Tag Archives: Anime

ConnectiCon 2017 Recap

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Have you missed me? Well, I’m back after a packed three-day weekend. It was this year’s ConnectiCon, one of the higher profile conventions in my neck of the woods. For those who don’t know, it’s a three-day convention that aspires to be as varied as possible. The show makes an attempt to have representation from comics, anime’, film, television, books, online personalities, and gaming.

Last year’s show was a tough act to follow, as it had many more recognizable names to the casual observer. But there were plenty of good, and even great things for visitors to look forward to this year. Operationally, I can only speak as a paying visitor, but I saw improvements in terms of managing lines, addressing concerns, and trying to make things a bit easier to navigate. Getting my weekend pass was pretty seamless. The pre-registration line was easier to find. Wait times went down, and it looked like even though paying at the door was more complicated, I didn’t really see any outbursts from customers about it.

 

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Line management to get into panels was easier to follow. There were a couple of panels that probably should have been scheduled in bigger rooms though, as a number of the guests they had, were pretty big draws. If you didn’t find out about some of them early enough, you weren’t getting in. Among them being Sylvester McCoy (Dr. Who), Jeremy Shada (Adventure Time), Courtenay Taylor (Regular Show), the cast of The Nostalgia Critic, Andre Meadows (Black Nerd Comedy), and Team Four Star (Dragon Ball Z Abridged). That being said, there were still plenty of great panels in addition to these, hosted by some talent some may not have been aware of.

Friday

My first day went pretty swimmingly. After waiting in a long, but quick-moving line, I had my badge, and began walking the floor. I started out with the Opening Ceremony panel, where there were a few segments covering the general behavioral rules, reminders to stay hydrated in the heat, and a fun game of Mad Libs. They also introduced Bruce Nesmith of Bethesda, who was doing a game industry panel. Unfortunately it was one of many panels I didn’t get into. I also missed the Andre Meadows panel that day due to panel overlap.  As I mentioned earlier, while there may not have been as many big names this year, there were still a ton of great panels. I managed to get into the Art The Hypnotist panel this year. It was a very interesting one. Hypnotism isn’t something I’m very knowledgeable about. Up until this panel, I’d only had a bare-bones, stereotypical movie understanding of what exactly it entails. I’m not a sudden expert on it now either. But I did get a bit of entertainment, and education out of it.

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Art started out by explaining the process. Everyone would be tired out, and put into a sleepy state through a combination of soft music, and meditation. Then he would go around the room, find people who were in a deeper sleep state, and ask them if they were comfortable going on stage. Eventually, when there were enough volunteers the show began. Over the course of a couple of hours, Art would demonstrate that he could make them think they didn’t know the number 9, which perplexed the volunteers. There was also a point in which three volunteers were asked to go on stage in front of the hypnotized, and the subjects were made more or less attractive using the words Iced Tea, and Beer.  There were a bunch of other tricks too. But the great thing here, is that by the end all of the volunteers would remember everything, and everyone in the room was in on it. So it was funny, and exciting. But it also didn’t leave anybody feeling embarrassed or mortified. If he ever does a show near you, check it out. It’s something different from the norm. At least it was for me. My buddy Dan from The Best Spuds was also there, and he loved every minute of it.

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I spent a good amount of time after that panel checking out the gaming section, and this was greatly expanded this year. Not only were there even more arcade games than last year, they even added some pinball machines to the mix. So I spent a few times over the weekend playing the Simpson’s Pinball Party Machine, Double Dragon, and Street Fighter II. They also had a pretty cool Gundam themed fighting game I’d never seen before. So that was pretty awesome. Of course I was surprised, and overjoyed to see one of the many PS4’s they had set up was running Rogue Stormers. If you still haven’t played this one yet, you really should.

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This year the convention also coincided with Hartford Riverfest  So the Best Spuds, and I checked out some of the food trucks in attendance. We found one called Chompers, that served bacon cheeseburgers, and chicken parmesan in deep-fried ball form. They’re deceptive in that the size of them makes you think one order isn’t going to be enough. One order really is. But I’m still glad I bought one of each kind. They were awesome.

Saturday

On Saturday, I managed to get into a couple of panels. The first being the Nostalgia Critic Q&A panel. Doug Walker has said that ConnectiCon is one of his favorite conventions to attend, and so this year he returned along with his Father Barney, Brother Rob, Tamara Chambers, Jim Jarosz, and Malcom Ray. But there was also a surprise appearance from Andre Meadows who would arrive before Malcom arrived, as Malcom was feeling a little under the weather. As in previous years, fans got to ask questions to the cast about the show, which is in its tenth year. As well as any other questions. There were some you’d expect, and some you wouldn’t. But the best part of the panel was when a nervous child was reassured by a kind Doug who traded places with him. The kid sat at the desk with the other Channel Awesome players, and Doug would sit in the audience while the kid asked everyone his question. Which escapes me as of this writing. But it was a kind moment.

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One fan asked the group what their favorite guilty pleasures were, which elicited a number of answers. The first Transformers movie. Moulin Rouge. Watching a child do better at running a panel than Doug Walker. (That was Rob Walker’s answer.) But through it all, the panelists were very kind, and appreciative of the fandom.

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After the Nostalgia Critic panel I found a short panel on Hip Hop music. Basically, it was a short history of the genre, and some of its subgenres. But later in the panel it covered some newer subgenres like Nerdcore, as well as some of the experimentation going on in some of the more obscure circles of Hip Hop. Overall it was pretty decent for anybody looking to get more into the genre. Later on I would get into a content creation panel hosted by Mark “Cornshaq” Davis the 3rd. Which was a very insightful look at getting a foothold in making YouTube video content. But the really great takeaway from it, was just how much of the knowledge presented is applicable to most any creative endeavor. How to interact with readers/viewers/etc. properly. How to get the word out, and advertise without coming off as desperate. Digging deep, and having the courage to try new things. Differentiating between genuine criticism, and those who just want to be jerks. Listening to genuine criticism. Differentiation. Links to other resources. The importance of branding. How seemingly small, unimportant details can actually be a great assistance at times. As well as practices to avoid! Obviously, for the purposes of a recap, I can’t go into great length here, but there was a lot of useful information. If you like game content in video form, check out his channel too. It’s pretty good stuff, and he often mentions things you may not be aware of.

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After the panel, I got a chance to talk a bit more with Cornshaq, and the guys over at Nerdfit Network. We just had fun talking conventions, pro wrestling, and craft beer for a while. I had a really fun time talking about the events leading into WWE’s Great Balls Of Fire Pay-Per-View. Like the sometimes hilarious over-the-top levels of violence between Roman Reigns, and Braun Strowman. Like when Braun tipped an ambulance over with Roman inside. All of whom were very kind, and friendly.  If you haven’t seen any of their material, give them a shot. They were a really swell group of people.

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Speaking of swell people, when I was in the dealer area, I met some of the creators from Darby Pop. They were very cool people, and they have some interesting spins on traditional comic book themes. Writer Jeff Kline was even kind enough to sign the Indestructible trade I picked up at their booth. It’s a really cool premise, about a man who is mistakenly identified as a super hero, and is suddenly thrown into a world of celebrity. All the while wondering how he is going to last before everybody learns the truth. I haven’t gotten that far into it yet, but so far I really like what I’ve read. The artwork is pretty slick too. You can find their stuff online if it sounds like something you’d be interested in checking out for yourself.

 

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Every year that I make it out to ConnectiCon I look forward to meeting up with friends at the City Steam Brewery. They make some of my favorite beer, so when their old Brewmaster retired, his successor had a tall order to fill. Well since then, the current Brewmaster has made a bunch of new recipes. On top of that, the food in their restaurant is as awesome as ever. I tried their new IPAs, Jungle Crush, and Woo! (Which immediately made me remember The Nature Boy Ric Flair.). Both of which were excellent, though the fruity, citrus notes in Woo!, make for one of the best new things I’ve tried recently. I can only hope they start bottling, canning it, and getting distributors to pick it up. It is really good. Also really good was the Macaroni & Cheese Cheeseburger.

Sunday

Sunday was surprising because it was a much shorter day than previous years. For all intents, and purposes the day was over by 3pm even though the Convention Center was open until 6pm. But that being said, I did get some panels squeezed in. The biggest being the Team Four Star all-ages panel. These guys are hilarious online, but even funnier in person. I was unable to get into their 18+ panel the prior Friday,  but this panel was still really good. It was another Question, and Answer format. But there were a lot of varied questions this time around. Not only about their work on the long running Dragon Ball Z Abridged series, but about what is coming next. As the DBZ material begins to run dry, the group is looking to branch out into more original series. They didn’t give much in the way of details. But after getting to ask them if they had considered doing mash-ups or skits like Nicolas Cage as Robocop, Anthony Sardinha immediately did a spot on impersonation. Scott Frerichs also stated they’re steering away from doing much with Dragon Ball Super, as the show is newer, and involves a lot more red tape. Throughout the panel there were many jokes, character voice gags, and friendly banter. A lot of fun.

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After that panel, I made it into Jay Little’s panel on making gaming more accessible. Which was pretty insightful. He’s been designing both video games, and table top board games for over 20 years, as well as teaching design in Wisconsin. The experience came through in the panel.The presentation went over how creators could make steps toward making design decisions that would make things more palatable to those with a disability. Or taking balance into consideration to make things deep enough for die-hard fans, but not so difficult to turn off any potential new players. As well as making games more appealing to players of all stripes, and backgrounds. There were also some figures about how much more a game’s development costs rise when a team decides to add these features further along in development, rather than including them in the planning stages. For anybody who follows the creative or business end of video games, it was a really good panel. If he’s slated to give one of these panels at a convention in your area, you should check it out.

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My day closed out with a cool panel about creating pixel art. It was hosted by the same person who gave a tutorial on creating levels for the original DOOM at last year’s ConnectiCon. It was an interesting look at the medium, and the creative benefits of limited color palettes in retro games. Be they the JRPGs that graced the NES, the deep adventures that awaited on the Super NES, and Sega Genesis. Or even the vintage computers like the Commodore 64, or Atari ST. There were even some examples of creating sprite sheets for animation, and layering.

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After the final panel, I took a final run through the dealer’s area, and gaming area. I didn’t get into as many panels as I would have liked this year. But while there weren’t as many celebrities this year, there were still a lot of excellent guests. Steve Lavigne was there. He did a lot of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles stuff for Mirage, and Playmates. He still does. Guy GilChrist was there. He’s done a ton of work for Jim Henson. I didn’t get to meet either of them either. But the point being, there were still a lot of interesting people. Even if meeting creators or celebrities wasn’t your thing, there were other things to do. the RKO Army Shadowcast show came back again. The Cosplay Death match was back, and if you were over 21 you could buy beer while watching it.  The annual AMV contest, and masquerade were back too. And if all else failed, there were the karaoke, and expanded gaming areas to take part in.

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Still, there were a number of workshops, and panels from previous years that didn’t return this year. So for some attendees things might not have been as exciting as in previous years. Hopefully next year retains the pluses of this year’s event, and brings back more of the stuff that this year didn’t seem to have. I was also perplexed that the program book for this year didn’t list any of the panel descriptions or schedules. The book just directed readers to look at the times on their computers, tablets, and phones. The thing is, this isn’t always as convenient as a book, and not everyone has a modern smart phone. Those with a prepaid phone, or without a phone at all, basically had to walk to every room in the building to see what panels were going on. Some of the panel titles weren’t listed on Friday too. Which meant that if you didn’t have your phone, or if it was out of battery power, you couldn’t see what panel was happening.  It was the one big grievance I had with the show this year. Even if it hadn’t affected me, it still would have affected some.  That said, I still had a fun three-day break from every day life. So overall I can’t complain too much. 2017 wasn’t as good as 2016. But it was still worth the annual commute to Hartford.

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100 Foot Robot Golf Review

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Not too long ago, I discovered a game called Mecarobot Golf. A Super NES game by TOHO where the primary golfer was replaced with a giant golfing robot. It’s a great simulation for its time. But I was left wondering how much more fun it could have been with multiplayer, and a roster of movie monsters, and robots. Well, it turns out late last year a company decided to answer that question.

PROS: Humor. Large Roster. (Mostly) Pick up & play mechanics.

CONS: Wonky animations. Audio clips repeat too often.

VOLTRON: The classic bot is piloted by a pack of Pembroke Welsh Corgis.

Games made as a joke don’t always have much in the way of staying power. For every Shower With Your Dad Simulator, we get 15 games like Who Wants To Beat Up A Millionaire? But considering the game’s premise, and its similarity to the Super NES Game Pak I mentioned earlier I gave it a chance. Frankly, I’m glad I did. Make no mistake, 100 Ft. Robot Golf isn’t going to make your top arcade sports game of all time lists. But it does manage to do just enough right to make for a compelling party game.

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The game has a nice amount of content. I was surprised to find that there is a full-fledged campaign included along the usual practice, and exhibition matchups. The campaign takes you through a story mode, that more or less lampoons 80’s anime. An obviously suspicious TV host decides to try to get a bunch of Robot Golf pilots to come out of retirement for a new show. But as the story unfolds, a few mysterious clues art thrown out about a cataclysmic event on the moon. Throughout the story of course, there are a ton of jokes. A lot of which is reference humor. Quite honestly you don’t need to know about or understand anime to get a lot of the humor. The game enlists the voice talents of the McEllroy Bros.  who are known for their comedic podcasts.

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Here, they usually are heard as the Sportscasters during match ups. Although they’re in a few of the cut scenes as well. The rest of the cast does a pretty good job of mocking some of the bad dubbing found in some early anime. All in all, it’s funny enough to hold your attention for a play through. Beyond that, you’ll more than likely want to mainly play multiplayer. However, there are a number of custom skins you can unlock for each of the robot golfers. The way you do this is by scoring medals in the campaign’s chapters. You can then go to medal shops during the campaign to spend them on the unlockable items. So there are incentives for going back, and replaying chapters. One of the shops also features a crossover! There is a Saints Row themed shop buried in the campaign, and even a secret guest character I won’t spoil here.

So how is the actual golfing? Well, it’s a mixed bag. While you can play the standard golf rules pretty much every other golf game follows, this is not a simulator grade game. If you’re the type who watches the sport on TV, and plays a lot of EA’s Tiger, and PGA games, you’re probably not going to come back to this much. It doesn’t have a wide variety of clubs, or weather scenarios for you. Each golfer gets a driver, a wedge, and a putter. That’s it. There are some things to be aware of though. You still take into account the wind, and there are obstacles to be aware of.

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That being said, the game is actually a lot of fun because of the lack of realism. The swinging mechanics differ for many of the robots. Some of them require timing a press on several gauges to be pixel perfect. Others have gas gauges you have to pay attention to. Others have a two pilot scenario where the gauges have to be synchronized. So in spite of the simplicity there are a few things to keep it from feeling too simple. Each robot also has a special ability they can use on the course.

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Now where the game becomes really interesting is during multiplayer. Not only can you play a traditional set of rules, you can also play custom rule games. You can play the game where the first person to get the ball in the cup wins, regardless of attempts. You don’t have to alternate turns. Players can go full on swinging whenever they want. Moreover, you can do things to screw over your friends. If they hit a nice long drive you can jump in the way of the ball, and cause it to bounce off of your robot, and into a ditch. If you’re trying to get the ball through a narrow gap between two buildings you can destroy the buildings, and then take your shot. Players can attack one another. There are all kinds of crazy, over the top, ways to play golf.

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But not everything about the game will make you smile. Visually, the game looks fairly dated, with low-detailed backgrounds, and models that could have been done on the PlayStation 2. There are some questionable physics when it comes to destroying buildings, and other scenery. The giant edifices sometimes won’t tip over, instead sliding across the map like a bar of wet soap. The low gravity moon stages, and aqua stages may anger hyper-competitive players as it becomes easy for opponents to interfere with a long drive. The most annoying thing is probably the fact that audio quips begin repeating way too soon. So while you will laugh your ass off the first time you hear them, you may just turn off the audio upon the four hundredth time.

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Be that as it may, I really enjoyed the underlying game. The campaign was an entertaining play through, and you don’t have to be any good at the game to complete it. Of course, getting better at the title will get you the medals I mentioned earlier for those unlockable items. But the real star of the show is the multiplayer. This game is a wonderful option for game night, as it supports split-screen gaming on your TV. It also supports matches over the internet, though even that is going to be something you’ll want to do with friends. There doesn’t seem to be a large pool of random competitors playing regularly.

 

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Still, if you’re looking for something different to play when friends or relatives come over you’ll all have a pretty fun time. It isn’t going to outdo more serious sims for golf enthusiasts. But if you grew up with Voltron, or Gundam, and regularly marathon shows produced by Seth MacFarlane, you’ll probably really enjoy 100 Foot Robot Golf.

Final Score: 7 out of 10

Black Belt Review

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Throughout the history of video games, we’ve seen many cases where the same game can look markedly different between regions of the world. Probotector is one of the most memorable of these, as censorship in Germany saw Konami replace the soldiers in Contra with robots. Other than that, same game. Probotector was released in its robot, and non robot state throughout Europe on many computers as Gryzor.  But there are countless other examples. Today’s game was originally an anime tie-in.

PROS: Cool sprite effects. Solid controls.

CONS: Strange changes.  Poorer artwork than the alternate game.

LAZY: The box art. At least draw an entire character!

Hokuto No Ken, (more famously known as Fist Of The North Star) is one of the most recognized anime franchises of all time. But it wasn’t always so. Centering around a warrior in a post-apocalyptic future, it was widely known in Japan. It started life as a manga, and was later adapted into an anime. When anime became huge in the US in the 90’s it was one of the most popular shows newcomers gravitated to.  But in the early 1980’s it never officially came stateside. Only the most die-hard American anime fans knew about importing shows. Beyond that, the handful of shows we did get, were heavily cut, edited, or combined with other shows to make new shows.

Anyway, in Japan Fist Of The North Star would see a few releases across multiple platforms. It wasn’t until 1989 when we would see an official game by Taxan on the NES. But, believe it or not, we did see one before 1989. We would see Sega bring us a Fist Of The North Star game in 1986 on the Sega Master System. Albeit without the license intact.  In Japan it would retain all of the likenesses to the show it was based on. But since we wouldn’t get the show until 1989, Sega reasoned we wouldn’t know what was going on. Which is weird considering we got Zillion in all of its anime glory a year later.

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Be that as it may, they gave us the game under the alternate title Black Belt. Black Belt is the exact same game, except that nearly every piece of artwork has been altered, or replaced. Enemies. Background art. Our main character. The bosses. Everything. But this is still something you may want to check out. Whether you’re a fan of Hokuto No Ken or not.

Black Belt is a lot like early beat ’em ups like Irem’s Kung Fu Master. You’ll move in one direction killing, or avoiding enemies until you get to the end. What makes the game a bit different is the addition of mini bosses, bosses, and some violent imagery to boot. Granted, the original version is darker. But Black Belt’s grunts still explode when punched in the face, or kicked in the stomach.

So you’ll continue along blowing people up, and occasionally super jumping into the air to catch sushi, and kanji symbols for health. Every so often you’ll come across a mini boss. These guys are 1 on 1 match ups, that rely on memorizing patterns to win. Start going at them all fists blazing, and you’ll probably lose a life. But taking some time to learn when to strike will make these fights more manageable. A couple of stages have several mini boss fights in them. After defeating them, you will continue fighting waves of  grunts until you reach the boss.

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Boss fights change the game play a bit. The perspective in these matches is zoomed in, so the action resembles a tournament fighting game rather than a brawler. Just like the mini boss fights, each of these has a bit of a pattern to figure out. Boss fights are a bit harder though, because they won’t always use the same attacks in the same sequence. So there is a bigger importance on patience. Some runs through the game, you may take down a boss quickly, but other times you’ll be doing a lot of hit, and run tactics. Keep in mind that you’re also on a time limit too, so you’ll have to work smart.

Visually Black Belt isn’t half bad most of the time. Backgrounds are bright, colorful, and detailed. Most of the standard enemy characters have really cool designs too. The mini bosses are pretty awesome most of the time, with only a couple of them getting rather silly. The Bosses are a different matter. All of them pale in comparison to their Japanese counterparts. Garish, and corny these guys are some of the silliest bad guys you’ll ever see in a game. Things fare better on the musical front with some honestly catchy chip tune melodies in the soundtrack. Not all of it is great, some of it is banal background noise. But when the music is good, it’s good.

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It’s a short 5 stage run, but it controls well through it all. I still recommend using a Genesis pad or the Sega Control Stick over the stock Control Pad. Everything feels pretty solid, and responsive. The stock controller will sometimes have you going in the wrong direction or crouching when you don’t want to due to the mushy directional pad. But not often enough to ruin the experience either.

Even though the shift to generic characters, and backgrounds makes for a less exciting environment, Black Belt is still one of the better early brawlers. It manages to be interesting even though it looks uninspired. There isn’t much of a story outside of rescuing your girlfriend from a street gang. The usual B movie plot device of most brawlers. Be that as it may, if you’re collecting for the Master System, pick it up. It’s inexpensive, and has an interesting history behind it. Especially if you’re a fan of the anime that inspired its original Japanese release.

Final Score: 7 out of 10

SiN Retrospective Part 2: SiN: The Movie

One common drawback among most movies based on properties, (especially video games) is that they unwittingly betray the core principles of those properties. Adapting some of this stuff certainly isn’t easy. Much of it doesn’t translate to film. Or sometimes a story is too simple to stretch 90 minutes out of. It’s understandable that a movie based on a story told in another medium isn’t going to be exactly the same for a variety of reasons. But on the other hand, it’s a two-edged sword. Often times things are so far away from the source material, one has to wonder why bother naming a movie after it at all whatsoever. Over the last 20 years we’ve seen Super Mario Brothers, Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Tekken, Double Dragon, Tomb Raider, Dead or Alive, House Of The Dead, Dungeon Siege, Alone In The Dark, Bloodrayne, and even Resident Evil (Which they did a seemingly endless number of entries on) turned into films. Many of them very bad, and having little to nothing to do with the games they were named after.

PROS: The animation is fluid, and detailed. Characterizations are spot on.

CONS: The story is a departure from the video game. It also has trouble staying coherent.

ADV: The movie’s publisher went belly up in 2009. The movie was re-released that same year.

In the case of these game to film conversions (With the exception of SMB) they were multi platform games with wide appeal. Many were on arcades, and home platforms, while others were on several consoles, and computer platforms. SiN was solely released on Windows-based computers back in 1998. While it reviewed fairly well, it was still a few years before anime house, ADV decided to actively get the license from Ritual Entertainment for a SiN anime. SiN has some really beautiful artwork, and animation in it. As far as the accurate depictions of the characters from the game are concerned, it gets them mostly right most of the time.

ADV had the script for the movie written, and acted stateside, while they had a few animators in Japan do the animation.

The movie opens up at a funeral. It turns out JC Armack from the game has died, and Blade is at the funeral with an older gentleman. As the priest is going through the funeral prayer succession, Blade begins to have flashbacks that set up just how JC died. As the flashback begins we can also hear police radio chatter describing that people are mysteriously being kidnapped.

We cut to a police chase as Blade, JC, and HardCORPS (The police group from the game) are chasing down a monster who has kidnapped a little girl.After the majority of their vehicles are totaled Blade, and JC follow the monster into the sewers.JC sees a red glow coming from one of the pipes, and he finds the girl in front of an odd colored blob.Before the girl can finish warning him, the blob assimilates JC, and attacks Blade.With no other options, JC tells Blade to kill him, as the monster finishes assimilating him.Blade shoots JC in the face, and right out of this drastic change to the story set up in the game, we get our opening credits. After some impressive looking title cards the movie takes us back to Blade, talking to an old man while a woman in a car looks at them. She swears under her breath before the movie screen wipes to SinTek.

Elexis Sinclaire is called on a com channel by her henchmen. She argues with them, and fires some of them after she tells them that they cannot use her mutants as toys. She leaves what appears to be an incubation chamber, where a man (Presumably a boyfriend) tells her he wants to go with her, and she tells him only if he can keep up with her. He tells her it’s a date, and we have another screen wipe.

In the next scene we’re back in HardCORPS where we see the woman who was in the car at the funeral storm in. She is greeted by a police officer who tries, and fails to be suave with her, and then tries to tell her she can’t just barge in. She reveals herself to be in a higher level of jurisdiction, and then begins to ream Blade verbally. Why? Because apparently she blames him for the death of her brother (Who we later confirm is JC). She also demands to take the girl they saved from the mutant in the flashback segment we opened with. But the Doctor (Who we have yet to see) has told HardCORPS she can’t be moved yet because of the stress of the situation. JC’s Sister also accuses Blade of having ties to the mafia.

We then have another flashback, where Blade is talking with another man on the steps of a building, where they are both gunned down. As they fall the other man drops what appears to be a ZIP disk (Remember those?), which the shooters steal, and run off with.

In the next scene we see a ship called the Prometheus.

Aboard the ship Elexis is making time with her boyfriend we saw in her last scene. It turns out that his name is Vincent. Once again her henchmen interrupt her on a com channel while Vincent practically begs for intercourse. The com channel displays a large chunk of the Middle East being overrun by the monsters we saw in the beginning of the movie. Elexis tells Vincent to consider the footage to be like foreplay before she gives Vincent a glass of wine. Before drinking it, she talks a little about the drug she made to turn humans into mutant killers, which is sort of what she did in the video game. Vincent being an idiot, doesn’t see how transparently evil his boss, and lover is. He drinks the wine only to find he’s been poisoned. We cut to a different spot on the ship, to find Vincent on an operating table. Elexis reminds Vincent that he had said he wanted to be part of her plot before cutting into him. As he screams we pan out from the ship, and wipe to HardCORPS.

Blade talks to the doctor who had been put in place of looking after the child they saved.The doctor tells Blade that he found something odd about the girl’s blood.While this is going on, we get ANOTHER flashback. This time it’s the child’s.She remembers her adoptive parents talking about how special she is, and we learn her name is Elise. Around this time, JC’s sister comes back, brooding, and angry. The doctor tells her instead of harboring ill will over Blade’s head, she should be like her brother who would have worried more about solving these cases involving monsters.

We cut to a gory monster fight scene, where it turns out the orphan girl Elise is in one of these monsters. It kills an entire platoon of cops, and when Blade sees this she smiles. One of the cops shoots it in the torso but it regenerates. While this is going on Vincent is looking for Elise, in HardCORPS. Vincent slaughters a bunch of cops before being confronted by JC’s sister. The playboy cop from before shows up, and shoots a rocket into Vincent, but is quickly assimilated. JC’s sister is too afraid to shoot Vincent, so Tim (It isn’t until this moment the movie decides to tell us his name.) Stabs himself to death so the assimilation cannot be completed.

Blade, the doctor, and crew come back to find Tim dead, and that somehow they know Vincent is Vincent Mancini (The character who robbed the bank in the SiN game).Also the way it is spoken here you would have had to have played the game to get the reference. It’s also confusing because up until now he was called Vincent, but here they only reference him by his last name. But I digress.

It turns out Elise was assimilated because JC’s sister couldn’t get to her in time. The doctor pulls up more of his research to tell Blade that these monsters can regenerate but aren’t invincible. But the monsters are only one human genome from both being invincible, and bridging the gap between their human, and monster forms. It is here that JC’s Sister just happens to know that Ciro Sinclaire was a mad scientist who came fairly close to pulling this off. The Dr. doesn’t believe this right away, but then JC’s sister brings up the fact his daughter Elexis has the financial resources, and motive to continue his work to pull this off. So everyone decides to reconvene to discuss a plan to go after Elexis, and SinTek. (Except for JC’s sister because we need a gratuitous shower scene. Why? Probably because they thought copying the Chun Li clip from the Street Fighter anime movie would be a capital idea.)

One of the Justices in Freeport however, tells the police chief that HardCORPS isn’t allowed to go after SinTek even though they have enough evidence to prosecute, and arrest Elexis Sinclaire. After arguing with him, the police chief fires Blade, and makes him turn in his badge. Blade talks with the old man from the beginning of the movie who wants Blade to come with him. Blade refuses to so the old guy explains that while SinTek has moles in Government, and companies that Blade’s father had managed to get moles inside of SinTek. These moles found a way to stop SinTek’s monsters from gaining power, but didn’t know how effective their weapon would be.

He explains that Blade’s dad had died protecting it, and gives the finished serum capsules to Blade. Blade’s comrades then decide to defy their boss, and help Blade go after SinTek to rescue Elise. While on their way, Elexis describes to Elise how the authorities took down her father for his mad science. After her parents were gunned down, Elexis decided to continue his research, while at the same time destroying his estate, and any evidence of his work’s existence.

She begins to experiment more on Elise, as HardCORPS band of rogue cops use a cloaking device.

Cutting back to Elexis, she goes on about how Elise is the only one of five experimental attempts that came out perfectly. As this happens JC’s sister, and Blade manage to sneak in off of the cloaked chopper. Elexis’ henchmen spot the breach, and so Elexis releases all of the monsters at SinTek’s disposal. Blade’s father’s antidote bullets seem to work though, as the monsters cannot regenerate.

During the skirmish Blade goes out onto the side of the SinTek tower, and climbs up. As he does another monster climbs after him. He manages to defeat it, and get back inside. When he does Vincent is waiting for him, and due to his much thicker skin Blade’s bullets won’t penetrate him. Vincent then does a violent, and gory number on Blade. He skewers him, throws him all about the room (Which is surprisingly elegant for a mad scientist’s base of operations).

Vincent even knocks a chandelier down on top of Blade. JC’s sister shows up to distract Vincent, and it is here where Blade uses a live wire to electrocute him. Vincent then grows into an even stronger monster, and chokes Blade out. But before Vincent can kill him, he pulls a dagger out of his wrist Wolverine style, and stabs the material from his special bullets into Vincent’s neck which finally kills him.

Blade, and JC’s sister make it to Elise, but Elexis shows up to pull a glass cylinder around the three of them, and fills it with poison gas. She then talks about how Blade’s survival from being gunned down years ago was thanks to SinTek’s technology. Conveniently, it is here the helicopter pilot just happens to pull a chunk of the wall out which breaks the glass encasements allowing Blade, and the others to live. But Elexis is angered, and frees a final monster to do her bidding. It’s her father. Blade gets his ass handed to him, and knocked seemingly unconscious. But he then remembers his father telling him eons ago to “Use their own technology against them”

Blade leaps up off the ground, punches the monster in the face, and detonates his cybernetic hand which severely injures the monster. The monster then grows to epic proportions as if it were Tetsuo from the end of Akira. This gives JC’s sister enough time to remotely fire a laser from an off site location that saws the SinTek building in half, as well as the monster in half. This causes the building to explode. Elexis presumably fall to her demise. Blade somehow manages to catch JC, Elise, plus miraculously land inside the orbiting helicopter to go back to HardCORPS safe, and sound just in the nick of time.

The End.

Would I call this a bad movie? Yes. It’s not the worst movie I’ve seen, but it does have some major problems. Some things are never explained. Some things like the contrived ending are just pulled out of the proverbial ass which lead to more questions. Like if JC’s sister had this mega ray of death this whole time, why didn’t she use it forever ago? It was established she was already investigating SinTek, and knew what Elexis was up to. She could have blown up the building long before she even had to worry about losing Elise to SinTek earlier. Speaking of JC’s sister, why did they even need to introduce her? It feels like the makers of the film just wanted to give Blade some sort of love interest, so they killed off his comrade, and replaced him with his comrade’s sister. Moreover, when you get to the end credits they even went as far as to tell us her initials are ALSO JC. Another nitpick is the lack of SinTek henchmen. NONE of the bad ass gun-toting soldiers under SinTek’s employment in the game are to be found here. Neither are it’s Strogg inspired cyborgs.

Watching the extras, some of the developers at Ritual said in an interview that they liked this tie-in, and to be fair there are some things to like. The artwork is cool, the fight scenes are easy to follow, and I’ll admit they even seemed to get the characterizations right most of the time. But at the same time some of the problems are too big to overlook, especially the way they did the end sequence. I’m sure being on the internet, some really, really astute viewer may find a point or two to correct me on, but my opinion stands.

As an action romp it’s barely passable. Yet it can fun at times. Some of the animation is really impressive, and most of the voice acting isn’t half bad. The characters generally behave the way you would expect, aside from the major change of JC’s early demise. But the story has too many contrivances, and unanswered questions to make sense. That’s a big problem for not only fans of the game, but for general audiences who stumble upon the movie. While better than many game tie-ins it still falls woefully short of true greatness.

Final Score: 4 out of 10 (For HardCORPS fans only)

Bastard!! Review

It may sound like I’m being foul-mouthed for no reason. But I assure you, that is the actual title of this game. It’s a licensed one, and actually a really good one you ought to track down. This game strayed from the standard fighting formula, before it became cool. It’s also an import game you don’t have to learn a foreign language to figure out how to play.

PROS: Nice use of the SNES Mode 7 tech. Fluid controls. A lot of fun to play with friends.

CONS: Relatively light on content. Small roster.

IN MEMORIAM: Justin Carmical.

Bastard!! is based upon a manga, and anime of the same name. In the long running manga series, Dark Schneider is a wizard who once led an army called The Riders Of Havoc. His lifelong battles finally came to an end when he was defeated by the prince of a kingdom called Meta-Lincata. Upon his defeat he used black magic to transport his soul into a child. His four generals end up awakening an ancient demon god, which sends the world into a post-apocalyptic setting. The manga goes much deeper of course, as there were only six episodes of the anime. Still, it’s certainly something manga fans might want to check out (So long as you can read Japanese) as it’s an interesting storyline, filled with a lot of action, and references to heavy metal bands. It’s also very violent, so it certainly isn’t for everyone. The anime series is dubbed in English with some noteworthy voice actors , but due to being so short you may walk away with more questions, than answers.

Nevertheless, we’re talking about a fighting game here. It’s a pretty good one, even for those unfamiliar with its source material. In order to play it however, you will either need a Super Famicom, or you will need to mod your Super NES. Don’t worry, the mod takes no electrical skill whatsoever. You won’t need to break out the soldering iron, or risk ruining your consoles system board. All you need is a pair of needle nose pliers. Take your Super NES, open the cartridge door, and inside you will see two pieces of plastic that line up with any North American Super NES Game Pak. Simply squeeze the pliers over them, gently wiggle them back, and forth until these plastic pieces snap off. If there is any plastic sticking up after this process, you can use a file to wear it down. Once that’s done, you’re set to go. Any Super Nintendo game from any region should then boot up with no trouble.

Bastard!! is a very different fighting game than what most of us are accustomed to. It isn’t the typical two combatants on a 2D plane. Bastard!! instead makes use of 3D space, as well as wonderful use of the Super NES’ mode 7 sprite scaling. The end result is a fighter that has you flying back, and forth through the foreground, and background in some fast paced fights. The game has three main modes. There is a story mode, that takes you through the roster in a ladder. Each victory furthering the story. Obviously if you’re a big fan of the source material, and you can read Japanese you’ll better understand it. But you don’t need to have that ability to enjoy the game. The cinema screens are animated, and give you a general idea of what is going on. At least in terms of the given scene. It’s pretty much like any other fighter in that, you’re going to be contending with each character, and then bosses.

The second mode is a team game, where each player gets to use all six of the game’s characters in a last man standing match. Basically, each character will be unusable after a single loss. The last player with any characters left is the winner. There isn’t much to it, but you might find you enjoy it with friends. Finally, you have the standard Versus mode. In it there is the standard two out of three round set up. The first player to win two rounds wins the game, and you go back to the character select screen. Bastard!! Isn’t run of the mill  from there though, because it plays nothing like a Street Fighter, or Mortal Kombat game.

Instead it plays closer to something like Distrega on the PlayStation, minus any rock paper scissors feel. When you start a round, one player will be in the foreground, the other in the background. You can move up, down, left, or right on your plane by using the D pad. You can also switch planes by pressing the L button. Things really go into overdrive with your attack layout. The four buttons on the face of the pad will shoot projectiles in that specific direction. So pressing Y will send them left, A will send them right, while X will shoot up, and B will shoot down.  B, and Y also home in a bit, which means you, and your opponent will constantly have to move.

If upon switching planes your characters bump into one another, you can also get in grapples, and throws which will do a ton of damage. Something else that can potentially do a ton of damage, are special moves. Special moves work a little bit differently than you might be accustomed to. Some characters can simply toggle a special move on or off by pressing R.  Some have moves performed by holding down R, and then moving a projectile at the risk of staying still, thus completely open. Other characters only have special moves that require players to press R, and input the commands quickly upon doing so. Most of them involve combinations of the four face buttons. This means that pulling them off can prove difficult as you’ll have to do so while trying to avoid all of the crazy stuff being thrown your way. There are also attempts to balance some of these moves too. For instance, Di-amon can turn into a bat to regenerate health. But if he takes even one hit while in bat form he is killed instantly.

For its time, Bastard!! had some really nice graphics. They’re a little rough around the edges by today’s standards, but they’re certainly not bad. Characters sprites have a lot of small details like Abigail’s hissing snakes, or the flowing capes of much of the cast. The palettes of the backgrounds change between rounds as well, to simulate the passing of the day into night. Backgrounds feature a lot of digitized art, and photo work, while the ground is made up of scrolling drawings of terrain. The Super Nintendo’s Mode 7 features are used to great lengths here. They aren’t the most impressive thing you’ve seen on the hardware, but it’s certainly better than what you might expect.

The audio chip tunes here are also pretty nice. You can tell that Cobra Team had put some serious work into trying to ensure the heavy metal vibe of the anime was included. It isn’t going to be as memorable as the tunes in games like Super Mario World, or Mega Man X. But if you grew up on a lot of old school speed metal like Anthrax, and Megadeth. You’ll probably feel right at home here. Sound effects on the other hand, are what you would typically find in most fighters at the time. Smashing noises, shouts, and screams from the combatants. Nothing terrible, but nothing groundbreaking.

Bastard!! is a pretty fun game. So long as you have someone willing to play it with you. The only real problems with it, are the light content, and the relatively small roster. Even when the game came out way back in 1994 it didn’t have as much content as the competition. 2D fighters were giving players a minimum of 8 playable characters, and averaged closer to 12. Because of that, it doesn’t have much of a single player value once you complete the story mission. You, and your friends might put it down after a few rounds due to the small roster. But it has an intriguing spin on the fighting genre. The focus on projectiles makes for a very different feel, and it runs pretty briskly too. Characters manage to have some nuances despite the similar movement many of them share, and there’s a charm to the absurdity of it all. It’s also fairly easy to find, and not terribly expensive. If you’re a fighting game fan who collects for the Super Nintendo it might be up your alley.

Final Score: 7 out of 10

ConnectiCon 2014 recap

Every year in Hartford, ConnectiCon comes around.

This year was packed with a large amount of guests, activities, and panels. So many in fact, that it was impossible to see everything between the variety, and overlap. Still, I just like to recap my convention experiences. I always have a lot of fun,  getting to go to panels, talking with other fans, and taking in a really great meal.

Some of the highlights for me over the weekend began almost immediately upon arrival. One of the first events I attended was an Epic Rap Battles Of History event. Some of the most notable episodes were played on a screen. After each one of them the hosts of the event, and the fans in attendance debated which characters won. Historical Accuracy, the number of good insults, rhythmic flow, were all factors in picking a winner.

A large number of attendees loved the He-Man costume I roamed about the convention center in. I probably stopped every 15 minutes or so, so that someone could take a snapshot. It was more over than my Dr. Insano cosplay from last year, and that had gone very well. But there were far many more impressive costumes than mine.

One of the best moments was when Alan Oppenheimer’s booth assistant saw me coming down the aisle. Then proceeded to put her head face down on her arm on top of her table, and laugh. But both Mr. Oppenheimer, and his assistant were very kind, hospitable, and friendly.  Of course Masters Of The Universe was a huge part of my childhood.  So meeting the guy who provided the voices of many of its most iconic characters like Man At Arms, and Skeletor was a really awesome moment for me.

I also got to see Alan Oppenheimer, and Noah Hathaway talk about their time working together on The Never Ending Story, and other projects in a panel together. Like many of the various panels I attended it was pretty informative. Noah talked in-depth about how the scene where Artax dies in a swamp was done, taking several shoots on  a giant sound stage. The stage had a lowering platform for the horse to simulate sinking, and was covered in mud. The set designers also brought in the trees, and other props for the scene.

He also talked about leaving, and returning to acting, as well as the fun of nitpicking movies. Alan also talked a lot about voice acting, and the importance of being able to visualize a voice for a character. He also talked about using traditional acting techniques in voice acting. Notably, how much of acting is actually listening to the other performers in any given scene.

Like last year’s ConnectiCon, Doug Walker was in three panels. Doug is best known for his long running Nostalgia Critic web show. The first panel was on Friday, and it focused on how to better debate movies with other people by listening. The set up, was that each of the attendees in line would bring up a movie they loved that the internet at large seemed to hate, or vice versa, and why. The point of the exercise was to show how much you could learn about someone in just hearing why they did or didn’t like a movie. It also made for the argument that you can have a strong opinion about a film, and still remember that that’s ultimately what it is:  An opinion. Often times we can forget that when we talk about pop culture. We may have all of the evidence in the world that a movie is bad, and justify our opinion. But someone else is going to like it anyway, and it doesn’t make them terrible for doing so. In fact, really listening to someone’s opposing point of view may bring out some interesting things you may not have considered.

Doug was also part of a web series roundtable panel with Marble Hornets, internet comedian Uncle Yo, and Signal Crash. This Q&A session was geared more toward production of content. Advice was given to creative people in attendance. What kinds of techniques to use in any given craft. What avenues to take in furthering a goal. But there was also the rather frank theme of doing what one loves because they love to do it above all else. Not only from Doug Walker, but from all of the members of the panel. It was an encouraging panel that acknowledged challenges, acknowledged that there will be rejections, and failures. But it also left a theme of persistence, and sense of pride in whatever our passions are. Whether we ever get to do them professionally or not.

Of course there was also the That Guy With The Glasses panel in which Doug, and Rob Walker fielded questions of all kinds. As in the roundtable, some of the questions were about production, promotion, and professionally furthering one’s creative output into a business. Others were about the content of the TGWTG flagship series. Then there were other moments that came out of left field. One fan brought in a script, and wanted the Walkers to produce. They couldn’t do that, but they did recite the first page in the voices of Chester A. Bum, and Jeff Goldblum. At one point during the panel the Nostalgia Chick herself; Lindsay Ellis showed up with the rest of Chez Apocalypse. Posing as a con goer, Lindsay asked Doug when Nella (of Chez Apocalypse) would be getting top billing in lieu of the Nostalgia Chick. Fans cheered as Lindsay, Nella, and Elisa would celebrate the run in during their exit.

 

Chez Apocalypse were also part of another panel with other internet media creators including members of Steam Funk Studios, and Overclock Remix. Similar to some of the other panels, it was a Q&A session filled with some insight into the guests’ creative processes, how they keep things fresh, and how they handle criticism. There was also a lot of advice given to the audience at hand. The biggest piece being perseverance. Being able to see where one began, and the level of improvement over time as a driver to keep going.

Actor Walter Jones was also at ConnectiCon. Most know him as the Black Ranger from the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers show. He talked about his life growing up in Detroit, Michigan. His early days working as an entertainer on cruise ships, and of course his time on Power Rangers. He joked about how difficult the helmets were to see out of at times. He described some of the impressive stunts he did during shoots only to have parts lost during edits. He was also asked if he had seen himself as a role model for African-American children by someone in attendance. He told the audience that he saw himself as a role model for all of the children watching the show, and that nobody in the cast risked doing anything to jeopardize that. When asked if he would ever return to Power Rangers, he said it would be an option provided it would be backed by The Writers Guild Of America. The original show wasn’t, and it was the main reason he left after the Mighty Morphin era of the series ended. Another person asked if he still talks with the rest of the cast, and he replied that he did from time to time when schedules line up. He added that he actually knows some of the cast members from other iterations of the series.  It was an intriguing panel even if you weren’t a Power Rangers fan.

I also found my way into a Cosplay Court event during the convention. Hosted by Steam Funk, it played a lot like a small claims court show like The People’s Court. The spin on it was that everyone in the room had to play in their cosplay character. Audience members were chosen for the character on trial, prosecution, defense, and even the witnesses. In one case I was called to the stand as He-Man, and was cross-examined by a cosplayer who was The Mad Hatter from American McGee’s Alice.  In one case a Mario cosplayer was on trial for the extermination of the Koopa race, as well as the Mushroom Kingdom’s citizens. Another case was against Frozen’s Elsa, and of course there were many Disney themed cosplayers involved. Including a pretty good Ursula of The Little Mermaid fame.

Voice actors Maurice La Marche, and Rob Paulsen also had two events. I managed to get into the second one. It was a Pinky & The Brain Q&A, and it was certainly one of the highlights of the convention for me. Nearly the entire session was done in character. Both actors talked about many of the shows they’ve done over the years, in addition to a lot of the cartoons that inspired them. There were some zany moments too. One member of the audience wanted Maurice to determine if a photo of his daughter looked more like him or his ex-wife. There was another point when someone had asked P&B which fan was the worst they had experienced. Maurice pointed into the front of the crowd saying “That guy right there.” to which the crowd erupted in laughter as it was revealed to be Doug Walker. Doug  pretended to fail to be conspicuous while walking to an exit that turned out to be a hall filled with chairs. He then sheepishly walked back to his chair. Later in the panel, the two actors actually listed Doug in a list of some of the most pleasant entertainers they’ve known over the years. A list that included names like Jon Lovitz, and Steven Spielberg.

I was also lucky enough to catch a Voice Actor roundtable near the end of the final day of the convention. Lauren Landa, (Dead or Alive 5, Attack On Titan) Danielle McRae (League Of Legends, Skullgirls), Chris Cason (Dragonball Z), Brittany Lauda (Prince Adventures) were on hand to make for a nice sendoff. All of the guests were laid back, very friendly, and were funny. As with all of the previous panels fans asked the panelists what some of their favorite works were. What some of their dream roles would be, and some of the things voice acting entails.

Speaking of interesting people, I do want to give a shout out to Jenisaur, a blogger who introduced herself to me at the convention. She writes over at  http://www.sub-cultured.com/ about all kinds of things. Comics. Conventions. Novels. You name it. If it sounds interesting to you, check it out.

There were a lot of other panels, and events I missed that I would have loved to have seen. But you can only get out to so many over the three days. I would have loved to have made it out to the Jennifer Hale panel. She has done so many interesting video game, and animated television roles over the years.  I also missed seeing Ellen McLain, the voice of GLaDOS from the Portal series.  Her husband John Patrick Lowrie was there with her, and he’s done voice work for Half-Life 2. Hearing a bit about voice work for Valve would have really been a blast for me, and sadly I had to miss them. TV’s Diedrich Bader was there too. I also had to miss his panel. I did get to see him for a split second roaming the dealer’s room, and shared a very brief “Hello”.  I loved seeing him on The Drew Carey Show back in the day, and his role in Office Space was pretty great. Apparently he has done a myriad of cameos, and voice work that I never knew about. Alas, another interesting panel I missed out on. Others I missed? TeamFourStar was there. There was a Cards Against Humanity panel. There’s just so much to do, and so little time.

But I suppose that’s a testament to just how much there is to do every year. Cosplay death match, creative workshops, heavily discounted movies at the theatre across the street. Video game tournaments. Table top game tournaments. Japanese import rhythm arcade machines. Swag. Obviously the panels. It really is a great time, and I love it when I attend it. I can’t wait to see what next year brings. Plus there’s always City Steam Innocence IPA waiting for me a mere two blocks away.