Saturday, April 16, 2011

Weekly Sharing

So, let's kick this off with a catchy musical number.

Batman The Brave and The Bold:  Birds of Prey

Brave and The Bold has officially rivaled Animaniacs in the realm of 'getting crap passed the censors'.

On a less interesting note, something occurred to me last week as I read some of my old comics, among them a volume of the Dragon Ball Z manga.  I think I may prefer manga to western comics just a little bit.  I'm not sure if I've ever made my stance on anime clear but to be simple:  For the most part, I don't like anime.  There are certainly series I like but there are many many more that I can't stand.
Anyway, that's what made it odd that I found myself enjoying the manga more than the western comics I own.  I thought about it for a little while and I came up with the three main reasons I think bring about this preference:

1.  Formatting.  I can't say I've ever been confused or lost while reading a manga, and the panels are usually shaped and organized in a way that do an at least decent job of accentuating what they tell.  On the western side it's a bit of a crapshoot.  You might get something with solid presentation but you might end up with a total mess of panels and words, older Marvel X-Men comics being a particularly good example of this.  I can think of a few where the formatting is just downright horrible; speech bubbles and narration boxes litter the pages so densely that it's near impossible to figure out what you should read first or the layout of the pages were just incredibly boring and/or ugly.  Classic though the story may be, The Dark Knight Returns is a prominent example of extremely dull formatting.

2. Continuity.  A simple matter.  I've never encountered a manga where I've had to know 80 years worth of continuity to make sense out of everything.  Plus, even when I know the stories, it can get frustrating when some writers refuse to ignore some of the worst pre-existing plot threads that should have been forgotten forever.

3. Rob Liefeld doesn't draw any manga.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Tradition-Breaking Villain? I hope so.

Alright, so back to stuff on my inkling of a comic idea that's been growing exponentially as of late, I recently completed another digital clean-up of the character Rajan, the big bad of the story.  As for tradition, when I went through designing him, I wanted to contrast with the established traditions of villainous character design.  In particular, I intentionally avoided the overused and tired aspect of making the villain's features more angular.  Rajan actually has the softest curves to the jawline out of any of the major, male characters.
Well, anyway, here's the image:

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

What was it?

Hey, look at this! A mid-week update!
 So, I recently played through The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and, as I've mentioned in the past, it's absolutely not my favourite Zelda title (in high contrast to the majority of the fans).  However, I can't argue that it was certainly the most revolutionary title in the series.  In fact, the first 3D game in a to-date-2D franchise being good would have to be revolutionary for that franchise.
Playing it got me thinking:  What was it that made this game such a big experience for so many people?  How come subsequent games which are, in my opinion, superior video games haven't been able to replicate the same effect?  After only completing the first dungeon, it hit me.  The reason is actually very simple:  Where some franchises made the transfer to 3D graphics conservatively (or just poorly), Ocarina of Time made full use of the added dimension right from the get-go.
In the Great Deku Tree, the main room is a tall open-ended tower with several floors in sight.  Not only was this just awesome to see when the game was brand new, it was also a key element in progressing through the dungeon.  For the people who don't know what I'm talking about (all 5 of them), there's a hole on the first floor covered with a web; you have to make your way to the top floor of the room and leap off the ledge and land on the web in order to break through it.
That's the first significant puzzle in the entire game and it involves clever use of height, gravity, velocity and impact, things which could not be effectively presented in a 2D world.
As the game progresses, it only continues to make clever use of its now incredibly primitive 3D graphics, and that is what I believe made the game such a big deal.  Of course, there were some other bits too that helped.
The presentation, to start, was masterfully executed.  The cut-scenes of the game use surprisingly well-thought-out cinematography that always emphasizes the point of the accompanying dialogue.  And again, this shines through right from the beginning of the game.  When Link first approaches the Great Deku Tree, the camera shifts to an angle near the ground, looking up, emphasizing a feeling of large size, authority and power; all characteristics of the speech-capable tree.  Later, after completing the first 3 dungeons, you of course have to live out the actual events of Link's recurring, prophetic nightmare.  That moment when you see Ganondorf, up close and personal, mounted on his horse, uses a similar camera angle, invoking a feeling of a powerful presence.  As well, when you see Link during this cut-scene, the camera looks down on him.  It shows both the simple fact that Ganondorf is taller than him as well as makes Link look "small" in the sense that his strength can't compare to the villain.
In fact, thinking back on it now, the story in Ocarina of Time is a totally average story.  There's really nothing that special about it.  But the beautiful presentation made it feel special.  It was, to our young selves, the most epic, fantastical and engaging story of all time.

I could probably go on for ages and this, rather than some rambling thoughts, would turn into a full-blown Outdated Review.  Instead, I'll leave it as is; my feelings on what made the "Best Game of All Time" (Nintendo Power) so great.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Time to Retire a Couple Old Friends

Well, looks like it's off to Kijiji with my DS lite and DSi.  Earlier today, I caved and picked up a 3DS.  So looks promising.  I decided against buying any 3DS games just yet so I wouldn't be too distracted from my homework in the coming weeks.  Street Fighter and Monkey Ball top my to-buy list for the launch titles though.
As for my impressions so far:
+Analog circle-pad is great; very responsive and comfortable. The only similar mechanism I've ever used was the circle-pad on the PSP which was garbage and had that horrible texture that felt like rubbing your thumb on a tiny cheese-grater.

+Aforementioned circle-pad works retroactively with DS games. While a lot of DS games don't really benefit too much, there's a few that are definitely more comfortable with it (Mario Kart and Mario 64). Unfortunately, since Mario 64 DS was designed with only a D-pad or awkward touch-screen proxy-analog-pad in mind, it can't detect how far the circle-pad is being pushed. But pressing Y to run is a small price to pay for the added comfort.

+3D effect works perfectly. I haven't seen anything that looks like it comes out of the screen yet, but I've seen plenty of depth (which I honestly prefer, strongly).

+I've rekindled my love for Mii-making.

+Face Raiders is a lot of fun, very simple-minded fun but fun all the same.

-Much like when I see a movie in 3D, I still get this weird feeling in my eyes that feels like my eyes aren't focused even though they are. It tends to go away after a half-hour or so.

-The cameras are terrible. The DSi had pretty crappy cameras but they were still usable in dim lighting. I can't do any of the augmented reality card stuff until tomorrow on account of I'll need daylight for it.

-No alarm. The hell? Why is there no alarm? I've been using my DS's for alarm clocks since I first got one! As unusual as this seems, I really have no alternative. My cell phone is really old and other than that, I have a stopwatch that's way too quiet to wake me up.

So yeah, those are my feelings about the system so far. I'm very excited for some of the upcoming titles, with particular focus on the confirmed Mario, Sonic, Zelda and Bomberman games.
And with that little spiel, I'm out until next week.  Ciao.