Friday, March 28

Another Mortal Kombat Klone

I came home with a new Xbox game, Tao Feng: Fist of the Lotus. It's a fighting game in the vein of the popular Mortal Kombat series (which had a bit of a resurgence recently thanks to an exceptional new installment). This translates into an atmosphere that is heavy with martial arts/oriental mysticism, gaudy costumes and lots of brutal, bloody fighting. TF is all about the conflict between two powerful groups of fighters: The Pale Lotus sect (the good guys) and the Black Mantis sect (the bad guys). The lineup of fighters includes your usual young upstart all-around hero, an old master, a big bruiser and some scantily-clad babes. There's also a guy who's a dead ringer for action star Jet Li.
The setting is in an alternate-reality version of a near-future USA dominated by oriental culture. This 'New China' is strangely empty of anyone except the ten or so fighters in the game, and is a silent setting for the various martial arts duels. Both sects are fighting over the pieces of a tablet that will give them the key to immortality. Of course, each of the fighters in both sects has their own sordid back stories, but Tao Feng has an exceptionally detailed history and drama raging between the characters. Depending on how much you get from the plots and subplots, this may power your drive to finish the game's lengthy Quest mode. Otherwise, you can cut your teeth on Training, VS, Tournament, Survival and Team Battle modes.
Anyway, the game looks very nice; the fighters are very well detailed and lifelike, at least at the same or perhaps even better level than, say, Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance. However, it Dead or Alive 3 still holds the best graphics for a fighting game title on Xbox. The stages are cool and range from an arcade to a museum; each has walls and obstacles you can slam opponents into (like DOA3). TF takes the environmental factors a bit further by letting characters swing from poles or catapult themselves from walls as attacks. In addition, there is the danger of getting an arm hurt or broken, resulting in a loss of strength. Finally, there is the cosmetic effect of the fighters getting bloodied and their clothing torn during the course of the fight.
Sounds great, eh? Well, on the bad side the game is HEAVILY dependent on dial combos, and for some reason there seems to be no way to break a chain once you get hit by the first blow. This pretty much boils down to you watching your fighter get battered repeatedly as the CPU does a long, long combo. Frustrating like hell. Gah. And there doesn't seem to be that many moves; or maybe I just haven't played it to the fullest... there are some kicks and strikes, a couple of grabs and three Chi attacks. It seems limited and nowhere near as varied as the better 3-D games: Tekken, Virtua Fighter and DOA. The animations, while often smooth, can get jerky and stilted at times. 3-D movement is also hell and pretty useless for avoiding attacks, and blocking is tricky.
Sigh. Even worse, there seems to be zilch in terms of extras. Only two costumes per character (USELESS!!!) and ONE hidden character that can be used only in VS mode (The only character ever worth getting with these conditions is VF's Dural) means... bad replay value. Oh well, there's the quest mode which should take you some time to play through, but in this day and age, there should at least be hidden swimsuits for the babes to wear. Bah.
Tao Feng isn't horrible; that belongs to the bland and pretty stripped-down Kakuto Chojin. It's serviceable, and there are some cool ideas. However, even the presence of John Tobias, one of the original producers of Mortal Kombat, in the development couldn't make this wannabee even close to it's competition. A valiant, but failed effort.

I have to say though that the funniest and probably most distinct thing I will remember of Tao Feng is the voice acting of the Quest Mode's narrator (Master Sage)... from the accent of the guy, the voice actor just HAS to be Pinoy. Heh.

Thursday, March 27

Roads Not Yet Taken

For some reason I was in the mood for a good discussion tonight, and together with Carl I thought about what I could do aside from my usual day job in advertising. If I wasn't working in an agency, where could I go? I wouldn't- and couldn't- go to another office-setting, I think. If I left the agency setting I'd probably do freelance work, something like my friends Arnold and Cynthia have been doing for some time now. I'd probably specialize in something along the fringes of media and advertising- most probably doing art for storyboards for TV commercials.
Our discussion went onward to other directions; Carl told me about teaching. Imagine that... me, a TEACHER. Heh. Well, the pay doesn't seem spectacular, but the hours (it's really, really flexible) allows for lots of side jobs to complement your teaching salary. I laughed at it at first, but... why not? I've been in advertising for over six years, in a wide assortment of agencies (from teeny-tiny boutiques to big multinationals), done everything from TV commercials to AVPs... why CAN'T I be a teacher? Heh. Well, it's amusing to think about the possibility. I wonder how cool a teacher I'd make?
Anyway, I'm back to the Salt Mines tomorrow. I wonder for how much longer though? Hmmm.

Monday, March 24

Battle Royale 2 Update!

Aint It Cool News posted a cool article concerning the sequel to one of my fave films- Battle Royale (by the late Kinji Fukasaku). The appropriately-titled Battle Royale 2 picks up a couple of years after the end of the first film. Shuya Nanahara (Tatsuya Fujiwara), one of the survivors from the first movie, has since been very busy since he started to 'run'. He's now a professional terrorist and revolutionary, staging actions against the oppressive government. And he's not alone... Shuya leads a group named Wild Seven, which is composed entirely of past Battle Royale survivors. Together, they have accomplished quite a lot against the regime holding the BR tournament. During Christmas though, a disaster that levels several skyscrapers and kills over 8000 people is blamed on them. With this tragedy in its pocket, the goverment enacts a new anti-terrorist act and throws another class of doomed students wearing explosive necklaces. The game this time is a bit different... land on Wild Seven's island stronghold, and eliminate them. Or die yourself.
Weird premise; why not just send the army to do it? Perhaps the regime is more sadistic and evil than we thought. Anyway, this seems to guarantee tons more sickle-waving, gunfighting, knife-slashing and skull-smashing violence than before, and a lot of clean school uniforms will get bloody before this is over. No release date yet, but we'll be keeping our eyes on this one.
Angel Ace NEXT Developments

I've been in a bit of a quandary on what to put in the next Angel Ace comic. I've thought of stories focusing on Mike and Angel, just Angel, Angel's past, Kai and the SIVA, Angel and Kai's past... but for some reason, I've just failed in focusing on any one single plotline. Well, I've finally thought of the solution.
Do them all.
Well, not really all. But many, and in a way to tackle topics and events which would be hard to put into a single story.
Angel Ace NEXT will be an anthology of sorts, with short stories dealing with each of the important characters written and/or drawn by talented contributors. I've already told some friends about this, and everything looks great. It's very early, but I am excited at the prospect of letting other creators get into Angel's boots or Gregor's trenchcoat. Or Kai's... um... belt. Heh.
Anyway, the next Angel Ace comic will be a thing to see, with lots of variety in art and writing. Of course I will be still doing most of the stuff, but one can't always do it alone. Especially when you've got so much talent in your circle of friends.
Within the year. By hook or by Took.
Work Weekend

Me and the lovely cast of my new TV commercial.

The weekend was long for me, though not for the reason I'd usually want. I was working from seven in the morning to late at night. I only got home from the shoot early this Monday morning. AGH. Oh well. At the very least though, it was for a very nice TV script which should look quite nice when it's finally finished and showing on TV here in Manila. Anyway, I had the great pleasure with working with some lovely young ladies, and the script was pretty close to my heart. Our lead talent, as I had mentioned before, bears a striking resemblance to Hong Kong actress Zhang Ziyi in many of her angles and shots. The role and story of the commercial as well follows this fact. Let's just say it's the closest I will get in the near future to a VISA 'Dining Out' type commercial. Heh.
Anyway, this was a rush job, so we expect the spot to debut on air in a couple of weeks or so. Sigh. I really hope it comes out great. Now I can breathe a little easier and just... pause. Ooh! The Oscars are on...

We risked our lives to get this sneak peek into a ninja dressing room...