Friday, July 31, 2009

Video Game Review: The King Of Fighters XII

I finally have it... and not all is what it seems.

The King Of Fighters XII
Publisher: SNK Playmore, Ignition Entertainment
Developer: SNK Playmore
Released: July 28, 2009

The King Of Fighters XII is what it is - a pretty looking fighting game. After trekking through the series' long and fruitful history, I finally have the next entry in SNK Playmore's epic brawling franchise... and so much has changed here. It is the culmination of almost four years hard work by the folks of Ignition and SNK Playmore, and the final product is what many consider to be the "Rebirth" of the legendary fighting game series, which celebrates it's 15th anniversary this year. However, that being said, is the re-imagination of this brawler absolutely worth your time and pennies? Read on and find out.

In terms of appearance, KOF XII doesn't disappoint when it comes to looks alone. The graphics have gotten a major overhaul, and it has, through leaps and bounds, exceeded my expectations of a much needed makeover for the series. Every character has been careful hand drawn and reanimated for this game, so mainstays like Terry Bogard (back in his original Fatal Fury outfit) and Ryo Sakazaki look fresh and pleasing to the eye. All of this was done because of the advent of High Definition technology, so if any of you poozers have an HDTV at home, you'll be loving all the visual eyecandy this game offers. Don't get me wrong, I love the classic 2D sprites that SNK has used for the past 15 years prior to this game, but it's a refreshing change to have new graphics, and seeing the animation alone is worth time invested on this game.

How does KOF XII play? It's back to old school basics and team rules once again. Players select three fighters from the roster to make up a three man team and brawl it out in a series of 5 rounds. There is also the option of playing the game in a standard one-on-one match, but where's the fun in that if you can't have diversity? It's all about the fight on this one, and you have 22 characters to choose from, and that already includes the console exclusive additions - Mature and Elizabeth. After selecting three guys, you can choose between five stages, and then comes the order of your team. Afterwards, the match begins, and all that's left for guys to do is beat the living crap out of each other.

Players, of course, win matches by eliminating all members of the opposing team, so overcome the odds and put your skills to the test! Every character has different moves and skill sets to master, so it's up to the player's abilities to adjust and master a particular fighter and get acquainted with how they perform in the ring. Also, a couple of neat features have been introduced to the playing field that can change the tide of battle. Guard attacks return and can counterattack opponents, while Deadlocks cancel out two fighters moves of equal strength and doesn't produce any damage. However, the most impressive addition to KOF XII is the Critical Counter System, which is truly as damaging as it sounds. Just below the health bar is the Critical Counter gauge, which fills up as you inflict and take damage. When that's full, time your hard punch when an opponent strikes to counter it, and from there you're free to dash in and execute a string of painful combos! This lasts for as long the meter is still charged, so time your attacks wisely and end it with a super finish!

Because it was released in next-gen systems, the game boasts online features, and that's where the meat of the action lies. You can contend against any opponent around the world and fight for fun, sport, or to increase your rank. To do this, someone has to create a fighting room, where up to eight players can join in. While two guys fight against one another, the others can choose to view the match and become spectators. This of course relies on your internet settings, so if you have a slow connection, it's going to be a headache contending with lags (more on that later). On a last note, Players can also make up "clans" of their own (for the PS3 version only), and fight alongside two other guys, competing against other teams to make their name in the online fighting world.

Now for the downside: the game has absolutely no storyline and no boss for players to finish. There are only "5 time-trial" stages in Arcade Mode, so those looking for a continuation of the "Ash Crimson" saga will have to wait until the next game arrives. It seems the guys at SNK prioritized the makeover rather than the story, so it's pretty much like '98 and 2002 where the game serves as a filler that people can compete and test their skills on. Unfortunately, you get a limited roster, and some fan favorites like Mai and K' didn't make the cut. Don't get me wrong, I understand that all the characters were hand drawn and all the sprite actions had to be reanimated, but would it have killed SNK just to add more moves for some of my favorites? Kyo, for example, has reverted back to his '95 move list, and no longer has the fiery punches that made great combo starters in the past entries. His rival, Iori, lost his powers in XI and now sports new moves and a new costume in this game. However, it's sorely lacking and people will have to rely on the same patterns over and over again. How I wished that SNK had more time to give this game depth, but I guess almost four years of work really took its toll on the guys, and the results alone prove that the game was no easy feat to program.

Another downer is the fact that most, if not all characters, remain unbalanced. Some of the guys, like Leona, Benimaru, and Ash, have more moves and supers to dish out than other regulars like Iori, Clark, and Mature. It's moments like these where you feel the game kinda feels rushed and uncompensated by the fact it has "pretty slick graphics" alone. When I started playing KOF years ago, what I loved about it was the depth and massive character roster it gave to fans as compared to the popular worldwide brawler that was Street Fighter. It was 2D, yes, but it pushed boundaries... so much so that I feel it later inspired elements seen in Capcom's VS games and the Guilty Gear series. This KOF, however, falls short in the fighting and single player category. It only works well if you're playing with friends or when you're online... and the latter part alone can be an intoxicating experience. Unlike Street Fighter IV, the lag issues in KOF XII are intolerable, and causes unbridled frustration for gamers unlucky enough to come across the problem. I tested this myself, and the slowdown in SFIV is a cakewalk compared to this. At least the game automatically disconnects if there's a lag problem... THIS one hardly does. It's problems like these that make the game all the more disappointing for me. So much potential, yet lots of setbacks to face after its release.

So is KOF XII worth the purchase? Only if you're a fan like myself and have a craving for fighting game goodness. I gave this game a chance, and despite no available storyline and constant online issues, I find SNK Playmore's effort to be worthwhile. While I am still disappointed by the exclusion of a true single player experience, I find it hard to disregard the graphics... it looks pretty awesome no matter what people say, especially on HD. Online gives me a headache now and then, but I am still hopeful for a chance to experience it lag free sometime, otherwise I can always play it with friends. Overall, I can only recommend this to fans and fighting game affectionados with nothing better to play. It's KOF, but it has to grow up all over again.

Score - 5/10

*additional score references

Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 7/10
Gameplay - 6/10
Replay Value - 3/10

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Iron Man 2 Update: Spoilers Cooking Up In Tony's Workshop!

The San Diego Comic Con '09 has finally wrapped up, and so has principal photography for Iron Man 2. However, that doesn't mean that Jon Favreau, Robert Downey Jr, and the rest of the folks of Marvel will hold out on us until 2010, oh no. In fact, the last post saw the beginnings of a TDK styled Viral Marketing Campaign, and tons of production photos have been released to clue fans in on what to expect for this exciting sequel.

Tony at his workshop and looking at the Stark Expo Model. Photo by

Here, we see a new picture showing us RDJ back as Tony Stark and in his workshop, studying a model of the Stark Expo.'s Iron Man: The Set Visit Part 1 article discusses more details about this scene, which naturally reveals some spoilers about the movie that purists might want to shy away from. It also contains a more detailed description of the new Mark IV armor Tony's gonna wear on the film, which has more broader shoulders and wrists guards compared to the Mark III (displayed on Tony's Shop Gallery and still bearing the war scars from the Iron Monger/ Obadiah Stane Fight). A summarized version of the article can also be found over at IO9.

Marvel's also got The Set Visit Part II article up... and it has more stuff to tell, including more concrete details about the plot of the movie, Tony's relationship with his late father, Howard Stark, and the confirmed appearance of a supporting IM character we've been waiting for! Pretty neat updates if you ask me, so if you're curious, head on over to and look up on these cool IM2 info bits!

Iron Man 2 arrives in theaters, fully armored, on May 7, 2010!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Spotlight: The King Of Fighters Saga Part III

The Spotlight reaches its conclusion as the next battle arrives. As heads are about to clash once again, find out where the new conflict stems from... and why the fate of the world lies in the balance once more.

2003 - After the somewhat mixed opinions many had in regards to the NESTS saga, gamers had a chance to satiate their old school needs with the filler installment that was KOF 2002. However decent and competitive that title was, fans were expecting the saga to continue, and just when it seemed like they'd never produce a game again, SNK climbed out of the gutter and decided it was time to make a comeback.

Returning as the newly christened SNK Playmore, the company made a complete change in the direction KOF was going. With that, The King Of Fighters 2003 was launched in December 2003, to the delight of fans around the world. In contrast to its predecessors, the latest sequel in the epic fighting game franchise did what no other installment in the series has done thus far... GO FULL TAG TEAM. Yes, you heard right - gone are the days of simple three man battles and striker systems. Instead, crossover and combo flurry was now a reality in KOF, and it was known as the Tactical Shift System. Players could still choose three men to make up their team, but each fight now consisted of a single round only, with characters switching at the fly on a player's whim (and when the meter was charged), changing the dynamics of KOF altogether.

The tag concept, first popularized by other well known fighting games such as the Marvel Vs Capcom series and Tekken Tag Tournament, was an interesting gimmick in the sense that players could mix and match different characters and unleash devastating combos in the process. Fighters could jump in, assist, and take over for a teammate on a jinx, and that always came in handy when the tide of the match was turned against their favor. Super cancels, first popularized in Capcom's Street Fighter games and introduced in KOF '99, were more devastating in KOF 2K3. Linking a regular move to a super was easily done and provided more ways to punish your opponent. Player's could also "super tag" by using one stock meter to stun opponents and leave them prey to their teammates wrath. Also introduced was the "Tactical Leader System", where "Leaders" were also chosen per team to gunlock that character's special super move, which took up 3 stocks of the power meter, yet dealt a powerful blow that could crush a opponent's confidence entirely.

However obscure the storyline was for the past KOF titles, 2K3 chose to go back to basics, and reintroduced the Orochi plotline by beginning the first chapter of what would be now known as the "Ash Crimson Saga". The new story arc takes its name from the eponymous new character, Ash Crimson - a self-serving individual from France who can wield green flames similar to the past protagonists, Kyo Kusanagi and K'. Unlike those two, Ash is full-fledged bad guy, willing to manipulate others to meet his ultimate goals. To this end, he forms a team with two other newbies - Duo Lon and Shen Woo, and together they enter the KOF 2K3 tournament as the New Hero Team. Duo Lon enters to attend to personal business for his ninja clan, while Shen simply wants nothing to do but fight and be the best at what he does. Ash's intentions, however, are anything but noble, as he sets his sights on stealing the powers of the Three Sacred Treasures that sealed the Orochi years ago - these namely being Kyo Kusanagi, Iori Yagami, and Chizuru Kagura.

The identity of the tournament's sponsor wasn't made known until the player met certain conditions in the game. As it turns out, there were two very different paths one could take where they would face a different boss by the game's end if they didn't beat the middle boss, Kusanagi, through certain conditions. One path, considered the "bad ending" of the game, pitted players against Adelheid and Rose, the children of the late KOF boss, Rugal Bernstein.

In the case of the "true ending", players had to go through a sub-boss first, and it was none other than Chizuru Kagura. Paired with her mirror image sister, Maki, the priestess proved to be a more powerful combatant this time around. After the battle, it is finally learned that a mysterious group known only as "Those From The Past" were the ones responsible for organizing the tournament. Their purpose was as sinister as their own appearance: they wanted to ressurect the dark powers of the Orochi and harness it for their own needs.

To "test the player", the group allowed their most powerful champion, Mukai, to do battle. Using powers of petrification, the rock lord was more than a mere pushover, and even in defeat, he managed to break the Orochi seal and escape, leaving everyone wondering what the true motives of this insidious group really was.

Meanwhile, Ash Crimson made his move, and quickly took advantage of the confusion to steal Chizuru's powers. Iori Yagami was then warned that he would be next, and a furious Kyo swore to hunt down Ash by whatever means necessary.

'Successful reimagination' is an understatement to describe KOF 2K3's mark in the series. Personally, I consider it one of my favorite installments, and it's not because of the tag team aspect alone. No, the real reason is because most of my favorites got complete makeovers. Kyo has a new costume, K' got a new sprite stance, while Athena gets her long hair back... but it was none other than the lone wolf himself, Terry Bogard, who got my undivided attention. He sported a complete change via his "Garou: Mark Of The Wolves" look, with shorter hair, a bomber jacket, and new shoutouts for his moves.

This Terry was wiser, slicker, and more cunning than his younger cap wearing counterpart, and he had the coolness factor to show for it. His basic moves list remained intact, but everyone had to relearn how to combo with him all over again. It was a totally different style, and a welcomed change for players looking for new challenges to overcome. His brother Andy was also absent from the tournament, so taking his place was another MOTW veteran, the Mexican masked wrestler Tizoc! This idea did not sit well with mainstay Joe Higashi at first, but the new Fatal Fury team learned to compensate and adjust to the changes to work as a powerful team that was a force to be reckoned with.

It took two years before the next installment came, and a slew of non-canonical titles tided players over until an official sequel hit consoles again. By fall 2005, The King Of Fighters XI finally entered the arcade scene, with many noticeable differences over the last game. One obvious change was the game's title being numerically numbered, since the game was no longer qualified as a consistent release on a yearly basis. Additionally, the graphics had a minor upgrade, running on SEGA's Atomiswave hardware engine. It gave backgrounds a distinct 3D feel to them, and the visuals looked mighty impressive in this installment. Nonetheless, sprites remained the same and everything was still simple 2D fighting. The tag team rules from 2003 were carried over, with some minor improvements to the Tactical Shift System. Players could now "Quick Shift" characters in during a teammate's combo to unleash more damage, or utilize "Saving Shift" to get them out of a jinx. The biggest addition, however, was the "Dream Cancel", wherein a players could execute more devastating moves on their opponent... like linking a super with another teammate's super!

The story itself picks up where 2003 left off. Ash Crimson made away with Chizuru's powers, and it was up to Kyo and Iori to get it back. Filling in for Chizuru was Kyo's self-proclaimed student, Shingo Yabuki, and together they participated in a new tournament, once again sponsored by the mysterious group "Those From The Past". Ash himself participated for his own reasons, recruiting Shen Woo to his team once more and a new face named Oswald, who participates in the tournament to find the whereabouts of a mysterious new drug. Other old faces return and new guys show up to make up the other teams, but it was Kyo's team that eventually makes it to the finals. Prior to the final battle, they face up with a mysterious woman known only as Shion, who is vastly skilled in martial arts and wields a long spear. Her loss prompts the real threat and sponsor of the tournament to enter - a man known only as Magaki. After disposing of his assistant Shion, the final battle begins, and Magaki exhibits powers similar to that of the Orochi itself, whom he wants to awaken. However even with his dark powers, he underestimates Kyo's team and is subsequently defeated. Attempting to make an escape via an interdimensional hole, the cocky Magaki is killed when Shion's spear suddenly appears and hits him in the chest.

With that, the threat is seemingly over, but not before Ash Crimson steps in to take advantage of the situation. Having a 'Riot Of The Blood' induced state everytime he confronts something related to the Orochi, Iori Yagami goes into a rampage and starts attacking his teammates. Kyo is knocked down while Shingo prepares for the killing blow, but it is Ash's appearance that saves them both from certain doom. Hardly intimidated by the situation, Ash effortlessly makes quick work of Iori and steals his powers, making the score 2/3 and leaving Kyo the last target on his list. With the tournament over, he leaves the scene and everyone else wondering what his true motives really are...

Much like 2K3, KOF XI was another stunning entry into the series that I just had to play. Unfortunately, it wasn't released right away for the local arcades, so I had to wait a looong time until the home version actually hit the Playstation 2. Suffice to say, it didn't disappoint my expectations, and it was another wild party chalk full of characters, extras, and storylines a true KOF fan should never miss out on. My only concern was the loading times... it takes a lot longer to fight than previous entries thanks to the updated visuals, but once the battle starts and you let off some steam, you'll know damn well that the upgrade was worth it. Unfortunately, this game proved to be the last major KOF entry anyone would see for quite some time. It looked like the end of an era for some... but SNK Playmore had other plans. They weren't done with the series just yet, and they had big changes in store for it.

At last, we come to the end of Spotlight. Finally, after almost four years of waiting, the big day has arrived and The King Of Fighters is reborn with the newest entry to the series - The King Of Fighters XII. Sporting new visuals and back to basics gameplay, it is indeed being marketed to a new generation of KOF fans and seasoned veterans as well... but was it worth the wait? I got it and I'm about to find out. Check back soon... A review's coming up.XD

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Frank Castle's Days Are Numbered? and Newsarama released a teaser image. Things don't look good for our gun totting hero Frank Castle, aka The Punisher.

Punisher RIP? Didn't DC already do this to Batman? Oh right, it's Marvel's turn.

Beginning in Punisher #8, this messy teaser doesn't look like a good sign for Frankie boy. Based from the image, the bloody disgusting scene looks like something out of the SAW Franchise. Is Frank Castle going to be dismembered or castrated? Who knows? All the solicits say is that Dark Wolverine (Wolverine's kid, Daken, wearing his cool brown costume) is the man hunting down Castle, and no one is coming out of this unscathed. Hopefully it'll flash out in the coming months as Dark Reign continues. Now the hunter has become the hunted.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Kamen Rider Black: A True Legend

Words cannot describe this monumental comeback... take a look at the preview here to see what I mean:

That's right people... KAMEN RIDER BLACK IS BACK! Legendary Japanese actor Tetsuo Kurata reprises his role as Minami Kotaro (Robert Akitsuki to us pinoy fans in the RP)... a role he has not played since the late 80's, and now he's guest starring in the new Kamen Rider series, Kamen Rider Decade! Upon seeing the footage of his return, it was both a joy and shock to me. While I'm happy about the guy's return, I can't help but feel sad that the man has aged and isn't as young and vibrant as we remember him... and that was over 20 years ago! While I am a fan of many of the Riders of the 21st century, this is the one that started it all for me. Kamen Rider Black was a childhood hero of mine... and he still remains so to this day. Journey back with me, as I look back at the history of a man who fought so long and hard, and still kicks ass to this day!

Kamen Rider Black was one of the more memorable shows back in my youth. While it was an Japanese superhero series geared towards children and teenagers, it was anything but light hearted and campy. In fact, the storyline was dark and tragic enough to make people cry like they were watching a soap opera.

Kick ass opening? Well, that's just a teaser. To understand the man behind the mask, here's a look back at the origin of Black.

Created by the late and great Shotaro Ishinomori back in 1987, Kamen Rider Black was the eighth installment of the long running Kamen Rider series of Tokusatsu/ live-action superhero shows. Its plot centers around a young man named Minami Kotaro, who lived a happy life with his adoptive family, the Akitsukis. While he wasn't aware of his true lineage as a kid, he was close with all of them, especially to his adoptive brother, Nobuhiko, whom he'd always compete with in sports and recreational activities. Both were born on the same day and on the same year, and their fates were destined for something more evil than anyone could ever imagine.

On the day of their 19th birthday, the dark organization known only as Gorgom surfaced and sought to fulfill the boys' destiny: one of them was to become the next heir apparent to their lord, the Century King. To this end, they kidnapped Kotaro and Nobuhiko, subjecting them to intense experimentation and transforming their human bodies into cyborg upgrades. Kotaro was to become "Black Sun" and Nobuhiko "Shadow Moon", each one implanted with a Kingstone - a belt like embedded object that gives the wearer extraordinary abilities and both were destined to battle to the death to decide who would become the new king. The final cog in the transformation process was to erase their memories - a revelation that did not sit well with Professor Akitsuki, the father of the boys who served Gorgom yet did not wish for both of his sons to lose their humanity. Trying to free them, Prof. Akitsuki succeeds with Kotaro, yet fails with his own son as Nobuhiko suffers an electric shock and is left for dead. With his father yelling for him to flee, Kotaro makes a narrow escape, and is soon on the run from Gorgom.

Trying to hide in the city, Kotaro's pursuers eventually catch up and try to convince him to return, as "he is no longer human". Unable to believe this, the young man tries to escape, but fails when he is telekinetically slammed into a warehouse. With the trauma he experienced and his rage already building inside, Kotaro emerges from the rubble and undergoes a startling transformation. His body morphs into a form that is clad in black and shaped like a locust, and a surge of strength suddenly fills his entire being. The man known as Minami Kotaro has transformed into Black Sun, to the surprise and awe of his attackers. Finally having the means to fight back, Kotaro does so, and manages to chase Gorgom away... for the time being.

Looking for answers, Kotaro tracks down his adoptive father in an abandoned Camp. Demanding the truth, Prof. Akitsuki finally relents and explains the entire history and nature of Gorgom to his son. He and Kotaro's real father were members of Gorgom, and for disobeying their orders, the Minamis were killed. After finding out the truth, Kotaro is unable to accept being a tool for evil. However, the conversation is cut short, as both are interrupted by the forces of Gorgom itself. Prof. Akitsuki is soon captured by monsters and thrown to his certain doom. With his dying breath, he asks Kotaro to take care of his children. Angered by the death of the man who raised him, a weeping Kotaro finally makes use of his power and transforms willingly. Calling himself Kamen Rider Black, he avenges his father's death by defeating the monsters, yet his victory is a hollow one. For as long as Gorgom exists, Kotaro resolves to fight them and protect the innocent... as Kamen Rider Black!

*Phew* That was a long summary, but it would be hard to explain who the character is without that origin, so now that's done, the rest of the story is simple - Kotaro eventually finds Nobuhiko, but he's turned into the side of evil as Shadow Moon, and seeks nothing more than to destroy Kamen Rider Black and become the new century king. Although he tried to reach out to him, the man who was his adoptive brother is unresponsive, and soon the two brothers fight. Eventually defeating him and the forces of Gorgom, Black soon faces the Century King itself, and after a hard fought battle, triumphs over the evil force that brought nothing but tragedy to humanity and his own life.

The Henshin sequence has gotta be one of the coolest gimmicks of the series. Look at it here:

While there's no doubt in anyone's mind that the series was heroic, it was awfully depressing as well. Kamen Rider Black was the trendsetter for me with live action superhero shows, right next to the likes of Bioman, Shaider, and the Ultraman series. While the opening (sung by Tetsuo Kurata himself) was memorable, the ending was by far the most emotionally gripping hero song I've heard. It was called "Long, Long Ago, 20th Century"... check it out and see/ hear how it sounds:

Sad, ain't it? But it was cool as well.

You'd think with Kamen Rider Black over, that was it for Tetsuo Kurata... but NO, he came back for a sequel series!

Released in 1988, Kamen Rider Black RX was the direct sequel to Black, and Kotaro Minami returned to deal with a new threat - The Crisis Empire. Defeated and his Kingstone destroyed, Kotaro was thrown into space and left for dead, yet fate intervened on his behalf yet again. His Kingstone was mutated by the sun's rays, and he was transformed into Kamen Rider Black RX~! With newfound powers and abilities, Kotaro once again fights for humanity and Earth, promising to defeat the empire and restore peace around the world.

Of course, no matter what form or version he was, I always liked the character of Kamen Rider Black/ RX - a headstrong individual who fought the good fight and never gave up. Of course, I'm partial to the Black saga, since it was old school and dealt with monsters rather than alien forces. His upgrade to RX was ok, but story wise it just wasn't as dark as the original. He did get more forms and weapons though, including a car! Either way, it was still the hero that kept me watching back then, and to this day I always feel a sense of nostalgia when I come across Black through one form of media or another.

Tetsuo Kurata may be older now, but the man proves that he's still capable of being the hero we know, as he assists the current Rider of this generation to fight evil once more! HENSHIN!

Iron Man 2 Update: Visit Stark Industries Now!

The title says it all.

In the tradition of Warner Bros excessive promotional strategy for The Dark Knight last year, it seems that Paramount Pictures is plotting the same course and devising ways of extending Mr. Stark's humble new beginnings in his movie next year! Iron Man 2 is already hyping it up as a big bang sequel, and I do hope we get more teasers and viral marketing gimmicks like this soon, this is so kick ass.

Well, what are you waiting for? Visit Stark Industries... Now.XD

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Iron Man 2 Update: Oh sweet SDCC '09 goodies!

This year's San Diego Comic Con has been going strong for the folks at Marvel. They've introduced the return of Mirac... *ahem* "Marvelman", and announced a couple of new comics, toys, and shows for fans to get their mitts on come 2010, including the upcoming Marvel Anime shows teased in the last post. Now, the guys from the House Of Ideas are promoting one of their most anticipated movies next year - Iron Man 2. Yeah, the sequel with Robert Downey Jr. reprising his role as Anthony "Tony" Stark is getting plenty of attention again, and with Scarlett Johansson and Mickey Rourke on board as Black Widow and Whiplash respectively, you bet your asses that this will be another blockbuster comic book movie to see on the first day.

Superherohype was able to lay down some juicy info on the first footage from the sequel that premiered on the con. Based from the article itself, the footage starts up with Stark and Fury having an interesting conversation at a coffee shop. It seems that Tony and Nick still have to work out some kinks on their relationship before the "Avenger Initiative" can go fully underway. Also noted are some spoilers concerning the plot of the movie, one of which is the government wanting Stark's Iron Man technology for themselves... that's bad news for Tony, as he's not giving up his tech anytime soon. Also seen in the clips were Don Cheadle as Rhodey and Rourke's Whiplash in action with Black Widow making an appearance too. Man... I WISH I WAS THERE TO SEE THOSE CLIPS. You can read up on the full coverage from SHH here., and they have a couple of audio interviews with the cast and filmmakers up for listening through this link here!

One of the lucky attendees at that con got a video of the Armor gallery display set up there. Look and behold the amazing toys of Tony Stark:

Looking nice, huh? But that's nothing compared to this juicy piece of poster:

*Drools* I want me some Iron Man 2 already.

SDCC '09: Marvel Goes Anime

SDCC '09 has gotta be Marvel's playground. They're dropping the bombshell announcements as we speak.

According to, Marvel will producing a plethora of new animated movies, shows, and anime... that's right, ANIME. Their animated stuff will compose of some of the best concepts and characters they have in their stockpile. From X-men to Blade, we'll be getting a kick out of the Land Of The Rising Sun's animation style courtesy of the folks from Madhouse entertainment - the folks who produced a many famous anime shows such as Trigun and Gungrave. Also, all of these shows will be written by Warren Ellis, so you can expect major awesome stories to come forth after giving fans so much to geek on about with G.I.Joe Resolute.

Starting things off with the upcoming Marvel Anime projects is a trailer on "Wolverine":

That one was ok... but ONE trailer I'm really happy about is this:

Damn right... IRON MAN goes ANIME, and it's in the vein of Mech Action meets Lupin III. I'm already sold for this, yessirree. It's fitting that Mr. Ellis is doing this, since he has played his hand with Iron Man back with the Extremis story arc a few years ago.Damn... I can't wait to see these shows already.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

SDCC '09 Madness: Marvelman returns and goodies fly!

The San Diego Comic Con goes into overdrive! Lots of new updates coming up as I wake up to this Brand New Saturday, and they're all pretty! Check out some of the higlights I browsed over at the net this morning!


A character who has been locked in a series of custody battles for as long as I can remember, Marvelman finally flies out of the void and enters into a new realm: The House Of Ideas! The announcement was just made by Joe Quesada (who drew the cover on top too) in Marvel's Cup O' Joe panel at the SDCC '09, so this is a huge announcement to behold in the comic community.

Marvelman, created by Mick Anglo, is similar in many ways to Captain Marvel, only he was created in the UK when they couldn't use that character in their magazine publications anymore. He then later gained the name "Miracleman" when legal issues (ironically from Marvel itself) prevented him from using the "Marvel" name. Famous writers like Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman took a stab at the character and produced several stories that remain classic reads to this day. Eventually, a dispute between Todd McFarlane and Neil Gaiman (who created some characters for the former's book, Spawn) caused "another version" of the character to appear - Man Of Miracles. This wasn't the Marvelman/ Miracleman we know, since Gaiman held the rights to the character and McFarlane couldn't use it in his books, so he went around the bush and created a new character to compensate storylines that would have seen Marvelman/ Miracleman appear in the Spawn books. After this, we never heard from MM for a long while... UNTIL NOW.

Now, Marvel has bought all publication rights to the character, and the time has come for his return! Read up the jolly good news over at Newsarama and!

For comic movies, it seems that another Christopher Nolan Batman film's going to see production soon! I know, we're all craving for that. Take it with a grain of salt, but reports Gary Oldman (who play the dark knight's ally Commissioner Gordon) was asked when the next movie would be, to which he replied this:

“The next batman is next year, so I think it is two years away. But you didn’t hear it from me.”

Gotta love this guy for his indirect answer, not to mention his superb acting abilities. More power to Nolan and crew for a new Batman movie by 2011!

Lots more updates over at the hype, including the breakdown on first footage shown on the show floor of upcoming movies such as Kick-Ass and Jonah Hex! Man, wish I was really there!

Oh, and I want this Tekken 6 shirt! SDCC '09 Madness continues!

Spotlight: Mega 64

Have you guys heard of Mega 64? No? Then allow me to give a brief background description on them.

Created by Rocco Posse and Derrick Acosta, Mega 64 is a series of comedic skits that center on Video Games. In many ways, it's similar to those comedy shows you see here and there, like Saturday Night Live and MTV's Jackass. Every episode has these guys and their friends starring in it, spoofing something related to video games - whether it be a title or a peripheral of a console. As a gamer, I find their work hilarious and easy to relate to. I'd always imagine how it would be like to live out my video game fantasies in the real world... and this show tells me that idea just wouldn't work out (you think?!). Haha, at least these guys have the guts to test drive their gaming knowledge to the public, so I tip my hat off to them for their efforts, they're really awesome.

Some of my favorite Mega 64 moments involve my favorite games I've played over the years:

Street Fighter II - The Bonus Stage... Holy Shit.

Resident Evil - Rocco leads a team of zombies to town. FAIL, haha.

Nowadays, the boys do stuff for Their latest episode involves the Wii Fit... with a very "important lesson" to convey to the audience.

That was just... wrong, haha.

For more about these guys, look them up at Wikipedia. You can also check out more Mega 64 goodness at their official site. They got other stuff besides their videos, such as podcasts and official merchandise to sell to fans. They're currently attending the SDCC '09, so I'm sure they're up to something there that'll be converted into another hilarious skit. I can't wait...

Friday, July 24, 2009

Movie Review: Public Enemies

Movie: Public Enemies
Starring: Johnny Depp, Christian Bale
Directed By: Michael Mann

Johnny Depp is everywhere again.

With the San Diego Comic Con starting up, it took the appearance of Mr. Depp to send fans into a frenzy. The guy's got a lot of talent and an impressive resume of film work, and his upcoming film with director Tim Burton, Alice In Wonderland, already has people talking. I wonder how that film will turn out... his Mad Hatter looks like a good candidate for the next Batman film by Christopher Nolan, hehe.

I saw Johnny's latest flick last night, Public Enemies - a crime movie that pairs him alongside with none other than Batman himself, Christian Bale. Set during The Great Depression, Depp plays the role of the legendary criminal, John Dillenger, who was notorious back in the 1930's for robbing banks and evading the law by all means. Crime was the talk of the town of that period and the FBI was just making its bones... a perfect setup for Director/ Producer Michael Mann, who knows his movie stuff and directed many other action flicks such as Heat and Miami Vice.

Honestly going into this movie, I didn't know much about the history of Crime back in 1933, but this film really takes you back into that era, where people cared less about their lives and tried to enjoy the moment, full of jazz music and noir elements that somehow get you into the mood of things. Depp's portrayal of Dillenger exemplifies this lifestyle, and he has that flamboyant, carefree attitude which attracts the wrong attention and publicity, enough to piss off any federal lawman and state cop who want his hide so badly. As for Christian Bale... I'm totally impressed with his role. The man who has been praised for his acting ability has once again transformed his voice into a convincing accent common of people that time. I read up on the person he plays, Melvin Purvis, and with the exception of his height, I think Mr. Bale did an outstanding job portraying the man who led the manhunt for Public Enemy No.1 - John Dillenger. He had a lot of gun fights and action scenes in this movie too, which is a stark contrast to his no gun/ kill rule as Batman, hehe.

I'll have to abide by the old rule about movies like these: Even if it is based on true events, the film is a dramatization at best. Some inconsistencies may appear or contradict the actual details written in the books, and historians will debate over what transpires in the movie as fact or fiction. However, to the filmmakers credit, they did what they could to recapture that period, and did a bang up job telling this story to viewers who don't know squat about who Dillenger, his cohorts like Baby Face Nelson, Red Hamilton, and other known crime personalities were. Ironically, the gang's exploits also led to the rise of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which was created by J. Edgar Hoover and saw the incorporation of methodical, modern ways to catch criminals effectively. As we see the rise of the interstate G-men, we also witness what great lengths the law would go just to catch these criminals and prosecute them... by any means necessary.

Overall, I found Public Enemies to be a decent Crime film. Johnny Depp and Christian Bale once again prove their worth, and the roles they play here are nothing short of the excellence they inspire to others. I'll admit, I found the ending typical and it could've been better, but that's how it happened in history and I guess they wanted to end things on a simple note. My recommendation? It's good for a single viewing if you have time to hit the cinemas.

Score - 4/5

SDCC '09 Has Started!

Holy Crap... the San Diego Comic-Con has begun! Every comic, movie, and gaming news a geek could look forward to is all going to debut in this event, and I hope it will be megatonic announcements that will surely make people wet their pants in excitement. I'm currently following the updates via Kotaku and Newsarama, and this is some of the juicy looking stuff featured in the event:

- One word... WANT! Kotaku's report and image on SDCC '09 Exclusive Green Lantern First Flight PSP... It just looks awesome. "Beware my power... PSP's Light"!

- Over at Newsarama, they have a steady flow of Comic-Con updates, and one of them is on the always present Mondo Marvel Panel. A lot of upcoming titles were previewed and teased to the public, with one distinct image catching my eye... and it's downright sexy:

Black Cat.Is.Always.Hot.

*Ahem*, darn. These make me envious of those attending. They get exclusive freebies, not to mention chances to play games on the spot like "Left 4 Dead 2" and "Lost Planet 2". Oh well... at least we can follow the updates. Looking forward to more SDCC updates!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Comic Review: The Amazing Spider-Man #600 and Green Lantern #44

The San Diego Comic-Con happens this weekend! It's one of the few events in pop culture fandom that have me wishing I was there personally to attend, but I can always keep tabs with the updates online... and a frivolous array of previews have already spilled before the con actually begins! Oh well, be sure to check back here now and then guys, there'll be plenty to talk about concerning the SDCC.

Now then, back to the weekly agenda at hand: MORE COMICS!

The Amazing Spider-Man #600
Written By: Dan Slott
Illustrated By
: John Romita Jr.

I swear to God - I never thought I'd buy another Spider-Man comic again after the events of One More Day. To me, the status quo change was unacceptable, and I promised myself that after the controversial "de-marriage" and J. Michael Straczynski's departure from the book, I'd no longer be collecting the title on a monthly basis. Also adding to my timely decision was that the title would be shipping "3 times a month", thanks to publication changes made by the follow up event, Brand New Day. Truly, it was the dawn of a new era for Spidey readers, and one I only bothered to check up on once in a while from the shadows because of my curiosity over the "new life" of everyone's favorite wall crawler. Time passed, and after two years of progressive storytelling and not so extravagant change, a milestone has occurred - The Amazing Spider-Man has reached its 600th issue... a mega sized one at that. We've seen other titles make a hype over reaching a significant publication mark, but is this really worth the $5 price tag it holds? Keep reading and your spider-senses on the ready - The review's here to save the day:

For many years, Peter Parker has selflessly protected the innocent as The Amazing Spider-Man, chasing evildoers and surviving any obstacles thrown at him. However, July 22, 2009 may hold his greatest challenge yet - the wedding day of May Parker and J.Jonah Jameson Sr.! That's right, Aunt May is getting married... to the dad of Spidey's worst critic! As if that weren't enough food on the plate for Pete to chew on, he has to contend with the reappearance of an old foe, who's just concocted his most insane and desperate scheme yet! Will Spidey be able to thwart the villain's plans, save New York City, and hear wedding bells? All this plus a plethora of superhero guest stars and extra back up tales bring you the ultimate web spinning experience!

My summary is practically a solicit, and there's no other way to describe this book - which happens to be one of THE Best Spidey issues I've seen in a long, long time. Yes, I'll admit it, it's really good. No matter what reservations I have regarding the current status of Peter Parker, the story worked for me, and that's probably due to the writing of Dan Slott. He knows his Spidey material quite well from experience, and he isn't the type to shy away from opportunities portraying the wall crawler cracking silly jokes and banter at the expense of others. Believe me, it's really what makes Spider-Man - his mouth is his deadliest weapon, and he has enough practice to view life on the funny side while beating baddies silly. I'd be remiss if I weren't honest enough to point out the concerns I have - particularly concerning the main villain of the story itself. It's not the direction or treatment I would've wanted this fan favorite rogue, but it works in the overall scheme of things otherwise, and the read remains coherent enough to take in without raising any eyebrows.

Art has also got to be the reason why I was compelled to buy this issue. It's done once again by the guy who got me into Spidey comics again back in 2001 - Mr. John Romita Jr. himself. I've told my peers this countless times - I personally feel his unorthodox style fits with an athletic and sometimes cocky character like Spider-Man. From the many insane stunts to the wacky poses he does while dodging enemy fire, JRJR has got his A-game up in drawing anything and everything involving ol' webhead himself. However, the downside to this is that not all characters fit his art style all too well. Case in point: The New Avengers make a special appearance in this issue to help our poor wallcrawler out, and certain members' dimensions are out of whack. Captain "Bucky" America in particular looks more like the Steve Rogers version here, and that just eliminates ways to distinguish the protege over the mentor (the colors didn't help either). Things like these can be easily overlooked though, and when it comes down to it, Slott and JRJR did an impressive job on this tale.

While the main story was indeed a masterfully woven tale, it is further complimented by the inclusion of extra segments written and illustrated by some of the mightiest talents The House Of Ideas has to offer today. These bonuses deal with different aspects of the wall crawler's life, with one particular tale, "Identity Crisis", having me nod in amusement. The "story", written by Stan "The Man" Lee, indirectly explores what Spidey's oh-so-complicated life has done to the minds of readers over the years... and how so true a crisis it was for many. More tales like "My Brother's Son" and "The Blessing" served as great fillers, while "Fight At The Museum" and the "unprinted covers" poke at the blemishes and embarrassing moments in Spidey's career. It's these stories that remind you why you're a Spider-Man fan in the first place. Oh, and the last tale is deliberately meant as a set up to what will be the next big Spider-event of this year, though I still remain unconvinced.

Taking this entire double-sized issue into account - as someone who gave up reading Spidey titles for quite a while, I'm glad I was convinced to pick ASM #600 up. It's truly an issue worth its price tag. Great story, fun art, and lots of surprises at the end do more than make it worthwhile, and maybe that could spell good news for purists like me who hope that remnants of the old continuity will come back somehow *crosses fingers*. With 4 covers to choose from, you'll have hardly any reason to complain. While all commemorate the 600th entry in the series neatly, I chose JRJR's wraparound cover (the pic above), which looks damn good in itself already (and since he's the main artist of the issue). The book already reads like a mini trade or a mega one-shot, so what's there to lose? Go and grab this hyped up bag of web goodness for some old school, fun lovin' reading.

Score - 10/10

Green Lantern #44
Written By: Geoff Johns
Illustrated By
: Doug Mahnke

Pick up Final Crisis and Blackest Night #1 before reading this sucker.

The first of many Blackest Night tie-ins doesn't fail to deliver pure adrenaline action and content to expand the story. It succeeds in promoting the event in fact... but the only concern here is that some people won't know what the hell is happening until they read the aforementioned titles above. That's a clear indication that this issue cannot stand on its own two feet. If you've read Blackest Night - Read on and find out why this is a solid companion to the main series. Otherwise, get your SPOILER HATS ready... this is full of it.

The Blackest Night has arrived. Black rings scatter across the cosmos, seeking dead bodies to resurrect and turn into Black Lanterns. On the dead planet of Mars, the remains of the fallen hero, J'onn Jozz, lies in stasis over a lone pyramid built in his honor. Bursting through the concrete and coffin like paper, one black ring slips through the corpse's fingers... and what was once a decaying piece of flesh has now become a Black Lantern. Back on Earth, Hal Jordan and Barry Allen pay a visit to Gotham Cemetery to investigate the dug up remains of Bruce Wayne, leaving the heroes puzzled as to who could desecrate the final resting place of the world's greatest detective. As they try looking for clues to further their search, an unexpected presence arrives - the Black Lantern Martian Manhunter. As Green Lantern and The Flash stare in shock, the decomposed being that was J'onn Jozz makes a simple offer - give in to death and rise.

Geoff Johns and Doug Mahnke hit a second homerun tale of epic proportions, and Blackest Night goes full steam ahead. We see Hal Jordan's first official encounter with a Black Lantern, and he's teamed up with the Flash for this one. People should also be aware that the speedster you see in this book is not Wally West, but Barry Allen, The Silver Age Flash. Much like Hal before him, Johns is currently weaving his return tale to the DC Universe proper through The Flash: Rebirth miniseries. As a result, the writer tries to expand his role with more involvement in Blackest Night. Hal and Barry have always had a great teamwork ethic going, and it's fun to see them working together during that start of this crisis. I personally like the exchange of words between the two, and the quip Flash makes about the internet... priceless.

It is an eerie feeling to see J'onn Jozz back after his death in Final Crisis and hunting his old JLA comrades as a Black Lantern. That whole cycle is just evil, yet a fun twist to read about at the same time. The mystery on how these suckers come back to life and think still escapes me completely. We don't know if they actually have souls and retain the memories of their former lives, which obviously makes them more dangerous to the good guys. They could be puppets of the Black Lantern Corps... or twisted shells reanimated to serve evil and manipulate the memories of the living. Not only that, it seems living things are also affected by the Blackest Night wave as well. Perhaps those who escped death are not exempt from being potential Black Lanterns? Whatever the case is, I love it, and I can't wait to see how the other zombie lanterns face off and conquer in the coming titles ahead.

For the plot contained within this issue, Geoff never seems to miss a beat, neither does his artist. His script is once again brought to life by the pencils of Doug Mahnke, who did a fabulous job last issue with the origin of Black Hand. Here, readers are given the main course they wanted - a slobber knocker. The fight between Hal and Barry vs Undead J'onn will reward fans who've been craving for action, especially those who were left hanging in Blackest Night #1. Directly explaining the Martian Manhunter's dark resurrection and his intentions in the first few pages on the book is just pure awesomeness, and we also get to see more about Scar, the Guardian who fell to death's embrace (literally). The last few pages also bring us to speed with John Stewart... who faces a new problem... One BIG problem. All of this teasing can be irritating sometimes, but it proves that Blackest Night is becoming a major success. Here's hoping for more mayhem and chaos to ensue in the DCU... the reads just keep getting better and better.

Score - 10/10

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Spotlight: The King Of Fighters Saga Part II

The Spotlight continues... and this time, KOF goes Sci-Fi.

1999 - lots of expectations and concerns ran rampant over the future of The King Of Fighters, SNK's premiere brawler franchise. The past five installments proved without a shadow of a doubt that there was a market for the series, and after the conclusion of the four year Orochi Saga, many were left wondering how things would turn out in the next installment. After the filler year release of KOF '98, a true sequel was finally released in July 22, 1999, giving fans another year of monumental battles... and questions.

Yes, 10 years ago today, The King Of Fighters '99 hit arcades and took the entire world by storm. It served as the first episode of what would be known as the "NESTS Saga", and introduced a new primary protagonist for the series in the process - K', a mysterious individual who could wield flames and had no recollection of his own past. Two years have passed since the last official tournament, KOF '97, and Kyo Kusanagi and Iori Yagami have mysteriously vanished without a single trace. Everyone went back to their simple and normal lives... until a new tournament invitation was extended to fighters around the world. It was at this point that Benimaru Nikaido and Shingo Yabuki, two close friends and teammates of Kyo, decided to participate and investigate the whereabouts of their friend. However, in order to do so, they had to join forces with K' and his partner, Maxima, to form a team to participate in the tournament.

The roster increase also proved beneficial aside from new characters introduced and fan favorites returning. Instead of a three man team rule, it was now increased to four, with a new assist feature added to the game known as the "Striker System". The extra fighter's presence gave additional ways to execute distractions and counters that were beneficial in breaking combos and turning the tide against opponents who were gaining the upper hand. Other system additions, such as "Counter Mode" and "Armor Mode", increased the player's offensive and defensive capabilities respectively.

It is later revealed that the flames K' held are the direct result of an experiment conducted by the shadowy organization called NESTS, using the DNA of Kyo, who was captured by the syndicate after the events of KOF '97. Clones of Mr. Kusanagi were also created, to serve as soldiers for the organization's plans of world conquest.

Meanwhile, the REAL Kyo did manage to escape, sporting a new look and an undominatable will to find those responsible for his abduction and making them pay. It was not long before Iori showed up, intent on resuming the feud he started with his rival long ago. However, all of these concerns had to wait, as the true enemy finally showed his face, and his name was Krizalid - the supposed organizer of the tournament. The battle proved to be a tedious experience, but in the end K' emerged victorious, finding out that Krizalid was a clone of his and nothing more than a puppet in the grander scheme of things. His death left more questions in the minds of those who participated, as well as a driving urge to rid the world of NESTS' influence once and for all.

In a sense, I have a love/ hate relationship with '99. Character wise, I enjoyed playing the new faces, old faves like Kyo, Terry, and Iori, and of course, K'. Story wise, the game sounded like a Sci-Fi episode mixed in with the martial arts mayhem we've come to know through the years. I remember grabbing this game for the original Playstation, and I found the experience to be quite mind boggling thanks to the slow loading and hard pressed controls. It was only the legacy of the series, the awesome soundtrack, and not to mention the fighting, that kept me going, and I only found justice playing this installment with The King Of Fighters '99 Evolution - a rerelease for the Sega Dreamcast. It featured characters that never made the original game, serving as extra strikers you could use and unlock. The controls were better, and 3D background visuals complimented the upgrade and makeover the game had.

The NESTS story continued in King Of Fighters 2000. At the conclusion of the last game, K' found out he had a sister - a girl named Whip, who was serving alongside the members of the Ikari Team. By the end of '99, Whip joins K's team, seeking to dispose of NEST once and for all. However, other fighters around the world are called forth once again for another tournament, this time organized by the enigmatic Zero, another agent of the NESTS organization. Through subterfuge and deception, Zero was able to take control of the world's defenses and destroy a large portion of the fictional city called South Town (which was the home of Fatal Fury hero Terry Bogard). It was only a matter of time until the heroes confronted and defeated the megalomaniac, who sought to enslave humanity to his will and dethrone NESTS in the process. His masters didn't take the news too well, so they sent agents to dispose of Zero, with the Anti-K' agent Kula Diamond leading the charge. Zero was defeated, but NESTS remained, much to the chagrin of those who despised the syndicate. Overall, despite the lackluster story and short boss battle, the game was a relative success, thanks in part to the Striker System from the last game, which was carried over and improved in this sequel.

At this point, the original SNK was near bankruptcy, and the future of the KOF franchise was looking mighty bleak for players hoping for a new installment of the epic fighting franchise. When all seemed lost for KOF, salvation came in the form of Breezzasoft, a company made up of former SNK employees who took over the reigns and decided to finish the NESTS Saga once and for all.

Produced by Korean based game company Eolith, The King Of Fighters 2001 was finally released in November 2001, to the surprise and bewilderment of those who thought the franchise would never see the light of day again. Like every year before it, more characters were present, and the NESTS team finally had the guts to show their faces. New characters were added once again, and K' was given a rival, K9999, who was eerily similar in appearance and powers to Tetsuo from the classic anime film Akira. The game play system also went through another makeover. the Striker system and Four man team were still intact, but players could now mix and match whether they wanted four combatants and no striker, three combatants and one striker, and so on. This method, however, came at the expense of the power stock gauge. The more fighters and less strikers you have, the less stocks you have. Players had a reason to experiment with this, as favorites like Kyo and Iori got a combo boost, more moves, and a super special DM (Desperation Move) they could unleash by using two stocks of the power gauge. These additions came in handy, especially when confronting the game's final bosses - Original Zero (yes, the last game's Zero was a clone apparently) and NESTS' leader himself, Igniz. Painstakingly overcoming both of these tough guys closed the curtain on the Sci-Fi turmoil, and finally resulted in the death of the NESTS organization once and for all.

Well, are you confused about how things went from mystically epic to science fictionally unappropriate? I sure was, and I still question why the direction of KOF went this way. Still, if you overlook the story, not everything was bad. When it comes down to it, IT'S ALL ABOUT THE FIGHTING... Nothing else. Every character from Athena Asamiya to Mai Shiranui got a makeover and additional moves to boast around with, so that should be grounds to celebrate and reason enough to enjoy these games.

The King Of Fighters 2002 decided to listen and treat fans to "old school", bringing back the classic three man team gameplay and adding just a wee bit of extras, such as the secret super Desperation Moves that can only be executed upon near death. Like '98 before it, 2002 was another filler year, and only proved that players like myself hungered from more KOF goodness. Eventually, the NESTS saga was compiled and released in numerous platforms, and even the dream match titles, '98 and '02, got complete makeovers and rereleases in the vein of '99 evolution.

In the next and final installment of Spotlight, KOF goes extreme. Big changes were made and a new chapter begins... again.