Friday, November 28

Playing a Game Enraged

Yesterday, along with my extended Two Towers dvd set, I got myself a copy of Anito: Defend a Land Enraged, the FIRST Philippine-made commercial PC game. Taking after games like Diablo, Anito throws you into the fantasy land of Maroka where you take the role of either brawny Agila or sexy Maya. The setting is modelled after Spanish-era Philippines, with the local native tribes being controlled by European-type conquerors wearing metal armor.
As per similar games, you walk around conversing with people, taking up various 'bring me' or 'do this' quests, arm yourself with various weapons, armor and equipment and build your Chakra skills which help you against any dangerous denizens of the land you should encounter.
It was a BITCH installing the game, since it froze at several points and I had to reinstall a couple of times. After the last time it froze I rebooted and then found that magically... it ran. Perhaps it was due to my PC's limitations (though my machine does meet the requirements) but the short FMV intro movie was choppy (I think it was the old CG movie with the old man saying "Dumating na sila" that we've been seeing on TechTV). Good thing pressing the ol' Escape button lets you skip to the game.
Again, perhaps it was my machine's fault but the animation is choppy. Graphically, the characters are large and you can zoom in a bit, but really, the way the graphics are done makes it pretty basic to look at. It's a bit hard to distinguish simple things like doors, and buildings kinda look flat and uninspired in terms of design. There's not much life in things; people just stand there unmoving, and there's little to admire in the ambient objects such as trees, water or other obstacles. Graphically, it doesn't make me proud to admit it's Filipino-made. I found a headpiece made from leaves that I equipped on my character and she looks like she's wearing a frog on her head. This tribal thing can get pretty funny... In general, everything looks 'CG' and basic; you really can tell that Anito is a first-generation, first-step product, made by people who were able to use the tools well, but not with breakthrough results.

As for gameplay, I haven't really gotten into the game too far but I found it tedious. The controls have you using keys to move around, instead of the usual mouse-based movement ala Diablo. The controls are scattered on the keyboard, though thankfully some no-brainer shortcuts are present. However, I really really wished they just let you use the mouse to move around.
Combat requires you to go to a 'combat' mode and then move close to your opponent to slash. While there is a bodypart-based attack system, I really don't see how you can actually control where your hits go... that is, unless you learn deeper techniques as you move along.
As it is, I really haven't had much combat since I started off with Maya, whose beginning goals make her seem like a go-fer who has to search for this or that person. You can't even leave town since the guards won't let you leave the safety of the city. BOOOOORRRRINNNNGGG!!!! Don't want to look for so-and-so and do this for whoever. MA at PA! I wanna go out and kill Tikbalangs or something!!!
As for the music and sound, there's a voiceover for Maya that is clearly (and probably intentionally) given a pinoy twang. The music is a mix of various tribal sounds and ecclectic instruments which is, quite honestly, better turned down after a while. Not bad, but repetitive and a bit too obtrusive for my tastes.

But I really have to say that a lot of what turned me off in Anito is basically the writing. The way the choices and dialogue is done just falls flat, and it's weird that you choose a dialogue choice and then you have to see your choice flash before you before you get the prompt to see the response- in all, it's again pretty tedious and awkward. I'll give my final word though if and when I get some more gameplay hours under my belt.

Overall though, Anito: Defend a Land Enraged looks and feels like a first-gen, made-by-beginners product. It's not polished or have that feel of something special aside from the obvious Filipino cultural trappings. In terms of graphics, control and gameplay it's pretty basic. An admirable effort, and it's something that I do not regret supporting with my hard-earned peso... I just hoped it was a lot better than it is right now. Oh well.
My Precioussss...

Got it.

Last night I spent a ghastly amount of blood, getting myself a copy of the latest Previews and Newtype USA. But of course, the crowning achievement of the night was the acquisition of a copy of the Extended DVD set of LOTR: The Two Towers.
Since I got home pretty late, I was only able to watch about three-fourths of the movie before having to turn in. SPOILER ALERT!

The movie flows well with the new scenes, though it IS noticeably longer. The newer and extended scenes of Merry, Pippin and the Ent Treebeard are a bit too much for me; they slowed the pace of the film down for me in the theatrical version, and here in the more extended cut they're even slower. I just don't get the use of the 'Ent-draught' scene aside from giving a bit of comic relief. Then there's that scene at the very end of the film which shows the two hobbits raiding the flooded cellars of Orthanc... a bit much, maybe.
The other scenes are quite cool. Faramir gets a lot more character development with the inclusion of a great flashback scene with his brother Boromir, and their father, Denethor. If moviegoers found this Gondorian captain just some bad egg in the theatrical cut, here at least we see why he acts so hostile, and in the end gets redeemed after it. Which is good since he plays quite a vital role in the third film.
Other, smaller scenes dot the cut, with quite a few just threshing out the character; such as scenes explaining more about Eowyn's past, Aragorn's Dunedain heritage (As one of the few remaining members of the Great Race of Men, Strider's actually 87 years old, for those who haven't read the books). There are slight changes to some scenes which make for better flow, remedying the abruptness of the same scenes in the theatrical version. Notable in this is the reunion in Fangorn, where Gandalf the White makes his first appearance. We see more explanation of the fate of the two hobbits, and more emotion in the reactions of the Warrior's Three (Aragorn, Legolas, Ghimli) at the return of their old friend. Perhaps the most entertaining scene though in the new clips for me has to be the 'Evil Stew' scene with Aragorn and Eowyn. Nasty. Heh.
Some scenes did disappoint though; the added scene of the Huorns swallowing up the retreating Uruks was kind of... abrupt.
Overall though, The Two Towers extended cut is a richer, fuller version of this second part of the LOTR cinematic saga, and lives up to the pedigree of the earlier, excellent Fellowship of the Ring extended cut.
I can't wait to hear the audio commentaries, which should be a continuation of the same grade-A stuff from FOTR. Haven't even gotten to the Extras discs yet, which should easily take up a weekend or two to fully digest.
Sigh. And the dvd sets just look gorgeous; like books on a shelf. This collection isn't complete yet; ROTK's extended dvd is still a ways off... but Damn even now this is a glowing feather in the cap for any serious dvd collection. As Ferris Beuller would say, the extended dvd sets are choice. My highest recommendations go with them for any movie buff and Lord of the Rings fans.

Thursday, November 27


... I get my copy of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Extended Version DVD Set.


Three hours plus of movie. 43 minutes of new and extended scenes. At least six hours or so of extras. DVDs don't get any much better than this, friends.
Delivery Room

Just came back from the printing house where Angel Ace Next is in the process of being made real. Saw the dummy, the covers and the layouts. Just gotta say, I've never seen an Angel Ace book look this good. Heh. Finally the art I've been doing all this time can reach readers without being diluted by bad printing. WOOHOO! Anyway, we're still set for the December 13 release, hopefully at the C3Con... just look for the Comic Quest booth, if there is one. Otherwise, you can just head down to CQ itself to get your copy and Angel Ace love. Later!

Kai gets new and retro at the same time in K.I.A.

After I finish up Kunoichi Boy, I'll be getting down and busy with K.I.A., an anthology starring my secret favorite Angel Ace character, Kai. While she's already a hottie as she is right now, I decided to up the ante and give her a new look. The shorter hairstyle is sleek and sexy, though it's actually not that new; Kai had that 'do in the original Angel Ace #2: Hunter's Heart Gaiden which was released years ago (no longer in print and not part of the present Angel Ace series). The same goes for her more, er, minimal attire. Heh. The only thing I didn't retain were the blades and swords she carried back then- pretty cool actually but they just didn't seem to jive much with the character as she is now. Anyway, I think she can kick butt pretty well without need for any weapon, thank you very much.
The anthology will be composed of stories by myself as well as by several other writers/artists/creators. K.I.A. will be set after the events in Angel Ace Next, and will take place in the many months in between that and Kai's next appearance in the Angel Ace main series.
I see this spinoff as a cross between Aeon Flux, Elektra, ALIAS, Le Femme Nikita, Noir (the anime) and a dash of Danger Girl. How's that for a mix? Can you say... Girl Power? Fan service? Kick-butt action? Oh, and it's going to be a lot darker than your regular Angel Ace book. How dark? Like the kind that gets your heroine killed every now and then dark. It's all gonna end in tears. Dean would be proud. Heh...

Instead of venturing out today on this non-working day (and the end of the Ramadan), I decided to stay at home. I was able to work on pages for Kunoichi Boy, my newest manga creation that's set for release in a local mangazine. And a good thing too since it's due in less than two weeks. Yipe! Not really that worried though- I'm making good time with the pages, and I really like how it's coming out.
Work again tomorrow... Gah. Well, at least I'm supposed to get my Two Towers extended dvd set tomorrow as well...

Tuesday, November 25

Revising a Saga

Will we see Alec Guiness wield double-lightsabers? Anything's possible, it seems...

Incredible. Absolutely incredible. I am both amazed and appalled.

Apparently, next year we will be seeing new versions of the original Star Wars trilogy (A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi), and these won't just contain remastered scores or slight CG retouches. Nope. Next year's editions will be given MAJOR changes to update them and bring them up to speed with the recent 'prequel' trilogy. Here are JUST A FEW of the supposed changes...

Anakin's theme music (introduced in the prequels) will now play at certain times during references to his younger, good self throughout the films.

Redone lightsaber effects for all the films; Yes, even the Obi-Wan/Darth Vader geezer fight will be spruced up with new footage to make it more active and dynamic. Maybe Obi-Wan will do cartwheels or something. Heh.

The Emperor now appears in A New Hope, via a scene where he dissolves the Senate.

Awkward original R2D2 will be replaced by the prequel's more mobile, jet-equipped version.

No more bleeding arm in the Cantina scene- it is now canon that lightsabers cauterize wounds.

After the destruction of Alderaan, we'll see Yoda react as well as Obi-Wan. No need to wait for Empire to see the old green twerp.

Redone and cleaned-up SFX for space battles in all the movies. Major space engagements will now have additional ships in line with the prequels; this means we'll be seeing Naboo fighters in the attack on the Death Star. The Millennium Falcon will be doing more aerial acrobatics while dodging Star Destroyers.

The Hoth Battle will be more epic, with more units and equipment, actual scenes of landing Imperial troops, more ground battle scenes, faster AT-ATs, etc.

Little details like computer panels and displays, the Death Star diagram, etc. will be updated to match the prequels.

All stormtroopers will now be voiced by actor Temeura Morrison (who played Jango Fett in Attack of the Clones). There will be some stormtrooper suits that still resemble clone trooper armor in the 'new' old trilogy scenes.

CG effects will be used to redo stuff like the Rancor and the Sarlacc. In general, aliens seen in the prequels will be added to alien-heavy scenes in the original trilogy films.

Anakin AND Padme's spirits will appear in the final scene in Return of the Jedi.

Hang onto those old, original versions, mates. They're gonna be worth something soon. Heh. You can see the whole list of supposed changes at Ain't It Cool News.

Monday, November 24


It's coming! As early as NEXT WEEK! WOOHOO! Stay tuned for announcements...
Fantasy Talk

Meet Ashe, the heroine of the next chapter of the Final Fantasy series, FFXII.

After the online FFXI, Square of Japan is going back to its single-player roots in the next FF title, Final Fantasy XII. Little has been revealed except for the names and appearances of the game's leads, hero Vaan and heroine Ashe. Both protagonists are of the Hume or human race, which leads many to believe that FFXII will have many other character races such as elves and hobbit-like creatures to play as. Expect FFXII to hit stores late 2004 or early to mid-2005.

On the more present FF, there's of course Final Fantasy X2, the sequel to the last single-player FF, FFX on PS2. The game takes players back on a return trip to the world of Spira, where they once again lead heroine Yuna on a world-spanning adventure. This time, the story is more personal and a bit on the lighter side, with shades of Charlie's Angels as you control the three female leads (Yuna, her thief-cousin Rikku and newcomer Paine) exclusively throughout this mission-based quest game. Refreshingly, the game takes place only a couple of years after the end of the first game, and continues where it all left off in a way fans once never thought possible in an FF title (if only Square did this back when they had FFVII...). The english voice acting is excellent, and actually sounds better than the Japanese dub (which was too cutesy and hi-pitched for my tastes). I'll have to make time to play this alongside my other present game fix, Gladius.
Ah, Final Fantasy. Now the only thing left is that FFVII CG movie, Advent Children. Gotta keep my eyes peeled for that one.

Yesterday I went off to a long overdue trip to Greenhills. Got myself the US version of Final Fantasy X2, the first-ever true sequel to a Final Fantasy game. Also got myself several dvds, including The Mummy (the best film of that franchise (which has shades of Indiana Jones and Pulp Action which I love), Freddy Vs. Jason and the Sinbad animated movie.
I found a deluxe extended version set of Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers in one of the shops; this boxed set includes 5 DVDs and a statue of Gollum, and goes for a whopping 5,500 pesos. No sign of the regular boxed set yet; I should be getting mine this week (fingers crossed!). Damn the wait is killing me. And then there's The Return of the King which is slowly creeping in... WOOHOO! Christmas and New Year's is going to be neat. Heh.

Sunday, November 23

There and Back Again

Last Thursday I set off via a Victory Liner bus to Baguio to attend this year's Ad Congress. Stayed there for a day and a half, a good part of which was spent just sitting on a bus. Anyway, here's my little report on the trip.

Ah, smell that cool mountain air.

Me and my officemates left the bus terminal in Cubao at about ten, to embark on a six-hour drive overland to Baguio. It was cool that there were a LOT of us on the bus; there was safety in numbers, and the rowdiness of a lot of the guys ensured that it would be a funny trip. Once the bus left the familiar roads of Manila for the Northern expanses, someone brought out liquor and chicharon. A little before midnight, the lights were dimmed and the bus zoomed across empty highways unchallenged. I tried to get some sleep, but at best it was fitful. Sitting up in a bus fully-clothed is not conducive to relaxing sleep.

No Piss of Mind

Along the way, we soon got the notion that the bus seemed to have been going a LOOONG time without any stopovers, and one of our officemates was complaining loudly that he wanted to PISS. Of course, we just laughed off his wailings, but there were other passengers on the bus who were starting to get cross at him. Luckily these would-be killers were warded off by the knowledge that there were a lot of us. And once we did get to stop at have a bathroom break, it was all quiet from there.

Dark Roads
I stared off into the darkness out my window, seeing little houses and ramshackle sheds with lights glittering in the sea of night like stars. I remember thinking of how these people must live here, in the middle of nowhere. Soon, the road began to turn upward as we reached the mountainous terrain of the Philippines' summer capital.

Toy Houses
My first sight of Baguio was a beautiful sight; the scene of houses and buildings set into the mountainside, numerous lights glowing and giving the place a toy-like feel. Everything seemed to be built on a diagonal plane, and you were usually looking up or down at a building. As our bus pulled into the central terminal area, I got my first look at SM Baguio, one of the newest branches of the country's biggest mall chain. It looked HUGE, like a monolith looming over the houses and buildings like some massive idol, the instantly-recognizable logo coldly glowing white and blue. We arrived in Baguio at about 4 AM. The air was cool, but not chilly. After recovering from the aircon inside the bus, I soon realized a jacket wasn't really necessary.


We stayed at this quaint, American-style compound.

The house where we crowded into was nice; it would have been really comfortable if only there wasn't about thirty or so people crammed into it. There was really nothing you could do in the place though; there was cable TV but come on- who would want to tramp all the way to Baguio and then just watch TV? So when we were able, I got together three of my mates and we were off to go frollicking in the city.

DAMN it's crowded.

The first thing I realized once we got to the shopping and mall circle was... the place has too many people. I had been in Baguio before, but I don't remember it being ever this crowded. Every sidewalk was clogged with people. It actually reminded me of Hong Kong. It was worst in the newly-opened Shoemart; it was simply exploding with people going in and out... in fact, I think shoppers and mallrats from all the surrounding towns and provinces were converging in the place. Anyway, we walked into SM and then promptly walked out.

Rummaging through Someone's Closet

The Ukay-Ukay is a word for a huge clothing sale where everything being sold is second-hand. There's a vast amount of clothes, shoes and other stuff to look at, but there are usually no variety in sizes, and it all smells like someone's closet... or worse, someone's armpit. We walked through three floors of the stuff. Didn't buy a thing, but I don't think I'll ever forget the smell. Heh.

Can you believe the placement of that toilet?

We had merienda at a shopping center, inside a restaurant called The Tropical Rainforest Cafe. Ordered Pinoy spaghetti with garlic bread which eventually came instead with puto (rice cake). After we rested, we took a bathroom break and discovered a most peculiar layout of the CR. The area had a line of urinals against the wall, and at the end, with no barriers or covers at all, was a single toilet, just sitting out in the open. So anyone taking a crap on that thing was pretty much in plain view. We had a laugh and were off.

Glitzier than the Oscars? The Ad Congress Awards Night

Of course, the main reason we went all that way was to watch the most important night for the local advertising industry- the Ad Congress awards. The awards were split up into several nights, and on Friday we watched the awards for craft. We saw awards for TV, radio and print. Oddly enough, several commercials that had been like, out forever, were still winning. Oh well. Afterwards, we trooped to a party hosted by GMA 7 and had some free food amidst a concert held for the winners. Unfortunately, I had to pretty much stand the whole time. And the food wasn't that great either. Bah.
I staggered back to the house at about 1 AM and readied my stuff. I was to leave Baguio for Manila at 5:40 AM, with a couple of officemates as company. We boarded an earlier bus and soon were off. The return trip took about seven or eight hours, with three stopovers and again, fitful sleep all the way. Sigh. Good thing this doesn't happen every year.

Came back loaded with ube and strawberry jam and lots of peanut brittle for the friends and family. The Adcon's over. Hopefully the next time we'll have ads on the finalists' list and I'd actually be looking forward to enduring long trips over again. Like my friend Dean, I'm basically a homebody. Going to Baguio was fun, I guess, but it's really not for me.
Give me Greenhills anytime. Heh.