hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts


Haxan's blog

12:18 AM on 08.09.2012

Dtoid community: I need your help to launch the career of filmmaker

It's been a long while since I've blogged here. For the two of you that remember me: How've you been? Long time no see. To the rest of you: How's it going? I like what you've done with the place. I'm Jason, and while I haven't been active on Destructoid in some time, I do occasionally contribute to the front page over at Tomopop (most recently with this review for Evil Dead 2 figures).

I'm going to cut right to the chase- I need your help. Or, rather, my best friend Sandy needs your help. Sandy Stenzel is a film student at UCLA. She became one of the 6 finalists for a film competition hosted by Sprite. These six directors were given a minuscule budget to create a short film showcasing Sprite. Ultimately the winner will get their film shown in movie theaters across America during that blitz of ads and trailers they show before the flick you paid to see.

It's a huge deal, and can and probably will launch the career of the winner. The hitch is that a large part of the judging is done by internet voting. If you're already gung-ho to help out, I think you're amazing and here's how you can do so:

Go to and watch Sandy's movie "Love, Refreshed", then vote for it. It's about a 3-minute short. You can vote once a day every day in the month of August. You only have to watch it once. You can skip straight ahead to the voting on each other day. Thanks so much. You don't have to keep reading anymore, Mr./Ms. Awesomely Helpful Person. I'm just going to keep trying to convince the others from here on out.

I'm just going to keep listing reasons why this girl deserves this, and why helping her out is a completely noble, charitable, and worthwhile thing to do.

-First and foremost, this girl is one of us. Hell, I probably wouldn't even be one of us if it weren't for Sandy. This girl is a gamer. When I first met her 15 years ago, I was amazed to meet a woman who played video games, let alone one who could occasionally kick my ass at them. I was kind of a lapsed gamer at the time. It was she who brought me back into the fold. Girl got a Dreamcast on launch day, and I remember playing Soul Caliber with her until dawn.

Beyond gaming, she loves anime, cult films (the first night I went over her house she showed me "Tromeo and Juliet", and I knew right there that she'd be my bestie for life), and before she moved to the other side of the country, we would scour every toy department in the state for rare variant action figures. (For my 25th birthday, she bought me a giant Leatherface action figure from Texas Chain Saw Massacre. She's a rare and awesome breed.)

Long story short, this is a girl who will make films that we like, because she loves the same things that we do.

-Sandy shot her film on actual 35mm film stock, as opposed to the digital cameras that her competitors used. Film is way more expensive, much more time-consuming to shoot with, and makes post production more complicated. She shot her film on the same budget as her competition, which created headaches of its own. The result, though, is obvious. Her short looks amazing. Her's looks professional. Shooting on film is coming closer to being a lost art, yet she took a major risk and made it happen.

-Every time you cast a vote, you're entered to win a trip to Universal Studios. It's kind of a weak reason, since it never really feels like people really win those things, but I'd love to see a Dtoider walk away with that prize.

-If her film wins and is shown in theaters, you'll get the satisfaction of knowing that you helped make it happen. Feel free to turn to the person next to you and brag about how you jump-started that filmmaker's career. You've earned it!

-Do it because it's the right thing to do. This is a pathetically easy contest to hack. (All it requires is an email address and entering a captcha code to vote; a person could just punch in random email addresses all day long and win this thing.) It is widely suspected that the current front-runner has people doing just that. The help of the Dtoid Army (i.e. YOUR help), could overcome those nasty cheaters.

-Remember that time in 'Nam when I took that bullet for you? I've never once held it over you in any way since then. If this weren't really important, I wouldn't remind you now. If you help me out now, we're totally even. (There's still shrapnel in my shoulder, and when it rains it hurts like you wouldn't believe. Just saying.)

-Because someone who can sport a hat this pimp simply deserves to win!

If you made it this far, I thank you for your time. If you voted today, I think you're a rockstar. If you're going to vote on multiple days throughout the contest, you're pretty much a god in my book.   read

12:39 AM on 02.22.2010

Regarding 'The Hypocrisy of Gamers'

This started off as comment to Yojimbo's post regarding the controversy over the header pic on this front page story. Obviously it was much too long for a comment, and I doubt few will read through it even as a blog. But I hope that you'll read it through to the end before throwing in comments on either side of the debate.

I want to point out a couple of things. First, Rev. Anthony's avatar had nothing to do with this photo. It was a cap of Takeshi Kitano (a Japanese man not Vietnamese, and one of my biggest heroes, incidentally) from the film Sonatine. (I had incorrectly put Hana-Bi originally, which Takeshi corrected me on. Whoops. The bizarre bit being that Sonatine is my favorite Takeshi film. Director idol fail!) Also he was shooting himself in the head.

Second, the guy in the photo isn't about to be shot. It's not about violence looming in the future. He is dying as that shutter is closing. There's no exit wound yet because the bullet hasn't exited his skull yet. It's much more disturbing than simply a man about to die or even being dead. We've seen dead bodies. But it's rare to see an actual person losing his/her life.

I'm actually a little shocked by some of these comments. The ones referencing the offended as whiners/sissies/babies. It really shows how far towards desensitization we have come in this world. What these people are saying is that violent death happens, so we should be subjected to it at every part of our lives, and if someone resists then they are in denial. If a person gets offended by that image it is because some people put a value on human life. That photo was not from a videogame. That is a person who was alive when the button on the camera's button was pressed and was lifeless before the shutter reopened. Not everyone is so terribly desensitized/unempathetic.

But, I haven't heard from any offended people in this forum. So, you're not even speaking to the people commenting here. The dissenters are those who are saying that the use of the photo was in bad taste. The argument has been made that killing and death will be portrayed in the game. But fake deaths by data and computer generated images.

And just because an event is portrayed in a game, is it a good idea to display it's real-life equivalent when talking about the game? I'm currently replaying God of War. This topic reminds me that I had to kill hundreds of little puppies before they transformed into giant demon dogs. As such, would it have been okay to show real photos of puppies that were abused and beaten to death; broken and torn apart? Is that not bad taste?

Those that are claiming the use of the header photo was in bad taste, are saying that it's use serves no purpose other than to shock. The article does not discuss the horrors of war. It does not touch upon violence at all. Nothing about it was relevent at all to subject matter. The point of the article was to talk about the rumor of a videogame's setting and that there was a casting call. There was no specific relation that would warrant the use of such a affecting photo.

A few have said since that the point of it must have been to promote discussion about the horrors of war. That's a weak argument considering that it was never brought up in the text. If we're to applaud someone for being so bold as to talk about these issues, than those to be applauded should be the "sissies/whiners/babies" who brought to the attention that this photo's use was controversial.

Finally, the bitterness toward Destructoid over what is being portrayed as "censorship", I also wish to tackle that. The photo was changed. That wasn't censorship. It was a judgement call. I'm sure that the editors discussed this matter and took the views of all involved into view. They did what they thought was responsible. I know for a fact that if that photo were relevent the context of the article it would still be attached to it as we speak. The Destructoid editorial crew are amazing when it concerns the free-speech of the editors and the community. I've talked to the head robot himself about his concerns regarding free speech and the community. I know that it is not a matter he takes lightly. That Yojimbo's article still stands untouched at this very moment, every photo intact, is a testament to that very fact. I'm sure that the question was reaised, the community's arguments on both sides were taken into account, and that Matt had the deciding vote on what to do with photo in the end. The offended people were able to have their say. It was taken into consideration. A decision was made based upon the facts of the event. This was true Freedon of Speech at work. Not censorship at all.

Since I've long since crossed the tl;dr divide, I'll put this comment (now blog) out of it's misery. I'll leave simply reaffirming that I was not offended by the pic. My initial thoughts were "Really?!" and I would have just left them there and moved on. The only thin that I was offended by was the cries of a few desensitized people who feel the need to push their views of the value of a human life onto others and insult them while doing it. I've never been a fan of intolerance. And in this case, it really makes you wonder what a life playing games can do to you.   read

9:37 AM on 10.22.2009

Where the Wild Things Are photo shoot got Dugg (also, new photos) [nvgr]

Hey, everybody. I'm really sorry about the double-pimping here. Sometime around the weekend, the Where the Wild Things Are photo shoot over at Tomopop made it onto Digg: It would be a huge help if you could digg it up to give the site a bit more exposure. It hasn't gone popular yet, but with your help I don't think it's far off. Thanks for your help. I hope you enjoy some of these unused shots.

The header pic above is another shot from the campfire scene that turned out great. I love how Aaron's head in the foreground forms that amazing silhouette against the fire and other figures.

I used a similar shot in the final piece that worked much better narratively, but I love this shot more. I love the level of detail Moishe and how the other figures are peeking out around him. Max seems to be jumping out of his head.

This was another (drastically different) angle from a photo used in the final post. I think it turned out completely adorable.

This was one of my favorite photos in the whole shoot. I didn't use it because I wanted the fire-scene to be about the group playing together. I'm so in love with the deep shadows taking over so much of his face as well as how much the line detail pops.

Truth be told that Tom (Ruffo, one of my best friends and photographer) didn't think any of the fire pics were going to turn out all that well. I had the poor guy lying down on the ground on a very cold Michigan night shooting for over an hour on that sequence just reassuring him that it was going to work.

I've got a c-blog over at Tomopop that also pimps the entry on Digg. It contains even more photos, so give it a look if you'd like to see more shots. Thanks again for your help!

Special thanks to Y0j1mb0 for showcasing the site in this weekend's c-blog recaps. You're a class act in everyway (except maybe when you deal out a late, post-victory hit in Street Fighter IV)!   read

8:19 PM on 10.16.2009

Where the wild things are... (photo shoot intro) [nvgr]

Many of you know that for nearly two months, I've been writing daily over at Destructoid's sister-site where I work with a crew of amazingly talented folks bringing news and stories about the toys and figures industry. The first thing that I decided that I wanted to do was a photo feature on my Where the Wild Things Are figures that would coincide with the film's release. With the valuable photographic assistance of Thomas Ruffo, one of my best friends, we've been working on this goal in the time since.

Short story long, today's the day and a few hours ago the story went live. I've done a lot of things that I'm incredibly proud of and this piece stands with every last one of them. I've wanted to share it with everyone that I care about and that includes the whole of the community. The photos in this blog are some unused shots from the post. If you like these, you're going to love how the final shots came out.

So enough with my ramblings, here's the link: I hope that you'll enjoy it.

"Tom, give me a cigarette. If I fall and break my neck, I'll have wished that I'd had one. And at least I'll die in my dtoid shirt!"

Special thanks to Y0j1mb0 for some great ideas in terms of presentation, and to Colette for the perfect music to inspire the writing. You guys are incredible!   read

6:45 PM on 09.14.2009

Got an amazing new part time job [nvgr]

It feels like ages since I've drawn/written a blog for Destructoid. For the last month I've been working lots and lots and lots of overtime. So, things have been busy with that. Which I'm hoping will finally end with this week. Then I'll be able to see a bit more free time, be able to play more video games, and hopefully read and write more about them as well.

In addition to all of that, the big news is that for the last two weeks, I've been writing over at Tomopop! I've been hired on to join the great team of toy-loving editors at the greatest site for toy enthusiasts on the planet. In my short time there, I have learned a lot, and have added a tiny bit of my own self-deprecating flavor to the mix. If you've never been over to Destructoid's sister-site, I invite you to give it a look. If you're one of the three people that enjoy my writing (my mom's one, and I'm sure that there's got to be at least two others), then rest assured that I manage to put some good old Haxan-style into nearly everything that I write there. The only difference is that at Tomopop, I'm going by my real name: Jason Millward.

Writing for Modern Method is kind of a dream come true, and this has been an exciting couple of weeks for me. This does not mean that I'll be disappearing from dtoid (sorry to disappoint). I fully intend to be as much a part of this site as I always have. Dtoid is my home. I love this place and all of you guys. I love flexing my weak-as-hell artistic skills here. Haxan is dtoid for life. I'm also writing a ton over there, now. That's all that's changed.

If you're interested, I wrote my first c-blog to serve as kind of an introduction there. I also wrote a feature interview with Canadian artist ImaginaryThomas that I'm pretty proud of. Until next time. Which should be soon, because I've been meaning to finish up that unpublished art series.   read

6:50 PM on 08.22.2009

Please help me win this week's shirt.woot Derby

Hey everybody. I've spent the last 12 hours putting together an entry for this week's shirt.woot derby. If you've got a woot account, please vote for my design if you feel it's your jam. I would love to own one of these, and I hope that you would, too.

The theme this week is "School" so I put together an homage to arcade brawlers and The Breakfast Club. Please let me know what you think, but most importantly, give me a vote!

Thanks, everyone!

(Higher Resolution Version is in the gallery below.)


1:38 PM on 07.19.2009

"There is no life I know that compares with pure imagination." (Takeshi and Little BIG Planet)

Do you recall the very first time you saw Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (yes, saw the movie. Not read the book. I'm going for a visual here. [Just so we're absolutely clear, we're going Gene Wilder!])? Do you recollect sitting through the lame songs of the first act (DO NOT defend against this. "Cheer Up, Charlie" was the worst travesty in film since the death of Basil Rathbone) and waiting an eternity for the factory visit? Do you remember the amazement that you felt when that tiny/huge door swung open, revealing an awe-inspiring array of edible scenery? I recently had a similar event hit me with that same level of childlike wonder. I had the uncommon privilege of peeking behind the scenes of Takeshi's Little BIG Planet creations.

Takeshi's Sackboy on the set of his third level, Sackburger(TM).

I recently began anew work on LBP levels of my own (re-inspired by my playthrough of Takeshi's latest level: Sackburger[TM]). This past weekend I put in a ton of time into it. Wanting to show it off my progress, I went straight to the greatest level designer in Dtoid history. After taking a tour and talking a bit of shop, he invited me to his pod to take a tour of some of the things that he was working on. What do you say to something like that, aside from "Who do I have to kill?"

Haxan's Ico-themed Sackboy visits Sackburger(TM).

I'm not going to ruin anything that he's putting together by divulging any specifics. What I will say is that I toured a new level that is nearing completion (which is every bit as great as what he's come up with up till now), I also got a peek at something we all remember from our childhood being recreated in LBP-form with fantastic results so far (Remember the dude that built the working calculator in LBP? Amateur by comparison).

Beyond that, though, was one of the coolest things ever. Takeshi has levels that are essentially warehouses of unused ideas. You enter the level, and you're immediately hit by cool device after cool device. Many things were created for levels, but ultimately didn't fit, or were inspirations that he's hasn't incorporated into a stage yet. It's like a garage where he tinkers and perfects a contraption before moving it out to it's final destination. An inventors workshop in a virtual realm. I can't even describe how impressive this all was to see.

Takeshi's evil mastermind terrorizes the Sackville Shop n' Drop.

If you own a PS3 and don't yet own Little BIG Planet, you're doing yourself a major disservice. If you've got both and haven't checked out Takeshi's levels, then you're seriously selling yourself short on this whole existence thing. Get on it, now. Do a community search for "johanhin", add him to your "hearted" creators and be sure to heart up his levels if (rather when) you've enjoyed them. And keep an eye out for more. I've seen the things that he's cooking up, and you're in for some serious surprises!

Takeshi and his first level: Destructoid.

If you've not seen them already, check out Takeshi's posts regarding his two of his previously released levels: Destructoid and Sackburger(TM). Also, check out his excellent tutorial for building your own Little BIG Planet levels.   read

4:33 PM on 07.09.2009

The art of leftovers (unpublished Dtoid art) Part 2 of 3

Earlier this week I posted the first of three entries of unused drawings that I've created since joining the site. And a new pic of ν-13 from BlazBlue. Today it's more of the same! So, let's kick this thing off with a new pic of ν-13.

One of the things that I try to stay away from in my drawings is using reference materials. My mind has damn near no visual memory at all. Which is to say that if I close my eyes, I probably won't remember what you're wearing and I certainly couldn't visualize your facial features in all but the vague-est sense. Because of this, I will never be able to draw a picture that actually looks like the person I'm drawing. But it also kind of frees my drawings from the restraints of reality. There are obvious exceptions, like the ν-13 from the last post, where her costume was so intricate that I really needed to lock down the look. I did a pencil sketch of the detail, then only used my sketch for reference. And I deliberately changed a couple of things. You know, for fun.

I bring this up, because in this case, I wanted to get ν-13 out of costume. I was trying to boil the character down to what really draws me to her (well, the parts that aren't how badass her metallic angel suit is). And it really is less of a physical thing. It has everything to do with her voice. Her voice has a flat, mechanical quality to it, but also an innocense. It's like she's untouched by the knowledge of a human adult, and is constantly seeing the world through fresh eyes. Like a child, almost. So, that was where I was going with it. I did a sketch at work, and intended to match her in-game outfit when I did my final piece. But, I really ended up loving the vulnerability of the clothes I had given her, so I stuck with them.

For my post celebrating Destructoid's third anniversary, I had created a shooped NES controller, configured to look like Mr. Destructoid. This was inspired by the helmet of the Destructoid robot that is carrying Sterling from my page in the Dtoid alphabet book. I wanted to see that idea in real life. I started with a sketch, and then I used textures from a picture of an actual controller and combined them over the sketch to create the final image. But I still really liked the sketch as it was. So, I colored it and hung on to it as well. A smaller version was posted in the comments for RetroforceGo!'s NES episode.

These three pieces are drawings that I've made of Carollelogram over the last two years. Sadly, we're no longer on speaking terms, and she's all but left the site. I was really proud of these so I thought I'd include them here for everyone to see. The second one is actually the first thing I had drawn when I got my tablet set up. And the third came from me asking her for an idea of something to draw. She asked if I could draw her as Battle Angel in her Motorball uniform.

This picture of Sam Fisher was meant to go along with June's Monthly Musing. The topic was regarding unfulfilled potential. That reminded me of a story arc in the first Splinter Cell game. Sam's loses contact with his daughter just as the US has been attack in multiple locations by terrorists. This just after he's learned that there's a mole in the CIA, and he now has to break into CIA headquarters (his own government's agency) to find the mole, all the while worrying about the safety of his daughter. This was the coolest thing I had ever experienced in a video game up until that point. As good as any movie, really. Until I beat the level and they explained away everything that made the situation so groundbreaking. I wanted to tie in his daughter's kidnapping to her death that kicks off the upcoming sequel. But replaying, it, I realized that I remembered it wrong. She wasn't kidnapped. The phone just disconnected because the terrorists had destroyed all military communications. Oh well.

This last picture is from another abandoned blog. This was right after the Wii's firmware upgrade 4.0. I went from having Wii with zero excess memory, to one that was relatively devoid of games. I was wanted to run a contest to fill up someone's SD card. But I ran out of cash. Damn economy. Maybe I'll get back to that someday.

I've got one more lost art blog to go which features an early concept of my alphabet page which was going to be drastically different than how it ended up. Really super neat, because I wasn't even going to draw it. So keep an eye out. And be sure to hit the gallery for full res images of today's ν-13 pic and both versions of the Destructoid NES controller.   read

4:46 PM on 07.07.2009

The art of leftovers (unpublished Dtoid art) Part 1 of 3

Over the weekend I was reinstalling Windows on my computer. While I was backing up all of my files I spent a little time going through my art folders. There was kind of a slew of materials that I created for the site and for other purposes that, for one reason or another, never saw the light of day. And others that were created simply to comment on someone's blog, that I liked and didn't want to get lost to time.

All weekend after playing BlazBlue for the first time, I had been kid of jonesing to draw a pic of v-13 (or Nu, if you like), but since I really have little to say on the game itself, it would be a picture without a blog. The idea struck me that I could put together a few blogs showcasing some of this previously lost art. This is where you came in.

When I first started contributing to Dtoid, one of the things that I did a lot of was quick photoshops to go in the comments. This was one of the first. I was always kind of proud of this one for some reason. More for the message than anything else. Never really caught on, though. But I thought it was funny.

When I started illustrating my blog pics from scratch, I drew a bunch for blogs that I've never ended up writing. This was one that I was going to use for a review of Phantom 2040 for the SNES. That's one of my all-time favorite games that gets very little attention (play it now!). Sadly, I never got around to replaying the heck out of that game to remember how to achieve all of the various endings. Someday I'll get back to it. But I always liked how the illustration on that piece turned out.

I should mention at this point that I draw primarily for fun. I really like the way my style looks. I also realize that it's not very good by most people's standards. I've got a lot to learn about things like anatomy and perspective. I am getting better at that sort of thing as time goes on. I really like that my style is so unpolished, though. To me that gives it a ton of charm. I may one day be able to draw a human figure and have it be proportionately correct, but I'm always going to have that sloppy, sketchy style. It's just what I like.

About a year ago, I wrote a blog celebrating RetroforceGo!'s 1st anniversary and their 50th episode. I had made a pencil/watercolor painting that I further edited in Photoshop to add in screen captures of various retro games. That painting actually gave birth to my current, sketchy art-style. Prior to that, however, I had started that drawing in photoshop the way that I always had. Back then I would draw a rough light sketch, then build layers of color and shading over the top. I didn't get too far, and I can't remember specifically why I changed up. But I did get Topher almost completed.

I really like the way that was turning out. I kind of wish that I had finished it (it looks much more like Mr. Cantler than the final blog version).

This is another unfinished pic that is much more recent. When my little brother, Paul, gave me a tablet for my computer recently, I became addicted to drawing as much as I could. I was doing a lot of experiments to try to get my tablet sketches to look as close to my pencil sketches as possible. Recently I started reading the Dune Chronicles, and this was a piece that was inspired by that reading. Doubt I'll ever finish it. It was more of an exercise than anything else.

That's it for today. I'll have two more blogs of lost artwork to share very soon. Including a couple of alternate takes on my page in the Destructoid Alphabet Book. Be sure to hit the gallery for a full res version of v-13 from BlazBlue.   read

9:47 PM on 06.19.2009

Steamtoid (and the making of Steamtoid)

The question at hand is, "What does Steampunk mean to you?" As one who lives for gaming, I see the answer to that question as I do all questions of meaning: through the veil of videogames. I think of Violet Beauregard, who entered the mythical chocolate factory only to ask, "What kind of gum you got?" Throw me into a world filled with mechanical prestidigitation and I'll simply ask, "What manner of games do you possess, dear chap?"

In a world where Benjamin Franklin neglected to merge kite and key to catch lightning in a bottle, video games would not come to be. Not as we've come to know them at any rate. You see, every possible universe has their own Yaniero Gonzalez (but only one per alternate timeline- Don't get greedy). In a steam-powered world as in our own, Niero has got our backs.

He would make gaming possible in that world where sophisticated mechanical technology powers all manner of modern gizmos, doo-dads, and thingamajigs. Niero would make it his business to seek out the games, the entertainment, the tests of skill and daring-do. What didn't exist, he would create himself. When his quest was complete, he would bring it all back to the world at large.

Niero would bring together a community of gamers and inventors; artists and engineers. As time marches onward, his dream will grow and grow. With it did the community and the marvels of their creations.

As impressive as is the first game which you'll find in Mr. Destructoid's Arcade of Wonders, "Hunter of Ducks", just wait until you get to the newly unveiled "Colossal Shadows of the Ancient Gods" attraction.

A full resolution version of this image can be found here.

The making of Steamtoid

This one illustration took me over thirty hours to complete from start to finish. It started with a simple idea: Mr. Destructoid in a Steampunk style. I wanted to go all out with this project. I wanted to put as much detail and shading as I could to make this much cooler than any of my previous illustrations. Maybe even something borderline good.

As I continued to work on it, new ideas kept popping up. Why not throw Colette in as well? How about tying it into games in some way? Colette's addition proved to be a lot of fun. It wasn't just a simple cartoon-y pic.

I actually needed to design an outfit for her. Borrowing all that I could remember from Project: Runway, I went to town with my Steampunk Colette Bennett concept. It was actually the third design that I ended up using. Then, I needed to figure out her hair. This also took a couple attempts.

Then came the attempt to tackle the gaming aspect. How could video games exist without electronics? My first inclination was to go with a shooting gallery. Title it Dunk Hunt and call it a day. I sketched that into the photoshop drawing. But that seemed so dumb. The idea that followed really changed the entire project around. Why would there be anything special about an acient shooting gallery? We've had those for over a hundred years. This needs to be epic in scope. The shooting gallery became a full-on animatronic version of Duck Hunt. This meant much more designing. Starting with the booth itself. I had to study up on Victorian architecture (and found that it's an absolutely horrid style with all of it's needless gaudiness).

Then came the characters themselves.

The really awesome thing about Steampunk is that it's a mixture of Sci-Fi technology that can work and exist because the creator says so, and obsolete technology. You can't just throw something together and say, "Here. This works. Accept it at face value." You have to make it plausible. Extra thought needs to go into the design so that when people look at it, they can get an immediate impression of how it might work. It really gets the brain working on neat concepts for tiny details that people might not even notice at first glance.

So, I'm putting this all together in the middle of a 12-day work week. I used up nearly every second of freetime available to me (not counting the hour that I played against Y0j1mb0 in Street Fighter IV), and even now as I finish writing this, I've been awake just over 24 hours and have been at it nearly 14 hours since I got home from work. Just about everything in that illustration was drawn, colored, erased, redrawn and recolored again. This really is the coolest thing that I'[ve ever drawn (granted from a real artist's standpoint it's not so great), and I'm really proud of it. Hope you enjoyed seeing behind the scenes of it's creation.

In the gallery you'll find full resolution versions of the final piece (perfect for 900x1400 widescreen desktops ;) ) and some of the daily works-in-progress. I want to thank a few people. First, to my little brother, Paul. He gave me an inexpensive but awesome tablet that has totally changed my way of drawing (for better and for worse). This couldn't have happened without him. To Y0j1, who encouraged me to really make this a finished work when I would have been content to stick with Niero and Colette against a solid background. Finally, to John D., one of my best friends for over 15 years now. He gave me a solid critique and I was able to use at least half of his advice (even though it meant completely scrapping the helmet and starting over at the last minute).   read

5:39 PM on 05.28.2009

Virtual Console Review- The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask

Only two years after the incredibly successful release of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time along came it's sequel: Majora's Mask. Taking over the role of Chief Director from series creator Shigero Miyamoto, Eiji Aonuma crafted a drastically different Zelda game using the same engine as OoT. Though previous games had slightly diverged from the Zelda formula, Majora's Mask is still the game that feels the most unique in the series. Is this download worth your time and 1000 Wii Points or will it's age, peculiarities and lesser focus on dungeon crawling prove to be too off putting?

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask picks up the story soon after it's predecessor ends. Link has left the Kingdom of Hyrule in search of an unnamed old friend and finds himself robbed in his sleep by a mischievous imp, Skullkid. He awakens to find the legendary Ocarina of Time taken, and it's pilferer riding off on his horse, Epona, to make his escape. Link makes chase on foot, but finds himself transformed into a Deku Scrub (a small wooden creature) by the imp. He's wearing the stolen Majora's Mask, which gives him the powers of a god. Link eventually finds himself alone and disfigured in the foreign town of Termina, forced to embark on his darkest adventure yet.

As the town is setting for the annual Carnival of Time, it's residents are growing alarmed. An evil-looking moon overhead is coming ever closer to the town (talked into this murderous collision course by your friend, Skullkid) and threatens to destroy the village in 72 hours. The three day period lasts for roughly an hour of play time, but can be extended to almost three hours with the learning of an ocarina song. This gives Link precious little time to retrieve his lost belongings, transform himself back to his human form, and save the town from an imminent disaster.

This is where the games sharp turn to previous games occurs. There is no Ganon here, and no quest for the Triforce. Instead the focus is on time puzzles. At the end of the three day period, the moon crashes into the Earth, destroying the town and it's inhabitants. But recovering Link's Ocarina allows you to return to the very beginning for another attempt. During this travel back through time you'll keep your most of your weapons and items, but you'll lose replenishable items like arrows, bombs and any cash you have on you at the time. You'll spend as much time helping the townsfolk as you will in the game's four dungeons. Aiding the townies will net you new masks that grant different abilities when worn, like super-quick running or the ability to talk to animals. Bringing happiness to the citizens of Termina, however, is not always an easy task. Oftentimes, it takes learning the routines of the various characters or being in the right place at the right time with the right solution.

There are definite upgrades to the Ocarina engine on display. While so much looks identical, there is a much greater draw distance making the world seem fuller with less polygon drop-in. There are also far less of the low quality textures than were seen in the previous game. Many more special effects are here to impress, like some fantastic N64-era motion blur. It's the lighting, though, that is the most striking upgrade. As the time of day changes from dawn to day to dusk, or when it rains on the morning of the second day, the color of the environments change along with it. The sun makes everything appear more warm as it hangs closer to the horizon at the beginning and end of each day. And when the moon is out, the world is bathed in the blue of night. The sunlight is muted and murky when the sky is overcast, and gives the town a beautiful glow when it peaks out after the storm. It's such a subtle effect, but when you've got this game hooked into your HDTV with component cables and are viewing it in progressive scan, you'll be blown away by some vivid, old-school beauty.

If the lighting is the graphical cake, then the cherry on top is the moon itself. As the dementedly grinning satellite slowly gets closer and closer to the Earth, you will actually see it change from a small ball in the sky to an object so large that you won't be able to see more than half of it on the screen at a time. I found myself at points looking straight up into the sky and literally watching it grow. It's very subtle, but just like the minute hand on a clock, it's in constant movement.

And then there's the music. Oh heavens, is there the music. Koji Kondo outdoes himself with music that is every bit as much of a character in this game as Link himself. The highlight is the town's theme. It's a tune that changes in tone and intensity as the time moves forward. Starting out cheerful at the beginning, the tune becomes more hurried as time moves on to match the hurrying intensity of the worried citizens. In the final hours the music becomes a haunting mix of despair and terror as the moon completes it's descent into the town square. The dungeons and surrounding towns all have catchy themes of their own. And after being sadly missed in Ocarina of Time, the classic Zelda Overworld Theme makes it's return.

Sound design in this game is also incredible by N64 standards. Throughout the town you can hear the ambient noises of the citizens readying for the big carnival. Hammering and sawing can be heard in the town's square as set-pieces are being erected. Outside the town you'll hear the faint sounds of objects (for instance, a waterfall) grow louder as you approach, long before you even see them. This is old hat in this day of 5.1 surround sound. But this was quite a feat 10 years ago, when this game first debuted. It does play a key role, as certain characters have different footsteps, and you can be clued into where they are around you (and if they're entering doors nearby) just by keeping an ear out.

And this becomes important in the beginning, because the townspeople move in a set routine. And it's your job to help them achieve happiness to collect masks and progress through the game. These are various sidequests that are more fulfilling than in most any game I've ever encountered. This is because of the game's incredible personality. The residents of Termina all have their own backstories that you'll discover in different ways. It's very easy to become emotionally involved. When you hear the guilt-ridden confession of one of the characters, it actually feels good to have taken that weight off of that person's mind. Or in the most convoluted side-quest that involves tracking down a lost groom and ensuring a coming marriage ceremony, the sadness and urgency of the characters is incredibly touching. Playing through the game, I always felt a tinge of guilt each time I went back in time without stopping the moon from falling. I knew what dire fate I was abandoning these poor people to.

As with all Zelda games there is a system of advancement, where you'll need to acquire certain weapons and items to unlock specific areas. And this is managed all the more cleverly in how it effects not just dungeon advancement, but also how it relates to the interweaving storylines. A prime example is the massive boulder that blocks the way to a cattle ranch outside of town. A worker with a pick-ax diligently cracks away at it over time, but is unable to clear a path until the final day. When you finally arrive, you find the two sisters who run the ranch too distraught to speak. In order to find out what happened and, hopefully, prevent that fate, you've got to find a way through much earlier.

What Zelda game would be complete without dungeons to explore and bosses to conquer? Certainly not this one. While there are only four major dungeons, there is a lot of preparation that is involved before reaching them. They are located outside of Termina in each compass direction. Each is off of another village of creatures, such as the the Deku, the Goron and the Zora people. There are mysteries that must be solved before being able to enter the dungeons themselves. In these locations, you'll find yourself putting the spirits of the dead to rest which will grant you special masks which allow you to actually transform into these creatures at will. Each creature has it's own special powers, like the Goron rolling attack, or speeding through the water as a Zora. These are a lot of fun to play around with, and are necessary for advancing through certain areas and the dungeons themselves.

This is where time really becomes important. Because if you don't complete a dungeon before the time runs out, you'll have to start it all over again. This usually isn't a problem. But you may find yourself returning to a dungeon again just to unlock all of it's hidden secrets.

Controls contain the only tiny dent in the game's otherwise solid armor. They're not terrible by any means, but just a few tweaks could have helped this game achieve absolute perfection. With so many masks and items to sort through, selecting items often takes a bit longer than you wish it would. Having access to only three items and/or masks at a time, you'll be spending a lot of time in the start menu. Movement and combat are pretty tight for the most part. One exception would be the Goron's rolling ability, which often requires more precision than the game allows. There's also an issue that's carried over from the previous game when riding Link's horse, Epona. When jumping onto him, I often hit the gallop button for an immediate burst of speed. The problem is that the button is shared with the dismount button, so unless you've taken a step or two forward, you'll immediately jump off again. Conversely, you must wait for Epona to come to a complete stop before you're able to get on your feet again. As he doesn't stop on a dime, this feels like it takes longer than it should. These are minor gripes that don't affect the overall enjoyment of the game, but do add a noticeable level of frustration at times.

The boss battles vary between average and incredible. Some are basic Zelda fare, but some are even impressive by today's standards. One such boss is a 6 story tall beast named Goht. He runs circles around a giant arena, leaving you to try to chace after him with your rolling Goron form. It's a huge, epic battle that still stands up ten years later.

I first played Majora's Mask over three years ago on my N64. I honestly didn't know what to expect. What I found was an amazing game that immediately jumped into my top 10. It had some classic Zelda elements, but it's focus on a darker story and solid characterization really made it a richer experience. They could have removed all references to the franchise entirely, and it would have been every bit as good. Still, I'm very glad that the franchise turned out to be the Trojan Horse to get an amazing game into my system. The time puzzles are totally satisfying, the characters and storylines are so absorbing, and the presentation is so far above anything of it's time that I give this game my highest recommendation. Add to that the addition of crisper graphics and richer colors through the Wii's component cables and progressive scan, and an amazing game just got better.

My score (using the Destructoid Scale): 9.5/10

(Tomorrow or Saturday, I'll be posting a companion piece to the review as a Monthly Musing article. That will be spoiler-filled affair and offer more of an analysis of the characters and storylines. If you have played and enjoyed this game and would like to see it looked at in more detail, keep an eye out!)   read

7:19 PM on 04.01.2009

Review- Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop

(Jonathan Holmes recently posted a c-blog challenging the community to play through this game and write a c-blog about it. He was concerned about being crazy when he recently gave it a glowing review which ended up being the highest score on MetaCritic, where the average is 63%. I took him up on that challenge. Here are the results.)

When Capcom announced that they were porting the Xbox 360 game Dead Rising to the Wii, many people were shocked. Dead Rising was one of the first games to truly take advantage of the horsepower that this generation of consoles has to offer. How could it possibly survive the transition to the Wii, which is only slightly more powerful than consoles from a generation past? Not having played beyond the first 20 minutes of the original version, I'm not qualified to answer that question. If you read on, however, you'll find out if the Wii version stands up as a good game on its own merits.

Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop follows Frank West, a photojournalist who is following up an anonymous tip that leads him to the town of Willamette, Colorado. Flying in by helicopter, he finds that the whole area has been cordoned off by the military. It soon becomes clear that the town has been overrun by zombies. Frank is dropped off at the local shopping mall. He has three days to uncover the story behind the outbreak before his ride returns to fly him home.

The Wii version of the game is built upon the Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition engine. This is most obvious in the shooting mechanic of the game. You control Frank from a third person, over-the-shoulder perspective. Hitting the B button draws your weapon, and you're then able to aim with the Wii remote's pointer. Hitting the A button then fires the weapon. Aside from gunning down your enemies, you also have the ability to use various items strewn around the game as melee weapons.

The combat in this game is very glitchy and poorly designed. The vast majority of the weapons you'll pick up are used in pretty much the same way. You have the option of hitting the A button for slowly delivered, weak attack, or waving the remote for an amazingly slow, but more powerful blow. Trying to rely upon your melee attacks is futile, because you'll be taking damage left and right from the hordes of zombies that are coming for you. At the beginning of the game, you have to endure a long pause between attacks. This isn't helped by the questionable addition of auto aim. The game decides which enemy it wants you to hit and will turn Frank towards that zombie whether or not it was the one directly in front of you or not.

There are nods to the classic NES beat'em up, River City Ransom. For instance, there's an RPG system and you can buy books that will allow you to gain special abilities. Killing zombies gives you experience and upon leveling up you'll gain nonsensical upgrades like extra inventory slots, and the weapons that you pick up won't break as easily. Half of the books for sale will allow you to swing particular weapons without pausing in between strikes. Most of these are only semi-helpful because they are being applied to weapons that attack very slowly to begin with. But one book allows rapid swinging with the knife. This is a must get item, as it turns the knife into the only legitimately usable melee weapon in the game. Since the knife attacks quickly, you can generally get multiple hits on the zombie in front of you before you get attacked on the sides or from behind by another enemy. It doesn't slow you down much at all when you're running and stop to knife the zombie that gets in your way.

The rest of the books grant you special attack moves which mostly seem to apply to downed enemies. There are three reasons why they are completely useless. First, enemies on the ground are of zero threat to you, they're very easy to avoid. Second, stopping to attack them destroys the flow of the game and opens you up to attacks by other creatures. Finally, you must hit the A and B buttons together at the exact same instant with little input forgiveness. 90% of the time you will draw your weapon or punch the air.

This leaves the gunplay as your most reliable source of offense. The RE4 aiming controls as smooth as ever. Sadly, this is not without issues of its own. First of all it is incredibly slow. Pulling your weapon takes more time than it should, with some weapons taking a solid second or two before the first round is fired. In addition, all of your weapons will hold precious little ammo, and it takes half an eternity to reload. Trying to blend hand-to-hand with gun combat is made more frustrating in that you can't switch freely between them. If you try to hit the B button to draw your gun while you're waiting for a melee attack's animation to complete, you will get stuck in a loop of melee attacks. You'll first have to release the button, wait until you're standing still again, then finally draw your gun. Finally, the control scheme is wasted. Only a couple of enemies have location specific damage and animations. This is just unacceptable for a game engine with this much precision.

The two most common non-zombified human enemies that you will face bring the frustration to a boil: the zombie poodle and the grenade dropping parrot. Both of these characters feel like they escaped from an 8-bit platformer with the silliness of their concepts and their near-infinite numbers. They don't have any business in this game. That aside, they make combat a pointless endeavor. The dogs are too low to the ground and the parrots are too high to hit with a melee attack in most cases. Which leave your firearm as your best bet. However, once they spot you and come running towards you, you're a sitting duck. They can only hit you when you're standing still. Which is exactly what you'll be doing when you draw your gun. The poodles immediately run directly towards you and dive at you. Afterwards they're so low to the ground that you can't see them unless you're looking down at your feet. The parrots are difficult to aim at, because they will swoop overhead beyond your field of vision. By the time that you've lowered your gun, spun around and take aim again, they've managed to disappear. It will take another few seconds to locate them again, giving them plenty of time for another attack.

All of this would seem to make the game difficult. In truth, though, it's a ridiculously easy game once you get the hang of it. There are very few things in this game that will do much damage at all. That's only when they hit you. If you stay on the move, you'll survive the vast majority of situations relatively unscathed. Even if you get grabbed, you can usually waggle the remote to escape without getting hit. As the game progresses, it doesn't become more difficult, just more frustrating. You'll eventualy face cult members who will throw dust in your eyes that causes you to pass out. You'll wake up in a room with your clothes and inventory stolen from you, except for your guns. I know when I kidnap people, I want to make sure to give them ample opportunity to shoot my ass to death and make their escape. You'll then need to kill about 15-20 of these cult guys before you can leave the room and continue your mission. If you're carrying any irreplaceable items, they're gone for good. It's best to reset and pick up from your previous save.

Then there are the gun-toting enemies that you'll face en masse towards the end of the game. They will hit you with almost every single shot. And when they do, any action you're in the middle of will immediately be interrupted, even reloading your gun. And the camera's perspective will shift, making aiming your counter attack incredibly difficult. And if more than 2 of them are on you at once, it becomes impossible to reload. You will have to run straight towards the nearest one (pausing every second to get hit by a bullet) and slice him open with your knife, then turning around and going for the next guy. But as I said, it's frustrating, not difficult. Their bullets only take out a sliver of health with every hit.

The escort missions are the real heart of the gameplay. Frank is holed up in the security wing of the mall. You'll walk up to Otis, the Janitor, who will tell you of a survivor that's in a certain location in the mall. It will be up to you to track them down and bring them back to the security station.

Here is an example of a single escourt mission: Talk to Otis. Enter the ducts that lead out of the security area. Wait for a loading screen to finish. You'll find yourself on the roof of the building. Run to the elevator. Loading screen. Exit the elevator into the basement. Run through to the door that leads to the mall. Loading screen. Follow the on-screen arrow that directs you to exactly where you need to go, while just running past the zombies who will almost never touch you. The survivor will be in one of the 5 areas of the mall, and each one is separated by it's very own loading screen. When you find the survivor they will follow along behind you. Then you reverse these steps to get back to the security area.

If that sounds like fun to you, then you're in luck, as you will have to go through this exact same sequence of events about 40 times throughout the course of the game. Once in a very great while they will throw in a a short fetch quest before the survivor will join you. But that's almost the best the game does to offer any sort of variety. There are a couple of bosses throughout the game. They are all human. They all take the equivalent of dozens of shotgun blasts in the face at point blank range to kill (which is still an easy task in most cases). It confuses me how the humans in this game can take so much damage, while the reanimated corpses will drop right away if you hit them in the large toe with the second handgun you find early on in the game.

The game is very tedious to get through. After the first 45 minutes of gameplay, you've pretty much seen all that there is to see. And you've certainly done all that there is to do. Your first escort mission encapsulates how you will spend the next 15 hours that it will take to complete the game's main campaign (only 8 1/2 are spent on gameplay the rest are all cutscenes and loading screens). To call the game repetitive would be an understatement.

In addition to all of these complaints are bugs, glitches and design flaws that are too numerous to list. They really show the lack of polish on display. Here are some examples:

•Zombies don't just run up from off-screen. If you kill enough of them they will just magically appear as if beamed from a UFO. Often right behind you where you where you can't see them before they attack you, or right next to the survivor that you're supposed to be protecting.

•Zombies wearing hardhats are completely immune to damage in their heads. Shooting them in the face or in their exposed ears will have no effect. But a bullet in their belly, kneecap, toenail or wherever with the second level pistol and they will immediately die.

•If you enter an elevator filled with zombies, and hit the button to switch floors, the elevator will be completely empty when you reach your destination.

•When you kill an enemy, they will often scream out after they've already died and their body has disappeared.

•The arrow that leads you to where you need to go will often just flip out momentarily, and point behind you before correcting itself.

•The ammunition of the gun that you're carrying is not displayed onscreen. At any given point in time, you'll only see the rounds left in the guns clip. You have to move to your inventory screen to see the total ammo in each gun.

•At a couple of points you get to drive a car to plow over zombies. You walk up to it and press the Z and A buttons and instead of getting an animation of getting inside the car, or even just opening the door, you get a loading screen followed by the camera being behind the car which is now under your control. When you reach your destination, you get another loading screen and you're magically out of it again.

With all of this going against it, you might hope that the story would at least be good enough to keep you wanting to play. Unfortunately that is just not the case. The plot is completely inconsequential. The events that happen usually come out of nowhere and are so random that you can't possibly have any real concern for what is going on. And even if you did, the Young and the Restless-level dialogue and voice acting will kill it right away. And just when you think you're near the end, you'll encounter more false endings than The Return of the King, forcing you through more and more fetch quests.

I haven't yet mentioned the graphics. And really the less said about them, the better. This is not a game that is concerned with pushing the Wii to it's limits and showing you what how it can compete for your hardcore attention. The graphics are dated. This isn't a reved up GameCube game. It looks more like something from the early days of the Playstation 2.

For a system that is struggling to maintain any credibility with hardcore gamers, it was important for Capcom to knock this one out of the park. This was a rare opportunity to take a game that had been done well on a high def system and make an equaly strong game that delivers a new experience on the Wii. Unfortunately, instead of bringing their A game, Capcom turned the reigns over to the C team. They may have hit the ball out of the park with the Wii port of Resident Evil 4, but all they were essentially doing was adding motion controls to an already legendary game. When they needed to almost rebuild a game from the ground up, however, they ended up failing miserably. The Wii is capable of so much more. But it will have to be another game that proves it to the hardcore gaming community.

I'm sorry to say that I spent $40 on Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop, and can't recommend that you do the same. It doesn't even feel like a beta build of a game. I was expecting, at worst, a game that was at least a fun diversion for a quick, brainless bit of fun. What I found was an unpolished game that offered zero enjoyment whatsoever, and more frustration than I could bear to deal with. Even with it being released at $10 less that the average Wii title, it's still priced much too high. I've played many a bargain title that have far more polish, far more playability and are far more fun than this game. Please avoid it at all costs.

My rating (using the Destructoid rating scale):2   read

Back to Top

We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -