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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Youmacon 2010

Think anime cons are too nerdy for you? Protect your social standing
by attending in the Three Wolf and Moon shirt!

I know it's been a while since I last made a post, but that's because I've been busy with school and gearing up (and down) from the big event of my year: Youmacon! Newly relocated to the beautiful GM Renaissance Center in the middle of downtown Detroit (complete with an amazing view of Canada :D), there were a couple of growing pains this year. However, even despite those, I'd say if they fix all those mistakes, this could easily become one of the best cons in the country.
Oh canada...

The first thing I noticed as I arrived was how big the hotel was. It'd a good thing they chose this size of a hotel, too, because along with a larger venue came a much larger crowd (according to Wikipedia, while last year's brought in 6,000+, this year we had more than 9000 attendees, which is more people than were in that hotel staying for the Super Bowl, which his just a few miles away at Ford Field.). Due to some combination of not knowing the new place  as well as they needed to, and the hotel refusing to believe that this many people would show up, the registration line was a complete train wreck. Right off the start, things started going awry.

Of course, where there's Zoidberg, there's trouble.

However, once that was done (which for me took waiting in line form 9 AM, and the line starting at 12, until i got my badge at 1 PM, though others who arrive later reported 4 hour wait times), the best thing you could have was the first obvious destination: An in-con food court. Complete wit ha McDonalds, Burger King, Subway, all the good stuff. Prices were fair, and while the employees didn't seem too thrilled about all this work, it wasn't too bad as a consumer.  The layout of the area, though confusing at first, is really neat to look at. A bit of a pain to walk around to get to weirdly placed escalators, though.

Riley's been lost so long he doesn't know R. Kelly's already free.

One of the best parts of any con are the events and panels they put on. From the Maid Cafe (of which Youmacon was the first con in America to have) to Live Action Mario Party (plus the 18+ After Dark version they put on), these are usually the events that are jam-packed of both audience and fun, and this year was no exception. A bonus to the new hotel was that the area for the rave was larger, so instead of one small cramped space, there was a large ballroom being pumped full of beats and energy by several different DJ's. Unfortunately, one of the best musical guests from the last two cons, a local dance/electronica act called "My Dear Disco", was unable to be booked. Their segment of the rave was always the one with the highest-energy flowing through the room, and was missed. However, what was there was itself great, so while they're missed, their absence doesn't damper the experience.

Pictured: Anime West Side Story

The dealer's room this year was at least double the size of years past. With the ability to not only move around, but also stop to investigate the different dealers tables, this is the most noticeable improvement. With several new dealers dealing several new things, including one table selling doujinshi straight from Japan, it was a pretty awesome space to be in, provided you had the scratch. The game room nextdoor was about the same goodness it ever was, just with a bit more room and a ventilation system.

Not a lot of cash, so a small haul this year. Of course between
Higurashi doujins, the Higurashi VN's english translation, and
a half price Silhouette Mirage, it's definately one of my best.

The biggest problem, though, is one you'd likely experience right after a trip to the dealers room. Packing 9,000 people into a large space isnt' a big feat, but trying to cram 100 at any one time into 12 elevators, not counting the other floors of people waiting to get on, is not exactly pleasant. Since the con was understaffed, and the hotel refused to bring in any of it's backups for some stupid animation convention, there ended up being pandemonium any time yo uwanted access to your room.  This got so bad eventually the owner of the hotel chain (It was a Mariott hotel) came in to get on the staff's case about the way they were handling the event. All in all, it's something that's almost guaranteed to be fixed by next year, but it was something that held this year's con back.

I blame it on this guy not giving us enough oil, rope, or
bombs to properly regulate the elevators.

All in all, while it wasn't without it's problems, it was still a great weekend. Meeting people, hanging out , playing games, watching anime, participating in the events going on all around, it's too much fun to be dropped by 20 minute elevator waits. If you live in the area, or don't but want another con to go to (one that may soon even rival ACen for Midwest dominance :o), then check this one out next year, it's always been a great time!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Children of Daicon

I'm sure anyone who's into anime has heard of Gainax, the studio behind Evangelion, FLCL, Gurren Lagaan, and many other shows. Eventually, if you spend enough time around otaku, you'll get pointed back towards either Otaku no Video, which is Gainax's "autobiography" of their history as a company (with a few modifications for entertainment value), or directly to the Daicon IV animation, which was the second of two shorts they did as college kids for a convention, using 35mm cameras and animation cels (the process of which is shown in OnV). If you haven't seen it, look here:

For a couple of people not even in the industry, not even having access to anything more than the base necessities, it's truly amazing. A great piece of history, showing the beginning of what would become one of the biggest names in the industry.

However, even for those who know about this, this blog post isn't about that. It's something you have to see to truly appreciate "The Children of Daicon", an AMV tribute to the above video. The gist of the video is basically a musical version of Otaku no Video from the start of the company to today condensed to fit the length of ELO's Twilight, the same song used in the original video. Using clips of almost every show they've ever done, it's really a trip down memory lane if you've seen a lot of their shows. Seeing clips from FLCL and Eva next to OnV and Wings of Honneamise, it's really pretty awesome.

This like this always hit a spot with me. I really enjoy looking back at things that came before my time, whether it be 50's or 60's rock and roll, 70's or 80's anime/manga, or even Atari or Intellivision games something about old classics hits a chord with me. A video like this, then, is right up my alley, showing off anime across generations, even if it is one company's stuff, you can really see how things have changed. being so short, it can't be very in depth, but it's got a similar spirit to Otaku no Video, which is what I think really makes it special.

View "Children of Daicon" here:

Monday, October 18, 2010

Video Game Soundtracks part 2: Original Soundtracks

Of course, while licencing the right song for a game can add to it, making the right soundtrack for it is even better. There's millions of video game tracks out there, and even  more good ones than one post can handle.  So, for this edition, I'll just focus on a few of my favorites. 


So, you think you can beat Mike Tyson? If not, you will after this starts playing. It'll pump you up perfectly for the road ahead of you, changing slightly every fight, getting more and more intense as you climb the ranks. It'll get you right into the zone you need to be, and when you hit a roadblock (or King Hippo), it'll do it's best to keep you from giving up, making sure your burning heart stays on fire and you keep your tiger's eye focused on finding the way to win.

And if you still doubt that it's a fantastic track, listen to this version and feel the doubt melt away:


If you were in the middle of a fantastic journey through the cave of the monsters, and could only take one song with you, why not make it cheery and upbeat?  Sure, it'll be playing through every single one of the one hundred levels of the cave, but it's got this charm to it that makes it hard to get tired of it. It's great in game, it'll get stuck in your head for a looooong time after playing, and it's even pleasurable to listen to outside the game.


Everyone probably could recite any tune from one of the main series games by heart without even thinking. Maybe a few less could put out one from one of the Game Boy editions of the franchise. While the first level theme has achieved a level of popularity, this second level theme is, similar to the Marble Zone from Sonic 1, vastly underestimated. I'd argue it's even a more enjoyable tune than some of the NES ones.  It fits it's level well, it's really catchy, and is liable to really get stuck in your head for a bit after playing.


This one could just be nostalgia talking, but I love this track. It's this soft, yet kind of bustling track, like morning has dawned on a city. If I could sum it up in a way everyone would understand, it wounds like something you'd hear during Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. It really fits the pace and tone of the game, especially during this phase of the city. Nothing too intense, but still enough to keep you in the mood.

Of course, these are only a few that I'm remembering, I'm sure there's tons more that I'm not even thinking of. Feel free to post some of your favorite original game tunes in the comments!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Video Game Soundtracks: Licensed Music Edition

When you hear the opening sounds of Goldfinger's "Superman", what's the first thing to come to your mind? Is it an image of the band? The music video? Of course not. It's an image of you, in 1999, playing Tony Hawk's Pro Skater on your Playstation, being blown away by the game's combination of awesome music and great gameplay, grinding your way around that warehouse. You'll think of restarting the level several times until you get the right song on to pull a sick run for the judges and get your well-deserved gold medal. Or fondly remember trying to make your end-of-round combo last as long as you could, trying to last until the end of "Jerry was a Racecar Driver" doing lip tricks and grinds, not for score, but for Primus. Of course, you could just go an listen to the CD if you had it, but even if you did, there's something fulfilling about being able to listen to more and more of the song every time you did better and better.

Tony Hawk one one of the games that made you realize just how much of a difference music could make in a game. Of course, the best example would probably be Sega's Crazy Taxi. Definately a fun game in it's own right, but it wouldn't be remembered half as fondly as it is without it's 4- song rotation of Offspring and Bad Religion. Even the first time you play, and you don't know what you're getting into, that opening "YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAH" of "All I Want" is the perfect thing to get you loosened up and pump you up to cause some chaos around San Francisco. Long after the game should have gotten boring, that soundtrack kept many coming back for more, not just to hear the music, but to have it blaring at them as they make some crazy money.

The one game that made me realize just how much music can affect my desire to play was Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Back when this came out, I was totally hooked by these games. Just going around, free range bringing the ruckus around this seemingly huge virtual city. But, that got old after a while. Even doing missions, continuing the story didn't keep my attention through the game. Vice City stands as the only GTA game (and the only single player sandbox game) I've played to completion. It wasn't because of sniping Hatians or selling drugs out of an ice cream truck. What did it was the simple pleasure of driving up and down the length of the city blasting V-Rock or Flash FM, listening to this awesome compilation of 80's music while in this immersive 80's world. 

By no means was this an invention of the age of licensed music. Any band that does covers of classic game tunes is proof enough of that. However, for me personally, these three games are the ones that best exemplify how a good soundtrack can make a difference between playing it until getting bored and playing it through to the end. Any time I think of these games, I don't just remember playing it, I remember the music playing during. Microsoft had a genius idea when they built custom soundtracks into their system, instead of being stuck with a small pool of songs, or a bunch of music you don't like, you could play some Need for Speed to every rocking song you'd like. However, there's nothing like being able to just pop in a game, and rock out with it's soundtrack.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Retro Game of the Day: Puchi Carat (ARC)

Welcome to Retro Game of the Day, a feature where I look at older (i.e. pre-2000) video games that you may or may not have missed. In general, these will be my experiences with the game, sometimes with memories of it back in the day if applicable, but also my impressions of playing it now via emulation.

Today, for the inaugural Retro Game of the Day, I'll take a look at Puchi Carat, a 1997 Taito release that made it's way to both Japan and Europe. Since I've only played it on MAME, keep in mind everything here will be about the arcade version, but apparently it was also released on the PSX, the Game Boy Color, as part of both the Taito Memories 1 and Taito Legends 2 compilations for the PS2 and Xbox, and it's been released for download on the Playstation Network in Japan.

"There are twelve Special Stones in the world, known alternately as Magic Stones and Secret Stones. Millennia have passed and the secret stones found their way into the hands of twelve people. Rumor says that if one collects all twelve of these stones, your wishes will come true."

The game is basically a cross between Breakout and Bust-a-Move. You control a paddle at the bottom of the screen, that bounces between you and the bubbles at the top of the screen, which at certain intervals shifts down. However, unlike other games of this type, the ball falling past the paddle doesn't kill you. Instead, it just shifts the screen down three lines, which, while it brings the bubbles closer to filling the screen, also gives you more bubbles to work with, to possibly create a huge drop out of, which sends garbage to your opponent's field.

What the hell kind of name is Dearl?

There's 12 characters in all, each one named after a gem of some kind. They all have different attack patterns for your drops, just like in the later Bust-A-Moves. Besides that, the character you select cheers you on from behind the field, fully animated for each drop you pull off, from a simple taunt to a close up for a huge attack. When you're just starting out, this can be really distracting, or when the close-ups happen it might break your concentration, though. Other than that, there's really no difference between the characters, so it's basically all up to personal preferences on which looks the most interesting to you.

To sum it up, it's a pretty fun game. The Breakout/Bust-A-Move combination really works well, and while the characters in the background can be distracting, after a while it's not too hard to work around them. It's not something you'll sit down and play for hours on end, but it's definately something worth playing for a bit here or there. If you don't enjoy puzzle games, it won't change your mind, but otherwise, it's a great joining of two forces.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

One Piece: Unlimited Adventure impressions

So, I got in the mail this morning a replacement nunchuk for my Wii. Haven't had one for a few years, as we lost it soon after getting it. Thusly, it means I've missed out on quite a few years of Wii games. Predictably, most of them don't excite me, but there's always something out there to warm up to. Of course, the first thing i tried with it was Punch-Out!!. It's really not as good as when you're playing with the Wiimote alone, though I only played Glass Joe to try it out, so i may not have given it enough time. I went through a few more games, until i got to one that I was really wanting to try out: One Piece unlimited Adventure.

I've jsut started a few months back watching the anime of this, after a friend convinced me to give it a shot. I remember enjoying it back when I read Shonen Jump, but that being monthly, it just got too annoying trying to follow every story in that mag, so i jsut basically dropped the whole thing. I really was pleasantly surprised at how good and fun it was to watch, even now. And before someone starts something up, yes, i know it's a show for pre-teens and such, but damnit, it's still a hell of a lot of fun. Anyone who's pushing it away for that reason alone, loosen up and give it a real chance. It's not OMFG AWSUMM, but it's a great way to kill an afternoon.

Back on topic, I read a few reviews of this and it seemed like they were all overall positive, and the description reminded me of a couple other games I enjoyed. So, I decided to give it a try. And, after a few hours of playing it, the first thing that pops into my head is that this game is a good way to describe one of the problem core gamers have with Nintendo nowadays: This One Piece-themed Zelda knockoff is leagues better than the actual Zelda game that was made on the Wii. Keep in mind, this game is from late 2007, so it's not like this is a recent release that has all the years of development experience. This is, what, a year or two after the system came out? Sure, it doesn't have all the wagglan and this and that of Twilight Princess, but dammit, it's probably better for it.

Now, saying it's a Zelda clone doesn't really describe the game fully. It plays like a mix between Zelda and, I'd say something like Ratchet and Clank or Jak and Daxter, but I never played either of those series of games, so I really don't know if that's an apt description. The game plays a lot like Zelda, but with a couple additions. As you play, you gain new attacks by "leveling up" the ones you have. This is expedited by the fact that in every fight, a move list pops up on the side of the screen. As you pull off attacks, the list shrinks, until there is only one attack left. Pull this attack off, and it does massive damage, so much so that the enemy defeated drops items and health. The second thing is that, instead of being stuck playing one character all game, you can choose between  8 characters: Luffy, Nami, Zoro, Sanji, Chopper, Usopp, Robin, and Frankie, each with their own health bar, and attacks. I'd imagine they each have different properties to them, like jumping ability, etc, but while I played I only used Nami and Chopper, so I can't say much about that. And, instead of getting new weapons from chests, you have to build everything by collecting materials from enemies and stuff you find on the island.

The biggest gripe I have so far is somewhere between the ease of messing up jumps because of the camera (which I feel I'm unqualified to talk about, seeing as how desensitized i was to bad camera angles after years of Sonic Adventure 1 and 2) and the fact that there's no sub option. The game is dub only, though if you know what you're doing, you could easily play an import version. The dub itself really isn't bad, but after watching the show in subs for so long, some of the voices irk me at times. Thus, it's all personal problems, and really isn't something that detracts from the game too much. However, being a One Piece game, it's not very difficult. As much as I'm enjoying it all now, I'm only a few hours in, and I really doubt it'd be something that could hold my interest from beginning to end. It's definitely a good game, but nothing too special. If I were to give it a score, probably 7.5/10, above average, but not super great. If you like OP, or the game sounds like something you'd like, definitely give it a try.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Woah, hold the phone there mates.

It's never fun being in a rush. Doubly so when there's bad weather on the road. Or cops. Or cops near speed traps in bad weather. Of course, I'm the kind of guy that doesn't need the bad weather to fuck something up, but would actually do better with it. It's odd how I've gotten more tickets and had more crashed under 55 than over it, and same with bad weather than in good weather. It's fun, though ,at least, having some ass backwards luck. Never know what's going to happen each day!

You know those ancedotes from IT departments?

The ones where they have to deal with absolute morons all the time, the kind who still look for the "any" key? Yeah, imagine if that wasn't a job, but your home life.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Never know what's around the corner!

Usually it's just more road, though. Corners are about the most disappointing thing in existence. Always promising a new, exciting opportunity, but never delivering. Unless the corner is an awesome corner store. Then the corner is very worthwhile.