Mid-Week Mid-Boss News Report 01.21.04

First off, I want to say thanks to everyone for all the nice things they’ve said about the previous column. It was a tough decision to bring the anime back, but ultimately, I think it is much better off now. The previous column was my favorite ever, and I didn’t hear one single complaint. Even people who hated what the column was like on 411Black said they liked it back here. So that makes me feel a lot better about everything. I think the only person that would be disappointed would be Widro since I’m taking something away from the Black, but I doubt he really cares (or has even noticed for that matter) since I wasn’t drawing the hits there. Then again, it’s hard to draw hits when you aren’t considered to be on the level with the “flagship” or “spotlight” titles.

With that said, I want to make it my mission in every single column to be better than the one previous. Part of my mission (my mission STATEMENT, if you will) is to not only make people play games and watch anime, but also to get out there and buy it, so that these companies will keep doing what they’re doing. Nothing sucks more than hearing about a good company going out of business because they weren’t selling enough products. So what may look like shilling to you is my attempts at getting people to help keep these companies in business. All the while, I will bring as much information to the table as I can, in the form of news and reviews. And of course, I’ll throw in the occasionally commentary if I feel like it.

Before I get to the column proper, I’d like to give a huge thanks to Christian. He was kind enough to give me a copy of Einhander, a game I have heard many good things about, but have yet to play. So thank you Christian! I greatly appreciate that act of kindness. And fear not, folks; I’ll certainly play it this week and give you a review. Plus, if I review an anime, next week’s column will be HUGE! Whew.

Anyway, let’s get to some news before I blab your ears off.


Gaming News

Drakengard Release Info
With its impending release in America, we have learned some new details on Square Enix’s action RPG Drakengard (Drag-On Dragoon in Japan). First off, the ship date is currently set at March 2nd. Second is that the game will carry a Mature rating. And finally, the price is set at $39.99, which is lower than most companies titles, and currently only Sony uses that price consistently.

The premise of the game sounds relatively interesting. It tells the story of a young solder who is mortally wounded when attempting to save his sister from capture, and to save his own life, he makes a deal with a dragon, who is also badly wounded, to give up his ability to speak to merge souls with the dragon and heal them both. It’s a unique premise, and the game appears to be action RPG with a little Panzer Dragoon thrown in. I’ll probably give it a rent when it comes out, but it’s not a must buy as of yet.
Credit: Games are Fun

Special Edition Xboxes
Microsoft is doing something relatively uncharacteristic and is releasing two new versions of the Xbox soon.

The first commemorates the two year anniversary of the console, and will be an opaque white color, of which only 1000 will be made. The other version will be a translucent blue color, not unlike the translucent green Xbox Debug Kits, and will coincide with the release of the new Dead or Alive Ultimate (or DOA Online, until recently). The problem with this is that these are announced for release in Japan, not America. While I understand their reasoning behind these two special edition releases, that being that the Japanese still have not completely embraced the Xbox yet, I do not understand why they can’t do something like that here. I still do not own an Xbox, and I would personally love to have one of the blue ones, simply because they look great. It may turn out that they will do the same here (the blue one is somewhat likely, the white one is highly unlikely), but I’m not holding my breath.
Credit: Games are Fun

Stealing Bebito’s Shtick
Two quick rumors to comment on:
– Because of developer criticism, Sony will increase the internal memory capacity of the PSP to 32MB, from the previously announced 8MB. I don’t know if they are referring to how many save games you can hold or the actual RAM, but I assume the latter. If this is true, it’s a very good thing, because as many computer users are aware, the more RAM, the better, and 8MB really isn’t very much if they’re wanting to go full 3D with this puppy, and wanting to produce PS2 level graphics, which is what they’ve said.

– Square Enix is planning on remaking Actraiser for the Gameboy Advance. No word on if it’ll be a full remake, or just a port or what, but either way, I don’t care. As long as it plays like the original Actraiser, and not like Actraiser 2 (ick), then I’ll definitely buy it, because that game is one that I have very fond memories of.
Credit: The Magic Box

Shining Force Remake Coming Stateside
By now, many of you Shining Force fans have heard about the impending release of the Shining Force remake in Europe, and have been saddened. Well turn that frown upside down, because they’re releasing it HERE as well! Atlus USA has announced that we lowly Americans will get to experience the joy and fun of the original Shining Force title with new characters and graphics, as well as other updates. Subtitled “Resurrection of the Dark Dragon”, the game is set to be released in June.
Credit: Atlus USA


Christian’s Crazy Game Releases

Keep in mind, these are ship dates and are not set in stone. Game companies LOVE to push stuff back at the last minute, so don’t blame us if it’s not right. Also, since it is a ship date, it may take several days to arrive at your favorite store, depending on what it is, so please call before rushing over to pick up a game that may or may not have arrived.

Jan 21
Baldur’s Gate Dark Alliance 2 (P2, XB)
Maximo vs Army of Zin (P2)

Jan 22
Metal Slug Advance (GBA)

Jan 23
.hack//QUARANTINE (P2)
Star Trek – Shattered Universe (P2,XB)

Release dates courtesy of Christian at Game Crazy. From January 24-31, all MVP members will get 20% extra when they trade in a PS2, Gamecube or Xbox title during the January MVP Event. Visit GameCrazy.com for more details and to find the store nearest you!

Christian’s Comments: I guess the biggest title is overall appeal this week is the new Baldur’s Gate, but .hack people will be salivating to finish off that four part RPG. The sleeper that I intend to push is Metal Slug Advance. The Metal Slug series has always been good plain fun.

Lee’s Comments: Though this week isn’t very big in terms of quantity, there is a good amount of quality. There’s the second in the Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance series, which from what I’ve heard, isn’t as good as the original and the Everquest title using the BG:DA engine is better. Oh, Interplay sucks too. There’s Metal Slug Advance, which will be some good platform shootin’ fun. There’s the finale of the .hack game series, which I would have been more excited about, had it been ONE game on ONE disc, rather than ONE game on 4 discs costing $200. And there’s the new and underhyped Maximo game. I don’t know anything about the Star Trek game, so no comment there. Good week overall.


Anime/Manga News

.hack//SIGN Vol. #6 Delayed

For unknown reasons, Bandai is delaying the release of the 6th and final volume of the .hack//SIGN series. Previously listed for a March 2nd release, both the limited and regular editions of the disc will now be released on March 16th.
Credit: Anime News Network

Geneon Licensed Burn-Up Scramble?

This is unconfirmed, but worth mentioning anyway. It is very likely that Geneon has the American licensing of Burn-Up Scramble. The reasoning for this is that someone noticed in the credits for the series, which only recently aired its first episode, that Geneon Entertainment (USA) is listed as a producer. So I think it’s a foregone conclusion that they DO hold the license, but more information is sure to come in time.
Credit: Anime on DVD

Evangelion Live Action Movie Concept Art

Apparently, ADV decided to throw in some of the concept art from the upcoming Evangelion live action movie on their release of the Director’s Cut of Evangelion, subtitled Resurrection. There are quite a few images (check the second link for the best results) and they show many different shots, including characters, scenery, and the Evas themselves.

My feelings of this project are mixed. I was appalled to think that they would even attempt to recreate something with the visual imagery of Evangelion in live action form, but after seeing the initial concept art that was released, and hearing that it would be Studio Weta behind the visual effects (you know, the geniuses behind Lord of the Rings), my hopes soared. And these new concepts are incredible as well. But they also show that some of the characters’ names have been changed, and if this is the case, then my opinion of the project just dropped several notches. I mean, I’m not a total purist by any means, and I wasn’t one of the LOTR fans that pitched a fit with every change. I’m fully aware that some things will need to change, but if you’re going to have a movie based off an anime, for God’s sake, keep the names the same. Changing Rei to Ray isn’t a big stretch, but changing Asuka to KATE ROSE? What the hell? What is Shinji’s name going to be, John Baxter? If the goal is to alienate the Eva fans, then this is one step in the right direction. Anno is laughing his ass of right now, I’ll bet.
Credit: Anime News Network, Eva.trivialbeing.net

More Live Action Bad, er, Goodness

Oh no. Normally, when I hear about an anime being turned into a live action show, I find it amusing. Call me crazy, but all Japanese live action stuff I’ve seen is very, very silly. Then again, I haven’t seen much more than Godzilla, but that’s beside the point. Previous shows like GTO and Sailor Moon, both of which have made the transition from anime to live action, look very amusing. Like on the Power Rangers level of amusing. Anyhow, both of those shows are Japanese.

The new live action show will be American. And it will be Witch Hunter Robin. You heard me right. The people at the Sci Fi channel are interested in making a live action version of one of Bandai’s hottest properties right now, and I have a VERY bad feeling about it. Sure, it could be really cool, but it doesn’t have the benefit of a huge budget that the Evangelion live action movie does. It’ll be a series on the Sci Fi channel, and may feature such high visual effects as Andromeda. I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt and say that it could be VERY cool if done right.
Credit: Anime News Network


Anime Releases

Release Dates provided by Anime on DVD. See past releases at my website.

January 20, 2004

TITLE
STUDIO
MSRP
BUY TSRI
BUY ACS
Big O II Vol. #1
Bandai
$24.98
$22.48
$19.98
Final Fantasy Unlimited Vol. #3
ADV
$24.98
$22.48
$19.98
Hamtaro Vol. #5
Viz
$14.98
$13.48
$12.98
Kimagure Orange Road OVA/Movie Box Set
Animeigo
$74.98
$52.49
$63.98
Nuku Nuku Dash Vol. #3
ADV
$29.98
$26.98
$21.98
Orphen II Vol. 2
ADV
$29.98
$26.98
$21.98
s-CRY-ed Vol. 4
Bandai
$29.98
$26.98
$23.98
Super Gals Vol. #4
ADV
$29.98
$26.98
$21.98
Yu Yu Hakusho Vol. #20
FUNimation
$24.95
$22.46
$18.98

Note: In the above table, TSRI stands for The Right Stuf International and ACS stands for Robert’s Anime Corner Store. (H) means Hentai, so Adults Only on those!

Comments: Now we’re starting to get back into the swing of things. There are some pretty big releases this week, as well. The second season of the Big O has it’s release this week, while Nuku Nuku Dash is finishing its run. Final Fantasy Unlimited, Super Gals and s-CRY-ed are in full swing, while the second season of Orphen II is starting to pick up steam. For those of you who like the shows on Cartoon Network, there is Yu Yu Hakusho, as well as the extremely kawaii Hamtaro. The best of the bunch has to be Kimagure Orange Road though. No, I haven’t seen it, but I have heard very good things about it, and I’m a total sucker for box sets. And one thing that I have to say about Animeigo is that though they may not be as big as Bandai or ADV, they are in the business of pleasing the fans, and that’s what they accomplish. Speaking of Animeigo, don’t forget to check out my review of Oh My Goddess!, coming up later on in the column!


Guest Commentary
Matt Weinberg is back again with some anime you have to have. Seriously, if you call yourself a fan, and you don’t have this one, then you probably only like DBZ, in which case you aren’t a fan to begin with. I’m kidding! Anyway, you need to know this show, because it’s easily one of the best shows ever!

Anime You Should Know:


It wasn’t until the year 2001 that I knew what the best anime of 1998 was. Considering how long it used to take American studios to license and dub anime, three years didn’t seem that bad back then. Well, it’s now 2004, and Cowboy Bebop remains a staple on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim.

There are many reasons why Cowboy Bebop is one of the best anime ever produced. The plot of Cowboy Bebop is fairly cut and dry. Our protagonists are a group of space faring bounty hunters known as “Cowboys,” their ship? The Bebop. Although this plot is extremely similar to 1994’s Outlaw Star, the continuity structure of Cowboy Bebop is fairly unique. Other than the pair of two part episodes (12/13, 25/26), Cowboy Bebop’s episodes are all complete stories into themselves. Each character however has episodes specific to his or her personal story. So if you’re a Spike buff you could simply watch episodes 5, 12, 13, 25, 26.


Again, like most anime, Cowboy Bebop began as manga. Cowboy Bebop is complete in 26 episodes along with a feature length movie which takes place between episodes 23 and 24.

There are other reasons than the unique continuity of the series that made Cowboy Bebop a success. On the top of that list is the marvelous soundtrack crafted by Yoko Kanno. She uses her music to tie anime together like no one else. Past credits include Macross 7 and the Vision of Escaflowne. After Cowboy Bebop she would move on to Turn A Gundam and Wolf’s Rain. It’s her jazzy tunes that make Cowboy Bebop’s score a pleasure on the ears. Combine this with Sunrise’s excellent anime style, and it’s hard to argue Cowboy Bebop isn’t one of the best anime of 1998, if not ever.


That being said, Cartoon Network has been showing Cowboy Bebop on and off now since 2001. It’s a certifiable hit. For all these reasons and several others I may have missed, Cowboy Bebop is most definitely an anime that you should know.


Anime Review

Every week, I try to review at least one series or multiple discs using a 10 point scale that is loosely based on the one we use for game reviews. Check out the grading scale and format at my website. If you missed any reviews I did using this format, you can also view them on my site.

OH MY GODDESS!

Studio: Animeigo
Discs: 2
Running Time: 156 minutes
MSRP: $49.90

Story (Premise)
Keiichi Morisato, a college freshman, is stuck in his dorm one day taking phone messages when he gets hungry and decides to order food delivered. But he accidentally calls the Goddess Hotline, and is visited by a lovely Goddess named Belldandy, who offers him any wish. Thinking it’s a prank, his wish is for Belldandy to be his girlfriend. It’s no prank though, and once the contract is sealed, Keiichi and Belldandy are henceforth “going steady”. And since his dorm is for males only, he must leave, and together they find an abandoned temple to call their home. Keiichi is in heaven, but more change is to come.

Really the premise isn’t too totally unique these days. It’s much like Please Teacher, which I reviewed last week, and follows the “two strangers get basically forced into a relationship and end up falling in love” premise. Despite that, this was the first show I saw with this type of premise, and may be one of the innovators of it, considering it is over a decade old now.
Score: 8.0

Story (Execution)

Even though the premise may not be all that original, they pull it off with flying colors. The character interactions are great, and this show paved the way for many other shows, like Please Teacher for example. Though there are only 5 episodes, and the story progresses very quickly, it’s a good thing, because never once does it get bogged down or boring. It could be argued that there isn’t enough character development, but that’s not the case, because there is an episode that develops each individual character well enough for you to fall in love with them.
Score: 9.0

Ending
Though the ending seems somber, it is in fact happy, and leaves it open for more to come. This leads up to the Ah! My Goddess movie (yes, the difference in names is intentional and I’m just following what the studios name it) and to a lesser extent, The Adventures of Mini-Goddess. And though I love the characters and want more, I also realize that they have done all they can with them in terms of sequels and stuff. I wouldn’t want them to ruin the original by making a poor sequel (see Steel Angel Kurumi 2).
Score: 8.0

Animation
Back in the day, the animation was excellent. And it still is. They didn’t have access to the digital technology that they do today, but still the animation quality holds up well over the years. All the characters have very distinctive designs, and all of them are WELL designed. The outfits the goddesses wear are very intricate and beautiful, and you could tell they put a lot of work into the design of all the clothes. If I had one qualm with the animation, it would be that the eyes don’t seem to receive as much focus as I’m used to, but the hair on all the characters is extremely well done, especially with Belldandy.
Score: 8.5

Voice Acting

The dubbing for this series was done courtesy of Coastal Carolina, a lesser known and under appreciated studio, yet one that is excellent. Sadly, the studio no longer exists, probably since most companies either have their own dub studios or go to some of the larger ones for their recording projects, studios such as Bang Zoom or Ocean. Since Coastal Carolina’s primary partner was the quality over quantity company, Animeigo, they just weren’t getting enough business to stay running, and they had to shut their doors after completing You’re Under Arrest.

All the actors did an excellent job with their roles. Juliet Cesario (Blue Submarine No. 6 and You’re Under Arrest) played the role of the sweet and quiet Belldandy splendidly, and her co-star, Scott Simpson (Bubblegum Crash and Voogie’s Angel) played the kind yet shy Keiichi Morisato just as well. The other principal cast members played their roles just as well. You have Urd, the seductress, played by Lanelle Markgraf (Crusher Joe, Spirit of Wonder) and Skuld, the mischievous little sister of the other two goddesses, who was played by Pamela Weidner (Elf Princess Rane and Vampire Princess Miyu). All are played very well, just as the supporting characters are. There are no voices that particularly stick out as BAD, but it just didn’t seem like some of the characters took control of their roles quite the way that Juliet and Scott did, but it’s understandable considering how few episodes there are. Most roles give you 26 episodes to get a feel for the character, and with just 5, it can be difficult.
Score: 8.0

Music
The music for the series is really good, but it’s not strong enough to stand out over many shows. The quality is excellent, but the originality isn’t. The opening and closing songs are both very up tempo and very good, but again, not THAT great. Granted, if it were 1993 and I was reviewing this series just as it came out, it’d be a different story, but I’m reviewing it now. The rest of the music is good as well. Much of it is somber, but fitting with the scenes.
Score: 7.0

DVD Menus
The menus are very easy to navigate and very well designed. Transitions are very quick, yet animated, and there is always something to catch the eye, so it’s not boring. It doesn’t get much better than this.
Score: 9.0

Case Extras

On one hand, you can say that the cases are light on extras, but on another, you can say they’re heavy. First off, both discs have beautiful covers with an informative back. Inside, sadly, there is no standard insert. But Animeigo shows their substance over style nature, and provides actual liner notes that give not only the lyrics to the songs in the show, but also talk about some of the translations and such, which is really welcome. In the second disc, they show their honesty by putting a card that says there ARE no liner notes in the second disc, because they are in the first disc, and the card is only there so people won’t call and ask why there aren’t any liner notes. Additional honesty comes when they say they wanted to put a pretty picture on the card, but couldn’t due to time constraints. So they get a lot of points for informativeness and honesty, as well as gonads.
Score: 8.5

Disc Extras
Even though these DVDs were made in 2001, they have many extras that are either rarely seen, or never put on disc. These are some truly special extras. Granted they include standards like galleries and clean opening and closings, but they also include a few things you don’t see. My personal favorite is the commentary, like they include on regular movie DVD releases. Granted, they can’t do this with every series due to length, but this is still something I’d like to see more often. They also included an audio track with no voices, only music and sound effects, and that is really cool as well. They call it a do-it-yourself dub, but I call it originality at its finest.
Score: 9.5

Miscellaneous
Though the title is one that has themes that we’ve heard or seen before, they pull it off in a way that doesn’t seem overused or cliché. Plus it just has a heartwarming feeling from it that’s not only hard to describe, it’s also hard to duplicate, because I can’t remember very many shows where I’ve felt quite the same. I especially can’t remember a show where I’ve loved all the characters so much after 5 episodes.
Score: 9.0

Final Comments

Oh My Goddess is the type of show that anybody can love. Seriously. It has the pretty girls and the flashy animation that the males go for, it has the romance that the females go for, and it has the silliness that everyone can go for. I’d recommend this for all ages within reason. There are some slight mature themes, but nothing overt and it wasn’t anything I was embarrassed to see with my mother (50) and younger brother (14). Really, the show is simply wonderful, and I recommend it to anyone. There’s only two discs to the actual series, so it’s not a wallet buster by any means. And it won’t consume an entire day if you want to watch it all at once. This all adds up to a pleasant viewing experience for all.
Final Score: 8.0


Links to the Past

The As-Yet-Unrenamed European News Report – Misha
Misha, who appears to be going the news report route, talks about Star Wars Battlefront (I WANT IT), the Half Life 2 Russian bootleg, and Shining Force: Resurrection of the Dark Dragon, which as I stated above, isn’t a new game, but a remake of SF1. Or so says Atlus anyway.

Thank God It’s Thursday News Report – Bryan Berg
Berg discusses how Nintendo may be losing confidence in the Gamecube, the PSP’s publishers, what publishers MAY be working with the Phantom, and the Xbox Next. I’ve probably said it before, but Microsoft would be shooting themselves in the foot with an ICBM if they don’t do backwards compatibility. I honestly think that’s how the PS2 got such a huge handhold, because as we all know, 99% of games that come out at a console’s launch suck ass, and if you want the latest and the greatest, you want to have something to play on it. Also, there is the space constraints. I’ve already got a PS2, Gamecube and Dreamcast hooked up to my TV, and I have space for an Xbox on my A/V switch, but if there were no backwards compatibility, I’d have to have my PS1 hooked up as well, and that would suck. Sony hit a home run by going that route, especially considering that the PS2 controller is identical to the PS1.

The Angry Gamer – Liquidcross
Liquid gives us the worst Mario game characters. And I agree with each and every one.

411MAX: News News Revolution – Alex Williams
Alex talks DDR (what else?), Marvel’s game titles, and Winning Eleven soccer in China. He even reviews the import version of DDR Extreme. Check out his shiz.

Gamer’s Hangover News Report – Cory Laflin
Poor Cory, he has to put up with all his shit breaking, and still do a report. His big thing this week is Super Troopers, which I admittedly haven’t seen yet, but it does certainly sound interesting. Oh, and thanks for the Pimp Coat!

The Gamer’s Conscience – Frederick Badlissi
Fred reveals the truth about Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man. Gabe weeps. Hey, if you can’t keep it in the pants, keep it in the family. Wait, they don’t wear pants.

A Thumb to the Eye – Chuck Platt
The Thumb is back! And Chuck, you’re way too hard on yourself, but I can tell that you just didn’t FEEL right in the News Report slot, much like I didn’t FEEL right on 411Black, where nobody REALLY gave a shit about the column anyway, much less the bosses. This week, he talks about control again, in a continuation of sorts from his last Clap Hands column. And there is one game coming out that I have high hopes for in regards to ultimate control: Fable. If the creators hold up to their end of the bargain, it will prove to be a role playing experience like no other, where every decision you make will effect everything else, unlike KotOR, where every decision was either good or bad. This is what I hope anyway.

411Games Presents: The Best of 2003 – The Kliq
It was a good year. Not a great year. But unlike the other sites out there, we chose a very worthy game to win it all!

Review: Space Channel 5: Special Edition (PS2) – Alex Williams
Two games for the price of a little more than half of one. I want this. Need I say more?

Review: Arx Fatalis (Xbox) – Alex Lucard
I don’t get what the big deal with Morrowind is, because when I played it on the PC, I wasn’t all that impressed. I’ll give it a rent when I get an Xbox to see if it’s any better, but I don’t have high hopes for it. Oh, and I’ll probably avoid Arx Fatalis anyway.

Review: Sonic Advance 2 (GBA) – Bebito Jackson
Agh, why do we let him review Sonic games? He’s more biased than I ever was!

Dreamcast: Sega’s Last Scream – The Kliq
Bebito kicks ass. This is why we let him review Sonic games. Granted we all played a part, but he was the mastermind behind this one. And this is one of our best features to date. You HAVE to check this one out.


Another week, another dollar. Wait, no dollars. The experience is fun at least. Speaking of experience, this week is going to be a fun one at work. I get to build a MONSTER BOX. Computer users know what I mean. For non computer users, what I mean is a computer that is top of the line in everything. I’ve put together computers before, but this one will be insane in comparison. Multiple case fans, a nice new top of the line FAST hard drive, quick processor, some of the best RAM money can buy, sweet video card, etc. You get the picture. It’ll be like getting the pieces of a Ferrari and putting it together. Or like what you see on American Chopper, except with another guy (Paulie?) and me (Mikey probably!). It’ll be a fun experience.

Well, I’ll let you folks go read something else now. Enjoy the week as always, and read the other guys. Oh, and check out the Dreamcast feature, because it rocks. Have fun!