Saturday, July 5

Hai, salamat!

The 3rd issue of PSICOM's mangazine HAINAKU is set for release this month.

Among the new books slated for release on PSICOM's website is the third issue of Hainaku!, their mangazine. Previously featuring reprinted pages from Antarctic Press' earlier comics, this issue features a roster almost entirely (or entirely) of local talent. The issue will feature my new character Game Girl, with art by Honoel Ibardolaza, Nikki Alfar's KC Strange which I did art for, a 5-page article on Manga Creation by yours truly, and several other manga stories care of PSICOM's recent manga contest. The July issue also features Textmen by Nikki, Jason Banico and Armand Canlas.
Hainaku! #3 should be out on magazine stands, comic shops and bookstores soon. Stay tuned!

Friday, July 4

At a crossroads...

I've reached yet another point in my life where a decision, and a change, is forthcoming. Am I content to stay on the path I am walking at present? Is it what I see myself doing still in the next several years? Is it what I should do? A change may be in order. But this time though, it may not be as simple as finding a new ad agency. Nope. It may very well be a change of occupation and direction entirely.
I've always operated for the past several years in a half mode; writing professionally, yet leaving my artistic talents of drawing and writing stories to the area of hobbie and recreation. This has served me well... until now. Now, I've been posed with a pressing question; where do my true loyalties lie?
It's not an easy decision, and on one hand there's the need for security and a lifestyle to maintain. On the other is uncertainty, but a road that may, with hard work, become rewarding to a limit far greater than what I seem to have reached in my advertising career. I don't think I will ever be a great, consistent CLEO Award-winning copywriter. I don't think I have it in me to become a Creative Director or an Agency bigwig. I may very well never be anything more than an adequate to fairly exceptional copywriter.

But I know I can be a great comic book artist. A writer of fun and enjoyable stories, characters who will captivate and enamor countless readers. It's not too late to keep growing there. The limit is set only by my own courage or fear. And my readiness to invest the effort in it and find the opportunites I can. Perhaps it's time I went into art and comics seriously. Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe this is all just BS.

What's sure is that there WILL be changes in my life in the next few months. Whether they are indeed big or small, world-changing or cosmetic... it's yet to be decided.

If I was a smoker, I'd be spewing CLOUDS right now.

But I'm not. I'm guzzling Coke instead. Damn. No sleep again tonight.


Thursday, July 3

Final Fantasy's Angels

Final Fantasy X2 brings together an all-girl trio of adventurers for another romp in the world of Spira.

Three butt-kicking babes. Lots of fighting, leaping, running and even dancing. Globe-hopping adventure. Nope, I'm not talking about a recently-released movie sequel. This time it's a videogame sequel- the first ever sequel to a Final Fantasy title (Producer Square of Japan has been notoriously adamant about never 'digging' into a game once it's finished). It's Final Fantasy X2, a revisiting of the watery world of Spira and the continuing adventures of former Summoner and savior of the world, Yuna.
Spoiler Warning!
When we left the crew of Final Fantasy X, the heroes had just saved the world from Sin. In doing so, however, they paid a huge price... most of all the main heroine, Yuna. Despite saving the planet, an emptiness resided in her heart and her life did not end happily at that point. In the Japanese-only Final Fantasy X International, we learn that Yuna is still pining for the love she lost, even years after the end of the battle against Sin. One day, a mysterious holosphere (something like a videotape) gives her a glimmer of hope. But can it be? Can Tidus, her lost love, be alive somehow?
Since then, Yuna has shed her conservative Summoner robes and donned the less cumbersome and far hotter outfit of a Sphere Hunter (that's the hot pants costume that's been seeing a lot of exposure recently, and getting fans all a-gaga). She's joined with her cousin and comrade Rikku, their Al Bhed clansmen and a new girl named Paine to become an up-and-coming Sphere Hunter team, scouring the world for artifacts of the past in their cool Celsius airship.
I got my hands on a Japanese version of the game to check out the gameplay. It's similar to previous FF games, but instead of a single, long term adventure, it seems that gameplay is broken up into 'missions' which you may apparently take or set aside at your own pace. Basically though, missions have you entering an area and then exploring it, fighting monsters and gaining experience. And while you do meet several party members from the first game, you will only have the team of YuRiPa (Yuna, Rikku, Paine) to control the whole game.

Fighting is still turn-based (what a friend of mine calls a 'slap match') but this time is given a realtime element; each combatant has an ATB or active time gauge which dictates when that character can move. Monsters and enemies will have gauges as well, and they will NOT wait for you before attacking. This gives combat a bit more of an interactive feel... not much, but it's there.
Another addition is a run-and-jump element. Yuna (your onscreen avatar) must now jump or climb across various obstacles to reach certain places. Thankfully this seems more of a novelty and has really no consequence aside from showing Yuna do some stunts ala Tomb Raider.

A far more important aspect added to gameplay is the Dress Up Spheres, which seem to replace the lost Guardian Forces and Aeons from the past games. All three of your characters can switch into various roles/occupations which have their own powers. There are gunners, who use pistols for ranged attacks, swordwielding warriors, agile thieves and even, get this, a teen idol singer (FFX2's answer to a bard) who literally dances her enemies to death. Heh.
Changing dresses in combat shows off a suitably flashy transformation sequence, which is cool only for the first few times you see it (thankfully you can turn off the animations in the option menu).

This is really just a light-hearted side-story and epilogue to the first FFX game, tying up the loose ends, showing off some nice graphics and quite a bit of fan service. The action is fast and exciting, and like the main characters it's all very pretty to look at... I have to say though that Rikku's ultra-chirpy voice is just too much... Ugh...

Fans of FF, and particularly FFX will definitely want to see this one. It's a bit girly and a bit too Japanese-y but who cares? It's fun. The US version is slated for a November release, which is still a ways off. From what I have seen so far, it should be worth the wait.

Wednesday, July 2

CG Choose Your Own Adventure

Remember the Choose Your Own Adventure books? These things were all the rage when I was in high school. FYI, they were books you read according to choices presented to you at various points. Each choice led to a corresponding page and various consequences. CYOA was the main brand; soon after, copycats and variants emerged, such as the somewhat more noir-ish and dark Which Way books, the dice-required Fighting Fantasy books (my favorites were Deathtrap Dungeon, Warlock of Firetop Mountain and Forest of Doom) and the educational Time Machine books. And of course, who can forget the fully-illustrated Be An Interplanetary Spy! books (which came with 'over a hundred videogames'- really just puzzles using pixellated graphics)? Well, times have changed and now the interactive story has moved into the realm of video.

Last weekend me, Vin, Dean and Gig got to sample (via a sampler DVD included in a gaming mag) the upcoming Interactive DVD entitled Dungeons and Dragons: The Scourge of Worlds. Basically it's a CG movie based in the fantasy RPG setting of Greyhawk. You take the 'roles' of a party of adventurers who meet up with a powerful cleric friend. After you help him battle the summoned creatures of an evil mage, your story branches out to various paths. Will you take your friend back to the temple that paid you to find him? Or will you accompany him on a dangerous mission?
Featuring some nice CG animation (It's no Animatrix though), the story was fun and had all of us laughing or gasping and voting on what choice we should take. We all decided it would make a GREAT party game or DVD, and we made Vinnie promise to order the full DVD when it comes out later.

Heh. There's still a bit of RPG gamer in me yet...

HOT. Gosh-darned freakin' HOT.

I went out of the climate-controlled confines of the office to get lunch. Inevitably my Cubao-bought rubber shoes took me on a round trip of Makati. I went over to the demilitarized zone (AKA Makati Cinema Square) and ate lunch at KFC. It was crowded and HOT and I ordered spaghetti with HOTshots and a chicken burger. The ice-cold Pepsi was like nectar from Olympus as it went down my throat. Too bad it went like fuel for SUVs; By the time I finished my food I only had a gulp and a half left in the tumbler. For some reason I didn't get another shot when my throat was still begging for MORE cold stuff.
Went down to the place where the bootlegs were sold and found it mostly deserted. Probably there were recent raids. Still, I found several sellers and one guy was even setting up the DVDs when I was about to leave. Alas, while there were newly-burned copies of Charlie's Angels Full Throttle, I ignored them. I was looking for The Real Cancun. Oh well.

HOT. DAMN HOT. I was sweating like an ice cold softdrink bottle but without the ice or the cold. When I exited the Square I found out it had rained, and everything was wet.

A while ago it was Dry and HOT. Now it was Wet and HOT. The loosed steam from the baked asphalt, now hit with rainwater, radiated heat in waves.
I hopped onto a jeep BACK across the world to Glorietta. Looked around at Park Square and honestly got tempted into getting a copy of Sex Drive with Maui Taylor and Katya Santos. Hey, the story seemed interesting. Heh.
Passed by Datablitz and saw that two anticipated expansion sets for two popular PC games were available; Neverwinter Nights: Shadows of Unrelentide and Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne.

Walked back into Glorietta and bought a copy of the latest Electronic Gaming Monthly. Sure, I get all my videogaming information from the net, but as I always say, you can't bring the PC into the loo. Mags have their uses.
For my last stop I went by 2Rats anime and checked for new stuff. Interestingly enough they have VCDs of the first and second seasons of Alias, episodes of Smallville and other odds and ends. With Oh! My Goddess the Movie playing I looked at their lists and saw... nothing of interest. Oh well. Back to base then.

Finally got back to the cool interior of the office, the comfort of my workstation and the comfiness of the chair. Just have to spend a couple more hours here and then it's off to the comic shop for the weekly bloodletting. Unless the stocks are delayed, that is. Whatever.

Whew. Need a drink. I really need a drink.

And it's only the beginning of the week. Not a good sign.
Didn't go to work on Monday because of a bad back. Today, I shuffled to the office, did some chores and then had dinner at Sushi Mart in Megamall with Vin, and then later Carl and Cams. Vin and I finally met Charles of Shadows of a Stalker in person. Took home a box of my new favorite donuts. Mmmm.

Tomorrow will hopefully be more cheery, with new comics and stocks coming in. Expecting the latest Official Xbox Magazine and some other odds and ends.

Sunday, June 29

Which Matrix character am I?

EH? The Hell..?!

You are Trinity-
You are Trinity, from "The Matrix."
Strong, beautiful- you epitomize the ultimate

What Matrix Persona Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla
Ninja Scroll TV series, Part Deux

A new adventure for invincible Kibagami Jubei, and more super ninjas to kill.

If you want it hard enough, anything is possible.

Without knowing if I was searching in vain or not, I went to Greenhills today looking particularly for VCDs or DVDs of the much-awaited Ninja Scroll TV Series, or Jubei Ninpucho: Chapter of the Dragon Treasure Ball. It was only when I searched for and found the last anime shop on my list did my effort bear fruit. I came away with VCDs of episode 1-2 and 5-6 (If all goes well, I will get episodes 3-4 and 7-8 tomorrow). I also brought home a large number of episodes of the pretty boy action series, Getbackers.
Anyway, I have watched the first two NS episodes, and I have to say that I am satisfied. Predictably, the TV series does not reach the lofty heights of the original film, given that it's a TV series which cuts down any violence, sex and high-quality animation. As it was though, the NS TV series is quite exceptionally well-animated, with nice colors and a somewhat unusual and interesting visual style. Animations of the fight scenes are fluid and nicely-done, if short since the fights between Jubei and the various mutant ninja he encounters are pretty short. The series also features a totally original voice cast, who do their roles predictably well (Japanese voices are always very expressive and expertly performed).

Fans of the original Ninja Scroll film should recognize the return of the 'view of a fight from behind a window grill' shot.

The series takes place after the film, apparently, and sees our man Jubei Kibagami- rogue mercenary swordsman and ninja extraordinaire- getting involved again in the battles between two factions of super-powered ninja weirdos. Now, when I say weirdos, I mean WEIRDOS. In the first episode we see a masked beastman ninja, an old ninja with a spider stuck to his face who can shoot out webbing, a laughing (Ki-ki-ki...) freak who rides around on a giant parasol (pretty cool, actually), a naked woman who can unleash hordes of lamprey-like creatures from her body and a GIANT TRANSFORMING CAR ninja. In episode two we are introduced to a sexy cat-girl ninja, a slow and ponderous tower of skulls-headed ninja and a burrowing beast ninja. I'm having the time of my life! Heh.
Unfortunately, despite the cool and whacked-out designs, the enemies are quite mortal and easily dispatched- perhaps too easily. Jubei has gained a new skill since the original movie, the power to slash at enemies from afar by drawing his sword from his scabbard at high speed, causing the very wind to cut at his targets. This makes fights pretty short but bloody sweet. I just wished the cat girl lasted a bit longer though...

From L-R: Cat girl ninja Nekome is fast and furious. The Skull Tower ninja is cross between a mummy and a Russian doll, while the girl with the exotic hair has powers over plants.

The main point of the story seems to be centered on a young girl named Shigure and a mysterious little bauble that Jubei gets a hold of early on. The ninja clans clashing include a sect called the Hirukoshu and the Kimonshu (the latter apparently being the same sect to which the Eight Devils from the movie belonged to). Jubei takes on the quest to see that the bauble gets reunited with the girl, and so the fight goes on. More bloody fights and strange ninja are expected aplenty before this 13-episode series ends.
For a TV series, Ninja Scroll TV has quite a high body count and a lot of blood flowing. The story is completely new (though there are references to the original and a recurring character in Dakuan the monk) which may disappoint some, but any fan of the movie will surely enjoy seeing the unusual villain designs and the sight of Jubei kicking butt again. With just the first two episodes, I am bloody satisfied. Heh.