Month: March 2012


Get With the Modern Times

Hello friends and welcome once again to Patch Notes, now in our new slot on Fridays. What better way to spend a weekend that by checking out some of the fine DLC and patches that are available for your favorite games? Speaking of favorite games, this week I’m going to talk about an expansion to one of my favorite games: Tropico 4.

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War and Peace and Videogames

The last time I got into a fist fight was in junior high and I didn’t like it at all. As I grew up I tried to avoid violence as much as possible, and it worked. I went to a small high school where fights were uncommon and attended a university where serious, physical altercations were also pretty rare. I never had to hit anyone and I never had to get hit. Just the same, the fortune of being able to live a peaceful kind of life — the sort of life that isn’t uncommon to many North Americans — wasn’t echoed in a lot of the videogames my friends and I played.

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Naruto Shippūden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations (XBOX 360) Review 1

Naruto Shippūden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations (XBOX 360) Review

After 20+ fighting games centering around the Shonen Jump anime Naruto, we are treated to yet another with Naruto Shippūden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations.  The staple of cel-shaded graphics continues and surprisingly, looks better than ever and hasn’t lost its appeal. The menus and overall art direction have an expected, stylized anime charm that, while it may not work for everyone, knows its audience and targets it directly. If you’re at all a fan of the series, you’ll feel right at home with what’s offered.

Overall there is very little to complain about in Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations.  Visuals are graphically beautiful and appealing, the sound and music are suited perfectly for the subject matter, and the fighting feels true to the ninja inspired Naruto franchise.  Voice acting was spotty at points – but once again, consistent with the Naruto franchise.  There’s also a well implemented multiplayer system and extras like unlockables and bonuses given for simply playing the game – Naruto offers a lot to do for players in a concise package that knows exactly what it is and what its purpose is.

I jumped right into the very expansive story mode of Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations and was treated to a great introduction to the story through cut scenes taken right from the Naruto TV show.  After playing through a couple of single player scenarios that take individual characters through the series’ story line, I had a better impressions and understanding of who this game was made for.

The chief problem is the game does little to bring the non-Naruto game fan into the fold. It does an adequate job of bringing players up to speed on the backstory of the 70+ characters, but it assumes,  incorrectly in my case, that you’ve played the previous games and know how the mechanics work. Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations does a poor job of teaching the fighting mechanics while playing.  There are also many elements of gameplay that lack tutorials and learning the controls on your own can feel unintuitive.

Despite the anime/mange roots, there is a depth of gameplay with difficult combos and techniques that will surprise people expecting a breezy experience. When I first started playing the game I was unable to beat the first combatant, despite being very familiar with the pacing of fighting games and knowing when to block and when to attack.  After repeated attempts, I gave up and had to move the difficulty down to easy before continuing.  Even with the easier difficulty it was a struggle to win battles to continue the story.

It wouldn’t be fair for me to fault a game because my lack of skill – so I won’t.  But the experience as a whole is exclusive to a degree.  While Naruto does much to appeal to Naruto fans, that unattended audience is left a little too clueless about the fighting system with a lot of depth and an assumed familiarity with the particulars of the engine. Naruto Shippūden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations is a fundamentally well-constructed game that suffers from relying too much on familiarity with the game franchise itself. Beyond that we are left with a purpose built game that delivers on nearly all fronts.

Crafting Ideas:  An Interview with CraftStudio's Elisée Maurer

Crafting Ideas: An Interview with CraftStudio’s Elisée Maurer

Taking at-home game creation to the next level is French game designer Elisée Maurer.  With inspiration from games like Minecraft and other ‘make-your-own’ games, Maurer’s latest project CraftStudio is looking to simplify, and most importantly, streamline the process of making a gamer’s vision come true.  Maurer, like many others, has chosen a crowdfunding endevour to try and build the funds to create CraftStudio.  Comics and Gaming was able to speak to him about what CraftStudio does, and how he is going to do it.

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CG Podcast March 30, 2012

This week on the CGPodcast the crew talk more about the Mass Effect Ending outcry. They look into the new PS4 and what this system would mean for the gaming industry as a whole. Brendan and Wayne dig deep into why Silent Hill: Downpour could possibly be the best Silent Hill since 3 and Tim talks about why Ninja Gaiden 3 is crazy but still fun in all the insanity. All this and more!

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Wrath of the Titans (2012) Review

If you like seeing giant CGI monsters take on vaguely disinterested human actors, then you’ll be pleased to hear that 2010’s forgettable Clash Of The Titans rehash now has a sequel. The last movie made the fatal mistake of trying to play camp straight, taking a ludicrous 1981 fantasy epic known for it’s classic stop motion effects and indeliberate hilarity and somehow turning into a lifeless, serious bore. Wrath Of The Titans merely offers more of the same.

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A Ridiculously Late eShop Update

Hello dear readers. You’ve probably spent the last month desperately awaiting (aka barely noticing the absence of) a new Nintendo Nerd blog. Well, the good news is that I’m finally back. With a big wave of new releases for the thriving 3DS and dying Wii, there hasn’t been much in the way of new announcements from the big N. I’m certain that’s all being saved for an E3 onslaught. However, in the prolonged silence about Nintendo’s future they have been cranking out some strong content to keep their fans happy. The big physical media releases have all gotten reviews that you can sniff out elsewhere on this site, but it’s also worth mentioning that Nintendo has released some fan-friggin-tastic downloadable content for the 3DS as well.

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Ka-Zar by Mark Waid & Andy Kubert Volume 2 Review

Ka-Zar by Mark Waid & Andy Kubert Volume 2 Review

If you’re looking for an offbeat collection of stories to read, you can’t get much more offbeat than this collection of Mark Waid and Andy Kubert’s run on Ka-Zar, from 1997.  This collection’s contents include Ka-Zar #8-14 and Ka-Zar Annual ’97, with the majority of the artwork being done by Andy Kubert, with some assists by Walter McDaniel, Louis Small Jr. and Aaron Lopresti.  This is definitely some of the weirdest stuff to come out of Marvel Comics during the late ‘90s period, and it’s easy to see why, when you have a character like Ka-Zar taking on none other than Thanos.  To say that these two characters aren’t even close on a power scale isn’t doing it justice, but that’s just what you have here, as Ka-Zar finds his brother in cahoots with Thanos, who’s trying to get himself free of a dimension that he’s stuck in.

The scripting by Mark Waid is all over the place here, as he does some experimentation that yields intriguing results, ranging from good to bad, with some ugly thrown in for good measure.  Most of my personal experience with Ka-Zar is formed from his team-ups with other heroes, plus this series, so I don’t know much of his relationship with his brother, Parnival, but I can’t stand the character as he is written in this book.  Waid plays up the ridiculousness of the character quite a bit, and when finally Parnival is dispatched, I breathed a sigh of relief that we were spared more of that character, at least for the time being.  Waid explores just why Ka-Zar is having personal issues, with regards to technology, and his sudden craving of it, and it definitely helps to define the character a bit, as well as his relationship with Shanna.  Shanna as written here is an extremely strong-willed, powerful woman, and I love how she acts with Ka-Zar, especially when he finally tells her what he’s realized about himself and his issue with technology.  She’s a far cry from most female superheroes, in that she’s uncompromising and very strong-willed.  Waid writes Ka-Zar and Shanna quite well together.

The story takes a bunch of twists and turns, as Parniva Plunder / Thanos transport the Savage Land into New York City, giving the term Urban Jungle a new twist.  The plots are big and crazy, but Waid has fun with the premise, moving through it quickly, as a means to an end in the plot.  The fallout from the big Thanos story finds Shanna changed quite a bit, which  brings the High Evolutionary into the picture, suddenly intrigued by the changes that have  been wrought in Shanna.

The biggest draw in this collection, for me personally, was the artwork by Andy Kubert.  Ever since I first saw his artwork, he has been my preferred Kubert brother, and his artwork here is absolutely incredible.  I loved his work on X-Men, but his work here surpasses it because there’s so much more going on visually thanks to the script by Waid.  There’s tremendous amounts of action and adventure, and he brings it all to life wonderfully.  His Shanna and Ka-Zar are supremely ripped and athletic looking, the best renditions of the characters that I’ve ever seen.  This is some of the best work I’ve seen from Andy Kubert, and if you’re  a fan of his artwork, you must pick up this collection, if only for that.  He makes this book come alive, and gives the absurd premise some much-needed artistic grounding, which makes it far more enjoyable, entertaining and exciting.

This is definitely a strange storyline and book to have merited a collection, but I’m really glad it did, as I get to experience Ka-Zar’s fight against Thanos once again, and see Ka-Zar tame the urban jungle.

Grimm Fairy Tales Presents The Jungle Book #1 Review

Grimm Fairy Tales Presents The Jungle Book #1 Review

This issue is the first Zenescope Entertainment comic that I’ve read all-the-way through in quite some time, and I must admit to having been pleasantly surprised by what I found.  Unsurprisingly, Zenescope’s twist on The Jungle Book has some obvious alterations, such as Mowgliii being recast as a gorgeous girl, but aside from that aesthetic change this is a very engaging and enjoyable adaptation of a classic story.

This issue focuses on the origin of Mowglii, and puts several different twists on a story which readers only thought that they knew.  In Zenescope’s version, Mowglii isn’t the only child to wind up in the Jungle, as he appears along with a few other babies in the middle of a great war within the Jungle between various different animal factions.  Bagheera, wanting to end the bloodshed, calls the appearance of the children an omen, and convinces the factions to suspend all fighting, with the concession being that each major faction takes one of the human babies with them.  In Mowglii’s case, she never finds out that she wasn’t the only one found, instead believing that she was an only child.

Much of this issue focuses on the original arrival of Mowglii to the Jungle, which means that there’s less of the present-day adventuers of Mowglii that are seen in these pages.  To be perfectly honest, I think I was surprised at just how solid and enjoyable this story was. Sure, some of the artwork is cheesecake, but it’s totally forgiveable when reading the story by Miller, Gregory, Brusha and Tedesco.  It can be tough to retell classic stories, yet Zenescope makes it seem so effortless, as they managed to totally suck me into this new retelling of a classic story.  I can`t wait to see what happens next in this book, to see how the different factions are further developed, to see what happened to the other human children, and to see further characterization of Bagheera, Shere Khan and Baloo, amongst others.  There are a lot of different directions that the writers could go in, as they have a veritable blank slate, and I can’t wait to see what other new spins they might have in store for the readers.

The artwork is key for an issue like this, as most of the characters are going to be animals instead of human beings.  For some artists, it can be hard to not only illustrate animals, but also manage to draw distinctive-looking animals for the renditions of certain characters.  Thankfully this isn’t an issue at all for Granda, as the artwork here is absolutely gorgeous.  Buenaventura is a big part of this as well, as they do a terrific job of colouring this issue.  The issue is eye-popping, with lush, beautiful backgrounds, and tremendous colouring talent evident.  The colours are vibrant, and have a very light and bright tone . It’s interesting, it wasn’t until after reading this issue that I realized just how dark most modern comics have gotten, in terms of their colouring, a feeling which is further exacerbated when a few colourists set the colouring tone for each of the Big Two comic book companies.  So when you get a comic which has a totally different colour palette, which really embraces rich colours to flesh out a jungle background, it’s a special experience, and a memorable one . Although at first it’s easy to dismiss Zenescope’s decision to make Mowglii as typical given some of their books’ content, especially considering some of their covers for their books, the interior art is actually quite tasteful, and toned down.  The decision to make Mowglii female may just be arbitrary, but given how the issue is written, it doesn’t seem to have been an exploitive decision, for which I’m thankful.

This was a surprising read for me, a really solid new take on the Jungle Book, which managed to subvert all of my expectations, and instead tell a solid new twist on an old classic, with beautiful artwork boasting lush, vibrant colours.  Highly Recommended!

The Darkness #101 Review

The Darkness #101 Review

Before I start my review, I must confess that this is actually the first issue of The Darkness that I’ve ever read.  I’m not entirely sure how this happened, but it’s the truth.  That being said, I still have a surface familiarity with the Darkness, as well as the characters that have passed through his corner of the Image/Top Cow Universe.  Thankfully, this issue seems designed to operate as a jumping-on point of sorts, as it gives the reader plenty of exposition to sink their teeth into, in case it’s their fist issue of this title.  Not being a long-time reader it’s hard to gauge how this issue would read for them, but from what I can tell it almost feels like a relaunch of the character somewhat, given the story which unfolds in the prologue to this story, showing how decisions were made recently in this universe which led to a rebirth of sorts for the universe.

There are some strong story beats to be found within this issue, as Jackie is forced to confront the evil of the Darkness, and try to extricate himself from it for the good of us family after he receives an ultimatum.  However, despite all attempts to do so, and rid it from his soul, it may not have been as successful as hoped, as his most cherished member of his family is put into mortal danger.

The characterization for the Darkness/Jackie felt like it lacked a strong authorial  voice, as it felt like the character waffled a fair bit throughout the issue.  He comes off as strong to those who he is the boss to, but then when he comes home, the power shifts immediately, and as a result Jackie as a character starts to lack a sense of self for the reader to really identify with. The parts of the issue dealing with Jackie trying to get rid of the Darkness are among the strongest aspects of the issue, as it’s almost treated like overcoming a drug addiction, albeit one that has infested and infected your soul.

The artwork was definitely not what I expected from an Image Comic, as it lacked some of the sheen and polish I thought I would find, but this is a good thing.  The artwork is moody and atmospheric, and that’s a perfect fit for the tone that this script is attempting to harness.

From a new reader perspective, there’s a bit of an information dump to be had in this issue, but it’s important to get a grasp on this new iteration of the Darkness, and to understand the choice that he makes here, and also to get context as to why he makes the choice, and how the negative affects of that choice could ultimately affect Jackie going forwards.  The issue didn’t blow me away, neither with the story or art, but it was still a decent outing, which served in the jump-on-issue function.

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