Saturday, October 8

PSP Trojan

According to Malware Specialist Symantec, there now exists a trojan (a malicious program) that specifically targets Playstation Portables (PSPs). The trojan takes advantage of recent entrances to the PSP which allow users to run non-signed code (programs and apps not sanctioned by Sony). The trojan, dubbed Trojan.PSPBrick, masquaerades as a download which offers to enable additional capabilities to users. But instead of letting PSP owners execute 'homebrew" codes, the trojan deletes four vital system files required for the PSP to boot its OS, causing the device to become, literally, a useless brick.
Judging from how the trojan does not contain the means to spread to other users from affected PSP units, Symantec reports that the malware isn't causing big damage as of yet- PSP owners who refrain from using unsigned code will be safe.

WHICH leads the conspiracy theorist in me to believe that this 'trojan' may be something that could have been engineered intentionally FOR Sony's interest in punishing users who want to bend the rules a bit to get more out of their PSPs. Hmm? If players get scared of free downloads, they'll stay and use Sony's regulated software. Far-fetched? Maybe. Maybe not. Hmmm.

Now, if Sony got their act together on their portable and provided support for encoding video, internet browsing and other cool stuff, then maybe hacking or getting homebrew software won't be necessary. And maybe (but not likely given how crappy the game lineup is) I'd consider getting myself one of these bricks-er, I mean, PSPs.

Thursday, October 6

Soul-searing Demo

Taking Soul Calibur III for a spin.

I managed to get my hands on a demo for the upcoming uber-fighting game Soul Calibur III for the PS2. It cost a pretty penny (the dvd comes with a copy of Official Playstation Magazine, which is pretty pricey) but it was worth it to play a bit of the game and get a taste of the sword-swinging goodness that's sure to come.

The Demo itself is kinda minimal- there's a mini-intro movie/trailer that has a bit of CG (though none of the awesome footage seen in the latest online videos) and ingame fighting. Pass that and you'll have options for Single Player play and VS Combat. For VS, there are only two characters playable- old foagie samurai Mitsurugi and newcomer psycho-cutie Tira. You'll have access to both of the characters' alternate costumes. There aren't any move lists, so playing with Tira will be kinda touchy-feely, though she looks quite cool as she moves- sexy and impish, and that razor hula-hoop looks scary. However, I've heard that it's going to take a bit of skill to make her an effective player.
The meat of the Demo is in the Single Player modes, of which there are two usable in the demo. There's the Story Mode which gives you control of Kilik, the staff-swinging hero. The Story Mode is pretty cool, with text telling you actually what happens and there are points where you are prompted to choose from one of two directions to go. Unfortunately, the Demo only gives a tantalizing taste of what's to come. Namco are such teases...

The best fun to be had on the Demo is the Character Creation Mode, of course. As expected though, the stuff you can do is pretty limited. While you can make either male or female characters, you have only two occupations to choose from- Ninja (basically like Taki) and Dancer armed with tambourines. There are quite a few items of clothing to put on and layer on your created fighter, or of course you can just strip them down to their cloth-wrap skivvies (heh). The character models aren't as detailed as I would like (they seem even less detailed than those in SC2), but they animate quite well and are quite hi-res so that's no big. Once all the options are unlocked in the final game, you should be able to come up with quite a few interesting created fighters, including some familiar faces from other games (Dante from Devil May Cry and even Cloud from FFVII are favorites among Create-a-Fighter enthusiasts).

The fighting is slightly different and faster from previous installments, but old hands at Soul Calibur should be able to jump right in with no problem. Tira seems very interesting, though I have to say I'm most interested in trying out killer geisha Setsuka. I can't wait to have the whole game- there's bound to be a mind-boggling amount of extras, playability and fun to be had with this, the latest and greatest chapter in the popular series. The finished game should be arriving in the next several weeks.

Tuesday, October 4

Project: Hero

United Against... GOOMBA the Three-Eyed!

Here's a scan of the pencilled initial study for the cover of Project: Hero. Comic fans will no doubt notice the resemblance to the classic Fantastic Four cover. The heroes include characters from six of the eight featured titles in the superhero anthology- including Yaya Cadabra by Andrew Drilon, main man Awesome and members of The Craft Century by Dean Alfar, Nikki Alfar's Channel, Vin Simbulan's Kid Continuum, the battle armored Tri-tech by Jamie Bautista and Elbert Or's Jet Titanium the Space Ranger. I'll be adding several more characters before this artwork goes to ink, if it's approved by the almighty editors.

Darn. Gotta get working on the pages...
Heroes Unlimited

Years ago, I've always been a fan of the old Superfriends cartoons, and even more so of the more action-oriented Superfriends vs the Legion of Doom episodes. But while it was cool to have a direct hero vs. villain series back in the 80s, they were always a bit too simplified and kiddy. Now, since we were all kids at the time, that's really not something we could help. Now that a lot of comic fans these days are grown, it's really nice to see that some of our cartoons have grown with us.
Which is probably the best compliment I can give to Justice League Unlimited. I've always liked the original Justice League series (which comprised only of the core DC heroes). But when they added the 'Unlimited' to the title and turned the League into an army of superheroes, I just freaked. It was awesome to see characters like the female Doctor Light, Black Canary, The Creeper, Wildcat, Fire, Red Tornado and countless others appearing, even if just in cameos. Nobody had ever had the ambition to do this- certainly nothing from competitor Marvel Comics. It was incredible to just show off your Universe like this, and JLU arguably has made it's own mark as having a setting and back story that is as gripping as the actual comics.
Justice League Unlimited's best plots of course have to do with Project Cadmus, the shadowy government organization dedicated to creating solutions to the possibility that the Justice League may go rogue. Led by the no-nonsense Amanda Waller, having unlimited resources and influence, Cadmus is a great counter-group against the seemingly all-powerful League. The latter episode Panic In the Sky, where the Watchtower itself is attacked by an army of clone superhumans, is easily the single best superhero battle I've ever seen, animated or live-action.

But along with the action and multitude of superhero cameos, what surprised me is the maturity of the series. There are things taken up in JLU (and even in companion series like the Batman titles) that years ago could never have been thought of- among them, the topic of death. In the (unaired) JLU season finale "Epilogue", this is shown in a poignant scene between Batman and the young, dying supervillain Ace (of the Royal Flush Gang). The dialogue, the mood and Batman's actions (or non-action) is touching in a way I never thought I'd see in a superhero cartoon.

In terms of animation style (Bruce Timm's art style ROCKS!), voice acting (JLU regularly uses veteran actors among its vocal performers) and stories, JLU simply is the best comic to animation title I know today. I can only hope that the next season doesn't take too long in coming. That would be true injustice.

Addendum: Justice League Unlimited's FIFTH Season (or Season 3 as JLU) will continue to focus and give light to other heroes in the DC Universe, as well as signal the arrival of JLU's version of The Legion of Doom, led by Gorilla Grodd. Wowsers! It's gonna be awesome.
Halo goes DOA

It's not a joke... not just a rumor... and I've checked the calendar and it's nowhere NEAR April. And now Bungie themselves have confirmed it. So... it must be true!

Okay, rewind a bit. A story surfaced some time ago that there will be a non-Tecmo franchise character appearing in the upcoming Xbox 360 brawler Dead or Alive 4. Speculation grew but them one rumor proved stronger than most. The guest character will be from Halo, the best-selling sci-fi first person shooter. As mentioned, Bungie has already confirmed that they have met with Team Ninja and have actually 'seen the character in action'. And, they were blown away. So it seems to be a GO.
Now, who is the Halo character playable in DOA4? It has already been confirmed that Halo's main hero, bad-ass cyborg super-solder Master Chief won't be it. That leaves a gaggle of space marines and officers and Halo's menagerie of Covenant aliens... none of which conforms to DOA's overall theme. But then, there's also Cortana, the sexy hologram babe/A.I. that accompanies and guides Master Chief through the game. The only other human female character is a minor personality, the woman Cortana was based on... so, needless to say, our money is on Cortana to tussle along with the DOA girls later this year when DOA4 launches on Xbox360. According to Bungie, they actually supply the back story to how or why their character is appearing in the DOA Universe... though it will be tongue in cheek. Just who the character really is will just have to remain a titillating secret till we get our Xbox Next this holiday season.

"A DOA Girl? Me?"

Monday, October 3

Paint it Black

Over the weekend I got Ninja Gaiden Black for the Xbox. This is basically a souped-up, everything-on-it version of last year's uber-action game starring Tecmo's superninja, Ryu Hayabusa. The original NG got top marks, often cited by gaming websites as 'the best action game ever', and I would concur that it's pretty awesome. The graphics and animation are DOA3-quality, Ryu is so incredibly bad-ass with an arsenal of killer ninja moves, enemies are killer and the barely-there-plot serviceable thanks to some cool cinematics. NG was also HARD AS FRICKING HELL- even the first enemies you face are dangerous and can kill you if you're not careful, and it only gets harder into the long game. From apprentice ninja you move onto samurai horsemen, assorted monsters, heavily armed commandos, elite assassins, demons and oodles more adversaries just ready to cut down your life bar to zero. The good thing is that Ryu has all the skillz- defeating any of the enemies in the game is never impossible, never unfair... you just have to know what to do.

Well, that doesn't make it any easier. Superninja or no, you shouldn't have to face a fully-loaded TANK on foot. Well, not without a tank-busting RPG. Or a man-portable particle disruptor cannon. Or a Vanishing Ray.

Anyway, NG Black adds in a ton of stuff, including all the recent add-on packs, or Hurricane Packs, that were made available off Xbox Live after the original game was released. Black also adds in new missions- in fact, about 60 of them- which basically concentrate on what Ninja Gaiden does best- combat. Add in some new cinematics for the story mode and you indeed have an even better version of the best ninja action game yet released on a console. And best of all, there's a new 'Easy' mode for all us who failed to start playing videogames when we were three. Heh. Anyway, action fans should check out Ninja Gaiden Black asap for pure ninja-fighting fun.