Thursday, December 31, 2009

The phenomenon expands even more

If we were to believe what this guy says about it anyway:

Tripshots was the last person I mentioned in my Project Diva article who has quickly become one of the prominent faces of Miku because of both his excellent 3D models of her as well as how dead serious he is about her mythos. If you checked his website at around the time I created the article, he mentions putting up music for iTunes. And they're all expensive. But they're worth it. Almost.

You can watch his promo vid for this release straight from the creator himself right here. If you want to see more complete versions of the original songs on this release, you can check them out here, here, and here.

But you know what's really interesting about Tripshots? On Christmas Eve of this year, Sega announced that this guy designed the arcade cabinet for Project Diva, which apparently will begin location testing during the middle of January. That explains why I saw a higher-quality 3D model of Miku used for both the Animelo concert and the dance choreography comparison. Guess they didn't want that to go to waste.

And it looks like Namco's going to be in trouble real soon.

Comer el puerro no fué una buena idea...

I swear, it wasn't me who did it! My friend told her to!

Now Miku's paying for it.

In all seriousness though, I wasn't expecting this context when I posed it like that in order to get shots of the back since that won't be seen when I put it on the base the figure was designed for.

So what is this, you ask? It's Good Smile Company's (I sincerely hope that you didn't click on that link since you probably have doomed yourself to a life of financial poverty and eternal envy) long-overdue figure based on an illustration by redjuice which ryo used for one of his songs called World is Mine, and in turn, is also the first track of the Free Play list for Project Diva. As for the sculpture itself, it's gorgeous and so well-designed that when you do plop Miku into the provided "stand," it'll hold onto her for dear life so even if flipped upside down, she won't fall out (disclaimer- I've never tried this myself yet nor do I plan on doing that anytime soon). And this is without using those annoying pegs that have to fit into specified holes and are really an eyesore if you're trying to take pictures.

On a side note, I find it amusing that her face looks more Spanish than Japanese for this model.


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Death of JRPGs - But Not Really

A few days ago, Gamasutra posted an opinion article called The Last Days of the Japanese RPG. I don't care for the sensationalist title, but as a lapsed JRPG fan, I agreed with pretty much the entire article. JRPGs are not dying, and contrary to some popular opinion, they are evolving - they just happen to be evolving in a way that I (and, apparently, a number of others) don't really care for. Naturally, the hardcore JRPG folks, insular as any fanbase, are deriding the article as the usual (embarassment to video game journalism, humanity, etc.), so I feel oblidged to defend it. One of the biggest point of contention is this one, labeled as one of the reasons why the JRPG has lost its popularity.

The anime and manga bubble has burst. The late 90s saw a tremendous surge in Western interest in Japanese pop culture. Book and comic stores rushed to create floor space devoted to vast piles of manga. Video retailers that had previously only carried the odd Akira or Ghost in the Shell tape suddenly embraced anime with shelves of outrageously expensive box sets and bizarrely titled movies, all delivered on the new DVD format. Kids were buying up anything sporting multicolored hair and big eyes and JRPGs benefited greatly from this hunger for all things Japanese. The current reality, however, is that the teens that were driving all this economic activity are now adults with different priorities and like all fads, anime and manga has somewhat run its course in the West.

The two main arguments against this statement are:

(A) There is no correlation between anime fans and JRPG fans, and

(B) Anime and manga is as popular as ever, if not moreso, it's just that the retail market is failing due to fansubs and its associated piracy.

I think the answer to (A) is obvious - not every JRPG fan likes anime, nor vice versa, but there are definite commonalities between them, and there is some crossover appeal, although getting hard numbers is unlikely. But many JRPGs use the same style of storytelling, character tropes and plot devices - some, like Namco's ubiquitous Tales series, may as well be interactive animes, with its episodic structure and its fancy introduction movies set to trendy J-Pop. A lot of the furor comes with the misinterpretation of the causal relationship. It's not saying "JRPGs are dying because anime is dying", but rather "JRPGs are dying for the same reason that anime is dying." Let's leave this point alone for now, but we'll get back to it.

The answer to (B) requires a bit more thought. My gut tells me that, yes, the anime/manga fad is over, but that's mostly due to my own personal opinions, as well as the group of people I run with. The numbers that are brought up show something different - that, yes, DVD and manga sales have fallen drastically, but enthusiasm is still up, according to convention attendance growing. And they're right, as Otakon's records show.

I don't think looking at convention attendance numbers tells the whole story, because there are other factors too. Several years back, the Cartoon Network aired a number of anime, especially in their Toonami block. Now, with few exceptions, it's gone, suggesting that the audience isn't there like it used to be. The lack of DVD releases also brings up another point - as much as the hardcore audience hates to admit it, there is a reasonable chunk of the fanbase that will only watch dubs. If anime studios don't produce them because they aren't selling, then that portion is left with two choices: deal with subtitles or just give up altogether. I don't know which would be more favored, but it definitely cuts down on the more mainstream folk.

Back on topic...The nature of many fandoms is cyclical - people will continue to consume until they get tired of it. To combat this, the media needs to (A) bring in new fans to replace the old, and (B) find ways to remain fresh so the current fans don't leave.

This part is where I don't think the piracy argument entirely holds water. Generally, a paying customer will not turn into a pirate, unless a life situation occurs where they can't afford it (admittedly not uncommon in this economy) or it becomes devalued to them. Lately, though, anime hasn't been keeping itself fresh or relevant (or at least the good ones are being drowned out), leaving the older fans to give up on it entirely. From my personal perspective, there doesn't seem to be much out anime out there for me, and instead I've moved onto live action TV shows like Battlestar Galactica, Firefly, 24, The Wire, and others. I'm sure many older fans have similarly given up. The piracy argument DOES hold up with the newer, younger fans though - these are the ones with the entitlement complex that refuse to pay for anything, and since that's the only market that's really being catered to, that means that sales collapse.

And here's where it ties back into JRPGs - like anime, they target a younger audience, ranging from junior high students to young adults. Gamers are getting older, because while they still enjoy the games from their youth, they either find them thematically immature or require too much time devotion. This demand, much like the comparison I made with live action TV, is being filled elsewhere by Western RPGs, ranging from Fallout 3 to The Witcher to much, much further. They all have several themes in common - namely, they don't waste the gamer's time with juvenile themes (nudity in the The Witcher notwithstanding), and you can play them in shorter bursts while still being immediately gratifying. (They're also real time action games, as compared to traditional JRPGs, although that's neither here nor there for the sake of this argument.) I do think the JRPG market is healthier than the anime market, because it's not quite as overwhelmed with piracy - it's not hard to pirate a PSP or DS game, but it's not as easy to downloading an anime episode either.

On the opposing side, the apologists clamor, JRPGs are supposed to be developed for youngsters, because that's where the market is. What a lazy attitude! If WRPGs can target older games, why can't the Japanese! Yes, yes, I know that JRPGs are made for the Japanese first and foremost, but that doesn't leave them immune to criticism. I'm not going to cater to their design style - I'm just not going to buy them anymore.

Still, as much as I've had a better time with Mass Effect and Borderlands than any JRPG this generation, there are certain aspects I definitely miss. I like snappy turn-based battle systems and funky customization systems - there's still nothing I've seen on the WRPG side that as cool as a FF Tactics-style Job system or FFVIII-style Junctioning. These are elements that should not die nor be swept under the rug - they just need to emerge from the BS that keeps being shoveled on them. (Persona 4 is great, but did we really need to wade through two hours of yammering to get to the game?) The one big exception to the rule this year is Demon's Souls, which I'm not even sure if I'd classify as a JRPG, given that it's really more of an action game. There's nothing wrong with that though - reworking elements so the game doesn't fit into any set definition is a fantastic sign of progress. They're trying, given that Square Enix's The Last Remnant was meant to bridge the gap, although for whatever reasons, that didn't quite work. It's good to that the rogue-like and first person dungeon crawlers seeing a resurgence, although they're still not really to my liking. Maybe in the future, we'll see some more publishers doing better, but until then? Sorry Japan. Motto ganbatte kudasai!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Extended Play releases are expensive

This iTunes release is called Digital Colors, created by someone named yasuo:

If you can't afford it, the good news is that all of the songs here can be found on nicovideo Smile Video, so you can listen to it there if you want. Now onto the review:

First track- I prefer the translation found in that link I found since the name sounds more Touhou-ish compared to what they put in the iTunes store, as this track sounds like one anyway. The song gets bad further down because it becomes a jumbled mess of tones at that point (like how ZUN tends to do it anyway, so I can't fault the composer for keeping true to the style). In short, it sucks.

Second track- Hey, this sounds familiar... oh yeah, it was part of the Free Play list in Project Diva. Silly me. Also sounds Touhou-ish, but at least it remains focused unlike the previous track. That's probably why Sega picked it.

Third Track- Sounds like the opening song to an RPG that has lots of Blue Skies. I like blue skies.

Final Track- A nice slow-sounding track. It's like, good enough to negate the first track altogether.

Judgement: yasuo should stop emulating ZUN. Also as mentioned in the header of this post, it's kinda pricey, so you really need to either be a Vocaloid fan or have a lot of disposable income to buy it.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

PSP 2000 VS PSP Go: Practicality VS Shininess

So I borrowed a friend's PSP Go to get it up to speed. By that I mean get lots of demos and free swag in general onto it.

Personally, I'm no fan of the Go. It's overpriced and under featured. It has more hard drive space and a nicer screen, but at the cost of UMD functionality, which renders most of the PSP's game library useless to a Go owner.

Secondly, all the DLC features of a Go are easily accessible with a regular PSP, from the original 1000 to the current 3000 model, especially thanks to Sony's almost too-frequent system updates.

So why Go? I'm not sure, but you can draw your own conclusions, since I took a few comparison images.

My PSP 2000(unhacked, mind!) is on top, my friend's Go is beneath.

Running the Warhammer 40k Squad Command demo:

DJ MAX Clazziquai Theme:

In addition to the brighter screen and lighter weight, the system also has fairly better sound.

However, it lacks some shortcuts of the normal PSP. I couldn't find the 'Home' button, which I've gotten used to. The analog and buttons in general are also very condensed, found closer to the center of the system rather than at each end.

The PSP Go could be a hit with the I-Pod generation, but I think it's too little, too soon. And judging by the Go's reputedly dire sales, the consumers seem to agree.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Miku's hair can turn into wings?! Crazy.

Next up on the iTunes store is this album called haneito by someone who goes by the name of Clean Tears:

The art is so purty.

This person is also pretty important as one of their songs is the first one played during Project Diva's ending credits. How that came to be will be saved for another time; besides, this song isn't in the album anyway.

Aside from electronic pop, this person can also can churn out some really good trance music such as the first track on this album which became one of their most iconic songs. Then I was surprised by the R&B pop tracks in the album as they're not bad at all.

So what's the verdict? It's pretty good for quite a steal if you're buying it at the album price through the US iTunes store.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A tasty appetizer

As promised earlier, here's one interesting Vocaloid album found on the iTunes store:

Minato's album called Delicious can be summed up pretty much by what this reviewer said about it. So how prominent is this person, you ask? The third track to this album is found in Project Diva. You won't find this song in the Free Play list as it's one of the unused ones, but it can be played as background music in Miku's Room or can be used to create an original music video using the Rhythm Game Edit interface.

The rest of the album is a pretty good combination of fast and slow pop songs with various instruments that use either Miku or the Kagamine twins for each track. Its weakest link for me is like with a lot of Vocaloid songs I've heard, the singers at times sound a little bit too soft and tend to blend into the music. That, and the 6th track has a prominent beat in it that never really goes away and nearly drove me up a wall the first time I heard it (well, I felt compelled to drive my car into one anyway). Don't let that deter you from checking it out though. Well, don't drive while listening to this album for the first time.

Well, the MP3s are back!

PROBLEM AVERTED, according to an e-mail I just got:

After an overwhelming number of responses, it has been made clear to the FilePlanet team the value of these files, and so it has been decided that the file hosting services will NOT be retired as we had previously advised. To clarify, anything you have uploaded to FilePlanet as a hosted site owner *will remain on their servers indefinitely*, and your file URLs will once again be valid despite any error messages that may have been appearing over the last few days.

May we stress that the new plan is to retain hosted site file uploads indefinitely; should there ever be a need in the future to reconsider this, we will endeavour to provide adequate notice.

Time to do some testing, but that certainly saves me a headache for now. Thanks for the suggestions, all!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Oh god, what was this doing here

Was digging through my old stuff and ran across this:

And speaking of Ernula, I just realized that her postcard set from my article was never there after all these years. Merry early Christmas.

Blurg - MP3s are gone

When all of us Classicgaming folk were kicked off Gamespy/IGN's hosting service, we were told that we would still have access to all of the Fileplanet stuff. For the sake of HG101, as well as The Castlevania Dungeon and The Contra HQ, 98% of that is the MP3s. Everything was working OK up until about two months ago, when the upload server mysteriously disappeared. After tracking down one of the guys on his personal e-mail, since they disabled the standard e-mails, he advised me that the upload utility was no more and to use the public utility, which is web-based. Fair enough - until a few days ago, when I got an e-mail that said, yeah, we'll be deleting all of your stuff today, have fun. To be fair, they've supplied us with backups of everything - quite nice, because some of the files from The Castlevania Dungeon are about ten years old and I'm not sure if I have them still lying around. But having the rug pulled out from underneath us is really not cool. It makes sense - I'm not sure why they didn't completely sever ties with us earlier, but some kind of solid notification would be nice.

The bigger problem is that all three sites have something like thousands of broken links on them, which right now is giving me a massive headache. A couple of the more recent blog posts here have stuff uploaded via the public Fileplanet upload so they should still be available, but everything else is gone. I'm not sure if I'm even going to put them back up - where would they go? Everything altogether totals about 12 GB for now, which isn't a huge deal in this day and age, but I'd prefer not to suck down Kontek's bandwidth with all of that. All of the other file hosting services are either sketchy or unstable, and I'd rather not have to comb through Megaupload links on hundreds of pages on a yearly basis to see if they're still valid.

Anyway, I apologize for this, but for now the MP3s will no longer be a part of the sites. I'll see if I can work out something more permanent - judging by the number of downloads, not too many people ever grabbed them, but I always liked them there. Part of HG101's goal was to be a multimedia site, providing both pictures and sound along with the text, and it sucks to lose out on a part of that.

Apple will be the death of me

I could easily sum this up with one picture, but I wanna say a few things:

No matter how much she tries, it'll never respond to her touch.

I mentioned the artist of this album you see in the photo right here, and yes, all of the songs I mentioned there are in this itunes album. There are others too, and I was pleasantly surprised by what's currently available on the US itunes store, but I'll save those for another post.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

All 42 ghosts from Metal Gear Solid

I’ve recently discovered that a Chinese forum which had a photo of every ghost in Metal Gear Solid went down, and no one else has such an archive. I also discovered that Jeremy Blaustein was removed from the game – contrary to what FAQ writers say, his ghost is not near the corpse of Sniper Wolf – and I dare the gaming world to prove me wrong. Otherwise, here’s 42 shots of the ghosts.

These were taken by a forumite named WeiZ, also known as Sunye, on the now dead forums. All credit for taking them go to him (though I fully expect other websites to soon claim ownership). If you want to use them, please credit WeiZ/Sunye for taking them, and myself for taking the time to individually upload each one of them.

Sunye states quite clearly (in Chinese) that he could not find Jeremy Blaustein near Sniper Wolf, and speculates as to why. The 42 which he found makes more sense, since it is a round number and fits perfectly onto 6 PS1 memory cards. So why was Jeremy removed? And can you claim to have found him?

Anyway, enjoy! The name goes below the photo.

01. Kazuki Muraoka (not Nakamura, that's part of the opening credits)

02. Tomokazu Fukushima

03. Takanari Ishiyama

04. Nobumitsu Tanaka

05. Kenichiro Shigeno

06. Ryoko Yoshimura

07. Atsuko Ito

08. Takashi Kitao

09. Yoshiteru Kobayashi

10. Kohei Onoda

11. Nobuyoshi Nishimura

12. Ryoji Makimura

13. Masayuki Kobayashi

14. Shigehisa Kozyou

15. Shinji Yamashita

16. Fujimura

17. Yuji Korekado

18. Yukiko Kaneda

19. Daizo Shikama

20. Yoshikazu Matsuhana

21. Hideo Kojima

22. Kunio Takabe

23. Hideki Sasaki

24. Yoriko Shimizu

25. Shiro Mukaide

26. Ikuya Nakamura

27. Yoji Shinkawa

28. Shigeo Okajima

29. Makoto Sonoyama

30. Kumi Sato

31. Scott Dolph

32. Takashi Kinbara

33. Motoyuki Yoshioka

34. Hiroyuki Togo

35. Satoshi Hirano

36. Motosada Mori

37. Kazunobu Uehara

38. Yutaka Negishi

39. So Toyota

40. Mineshi Kimura

41. Ichiro Kutome

42. Takashi Mizutani