some medieval cave or abandoned space station rather boring, but the mall? Oddly alluring, and it makes a helluva lot more sense when your protagonist is a teenager. But I’m already annoyed as hell with the lead character, which really does seem to typify what is wrong with S-E these days; his emo-riffic, self pity bullshit puts even Cloud to shame. But also, the dual screen combat is just not clicking with me. How it works is like this: on the bottom screen you fight with your main character, by sliding the stylus around, either to move around, or to directly attack the enemy. Meanwhile, up above, you can control your partner by manipulating the d-pad to input attacks. At first I was overwhelmed by everything going on (though there is the option to not do anything for above, in which case the computer simply takes over), but then I realized what the problem is; combat with the touch screen feel too sloppy. You can do several different things depending on how you minutely use the stylus, but the game does do a good job of detecting these nuances. Also not helping is how the enemies, at least thus far, have been lame as hell. Evil frogs? Come on. But, I’m hanging in there… so stayed tuned for more.

Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass – I got this on day one and haven’t given it a spin till now. And… holy shit, this game is awesome. I’m totally blown away how seamless they managed to transition Link’s well established (and rock solid) control scheme for the touchscreen. I thought messing around with the boomerang was hella fun before! Again, just started playing it, so there’s not much to say, or at the very least, I have nothing to complain about thus far.

Blast Works – Yet another game I’ve been dying to get my hands on since day one, and I’m probably one of maybe five people to get the thing when it came out (tracking it down was a bitch itself… every Gamestop clerk confused with either Blast Corps, which at least makes sense, and Boom Blox, which makes less sense), mostly cuz its a Kenta Cho on a console, proper (there have been homebrew ports of his stuff on Dreamcast and the PSP, but those don’t count). Also wetting my appetite is how its gotten glowing praise from across the board, which was surprising to say the least. And… I’ve only gotten up to level five, not because I died or ran out of time, but I was literally falling asleep. I have no idea what everyone is talking about. As much as I love Tumiki Fighters, I find the Wii revamp to be a complete borefest. The graphics are nice I guess, though the backgrounds are insanely dull, plus the same goes for the music, and there is zero challenge for the most part. Enemy patterns? What enemy patterns? Though with the fact that your ship becomes to big, they become impossible to even notice, but I still find them to be boring as hell. The game simply lacks intensity, something Kenta Cho games are best known for. I know, I know… I guess I should give it more time. Plus, I haven’t even touched the level editor, which is what everyone is really talking about, but still, I’m surprised most reviewers haven’t mentioned the sub-par single player mode yet.

Pokemon Ranch – Downloaded this mostly for Katie, and it’s also my first WiiWare. I know Lost Wind is supposedly awesome, but I simply don’t have room on the hard drive for it, whereas Pokemon Ranch has a tiny footprint. BTW: I predict that Nintendo’s big surprise in the coming weeks, in addition to the slimmer, GBA-slotless DS, will be a hard drive for the system, to address everyone’s complaints about not enough room to hold downloaded material, and it will look just like that stand the system is on right now. That’s my wacky prediction of the day! Anyway, when I first saw screenshots, I was less than impressed… it does look like a first-gen N64 game, doesn’t it? But when I realized that you could conceivably have a thousand Pokemon all running around at once, the graphic quality all of sudden made sense. I also wondered if it would even be any good to someone who doesn’t have Pokemon Diamond and Pearl to use to populate the ranch with, but once I heard that those us get one free “pity Pokemon” a day, I figured what the hell.

When starting out, you’re asked to choose five different Miis to help run things, so Katie chose myself, herself, Dave Mauro, Joe Salina, and James Brown (the one where he’s doing a satellite interview, and is totally out of it). And immediately we were all plopped onto the ranch with a few Pokemon, to… just stand around and do nothing. Well, everyone does “stuff”, but all on their own accord, far as I can tell. You just sit back and watch as your avatars stand around and talk to each other, or to then Pokemon, and sometimes dance with them. At first I wondered what the hell was this shit, and how I couldn’t believe I had blown ten bucks on such nonsense. And then after soaking in about five minutes or so (actually, probably less) of all the hijinks that ensued, I finally realized that it was ten dollars very well spent…

Almost immediately, it was established that I was “popular” among all the Pokemon! Maybe because it was my ranch and I was footing the bill?

Though that didn’t stop one of them from throwing fire in my face, which lead to my hair catching on fire.

Meanwhile, for whatever reason, Dave decided to sit on Pichu, which upset him horribly. Awww… As for Joe, he immediately began hitting on both the women of the ranch, Hayley, the chick that runs everything and tells you what is what, as well as my girlfriend! WTF. I had expected such behavior from the Godfather of Soul, but Joe? Hmmm.

Hello Year 2007

On Monday, I went over to Dave’s to, what else? Play some more games! Got to check out Ninja Gaiden 2 in the hands of someone who can actually handle it; got to check out some of the later levels, along with the weapons all maxed out. Unfortunately, he was without internet at the time (for a whole week actually…. which partly explains why the forums have been all but dead for a little now, along with Mike being out of town, though things are back to normal) which meant he wasn’t able to upload all the crazy high scores he achieved when beating the game! As for myself, I downloaded the demo, and thought it was cool and all, but just couldn’t deal with the crappy camera system, which is just as bad as it was in Ninja Gaiden Black.

Joe was also over, and we also got in a few rounds of Call of Duty 4, which we were both interested in, and it was shock and awe indeed. I had written the game off when it first hit the scene, since FPSs and anything dealing with the military just aren’t my things, but seeing it at the GDC, I had to reconsider my stance, and it certainly is awesome! Not necessarily my thing, for perhaps obvious reasons, but cool nonetheless. Or maybe not? More on that in just a sec; afterwards we got in some rounds of Arcana Heart, after an aborted attempt to finally give Battle Buchigire Kongou (the candidate for Fighting Weapon Battle X) a go, since it seems that there’s no two player versus mode, unless it’s unlocked via the single player mode, which meant no fighting with construction vehicles, but with underaged girls. And after a few rounds of Virtua Fighter 5 (which again, I have no problems playing with the stock 360 controller… I know, I’m a super freak), Joe had to leave, which led to Dave asking me if there was anything I wanted to give a spin. And there was…

I have a confession, one that will surely cripple my hip, indie gamer cred for sure: I have never played Portal. I know its God’s gift to video games and all, as one who is usually annoyed with glowing praise for whatever game, in the case of Portal, I’ve always believed it to be reasonably justified, despite the fact that, once again, I’ve never even touched it! Lord knows I’ve wanted to, it’s always looked hella cool, but haven’t due to… you know… how I get dizzy and nauseous from any FPS. The thing is, and I forget if I’ve also talked about it here, aside from just the forum, I was a big fan of Metroid Prime 1 and 2 because of the way things were set-up, and I never once get sick, but that all changed with 3, with its switch to a more traditional control scheme. But when after doing so tinkering with the settings, I was able to come up with something didn’t make me want to vomit after fifteen minutes. I then explained this to Mike and he noted that it all had something to do with the speed of the camera/mouse look. So after firing up Portal, I immediately adjusted the look setting to almost its lowest, and wouldn’t you know! I played for over thirty minutes straight and no problems whatsoever! Talk about a breakthrough! It’s like a whole new world has opened up to me! You wouldn’t believe how excited I am… Though I do realize that this won’t work with most games. At least Portal is more puzzle oriented, but with something like Call of Duty, with bullets whizzing by at all angles, and lighting quick responses, as well as movement, a must, that just won’t work. But still… at least I can play Portal! I guess I really don’t need to mention how fucking amazing it is. Dave also got a kick watching me tackle some puzzles; some of my solutions were ridiculous or unnecessarily complicated when compared to his, and vice versa. Anyway, point being, I’ve joined the club!

Get Ready!

What else? Well, I received the entire Rock Band for the Wii set-up the other day from Harmonix, with one crucial piece missing… the game! And I of course only realized this after setting up all the guitars and the drums. Oh well! And earlier today I went to Sega’s big holiday press preview, which…. I’m not allowed to talk about. Which is kind of a drag, since I held off on updating last night since I figured I’d have a lot to talk about the next day. Once again… oh well. Though hopefully I won’t get in trouble for mentioning how, for the first time in a LONG time, I’m actually really excited, and most importantly, hopeful for an upcoming Sonic game!

So instead of wrapping things up with a bunch of assorted gaming news, which I was going to do, but I’m just feeling a bit lazy at the moment (plus there hasn’t been too much to talk about really… though news of Mega Man 9 is kinda exciting), I may as well pass along another mention that Subway Cinema’s New York Asian Film Festival finally kicks off this Friday! And oh man, is it ever gonna be great! I’ve finally come up with my checklist, which clocks in at over twenty different flicks! And yes, I fully intent on taking advantage of the special festival pass. But in addition to some fine video game-centric cinema, for my GameSetWatch column, I’m also psyched for the just announced US debut of Retro Game Master! And instead of explaining what Retro Game Master is exactly, I’m just gonna cut and paste the Subway Cinema press release since, once again, I’m just in a lazy mood at the moment…

During the NYAFF, Subway Cinema will also be presenting the American debut of a popular Japanese TV series repped by Stylejam. Produced by Fuji TV, RETRO GAME MASTER?known as GAME CENTER CX in Japan?stars Shinya Arino as ?the Kacho,? a company employee who is in love with old-school gaming, usually on the classic 8-bit Nintendo (or Famicom, as it?s known in Japan). Each show follows the Kacho as he challenges himself to defeat an old-school game, an ordeal that usually takes him many hours (viewers see a condensed thirty minute summary).

Launched in 2003, the show has lasted nine seasons, the most recent of which started in mid-June. Immensely popular, the adventures of the Kacho have inspired four DVD box set collections (released by Stylejam), multiple tie-in merchandise, and even GAME CENTER CX: ARINO?S CHALLENGE, a Nintendo DS game that features the Kacho as an animated character challenging the player to a series of cleverly designed faux retro games.

So that American fans have an opportunity to learn more about the show, NYAFF will be presenting two complete episodes of RETRO GAME MASTER as FREE screenings at IFC Center, subtitled for the first time ever in English!

The first show has the Kacho trying to defeat the difficult “Mystery of Atlantis,” a classic Famicom game never released in the U.S. The second show features the Kacho playing the popular “Ghosts and Goblins.”

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Well, another MoCCA Art Fest has come and gone. And as expected, it was a mixed bag.

MoCCA 2008: Enter… The Three

For starters, didn’t do all that well sales-wise. Saturday was decent, but Sunday? Man, don’t even ask. Actually, it’s hardly a surprise; with nothing new at the show (well, the third UNLUCKY preview mini did makes its MoCCA debut, but that book has been available online and at stores for almost a year now, so I guess it really doesn’t count), I really had nothing to offer. Though I supposed one shouldn’t feel too bad… from what I gathered, pretty much everyone suffered from less than stellar business. Though my tablemates did quite well, and not surprisingly; their shit, as expected, was tight.

And I also only realized at the very end how poorly prepared I was exactly; it hadn’t occurred to me at all beforehand to create a sign, even a little one, to tell everyone that the first installment had received an honorable mention in the Best American Comics 2007! Talk about being a poor businessperson.

Also, and I guess this was the biggest downer; many familiar faces passed on this show, for whatever reason, or simply could not make it. Folks like Farel, Todd Web, Toby Craig, Travis Nichols (who was at least around a few weeks back), Dalton Webb, and Matt Bernier to name a few. And one of the very best parts of MoCCA is having out of town bud around to entertain.

All of which contributed to, in my humble opinion, an extremely low-key affair. Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing, but I guess with APE, which is traditionally the first indie comics shows of the year, being delayed till the end of the year, I kinda expected something big. Also not helping was the truly oppressive weather, and especially the fire alarm on Sunday, but I’ll get to that in just a sec.

Though the show wasn’t a total washout; it certainly had its moments. First and foremost, I had an utter blast sharing a table with Katie and Hilary. We made quite the fine team! Here’s our “group shot”…

Hilary’s offerings included a totally awesome new mini, plus her usual array of ultra fine prints, which sold out actually, as did Katie’s second installment of Nurse Nurse!

Also quite nice was our change in location. Don’t ask me why or how, but originally we were supposed to be located on the 7th floor, due to the fact that I submitted my paperwork and payment so late. But when we picked up our badges the night before the show, we were delighted to discover that we were moved onto the first floor! I actually heard a lot of people who got shuffled around, and in their cases, they did not benefit from it at all. So we were just lucky. Actually, Hilary in particular was pretty bummed about being separated from the action, though I tried to look on the bright side… such as how when the AC went dead downstairs, the upstairs was nice and pleasant. Plus I assumed that this second time around, more people would know a 7th floor existed, and it would hopefully not be a ghost town like last time. Which was most certainly the case, the 7th was definitely booming. Problem was, the AC up there never worked, meaning it was really hot and uncomfortable. Again, lucky us!

But before going further, may as well start from the top: Friday after work, Katie and I met up with Pat Lewis for dinner (we went to Republic, this Thai joint in Union Square), and then went to Rocketship for a small pre-MoCCA party that was mostly a book signing event headlined by Jason… not my buddy Jason Sawtelle, but the famous Norwegian cartoonist who only goes by that name. Anyhow, that was fun… hadn’t seen Alex in ages, which makes no sense, since I’ve been working at home and not tethered to some office for over two months now.

I guess the only noteworthy thing from that part of the evening was how I was standing next to the line of folks waiting to get their book signed, and talking to Pat, who was in that line, along with Jammie Tanner, about my days of internet dating from many moons ago (which I find myself talking about a lot, since I find it so funny how I got so many weird looks about it back then, and now, everyone’s on OK Cupid), when I noticed someone directly behind Pat listening and sometimes chuckling. When I realized that he looked kinda familiar, but couldn’t put my finger on it, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to investigate, and after talking for a bit, it finally hit me: it was Jackson Publick, co-creator of the Venture Bros!

Afterwards, because Pat is totally into all things Tiki, we went to the Zombie Hut a few doors down, and brought some folks with us from Rocketship. I ended up giving one of the bartenders like $20 in tip for just two drinks, mostly because she looked like she needed it; aside from everyone being a shitty tipper that night, every creep in the house was hitting on her, to the point that she seemed to be on the verge of tears (and considering most bartenders are used to stupid shit in general, it must have been especially bad). Though I made sure that, you know, I’ve got a girlfriend, so I wasn’t trying to hit on her or anything. Anyhow her appreciation showed via some damn fine Blue Hawaiians!

As for the highlight of the next day, the first day of the show, it would have to be this one dude. Naturally, I have a tendency to attract the weird ones, but I got a whopper very early on that morning; this very nervous dude began to ask me if I was an animator or a marketing guy. He was sweating and stammering something fierce. I tried to answer him the best I could without getting too involved, if you catch my drift, and noticed he had a HUGE phonebook-think sketchpad that was devoid of any cover. It was explained that he was looking for someone to animated his drawings, and it felts like the manifesto of some madman even with just a slight cursory glance from afar. When I explained him that I could be of no real help, he moved along, and then Katie stated “Man, I’d pay $300 to have whatever that thing he has is.” And then my curiosity became very piqued… but mostly because he really reminded me of this one kid from SVA that Joe Simko and I talk about… who used to draw the absolutely craziest thing (man, I will NEVER forget the look on our drawing teacher’s face, the late-great Joe Orlando, as he asked what the deal was with the boob in the sky, and the response from the dude, who we both realized was a fucking genius but no one knew it, was “It’s a titty copter… and those are ninjas coming down from it.”).

So, wondering if it was indeed the same dude (he certainly had that same demented, cross-eyed look), I asked if we could take a look at his art. And here’s what we got…

… Just pages and pages of faces melting, most of whom looked to be in agony…

… But the best part was this…

… All of a sudden, couches began to appear. And soon there were more and more, and becoming increasingly abstract. So there you have it folks, the next big thing!

As for what the big book of the show was, to be honest, there were a few titles that people were talking about, yet nothing on the scale of a “OMFG, YOU GOTTA GET THIS BOOK!!!” like a Scott Pilgrim or anything. Then again, I’m kinda out of the loop… hell, there could have been a new Scott Pilgrim for all I know. Unlike shows past, I ended up spending a lot of time behind the table, which was actually nice. It’s nice to spend time with customers, you know. But on the flip side, it also meant that I didn’t get in as much browsing as I normally do (then again, I usually walk around so much that I get totally sick and tired of everything by the end, yet I still manage to miss some good stuff).

Though to be honest, I’m also a LOT more pickier these days… such as how I’m totally bored to tears with comics that deal with how shitty high school was, how it sucks to be single, or anything else that’s basically the author feeling sorry for him or herself in graphic novel format. Basically, my threshold for emo-riffic bullshit has officially met its quota. Another topic I’m bored to tears with? Comics about making comics. Again, I love how some indie cartoonists love to talk about all the pain and sacrifice they go through for “the craft”! Like every other artist, no matter what the field, doesn’t go through the same exact trials and tribulations. I guess it could be argued that cartoonists get no respect… actually, that’s pretty much what all the complainers have to say in defense… which of course is totally subjective. And totally not true. Tell that to the kid who spends every spare moment coding some dumb little game that no one will ever play, for example. Point being, it’s all relative.

Anyway, one book that kinda got buzz was the comic that beloved French music video pioneer, and one of my persona heroes, Michel Gondry himself wrote and illustrated. Gondry was actually on-hand to provide sketches of his customers, and I simply couldn’t resist the chance…

… Apparently, Gondry thinks everyone has big ears. Also at the same table was Snoopee, a large format comic printed on newsprint that features Snoopy fucking and peeing on Charlie Brown…

… It’s pretty much the greatest thing ever.

As I do at pretty much every comic show, I went clothes shopping. Actually, this time around, the selection was kinda light. Though I did pick up these two fine shirts…

… I know that last one is rather low-brow and too scenester-ish/hipster-ish, but I’m sorry, it’s the type that totally sold it for me.

Oh, and here’s some dude who had a Cure tote bag that was also pretty fucking insanely rad…

I guess the real hotness, comics-wise, was found in a corner of the 7th floor, and entire table inhabited by Norwegians…

… Holy shit their books were awesome. Just loads of completely bat-shit insane, nonsensical, and most importantly, sidesplitting brilliance. WHAT IS HAIR? by a dude that goes by “Dongety” was easily one of the books of the show.

Also equally awesome was Bear Bear by Hana El-Assad…

Oh, so day one ended with myself, Katie, Katie’s friend Taline, and Pat all going down to Go Go Dim Sum, to once again feast on their Go Go Burgers, while everyone else had equally fanciful and weird Chinese food. Next was figuring out what to do our Saturday night; again, with so many peeps not present at the show, who have always been my primary motivation to go out and party in the first place, and also after growing sick and tired of all the party hopping that ensues after each and every MoCCA anyway (in which there’s too much shit going on, and you try to be at all places at once, but no real fun is had in the end), plus also being exhausted by the heat alone, I originally planned on going to the MF Gallery to catch Joe Simko make some art live at the space for the very last time, before heading off to Brooklyn. But Katie ended up convincing me to hit the Indie Spinner Rack party, which wasn’t the worst thing in the world. Highlights there include talking to Joe Flood about my killer new game idea (and he did an awesome job providing feedback… to be honest, I always appreciate it when friends ask thoughtful, but totally hardball questions, especially when its about a game and the person is not a gamer, offering a totally fresh perspective on things), Dave K, who coincidentally, told me all about the game he just made, and getting into an argument with one of the bitch bartenders at the place. Or course.

I think by the next day, the heat had finally taken over the show. It was okay inside, but outside, holy shit, it was BAD. Not helping was how the fire alarm went off around 2 on Sunday. At first everyone just stood there and wondered what the hell was going on… but with no real announcement, everyone assumed it was a false alarm. Then next thing you know, there’s a fat woman running up and down the aisles, telling everyone to immediately leave the building. That’s when people became extremely nervous, and even quietly began to panic in some cases. It was really funny see who valued their comics more than their lives, since some decided to stay behind to pack their shit up.

We all ended up waiting outside in the god damn hot weather for quite a while, and trying to figure out what the hell happened…

Hey, here’s Colleen, who couldn’t make it for the first day of the show due to moving, but she was at least present this day, with camera in hand (and Pat right behind her, who was supposed to be her table-mate)!

Some of tried to figure out what the next step was. Go to a bar and wait it out? Go home? Here we have Colleen AF Venable trying to teach Katie some game from her childhood daze…

A little less than an hour later everyone was slowly back in, and it was back to business as usual. Though a good deal of the customers who were there before and got kicked out did not make a return. And most sellers I talked to were already in the mood to go home anyway, so word came that the day had been extended to make up for the evacuation, instead of cheers, most kinda groaned.

But again, the best part of the show as talking to folks and various friends, like Alisa Harris and Allan Norico, and Zack Giallongo and Stephanie Yue. Also, guess who finally got a website?! And even though Farel wasn’t there, one of the other folks at Meathaus that I actually am friends with, Chris McDonald, was present for an entire hour, so I consider myself luck to have run into. There was also Dave Savage, whose mini is actually tied with WHAT IS HAIR? as best book of the show, and which totally floored both Katie and Hilary…

… Both Dave and Chris are actually moving back to NYC, like lots of folks. And on a somewhat related note, it would seem that many are coming back from Portland, Oregon, which became the hotspot for all uber cool, hipster cartoonists. So to hear that they’re all crawling back is definitely lulz in my book. Though Matt Bernier, who most certainly is not some hipster douchebag, is also making a grand return, and that is most excellent news!

I guess the best part of the show was finding out from various folks, some of whom I had totally lost contact with, that there is still a lot of interest in them contributing to UNLUCKY! So despite a less than stellar catalogue at MoCCA, perhaps SPX will be different? God willing.

Tis The Season For Wacky Jappy Cinema Once Again

Well, one staple of the summer has now come and gone, so what’s next? over at the forums for those who might be interested

It’s impossible to say what’s on the top of my list, since there’s so many good looking flicks to choose from, and from so many places. This year easily has the most stuff from the most places, and as already noted, I would have to assume it’s a direct result of the Korean film world being in such a state of shambles last year, which must have forced the folks at Subway Cinema to look elsewhere. Also a result, this year’s fest has easily the most eclectic offering yet.

Though it might come to no surprise to some that if there is one I absolutely have to check out, it’s X-CROSS!

Oh, and of course, since I’m all about video game cinema… even though its been a while since I’ve updated my GSW column… sorry about that Simon! But I know I say this a lot, yet this time I really mean it: look for new installments coming soon, promise! Including my review of the Onechanbara flick…

The Heat Is On

Back to this week… Right after MoCCA, the very next day, Monday, was not back to business as usual due to the intense heat, which forced me to finally nab an air conditioner for my new apartment. And… Very long story short, I ended up getting the biggest piece of shit AC ever. I know I’m kind of a tard with lots of things, but especially after owning several air conditioners over the years, I’d like to think most are pretty self-explanatory. Well, I spent a good hour trying to figure out how to get the fucking thing in my bedroom window, to the point that I had to refer to the worst instruction manual that I’ve ever set my eyes upon, so bad that I tried calling for help. So there I was, sitting around in my place, which was easily over a hundred degrees, when after being on hold for about fifty minutes, I all of a sudden got disconnected… And along with that, plus the frustration surrounding my inability to figure out how to assemble my new source of soothing coolness, which I so desperately needed, the aforementioned brain melting heat and humidity, with sweat just pouring down my brow and literally blinding me as it went into my eyes, which somewhat complimented my hands, as they were covered in blood… because the screw holes on the side, where one puts the sides on, was so small, I had to borrow the super’s drill gun, but they were so small, the gun lost its footing and slipped into my hands… I’m lucky I didn’t drill a hole in my fingers… I pretty much had a complete mental breakdown. I once again mostly blame the heat (and to think, I was already having a somewhat pleasant day due to enjoying quite the spectacle on the subway earlier that day… again, thanks to the heat). In the end, I managed to stick it in the window, despite how it looked as if it would slip outside and fall four stories at any moment, called PC Richards to give them a piece of my mind, and in the end, got them to come by and pick up the piece of the shit unit and drop off a much nicer AC (and from a brand I trust, from Korea, to replace the piece of shit Chinese hunk of junk), as well as one that was much more expensive, but got the price knocked down to make up for my trouble, which arrived earlier this morning and its totally awesome. So, much like that debacle involving the post office that I mentioned last time, it pays to bitch and moan kids!

Okay, Now I’m Getting One

Another thing that went down on Monday was the big iPhone 3G reveal. And even though I don’t blog about cell phones for a living doesn’t mean that I’m still not gay for them. And as being a fairly regular critic of the device since day one, I gotta say… I want one now.

Why? Well, they more or less fixed everything, right? The thing will have faster internet surfing, sans Wi-Fi, thanks to 3G, it’ll have better battery life, true GPS, let you use any headphones you want, third party applications… and the $200 price tag certainly does not hurt one single bit. My only concern is if the voice quality is still piss poor; hate to say this to all my iPhone using friends, but I can BARELY hear you on the phone, 90% of the time.

I’ve been using a Nokia N81 ever since one was passed along, for both my phone and music playing needs, and while it’s a fine little machine, that basically does what an iPhone does, it’s all been rather… inelegant. And hardly perfect; the interface is less than stellar, controlling music has always been a pain, syncing with my calendar all of sudden just stopped one day, among many other issues. One thing the N81 still does better is games, if only because there’s actual buttons, making playing old NES games far more fun than on an iPhone. Granted, games specifically for the platform are on the way, but for $10, I think I’ll pass… Though speaking of buttons, while they make typing really easy, I did find myself getting pretty good at using the touchscreen during my time with my former company’s iPhone. I also miss the really fucking nice camera.

I’m just hoping that using custom ringtones (and alert notifications) won’t be a pain (it most certainly isn’t with the N81), and that I can download files directly to the new iPhone (another great thing about the N81, the ability to simply download songs directly from the machine and immediately play it). I’m also less than thrilled with giving Apple more money for something other than a computer and what is basically a glorified iPod, especially after what happened with my last one; again, I forget if I went over it already, but it was an instance in which bitching and moaning did NOT net any results, as well as yet another reason why retail is dead, and why everyone who works at an Apple store in NYC needs to be lined up and shot in the head.

I Wonder What Kind Of Bangai-O Level Howard Stern Might Produce?

As for yesterday, a whole slew of game companies came to town to show off their wares, and I was around of course…

Starting with Capcom, I got my grubby mitts on Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix. As everyone knows, this is Super Street Fighter II Turbo from oh so many years ago with a next-gen graphical face-lift. The word of which got everyone all hot and bothered, including myself, till word came that only existing frames of animation would be replaced, which made one wonder if things would look all herky-jerky and just plain weird.

Well, it does. Now, I can understand the need to stick to the source material… adding or changing the animations would change the game… at least for the purists, which this game is mostly aimed at. But, I would discover that new moves are being added to each character’s arsenal. Well, if you’re gonna change one thing, why not everything? Makes no sense. As is, the characters look nice, at least in still shots, but in motion, their idle animations for example, look totally spastic (as if the speed as been notched up to 11). Regarding how it played, fine I guess… Though in the end, I guess adding new frames wouldn’t work since the folks behind it, whether it be Backbone Entertainment who is handling the programming or UDON who is reworking the art, are apparently way behind schedule. Only four characters were available for play (though all the backgrounds are done).

Next I moved onto another HD remix of sorts, 1942: Joint Strike, a revamp of the old-school shump. And this one I liked much better. I know some hardcore shump fans (cough*cough*cough*Dave Mauro) might find the action a bit too slow for their tastes, since the pacing and patterns are reminiscent of the older games, it still offers a bit of new school technique; the system at play here is how, the closer you are to an enemy, the more points you get for shooting it down.

Third up was Bionic Commando Re-Armed, yet another XBLA or PSN make-over to a classic. And its more or less EXACTLY like the NES game, gameplay-wise. Meaning I couldn’t do jack shit! As neat as I’ve found the bionic arm mechanic to be, I’ve never been able to wrap my head around it. But, if I’m gonna give it another stab, I may as well do so with this one. Oh, and I’ve been told that Hitler’s… sorry “Kilt” this time around… brain exploding at the end is especially awesome!

I then got a chance to not play but simply check out the next-gen sequel to the game in action, and it looked pretty fucking hawt. Though here’s a real shocker, something that diehard fans might find sacrilegious: there’s now a jump button! Which to be honest, is good news for me. But anyway, that means the gameplay has been changed somewhat, to emphasize Spider-Man-like action. Which was more than evident as I saw this new and improved Bionic Commando fly all over the air, latching onto anything, as well as everything, and swinging both up and down, left and right, plus every which else. Combat funny enough is somewhat reminiscent of Gears of War, with the camera going over the shoulder of Nathan Spencer (the same dude as in the NES game) as the player tries to aim. The boss battle I saw was particularly impressive, which was this flying robot-thing. As the thing flies around, you have to swing all around to avoid fire and get into position to shoot back. Pretty intense.

Multiplayer action was briefly touched upon; if playing alongside another player, you can use your arm to attach to the other person to swing to greater heights or hard to reach places, which does you both good, or one can latch onto someone to prevent progression. The whole arm mechanic is actually still being worked on, so there might be more in store. Oh, and I guess it should be noted that if you download Re-Armed, when you get the next proper game, it unlocks stuff on both ends. It’s like Nintendo’s GameCube/GBA connectivity all over again! Though unlike, say, Metroid Prime and Fusion, there will be quite some time separating the two Bionic Commando. Like over half a year.

After Capcom was D3, which I only swung by to take another look at Bangai-O Spirits. I forget if I already mentioned it, but I got another chance to check out the wacky means of passing along custom levels, which are expressed as audio files. Now, the thing is, I was under the impression that absolutely any audio file would net something… not sure if its just something I heard some random place, or maybe from D3 themselves last time, or if I simply imagined it myself… but it turns out, that’s not the case. Each level file will have a sound cue in the very beginning, to help signify that it’s system data and not just random noise. Bummer. Then again, I guess you could just take that sound and add it in front of whatever.

Because I was short on time, I didn’t have much time at Sierra, so I only saw bits and pieces of the new Spyro game (which looked unbelievably good btw… I also know that I’m one of the few folks that’s been genuinely impressed by the reboot of the series), and nothing of 50 Cent 2 (yeah, such a shame, I know). But I did get some time in with the new upcoming Ghostbusters game. And…

Holy shit, this game has the potential to be fucking amazing. First off, it’s basically the plot of a third movie if they had made one (though its not “Ghostbuster In Hell” which was supposed to be part three), taking place two years after the events of part 2, meaning the year is 1991. The script was written by both Dan Akroyd and Harold Ramis, the dudes behind the movies, and every single character (pretty much) is included along with the actor or actress who portrayed them in the movie, including Bill Murray! Quite the shock since I figured it wouldn’t be his thing, given that he’s sorta become all serious. The only ones not involved is Sigourney Weaver (due to creative reasons… they wanted a new female lead… and when I asked if this meant a female Ghostbuster, I got nothing as a response) and Rick Moranis (they wanted him, but he’s retired from show business). Otherwise, you have Annie Potts and that guy who played Walter Peck, among many others.

No info was given out concerning a plot, but the game has both Slimer and Mister Stay Puff, and their returns appear to be somewhat relevant to the plot. Also back is the librarian ghost, the very first one from the first movie, aka “the one that got away”, so you go after her in the third level I believe, which meant a return to the New York Public Library. The setting allowed one to check out the awesome new physics engine the game utlizes, which has every single thing be its own object, to be moved and manipulated. So not only did you have tons of individual books flying all over the place, but they formed the body of the boss creature.

Gameplay is mostly zapping ghosts with the proton packs and then trapping them, but the packs can be augmented with upgrades and the such. One such offers a quick burst, much like a gun. Another was a slime attachment that allows one to grab something and then have it hung onto the wall or ceiling, as well as add other stuff to it, another fine work out for the engine. Again, details were sparse, but it was hinted at that this slime gun will play a major role in multiplayer. Speaking off, much like in the movie, crossing the streams is bad, for both you and the other guy. Though in the single player missions, if you do so, the other Ghostbuster will cease fire, and then bitch you out.

Graphics were fine, but what really sold the game was the sound. Aside from the familiar voices, the proton packs sounds just as they did in the movies, which in turn was music to my ears. Speaking of music, it features the same score as in the original… but more so. Apparently, Elmer Bernstein, who did the score, creating 75 minutes worth of music that went unused… till now! Controls involve using the left stick to swing and move your proton stream around, like one would imagine, though it was noted that the PS3 version will take advantage of the Sixaxis. In fact, it was hinted at that the PS3 version, since Ghostbusters is a Sony property, will have a ton of extra stuff on the disc. Though it was also mentioned that the 360 version will also have lots of downloadable content… which makes sense, given the difference in storage medium. Oh, and there is a Wii version, which will be the same basic game, though “streamlined” whatever that means. It tool will take advantage of the Wii-mote’s motion sensor abilities (and it had better), plus the graphics are supposed to be more “cartoony.” As in, the Real Ghostbusters? I guess we’ll have to wait and see… But yeah, I’m TOTALLY jazzed for this one.

Codemaster was also in the same hotel, but since I was out of time, didn’t get a chance to stop by. Plus, I don’t think they were showing off GRID anyway…

Get Inside, NOW!

Yesterday was also June’s birthday, so I met up with Joe in the afternoon and headed off to the Brooklyn Museum, to check out the Murakami exhibit. And… It was closed. Which sucked. At least I got to take this pic…

… Now, I can fully appreciate it when a museum forbids one from taking pictures of art inside, but when the security goons starting giving me dirty looks and coming over for taking pics of stuff on the outside, that’s just fucking gay.

Anyhow, June really wanted to cool off in some water, so both her and Joe decided to hit Coney Island, and as tempting as it was to join them, not for the water (since, you know, I am scared to death of the ocean) but for some Ms. Pac-Man and Nathan’s (I was totally starving at the time too), I also had work waiting for me back home, and thus we parted ways. Though later on I met up with them, along with Katie, at Sake Bar Hagi, which Joe and June had heard about a while back and have been dying to check out ever since. And it was indeed a nice little does of Japan that the three of us have sorely missed as of late! If you’re reading this Matt B, you’ll be happy to know that the menu has expanded! Though I totally burned the fucking shit out of the roof of my mouth when I dug into one of their hot dogs, which was right out of the oven. I’m playing with the dead skin with my tongue as I type this!

Afterwards we all drunkenly took the train north, to head on over to Joe and June’s, to enjoy some desert. But once we got to go out of the train, at their stop, it happened. First off, out of nowhere and from above, all of us got hit by some nasty street juice. Disgusting. As we exited the turnstiles, we saw people entering the station with the look of shock on their faces. One girl who passed up by told us “If you’ve got a place to go, GO TO IT NOW.” We wondered if it had been storming… it had been humid all day long… but we didn’t see a river going down the steps which is often the case of a sudden storm.

But once we got topside, we found ourselves in the eye of the storm. Never had any of us been in the midst of strong winds. Shirt, large shit, was flying all over the place, with lots of tiny shit getting in our eyes, further blinding us. People were running around and screaming. We quickly headed towards Joe and June’s place, but slowed our pace as we went around a quiet corner with calmer winds. That was when a guy stuck his head out the window yelled at us to “Get Inside, NOW!” The air were relatively relaxed, but I all of a sudden got the feeling that shit was going down… and also realized that my windows were left open, and was afraid of all my shit being drenched by the oncoming storm, primarily my MoCCA stash that, for whatever reason, I had left in a pile near the window. That’s when Katie and I parted ways and tried hailing a cab. I was scared to death that when the shit went down, we’d be stranded, but thankfully a livery car snatched us up. And immediately we got stuck in traffic, which was annoying, till we realized the source of all the cars standing still or going all sorts of wacky directions; fallen trees in various roads. Eventually we hit the Henry Hudson Parkway and were able to soak in the electricity in the air, which was most spectacular. Including a forest fire that began somewhere in Jersey as a result. Got home just in time to close the windows… no water damage on my books or video game stuff, though there was a fine layer of dark dust on everything, which kinda sucked. But yeah, I have no idea what the fuck was happening, and when I turned on NY1 for some breaking news, they had some shit on about Yankee baseball. Naturally.

Oh, so I did some cleaning this morning, and while dusting off my DS Lite, I noticed a crack on the hinge! The same crack that many other had when the system came out. And since mine is from that generation, I have to wonder how long its been there yet hadn’t noticed!

The Jeep 4X4 Who Wanted To Fly

So today I decided to stop by the Jacob Javitz to check out Licensing Fair 2008, yet another summer staple. As expected, there was tons of wacky shit to soak in…

… Ghostbusters was pushed rather heavily. Not surprising I guess.

As was, surprise!

… Am I complaining? Nope! The more Iron Man, the better, I say. So I hear they’ve added some Tony Stark to the upcoming Hulk movie? Now I have even more incentive to check it out!

Must say, this is a pretty damn god representation of Harrison Ford, a la Legos!

… Oh, so I caught up with my buddy from Warner Bros, whom I had been dying to tell in person who much I loved the Speed Racer flick (and in return, I was delighted to hear that my positive response was a big hit at his office). Anyhow, Warner had a million and one things on-hand to promote, such as Harry Potter 6, so Radcliffe’s face was plastered about, but where was the Hermione love? Hmmm.

Meanwhile, over at Hasbro…

… Gotta say, that Snake Eyes looks pretty boss.

So imports from Asia had a bigger presence than ever…

… Yeah, that’s a dude in some costume.

You know, it’s always funny when you run into folks you know at trade events. While passing by some other dude in a costume walking the floor, this one a monkey, promoting some monkey cartoon, I thought I heard my name whispered. I turned around and the monkey approached me, who then said in a slightly more audible, yet still clearly hushed tone “Hey Matt!” It was Keith, one of my Japan cohorts! Guess it was his new gig… and they don’t like it when you break character, hence the hush-hush. So I did the best I could to interact and also pass along code that I knew it was him and to say hi to Anney for me.

Hey, it’s the Wizard of Oz, ALL FUCKED UP!!!

… lulz.

Easily my favorite stupid thing at the show had to be this…

I don’t know what’s worse; making a buck off of some kids’ questions to their creator, or calling said deity “hot”…

Perhaps the most interesting product on-hand was something called Musical DNA. Created by someone who wanted to teach himself the guitar, he discovered that all sound can be summed up as mathematical equations, and basically developed graphical representations of basic sounds to help master the fundamentals and then use that knowledge to master more advanced techniques…

… I know it sounds like bullshit, nor am I even going to try and repeat what was explained to me, but you’ll just have to take my word for it: it all made TOTAL sense, and the software seems to hold a ton of potential, ESPECIALLY as a game creation application (that is, if the game in question utilizes sound as a primary part of its gameplay).

So I made a new friend at the show! A fine fellow who works for Kyoraku, an operation that pushes both pachinko machines and Japanese wrestling…

… They represent HUSTLE, which describes itself as a “Combination of pro-wrestling & theater… It’s FIGHTING OPERA”! I guess they’re testing the waters to see if there might be some interest in their product here in America, and I explained that there’s been some since the late 90′s, the last great wrestling boom, when those who were hardcore into wrestling, like those into ECW, were also into tape trading, mostly of King of the Deathmatch stuff from Japan. And if you go to any major anime con, there’s still a small wrestling contingency. Basically, I kinda impressed the guy when I mentioned how I knew what FMW was

Meanwhile, the dude wasn’t so much trying to sell pachinko machines in the States as he was trying to sign up licenses for machines back home (like those Speed Racer and Planet of the Ape machines I saw during my visit). Well, I passed along his info to some folks I know, who in turn seemed to be interested, so hopefully if something comes from that, I will be rewarded with a trip to Japan, to be part of an angle on HUSTLE, maybe as Hard Gay’s American cousin?

And on the other side of the world, yet sticking to the squared circle, we have an upcoming animated film featuring Mexico’s premier wrestling organization, AAA…

Oh, and I stopped by the Garfield booth, and asked them about the Nine Lives of Garfield and if it’s ever gonna come out on DVD. And like every year, I got no real answer. Bummer.

The Time Is Near

Ok, in less than an hour will be the release of Metal Gear Solid 4! I was actually kinda supposed to be at the midnight launch happening at Time Square, at the Virgin Megastore where Kojima is supposed to make an appearance, if only to meet up with some folks at NeoGAF, but after running around the convention center all day long, plus this fucking heat, I simply said screw it. That and I’m seeing the guy tomorrow at UNIQLO.

Well, with the game finally here… I’m picking up my copy, despite not having a PS3 of my own… I’m seriously fighting the urge to actually rectify that. Stay tuned! For at the very least, I report of tomorrow’s happening.

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