06/18/2009

Where’s My Kula Diamond?

by Matthew Edward Hawkins

Weekend’s gonna be crazy packed, so time for a quick update before things start swinging into full action! Just odds and ends mostly…

Only Seventeen

First off, the New York Asian Film Festival 09 officially kicks off tomorrow! And I’ve got my tickets. From yesterday…

… Though that’s not all of them, believe it or not, just the stuff showing at the IFC Center. Had to make a trip to the Japan Society today earlier this afternoon to nab ones for Love Exposure. Which meant dealing with the torrential downpour, since the subways were totally f’d up, but at least the crazy weather was somewhat of a decent reason this time. I guess.

Anyhow, I believe it was mentioned previously that I was aiming for eighteen, and my final total (at least as of right now) is only seventeen. At one point there were twenty-five movies that I was super interested in, so it was tough figuring out which ones to knock off the list. Which meant looking at trailers over and over again; even though that one on body modification sounded great on the website, this did very little for me ultimately. And that’s the thing; the people who write up the descriptions make everything seem like total must sees, though in the end, that’s not necessarily the case. Hey, they just know how to sell stuff!

Also, I learned my lesson from last year and made sure to avoid seeing four movies in a row. Next Saturday there’s three, but that’s about it, everything else is nice and spread out, but not too much so either. Before I would catch a movie in the early afternoon, and then come back later in the evening for another, which seems doable enough on paper since the IFC is just around the corner from the 4th Street A train stop, but in the end, I wasn’t nearly as productive in-between as I had anticipated, among other reasons.

Plus I’m trying to avoid stuff on Friday and Saturday evenings if at all possible. Not that the NYAFF crowd is annoying or anything (certain HK flicks will bring out obnoxious film dorks, but they all pale in comparison to the idiots that pack the AMC 25), but I do want to keep some nights open for socializing, and who cares if seeing something on Tuesday afternoon instead of Friday night isn’t as cool. Though, I originally planned on being first in line for Written By tomorrow night, mostly to see and hear from the star of the movie in the flesh, till it was revealed that Lau Ching-wan bowed out. Which naturally totally sucks.

And of course, I’ll be writing about each film I see, yet with so much to cover, that might mean passing on video game talk for the next couple of weeks. Yay, another ginormous post encompassing a month’s worth of old news! For the three of you out there that solely refers to this blog for all your gaming info. And speaking of games…

A Book, A Magazine, And A Compact

Earlier this week, Jason and I finally exchanged birthday presents, despite it being many weeks after the fact for both of us. Hey, we’re busy dudes! I got him the totally brilliant Tokyo Zombie (on a related note, I can’t wait for Last Gasp’s newest announced title), while Jason got me…

… It’s by this dude who writes for Kotaku, just another American video game journalist living in Japan, a guide to it’s arcade scene. Only just started, but thus far the book’s a nice little read; instead of a straightforward, analytical look at the subject matter, such as providing a detailed history of the world and the like, Arcade Mania aims to be a colorful tour guide that’s almost semi-intended to the outsider instead, with plenty of pictures and helpful facts dotted along the way…

… There?s also a good number of interviews. Hey, I had no idea what Kenta Cho looked like till now…

… Some will love the colorful, all over the place layout, which again feels like a travel brochure. Others will hate it. Guess I’m somewhat in the middle. I’ve heard some complaints that it’s pretty light when it comes to the facts, but again, that’s not the focus, plus I already have plenty of other books that handles all that. Too bad they’re all in Japanese. Not sure why I haven’t taken pics of any of those thus far.

Next, guess what finally arrived in the mail earlier this week?

… It’s somewhat of a standard fare design mag, but nonetheless a very nice one. Has loads of articles and reviews covering art, design, toys, film, anime, and even features some comics. Plus this particular issue focuses on games…

… Most of the focus is on chiptunes, like this interview with Nullsleep…

… Included with the magazine is DVD that has a bunch of videos from assorted chiptunes artists and performances, including some from Blip Fest, as well as trailers to various indie games…

… As well a super fab poster from EbOy…

… Somewhat reminiscent of whatEDGE subscribers got recently, though it’s not as video game-y and more New York-y. Or at least supposed to be. Regardless, me likes. I also loved what was covering the magazine, which I’m guessing was intended to provide padding of some sort (the thing is originally from Romania)…

Spotted the following on Boing Boing the other day, a wallet made from an old Atari 2600 cartridge Which reminded me, I’ve had the same basic thing for years now! Though for girls.

Long story short, years ago at the Philly Classic, I came across these girls who were selling assorted personal items for women that were made from old Atari carts. For whatever reason, I picked one up and have held onto it ever since. Always planned on giving it away, but simply never got around to it. And really glad I didn’t since all traces of its creators have vanished (they called themselves YAKMALA! btw), plus I have no idea how many were actually produced when all was said and done. Anyhow, here’s the item, still sealed since 2004…

… On the back you can tell that there’s supposed to be a quite a few in various configurations…

… And here it is, outside it’s bag for the first time ever!

… Basically, the cart is sliced across the middle to accommodate…

… A mirror on top and a band on the bottom, I guess to hold make-up accouterments and the such, and lined with red velvet, as indicated by the label before. Everything is held together by magnets. Pretty neat. I wonder if YAKMALA is still around, but on Etsy? Actually, just checked, and nope.

King Of Fighters Alpha 2

Was gonna save the following for a post that was more about actual game talk, but since I’m not certain when that might be, and because I actually do have some fresh news, why not here? Earlier this afternoon was a press event in the city held by D3, Ignition, and Codemasters. Since I really can’t talk about the D3 stuff, at least not yet, let’s move onto Ignition. For starters, they had KOF XII, and yes, it actually looked awesome. Nowhere as ugly as it does in Chinatown. Again, you’d think the folks at Chinatown Fair would know better, but according to Shane Bettenhausen (yup, formerly of EGM fame, who now works for Ignition as their New Business Development Director), the documentation for the arcade board is fairly complicated, making set-up quite the task, so perhaps its not their fault.

Onto the more important details: Shane was also able to clarify the game’s battle system. Basically, it’s pretty different as far as KOF titles go; remember how I was told that it plays like 2001? Well trying play as such (or at least trying to… not super familiar with it, but a least a little) didn’t work simply because that’s all wrong; in Shane’s opinion, it’s a lot like KOF 94, primarily when it comes to the moves for characters that were around then, mixed with Street Fighter. Primarily Alpha 2; once a bar is filled, called the Critical Counter, the player can unleash a move that’s similar to the Custom Counter in Alpha 2, meaning that any combination of moves will automatically link together for devastating effect. There’s also a bunch of other additions, such as a different means of rolling and throwing, plus the ability to parry (which I found supremely satisfying to pull off). Overall, it’s lots of fun to play, and a bit more faster paced when compared to some of the KOF titles of old, and that works for me. Though here’s two not so stellar points: I was extremely disappointed to see the same paltry roaster as in the arcade version. We’ve all heard of additional characters, but they’re all going to be DLC it would seem. Bummer. And when I pointed out how I was shocked by the total lack of bosses in the arcade version, it was explained to me that this was the case for the home release as well. The deal is, KOF XII is considered another “dream match” meaning that there’s no storylines attached, which also means no big boss, since they are always integral to the plots. Then again, if it’s a dream match, why the lack of characters? It should be overflowing with figthers from across the series. I know everyone wants Mai Shiranui, but I just want Kula Diamond. And throw in Vanessa while you’re at it.

Back to how the game looks: there’s a few display options out there, for the arcade enthusiasts. This info is for you Dave Mauro. You can choose either chunky pixels, or a soft filter. The range between goes from 0 to 5. Here’s what 0 looks like, with every pixel in all their glory…

And here it is with the filer, perhaps level 5…

… Oh, and for the record, the Japanese cover designs will indeed be gracing American shelves.

Moving on, next was a new 3D Samurai Shodown called Edge of Destiny that was described to me as a combination of Soul Calibur, Bushido Blade, and Mortal Kombat. Soul Calibur because its weapons based (duh), Bushido Blade because you can literally die from just one or two strikes, and Mortal Kombat because of the wacky decapitation moves, which are essential finishers. It features a mix of old and new faces, including some Viking looking dude wielding an axe, an Amazonian princess, and a black dude that’s clearly based off of Afro Samurai. Unfortunately, most of the faces from part three and beyond are absent, including the sexy maid with the gigantic blades. Bummer. And its all downhill from here unfortunately. To begin with, the game is not pretty on the eyes at all…

… It seriously looks like a PS2 game with slightly sharper textures. SNK just can’t seem to do 3D all that well. Visuals aside, I personally did not enjoy my few minutes with the game; felt unbalanced as hell. My biggest beef lies with the two hit kills, which worked in Bushido Blade since it was a completely different beast, not a traditional fighting game whatsoever. But here, in a button masher, especially one like Samurai Shodown, it doesn’t add to any sort of atmosphere or tension but instead just puts a harsh spotlight onto the overall lack of imagination and depth.

Third up was Muramasa: The Demon Blade. And… I remember a few days ago how Tiny Cartridge quoted some review from some site stating essentially that the game totally lacked depth and was basically just another stupid Wii game. After spending a good amount of time with the demo today, I’m convinced that either this person is an absolute idiot or completely lying when claiming to have played the game in the first place. Style over substance? Give me a f*cking break. Seriously. It’s stylish, don’t get me wrong. As beautiful as the still pictures are…

… Trust me, it’s positively jaw-dropping in motion. The sound design is also equally awesome. But underneath the eye and ear candy is a fairly complex platformer. You’re not just running left and right, mindlessly slashing away at bad guys, far from it. Here’s how everything all works, in a nutshell: each level is divided into “room” and each one contains an enemy encounter (or more). You’re basically graded after each action sequence, with the criteria being the speed in which you handled them, as well as what techniques you employed, plus other factors like who got the first strike. All these add up to experience points that help enhance various attributes. Now, you dispense damage with a sword, though every time you take a swing, the blade takes damage. Putting it away will help “heal” it over time, as will killing enemies, who give off sword replenishing orbs. Since you can hold up to three swords at a time… there’s over a 100 total, and each has its own attributes I believe… one can simply rotate the three during a fight to ensure nothing breaks. But easier said than done.

I played the part of the girl, since it was supposedly easily, especially the end battle. Shane noted that if the boss was to defeat me, he’d be a bit worried, and while I’m fairly open about the fact that I totally suck at video games in general, I’m usually not so bad when it comes to platformers (it’s what I was practically raised on), hence why I could believe the pounding I was receiving. You basically had to wail away at this big blue, James Lipton-looking monster, whose health bar was super long, while making sure your sword didn’t shatter midway. But in addition to keeping any eye out at your sword status (btw, a broken blade can still be used, but it’s nowhere near as effective), you had to be weary of his attacks, including projectiles that can be re-directed towards him, though that’s super tough, as well as a giant belly flop attack that insta-breaks your sword. Not exactly easy stuff, especially this early in the game (apparently I was playing level one).

The game is gonna be fantastic, there is no doubt in that. And thankfully we’re getting the total package, nothing is being messed with. It’ll have it’s original Japanese dialogue with English subtitles, no wonky localized voice acting to worry about, plus the onsen segment is also being retained. Originally Ignition thought about dropping it for an E-10 rating, till they realized that in a game so Japanese, it deserved to stay in, hence why they can live with a Teen rating. The only question remains, of course, is if the general public will care about the game. The hardcore gamers out there, the ones who have known about it’s existence since day one, they’ll be picking it up, no doubt about that. But everyone else, specifically those that passed on No More Heroes and MadWorld, hmmm…

After Ignition, I spent some time with Codemasters. The obvious highlight was DiRT2. No joke, it might be the most photorealistic game I’ve ever witnessed, and played…

… What else can or needs to be said? It’s Codemasters. They know their driving games. Period. It’s more or less the same down and dirty traditional rally action from DiRT1, infused with more contemporary off-roading action, like the stuff you find at the X-Games, along with a far larger variety of vehicles in general, not just traditional rally cars. Another addition is the ability to go back 15 minutes to avoid that nasty spill you just took, a la GRID. Unfortunately, the one single aspect that I was looking forward to the most, that being the ultra hawt front-end, was not present in the build I played. Bummer. Though I believe I might be getting a preview build in a few weeks, where it’ll be included. Neat! Fun-fact: the one in DiRT 1 cost two millions alone. Wow. And it honestly shows.

Guess that’s it for now? EDIT: What a minute, I’m a total idiot, there’s one more thing I almost completely forgot about! Thanks for the reminder Lin…

Meet Me At The Ding Dong

This upcoming Sunday I’ll be at the Ding Dong Lounge for the Kaboom!Fractious Zine and Small Press Shindig! I’ll be on-hand with the latest zine, for those of you who couldn’t stand the heat long enough to find my table at MoCCA, along with the very first one plus some UNLUCYs, plus Katie will be by my side with Nurse Nurse, naturally.

I know the weather will suck that day, but at least there’ll be roof over you head (wouldn’t you know, for the very first time in ages that there’s no conflict with the Mermaid Parade at Coney Island and it’s supposed to rain like hell, great), plus booze on tap.

  • sonictail

    Can we start taking a drink anytime anyone names something “Otaku”… Seriously it’s about time they come up with a good idea.

  • http://www.fort90.com Matt

    Yeah, I too am annoyed with the parlaying of the word “otaku” these days, which I guess was next in line right after “nerd” and “geek”. But since the magazine originates from Romania, I’m willing to give it a pass.

  • http://www.linswimmer.blogspot.com Lin Swimmer

    Holy crud, Matt! That’s a lot of tickets. I always have kind of a poisoned apple reaction to the NYAFF, in that I get really souped up to the point of actually leaving my dank cave and going down there to catch a flick (remember when it was at Anthology and not the new, far comfier and air-conditioned IFC?), but end up being pretty disappointed in the film when all is said and done. Basically, I think you’re right. They all sound fantastic, but it’s usually too good to be true.

    I’ll be seeing you Sunday at the Ding Dong, btw. Fractious is my friend Vern’s small-press imprint; Vern also is the brains, hands, and beating heart of WHFR. Should be interesting.

    One last thing; that wrapping paper is the new issue of Aooleu, the free comics zine thingy I wrote about in my Mocca roundup. Meaning you are lucky and I hate you. (You’re not really lucky ;)

    (Also, it’s totally selfish, but have you tried Too Many Ninjas? I’m curious to find out if anyone else likes it as much as I do…. Do you play browser-based Flash games on occasion?

  • http://www.fort90.com Matt

    First off, thanks for the reminder! I totally forgot to mention this weekend’s zine show at the Ding Dong, so the post’s been updated. And yeah, I sorta assumed that you’d be in attendance, so it’ll be nice to finally exchange words face to face.

    And can I bug you pal Vern about having a radio show on WHFP? Though I should perhaps work on getting that cable access show first.

    Also, I’m fully aware of the possibility that at least 25% of what I’m slated to see at the NYAFF might not live up to expectations, but since I’m such a foreign film snob that at the very least I’m certain whatever will be more interesting than anything one will find at your average cineplex. Plus it’s supposed to add fuel to arguments I’m sure to have later this summer: “Wait a minute, you went and saw twenty goofy Asian flicks, but you never bothered to see Up?!?!?! What’s you’re fucking problem, douchebag.” I won’t hear those exact words, but trust me, the sentiment will be all there. And yeah, I know some strange people.

    As for Too Many Ninjas… man, last time I played it was like, over a year ago? I think I even wrote about it too, but I already know WordPress’s search function sucks so hard, not even gonna bother to check.

  • http://www.dmauro.com dmauro

    I’ll take those chunky pixels thank you. The problem with the Chinatown Fair KOFXII setup is that they’ve cranked the contrast way too high. They just need to properly calibrate their monitors and it would be good to go.

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