Gameplay is set up in such a way that you'll find yourself playing it over and over again. And if you'd like to use up more of your creative juices, you can create your own levels. I find this feature to be quite innovative, but building a wholly functional and exciting level may take some planning and time for those not to savvy in those respects.
Nevertheless, LBP is incredibly addictive and is anything but monotonous. Though story mode may be a bit short, you'll want to make several return visits to grab all the stickers and decorations. There are also several 2-player only sections, so you'll want to grab a friend to get all the goodies. The fun doesn't end there as LBP's online capabilities are well developed. I've logged in countless times now and have never experienced any lag. Though when you start getting 4 people playing at once, the camera can get quite cumbersome, but it's nothing too tragic.
LPB is too cute for its own good and the visual clarity boosts that aspect even more. Not only can you customize what your SackBoy or SackGirl sports, but you can also change its facial expressions. I count 12 expressions of sad, happy, nervous, and angry. I don't know about you, but I can't imagine a Kratos SackBoy who is constantly smiling. And speaking of SackBoy costumes, here's a look at some downloadble costumes coming in the near future.
UPDATE (10/30/2008): "Launch" Spacesuit and Halloween Mask will be available for free from Nov. 6-19. Seasonal, Limited Time Only and Community Costumes will be free. Regular SackBoy costumes will cost 99 cents each and Premium SackBoys which include Solid Snake and Sephiroth will cost $1.99 each. Bundles will also be available.
So you can imagine my amazement when negative remarks started surfacing over the Fallout 3 ads and their depiction of a war-ravaged DC. The first few I heard, I just glossed over. Sure there will always be the few that won't be too happy with this. But this is ridiculous and has gotten way out of hand. In a recent letter to the editor in The Washington Post, yet another metro rider who's not too keen with the ads wrote that the Fallout 3 ads are so disturbing that they should be taken down.
"The people of our city do not need a daily reminder that Washington is a prime target for an attack. We do not need a daily reminder of what our worst fears look like."This gets me so angry and each day I go to work and see the ads, I only wish I could enjoy them to the fullest. Go Fallout 3!! Kotaku author Owen Good, gets to the heart of my argument perfectly. First of all, these advertisements are part of a contract and help ensure that me and all the other metro riders don't have to pay an insane amount of money to ride the train. But hell, maybe I'm the only one who doesn't care if fares keep increasing. And, I highly doubt the WMATA would want to break their contract. People, it's an ad for a video game. Just "because someone chooses to see it as 'a reminder of what our worst fears look like,' doesn't make it that. It's the same culture-of-fear garbage retailed by our government to the mainstream media for the past seven years, and I'm sick and tired of it." Utterly ridiculous! [Source: Kotaku]
You may remember that Viz Media, in conjunction with T.U.K., sold limited edition pairs of "Bleach" shoes. It would be nice to add the guitar next to these shoes, but that seems unlikely. So for now, I'll stick with the shoes.
But thing's aren't as they seem, as she discovers that Harvey is a bit different from her. He is one of the Undying. Eighty years ago, a race of immortal soldiers, known as the Undying, were crafted from the corpses of the battlefield, to fight a bloody war. Since then, Harvey has roamed the world. Kieli, Harvey, and his possessed radio, are set for an adventure. "Kieli" was a surprising treat. A bit of "Kino" meets "Bleach" (in tone, at least), the story already has a nice collection of characters with very different personalities. Volume 1 ends with a lot of potential. The mood seems a bit light-hearted and comedic, and this element makes it an interesting complement to the dark and serious backstory. Looks like "Kieli" is definitely another one to add to my manga list.
This beautiful piece of machinery was available for auction on eBay, (which includes a plethora of pics including several showing Kojima's "ooooh" reaction) along with a bonus bag of rare MGS gear. Just check out the list below:
- A GA-KO Alarm Clock
- The Complete Four Bottle Set of Revive 24 energy drive with all Four Limited MGS4 Items imported from Japan
- Metal Gear Solid 4 Special Edition T-Shirt
- Custom Embroidered Otacon Patch
- Custom Made Fox Hound Vinyl Decal
- Hardcover Limited Edition MGS4 Strategy Guide with Solid Snake Lithograph
- World Tour - Launch Day Dog Tags
- Custom made full size Fox Hound Hardcase for the PS3 and Accessories
Winning bid ended at a little over $17,000! Most definitely a purchase worth making for any MGS and Kojima fan. [Source: Gizmodo]
This figure boasts at about 10 inches and features Sebastian Michaelis, butler and servant to Ciel Phantomhive, the twelve year old master of the family. The pose is quite reminiscent of Sebastian and his identifiable gloved hand brandishing some demonic powers of the underworld. This exclusive figure is retailed at about $70. I myself have been having a hard time landing one, so if anybody has any info., please let me know. Square Enix Japan has already sold out.
UPDATE (12/14/2008): Great news! Great news people...at least for me. I finally have my very own figure of Sebastian. Seeing it face to face, it is even better than the photos *squeal*.
"Kill," the anthology of action sequences created by Mamoru Oshii, will premiere on October 19. Oshii's three directorial colleagues, Kenta Fukasaku, Takanori Tsujimoto, and Minoru Tahara, will appear at the screening with their cast. Fujiro Mitsuishi's live-action adaptation of "Osaka Hamlet" manga will screen for the first time on October 21 and October 24. Mitsuishi will make an appearance at the first showing. The much anticipated anime adaptation of "Hells Angels" manga will also debut on October 18, with some awesome guest appearances. [Source: ANN]
Straying away from the blood and gore of dismemberments and decapitations, Volume 6 pushes the plot on high gear, finally giving long-time fans a clearer and developed plot -- in short, answers and huge revelations. Otsuka outdoes himself stuffing a single volume with so much greatness. Transfer of multiple personalities and the theory of complements are demonstrated jump-starting the original ecstasy fans felt the first time they picked up MPD Psycho.
Twelve years have passed since the last Mega Man game. The ninth installment pins Dr. Light, Mega Man's creator, as the source of a robotic rampage. It seems the tables have turned and Dr. Wily has no apparent connection to the attacks. Mega Man sets off to prove Dr. Light's innocence and expose Dr. Wily's true intentions. "Mega Man 9" just goes to show you -- why change something that doesn't need improvement? In the spirit of Mega Man and Mega Man 2, we have just the bare basics to work with -- no power slide. Seemingly identical visuals, gameplay, stage select, and a stellar soundtrack any Mega Man fan would appreciate. And speaking of soundtrack, it's thumbs way up as usual. If you're over 20 years old and haven't downloaded Mega Man 9, take my advice and get it now. It's been out for about a month now, and I'm sorry I only got to it now. Capcom's attention to detail and even putting intentional bugs, brings back memories of the old days.
The staff list looks to be a mighty one indeed and most seem to have had some kind of role in Oshii's Ghost in the Shell films. Joining Oshii, Mizuho Nishikubo (animation director of the GITS films) will be taking the role of director. Nishikubo also directed the "Otogi Zoshi" TV series. Animation director Kazuto Nakazawa (Samurai Champloo and Kill Bill: Volume 1) is set for character design. Kazuchika Kise (Blood+, GITS, and Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone) as animation director and supervisor; Shuichi Hirata (GITS 2, Metropolis) in art design; and Makoto Endo (Blood+ and GITS:SAC) in computer animation.
The story will center on Musashi Miyamoto, one of the most famous swordsmen in Japanese history. He pioneered the Hyōhō Niten Ichi-ryū style of two-sword fighting and wrote The Book of Five Rings, a book that has been compared to Sun Tzu's The Art of War for its insight on tactics and strategy.
Entitled "Ninokuni: The Another World," you play as a 13-year-old boy whose mother has died because of his actions. One day, a fairy appears before the boy and gives him a book which promises to lead him to the mysterious world of Ni no Kuni. In this parallel world, which exists in a different time frame from the real world, the boy attempts to save his mother. Players will be able to travel between both worlds and will meet characters that also exist in the parallel world. This past Tokyo Game Show brought us an awesome look at the box set (crossing my fingers that the set makes it to the U.S.) and an amazing trailer.
Another hobby convention, World Hobby Festival, held its last event on May 5. Still another hobby convention, JAF-CON, has relabeled itself as Hobby Expo and has now been folded into the C3xHobby event. [Source: Yacolog via ANN]
On display were two beautiful Vampire Hunter D busts - one in a gorgeous mono variant (black and white) and the other in a color variant. The busts were sculpted by Tim Bruckner who said that bringing Amano's art forward in 3-D was "the assignment of a lifetime." Both busts are 8.5" tall, packaged in a deluxe full color box, and retailed at $74.99. The color variant will be released January 21, 2009, while the limited edition monochromatic style paint will be released a week later, on January 28th. Pre-orders are now open at tfaw.com.
Moving on, you may remember a certain poster that was specially commissioned for the 20th year anniversary of Dark Horse publishing manga, which featured a calligraphy-style illustration by renowned aritst Yoshitaka Amano. If you've seen it, then you know what I mean. It is stunning in its simplicity and how it "captures the elusive spirit of creativity." By popular demand, Amano-san agreed to allow Dark Horse to produce a special collector's edition of the piece as a lithograph (18" x 24") for collectors - signed and numbered. Limited to 250 pieces, this Amano Limited Edition Print is set to be released October 27 for $200.00. But as a NYAF exclusive, Dark Horse brought a couple with them for sale way before the release date. In keeping with the spirit of the VHD-themed con, oh who am I kidding, you know I jumped for it, I grabbed my # 78 signed Amano Limited Edition Print and made sure it was safely in my posession till I got home. Thank you Michael Gombos!
The website promises that the second movie will feature the fan-favorite character Asuka, the EVA-02 unit, "new Evangelions," "added items previously unknown to anyone," "a shocking new story, and new visuals." [Source: ANN]
Ever since I finished Silent Hill 4: The Room, I've been anxiously waiting for the franchise's fifth installment. Each Silent Hill game thus far has felt progressive
yet connected. I'm saddened to report that Homecoming doesn't exactly reach the level of intensity I had built it up to be. Now don't get me wrong, overall as I will soon explain, Homecoming is a fantastic game. But I feel like it loses a lot of brownie points for not getting one of the biggest elements of Silent Hill completely right -- the emotional and psychological horror. Though this level of satisfaction is probably due to the extremely high bar I place when it comes to Silent Hill.
You play as Alex Shepherd, a recently discharged soldier who has been plagued with disturbing dreams that revolve around his younger brother Joshua. He eventually gets back to his hometown of Shepherd's Glen, only to discover its horrible state -- people are missing and the town is ravaged by strange creatures. As Alex investigates his family's disappearance and the incidents going on, secrets and his connection to Silent Hill are slowly revealed.
Great in theory, a bit of a slow start, just a tad predictable in some parts, and throws a great punch on the second half of the game. As far as past characters go, the only icon that has a reasonable role in Homecoming was Pyramid Head and boy did he send nostalgic shivers down my spine with his first appearance. Gameplay is also a bit different. We've still got puzzle action scattered around, and there are a few button press mechanics a la "God of War" making Homecoming a bit more action-oriented. Unlike the previous Silent Hill protagonists like Heather or James, Alex is trained in combat. After all, he is a soldier and you definitely see the difference with his effective combat skills, not to mention his dodging skills. This also makes the game even less scarier in the first half, as I found myself not scrounging around and making sure I have ammo and health drinks reserved. But at the same time, it was sort of nice to play as a character that wasn't completely helpless, whether or not this saps the fearful energy or not.
That being said, the situation makes a 360 degree change in the second half. I felt myself saying, "Now, this is the Silent Hill I know, beautifully grotesque." Despite Alex's accurate combat skills, you quickly will realize the lack of sufficient health drinks or first aid kits, almost never enough ammo, and no where near enough save points. The latter being my biggest frustration, after the absence of health drinks. Every time I felt like I had a good stopping point to take a break, I was forced to continue playing -- I had gone too far to start from my last save point, and there wasn't a save point near enough the corner.
What Homecoming does spectacularly well is in its visuals and soundtrack. The visuals are stunning with lots of detail work and sharp contrast. They are definitely note-worthy. Though not 100% perfect, it is quite beautiful. There are even some noticeable techniques from the movie such as the environment transformation from the real world to the other world. As always and with no surprise here, the pure genius of Akira Yamaoka is evident. In fact, it is the biggest highlight of Homecoming. It is safe to say that the soundtrack was simply too good for the actual game. Eerie and atmospheric, it conveyed a world much scarier than the game had to offer.
While I feel I was very negative in this review, I still enjoyed the game and would nevertheless recommend it to all devoted Silent Hill fans. Of course, for said fans, I'm sure you already have the game. This isn't to say that Homecoming isn't an emotionless game. It still manages to provide a scary and tense experience, just not to the highest degree imaginable. It ties nicely to the Silent Hill franchise without trying to tell a completely separate story or try to "advance" it horribly. Homecoming is a nice story, awesome graphics, stellar soundtrack, great gameplay, and overall a nice experience. It was perhaps the enormous level of anticipation and expectations, that maybe made the experience rank a little lower on the horror scale. But I will say, I felt like the end was short and abrupt, it took me a while to take it all in, to finally reach approval and satisfaction.
I've read a few reviews and the overall thoughts of the game are anything but unanimous. So in cases like these, I think it's best to judge it for yourself. [Edited: 10/13/2008]
After the con started to close up on Sunday, I headed over to Kinokunia Bookstore on 6th Ave. between 41st and 42nd street. I had some time to kill till the dinner and I figured why not, where would be the best place to go after an anime convention? I started to check out the import manga, managed to find the 7th volume of "Vampire Knight," and picked up the 6th domestic volume of "MPD Psycho." Within ten minutes or so, Kinokuniya became flooded with NYAF con-goers. Guess great minds think alike. Once I got my full, I started the muggy trail to the Jekyll and Hyde Club on 58th street. Peter Tatara and I approached the entrance almost simultaneously, then the fun began.
The Jekyll and Hyde Club is a horror-themed restaurant that was the perfect setting for the creator of the "Vampire Hunter D" series. Peter figured this decision would either be a big flop or a big hit, and fortunately it was that latter. The atmosphere was very interactive as waiters/actors were constantly in character. Mad scientists and talking masks made for a great show. Though I wish the setup was in the form of a big round table, rather than one long line of tables, I was able to chat a little with everyone, including two representatives from Dark Horse, Michael Gombos and Mark Bernardi. I was also able to chat with one of the writers behind Reverse Thieves , who was without his partner in crime. He was fun to talk to and one day I will make him play "Portal." There was one fan there that was dressed as D - she did an awesome job with her costume.
Unfortunately, Yoshitaka Amano was unable to join us for the dinner. I think he wasn't feeling well (I didn't get the whole story) and was going to try and make it a little later. In the end, though, Amano didn't show up, but Peter did promise everyone that they would get sketches from Amano due to his absence. Having dinner with a handful of fans, finally getting to meet Peter in person, and of course hanging out with Kevin Leahy and Hideyuki Kikuchi was an awesome experience. Lots of laughs, a firework sparkling cake, great company, and sketches of Kukuchi's own rendition of "Chibi D," made this a night to remember. The experience was worth every penny and definitely one for the books.
For more pics, check out NYAF's staff blog, Medium-At-Large.
To recap, the collection of guests, varying in industries, was truly spectacular and definitely proved to be the main highlight of NY Anime Fest. We had Illustrator Yoshitaka Amano, Writer Hideyuki Kikuchi, representatives and designers from Baby, The Stars Shine Bright, Iron Chef Masharu Morimoto, Voice Actress Rie Tanaka, Artist Ryo Moto, and plenty more. NYAF 2008 also brought about Karaterice's Far East to East Showcase (FETE) which featured a full concert line-up and a slew of musical acts including BakuBeni, echostream, Falsies on Heat, MiniRex, Notorious MSG, Quaff, and Tsu Shi Ma Mi Re. Other musical guests included Voltaire, MC Chris, Love etc., and HAPPYFUNSMILE.
What better way to enjoy a huge con such as this, than in VIP style. Armed with my Vampire Hunter D VIP pass, I was ready for action. I've already covered the major industry panels in previous posts, so I won't go too much into them here. But the panels that stood out the most would be the Vampire Hunter D-related panels featuring Hideyuki Kikuchi, Yoshitaka Amano, and Kevin Leahy.
Though the trio really haven't spent much time together, it was great to see them all in one room interacting with each other. Good news for avid VHD fans, Kikuchi is not losing any steam. He is truly a writer at heart and is determined to write until he can't write anymore. The VHD saga will continue on so long as he remains. This statement is not surprising if you've read his works. It's quite the experience and I've always admire the level of detail in everything he does. Yoshitaka Amano has a very fun, light personality and in one of the panels, when his "Heroes" line of work came up, he mentioned wanting to do a story of a different kind of hero: Tako-man (Octopus Man). In his explanation, he was very animated and I felt privledged to be sitting so close to a legend such as him.
The duo is quite an interesting pair and when asked about the process of doing the illustrations in conjunction with the novel, there were some differing opinions. Kikuchi claims that Amano chooses which scenes he does illustrations of, but Amano claimed that he doesn't make the choices either. There are several factors that determine which scenes get drawn and a part of it lies with Mr. Ishii, the Japanese editor and the pacing of the book. The panels were stuffed with some much information, that I feel if I go on much longer, I won't end. So I'd better move on.
As an added bonus, a special reading of the Vampire Hunter D short story, The Wanderer's Ship, was performed after the panel. The reading was done by voice actors Veronica Taylor, Tom Wayland, Rachel Lillis, and Mike Sinterniklaas.
Just to give another example of the con's true versatility and its aim of covering everything Japanese, NYAF 2008 hosted the first ever Lolita Fashion Show. It was a rare treat to see lolita fashions straight from the source - Japan's Baby, The Stars Shine Bright.
On the merchant side of things, there was plenty to see. Exhibition booths lined up a huge chunk of the main floor, to the point where if you're not careful, you may just end up spending your entire time (and money) in the exhibition hall alone. While the manga end didn't seem as big as I would have imagined, the anime poured over. Funimation and Bandai had a great setup. Bandai, especially, as it was free stuff galore in the midst of performing the "Lucky Star" dance. Plushes, figures, cosplay and props, fashion, video games, and a nice artist alley made up the rest of the hall. And whenever you needed to take a breather, you could take a short visit to the Maid Cafe.
As you can imagine with a con of this proportion, the cosplay was anything but boring or redundant. I was most impressed with a Death Note Ryuk cosplayer, and some of the Gurren Lagann folks.
Since I was busy having a blast at the Hideyuki Kikuchi Birthday Party Dinner on Sunday, I was unable to attend the after-party at Morimoto's restaurant. I'm sure that was another awesome way to end the con. Overall and as expected, NYAF 2008 was a huge success. Careful planning from Peter and his team definitely paid off, and was a massive improvement, hands-down, from last year. The autograph session was very organized, the programming was packed and varied, and it seemed they improved on their shuttle availability. As I prepare for Anime USA, I think it's still safe to say that NYAF 2008 has got to be the con of the year. No regrets here.
For even more pics, check out the links below:
NYAF 2008 - General
Vampire Knight/Death Note Cosplay
Lolita Fashion Show
more links to come soon...