Monthly Archives: August 2014

Reaction to Nintendo Direct August 29th 2014

If you haven’t heard yet, Nintendo is releasing new 3DS consoles.  You can read all about them HERE.

Ever since I got my Pokemon X/Y themed 3DSXL last year, I have been a big fan of the 3DS and its games.  Nintendo has been hitting all the right notes for its handheld console as opposed to the slowly improving Wii U.  Do they do it again here?

The “New 3DS” looks great in my opinion.  Slight improvements in the design make them shine including the colored X, Y, A, and B buttons.  The new buttons at the shoulder and the rearrangement of the volume control give them an additional bonus.  This is definitely a system that looks fun to play.

The added C-button concerns me though.  On the one hand, it’s great that Nintendo added it to the console as now we can play 3DS games, like Metal Gear Solid 3, without resorting to the 3DS pro pad.  However, the C-button looks unreliable as I can easily imagine my thumb slipping over it.  But I’ll reserve my judgment on that once people test how reliable it is.

The boosted battery life is a definite plus.  It was also one of the key reasons why I shirked the regular 3DS and went for the XL instead.  A longer battery life means the 3DS can become a more portable console.

The most controversial aspect surrounding the “New 3DS” is the boosted CPU power.  This, combined with the extra buttons, means that games like the upcoming Xenoblade Chronicles rerelease are not compatible to older models.  Many people on the internet, including myself, are concerned about this.  What does this mean exactly?  How many new 3DS games will be required to play on the “New 3DS?”  Do I have to give up my old 3DS for these new ones?

I can’t speak for other gamers but I have grown attached to my 3DS console thanks to its Pokemon Theme and the places I have taken it.  It will be hard for me to give this console up.  The only two ways I will get a new console is if it’s a new console generation (which in this case, I think it’s not as it’s still relying on the 3DS brand name but then again so does the Wii U…) or if there is a new Pokemon game that requires the “New 3DS.”  Pokemon was the main reason why I bought my DS and later my 3DS in the first place.

It seems like Nintendo might finally have stumbled for its 3DS.  After a slow start, it has picked up speed and has become one of the best consoles currently out there.  Now with this new console coming out, people might not be so incline to buy it and instead stick to what they have.  However, Nintendo usually listens well to its fanbase so perhaps it might make some changes.  We’ll just wait and see…

On a more positive note, let’s talk about Xenoblade Chronicles!  When I first saw the trailer I had nooooo idea who this guy was and originally thought he was some Final Fantasy character.  After doing a little digging to learn what the hell Xenoblade Chronicles was, I was surprised to see it came out exclusively on the Wii and is lauded as one of the best Wii games of all time.  This surprised me as I never heard of it before (but then again, I’m more of a handheld guy).  Now, after reading reviews of it and seeing the gameplay in action, I want to try this game out!   It’s likely I won’t play it on the 3DS since it won’t come out for a while and I’ll probably not get the “New 3DS” so instead I’ll just play it on my Wii U.  That’s going to be on the backburner though for now as Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright comes out today!

Finally, Shulk looks like he’ll be an interesting fighter with his ability to change skills in-battle and his future sight…thingy…I’m kind of disappointed we got another swordsman but whatever.  He looks like a character for more advance players as you have to do a fair bit of prediction to beat your opponent.  His large sword also gives him a fairly large swinging range but no projectiles (as far as I can tell).

Final note: my friend brought this up as the “New 3DS” is similar to the expansion pack for the N64.  So you couldn’t play games like Majora’s Mask or Donkey Kong 64 on it.  But then again, not many games used this feature.  Perhaps a similar fate is in store for the “New 3DS?”

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Buy it or Leave it: Cosmic Encounter

Every board game should have an element of randomness so that no two rounds may be alike.  The degree of randomness employed by Cosmic Encounter is so amazing that it rivals even Betrayal at House on the Hill.

Put simply, you take the role of an alien race and set off to colonize your opponents’ planets while trying desperately to guard your own as well.  The randomness comes in from the fifty different alien species in the game.  Each species is quite unique in terms of appearance (complimented with stellar artwork), biography, and skill.  This uniqueness plays so strongly that each round is as different as the last.

The best part is how these aliens work off each other.  For more advanced aliens, a lot of strategizing comes into play as you try to outwit your opponent.  Some aliens can even counteract other aliens’ powers which makes the game that more interesting.

Unlike other board games, such as Settlers of Catan, where you can actively attempt to screw another player over, Cosmic Encounter makes it so you have no choice whatsoever who you can attack.  Destiny cards, another element of randomness in the game, are flipped over near the beginning of your turn.  These destiny cards will more often than not display a species color.  Whoever is playing that color, say blue or green, you have to attack them and them only.  This is only excused if you have an alien race that says otherwise.

Once the attacking and defending race have been established, both sides can call upon allies to help them out.  This is another fun aspect of the game.  Alliances can break and form very easily.  What your actions were in the previous round can affect who will join you and who will stop you from conquering the galaxy.  Even so, this is definitely a friendly game that will leave no traces of bitterness when it’s through.

cosmic

After alliances are forged, the attacking and defending characters play their encounter cards which usually have numbers on them.  These numbers are then added up with the ships all the players have on each side and the player with the most points wins the game.  Negotiate cards also add to the fun as well and create a “Gambler’s Dilemma.”  If both players use a negotiate cards then both can work out a reasonable deal.  However, if one player plays a number card and the other a negotiate card then the player with the negotiate card loses (which can add some trickery to the game if you decide to lie what cards you have).

In my opinion, the game works best with all five players.  Like the Resistance, Cosmic Encounter thrives on human interactions and whereas other board games can start to feel bloated or slow with five players, Cosmic Encounter is full of energy.

Buy it? Buy it if you’re looking for a low instruction, high interactive game.  If you’re also looking for a game that has a high degree of playability (i.e. randomness) then this is the way to go.

Leave it? Leave it if you’re looking for a more strategic game.  This also takes at least an hour to play so if you’re looking for something shorter then move on.

Summer Wars and Digimon: Our War Game are Both Great Films

Stop me if you’ve heard this one; an anime movie with a distinct visual style directed by Mamoru Hosoda stars a young adult cast who have to battle a growing threat on the internet before it kills them in real life.  Okay, you know what I’m getting at here.  Digimon: Our War Game and Summer Wars are so similar to each other that it’s no wonder people compare these two films.

I heard about the comparison between these two films so much that I knew I had to check Summer Wars out.  I finally got to do that, appropriately enough, this Summer.

What I find interesting is how akin these two films are.  Did Hosoda like the concept so much he just had to remake the film again but in his own image?  And it’s not just a remake of the idea.  Certain scenes and images are so alike it really makes you stop and wonder.  Hell, if Digimon came after Summer Wars then something weird would be going on.  But that’s not the case, Our War Game came out nine years before Summer Wars.

I’m not going to talk about how similar they are to each other.  Many other people have already done that and this article does a good job of it.  Check it out.  Instead, I want to talk about other aspects between these two films.

There are also some neat side-by-side comparisons between the two films at the listed article

There are also some neat side-by-side comparisons between the two films at the listed article

For instance, Digimon embraces the notion of an online battle very nicely.  Though Season 1 played around with the internet in hacking terms, never did the kids and their partners actually visit the internet.  It was either the digital world or the real world.  As such, the internet could act as a gateway between these two worlds as demonstrated by the kids and their partners in the movie.

With strict ground rules never established in Season 1, the movie could take certain liberties with the franchise that wouldn’t seem farfetched or noncanon.  The internet battle was one of them and the DNA digivolution was another.

Though the kids in Summer Wars never got to visit the internet, they had the next best thing which was their avatars.  The avatars were very like Our War Game’s partner digimon with the exception that the humans were in full control of them.  Much of the film’s visual appeal and art stems from the weird avatars and their fight sequences.

The main antagonists have probably the strongest similarities between the two films.  Their actions and subsequent consequences may slightly differ but it’s their origins that are the most contrasting.  Love Machine was created as a virus by the American government and Diaboromon was…actually…we don’t know!  We have no idea how he came to be!  To me, that’s kind of scary.  Where on earth did this internet destroying, data eating, powerhouse of a digimon come from?  The fact that he still did not die and actually come back in the fourth movie speaks volumes on how hard he is to kill.  His bug-like nature fits him pretty well for a foe that just would not die.  To me, he’s the stronger antagonist compared to the game-adoring bad guy in Summer Wars.

The overall theme of people coming together to stop a foe works the best in Summer Wars.  And I mainly bring this up because our main protagonist, Kenji, doesn’t really save the day until the very end of the movie.  The Jinnouchi family helps him out throughout the entire film.  They bring equipment for him, the grandma gives them hope, the uncle advises him how to defeat Love Machine, Kazuma fights Love Machine with King Kazma, and Natsuki defeats Love Machine in Koi-Koi.  There’s a definite sense of we’re all in this together and this blossoms in the triumphant Koi-Koi battle against Love Machine.  I love it.

But…

I liked how Our War Game did it as well.  Unlike Kenji, Tai was having sooo muuuuch trooooouble trying to get his team together.  Dropped phone calls, people on vacations, uneasy relationships, etc.  Instead of “we’re in this together” it was more like “this is all we got.”  The music, which I mentioned before I liked so much, even seems to make fun of Tai as he tries desperately to scramble his team together, it’s hilarious.  And in the end it’s like his troubles were rewarded with not his team coming through but the whole world instead.  That kind of switch plays into Our War Game better than Summer Wars.

Truth be told, I find Summer Wars’ ending easier to swallow than Our War Game.  Our War Game came out in what, 2000?  Though the internet was just taking off by then, not many people were using it, especially in less developed countries.  By 2009, we see a dramatic usage increase throughout the entire globe.  This dramatic increase combined with Summer Wars’ OZ makes the ending more believable to me because everyone is using the internet and as such, the ending has more weight behind it.

Internet users per 100 inhabitants. From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_Internet_usage (Sorry if the image did not load, the image loads when I edit the article but not when viewing the article itself)

Oh and you have to love how already dated Our War Game is.  Seeing them scramble to try to retain their internet connection is humorous.  And oh God Izzy, that computer is huge.  Probably a decade from now Summer Wars will be just as dated.

Gosh, after writing this article, I’ve come to realize how good these two films are.  I honestly can’t say if a non-Digimon fan would like Our War Game.

Wait.

Hang on, I’ll go ask Mary, she saw the film with me and she doesn’t know anything about Digimon.

She said she liked it but she couldn’t fully enjoy it because she had no idea who any of the characters were.  That’s almost exactly what this guy was talking about.  Here’s the passage:

“The biggest difference between them is the large cast both hold. Digimon uses pre-established characters that people can not automatically jump in and understand. Summer Wars on the other hand, introduces a complete new cast of characters, all being developed in front of the viewers eyes. Digimon, having 50+ anime episodes that allowed the character development needed does not accomplish what Summer Wars establishes in a 90 minute film.”

And there you go.  People who are a fan of Digimon will love both films but if you are unfamiliar to Digimon you should probably see season 1 before seeing this Our War Game.  But if you don’t want to spend all your time doing that, Summer Wars is just as good and is a great thrill ride.  Check both out, while Summer is still here.

Ancient Animals and their Fakemon: Oviraptor

Oviraptor: Therapoda Dinosaur, Late Cretaceous

The hubris of science can be ironic at times.

In 1924, a partial skeleton, known as AMNH (American Museum of Natural History) 6517 was found in the Mongolia desert next to an egg nest (AMNH 6508).  Discovered by Roy Chapman Andrews and later named by Harry Fairfield Osborn, AMNH 6517 became known as Oviraptor philoceratops.  Its name meaning “egg thief” and “lover of ceratopsians,” Oviraptor immediately became a hit and cemented itself in the pages of children’s books as the dinosaur that ate embryonic babies.

However, with such an accusatory name, no one knew what were inside the eggs.  Everyone assumed they belonged to Protoceratops due to their fossil abundance nearby.

outdated oviraptor

Oviraptor’s incomplete holotype also made it hard to determine what exactly it looked like.  The result gave them some hooooooorible paleoart.

Barsbold (1977) was among the first to question this hypothesis by analyzing the dinosaur’s skull and concluded that it had a powerful bite.  Powerful enough that it could eat hard shell organisms such as mollusks. Because of which a strict egg-only diet would make the strong jaws pointless.  Maybe it ate eggs but it probably ate a lot of other things as well.

Norell et al. (1994) finally threw credible doubt onto Osborn’s original hypothesis when they analyzed an Oviraptoridae embryo (IGM 100/971) still trapped in its shell.  IGM 100/971 looked so similar to AMNH 6508 that Norell et al. declared the latter specimen to be an Oviraptor nest.  The skeleton that was found with the nest was most likely a brooding adult and not an egg-stealing thief.

Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any other dinosaurian hypothesis that had made such a 180.  Here we have a dinosaur that was viewed with respite and now is looked upon with happiness.  To be fair, Oviraptor could have still eaten eggs as its diet but that’s not the point.  The point is that our perception of this dinosaur has changed from a baby-killing bandit to an offspring-concerned parent.  That is hilarious.

Oviraptor can also be found in the Flaming Cliffs of the Gobi Desert along with a host of other animals.  There are the small lizards and mammals and of course other dinosaurs.  Most famous of which would be Velociraptor and its rival Protoceratops, along with the weird Therizinosaurus and the ferocious Tarbosaurus.  The rock record also reveals, interestingly enough, that the climate of the time was probably similar to the modern day Gobi Desert.  A braided, teaming with life, river dominated the otherwise dry, sandy environment (Fastovsky et al. 1997).  Some dinosaurs were even uncovered in a desiccated position with their head pulled back and their spine extremely arched.  Some were just completely buried by a sandstorm such as the Oviraptor specimen discovered by Andrews.

Dinotopia, Oviraptor

From Dinotopia: A Land Apart from Time

Oviraptor has not shown up much in pop culture.  I know of two occasions; one in the documentary Dinosaur Planet and the second in the first Dinotopia book.  In the book, Oviraptor was instead called Ovinutrix (“egg wet nurse”) and they took care of dinosaur eggs in Romano’s Hatchery.  The twist?  The book came out in 1992.  Two years before Norell et al. took down the egg eating hypothesis.  What was supposed to be taken as a humorous joke instead came out as a concept that was not scientifically outdated.  What’s more, James Gurney’s, the author of Dinotopia, name change righted a wrong that should have never befallen the dinosaur in the first place.

 

OVALOOTER

Fakemon, Oviraptor, Ovalooter

Type: Fairy/Ghost

Stats: HP: 80,   Attack: 80,   Defense: 70,   Special Attack: 80,   Special Defense: 60,   Speed: 90

Ability: Pick Up, Frisk

Moves Learned Upon Leveling Up:

Start-Covet

Start-Tail Whip

6-Confusion

9-Baby Doll Eyes

13-Sand Tomb

17-Charm

22-Bite

27-Fling

31-Light Screen

35-Soft Boiled

39-Bestow

43-Disarming Voice

47–Play Rough

52-Earthquake

Learnable TMs and HMs: Hone Claws, Dragon Claw, Psyshock, Calm Mind, Roar, Toxic, Hidden Power, Sunny Day, Light Screen, Safeguard, Frustration, Solar Beam, Smack Down, Earthquake, Return, Dig, Psychic, Double Team, Reflect, Sandstorm, Rock Tomb, Aerial Ace, Façade, Rest, Attract, Thief, Round, Echoed Voice, Steal Wing, Fling, Psych Up, Dragon Tail, Sleep Talk, Substitute, Confide

Egg Group: Field

Held Items: Oval Stone: 50%

Pokedex Description Version One: It loves to collect egg-shaped objects.  It’s not unusual to find one with eggs from other species.

Pokedex Description Version Two: It raises the babies of other pokemon it has found.  Prototops are the most common species they take care of.

Evolution: None known at this time

Basic Background: While driving with my gf two months ago, I said aloud, “You know, all my Ancient Fakemon came out before Generation VI.  I have no Fairy Type fakemon.  I should come up with one.” And it was right there and then that Oviraptor sprang into my head.  Of course!  Many modern paleoart interpret Oviraptoridae species with elaborate feathers.  If dinosaurian pokemon had fairies it would be the ones with elaborate feathers.

From there, she and I played around with it until we had what we wanted.  Unlike the previous two entries where I had them totally figured out and she just did the art, for Ovalooter, we came up with the ideas, design, naming, and so forth on an equal basis.

It was certainly fun coming up with a fakemon from scratch as it had been awhile for me.  This one I kind of let loose and enjoyed myself.  Ovalooter is basically a combination of Chansey and Linoone in that it just steals eggs and such and raises them as their own.  I love it.  Being a desert pokemon, Ovalooter was almost required to have that Ground Secondary Typing.  It is similar to the Nidos, Krookodile, and Flygon as Ovalooter is more of a field based pokemon and less a digging pokemon.

 

Barsbold, R., 1977. Kinetism and pecual structure of the jaw apparatus of oviraptors (Therapoda, Saurishia). Sovmestnaya Sovetsko-Mongol’skaya Paleontologicheskaya Ekspeditsiya Trudy, vol 163, p. 34-47.

Fastovsky, D.E., Badamgarav D., Ishimoto, H., Watabe, M., Weishampel, D.B., 1997. The Paleoenvironments of Turgrikin-Shireh (Gobi Desert, Mongolia) and Aspects of the Taphonomy and Paleoecology of Protoceratops (Dinosauria: Ornithischichia).  Palaios, vol 12, p. 59-70.

Norell, M.A., Clark, J.M., Demberelyin, D., Rhinchen, B., Chiappe, L.M., Davidson, A.R., McKenna, M.C., Altangerel, P.,  Novacek, M.J., 1994.. A Theropod Dinosaur Embryo and the Affnities of the Flaming Cliffs Dinosaur Eggs.  Science, Vol. 266, No. 5186, p. 779-782

 

Digimon Our War Game: Sub vs. Dub

I didn’t realize this at first while I was writing this article but apparently we’re at the 15th anniversary of Digimon!  I can’t believe it, that’s about 3/5th of my life!  It’s certainly interesting to think about.  Digimon was one of those fast fads that only lasted a year or two.  Apparently, the creators knew that as well.  A little more than a year after it premiered in America, the Digimon movie came out and we went fucking bananas.  It was almost the same hype as the Pokemon movie.  I really wanted to see it in theaters but my parents didn’t take me much to my chagrin.

When I finally saw it on VHS about a year later, I realized that this was not a very good movie!

The movie wasn’t good because the American producers wanted to tie three independent movies together to make a coherent plot and this failed miiiiserably.  Each of the three parts seem so distant from each other that no amount of forced cohesion could make it work.  Even the three parts of the movie varied in how good they were.  The first two parts were great but the third part was just baaaaaad.

Digimon Movie Chart

Even so, the second part of the movie (whose original title was “Our War Game”) was definitely the best.  Talk to any Digimon fan about this movie and they can agree that the second part was amazing.  Hell, if the producers had cut out the third part and just leave the first two parts in, the Digimon movie would have been many times better.

As such, is the Dub as good if not better than the Sub?  Well, no, but it is certainly close.

For one thing both the Dub and the Sub had stellar voice acting.  By now, the voice actors know their characters so well that emotional and comical moments are top notch.  Mona Marshall, who voices English Izzy, is fantastic and really nails her character.  Izzy always works best as Tai’s wingman and the chemistry between these two buds has never been this tight.

And I have to give credit to the Dub for really highlighting the heroes’ difficult task of defeating Diaboromon.  He’s strong, he’s unforgiving and to top it off, Wargreymon and Metalgarurumon are becoming more and more sluggish thanks to the constant emails.

Digimon Adventure Our War Game (XviD DVD-Raw) [5FF8BEE1]

So where does the Dub go wrong?

Well, besides the forced plot cohesion, many small things add up that would have otherwise been trivial.  Kari’s unnecessary narration is like…ugh…just shut uuuuup.  We don’t need exposition for every god damn scene that has no dialogue!  The forced plot cohesion mentioned earlier is uncomfortably wedged in and really sets the film back.  Besides that, the Sub’s comical moments are tighter and feel more natural.

The primary source I would point to is the Dub’s music which is kind of inappropriate.  The pop music can distract the viewer’s attention when it should be focused on the plot.  The Sub’s soundtrack, on the other hand, includes not just the original theme but symphonic songs as well.  In particular, Ravel’s Bolero, one of my favorite classical pieces, is used extremely well in this movie.

Ravel’s Bolero starts slow and builds and builds and builds and builds upon itself!  It starts with a slow drumbeat and ends with blaring trumpets and a crashing beat!  And this is exactly what Our War Game is about.  A threat whose strength increases slowly and slowly until it becomes and almost unstoppable threat.  Great use of that song.

“When Johnny Comes Marching Home” is another song that is used inexplicably well during the lighter and more comical moments of the film.  It really gets you going as you watch these preteens try their damndest to stop Diaboromon even when half of their team is out of commission.

Izzy, Bathroom, Our War Game, Digimon

I still can’t believe this scene was in the movie

 

And this brings me to my overall point.  The Sub doesn’t take itself too seriously.  Like a clown trying to balance on a tight rope, you know you need to be worried but you also know everything’s going to be alright in the end.  The Dub on the other hand is too confused on what it wants to be.  It wants to be serious but the corny jokes oversaturate the movie and end up confusing it.

As a final note, as much as I criticize the Dub’s soundtrack, there is one part in the Dub where the music worked to its advantage incredibly well.

The birth of Omnimon is done quite differently between the Sub and Dub and whereas normally the Sub would be better, here they’re on near equal footing.

Have a look.  Here’s the Dub

 

Alright, now here’s the Sub

 

Whereas the Dub’s music is uplifting and suits that of a hero being born, the Sub’s music is intense and seems more like the birth of Jesusmon (which he basically is).  Nonetheless, with such different interpretations of Omnimon the end results work out incredibly well and fits nicely for both movies (however, the Dub is once again ruined by pop music so boooooo).

So in the end, the Sub won out.  But the comparison is not done yet!  There’s a movie out there that is so strikingly similar to Digimon: Our War Game that many articles have been written about it.  I aim to throw my hat in as well when next week I compare Our War Game to Summer Wars.