Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Hooray Disney Sketches

So, still with no copy of Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth, I'm left to post about something else.
I finally got around to checking if my old scanner would work with my new laptop (as the scanner has given me issues before) and I've found that it does.  Thus, I have sketches to show off.  First, the page of Zazu and Scar, sketches which I already posted but were in the form of terrible quality webcam photos.

 

Next up, Simba (a more recent sketch).
 
And finally a still-very-rough sketch of Kida from Atlantis.  The scanner, using a bright light as all scanners do, washed out the blue lines to a point that you'll likely have to enlarge this sketch to see it properly.  The blue lines are there but are far lighter than they should be.
 
Note that you can click on any of these images if you wish to see their full size.
And that's all for today.


UPDATE:  The Kida sketch is now finished.

Monday, February 22, 2010

And more ramblings.

Well, things have moderately slowed down for me at the moment and I seem to have some extra free time which is always nice.  I might use it to plan out some quality blog posts.
Lately I've been playing Zelda:  Wind Waker through for the third time (though the first within the last 6 or 7 years) and I still love it despite some minor issues; most notably that the sea is just too large and takes too long to travel with too little to do between destinations.
My brother has brought to my attention that I may be able to get some freelance work through one of his friends, so I'm hoping I'll find the time for it.
/Post

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Ramblings...

I have to admit I have no specific topic to talk about today.  I haven't planned out enough to make another 'Tips for Animators' post either...oh well.  Just some quick mentions of things I've noted:
-The Lion King is to see a Blu-Ray release; I'm confident this will happen within the next year
-The Princess & The Frog will be released to home video March 16th
-Red Steel 2, again, comes out March 23rd
-Mega Man 10 comes out March 1st

Right now, I'm in the process of making a list of animated films I haven't seen but would like to.  Any suggestions are appreciated if you'd like to leave them in the comments section.  Thank you.

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Prosecutor Without a Case

 
Yeah, I decided to remove my glasses in order to dress myself as Edgeworth better and from that I came up with the gag.  Don't worry, the image will be in colour when I actually review the game (the game being Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth).  Currently, I have no idea when that will be since I've gone on multiple trips to find a copy and am still empty-handed.  Ah well...probably better that I avoid getting too into a game for now so I can focus on school work.
I have once again found myself buried in assignments and studying to do but I will try to pull through and post as consistently as possible.  Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Outdated Reviews #1: Sonic Unleashed

So, something has occurred to me recently.  Thus far I have yet to review anything I hated.  Prototype had a lot of issues and I didn't like it much, but I didn't hate it either.  With that in mind, I've decided to dig down to the past a bit and bring up a truly awful game to give my take on.  So my first of Outdated Reviews will be my review of Sonic Unleashed (on the Wii).
It's no secret that Sonic in 3D has not turned out well.  Every one of these games gets a massive amount of complaints towards the style of play and all of these complaints seem to go consistently ignored by SEGA and the Sonic Team.  Sonic Unleashed initially appeared as though it may finally break this chain of crap.  Unfortunately, several problems that were present in the previous games but weren't often complained about (overshadowed by the more obvious complaints) became a lot more apparent in this title.  At best, this game feels like a brief concept of the type of game they were going for.  Nothing in this game feels complete or polished in the least aside from the cut-scenes and the background music.  Also note that the cut-scenes are good only on a visual level, the voice work matches that of Prototype (terrible).
Sonic Unleashed is split into two separate styles of play.  First, you have the standard Sonic levels which take place during the day.  The amount of praise that these sections of the game get is...perplexing at best.  Every level has occasional 2D gameplay mixed in with the 3D which was what initially had me excited for the game.  The 2D sections last all of about 2 seconds each and if you have any sort of momentum prior to entering them (which you always do), you effectively go through them on autopilot.  The 3D sections are just as awful as in previous 3D Sonic games.  You appear to be in an open space but you're more or less bound to a very specific path, resulting in it feeling like Sonic is part metal and there's a magnetic strip that travels down the center of the stage.  It is possible to go off that strip but doing so is useless in almost all cases.
You occasionally (i.e. very rarely) find something to go off the main path for but even managing to do so is a huge pain.  Again like previous 3D titles in the series, Sonic mysteriously lacks the ability to stop, turn around or even turn left or right if it's not part of the level's main path.  Worse yet, though, Sonic's speed is a liability in this title.  Combining the lack of decent directional control with a character who moves too fast (something that should never be a problem in a Sonic title) makes exploring a level next to impossible.
The praise that the 'day-time' levels get is simply unfounded and I can only attribute it to the fact that these parts of the game give you a break from the even worse 'night-time' levels.
So, the second style of play:  the night-time levels where you play as the laughably-titled Werehog version of Sonic.  As many people have pointed out in the past, the phrase 'werehog' doesn't make sense.  The former part of 'werewolf' is derived from 'wer', an Old English word meaning 'man'; so the phrase 'werehog' gives no literary indication that this version of Sonic is part wolf.  This is obviously unrelated to reviewing the (lack of) quality of the game itself but worth pointing out to those who weren't already aware.
Playing as the Sonic-Wolf-Thing, you're introduced to different gameplay mechanics than the day-time levels.  Now, you're playing an arcade-style action brawler with insultingly basic puzzles scattered throughout the stages.  The fighting mechanics themselves actually show potential but the controls implemented are, for lack of a better word, broken.  Nothing you press/no motion you perform seems to result in the action you expect it to and the hit-detection on the enemies is very wonky.  Traversing these levels is almost as much of a pain as the day-time levels but remains the lone aspect of the "Werehog" sections that tops the Sonic sections.  This time around, walking in multiple directions is possible and you can actually jump and land where you want to.  Traveling through these stages is fine so long as you don't use the Wii Remote & Nunchuk.  Motion controls for climbing and swinging do not work right at all.  The game thankfully supports both the Classic and Gamecube controllers.
Level design for the night-time levels is incredibly bland and predictable.  Every stage has areas where you have to defeat hordes of enemies that last far too long in order to advance.  The enemies themselves are dull in design and have remarkably poor AI.  Most of the puzzles presented are akin to 'go back 5 steps so you can press that switch that you passed'.  In short, the night-time levels, which are more frequent than the day-time levels, present nothing but boredom in multiple forms at once.
If only the flow of awful stopped here.  Brace yourself because it does get worse.  I tried very hard to make it through this game because I actually got it as a gift...but I had to give up on account of the sections that come between the levels.
Between every main level (to clarify, there are optional stages), you have to navigate through multiple towns and cities of what I assume is Mobius; Sonic's home planet; speaking with the locals in order to collect information.  These parts of the game are set up like point and click adventure games...for some reason.  First off, none of what you do during these parts has any bearing on the game other than opening the next main level.  I'd have no problem with this if it was just a quick, simple way to connect the story with the game, but it actually takes up more time than the levels themselves.  I often found myself with too little information to realize who I should even be talking to which further lengthened these investigations as I talked to every person/thing available just to figure out what the hell I was supposed to be doing.

Well, let's wrap up.

1.  Being fast should never be a problem in a Sonic game.
2.  Arcade brawlers are just something Sonic Team should stay away from.
3.  Most importantly:  playing a game should never be less than half of the game.

Do not buy.  Do not rent.  I encourage you to smack anyone who tries to claim this is a good game.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

Good news readers:  I actually have something to talk about today!
 
So, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs was a movie I did my best to avoid seeing upon first hearing about it.  Everything about the previews seemed to scream "this movie will be terrible" to me.  Only after it came recommended by a couple classmates did I decide to give it a chance.  Wow, was I wrong.
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs is probably the funniest movie that came out last year and honestly amused me more than Up.  If I had paid attention to the voice talent and writers behind it, most notably those who were involved in Clone High, I probably would have taken a look at this film much sooner.  What these people managed to put together, based on a children's book I must admit I had never heard of, turned out to be nothing short of hilarious.
Just about every time there's room for a joke or gag, you'll find one and on account of the way everything plays out in the story, none of these breaks the pacing or seems out of place.  Some gags you have to look for and aren't essential to notice.  The ones that are at the forefront of the film will still entertain you throughout the viewing.  This gives you the go-ahead to watch the movie a few times without getting bored, seeing as you'll likely notice a new gag each time.
Several new and often unused computer animation techniques were used in Cloudy, most notably a new method of lighting that (very effectively) simulates real-world light.  The character aesthetics were based somewhat on certain muppets and it works well.  The lead's father, Tim Lockwood, looks very much like a buff version of the Swedish Chef.  From a technical standpoint, Cloudy shows a significant amount of power put into it, sacrificing only a minor bit of style.  Most noticeable of the few animation shortcomings are the really simple and bland ways characters walk.
The voice talent behind the movie deserves quite a bit of recognition for their performances here.  Certain popular names tend to steal the show for most of their appearances:  Mr. T as Earl and Neil Patrick Harris as Steve the monkey.  Bill Hader plays the lead, Flint Lockwood, and pretty much suits the part perfectly.
The character that I found myself most amused by, however, was Joe Towne; a man who goes unnamed until the credits.  He appears as a man wearing a fake beard and a red trucker hat.  According to the commentary, the character was created as 'the voice of the town' in that 'every time the townspeople have something to say, it will come from him'.  The result of this idea is a subtly hilarious character that you can't help but feel is completely insane and completely harmless because of that insanity, rather than despite it.  One should also take note that Clone High's Will Forte (voice of Abe) plays Joe Towne.
On the downside, musical cues while fitting and well-done are simply not memorable.  Those of you who read my review of The Princess & The Frog will remember I felt pretty much the same about the songs in that film.  In this case, there are no songs performed by characters, but just the overall soundtrack felt a little bland.
As well, the story at it's core is nothing special.  Nothing about it will have a 'mind-blowing' effect and it's all predictable but it never drags.
In the end, we have a movie that was more entertaining than Up for me, but maybe not quite on the same level of quality in the story it told.  In any case, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs is a very amusing movie and, like my classmates before me, I highly recommend seeing it.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Next Few Months Are Gonna Be Good #2 - Update and a look a bit further down the line

Sorry I didn't update yesterday, I had trouble finding a topic.  I still have several games in mind for reviews but most of them I haven't played in too long, so I'll need to dig them out and give'em another play through.
Anyway, in relation to an earlier post, I'm going to note a few upcoming significant-to-me releases.  First off, I mentioned that Red Steel 2 would be coming out later this month.  Almost every source I've looked at says it will actually be coming out in March.  I was confused by an ad for the game on the back of the No More Heroes 2 instruction booklet which states "Available Februrary 2010".  Seeing as no other source has since made a change to its stated release date, I'm now assuming this is simply a mistake and that the game will indeed be released in March.  If it does come out this month, cool.
Now that that's out of the way, let's take a glance at something a bit farther off:  Let's start with a Summer release.  For the first time since...I forget, we might finally get a good Sonic game on a home console.  Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Episode 1, a 2.5D Sonic game whose name suggests it is a direct sequel to the Genesis game Sonic 3, is currently set to release sometime this Summer.  I loved Sonic Rush and if Sonic 4 can manage at least that quality, I'll be happy.
Moving on to something a bit more ambiguous in release details, Metroid: Other M.  Another game set to release in 2010, currently placed somewhere in either the second or third quarter, looks to combine the two methods of control Metroid has used.  Both first-person and sidescrolling sections of the game have been witnessed, though very briefly, through the trailer that was seen at E3 last year.  As late as it happened, as of 2 years ago, I've fallen in love with the Metroid series and am also very excited to see how this turns out.  The inclusion of Team Ninja only sweetens the deal.
Finally, something even more ambiguous:  Mario Galaxy 2.  Another Wii game, this one with no specific release date at all outside of '2010'.  I have a good feeling we'll be seeing this game sometime around the holidays.  While it's been quite a long time since I picked up the original game, I have fond memories of it.  About the only faults I could find with it were the all too-easy difficulty and the occasionally disorienting controls and worlds.  So I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the sequel will be a bit harder (hopefully a lot harder).

On a somewhat unrelated note:  I suppose I should make mention of a couple big names that have come out in the last couple of days.  Bioshock 2 and Dante's Inferno.  I don't personally have any plans to go out and grab them yet but I may come around.  Having just watched the reviews on GameTrailers, I'm definitely a bit more interested in Bioshock 2.

That's it for now.  Good night.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Assorted Stuff

Not a whole lot today...been trying to decide on a game to review but can't seem to accomplish that.  I'm always up for requests though.
What I have decided to post today is a few pictures with a couple little stories/notes to go with them.

As one could guess from the image, my excitement for Pok√©mon Heart Gold and Soul Silver is mounting.  Pre-ordered copies come with a figurine of that version's mascot, which instantly sold me on Soul Silver; and, thankfully, the 'certain classmate' mentioned in yesterday's entry agreed that he would be getting Heart Gold.
Special thanks to "Anonymous" for the backdrop to the drawing.  It wasn't entirely necessary but I just didn't want to post it up as just the three doodles.

 
These are the figurines I mentioned.  Ho-Oh (left) comes with Heart Gold when pre-ordered and Lugia (right) comes with Soul Silver.
Now, just a quick look at some recent sketches.  I have to note that I have yet to test if my old scanner works with my new laptop (it's given me issues before) so I took these with the built-in webcam...a webcam which seems to be worse and worse at picking up light every time I use it.  So these images are considerably dark, even moreso than the Dr. Facilier sketch I posted which I snapped the same way.


Zazu and Scar of The Lion King (click to enlarge).  It occurred to me recently that even though Scar was my favourite Disney villain for a long time, I never drew him prior to drawing Dr. Facilier.  So, I took a trip to Google Images, found a pose I liked and replicated it.  At the time, I was itching to draw some more, so a search for simply 'lion king' turned up an image of Zazu in the pose I drew him in.
Looking at these has reminded me of a quick bit of advice for aspiring artists.  Sooner or later, you'll likely come to discover someone who is seemingly infinitely better than you while possibly even being the same age.  I beg you not to feel discouraged when you come across this.  Instead, ask that person if they're willing to share with you the earliest of their drawings they still have.  If they agree, you're likely to get a pleasant surprise when you see how far they've come.  No one is born with artistic skill.  The type of skill these people have are well within reach of anyone who's willing to work for it.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Next Few Months Are Gonna Be Good

So, I've been thinking over the last few weeks about just how many significant games and movies had been released throughout the last year and how that still hasn't seemed to stop.
Certain things to be released in the coming months have piqued my interest greatly.  Later this month, we'll be seeing the releases of Red Steel 2 (OK, the first one wasn't very good at all, but the news and videos I've seen on the sequel are making it out to be quite awesome) and Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth (I love mystery games...I do wish they would've kept the name as Perfect Prosecutor: Miles Edgeworth though).  And next month comes the release of Pokemon: Heart Gold & Soul Silver; remakes of what were, in my opinion, the best Pokemon games.  I'm still undecided which of the two to get...may depend on what one a certain classmate gets.  Also in March, we're getting Mega Man 10 which is yet another big deal for me.
A bit later, June specifically, Transformers: War for Cybertron is set to be released.  A quality Transformers title is something I long to play, although I did enjoy the only slightly sub-par DS games for the 2007 and 2009 movies (never played the Animated one, though I would like to).
Finally, speaking of awesome things in June, the return of Futurama.  Anyone I know personally knows that I love this show to no end.  The direct-to-DVD movies are among the few movies of such nature to have actually garnered a decent amount of profit and the end result is that the television series will be returning in June.  Most fans are probably already aware of this, and that there was a since-resolved dispute between FOX and the original voice actors over their wages.  The original cast will be returning, which is just plain great news.
There are other titles, mostly games, that are coming soon as well that seem to have a lot of people excited...personally, they're not at the forefront of my mind but I'm keeping an eye on them nonetheless.  This post has simply been what is exciting me personally.
Well, thanks for reading.

Friday, February 5, 2010

A Note of Overlooked Gems Part 1

So, with not much to talk about tonight and in desperate need of a breather from...well...thinking, I decided to post about something that would be quick to type but still carry a bit of substance.  Every now and then, I'd like to draw attention to games, shows or movies that I've noticed seem mostly unknown but are still good enough that people should at least give them a quick try.
In this case, I'm going to focus on two NES games.
To start, let's take a look at Willow, the 1989 game based on the 1988 film of the same name.  Of course we're all aware of movie tie-ins tendency to be horrible and, honestly, I haven't even seen Willow (nor did I know it was a movie before I played the game).  Regardless, occasional exceptions come along and Willow is the earliest example I can think of.  Willow, much like the other game I'm going to mention, has a very Zelda-esque style; traversing environments from a top-down perspective, wielding a sword and shield, combat in the standard action-adventure formula.  What makes this game stand out is that the gameplay mechanics are a significant improvement over those used in the original Zelda game on the same system.  There are multiple sword attacks and you can actually walk in a diagonal path (the lack of which is a huge nuisance in The Legend of Zelda).  The graphics, as well, are significantly more detailed than those found in the first Zelda.  So, not only is Willow a good movie tie-in video game, but it even manages to out-perform the far more popular and renowned title.  Though it's no mystery that Zelda got the spotlight, particularly on account of first party support.
The next game is a bit better known (successful enough to warrant a Gameboy Color port in 2000) but I still find myself talking to several people who aren't aware of it:  Crystalis.  Everything Willow does right with the mechanics, Crystalis does even better.  The game falls a bit short in the visuals but that's not something people would often judge NES games on; Willow does look significantly better though.  Combining well-polished control with a simple but enticing story makes this game at least a 'must-try'.  If you know of a store that still carries Gameboy Color games, unlikely as that is, I recommend seeing if you can track down the port.  I'd say the same of the NES version, but it's probably far more unlikely you'd ever find a place that carries it.

Acquire these titles and enjoy.  Thank you.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

No More Heroes 2: Desperate Stuggle Review

Yep, it's finally here.

 

No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle Review

Well, after putting off playing the game for a while in order to focus on school, I have finally finished No More Heroes 2. 
One thing that's hard to avoid when reviewing sequels is comparing them to their predecessors.  It bugs me when a review will knock down a solid game just for not being quite as good as what came before it; and the opposite situation where the review will award too much for simple updates.  That said, I'll try to avoid these but there are comparisons I need to note.
First off, you might recall my previous 'First Impressions' post of the game.  All those notes still hold true upon playing through it.  It looks better graphically (and not because of the new breast physics...or not just because of them), the combat is more involved, the side-jobs are more fun and the removed 'open-world' is an improvement.  One should note that I don't necessarily consider the original a great game per se, but I still loved the experience.  As for the sequel, well, let's take a thorough look.
Upon starting the game, you learn that Travis has fallen from his spot (...without being killed...somehow) and has become a semi-believed urban legend.  Skelter Helter (brother of Helter Skelter, the rank 11 assassin Travis kills in the first game's intro) confronts Travis for revenge.  In this case, you get to play the intro fight and it gives you a simple but somewhat intrusive tutorial on how to play.  Here's where you get a feel of the new combat mechanics.  Mashing A is still your primary way of attacking but you have a couple added options.  When locked-on to and running at an opponent, swinging the remote will perform a spin attack (not like the one from Zelda, mind you).  Holding A will charge up your slash; a maneuver you don't find yourself using often throughout the game.  The biggest change I noticed was the fact that the boss battles are no longer a clear pattern of waiting for the enemy to attack, judging the opening after that attack, slashing away during that opening and then running away and waiting for the next opportunity.  In No More Heroes 2, you get the added bonus of having several chances to attack and combo the bosses; and this doesn't hinder the difficulty of most of them.
After the intro fight is over, you are reunited with Sylvia.  The game takes on an overwhelming tone here when it's revealed that you are now ranked the 51st assassin.  It becomes less overwhelming when you come to a boss fight that includes several of the assassins ranked above you.  The game quickly clarifies that there are not 50 boss fights.  However, there are more than 10 this time around.
The difficulty curve of the game is a little strange.  If you do a bare minimum of training at the gym (which I did), the first few bosses range from medium to pretty hard, whereas the next few are insanely easy.  There is also a mission near the end of the first half of the game in which you have to contend with several large enemies, most of which have chainsaws.  This level took a painstakingly long time having not trained enough (apparently) since it consisted of me performing a hit & run maneuver many, many times.  What the game does get right, among other things, is that the final boss is certainly the hardest which is a very welcome rarity.
The entire cast of bosses doesn't seem quite as original as the first game, but the ones that are memorable are very much so.  You will also see two halves of a familiar face in the rogue gallery.
Speaking of familiar faces, another couple of bosses reappear.  However, these show up as playable characters rather than enemies.  Their identities really aren't much of a secret but I want to avoid spoilers as much as possible.
A couple of the odd gameplay mechanics make a comeback, most notably the slot machine.  The power-ups are similar this time around, however a new one is worth mentioning.  A BAR-BAR-BAR roll results in transforming into a one-hit-killing tiger that has the enemies running scared.  A new addition in the form of a similar mechanic is the Ecstasy Meter.  In this case, powering up is not random but dependent on how many attacks you can get in a row without taking damage yourself.  A tiger in the lower-right of the screen will go through stages from sleeping to glowing red.  When glowing, you can press the - button to activate the power-up in which you take no damage and can attack with super-speed.  The power-up lasts until the tiger stops breathing fire.
The obvious joke of charging the sword has now been made even more obvious now that the battery meter, minimized and placed in the upper-right corner, includes a smiley-faced phallus that changes size depending on the charge of your beam katana.
Last but not least, the soundtrack.  The awesome main battle music from the first game makes a comeback along with some new tracks.  Among the new tracks is a J-pop remix of the aforementioned battle theme.  Personally, I'm not a fan of this remix but I'm sure some fans will enjoy it.  Most of the new material is great but not nearly as memorable as the original battle theme.
Closing Comments:  If you want to compare this game to the first No More Heroes, it is a significant update that definitely warrants a purchase if you are a fan.  Ignoring that, No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle stands firmly on its own merits.  It is simply a great game, barely short of perfecting the formula it uses.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Stress Lessened

So, in yesterday's post I mentioned that I'm buried in projects at the moment.  That remains true, however I managed to quickly lessen my workload by taking care of a couple assignments in one fell swoop earlier today.  Plus I worked out the timing for an animation in my 3D Animation class while watching Tarzan only a few moments ago.
In any case, with those accomplishments and a planned out mental schedule, I feel less stressed out and more comfortable taking a couple hours to myself over the next few days.
I expect to write my No More Heroes 2 review on Friday.  Thanks for reading.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Ugh...

 
Great post title, don't you think?
Anywho, my class is pretty much buried in work this week so my posts will likely be short and concise throughout.  I beat A Boy and His Blob on Sunday and I really don't have anything to add to my review.  I'm also nearing the end of No More Heroes 2, which I'll try to play during the 5 minutes of free time I'll have this week.
Erik out.