Backlog Review: Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

It’s been almost a year since Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag released and I just recently got around to playing it.  I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who, like me, have a bit of a back log of games to play (My back log is dozens if not 100 games across all systems).  I’m actually happy Dragon Age Inquisition is delayed until November.  It gives me just a little more time to catch up on a few games, not to mention Final Fantasy XIV should be letting me play ninja by then.

That said, I have to say AC IV: Black Flag is pretty fun.  I know there are detractors out there who don’t like the Assassin’s Creed series coming out annually with pretty much the same gameplay with a few additions here and there.  Honestly it doesn’t bother me too much.  The formula works well enough, so I don’t feel it’s necessary to reinvent the wheel with each game.  Using the same basic formula with a few new bells and whistles here and there is perfectly fine by me if the story is good and the game play is fun.  After all, Mega Man did alright coming out on an annual basis (with an extra year between a couple of them).

The sailing feature from Assassin’s Creed III proved popular so Ubisoft built ACIV around it even more.  I actually enjoyed it in III and it’s still fun in Black Flag.  There’s no shortage of things to do outside of the main story as well.  With treasures spread about the Caribbean, buried treasure to find, a ship to upgrade, equipment to upgrade with crafting, and a home base to upgrade similar to past games, there’s a lot of things to spend your time on.  I haven’t used the Fast Travel option much since it’s fulfilling enough to choose plenty of extra stops on the way to the next main mission.  And of course there are always ships to come across to attack and pillage for loot.  The life of a pirate, yo ho.

Combat hasn’t gotten a real upgrade, mostly the same as we’ve seen before.  I have to say it’s enjoyable to see a dual wielding character this time, though. The new animations are fun to watch that movie-inspired swashbuckling flair.

I’m not too far through the story, but I do like the slight change. Edward Kenway is not an Assassin nor a Templar. He is truly just a pirate, though he’s gotten mixed up in the plot of Templar vs Assassin.  Granted, this does raise the question of how he seems to have all the Assassins’ skill set without any training, but let’s just let that slide for game play sake.  I’ve been told by a friend the story is a bit weaker than the others and seems it could be a bit shorter.  I am a bit unclear on why they decided to call it Assassin’s Creed IV rather than only the subtitle “Black Flag” since it seems like the game is more of a resolution of AC III tying up some plot threads.  The main character is the grandfather of Connor and outside of Edward’s story the Abstergo Entertainment plot seems to be tying up the last of Desmond’s story.  In contrast, we have Assassin’s Creed: Unity coming out this year, not Assassin’s Creed V: Unity.

Overall, if you enjoyed past Assassin’s Creed games, I think you’ll enjoy Black Flag.  If you haven’t played any of the Assassin’s Creed games, Black Flag isn’t a bad one to hop into since there’s not as much intertwined back story from previous games to worry about too much.  Set sails on the open seas and live the life of a pirate.  Drink up, me hearties, yo ho!

Xbox One Error: Leveraging Lara Croft against Nathan Drake

Microsoft dropped a bit of a bombshell on everyone at Gamescom this year when they announced Crystal Dynamics’ Tomb Raider sequel ‘Rise of the Tomb Raider’ would be an exclusive release on Xbox One.  Gamers predictably reacted less than unanimously in favor of Microsoft’s announcement.  Why would gamers be upset?  Isn’t console exclusive titles par for the course?  Well, yes and no.  There’s a few reasons this was a bad move for Crystal Dynamics but equally bad for Microsoft.

For the week of August 9th, VGChartz has PS4 sales at 9.4 million units (though Sony stated at Gamescom it has sold over 1- million now) against the 5.1 million units Xbox One has sold.  For that same week, not a single Xbox One title appeared on the global top 10 software chart.  To be fair, PS4 only had one title, but it was #1 with ‘The Last of Us Remastered.’  PS4 is doubling Xbox One sales globally and even outselling the console in the US, which has traditionally been Xbox One faithful as it’s Microsoft’s home turf.  In fact, more than a few weeks, even the WiiU has sold more units globally than Xbox One.

It’s clear Microsoft is feeling the need to lock in some major titles and gain some ground in the latest round of the “console wars” and it’s looking for a strong system seller to help gain that ground.  WiiU has seen a surge after E3 with some strong titles announced and Mario Kart’s release for the system.  It’s no secret that a handful of strong games can really move systems.  However, Rise of the Tomb Raider is not the game that can launch Xbox One back into the game with a vengeance.  In fact, I think the announcement further hurt Microsoft.

Microsoft has erred and made misstep after misstep since Xbox One was revealed.  With the unveiling spending the vast majority of their time talking about television connections that many users outside the US would be unable to benefit from, television productions they’d be working on with Steven Spielberg, and sports sports sports (that gamers outside the US wouldn’t really care about), Microsoft concluded the system’s unveiling leaving gamers vocal about feeling left out in the cold as an afterthought.  It didn’t help that there were features announced that made gamers very uncomfortable.  No more used games and a heavy handed DRM policy set the Interwebz ablaze with outrage over Microsoft trying to control gamers and dictate how much they actually owned what they purchased.

E3 came around and it was time for Microsoft to right the ship and get gamers back on their side. Instead, they continued to insist their vision was the future of gaming and their system was designed with their vision in mind.  Angry Joe even asked Major Nelson directly about turning off some of these features and was told with quite certainty that it wasn’t so easy to just deactivate these systems.  The Kinect would be always on, you had to be always connected or at least check in once per day for your games to function, there would be no disc after installation and used games would not be an option unless possibly paying for an activation code which rumors had spread of costing almost as much as a new game.  Microsoft tried to promote the idea of sharing one’s games with friends so friends didn’t have to buy it, but full explanation of this feature, which some believed to be a glorified demo program, was never given.

Some gamers defended Microsoft, pointing to Steam and its frequent sales (which will bleed you dry faster than buying new games because, honestly, how do you say no to some of those deals?) as an example of what Microsoft was trying to do.  The problem, however, is Microsoft never indicated anything of the sort.  And therein lies the problem with Microsoft’s build up to the launch of the Xbox One: they had the most disastrous public relations team in recent memory.  It wasn’t necessarily that their plans were bad, but their legal caution and double speak, their reluctance to commit to answering gamers’ biggest concerns and questions, and their overall attitude that they knew what gamers wanted more than gamers came off extremely arrogant and seeming like they were hiding something.  There was no sense of a clear vision and a road map into the future they were wanting to go towards that they were willing to share.  And that makes people nervous.

Jump ahead more than a year later and Microsoft walked right into the same scenario with this announcement for Rise of the Tomb Raider.  They announced it was going to be released exclusive to Xbox One in holiday 2015.  People were stunned and confused.  Tomb Raider was, and has always been, and multi-platform title. The original Tomb Raider was on Playstation and PC.  Later games were on PS2 and Xbox.  PS3 and Xbox 360.  And most all of them on PC.  The Tomb Raider reboot was on PS3, Xbox 360, and PC and the Definitive Edition sold on PS4 more than 2:1 against Xbox One sales.  Yet Microsoft was announcing that they had struck a deal with Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix to make the sequel exclusive to their system in 2015.

Gamers have become a savvy bunch and they, and gaming press, were quick to latch on to Microsoft being careful to include “holiday 2015” or just “2015” in their comments about the exclusivity.  It became frustrating, however, when they were asked directly if this was a timed exclusive and Microsoft representatives would only repeat the press release lines of “exclusive to Xbox One in holiday 2015.”  It was the same “something to hide” sensation they had given with E3 the previous year.  Eventually, a few days later, Microsoft would acknowledge they didn’t have an exclusive deal in perpetuity, but gamers were already irritated with the announcement.  Even Xbox faithfuls in some forums were baffled by the decision and many simply felt it wasn’t right to take a multi-platform game and lock the sequel into an exclusive agreement, though many on both sides were willing to grumpily accept it as a timed exclusive.

Needless to say, many gamers were upset with Microsoft over this situation and I don’t really think it was entirely the exclusivity.  That was a large part of it, for sure.  PS4 owners bought a lot more copies of the Definitive Edition than Xbox One owners and their reward was “sorry, you can’t have the sequel” from what the initial announcement indicated.  It gave the impression that Microsoft was not willing to invest in developing games so much as throwing money at developers to try and buy their way to victory.  It just felt like a cheap shot, or as most comments I read put it “a dick move.”

I can’t help but wonder, though, if Microsoft would have come out better in the whole deal if they would have just come clean and been up front and honest out of the gate.  Announce that holiday 2015 would see Rise of the Tomb Raider release first on Xbox One as a holiday exclusive and leave it at that, perhaps throw in a tongue in cheek remark about Lara having teamed with Xbox One to show “that other guy” how adventuring is done.  It was made pretty clear this was their way of competing with Uncharted, why not just admit that in a smile and wink kind of way?

Sony has really excelled with their marketing and PR this generation.  They’ve joined the gamers in taking shots at their competition, though I think Sony does it far more playfully than their fans tend to.  He took a shot at Square Enix saying they wanted Tomb Raider to be uncharted – not on the charts – by limiting it to the smaller installation base.  He took a shot at his own company saying he thought they were revealing nine PS Vita games at Gamescom, but it was actually nein.  He even recently commented on twitter that PSN had released “PSN Outage: Remastered” as the remaster of the 2011 network issues “in glorious HD” with the DDOS attacks PSN suffered this weekend.  Some may find it to be taking issues too lightly or attacking his competition, but I think it’s gone a long way to make Sony feel like “one of us” among gamers while Microsoft has come across more and more as the greedy corporation that cares about money instead of making fun games.

Regardless of Microsoft’s strategy and the public’s perception of them with Xbox One, Rise of the Tomb Raider is not a system seller.  Sony has been pushing to present major announcements and exclusives to their system.  Bloodborne, The Order, Uncharted are all Playstation exclusives.  They revealed the Hideo Kojima/Guillermo del Toro Silent Hills project with a playable teaser available for download at announcement.  They’re still presenting themselves as a huge partner to indie developers.  They’re coming across as a company that has learned from past mistakes and understand what gamers want.  Microsoft seems like they’ve lost sight of their system as a gaming console in their push for all-in-one entertainment.

I’ve admittedly never been an Xbox fan and I’ve always felt Microsoft has made a chief focus of their strategy to be “throw money at it until we win,” so this feels like more of the same, but that doesn’t make me feel justified or righteous for my opinion on them.  A weak Xbox One will likely lead to a complacent PS4, just as a strong Xbox 360 forced a struggling PS3 to step up what it had to offer.  The disappointing thing in this is they’ve recently announced lay offs and their forecast for original IPs exclusive to their system remain slim.  Microsoft needs to put their money into some system exclusive games that are new for them rather than paying off third parties for limited time sequel exclusives.

Essentially, Microsoft needs to find the right developer or do it in-house and find their Mario Kart 8.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2014 – Most Heinous

Despite my reservations since March when I got my first glimpse of the designs for the new TMNT, I will admit I started feeling better about the feel of the movie over the last month of its marketing blitz and so I decided I would go into the film with an open mind and give it a solid chance. I got nervous as the reviews started coming in and the Rotten Tomatoes score dropped, but I had bought the ticket, so I was going to see this through.

I’ve grown up with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  Like many children of the 80s, I was first exposed to the brothers through the cartoon, toys, birthday party items, the first movie and so on.  I enjoyed the first three films growing up, though now I mainly just like the first movie.  I still think the 2007 CG film “TMNT” was a good movie, despite its flaws.  I like the current Nick show and I am absolutely loving the IDW comic series, which is my favorite comic on a monthly basis.  And of course, I’ve gone back and read the original comics (though admittedly not all of them).  All in all, I think I’m fairly open to the various interpretations of the heroes in a half shell through the years.

The latest iteration of the turtles on film, though, deserves its Rotten Tomatoes rating and honestly, I feel like it deserves a poor performance in the box office.  It’s just not a great movie, nor even a great turtles movie.  Much to my disappointment.  I’m going to give fair warning…I didn’t care for the movie, so I’m not going to tease and encourage anyone to see it, so…..SPOILERS AHEAD.

Seriously, Spoilers ahead….

There’s spoilers in this review.

If you’re still here, you’ve been warned.  About spoilers.  Right here. In this post.

The drastic change to the turtles’ look is jarring at first and looks more horrible in still shots than in moving film.  To be honest, the nostrils and noses and the lips are quickly forgotten as you watch the film. You could even get used to these faces as the new look for a film series.  I still think they’re a bit overly decorated in their attire and gear, but even that I can forgive.  Their size, however, is still a detriment.  It just feels off with them being so huge.  At one point when they are sneaking back into the lair to avoid Splinter catching them, their drop to the ground is met with four heavy thuds upon landing.  How they could possibly be ninja when they’re so heavy and bulky is anyone’s guess.  Stealth just doesn’t seem possible, which is fine because they never really use stealth throughout the film.

Ninja are also martial artists, but you don’t see too much of that either.  I think Leonardo got the most actual martial arts demonstrations, followed by Mike and Don, but Raph didn’t really get the same opportunity.  The lack of martial arts is made more apparent by the fact that the Foot Clan aren’t ninja themselves in any way, shape, or form.  They are truly Foot Soldiers and that’s it.  Terrorist soldiers with guns.  There’s nothing martial arts about them, I’m afraid. 

We get some martial arts combat between the turtles and Shredder as well as Splinter against Shredder, but the scenes feel far too short and unsatisfying, particularly since all in all, the only thing we see is Shredder beating the hell out of Splinter and then out of all four turtles.  Yep, they never really beat Shredder. None of them.  They pull out a “we didn’t get killed and saved the day” basically thanks to April and the turtles working together to knock Shredder off dangling debris so he falls to his apparent death on the concrete (but he has mutagen on his gloved fingertip so somehow that’s probably an excuse for him to have a healing factor and survive if a sequel somehow gets approved).

These are disappointing, but even more disappointing is the plot. Or lack of one.  The film starts off with a lengthy intro from Splinter, voiced by Tony Shalhoub who I love as an actor but doesn’t make a very good Splinter to me, essentially talking to the turtles.  He explains how the city is under siege by the Foot Clan, named that because they walk all over others in their search for power.  I’m serious, that’s why they’re called the Foot Clan: they walk over people.  He goes on to talk about how important and extraordinary the turtles are and how they are destined to do great things.  I’m already feeling antsy that the opening scene talks about destiny.

From that point we pretty much just leap from action sequence or humorous scene with little to no time given to really build on the relationship between the brothers or with Splinter.  I did like that Splinter is a bit more harsh with the turtles, that more classic martial arts sensei of kung fu films coming through as he has them in a room for over 12 hours for their punishment.  Leo is in full splits between two chairs balancing eggs on chopsticks, Mike is hand standing on a spinning chair, Donatello is juggling a ping pong ball with paddle while balancing on a beam atop a ball that’s rotating, and honestly, I forget what Raph is having to do.

Beyond that, though, we jump quickly through the plot to learn about April’s father working with Eric Sacks and that Sacks works for Shredder.  We also learn how much they’ve altered the origin.  Which is to say, somewhat painfully.

So in this version of the film, the turtles and Splinter were lab animals that April’s dad was working with under Eric Sacks.  Splinter was a lab rat and April considered the turtles her pets as a child.  She often fed them pizza.  Her father learned what Sacks was up to and set the lab on fire to destroy their research, though we learn Sacks killed April’s father in the process.  And somewhere amidst all this, April rescued Splinter and the turtles and fled the lab to take them to leave them on a sewer grate.  Splinter and the turtles go into the sewers and begin to mutate.  Here’s where they really lose me….

Splinter finds a book on ninjutsu in the sewer and teaches himself, then teaches the turtles so they can defend themselves.  No Hamato Yoshi, nothing other than a mutated rat finds a book on an ancient secret style of martial arts and just teaches himself.  Sigh….

There are glimpses of some potential as Shredder has a cool scene fighting a Foot soldier with his own arms bound behind him.  He berates Karai for her men being weak and talks about how the Foot clan will rise to power again and people want to make the Foot into myth, which he won’t allow.  So there seems to be the indication that perhaps there is a ninja clan that’s been lost to time, but now they’re just terrorist soldier goons.  Nothing develops of this, though.

The film tries to tap into nostalgia with small references to past iterations, but Shredder’s line placement of “tonight I dine on turtle soup” feels really out of place.  Other than that, the original turtles cartoon theme is used for the turtle van’s horn.  It’s a clear attempt, but not well executed.

The characters themselves are in line with their personalities, but also somewhat stereotyped without depth. Donatello is the nerd and tech whiz, Raphael is the bad boy, Leonardo is the leader, and Michelangelo is….not the party dude so much as the horny teenager that wants to get hooked up with April.  I was fully expecting Mikey to steal most of the scenes, but his jokes that weren’t shown on the commercials are almost entirely related to how hot April is and making remarks like calling her “angel cakes.”  Granted, Mikey’s always been the one to have a bit of a crush on April in past films, but this time it’s just a bit weird and a tad creepy.

And the humor doesn’t quite land too well.  In my showing, there were two or three points that the audience audibly laughed.  Some scenes were cringe worthy and most of the best hits were seen in trailers.  The fight scenes being turtles vs automatic rifles really lowered the opportunity for banter as the boys battle.

They managed to get less across in 90 minutes than the original TMNT, despite being able to “convey more emotion” with current technology.  The movie just feels hollow and missing the charm that past movies have had.  It’s hard to decide if it’s worse than TMNT 3 for sure, but it’s a close race.

Visuals are good and some scenes are pretty well done, particularly the snow chase that people have probably heard of.  All in all, though, I’d suggest skipping this one and waiting for Netflix.  At best, it’s a 2 out of 5 pepperonis.

Watch Dogs – Completed and Reviewed

So I finally put the time in to play through Watch Dogs on Playstation 4.  I didn’t want to review it before playing through the whole thing and I have to say despite the multitude of complaints levied against the game, I particularly enjoyed it.  It’s not flawless and some of the complaints are valid, but the game was fun for me.

I’ll agree with the complaints I’ve read about Aiden Pearce himself.  Ubisoft didn’t do the greatest job in presenting him and fleshing out his motivations.  His main story makes sense; he and his partner ran into trouble on a heist and got caught, someone sent a hit crew after him who inadvertently killed his niece and he’s been trying to track down who was responsible.  That makes sense for the main story pursuing that end, but it doesn’t really explain why he became the vigilante taking down criminals around Chicago.  Why does a criminal turn vigilante to stop muggings around the city?  We never really find out.

I also felt like Pearce wasn’t given enough room to develop beyond the gruff vigilante. He shows almost no emotion.  When his sister and nephew get mixed up, his nephew learns the truth of his extra activities, or tragedy strikes in the story, he doesn’t seem to be terribly affected. No tears or anything.  We see that he has some self loathing in blaming himself for his niece’s death, but not much more other than his quest for justice/vengeance.

If you’re creating your own Batman emulating hero, you should really put more into his motivations as a whole.

Other complaints I’ve seen have been directed towards the handling of the cars, the open world being boring, the missions being unoriginal, and the game being overall repetitive in main mission and side missions.  I’d seen some complaints about lacking options as well, particularly claiming that the game gives you no options other than shooting up everything that opposes you.

I admit I’ve not played much of the games in similar style. Grand Theft Auto was never my genre, though I played True Crimes on PS2 and I’m not a racing game enthusiast.  I didn’t find much particularly troublesome with the driving. Once I got the hang of it, I enjoyed flying through Chicago streets, hitting turns in slides and even spinning around to head back the way I came during chases.

As for boring, unoriginal, and repetitive aspects of the game, I can see the complaint.  I found enjoyment by mixing up what I did from main story to gang infiltration and chasing down the side investigations.  I’m willing to accept these complaints for now and hope Watch Dogs is a form of investment and Watch Dogs 2 will be the return on that investment much as Assassin’s Creed II was such an improvement over Assassin’s Creed (which was far more repetitive with dull side objectives than Watch Dogs).  What Ubisoft has at the core of the game is fantastic and some improvements can make the sequel a real gem.

I don’t feel like the game forced you into shoot outs, though.  I felt like the game actually gives you a great range of choice there.  My friend approached the game like the Punisher, even telling me to get the grenade launcher as soon as possible as it was “the great equalizer.”  On the other hand, I rarely drew any gun through my entire play through, despite unlocking all of them.  Every mission, every gang hideout infiltration, I made judicious use of the tools and the environment.  I tried to handle missions by getting in and out unseen as much as possible.  There’s some real satisfaction in taking out an entire gang of enemies without firing a shot and only directly attacking a single one.

Overall, I liked Watch Dogs and, while some sections felt unnecessary, and a few key plot points seemed to end more abruptly than I’d have liked (or weren’t explored as well as I’d like), I think some changes could really make the game better.

As I finished Act I, I started looking at what could be unlocked through side missions.  I saw the Vespid LE which had resemblance to the Dodge Charger from finding all the burner phones around the city.  Burner phones…Dodge Charger….Burn Notice reference?  Once I made that connection, I started realizing the game has a rather strong Burn Notice “feel” to the whole game.  With Aiden still continuing to be the vigilante “the fox” at the end of the game, stating he will continue to watch, protect and, if necessary, punish, I assume he is likely the intended protagonist for the sequel.

If that’s the case, I think Ubisoft should spend some time looking at Burn Notice for further inspiration.  Having Aiden still working from the bunker as the vigilante, but coming across people that need help, contacts or even friends coming across people needing help and having missions with purpose unrelated to one another with an overarching story building up towards the end.  A twitter message from the Watch Dogs account has noted high crime cities are increasing surveillance and Camden, New Jersey had the highest crime rate in 2012.  Perhaps T-Bone calls Aiden in for help on a job and the reputation of “the fox” has spread to other cities?  This approach of actually helping people needing it would also allow for some additional variety in mission objectives to scare or influence enemies rather than always taking them out.  Speaking of scared enemies, shouldn’t some of them turn tail when things are exploding and bullets start flying? Some even say “I don’t wanna go out like this” so why don’t some of them do something to ensure that?

It might be worth considering adding more of a difference in the game depending how you approach with power vs finesse, going in guns blazing or going for minimal casualties.  Since I’ve already touted support of Burn Notice influence, add more gadgets and more ways to handle situations outside of blowing up or shooting enemies with the environment since “Guns make you stupid; better to fight your wars with duct tape. Duct tape makes you smart.”  In other words, creative ways to bring down enemies other than shooting them would be nice, more than just blowing up fuse boxes, panels, and grenades the enemies are carrying.  Though, sure, once in a while a gun fight with properly placed explosives are absolutely fun too.

They should definitely tweak the way the world interacts with your actions and how the UI reacts.  I had a few too many situations where I’d stop a crime just after a gunshot went off and the police would respond to the call and bee-line for me guns blazing in the opposite corner of where the shots were fired.  It would be more fun if they swarmed the area in force and you had to sneak past their dragnet.  On the other hand, there were times I had to wonder where the police were after a gunfight and explosions.  And to top it off, why do the police seem willing to ignore the gang bangers firing automatic weapons at them to chase me down because I was leaving the area?  Tweak the AI to end the “psychic cop syndrome.”

Since Watch Dogs has such a healthy dose of Assassin’s Creed to it, I’m hoping we see the bunker, or whatever other HQ, built up over time with upgrades to the HQ available.  Likewise, I think you should be able to set some choices and customize the cars a bit.  I do enjoy a sleek black car fulfilling the sense of having my hacker-mobile emulating Batman, so the random colors Jordi supplies you with can be a bit hit or miss.  Having the ability to customize the cars would be nice to have your preference in looks and performance with some give and take.  Add speed, lower handling, etc.

All in all, I think Watch Dogs was a fine start for the series and I thought it looked okay, but I agree even the PS4, based on what other games are showing, seems like it should have been able to come closer to 2012 E3’s graphics, if not right on them (and yes, PC will always have the highest potential for graphics).  I think it’s worth playing through if you like this type of game and there’s plenty of side things to do to spend some time here and there.  Hopefully, though, the sequel will show some real improvements much like Assassin’s Creed saw with its sequel.

2014’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

So while there are officially three trailers, the third one that just came out is the first one I consider a full length trailer where Trailer 1 was a teaser and Trailer 2 was just Trailer 1 with 10 seconds of extra footage.  There’s also been a TV Spot.  But here’s the latest trailer:

So I’ve been holding off talking about the new TMNT movie because I wanted to wait until there was enough there to really talk about and form an opinion.  To say it’s been a rocky road for the movie is to put it lightly.  From the “alien origin” to the atrocious leaked “Blue Door” script, to the first look being a crappy children’s Halloween mask, to the late and, in my opinion, weak marketing push so far, I don’t think the heroes in a half shell have been off to a good start.  This trailer is the first that really starts to give some decent look at things.  So let’s break it down.

So we start off with a look at a slew of monitors which from set photos we know are in the turtles’ sewer lair.  Donatello, whose voice sounds pretty good, says “Surveillance is showing heavy foot clan activity.”  We then get the look at the “Foot clan” in the subway in their para-military tactical gear and assault rifles.  While some have argued otherwise, I still have yet to see anything that suggests the Foot Clan is a ninja clan.  They just seem like a military group or a terrorist group.

0:17 in – They have April O’Neil amongst their hostages.  I think Leo says “They’ve taken hostages” to which Raphael replies “Let’s rock and roll.”

0:20 in – We get a look at all their weapons. Leo’s katana, Mike’s nunchaku, Raphs sai (IGN notes that the sai is inscribed with “To find peace, look within, not from without” (paraphrased), and Donatello’s bo.

0:23 in – Going down the subway tunnel, we get a flash of Karai, with a handgun. Karai is flung across the subway and breaks the tile on impact against the wall.  Leonardo throws a Foot soldier across the subway station and through the window of a moving subway car. Don swipes at one, then we get a quick cut to another soldier being thrown into the ceiling.  I really don’t like the idea of the TMNT having superhuman strength, but I’m convinced they have it.  They did in the Blue Door script (Leo one arm throws a forklift) and what we’ve seen here looks like they have superhuman strength in the final product.

0:29 in – Raph proclaiming “This is OUR city” as we get a look at the soldiers again, a freight container is hurled at them, swinging forward and hitting them. Still implies super strength.

0:32 in – On a rooftop, the turtles seem to be celebrating their victory while April starts climbing from the ground up the fire escape.  Raph shouts “That’s what I’m talking about!” One (again, perhaps Leo?) says “Like shadows in the night.”  And finally one says “You don’t believe what you don’t see” just as the flash of April’s camera gets a pic of them, Raph, Don, and Mike celebrating with a high five and Leo off to the side from them, his weapons not yet sheathed.

0:35 in – This is my favorite part of this entire trailer.  The three brothers freeze in place after that flash.
Mike (whispering): Wha’wassat? (“What was that”, but the delivery is slurred in the whisper, it sounds great.  He sounds a lot like the current cartoon interpretation from Nick)
Donatello (whispering): A camera flash….

0:38 in – Chains shoot out to wrap around April to pull her onto the roof.  From images, Mike seems to have his usual nunchaku, but other weapons as well and they seem to have this one, though just seeing chain it’s hard to say with certainty what it is (I could wager guesses, but won’t).

0:41 in – Raph lands heavy next to April and gives a gutteral growling “Gimme the camera”  It loses some intimidation with Mike or Don mimicking the growl saying “Oh look, he’s doing his Batman voice.”  Leo jumps off the water tower, the scene that’s been in prior to the “just a mask” gag from the previous trailers, telling Raph to back off.  However, right after doing so, he threatens April with “Do not say a word about this to anyone. If you do, we will find you.”  Knoxville actually sounds decent as Leo here.  Honestly, I’m impressed.

0:51 in – Following Leo’s threat, Mike chimes in, echoing it. “Yeeeah, we’ll find yooou.  …I’m sorry, that came across super creepy, okay, that’s just, heh..we-will-find-you-though.”  And we get the now oft-seen April faint.

1:02 in – We get a shot of the city skyline with that Michael Bay WHOOOOM sound.  Get a look at Mike, Don, and Leo in the sewer lair with weapons drawn. Kanji is spray painted on the wall behind them, there’s a bicycle leaning against the wall.  I sometimes don’t like their shells as they don’t look like they’re actually attached to the turtles. They look like a big half shell held against their back with a belt and straps at times.  Leo’s looks worst in this shot.  Splinter has a voice over saying “My sons, I have trained you your whole lives to protect the city above. But I fear you are not ready for its greatest threat.”

1:03 in – While Splinter’s talking, we get a shot of Leo outside in the snow.  Humans running scared. Foot soldiers shooting. Raph running through a tunnel towards a fan grate. An explosion knocking the Foot soldiers back. Close up of Leo (who seems to have a scar along his head, subtle but there).  This shot of Leo, if you pause it, shows a lot of texture on the skin.  Don runs up and pulls his tech goggles down over his glasses.  His glasses seem to have something that comes down and hooks into his nostrils, which may help keep them in place since he doesn’t have a true nose.  Mike in the snowy setting atop a moving vehicle. Raph wearing his brothers’ weapons and twirling his sai (from previous trailers).

1:14 in – As Splinter says “greatest threat” we get to see William Fichtner’s character, Eric Sachs who we’ve been told is Shredder speaking to someone in the shadows. He is bald, his face scarred and he seems to be wearing a black kimono.  This definitely SEEMS to be Oroku Saki, but it’s not clear if he legitimately IS Saki, a wax model (we’ve seen Sachs in a museum of Japanese artifacts and he’s reportedly obsessed with the armor and Shredder’s history), or if he’s a figment of Sach’s imagination. Who knows!  Sachs tells him “We’re taking your armor to the next level.”  We get a look at said armor, which looks black with gold trim from behind. The Shredder armor has really got a cool samurai vibe to it.

1:18 in – Quick clips of Foot soldiers running down a tunnel, Splinter twirling a katana, bomb counting down and exploding, which knocks Mike back.  We get another glance at the lair with that explosion, though it’s an area we’ve seen in photos just from a different angle. Mike gets blasted back over their couch.  He appears to have something painted on his shell as well.

1:20 in – Shredder stands and faces off against Splinter, showing off way too many blades from his hands with a real bad Wolverine complex going on. Splinter says his name finally “Shredder.”  Leo shouts “Sensei!” and goes for Splinter, who jumps over the blades being shot out from Shredder’s arm. Leo is fighting four Foot soldiers, all armed with electrocuted staffs (taser on a stick!).  He also seems to have something bright blue spray painted on his shell.  We get a glimpse of Donatello yelling through what appears to be a cage or something blocking him. Then Mike next to Don getting zapped as well.  They continue to be tazed as they’re led into a truck and locked in.

1:37 in – Raph returns to the lair and jumps across the rubble to Splinter, shoving aside a massive chunk of concrete like it was nothing (superhuman….strength…).  Splinter, buried under rubble, tells him he must stop Shredder.  “Together, you are stronger than he can ever be.”

1:42 in – As Splinter is speaking, Donatello is shown moving forward through the lair spinning his staff and deflecting gunfire.  I think they’re tranq darts, but still gunfire.  Leo takes a couple of swipes at Foot soldiers and Mike skateboards through.

1:48 in – Close up of Raph “Let’s go save my brothers.”  Then we get Raph spinning his weapons, looks to be on the rooftop from when they first ran into April with the water tower behind him.

1:50 in – Queue the DUBSTEP MUSIC!  Three hummers fly over a hill coming down on Leo, who jumps and crashes into the windshield to be thrown ahead of the vehicles.  Mike sees this and yells “Leo’s in trouble” and heads after him on a rocket powered skateboard, drop kicking a guy off a hummer. Another Foot soldier pulls out a rocket launcher and fires, hitting a semi truck (bear in mind, this entire scene is mostly from The Blue Door script).   The explosion cuts back to the sewer lair explosion, though.

1:59 in – Raph gritting his teeth with all his brothers’ weapons strapped on faces off against Shredder with “Come on!” Shredder simply grabs him by the throat and walks forward, sliding Raph back, whose feet are breaking up the concrete beneath him and he gets thrown through the air into the ceiling.  Will Arnett, Vernon Fenwick, gets a line “Four turtles, one’s fighting a robot samurai….why not?”  During that we get a quick shot of Mike and Don readying for a fight.

2:06 in – Another shot of Shredder Wolverine-ing out his claws. Another explosion. The tower collapse from every trailer they’ve put out.  People running screaming.

2:12 in – At this point we see Shredder with his arm up calling his blades BACK to attach to his arm (the ones he shot at Splinter earlier).  Mike falling off the semi truck from the snow chase scene.  Raph and Leo flying towards the camera. One of them catching April from atop a building in daylight. Leo sliding down the snowy mountainside.  Donatello uses a button on his bo to flip a hummer completely end over end.  And then a scaffolding with all four falling towards the ground in broad daylight.

2:21 in – Vernon voice over “So they’re aliens” while we get a shot of Leo and Raph from the roof scene facing April.  April replies “No, that’s stupid. They’re turtles.”  Their boss, played by Whoopi Goldberg asks “Is there anything else we should know about the?” to which April says “They’re ninjas.”  End with another look at them fighting Foot soldiers in the sewer.

So I presume what we can piece together so far is this:

Foot Clan activity is something the turtles are monitoring and have been fighting. The Foot take hostages in a subway and the turtles go fight them.  Afterwards, April manages to follow them and first sees them on the rooftop, where they meet and she faints.  I’m assuming they take her back to the lair, but that might be later.  One way or another, she chooses to report what she saw to her boss which her insistence on the story may get her fired (the photo we’ve seen of her with her box outside the station).

Raph has an argument with Leo and leaves. The turtle lair gets attacked by the Foot with Shredder. They defeat Splinter and capture the brothers. Raph returns to find April in the lair and Splinter injured.  He gears up with the weapons and goes with April and Vernon to rescue the turtles.  Once they find out where they are, they make their way into the facility where Raph fights Shredder and gets beaten.  He gets away from Shredder to free his brothers and they escape with April and Vernon in the semi and the turtles fighting off Foot soldiers through the chase.

Returning to New York we get a show down with wanton destruction of public property.

I think I’ll just leave this for now. I need to mull over the details before finalizing my opinion so far.

 

 

E3 Live Letter from the Producer – Final Fantasy XIV

Q: will there be a /hug emote?

Yoshida wants /slap.  He’d like a /hug, but there might be some difficulty with the height differences between races, etc.
Q: consider relic tools for DoH/DoL?
Y: Desynthesis will open the door for new opportunities, maybe relics down the road.  Talked about player interest in shining tools, like glowing saws. Maybe flames coming from the skillet for culinarian.

Q: Status for remainder of Coerthas?
Y: We will be opening up new area. Cardinal Plains will open in 2.3 (front lines related).  They definitely said maybe we’ll explore Coerthas soon (expected to be the location for much of the expansion. They mostly sidestepped it)

Q: Thoughts on ultra extreme battle for hard core?
Y: Specific speaking, talking about brutal mode for Binding Coil.  The original Binding Coil was brutally difficult, extremely hard and they toned it down from there. They like the idea of releasing the original version and are even unsure if players will be able to beat it. They aren’t sure they can complete it internally at this point.  The weekly flag will be the same and rewards will be the same. It’s purely for bragging rights.  All players will have to have completed all prior versions. Those who complete it will get a special title, though.  Planned for 2.3

Q: Asking about something big, an E3 worthy jobs announcement.
Y: It’s been a year since last E3 and beta.  Second E3, they want to show a video and they will explain.

NEW CLASS: ROGUE NEW JOB: NINJA
Before E3, people expected a new class/job release reveal for expansion.  Expansion is still somewhat far off. Fan fest is in October.  Patch 2.4 will bring Rogue/Ninja.  Dual wielding class, like a thief.  Classes fit with a story so storywise, the rogue were once thieves and over the years have established their own guild as a rogue guild. Something that fits better than a thieves’ guild, though they still have that history.

For Rogue: Movement speed will be a bit faster than other classes. Fall damage will be cut.  Poison use will be part of their actions.  There will be different kinds of poisons the rogue can use for different situations.  Stealth type class, so there will be stealth actions.  Knives and daggers, similar to the monk weapons.
For Ninja Job: The ninja job will not only incorporate dual wield and poisons, but also add ninjutsu and mudra (hand gestures like Naruto).  Different types of mudra used in combinations the players choose. If correct, turns into type of ninjutsu and can fail.  Battle wise, it won’t be as stressful as monk, but using hte right combination of poisons and mudras.  They will be DPS.

 

Q: Will we see more Fates like Behemoth or Odin?
Y: Starting in 2.3 they have “The Hunt” planned with different types of monsters.  As for Fates, they aren’t ruling it out and will think about it, but focus is on The Hunt for right now.

 

Q: Can we get a Minstrel’s Ballad Trial pitting against the Garleans from the end of MSQ?
Y: All depends on the wandering minstrel. Creating special content for Fan Fest, one being a battle fighting all four generals, but since then a better idea has come up.  However, this is still a good idea and there’s interest, so it’s quite possible.

 

Q: What’s the Personal housing status?
Y: Still on the list, has been okay’d.  Instead, 2.3 will have the private chambers in the Free Company estate. Private housing hopefully in 2.38 at the latest.

 

Q: Video was released that believed to have Shiva at the end. Confirmation?
Y: It’s not a motorcycle or Shiva bike.  PR team decided marketing Ramuh wouldn’t be that great for E3.  Shiva has a long and complicated story that will start in 2.3 and build in 2.4 for her appearance and then build from there. Likely an expansion fight.  The summons always include Shiva, Ifrit, and Ramuh, so they’re happy to finally bring her in.

 

Q: Any thought about 8 man dungeons?  Similar to the MSQ runs.

Y: They realize a lot of different needs for different communities and each has different styles of gameplay.  A lot of comments asking for more light parties, some want less 8 man, some want to go solo in dungeons.  They want to provide all three, but can only do one at a time.  Prioritize which is better and realize it’s sometimes harder to get 8 players together so they’re focusing on light party content first, then possibly solo dungeons runs, then look at 8 person content.  Difficult to create 8 person content.  Want to be sure there’s enough interest to spend the development time.

 

Q: People in huge Free Companies, there’s not a lot they can do as a mass group.  Any plans for content around these large companies?

Y: There are many different types of Free Companies with 200 hundred members to just 6ish.  So how do they design content for 200 and exclude all the small ones. So not currently planning that type of content.  However, they realize players want more activities for FCs.  Thinking of creating something with a list of quests or goals and the company decides what they want to do. Work together to do something big.

 

Q: Will we see a return of unique stats and enhancements from 1.0?

Y:  These lead to a requirement by the player base, but something that they can look into. Balance is key.

 

Q: What happened to FC building airships?

Y: Discussed having a workshop in FC housing to build an airship.  They are currently working on it.  Has concept art of a basement in the estate with something being created in the middle.  They want players to make an airship, but how does that fit in a basement?  They will be using magic to miniaturize the airship but once released outside, it grows to full size.

 

Q: Marriage?
Y: Open regardless of race/creed/gender in pledge of eternal bonding ceremony.  Special mounts for those who take the ceremony.

 

Q: Duels being considered?
Y: Yoshida seems hesitant as he answers: Not sure if they can make it a system that’s all that fun system-wise, but they know players want to try it out for various reasons.

 

Q: Future of Zodiac weapons – special visual to stand out (different sound, animations, skills)

Y: After Novus, the next step will change the appearance some.  Even after that installment, they have a plan to someday have a final version, the Excalibur type of weapon that the Zodiac Braves actually used and will stand out for those players who have put that time and effort into it.

 

Q: Players have talked about after getting extreme weapons and beating EX Primals, is there a plan for the tokens that are then no longer useful?
Y: They may have new use in the future, it’s a ways off, but if you really need the space and know you can take down the Primals again, you can probably get rid of them for now.

 

Q: Is there any update using your personal chocobo while queued for a duty?

Y: They know players really want it, but system wise, it’s a difficult challenge since it dies into the new content added with Duty Finder. They’re trying different options to find a way to do it, but they might have to stop new content in order to fix this.  They realize it’s important and they need to fix it, but finding a way to do it without affecting other parts of the game is a challenge. Can’t say when it will happen.  They designed the system so the chocobo was a party member, so in duty finder going from party mount it impacts Duty Finder. There are benefits to having the chocobo as a party member, so they don’t want to remove that. So it’s about finding the right way to do it.

 

Q: Are there any possibility of having different HUD settings (tank HUD different than healer HUD, etc)

Y: System wise, it’s possible and on the UI team’s task list. Difficult to implement, but something they want to get in.

 

Fan Festival is coming in October.  That should be around time for 2.3 and they might be releasing a special website for the Fan Fest website soon. People should get in quickly and there might be special in-game items for attendees.  Live Letter from the Producer part 15 will have more additional info and reveals on Thursday!

E3 – Day 1

E3 Recap time!

Getting caught up on E3 news for the first day here.  I’ve said before I’m not an X-Box fan, so I didn’t watch the Microsoft presentation, though moreso because I wasn’t at the computer but was picking up a copy of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess on GameCube (what’s up?!) at the time.  From what I’ve heard second hand, nothing particularly stands out to me as amazing for me.  Halo fans will probably be thrilled at the variety of 100 multiplayer maps in Halo’s Master Chief collection, so that’s out there for fans of the series.

The things that intrigued me from Microsoft’s presentation are available on PS4, though.  Tomb Raider: Rise of the Tomb Raider, The Division, and Dragon Age: Inquisition are some games I’m looking forward to.

Ubisoft’s presentation was rather interesting.  I’ve never played a Far Cry game either, but the Far Cry 4 preview was a great hook. It’s a good start up to pull you into the story.

I’m not sure if I’ll continue following the Assassin’s Creed series with Unity as it looks like it’s going to grow in importance of multi-player which doesn’t tend to get my interest for console games, but on the other hand, the trailer did look pretty good.  With the open world design and problems coming up as you move, the game could be more interesting than other installations have gotten.  I was particularly interested in the way they showed the character running after a thief, but stopping when he came upon a murder scene. Coming out of the murder scene, you hear the comment “I can’t solve every problem” which could make the game very interesting if there’s some impact on ignoring some problems and addressing others, especially if there’s no way to resolve them all.

The Division looks interesting and if I can get a friend or two to play alongside me, I’ll definitely be playing that.

Valiant Hearts: The Great War.  We didn’t see the gameplay of this game, but the art style is very stylized and the central character it revolves around that ties all the characters together is a dog. Set in World War I, it’s an extremely unique game inspired by letters from soldiers in World War I.  It has support from historians and actual photos are apparently used courtesy of various historical sources.  Just from the trailer video, it looks like it will be a rather touching and emotional game in its own right.  It may be one of those games that every gamer should play when all is said and done.

I’m also not a FPS player, but the Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six preview actually looked really cool.  Another one that looks like it would be a lot of fun with friends who play together regularly.  I have to give them credit when an FPS actually gets my interest.

Now I’m caught up….. I’ll blog thoughts live on the Sony presentation.  🙂

Sony Presentation

Sony kicked off with Destiny.  Again, I’m not a fan of FPS games, but this one has been doing a fantastic job of making me want to know more about it.  From the commercial last year with the law of the pack to this intro video just now, it looks like a cool world they’re building.  I’m not sure it’s enough to pull me into an FPS game, but it does look like a cool game.  Exclusives for Playstation with PS4 players able to play Destiny Alpha next week and July 17th for beta for Playstation.  Looks like PS4 will also get it released first.  Exclusive weapons, ships, and maps for PS4.

Next showing is The Order 1886, a PS4 exclusive IP.  It looks pretty darn good from what they showed.  Seamless transition from what looks like cut scenes and play footage.

Entwined. A game about two souls in love who can’t be together (looks like a bird and a fish).  Guiding two characters at once, one with each analogue stick (yikes).  It looks somewhat Star Fox-ish in style, flying through tunnels and hitting targets.  It looks like a very artistic game from a small development team.  Sony continues to promote the small and indie developers.  PS4 available now for $9.99 tonight with PS3 and Vita (cross buy) to come.

Getting more inFAMOUS content in August.  There’s another exclusive Playstation title.

Little Big Planet 3 is showing next.  From what I heard, the Project Spark game shown at Microsoft’s project looked a lot like Little Big Planet.  With LBP’s fan base, I’d say it’s already got the lead, despite Conker’s addition to Project Spark.  I played Little Big Planet 1 a bit, but honestly, this game with the 4 player team work really looks like it will be a lot of fun.  It will be coming out in November.

Big cheers for Shuhei Yoshida on stage.

Yoshida is introducing a new IP – Bloodborne.  Another zombie based world, looks like it’s set in a medieval time period. Coming in 2015.

Next up we see Far Cry 4.  The intro from UbiSoft was interesting, as earlier stated.  This showed more of the gameplay. Fairly standard FPS in terms of shooting, but still interesting.  Big news…you can invite friends to play with you who don’t have the game only on PS4.  That’s a pretty big thing.

They’re going through letters from players about things they’ve wanted to see next.  Here’s what we get in response to these letters:

Next up…Zombies.  Amusing style trailer.  Very different approach to zombie style game for Dead Island 2.  Funny trailer, check it out.  30 day exclusive beta and an exclusive character class for PS4.

Diablo 3: Ultimate Evil Edition on PS4 will include zombies from Last of Us in a special dungeon.

Battlefield Hardline gameplay trailer up next.  It looks like it would make a great Bruckheimer/Bay film.

Disney Infinity exclusive edition on PS3 and PS4 with Incredible Hulk.

Partnership with Paradox Interactive.  More exclusive PS4 games, starting with Magicka 2.

Grim Fandango will be getting remastered exclusively to PS4 and Vita.

Console debut exclusive to PS Platforms: Devolver, Broforce, Titan Souls, Not a Hero, Hotline Miami Wrong Number, The Talos Principle – a lot of indy style games in there.

Another PS4 exclusive with a violent brawler game called Let It Die coming in 2015.

Giant Squid development team (creator of Journey’s new team) bringing us Abzu.  It looks a lot like Journey in style, but underwater.  This is also a PS4 exclusive.

Final game that will make its debut on PS4 looks like a Sci Fi exploration world. Interesting art style that reminds me of Wild Star a bit.  Looks like another FPS, though currently they’re flying a space ship…into space through meteors, able to shoot in the ship from cockpit view.  Looks like worlds can be discovered and the player who discovers them is marked as such.  Flying around the planet, did a barrel roll!  Shooting down other ships.  The title is No Man’s Sky.  Indy game as well and looks damn impressive.  Every player starts on a different planet.

They’re now talking about the Playstation Camera, an optional addition (nice jab at Microsoft), and how it can bring gaming to a new dimension. Yes, folks, Project Morpheous.  Sony’s Virtual Reality headset.  Creative teams are working with Sony to define this, the game’s in the booth with three game demos, two of which are new.  (Stay tuned, planning a solo blog post on this)

Shawn Layden on stage, President and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America.  Talking about the drive for innovation at Playstation.  PSN – Playstation Network – robust and evolving, reacting to what gamers want; to share experiences and connect with friends.  New tools are brought to the PS4 faithful with Share Factory and photo mode in inFAMOUS Second Son.  95% of PS4s are connected worldwide, social activity is astounding. 1.25B hours spent gaming, +1B multiplayer sessions, share button has been used 220 million times, and YouTube is coming to PS4 later this year.  With a press of the Share button, pS4 gamers can upload video to their YouTube channel.  Can see your friend’s shared YouTube videos in the “what’s new” activity feed.  150 million spectate sessions.  Twitch and Ustream will allow viewers to communicate with the players they’re watching.  Create broadcast sets for your broadcasts.

This YouTube feature is going to be an amazingly massive feature.  They brushed over it, but I predict this is one of the biggest features hitting any console.

Sony is committed to Free to Play games.  Currently 25 F2P games coming in the next 12 months – Kingdom Under Fire, Planetside 2, and Guns Up.  At point of entry, free to play is free to play.

Playstation Now hits open beta on PS4 July 31st this year.  Select Sony televisions will be able to access Playstation Now without a Playstation console.  Just need the Dualshock controller.  Wise move to help the sluggish television sales.

Support continues for the Playstation Vita.  It will have access to Playstation Now. It has 100 games in development. Child of Light and Tales of Hearts R, Tales from the Borderlands, and Minecraft (full console experience with co-op).  The US will also be getting Vita TV due to the unprecedented support and demand.  $99 for Vita TV or $140 for Vita TV, a Dualshock 3 controller, HD cable, and digital Lego Movie game voucher.

Mortal Kombat X footage premiere is up next.  Graphics look great.  New characters I’ve never seen before.  Graphics are smooth and the game is gory as ever. 😉

Entertainment offering is taking a “new superhero twist.”  Sony Picture Entertainment is bringing exclusive content to PS4 (this is sort of what Microsoft got burned for talking about last year).  Powers is the first series, based on Bendis and Omen’s graphic novel series.

RATCHET AND CLANK MOVIE!  I’m not going to lie, this looks like it will be awesome.

The Last of Us comes to PS4 (not news, but we get a look at it).  This game pushed PS3 to the limits…PS4 takes it further and it does look amazing.  July 29, 2014 release date.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain new trailer shown.

Grand Theft Auto 5 coming to PS4, footage shown from Playstation 4.  Comes out this fall, taking advantage of the system capabilities and features enhancements. Current PS3 and 360 players will be able to transfer their progress to PS4.

Batman: Arkham Knight footage up next.  I still don’t like the new suit, but the game looks amazing. Showing a lot of the gameplay footage of the Batmobile useage.  Movements look faster and smoother than past games.  Exclusive missions on Playstation.

And to wrap up the presentation…

UNCHARTED 4.  The crowd is pretty happy.  Just a trailer, really. It’ll be out in 2015.

End with a montage of footage from various games for Playstation 4.  Kingdom Hearts 3 was shown among them as well.

All in all, really impressive presentation from Sony.

Project A-Kon 25…. COMPLETE.

10 years ago I went to a little anime convention in Dallas, TX called A-Kon along with my boss, his wife, and a coworker cosplaying as the crew of Cowboy Bebop.  In 2003 and 2004, anime was known in the US, but really getting into the fandom with anime and manga had previously required one to find sites online with fan subs and translations.  I’m proud to say that I worked at Waldenbooks in the Parks Mall in Arlington, TX that contributed to part of the shift in the industry.

My boss, Stephen, was interested in the published manga and would special order a few issues for himself on a fairly regular basis. Some series he would special order just to read them on lunch break and then put them on the shelf to sell.  He actually did this enough that he started getting a few random titles in our regular shipments.  He decided to focus this effort and started ordering a handful of issues at a time from different titles for the store.  With that, he pushed the snowball down the mountain.  Within a few months we had a complete section for manga of about five or six shelves.  Over the course of the next year it grew to two small bays, then four.  In a couple more years, it consisted of half the wall from the cash register to the back of the store and manga was always neck and neck with Romance for the #1 selling category in the store month after month.  We were the top selling manga store in the company and the entire company was getting pushed to sell manga.  Not that this was isolated to our store.  Other book stores were starting to carry manga, but we were ahead of the pack and reaping the benefits of what I now like to consider the US Manga-boom of the early 2000s.

Jump ahead to 10 years later and the manga boom has subsided, manga publishers have gone out of business, the market has shied away from the over-saturation in the US and we’re getting ready to repeat the cycle where online fan subs and translations may be the best way to get certain titles.  Sword Art Online for $120 for half the show?  Log Horizon light novels may never be translated to English?  With essentially Funimation being the only real powerhouse bringing anime to America, we could go towards a dry spell of getting quality over here.  There’s benefits to this as the American market won’t accept a flood of just anything while manga is more widespread in Japan, so theoretically we would get more of the proven, quality, titles here over time.  On the other hand…we’re still waiting for the final volume of Hellsing Ultimate.

While the market has pulled back from the abundance of anime and manga, the fandom certainly hasn’t gone away.  A-Kon 25 was big as ever, packing into the Hilton Anatole.  I haven’t seen an official attendance for this year yet, but last year was over 22,000 people – more than double the attendance when I first went.

So how did the folks at Project A-Kon do for their big 25th Anniversary?  Quite well, I think.  Registration was moved to a different room and the hallway outside the Artist Alley/Dealer room area was kept open and clear, which alleviated a huge bottle neck and a huge frustration for convention goers from last year.  The dealers room and artist alley felt more open, which was nice.  My only complaint about the set up was a purchased pass to the convention was required for Artist’s Alley, which has never been required in the past 10 years I’ve been going.  Since starving artists are, well, starving artists, I always liked the fact that people could show up to the convention and see all the cosplayers and support web comics and artists without paying to attend convention events.

The swag bag you get with your registration, provided by Glitch Gaming Apparel, includes advertising inserts, your badge, the program, and a printed schedule.  I got ad inserts for Date Alive, Plano Martial Arts Academy (free trial lesson, any style), and the now-often-seen insert from The Devil’s Panties as well as one for Online Community Colleges.org.  I also got issue #3 of Bendis and Maleev’s Scarlet, which is also standard for the convention to get a random comic book in the bag.

As always, I attended some panels on web comics and writing hosted with creators from webcomics such as Star Crossed Destiny and Star Power.  I picked up Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt from the Funimation booth for a great price, which is admittedly fairly rare at any convention.  I also bought a couple of bokken and two wakizashi for display, an art commission, and an item for a friend’s Christmas gift.  Added a few anime to my list of things to watch, of course, as well.

But of course the highlight of A-Kon, and many conventions these days, is the cosplay.

Attack on Titan was one of the most popular cosplay

Attack on Titan was one of the most popular cosplay.

IMG_5676

To be fair, they do make pretty awesome costumes.

Of course, everyone spots the pretty ladies in cosplay. Here's Yoko from Gurren Lagann

Of course, everyone spots the pretty ladies in cosplay. Here’s Yoko from Gurren Lagann.

Video Game cosplays are often seen, with Mega Man here.

Video Game cosplays are often seen, with Mega Man here.

 

However, this Rocket Raccoon from the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy movie (and comics) standing about 5 feet tall was my favorite.

However, this Rocket Raccoon from the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy movie (and comics) standing about 5 feet tall was my favorite.

Godzilla Stomps Box Office, X-Men Save the Future, Comics, and More!

Wow, it’s been busy this month.  With the TMNT anniversary month wrapped up, there was a lot of other things going on and it’s delayed me from writing another blog entry.  Godzilla stomped destroyed the box office with his release, X-Men: Days of Future Past hurtled through time to win over audiences and critics, a new chapter began in the Amazing Spider-Man comics, the TMNT anniversary issue and new issue of the ongoing IDW comic came out, and Project A-Kon starts tomorrow!  This blog will be a bit more brief and run through all these items…or will be terribly rambly going through all this items!  Let’s see which!

Godzilla

Despite the poorly accepted Godzilla 2000, it seems most people were still remembering the abomination of a movie simply titled “Godzilla” starring Matthew Broderick.  As the latest American production of Godzilla slowly built up its promotional material, fans were growing more and more excited.  The Internet seemed hopeful and as more teasers came out, excitement actually started building and anticipation grew for Godzilla.  A few weeks before release, I read an article in Forbes predicting the movie was going to be a box office flop.  The King of Monsters proved that prediction false with over $93 million on opening weekend and a worldwide gross that’s reached over $521.5 million in box office revenue.  A sequel is already in the works for the new series of the franchise and I hope they continue to do well.

To me, the movie was great.  Perfect, I’m sure there’s a lot of problems, so no, but absolutely fun.  Some complained about the lack of Godzilla, but the series of films have always been about the human element and the problem they face with another giant monster threatening Earth until Godzilla comes along and fights it.  Bryan Cranston was great as expected, but I felt like Ken Watanabe was underutilized.  I’m hoping he returns with a larger part as a more knowledgeable expert on Godzilla in the sequel.  The plot was particularly enjoyable in that it took the standard set up from past films with Godzilla vs a Monster, or MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) where past Godzilla flops have focused on man vs Godzilla.  We don’t want Godzilla as a bad guy, it’s his film and despite the destruction he causes fighting the enemy, he’s our hero!

I thought Godzilla looked great, though he didn’t have the personality of the old films.  He was more animal-like, described as an Alpha Predator of prehistoric origins as hypothesized by Ken Watanabe’s character.  They hint at the original Godzilla film with nuclear testing having awoken Godzilla in the past and granted the first glimpse of him, which was neat as well.  The size of Godzilla is massive. He seemed bigger than I recall, but then the old ones were a man in a suit on a set of miniatures, so it’s more perception than fair comparison.  I’d like to see a little more of his personality in future films, showing he has a little higher intelligence than simply a predatory animal.  After all, the original Godzilla could not only be communicated with by other monsters, but as relayed by Mothra through the twins, he didn’t care for mankind.  In a fight, Godzilla would gloat and laugh at his enemies in his own way and would somewhat throw a tantrum when getting frustrated.  While I don’t think that level of silliness would work for this new Godzilla, showing some level of emotion would be interesting.

I won’t spoil anything, but I will say I was expecting Godzilla to end the fight at the climax by breaking the female MUTO’s jaw.  The way he actually ended the fight shocked me and left me with a big grin on my face.  It was an awesome finisher to the fight.  I’m hoping the next film involves aliens as the source of the monster.
X-Men: Days of Future Past

The film impressed critics, which is saying something.  It’s currently 92% positive with critics and 94% with audiences at Rotten Tomatoes, which is the highest the franchise has ever reached. Even higher than First Class or X2: X-Men United.  It’s also been out for only a few weeks and is already the highest grossing X-Men film, amassing $500 million in just 10 days.  I not only enjoyed the film, but moreso appreciated the direction it has established for films going forward, the next of which is X-Men: Apocalypse.

As Bryan Singer suggested, the film was used to tie up some loose ends and fix some problems almost everyone had with the original trilogy’s plot missteps.  Days of Future Past avoids the temptation of mutant cameos for the sake of saying a mutant had a cameo (seriously, that was NOT Psylocke in Last Stand) and the mutants it does give an appearance to are actually used.  Fan favorites Blink, Bishop and not-as-favorite Warpath join Storm, Colossus, Iceman, and Magneto among the chief combatants in the dark future against the evolved Sentinels.  The story of the Sentinels themselves is different than the comics, but works well and is a nice spin on the storyline itself.

People did complain about Wolverine being the one sent back in time rather than Kitty Pryde a la the comics, but it makes sense to me.  The Mary Sue claimed it was lazy writing that neared sexism, but I disagree.  Lazy writing would be to further strain logic to send Ellen Paige back for the sake of it, having to make a convoluted excuse of her returning to a time where’s she’s not even been born.  Compound that with the fact that Wolverine is the frontrunner for the series and it’s logical to have Jackman’s character as the focal point since his character is logically in the past already.  The series already has enough continuity problems, particularly with ages, to need yet another one with Kitty alive when Kitty wasn’t alive for the sake of using Kitty who has been a minor role in the films as a whole so far.  Honestly, if we were arguing for not using Wolverine in Pryde’s place, I’d prefer to go totally unknown and have Bishop as our main focus.  The nice thing about sending Wolverine back, however, is that he doesn’t actually take the spotlight.  Logan is actually better used as a character amongst an ensemble in this film rather than the focal point of the spotlight.

As stated, though, I’m more interested in seeing how things develop from here.  Days of Future Past is the first Fox X-Film under the world building coordination of Mark Millar as consultant for Fox, Jackman said there was more presence from Marvel on set than previous films, and it’s the first real X-Film that’s been produced as an established comic team in the post-Marvel Studios Hollywood.  The film maintained the thematic continuity of the original films with the future X-Men wearing black armored suits akin to the leather of the original trilogy, but there’s some color coming into them as well.  Blue and yellow (in a black/yellow pattern that gives it a tan look) for Wolverine, for example.

I was stoked by the yellow at the ribs and on the arms, actually.

And with the 70s really being pre-X-Men there were not costumes for the majority of it other than Magneto donning his armor which had far more color than the original dark tones.

Very much like his comic colors

Which leads me to wonder if X-Men: Apocalypse, which has already been confirmed to be bringing in young Jean Grey, Cyclops, and Storm, will be going more traditional in their costumes as well.  Cyclops in a Captain America-like blue, hopefully.  I’m also personally hoping that Storm will have her mohawk for the 80s set film.  My only concern right now is Wolverine.  The timeline was altered in Days of Future Past and rather than undergoing the Weapon X project with Stryker in the 80s, we see Wolverine being taken by Mystique-as-Stryker instead.

With Lawrence’s Mystique becoming the face of the films alongside Jackman, and Mystique’s history of being used as a tie to Apocalypse, I’m wondering if they’re planning on having the Weapon X project headed by Stryker at the behest of Apocalypse and Wolverine becoming the Horseman of Death.  It would be a comic influence to do so, but not one I’d like to see as it causes continuity questions for the films all over again with the X-Men knowing Wolverine before he joins.  There was some cool speculation that the mutants we glimpsed in Days of Future Past, rescued by Mystique, could become the Four Horseman (or three, because…well, Toad).  Havok as War, the one with the radiation symbol on his face for Pestilence, and the one that made the soldiers simply pass out as Famine.  This would indeed leave death open.  Instead of Wolverine, though, I’d much rather see Angel brought back and made into Archangel.

 

Amazing Spider-Man

I have to admit I really enjoyed the Superior Spider-Man arc and as it moved along, you could literally start seeing the problems that were being put together for Peter upon his return.  As predicted at the start of the run, Peter’s return coincided with the release of Amazing Spider-Man 2 in theaters, and here he is.  The first story they’re telling is going to introduce a new character, Silk, who was also bitten by the same spider that gave Peter his powers in high school.  Now, the character might be interesting, but I hate when writers go back and add to the long held origin story.  The “oh, but here’s what really happened” or “here’s the rest of the story” doesn’t work for me and it rarely adds anything of value to the overall story.  I may also still be annoyed at “Xavier is an asshole” from the Second Genesis addition with Deadly Genesis.

The only thing I was particularly nervous about that won me over in a single issue was Anna Maria Marconi.  It was obvious that Otto had fallen in love with her and was in a serious relationship with her.  I liked that she found he was thinking of proposing to her, but I didn’t like the fact that they revealed that things had gotten to the point of sleeping together.  I’m old fashioned and I do like the notion of monogamy after marriage rather than sleep-around-single then settle-down-married.  Yes, I know it’s old fashioned, but it’s also the type of character I’ve always seen Peter to be yet Brand New Day has had him engage in one night stands and friends with benefits.  I think it would have been more contrasting for Otto, who is an older man and might see things more like his generation did, to have followed that notion.  However, I will say the “I’m pregnant” scene was absolutely fantastic and it nailed Maria as a favorite for me.  It’s been a long time coming, but I’m really interested to see how Spider-Man will work having a bit of a Batman quality to him.  With Parker Industries serving as Wayne Enterprises and Anna as his Alfred/Lucius-in-one.

Now when will Mary Jane appear in the movies again so she and Peter can start dating in the comics.  I will always hate the One More Day plot and dissolving the marriage rather than, I dunno, writing it properly and having MJ as a strong character.  Oddly enough, it seems that the whole Brand New Day has done more to better MJ as a character than done anything to really make Spider-Man/Peter better.  Mephisto was certainly right about one thing, though…just under the surface, Peter and MJ still seem to know they’re meant for one another, but just can’t get there….and the other relationships they enter into just don’t feel quite right.  Damn you, Mephisto.  I hope Dr. Strange gives you a whomping in an arc around the time of his movie release too.

TMNT Anniversary Wrap Up

I watched Secret of the Ooze again.  While the original movie still holds up, the Secret of the Ooze doesn’t.  It’s a perfect example of Hollywood getting involved with too much control. The film is clearly made to be silly and more funny for kids where the original film, an independent film, had a more mature tone.  I couldn’t bring myself to take time for TMNT III or to rewatch TMNT from 2007 (which I actually really liked).

The 30th Anniversary issue came out and while nothing particularly special to delve into on a continuing basis, it was a neat comic.  Multiple short stories, each one in the style of the various incarnations of TMNT: Mirage, Archie Comics, Image, IDW.  Very cool stuff.

The latest issue of the ongoing IDW was great. I really like Don’s friend Harold and the introduction of Metalhead was really cool. Santolucco is a great artist for the series and the writers are still doing some neat stuff there.  With Leo still being my favorite turtle, I’m interested to see how things continue to develop for him.  Everyone writes him off as the boring character since he’s the boy scout, but I think IDW has done well fleshing him out more. He’s sometimes a jerk (he’s the big brother, after all) to the others when they disagree, but he also cares about his family.  Despite being the most dedicated student, you can see a bit of difference of opinion between him and Splinter growing in his concern over agreeing with Don that dealing with the Technodrome and Krang may be most important while Splinter is focused on their direct problem with Shredder.  I’m definitely interested to see where that leads as all children have difference of opinion with their parents as they grow.  We know the Rat King is going to be appearing soon and that will be a good story for Leo as he’ll have to handle things alone if Splinter is under the Rat King’s sway.  Next issue, however, is looking to be great as we get a pairing that isn’t explored enough: Raph and Mike.  I’m really looking forward to that!

And Old Hobb and Slash are still working their own plan, as we saw in the end of this latest issue.  I’m expecting Alopex to wind up back in New York and possibly joining him for a while.  I’ll admit, I really like Alopex.  Granted, she a fox, literally, so that’s a plus for her in my book, but I like the character.  I just hope they don’t further the Raph/Alopex friendship as it makes her too much like Ninjara for me.  I’d much rather see Alopex and Leo form a friendship since they have history of going through similar challenges with the Foot and, honestly, Leo needs a friend.  Raph has Casey, Don has Harold and April, Mike has the pizza shop guy and possibly a police detective.  Leo has his family.  That dude needs a friend.

Project A-Kon 25

The big 25th Anniversary of the longest running Anime Convention in North America is THIS WEEKEND!  This will mark my 10th year straight going to this convention and I’m really looking forward to it.  I don’t cosplay anymore and sadly I won’t be taking Crow T. Robot (or will I?) since I don’t have a friend to carry Tom Servo.  I loved taking Crow and Servo and there’s no end to stopping to take photos, but my time at A-Kon is now usually spent at panel after panel with little time to waste in between.  Then again, there’s always down time in the evenings it seems. Maybe Crow will go, though he won’t be cosplaying this year either (seriously, cosplaying Crow is a heavy Crow).

I’m expecting a larger turn out of Attack on Titan cosplay as well as Sword Art Online. Expect to see a few Log Horizon as well.  I’ll be working on a preview of my schedule and which panels to attend today, packing up and getting ready. I’ll also be driving over today to go ahead and pick up my badge and bag o’ goodies.

A-Kon, here I come! 🙂

Batman Revealed, X-Box One Price Drop, and No More Gold Required

Wowzer, today is just full of news and exciting stuff, huh?

First off, and in my opinion most geek-tastic, Zach Snyder gave the world its first look at Ben Affleck in the Batman suit for 2016’s Batman/Superman film.

You can read about that and see the released photo over at Forbes.

But for here, let’s take a look at the lightened version from Comingsoon.net instead!

Best Batman Suit Ever?

The costume definitely has the shorter ears as suggested by earlier rumor that there would be a Batman:Noel influence as well as looking like there’s some influence from Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns (which has some influence on the film itself, supposedly).

I’m really digging the texture of the suit having a bit of a kevlar armor look and actually looking more like a fabric than some molded rubber or armor plating.  Honestly, I see some influence from another Batman source in there myself.

Arkham city

We also get a look at the new Batmobile there, which looks a bit like a mix of the Nolan-verse tumbler and the more classic Batmobile designs from the years, bit of the Burton/Animated Series influence perhaps.

Now, the Snyder/Affleck suit isn’t 100% perfect in every way. I’d like to be able to tell there’s some darker black to the bat symbol on top of the gray suit and I’m hoping there’s some yellow on the belt like the Arkham design above, but this is a black and white image, so we just have to wait for now to see the fully unveiled color shot of the suit.

Your feelings on Affleck as Batman aside, you have to admit, this is a pretty sweet Batman costume and definitely not something we’ve seen on film before (just like Kevin Smith said).

Now, switching gears to gaming news…

X-BOX ONE WITHOUT KINECT

They said it was impossible! They said it couldn’t be done! They said it was integral and necessary to the entire experience and you would be a raving lunatic to go without it!

And then, just about 6-7 months afterwards, Microsoft is reversing that decision, just like almost everything else they said about X-Box One last year.  That’s right, come this summer, you’ll be able to snag an X-Box One for $100 less than early adopters by forgoing the inclusion of a Kinect if you don’t want it.  Titanfall wasn’t quite enough to help Microsoft catch up to Sony as the PS4 is still about 3 million units ahead of X-Box One in sales, so this price drop is a definite way for them to try and get back into the race for some stronger competition.

Microsoft also announced a change to their X-Box Gold subscription, in that it will no longer be required to access applications for streaming services (because all these years, it totally made sense to require a subscription to access your subscription over the Internet, which you basically pay a subscription for…).

It’s good timing for Microsoft to announce this before E3, putting on-the-fence gamers in a mindset to keep an eye on X-Box reveals and news at the conference with a lower console price point to tackle.  However, you can bet Sony will be planning some big reveals to follow up on the massively successful PS4 launch last year.  Personally, this is all Microsoft playing catch up.  I’m more interested in seeing exactly what Sony and Playstation 4 have in store for Project Morpheus.