A TRUE man

In response to Mecha Guignol’s brave stand against the imposter Kamina:

Long before TTGL, there was Martian Successor Nadesico. And long before Kamina, there was Gai Daigoji.

R.I.P.

He was born as humble Jiro Yamada, but within him was the spirit of a true super robot pilot. Like Kamina, he espoused the values of hotbloodedness and mechtardery.
But he was a true man. He lived in a world bound by real robot physics, where his only companion was a lowly ship’s cook; and yet, despite these insurmountable obstacles, he broke the laws of reason and turned his Aestivalis into a mech to make Kouji Kabuto proud.

No pitiful midboss shot him down. He defeated countless Jovians and Feddies. His death was the result of treachery: shot unawares in the hangar of the Nadesico by cowards. He was an inspiration to Akito, and wishful pilots everywhere.

Gai was a true man. It is a cruel irony that Kamina, and not he, was to become the face of GAR.

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Sneaky first-hand peak at the 3DS

Sometimes life gives you little surprises. At the moment I’m doing work experience with a certain national newspaper (who shall remain anonymous). One of the perks of working for a broadsheet is that you get invited to stuff; in this instance, our department received an invite to to a press event promoting the 3DS and upcoming Nintendo games. As the token young person, I was sent to represent the paper and glean some info.

As this was an event for the general press (and it was held in London, the backwater of the gaming industry) I didn’t discover anything new that you can’t already find from several sources on the internet. These are just a few impressions.

3DS

I was quite curious to see what 3D-without-glasses would be like, and I was pleasantly surprised. The effect is on par with 3D films, and I feel that a smaller screen helps. However, I don’t really see what impact it will have on gaming. More significant, I feel, are the graphics – they’re far nicer than the vanilla DS’s, probably on par with the Gamecube. In all other aspects, it’s little different from the battle-scarred DS phat I have on my desk.

The only playable demo I found was Pilotwings Resort; it was mostly good for demonstrating the use of the 3DS’s pseudo-analogue-stick (only six years after the PSP – good job, Ninty!) and wasn’t anything special. Everything else were merely video demoes; and of those, most didn’t even show gameplay. Mario Kart is the same as always, although the 3D and vertigo-inducement make it look prettier than its predecessors. Resident Evil: Revelations had nothing to show for itself apart from one cutscene, and I’ve never been that interested in the series. The Naked Sample was impressive, but apparently it’s nothing more than a tech demo.

The highlight of the pack was Kid Icarus. Given Nintendo’s reputation for exploiting their core franchises like a Taiwanese sweatshop, it’s refreshing to see them give some attention to a series with few entries. Again, basing predictions around a three-minute video is foolish; but I hope it turns out good.

Wii

I was extremely happy to see a playable demo of Epic Mickey. Great things should be expected from the man who created Deus Ex. Obviously, the graphics were a bit of a letdown – though to be honest, there wasn’t a chance in hell that it would be true to the amazing concept art – although the cutscenes are done in a quirky style. The gameplay isn’t groundbreaking, but it’s not bad. Unless it gets horrible reviews in the lag between NA and EU release dates, I’ll probably buy it.

I only played one match on Goldeneye 007. I’m probably not the core audience, being neither an FPS nerd nor a nostalgiafag for the original N64, but regardless I wasn’t blown away. The graphics seem bad, even by Wii standards.

Metroid: Other M was intriguing, if nothing else. Gameplay switches between a third-person platformer, with the occasional foray into FPS mode. It’s confusing and inconvenient, but that’s not much of a hindrance because the gameplay is ridiculously easy. I don’t like the direction that the series has taken; I feel that Metroid is at its best with claustrophobic, lonely corridor-scrolling. The recent glut of Halo-esque SPESS MAHREENS and bounty hunters doesn’t hold a candle to the 2D games. I also found the treatment of Power Bombs in the dialogue to be hilarious – the characters treat them like nukes, whereas in-game they’re pretty weak and have infinite ammo.

DS

Surprisingly, most of the demoes on show were RPGs. I didn’t think Golden Sun and Dragon Quest would receive such prominence. Neither was amazingly fun, although I don’t feel that five minutes is long enough to truly appraise them.

Pokemon Ranger is confusing and wrong to my mind; the only non-main series Pokemon game I’ve played was the trading card game on the GBC, which was okay. Drawing circles around a Pokemon to capture it makes about as much sense to me as trying to play Tetris with triangles. But if you’re already a fan, you’ll probably like it.

I think I’ve been too harsh on casual gaming in the past. I tried the new Professor Layton, and it’s actually reasonably fun if you don’t treat it as a video game. Recently I’ve become a bit of a sudoku addict, so these puzzles are nice.

Ghost Trick seems like an interesting concept (possessing inanimate objects to solve puzzles) and I might pick it up. The graphics are nothing special, but it was an amusing demo.

Stuff I didn’t see (and couldn’t really care less about)

More Wii rhythm/sports shit, Nintendogs, Donkey Kong County.

Okay, I think that covered most major things. I’m probably committing several breaches of contract, but like I said, most of this is on IGN so I think my arse is safe. If anyone has questions about stuff I forgot to mention, just post a comment~

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Fire Emblem: Shin Monsho no Nazo is out!

…or rather, it was released yesterday in Japan.

As you may be aware, we only learned of this game’s existence two months ago. Given how quickly it got a JP release, hopefully this bodes well for a possible US release (and by extension, the poor unloved EU market).

Now, while I will of course give my hard-earned pounds sterling for an English copy when (if?) it arrives in stores, I feel that it’s my duty to have a sneak peek now and report back my findings… for science

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R.I.P. Harvey Pekar

Today, a great artist has passed away.

Harvey Pekar proved that the graphic novel medium wasn’t just for science fiction and superheroes. His critically-acclaimed American Splendor showed that it could depict the individual experience of life just as well as film or traditional print media.

Our Cancer Year, the autobiographical account of his battle with cancer is a harrowing book and I would recommend it to anyone who is uninterested with the more mainstream themes of graphic novels.

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Doctor Who Season Five: Closing Thoughts

The beauty of the BBC’s iPlayer is that I can write this post with the finale freshly viewed two weeks after its original airdate. Now my laziness can be justified!

We’ve come to the end of the fifth reboot series of Doctor Who. In some ways, it feels almost like a reboot of a reboot: we’ve had a new Doctor, new companions and rather few returning characters. I also feel that the tone of the series has changed, in my opinion, for the better.

matt smith doctor who bowtie

Bow-ties ARE cool!

Matt Smith’s introduction as the eleventh Doctor caused a bit of a stir-up back when it was announced, and I worried that he would try too hard to emulate the inimitable David Tennant. Thankfully, it seems that he developed his own style as a slightly geekier, less self-assured Doctor. Tennant’s incarnation appeared to be rather omnipotent; Smith shows a lot more weakness. There are moments in the series, such as in the “The Beast Below”, when he genuinely seems unsure of his actions. His quirkiness becomes endearing as he eases into the role.
karen gillan amy pond doctor whoThe new companion Amy Pond was also wonderfully refreshing. Pond is far more assertive than her predecessors; the relationship between her and the Doctor seems much more equal than before. She also displays a great deal of usefulness: she actually saves the day on numerous occasions when the Doctor is unable to do so. Her relationship with hapless Rory is sweet. It doesn’t do her any harm that I have a thing for Scottish accents.

In general, the feel of the new season is different. Under the tenth Doctor, the series appeared to move in a darker direction, perhaps following the lead of its seriously dark, if utterly immature, cousin Torchwood. In the words of Charlie Brooker:

[Torchwood] somehow managed to feel like both a multi-coloured children’s show and a heaving sex-and-gore bodice-ripper at the same time. The constant clash of mutually-incongruous tones meant watching it felt like stumbling across a hitherto secret episode of Postman Pat in which Pat runs down 15 villagers while masturbating at the wheel of his van. Interesting, but possibly aimed at madmen.

Fortunately, Doctor Who never quite got that bad (although I still love Torchwood for its frankly ridiculous levels of bisexuality and cheese). Nevertheless, episodes like “Turn Left”, “The Age of Steel” and the season finales felt surprisingly dystopian for what is essentially a children’s show. It’s not that I disliked the previous series; rather, I feel that Doctor Who is at its best with episodes that rely on eeriness (such as “Blink” and “The Empty Child“).

empty child doctor who

From "The Empty Child", series one: remember that this is a childrens' show

While season five didn’t have anything on par with “Blink”, it managed to be quite odd. ‘Trippy’ is an overused word, but episodes like “Amy’s Choice” and “The Lodger” were genuinely strange. I particularly enjoyed the finale for being more adventorous, instead of the usual formula of ‘standard Who villain imperils universe’. True, there were some rather weak episodes (I didn’t care much for the Silurian arc) but the writers at least attempted something new.

The other defining feature of the season was schmalz. They laid it on shamelessly, and I admit that I lapped it up. Being the sentimental fellow that I am, “Vincent and the Doctor” made me a little weepy. The finale produced a reverse-Tomino ending: not only did everyone live, but people who were supposed to be dead at the start of the series were (quite literally) magicked into existence. This isn’t everyone’s cup of tea; but honestly, not everything has to be Victory Gundam. I don’t mind a happy end once in a while, especially if the protagonists have been dragged through some miserable shit.

So the same cast are staying on for another series. This one has been a little subpar compared to previous offerings but has shown some promise; let’s hope that it gets fully realised in the inevitable sixth series.

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Germany beats Argentina 4-0

Last night, Germany beat Argentina 4-0.

I don’t particularly follow football (and if you do prefer that sort of thing, try Lower Mid-Table) but I did get a little warm feeling inside when Germany won. It also lessened the pain of England’s defeat last Sunday.

Having a multinational family (English mother and German father) means that I get to (admittedly half-heartedly) support two teams in each major sporting competiton! So even though England is out of the World Cup, I still have Germany to root for.

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An elegy to the Aestivalis

This post was inspired by my final push to finish Martian Successor Nadesico, a mecha show involving rather more harem hi-jinks than mechs but which manages to be consistently awesome.

I would make the modest proposal that the Aestivalis is one of best representations of ‘real robot’-style mecha in anime. One might find this claim unusual, given that Nadesico is far from gritty or realistic. Nevertheless, despite the light-hearted tone, the series’ depiction of giant robot warfare is leagues ahead of, say, Gundam.

The mechs themselves are as realistic as we’re going to get from a Japanese anime not called VOTOMS. Every Aestivalis is essentially the same body with minor variations in colour scheme and head design. This means that spare parts are universally interchangeable and reduces the cost of repair; compare with Zeta Gundam, where the carrier Argama fields at least four radically differing mech designs requiring a multitude of replacement parts.

Furthermore, the Aestivalises (/m/ suggests that this is the correct pluralisation but I honestly don’t have a clue) can be equipped with various frames to suit any battlefield (the main ones being zero-G, aerial, artillery and terrestrial). This isn’t exclusive to Nadesico (Gundam SEED‘s Striker Packs come to mind) but the series shows the true usefulness of frame technology. Whereas frames are often limited to one or two MSes, all Aestivalises can equip them. This gives them unparalleled versatility: for example, as we see in episode 11, three units can be fielded in the relatively nimble terrestrial frame to act as escorts for two units with artillery frames.

However, the presentation of the mechs also lends to a realistic atmosphere. The majority of the pilots are trained professionals; even Akito, while not initially a soldier, has experience with mobile machinery and his early piloting is far from spotless. The mechs aren’t sentimentalised; they aren’t even given individual names and their pilots treat them more as dumb machines than even most Gundam protagonists.

Of course, this realism is completely overturned by Gai Daigoji who, like Ryusei and his R-1, pilots a real robot like a super robot with all the fancy attack names and hotblood that it entails. And we love him for it.

We'll always remember you as the man who was born into the wrong genre

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