Saturday, May 8

Streetfighter on the Box

Ibuki and the fighters of 3rd Strike are coming to Xbox.

This fall, Street Fighter fans can look forward to playing their favorite beat 'em up on Microsoft's big, black box. Street Fighter Anniversary Edition will be a compilation disc which will have both Hyper Street Fighter Edition and Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike. This SF compilation will also be Xbox-Live capable, for those that have broadband. Can't wait! WOOHOO!!!

Friday, May 7

Going Nuts over Donuts

This afternoon, the office troupe zoomed off to have a late lunch at The Fort. Our main quarry after the noon meal was Gonuts Donuts, the insanely popular donut place there that has been making the rounds via word of mouth. For those not in the know, Gonuts Donuts supposedly had their recipe for their holed pleasures taken from the famous Krispy Kreme donuts in the US. The mix though has apparently been toned down in sweetness to suit Pinoys' tastes.
After having a pretty splendid lunch at the Chinese restaurant Vong's, we sniffed our way to the corner of The Fort where Gonuts Donuts was.

As I had heard, you DO have to wait in frickin' line to order your donuts. After which, you wait until your number is called to pick up your order. On the bright side, you can buy as many donuts as you can afford or stuff into your face- and after waiting in line for at least fifteen minutes at least, you'll feel you have a right to. Anyway, I passed the time playing the ten or so newly-installed games in my phone, and by watching the donuts get made in the back room via a large window.
I bought two boxes, which I intend to take home in time for Mother's Day. It remains to be seen if the donuts last that long though... I'll update this post later after I've actually tasted the blasted things...

No, I haven't gone romantic on you people. The artwork above is from Cast, a teen soap opera comic book by Siglo and Nautilus Comics proponent Jaime Bautista. Art is by Ronin Core, and the book will be edited by Elbert Or. The book won't be out for a while but an 8-page preview is being given away for free at various places, including Comic Quest. Check it out for teen angst, love, heartache and more angst. Heh.
Mark of Kri 2: Rise of the Kasai

"Whaddaya mean I'm gonna DIE in the sequel?"

The original Mark of Kri game for the PS2 was a bloody fun game when it appeared a couple of years ago. The gorgeous art instantly brought to mind Disney animation, but once the fighting started, you could easily see this was no funny Mousefactory-made feature. Main hero Rau could really manhandle his enemies, performing stealth kills that would make Solid Snake and the Tenchu ninja jitter. This guy woud grab an enemy guard, slam him against a wall and impale him with his own weapon, hanging him up like some gory picture frame. VICIOUS!
Well, despite the fact that the game was frustratingly hard at times (okay, often), it was pretty cool and has apparently warranted a sequel. In development by Bottle Rocket (the same company that produced the first game) and expected to appear in the upcoming E3 2004 is Rise of the Kasai AKA Mark of the Kri 2. The original game was originally supposed to be part of a trilogy- MOK2 just may be both prequel and sequel, since the gameplay will be set both before and after the events in the first game. Also, it seems that in the course of the game, Rau will be kicking the bucket and passing on the mantle of main hero and warrior to his younger sister, Tati, whom players first saw as a skinny, snot-nosed kid in the first game. Well, Tati may not be as strong and big as her big bro, but she should be faster and stealthier than Rau. And judging from a screenshot in PSM, she'll also be a lot sexier. Heh.
Anyway, according to PSM, the next Mark of Kri will be 3 times larger than it's predecessor, with more playable characters, a degree of teamwork between characters (though it will still be a one-player game), and larger, more complex stages and levels. And of course, more stealth kills. Mark of Kri 2: Rise of the Kasai should be seeing light by the Fall of 2004. Bloody good action to look forward to.

Tati takes over the hero spot in Rise of the Kasai.

Thursday, May 6


My officemate told me about this creepy yet funny story.

Some time ago, she knew this person who was a drummer for a rock band. He was a nice guy but it just so happened that he loved to draw demons. Winged, horned, grotesque demons. Fire-wreathed, iron-clawed, glowing-eyed monsters that were the fashion for heavy metal. He drew them everywhere, in his sketchpads, notebooks and plates (they were studying architecture). Predictably, his room was decorated with wall-to-wall demonspawn.
Well, one time, he was working on his computer, drawing an artwork of a demon emerging from a portal. He drew the line art, scanned it into his computer and went home for the night.

The next day, when he opened the file, it was fully-colored with complete rendering, shades and all the FX trimmings. The Demon had apparently come to LIFE!

The sight of the inexplicably completed artwork (no one could have done it since they closed down the room and no one else was there till the morning he came in) panicked the guy. He shut off his PC and couldn't work for the rest of the day.
Later, the guy tore down all his posters and demonic artwork. He quit the band and turned his back on rock music and started listening to the music of Side A (a mellow ballad group).

No matter what explanation or alternative for the sudden appearance of the fully-colored demon in the PC, the guy was adamant- it was a sign for a change in lifestyle.

Well, for all we know he may have just colored it and forgotten that he had done so. Or maybe someone played a trick on him. Well, if I suddenly found my artworks suddenly colored, I'd think of elves in the cupboard. Anyway, I don't think I'd turn to demonic worship overnight and start drawing pacifist monks in any case. Heh.

Moving on...

Wednesday, May 5

The Iron Fist returns

Namco of Japan have announced quite a few games in their lineup that will be featured in the upcoming E3 Entertainment Expo 2004. Confirmed to be in development is the latest chapter in the company's flagship fighting game series, Tekken 5. Little has been said of the upcoming fighter, though rumor has it that the game will be more similar to Sega's Virtua Fighter 4.
I haven't been excited by Tekken since Tekken 3- really now, the series just stopped dead in innovation right there. Tekken Tag to Tekken 4 were ho-hum and run of the mill at best. I'm hoping for a revamp of the fighting system, and a fresh new crop of fighter. Though I will be expecting Paul Pheonix to replace Heihachi as the leathery old man of the lineup. We'll see if my excitement gets piqued as the months go by. Tekken 5 looks to be the first of the new generation of fighters, since both Virtua Fighter 5 and Dead or Alive 4 are as yet nowhere to be seen.
Also included in the Namco E3 lineup will be Death By Degree, the action-adventure spinoff game starring Tekken veteran Nina Williams.
Exactly one year ago...

... I blogged about the Unfairness of Life equated to flagging down taxis, Pissing in your Dreams, watching X2: X-Men United and Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust with the crew and the joys of having deadly-licious steak. One year ago. Man, I've been blogging for a while. You can see all the gory details by clicking on my archives in the Brain Banks.
Looking Bakshi

Animator/Filmmaker Ralph Bakshi has had a varied portfolio of works. Today, fans of Peter Jackson's LOTR trilogy will know him as the guy who made that 'iffy' animated version of Lord of the Rings. Perhaps you've seen it too. The first time I saw Bakshi's LOTR was when I was a kid; the rotoscoped (cartoons/animation done by tracing/coloring over footage of live actors) opus was shown on GMA-7 in its entirety. Bakshi's LOTR had tons of weird stuff- like how Aragorn looked like a Native American Prince Valiant with no pants. Or how Boromir of Gondor was turned into a VIKING. Or how the Balrog seemed to be a man wearing big high-heeled clogs. Or how the Battle of Helm's Deep seemed pretty boring and incredibly confusing. But despite this, it was a thing to see and a valiant effort- overacting rotoscoped actors notwithstanding.
Anyway, Mr. Bakshi has many other works which are worth finding and were a significant part of my upbringing as a fantasy and animation fan. Here are a couple of his best.

Wizards (1977) is set in a post-apocalyptic world where fantasy and science side by side. Long ago, a beautiful fairy queen had two sons- Avatar (the good wizard) and Black Wolf (the not-so-good wizard). After their moather dies, Black Wolf starts his bid for power and conquest. Despite being a peace-loving goody-two shoes, Avatar kicks his brother's evil, cyborg butt and we fast forward years later. Avatar's an old man, looking little of the fiercely powerful wizard in the still-art of the prologue. But when one of Black Wolf's assassins kills the President of the Good Nations right before his eyes, Avatar shows he can still throw a mean spell when he takes down the enemy with his FINGER (COOL moment).

Anyway, seeing as how it's quite clear that BW is up to no good again, Avatar goes on a quest to stop his evil sibling, accompanied by Elinore, a sexy and scantily-clad fairy princess/apprentice, Winghawk the elf warrior and Peace, the formerly evil robot assassin now turned to good.
What happens next is your staple quest- heroes travel, get captured, escape, meet allies, reach Black Wolf's fortress and have a final confrontation. Along the way there are battles aplenty, including some pretty graphic scenes. In particular, there's a battle between elves and demons where Black Wolf uses real film footage of Nazi atrocities to 'paralyze' the good guys. The elves are machine-gunned and I think this was the first time that I saw cartoon characters DIE WITH THEIR EYES OPEN and have pools of blood gathering on the ground. Yep, I wonder now why I am still a nice guy and not a psycho killer. Heh. Anyway, after lots of drama, we finally get to the final and the best part of the movie, where Avatar literally BLOWS AWAY his evil twin with a GUN.

Avatar: "I'm glad you changed your last name, you bastard." BLAM!!! He dead.

Anyway, Wizards is definitely not your usual LOTR-type fantasy. The character designs are quirky and cartoony at times, and the animation isn't the best around (this is Bakshi, after all). But still, this film is great fun, and the loads of action and fan service are surprisingly cool for a US animated film.

Whereas Wizards was more cartoony and whimsical (relatively), 1983's Fire and Ice took great effort to look more realistic and gritty, with designs and characters inspired by the art of fantasy artist Frank Frazetta (in fact, supporting character Dark Wolf is based on Frazetta's popular artwork Death Dealer). This film also makes use of rotoscoping, though with better effect than Bakshi's LOTR film.
Anyway, Fire and Ice is probably the best and only real prehistoric jungle world-loin cloth-action fantasy animated epic around, which makes it a must-see for animation fans. The story can be summed up like this:

In the North there was a queen named Juliana, who wanted to conquer the world. To do this, she gathered an army and bore a son. His name was Nekron. She taught him all the dark arts and soon they pushed southwards with a mighty glacier before them, ruling from their castle called Ice Peak. Far to the South, the oppressed peoples huddled in the warmth of the castle of Fire Keep, ruled by a benevolent king named Jerold. And as Nekron pushed the glacier ever southward, all waited with fear at the inevitable battle between fire... and ice.

That's more or less (actually a lot less) the monologue we hear at the start of the film, accompanied by some lovely still art sketches. After that though we see some meticulously-detailed animation, with realistic, lifelike characters.
Anyway, we follow the lives of various characters in this prehistoric epic, notably that of Larn, (who looks like Marc Singer from the first Beastmaster), a young warrior from a village Nekron's forces destroyed. Larn is able to escape from the sub-human armies and finds himself running through the monster and enemy-infested jungle.

Marc Singer in anime form.

The scene shifts to Fire Keep, where we find the sexy, almost-naked Princess Teegra as she is kidnapped by Juliana's 'men' in order to force Jerold to surrender. Of course, things don't go as planned and Teegra escapes and gets lost in the jungle.

You'd hide too if you were a bikini babe being chased by evil cavemen.

What happens next is a storm of action as Larn meets Teegra, Larn loses Teegra, Larn meets Dark Wolf the bad-ass warrior, Teegra gets captured, Larn faces Nekron the Telekinetic Malnourished Bad Guy, Larn and Dark Wolf go to Fire Keep and of course ultimately go on a Prehistoric version of The Attack on the Death Star but with pterodactyls (Dragonhawks in this movie) instead of X-Wings. Lava flows into the glacier, and the world begins anew as Larn gets Teegra and they have raunchy sex. Well, that probably happens after the movie though, heh.

"Guys, is it just me or is there a draft around here?"

Okay, the film isn't perfect- the animation, while cool, isn't always great and things aren't always realistic- Teegra prances around bikini-clad and barefoot even inside an ice-caked glacier without ever feeling the cold- I like it, of course but there are those who would be bothered by the tons of cheesecake and beefcake. The story's not LOTR; it's more Conan if anything, but come on- nobody makes action-packed prehistoric fantasy movies anymore, much less animated movies. The story's pretty basic, but the art, the designs, Teegra's sexy bod... they have to be seen. This is a gem and if you can find it, grab it.

There. Two of Bakshi's best. Go and get them. Just remember, if you find that Cool World movie though, run- don't walk- for the exit.

Tuesday, May 4

Grass Fire

Yesterday after work I hied over to Megamall to have dinner. Vin and I went to the recently-opened Lemon Grass restaurant. As far as I know it seems to serve Asian cuisine- lots of curry stuff and spices. Both of us went for the recommended Butter Chicken with rice and a bowl of Hot and Sour Soup. The food was delicious, if a bit too spicy; my stomach, which wasn't feeling good all day, had to contend with being filled up with roiling pepper heat. The soup was hot and sour heaven, but it lit a flame in my mouth which made eating difficult. As it was, I just finished off the morsels of chicken in my buttery dish, had a few spoonfuls of soup and that was it. Good thing the Lemon Grass Tea was cool and refreshing. Great meal. Tortuous, but great. I'll be back there soon. I guess that makes me a bit of a masochist. Heh.

Sunday, May 2

Journey's End

The story of wolves and humans in a dying world ends in Wolf's Rain OAV.

Wolf's Rain is a 26-episode anime series on Animax, all about a dying world where evil nobles rule and wage war from dying, domed cities and keeps, and where wolves are wise, cunning and powerful beings who can walk among humans using powerful illusion. The whole goal of everyone in this series is finding and reaching Paradise, which may or may not be a real place. Before the end, much blood has to be spilled, and even more miles must be run.
This series was made by Studio Bones, the makers of the also-excellent Rahxephon. The animation, character designs and art are incredibly beautiful for a TV series, and it is more or less constant for the whole 30-episodes.
I am not particularly fond of dark, dreary and depressing stories- and Wolf's Rain must easily qualify as such a story- the whole mood of the series is dark, dreary and depressing, full of sadness, regret, loss, anger and towards the end, grief. The series always seems to have a sword dangling over the protagonists' heads. But somehow, each one of the heroes, from the four wolves of Kiba's pack, to the hapless humans caught up in the race for paradise, always keeps a glimmer of hope, even in the face of death. Perhaps that's why in the end I still like it.

I watched Wolf's Rain OAV last night. It's a 4-episode arc (eps. 27-30) which gives the series closure after the regular 26-episode series ended rather inconclusively. Let me just say that I've seen a lot of emotional endings as an otaku, but the grand pathos that ensues in Wolf's Rain's finale got takes the proverbial cake. There are tragic deaths aplenty that will shock and sadden you, especially if you've seen and lived with these characters for 26 episodes. Particularly affecting is the first death, and a subsequent burial in water that gave me a poignant reminder of a similar scene in Final Fantasy VII. Later, a final, emotional ending for a former hunter and hunted had me with tears welling in my eyes- something that has not happened in a long, long time.

A gloriously sad ending as animes go. But instead of turning me away, it has just made me like this series more. Unlike the much-lamented Rurouni Kenshin 2nd OAV which made me hate that series, Wolf's Rain's ending made me like it even more. Perhaps it's because here, the heroes didn't lay down and die, or despair. They kept fighting, kept to their beliefs and goals, even when all was darkest, even when death was at their throat. That's what makes it the tragedy great, but the victory greater.

I probably going to get this series on VCD for posterity. Great, sad stuff to watch, when you want to feel depressed. But then, afterwards, you can move forward because another day is another life to live.