Friday, July 23, 2010

Holding It Correctly

Wanna know something that drives me nuts? All the American comics and movies and stuff that I see where 'samurai swords' are being used, but the user holds 'em like a baseball bat.

You'd think if all the creative people involved were such fans of the jidaigeki or chambara genres they'd have noticed this glaring detail. Ever since I started watching Kurosawa films or reading manga (and I was a kid at that point) I've noticed this error and it is just embarrassing. Like the oafish American who upon meeting someone from the UK has to blather on about 'saving your ass in WWII'. I'm embarrassed that the loud cocksucker can't be bothered to get the facts straight before shooting off his mouth. Same thing.

I've just gotten done re-watching The Hidden Fortress and am partway through a rewatch of Yojimbo. Toshiro Mifune pictured above is not the greatest swordsman technique-wise in samurai films... he was an actor foremost. He gets the job done through attitude and dedication to the role more than anything else. But as you can see in the pic above, he is NOT holding the weapon like a bat. Practicing iaido as I do, the correct grip on the sword is second nature to me, but this has NEVER appeared as a subtle detail even when I was a kid jumping around with plastic blades in the back yard. I always held my 'ninja sword' with a palm-width distance (approximately) between my hands (unless holding it one-handed).

I always have some kind of jidaigeki film in my rotation. Hideo Gosha's Bandits Vs. Samurai Squadron is up soon. But for some reason watching these two Kurosawa films recently, made me think back to some Marvel graphic novel of recent vintage. Now I love me some Avengers of course, but this was a story set partly in Japan and full of ninjas. Lone Wolf and Cub has been published over here in the USA for years now, along with a good deal of other samurai period manga. And LW&C is not obscure. It is a major influence and inspiration for comic writers and artists today. So there was no excuse for the Avengers book to be full of katanas being held like baseball bats.

I'm sure my attitude is aggravated by the fact that I have personal involvement in this archaic weapon art, but its a real wince-inducer. Even the barely-past-teen girls in Japanese movies like Princess Blade or Azumi get this grip correct-ish, so it seems almost like blinkered American superiority at times that we keep choking up on the tsuka, the sword's handle.

Okay. I'll be quiet now and go back to watching my little movies and stroking my weapon.

(pic taken from FilmWeb)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Redundant Moi

I got my copy of Electronic Gaming Monthly last week and was planning on doing an issue number two comparison between EGM and the Gamefan I'd gotten not too long before. Both mags have legendary status in video game history and have seen recent relaunches. I compared their first issues in a previous entry.

I said I was PLANNING to, but prolific member Sketcz already beat me to it, posting a side-by-side for both issues that details very similar points I was going to make. I would've written almost the exact same article apart from quite a few less pictures and probably a few more f-bombs.

Its some sort of virtual mental plaigarism I tell you!

At any rate. Good stuff. I guess that saves me some effort!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Shameful Pegging

Yahoo! News today had a headline about Bejeweled's 10th anniversary being 'celebrated' as of this writing... and the ONE guy who has managed to beat the game.

Now if you've read any of this blog you know I have a love/hate relationship with Bejeweled 2 for the Xbox 360. I find it as compelling as the bazillion other people that play it do... there's a copy sold every 4.3 seconds... but there's something that misfires between my brain and the strategy needed to do well at the game.

I shouldn't care. This game is the casual game of casual games. Grannies and babies play this game. The hardcore gamer card in my wallet heats up and starts to smell like diarrhea every time I start Bejeweled 2 up. At least that's what I'd  tell anyone in the same room with me. Squeezing some off under stress? Not me! Nooooooooo.

Anyway. Sucking at Bejeweled has me under an ongoing questioning about my abilities at strategy or puzzle games in general. I've never been a big puzzle game gay-- I mean guy-- in the first place (not that there's anything wrong with that), but I like to RELAX with a not-too-taxing easy matching game or somesuch just like a lot of people. Except that Bejeweled is not fucking relaxing. NOT TO ME!

So I finally managed to give the damn thing a rest for a while. I think the monotony of the music and the announcer eventually helped me kick it where my frustration at massive suckage was unable to.

Maybe two months ago on Waxing Erratic I gave ECM some crap about liking casual games (a joke... even though he does like casual games. Maybe likes 'em too much) and he then reeled off a litany of other games for which he probably has to hide out from the hardcore police. One of them was Peggle.

Now if you are a Peggle player you know this game is at least as addicting as Bejeweled if not more so. But it is from THE SAME COMPANY. I'd heard a few people say it was their favorite 'puzzler'... but a lot of people say Bejeweled is their favorite and like, FUCK those people! So when I downloaded the demo for Peggle and the PopCap logo came out I fweeped a smelly... I mean my hardcore card began to heat up again... and I almost deleted it on the spot.

As it turns out, ECM has pretty good taste in secret shames. This game requires skill of a different order than Bejeweled, and for some reason I can get my head around it. It is more action-oriented in that you shoot a little ball to hit and clear glowing pegs. So the game combines some eye-hand ability along with strategy in how and when to use special powers or go for bonus points. I had pretty good luck playing World of Goo because the puzzles were grounded in consistent virtual physics. Peggle is the same. It doesn't hurt that the game has a fair amount in common with pachinko, for which I own two real machines. A lot of people probably wouldn't even call Peggle a puzzle game, I suppose.

I like this game enough to wear I'm really dividing time between this and Okami. I haven't put it up as currently played in the sidebar or my Backloggery because, y'know, I have my rep to maintain. But in reality I've almost beaten every challenge in every mode of Peggle and I even have a decent win/loss record starting up with online versus games. As I have lots of other games to get to and have only a few challenges left to complete I will probably wind down my time on this game.

That is if I can summon up the supreme act of will and NOT buy that Peggle Nights expansion pack. Either way, Peggle has been sublime considering it comes from the same company that packages rough prison sex as a sweet little pastime about matching colored jewels.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Right. So I watched Quarantine last night and watching the end credits I realised I'd done something uncharacteristically dumb. I mean I do dumb stuff all the time, but this particular oversight isn't one I usually fall prey to.

I watched a remake before seeing the original.

Somehow in the hurly-burly I missed the fact that Quarantine is a remake of a movie called REC. When I pick out movies for my NetFlix queue or when I order DVDs to collect, I usually make such decisions based on a little research. I rarely just pop something onto my 'watch' list just because the trailer looks good or because it has a flashy ad on Yahoo! I dig up a little something. No spoilers obviously... and I don't necessarily regard reviews (especially on extreme films) as a deciding factor but enough info about plot or director to give me some idea that the film is worth my time.

Quarantine WAS worth my time. I thought it was done pretty well and some effectively creepy or shocking moments. It had a very downbeat ending uncharacteristic of Hollywood.

I should've known. Hollywood didn't come up with that ending, a group of filmakers from Spain did. The American group gets the credit for not lightening the ending up at all. But I DID see the trailer in the theater, was intrigued and so when NetFlix put it on there as a suggestion, I said 'what the hey' and added it to my queue.

Now after seeing 'based on the film REC' in the end credits and then looking into REC, I REALLY wish I'd been less impulsive. Looking around, most genre reviewers didn't think Quarantine was bad, but they almost universally consider REC better. Quarantine actually fares better than most remakes when compared to the (usually foreign) original. See Pulse, the Grudge or any number of J-horror movies. I hear the French film Martyrs has been bought for an American remake, but I can tell you right now there is no way that any theatrical cut of that movie will come anywhere near the original, which is one of the most disturbing movies in recent years. In fact, that's pretty typically why you want to see the original of anything Hollywood remakes. If there's a compelling story there it is often a much better experience if you remove big studio gloss, name actors, or test screening-directed edits.

Moral of the story: if you are into genre films, especially various transgressive genres or horror it really pays to look into what you watch before you watch it. I still put REC on my list because I do want to see 'the better one', but Quanrantine was made only two years after the original and is almost a shot-for-shot copy apparently. I'm going to now know everything that happens in a film that puts a lot of weight into the unknown.

Friday, July 2, 2010


In a year with a lot of good games... many of which I probably won't get to PLAY this year owing to my extensive backlong... Sin and Punishment: Star Successor is at the top of the running for my Game of the Year.

My son recently got Lost Planet for a bargain rate at Gamestop. It has all the flash and sheen of a typical shooty Xbox 360/PS3 game. He's really liking it especially since he hasn't been allowed to have all that many violent games... and y'know, he's an eleven year old boy so he likes him some violence.

Anyway. After he'd had a round of THAT, I put in Sin and Punishment for the wii. Now everyone knows the wii isn't going to match the Xbox 360 graphically, but what Treasure has managed in this game is still pretty damn amazing. There's ten times as much shit being chucked around at any given second compared to Lost Planet and it still has a lot of polish and detail, especially the bosses.

It isn't about poking around at your own pace amongst uber-realistic sets, it's about running and flying through stages where with all the incoming attacks you are shooting, dodging and slashing (sometimes all at once seemingly) 'til you're hand cramps up around the wiimote.

My son seeing this said 'enh, it's okay'. So I sent him to bed with no dinner.

Agree with me or starve.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

New GF

Picked up the new GameFan and it looks like improvements over the first issue are already moving in. I haven't done a side-by-side but this one definitely looks like it has more content and the nerdy-niche quotient is even higher. There are write-ups on Deathsmiles and Monster Hunter Tri both considered hardcore enough to probably get trashed in the mainstream reviews (I know DS did at IGN), but loved to death by this magazine.

They love the big stuff like Super Mario Galaxy 2, yeah, but they give the same space to Cave Story.

Putting Sin and Punishment's decidely non-macho protagonists on the front cover pretty much tells you all you need to know... although S&P is a decidedly over-the-top crazy shootfest. American gamer tastes (FPS and sports games) are NOT being catered to.

Next EGM arrives soon too I hope.

Over It

Ugh. I know I'm not the only one who dislikes all the coverage that E3 gets. It looks to all be winding down now, but for three weeks it just dominated every site and magazine... and owing to the delays in publishing will probably still permeate some of the print mags still to come.

The almost universal best-in-show would have to be the Nintendo 3DS... about which I'll admit some curiosity. I really don't dig handhelds, and have very few games for them... but my kids love 'em so this is probably going to be on Christmas lists and I should be properly informed.

I finished Marvel Ultimate Alliance, managing to overcome by distaste of the aesthetic choices to see the game through twice. Since it splits into two narratives in the middle section owing to Marvel Comics' Civil War storyline there's a few different levels and bosses and two different endings for doing so. At the end of the day, the game was fun, if a bit repetitive. This stems from the game being so much like the first one... and the first one didn't come out all that long ago either... and from the fact that a lot of the enemies and bosses just require the same techniques to overcome regardless of their variety in appearance or weapons. Frankly, I just liked to play as my favorite heroes the most, and only subbed in the others to earn their boosts and constumes, so I sort of aggravated the repetition.

So now I'm on to Okami. This is a game I received as a gift like two years ago, and never got around to. It threatens to also be repetitive in the combat area (I'm six hours into it) but it has a cool, detailed narrative, and absolutely amazing aesthetics. Almost everything about the game is either cool or breathtaking... if one enjoys a stylised version of the Japanese watercolor (sumi-e) tradition. But... and why is it lately that there is always one rub to my highly anticipated games... the 'brush' control is really difficult for me to use.

In Okami, there are quite a number of times you are called on to use the wiimote to 'draw' on the screen. In theory this is a really neat addition. You have to use heavenly powers imbued into your brush to create bridges or bombs, slice away gates or boulders, or bring new life to dead trees. At times you even freeze the screen in mid-combat and slash an oppenent, like some painterly version of bullet time. Originally released for PS2 this aspect of the game was accomplished using the analog sticks on the DualShock controller, but it screams for motion control. But in practice it just isn't that simple. At least not for me. The wiimote seems accurate, but the lack of tactile feedback and the vertical orientation of the screen (and therefore the plane on which you paint) make this frustrating. Particularly when the game wants a straight line in a specific spot with a small window for timing. I've done certain 'quick slash' sections a dozen times over and it makes a cool idea just bog you down. If I could turn off the brush sections I'd seriously consider it at this point.

I didn't realise how big Okami is. I thought it'd be sort of 20 or so hours like most action games with leveling up mechanics. Apparently not. Reviews that I've re-read put it at closer to 50 hours. That's more of an investment than I was looking for in my current 'long' game, but I'll try to stay in for the long haul.

If the brush thing doesn't piss me off too much. But if I can get through MUA2's ugmo heroes and Skies of Arcadia's random encounters, I should be able to manage this.