Saturday, February 24

Pinoy Comics on the Tube

Here's a snippet from a feature on Hero TV's G3 about Nautilus Comics. It has appearances of Jaime Bautista's Cast, the Siglo series, Arnold Arre's Andong Agimat and an appearance of my own K.I.A. comic! I really want to get started on comics again, and I will... soon. Very soon! Just stay tuned. Meanwhile, you can check out my Comicspace Page, where I've uploaded pages of a lot of my past comics works- nothing new, really, but we'll fix that up soon.
Naruto Shippuden

From a pervy ninja kid to a grown-up pervy ninja!

I was able to watch the first three episodes of Naruto Shippuden last night. This is the Second Stage of the ninja-themed action-fantasy series, set about five years after the end of the last 'real' storyline of the title. When I mean 'real', I mean based on the original manga story on which Naruto is based- from episode 120 or so onwards, the anime diverges into dreaded 'filler' storylines and sidequests that really have little or nothing to do with the main plotlines. Fillers usually occur when the anime catches up to the manga version, so to give the manga time to finish, the animators go on their own paths... which is not always good. Particularly horrible filler episodes were resposible for the downfall of the Rurouni Kenshin anime (Black Knights... Feng Shui Assassins... Agh...), and could have also brought down even this mega-popular series.

I mean, delving into stuff like the backstories and experiences of the other ninja characters in Naruto isn't half bad, really- but when Naruto and company start fighting Ninja Cooks out to get his favorite Noodle Kiosk Chef, it's really scraping the bottom of the barrel.

Well anyway, after the original Naruto anime reached episode 220, the Naruto Shippuden series finally started, getting back onto the real nitty-gritty of the main plot.
Set several years after Sasuke Uchiha left Konoha Village to train with the evil Orochimaru, Shippuden sees a grown-up Naruto Uzumaki coming home after a prolonged training period with legendary Sannin, Jiraiya. In his absence, the other Gennin have not been idle. Sakura Haruno particularly has become a force to be reckoned with, not only having superior medical talents but the monstrous strength of her teacher, legendary Sannin and current Konoha Hokage, Tsunade. Everyone else has also been promoted to Chunnin, or even Jounin rank... leaving poor Naruto the only one who is still a lowly Gennin. To get them ready, Sakura and Naruto are immediately sent into a challenging test of skill... and they'll need all their new powers in the trials ahead. Far away, in the Village of the Sand, the evil Akatsuki are already moving, seeking to capture the Tailed Beasts to use for their own purposes... and their first target is Gaara of the Desert...

Watching Shippuden was a mixed bag- I love this world and the characters, and the story and action is tops. There's even a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor as the Shippuden characters occasionally interact with their younger, original series versions during chapter breaks. However, the animation of the episodes is a bit disappointing- in fact, it's downright embarrassing at parts and nowhere near the quality of the original series. Also- another thing that is consistent with the original series- it looks like the action is going to be dragged out as always. In the first three episodes, little really happens. It really gets you pumped to watch the next installment, but darn- I wish they were able to squeeze in more in each episode. Oh well.

As I said, I'm neck-deep into Naruto already, and thankfully I haven't really watched many fillers to get tired of this title. This will hopefully make up for in innovative action and cool plots and characters where it is lacking right now in animation quality.

Now to get back to my ninja training...

Thursday, February 22



Okay. I got to read Civil War #7 last night and my first reaction was... WTF?

WHERE did those guys come from?? Heroes clashing left and right, people getting their HEADS caved in, power blasts flaring all around and a bunch of police and firemen appear out of nowhere to save Tony Stark's butt? EH? Man, after 9/11 these firemen and police are just stepping up to the fore, aren't they? Pretty hokey to me but what the heck. The art in the issue was consistent and cool, though I was kinda disappointed that the visual in the previous post was actually the cover, and not an interior panel. All in all a satsfactory end to the Civil War storyline- not exactly the slam-bang ending I would have wanted, but it'll do.

That said, the new status quo is intriguing and I guess there was really no way to go aside from here. I can only hope it translates well to future issues.

Wednesday, February 21

War's End

Marvel Comics' Civil War event has been a great ride for me, easily the best thing to happen to comics since... well, since Secret Wars. Yeah, I liked Infinite Crisis over at DC, but the resulting 52 series and the fiasco of One Year Later confusion came off a bit heavy-handed. Yeah, I'm collecting 52 and will hopefully read it all once it's complete, but for instant gratification and hard-hitting action and great art, Civil War delivers. While it was pretty clear that Cap and the Anti-registration Side are the more 'heroic' and have that underdog vibe that us Pinoys love, I must admit that I actually find some of Iron Man's arguments not too hard to swallow. Well, no matter which side wins, it's pretty sure that this issue about Super Hero Registration won't rest in peace after this issue, but will continue to work it's way throughout the Marvel Universe of titles. I have to admit I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next.

In the meantime, if that single panel above is any indication, Civil War #7 should be pretty awesome. I can't wait to get my hands on my copy (tomorrow, damn it). War may be hell, but darn... this war was pretty cool.
Virtua Fighter 5 Review

Beating people up has never been this beautiful.

Virtua Fighter 5 is finally on the PS3, and fighting game enthusiasts can now enjoy the elite of beat ‘em ups outside of Japan arcades. But to enjoy VF5 at it’s fullest, you’ll need not only a PS3 but a good, big-screen HDTV as well. But even if the price of admission may be a bit steep, fighting game fans won’t regret a thing once this beauty is running in 720p hi-def loveliness before their eyes. This game truly LOOKS like a big budget brawler. Thankfully though, it also plays like one.
VF5 will be embraced by those who already love the series as perhaps the pinnacle of home brawlers. For those coming in fresh to VF, this is a deep, technical fighter that rewards practice and dedication. A few glaring flaws keep VF5 from being the end-all, be-all of fighters, but this is still one impressive title that is a genuine reason to get a PS3.

The small but slam-tastic newcomer El Blaze is sure to be a favorite.

No game looks as ‘Next-Gen’ (well, now-gen) as Virtua Fighter 5. It positively leaves every other fighting game in the dust in terms of looks, particularly with the character models. The fighters are the best yet in terms of lifelike detail, texture and complexity, and this is fitting since the game truly focuses on the fighters themselves. Characters like Shun and Lau are wrinkled and leathery, while babes like Aoi and Pai look like they can star in soap commercials. While not as expansive or interactive as in other games, the stages are awash with detail and bright color. More than one stage shows off cool effects, like individual cherry blossom petals in the Shrine Stage, reflective floors in the Mansion or impressive water ripples in the Ruins Stage.
The fighters also animate pretty much perfectly at a rock-solid frame rate, with fluid martial arts moves and satisfyingly painful reactions to various hits. Fabric and clothing also animate convincingly, even looking damp when a character gets splashed in water.

In terms of fighting action, VF5 is the best of a series that has made realistic fighting it’s main strength. No fireballs or super moves- just painful blows, bone-breaking grapples and dangerous-looking throws that are more or less grounded in real world martial arts. With just three buttons and the joystick, you have access to literally hundreds of moves and combos.
While you can play a shallow game of just blocking and striking hard and fast, the game truly rewards players who take the effort to learn more advanced techniques like evades, throw-escapes, counters, juggles, guaranteed moves and so forth. It will definitely require a lot of practice, but you will see the fruits of your labors with amazing matches and satisfying victories.
What’s great overall about the VF fighting system (and which fans will stand by against) is the game’s balance and fluidity- there isn’t an overwhelming emphasis on counters or dialed-in combos. There are 17 unique fighters and martial arts styles to choose, each with strengths and weaknesses you have to master and compensate for respectively. For the most part though, the best thing about VF5 is that it is far more accessible and playable particularly for newcomers to the game than previous installments. But as always, skill and practice is rewarded- the more you put into this game, the more you get out of it.

Whether you're using slippery ninja Kage or graceful dancing girl Aoi, the balanced gameplay gives every player an even playing field.

That said, in terms of modes, VF5 is, unfortunately, pretty basic. There’s no Story Mode (everything plot-wise about VF is handled off-game) at all, with just a basic Arcade Mode and VS Mode for starters. The Dojo or Training Mode is adequate, but not as helpful or deep as it could have been- more options or a bit more user-friendly options (like the ability to have the CPU demo any of the many moves) would have improved the Dojo a lot. Finally, the VF TV mode is just a glorified Watch Mode which has very limited use or appeal.

The Quest Mode will surely be the single player’s activity for the most part, letting you travel through a virtual Tokyo and challenge various A.I. opponents of varying levels. Success is rewarded with gold and various emblems and items. Still, it’s pretty basic as well- all you pretty much need to do is just beat everyone you find, with no variation of parameters or goals.
VF5’s Customize Mode is much improved from the previous games, and easily impresses as the best implementation so far of this feature. You can give your character a personal touch, radically changing their appearance with dozens and dozens of clothing variants, hairstyles, items and options. But while the fan service in VF has certainly been ramped up (all the girls have been ‘sexed up’), every option and customization is still in line with each character’s style and the game’s relatively conservative stance… if you want bikini fighters, there’s always DOA.

Shiny, sexy Dural is unlockable as a playable character by beating the game with every other character.

The sounds in VF5 are a mixed bag- each stage comes with an accompanying tune that sets the atmosphere well but is may not appeal to some. You’ll either like it or not, but none of it is bad at least.
The sound effects are the same sounds from previous VF games. Hits like major kicks or big pounce attacks slam hard, while stuff like Akira’s deadly moves boom out like thunder. It’s all impressive and cool, and gives powerful attacks a lot more emphasis.

The voices are mostly well-done, though English lines are often funny if not totally hilarious. The most painful voice samples though belong not to the fighters but to the optional English Commentary, which I prefer turned off due to the seemingly bored, flat and off-kilter delivery.

Replayability and Fun Factor
There are 17 unique fighters to choose from, and it will take hours to even begin to get good with any single one. The single player game is long if you dedicate yourself to unlocking every item and beating every A.I. opponent in the Quest Mode. However, this game shines in VS, one-on-one play with two human players. It’s a big glaring fault though that VF5 has no online capability- no online play is fine, but it would have made VF5 that much more enjoyable and rewarding if you could update the game with new moves and items like the arcade version, or if you could post replay data online to show off your best matches. More modes as well and more detailed options wouldn’t have hurt at all.
That said, there’s more than enough deep, satisfying fighting action here for any beat ‘em up fan, and that at least is where VF5’s strengths count the most.

Final Word
Virtua Fighter 5 is without a doubt the most beautiful-looking and playing fighter out right now for a home console. With the best graphics and animation around, challenging and deep fighting action that only gets better as you do, VF5 is truly a champion among fighters and finally, a great reason to get a PS3 and enter the world of HD next-gen gaming.

Monday, February 19

Schooltime Shipping

Yes, it's finally happened... Avatar goes Super-Deformed.

Yet another entry into the series of little feature 'appetizers' for in preparation for the Third Season of Avatar: The Last Airbender debuted over the weekend. It's an anime-style short entitled Schooltime Shipping, and features SD (Super Deformed) versions of Aang, Katara, Zuko and a lot of the Avatar Gang in a silly, school situation comedy. Three more shorts will supposedly follow in the following weeks/months, again to keep fans of Avatar marginally sated as they wait for the next installment of the mega-popular fantasy-adventure series.

Another development is the confirmation of the new voice actor for Uncle Iroh, Greg Baldwin, who replaces the late Mako.

To check out "Schooltime Shipping", go here. The password is 'KOH'.

One of the cooler things I've been able to do recently is collect piles of stuff. Piles of games, piles and piles and piles of comics and piles of DVDs and downloaded shows. The only thing is, I haven't really had time to really start on enjoying a lot of them. Scratch that... Almost all of them. I've been collecting the whole 52 series from DC, and I haven't read a single issue. That goes as well for several other titles I'm still collecting. On the digital front, I've been downloading stuff like crazy and I haven't been able to watch any yet, like Heroes and a truckload of anime.

Well, that's gonna change. I'm gonna start actually looking at the stuff I'm downloading and buying. Just this night, I popped in the creepy series Ghost Whisperer starring Jennifer Love Hewitt. I really should have gotten into this series earlier, seeing as how I am really interested by the premise of ghosts and the supernatural. Anyway, GS is all about a girl who can see ghosts, often being approached by spirits for aid in 'crossing over'. Yep, it's pretty much "The Sixth Sense" the Series, but with a babe instead of a little kid. The pilot episode has humor, creepy moments and freaky bits... and of course, moments of sadness. I think I like it, and I'll probably keep watching it. It'll be a good thing to see while I'm waiting for the next episode of Ghost Hunters.