06 November 2010

Postscript to Rifftrax, Youmacon, and anime reviews:

Quite a bit of stuff to get through here tonight:

A bit of unfinished business with the Rifftrax on the previous Thursday: It seems that Mike, Kevin, and Bill are a bit bummed out from not composing music for Mike and the 'Bots to sing on MST3k, so they branched off to form the Rifftones. Their music isn't bad, it's roughly what you'd expect coming from MST3k... it typically consists of a joke looked at from all angles. Mostly it hits, sometimes it misses. With that said, prior to the Rifftrax they showed a "slide show" of sorts which was supposed to parody the slide shows that precede movies. The slide show was funny, though it looped three times (we were about forty-five minutes early to the show). But they did play Rifftones music, and the best one of the group was about sparkly vampires. It also happened to be the one that they started with and cut into.

Now, I wouldn't normally mention this except for the fact that we were there so early... when we walked it, it seemed as if they were playing a Gloria Estefan concert. To be truthful, I had no idea who it was, just that they were playing some sort of Hispanic/Tejano/Cuban type thing, but they went into one of those old songs that I don't remember except for the fact that I remember Gloria Estefan singing it. I do not know if this was Mike's idea of a Rickroll prior to the show or if they just did it at our local theater to be funny, though there were a couple of people who walked in and then walked out during the concert. Oh well, they missed a good show if they didn't come back.

Next, Youmacon. Conventions have changed in the time since I used to go to them in the early 2000's. Firstly, it seems that there are far more people willing to dress up for them. Next, there's such a WIDE range of anime out there anymore that there's a ton of different characters that people can dress as. When both are added together, people-watching has become such an amazing event, far more interesting than it was ten years ago. I spent large amounts of time at Chicago watching people, and almost could have saved the money and just sat outside the convention. (Considering the monkey wrench, which was the dual proms and the poor traumatized highschoolers, that would have been worth it absolutely.)

However, I am also very impressed by the AMVs that have been created lately. I enjoyed them back in the day, though there wasn't quite so much going on with them; they were all hard cuts and trying to match up scenes with lyrics. Now, especially with the on-beat tics, or the lip-synch, the snazzy edits, and everything else it's pretty amazing. Combine that with the energy in the AMV competitions and it's doubly amazing. I know that all conventions aren't like Anime Central or Youmacon, but that's the positive part. I may be hitting a couple of smaller ones in the area, KitsuneKon in Appleton and/or Anime Milwaukee, and I will be more interested in the viewing rooms, or the dealers, or a few other things... there's just so much going on, and there's so much energy at these things now. A convention is almost like a hit of adrenaline sustained for however long you're at the convention, and it is absolutely enjoyable to be plugged into such a scene.

Overall, I enjoyed ACen a bit more than Youmacon, but the main reason was that while ACen was at about four different hotels and a convention center, Youmacon was at one building-- the Renaissance Center in Detroit, Michigan. The facility is beautiful, but it couldn't handle all those people. The aisleways were cramped and it was difficult to get from place to place because of all the chokepoints (escalators and small walkways primarily). I'd still go to Detroit again in a heartbeat, and I am pretty certain that I will next year.

Whew, I'm still not finished with everything! Next, three series on which I want to write opinions.

The series I finished out of the three was Highschool Of the Dead. It's an anime that details what happens to-- you guessed it, high school students-- when a zombie outbreak happens. Recent media (Jonathon Coulton songs, Zombieland) have played zombies as humor rather than horror, but this anime plays the plot device pretty straight. It delves a bit into how people would change given a completely new world with which they may have to inhabit. It's fourteen self-contained episodes, and the ending isn't too bad considering what they have to do. I enjoyed that they played it serious, though they only did so for about three nights total. I'd be interested to see what happens six months, one year, three years in the future to everyone... the infrastructure, how to survive, what skills you'd have to learn, etc... but I realize that it is just an anime series. Of course, there's a pretty large roadblock here, and that's the level of fanservice. It's pretty high. If I'd have to guess a rating for this, it'd be R-rated, though that would be for the gore. As for the service... if you'd ever stepped into the shower and realized that you'd left something on the counter, so you stretch out as far as you can while still keeping one foot in the shower... the shower is the PG-13 guidelines, and the show stretches them as far as it dares. The point of all of this? That you would likely expect the gore, considering the fact that they're playing the plot device pretty straight, but that you wouldn't quite expect the level of fanservice.

The second show I've got at least a few comments on is Axis Powers Hetalia. I'd seen this show in the AMV circuit a few times, and it looked interesting. I finally had a chance to check out a few episodes though, and I definitely enjoy the show. It's got the zaniness of most anime, but now there's a bit of historical aspect to the show that's interesting. While it's a bit bad to see things brought to a broad stereotype, sometimes it's an honest assessment as well and helps to hold a mirror to things going on. I know that it's a fairly lazy allegory in that it doesn't require a whole lot of "thinking" in order to draw the comparisons, but on the other hand it's refreshing to not have to figure out what the creator's trying to infer from his drawings. There's still a ton of humor and I'd certainly recommend it, especially to someone who may like history.

Lastly, I attempted to watch Gundam 00. Attempted is the most important word here. I dropped it while watching Highschool of the Dead, because I was unable to really absorb myself into the series. I think it was because there was absolutely no narrative arc as of now, it's really pretentious and preachy currently because it seems that they've chosen their protagonists to be mouthpieces rather than fallible characters. The protags have a lofty goal, but through the first four episodes they're also undefeated and undefeatable. Worse yet, while the series is set "in the future", it's a very simplistic future that somehow has fewer of the issues that people deal with in the early 21st century. I may try to pick it back up after watching more of Hetalia, but I'm not too sure at this point.

So! That's it for now. I hope that the previous novella has made up at least slightly for the lack of updating through the last four weeks or so. Writing is still progressing, and hopefully we'll be hitting the editing phase shortly of the most recent project.

05 November 2010

A Few Reviews....

Hey everyone,

I was just surfing the net today, bored, and figured it would be a good a time as any to post a couple of mini reviews of games I've been playing of late.

Fallout: New Vegas -- I rented the XBOX 360 version of the game and was honestly shocked by how buggy it was. Fallout 3 had its problems but it very rarely crashed or stuttered in its framerate for me. Still, the story showed promise so I continued on until I reached a point where I guess I did something the game didn't expect and it flatly refused to let me finish a mission and froze.

I took the game back to Rogers for a store credit and was convinced by one of the guys there to try another copy of the game with the 7 day rental limit renewed and if the game still crashed for me, I could still get a store credit when I returned it. So I gave the game another try, it still crashed in that spot and so I decided to restore an earlier save and try a different path. To my surprise, when I actually reached New Vegas, the game actually starting being fun for me (occasional game freeze and frame rate stutter forcing a reset aside...)

The main story was a definite improvement over Fallout 3, you don't need to fight your way through bleak endless subway tunnels over and over this time just to get to your next destination, and thankfully the epilogues that were inexcusably missing from Fallout 3 are back, so you can once again see the consequences of your actions with the various factions and locations you encounter in the game.

The music, at least the default music that came with the game, was pretty lousy and I was pretty much keeping the radio off after the third rendition of 'Johnny Guitar' and 'Texas Red' or whatever the fuck that song was called. (I never thought I'd be pining for 'Butcher Pete'...) I understand getting Elvis songs would've been too expensive but I'd rather have had more 1940s/1950s era pop songs and such.

Anyway, the XBOX 360 version of the game was still a bug riddled mess and I can't recommend it in good conscience. I know they'll come out with patches eventually but I don't use internet on my 360 and even if I did, it still doesn't make me want to buy the game anytime soon. Most likely, now that I (hopefully) have a computer powerful enough to run the game, I'll wait for the PC version to drop in price, all the patches to be released, along with a bunch of cool mods, and buy it later. I'd recommend to anyone interested in this game to do the same.

Star Wars: The Forced Unleashed II -- Ugh. The first game had an interesting story with frustrating controls and a retarded camera. This sequel has a story that was rushed, dumbed down and thoroughly mediocre compared to the first with somewhat better controls and camera but far less epic in scope. I breezed through this game in about six hours or so, and had no interest in replaying on a harder setting or as Guybrush Threepwood, though I can imagine how that final battle would go:

Guybrush: You fight like a dairy farm... URK!!

Darth Vader: How appropriate. You choke like a cow.

Guybrush: *thump*

Darth Vader: All too easy.

Seriously though, this game reminded me a lot of God of War III and that's NOT a compliment. The graphics look pretty, yes, but unlike the first game which had all sorts of interesting enemies and characters, this one pretty much has you fighting the same five or six enemies throughout the entire game. Force powers are fun to use but it gets old after a while and targeting was still annoying at times.

As for the story, without spoiling anything, it seemed to have a point in the beginning but little to nothing was done with it till the very end and that only served to set up another sequel. The few characters that were brought in from the previous game were one-dimensional shells of their former selves. Rahm Kota was just another commander yelling orders in your ear, Vader was a generic video game villain and Juno had about maybe one or two lines tops and about forty seconds of screen time despite being the central motivation for the main character who clutches his head now and then every time he experiences a flashback to the previous game.

So yeah, I'll still enjoy the cutscenes of the first game from time to time but otherwise, I'm done with this series. I'll see if the upcoming 'Old Republic' is a worthy successor to KOTOR *1* or just another overstuffed MMO.

That's it for now, I have to go out shopping and do errands.