A bit of indirection here as I'm going to be reviewing a manga release based on a video game IP. Phoenix Wright, for those unfamiliar with the series, is a loveable spiky haired defense attorney who gets involved in impossible cases yet miraculously is able to come out ahead. Surrounded by a colorful cast of characters, ridiculous storylines, and hints of the supernatural – the game series has endured itself to many adventure game fans.
How does the series hold up jumping from handheld video game system to paper? In short: It’s okay.
The art of the Phoenix Wright games has always been lively. Even though there is a staff of artists at Capcom, many of the art assets appear to be consistent with one another which help bring a unifying feel to the whole package. The manga itself consists of 24 separate creators who work in their own unique style. The shift between the different drawing styles and their storytelling pacing can be a bit jarring though it does allow for some visual gems to surface as there is quite a bit of variance. There are some I absolutely adored and others that I completely loathe. This is a personal preference though so depending on your preference of illustrations you may be more forgiving (or harsher).
The writing is probably where I have the biggest issue with this particular volume. The problem is that it requires you have played all 3 games to really understand and appreciate what's occurring. This shouldn’t be surprising but I always feel there's a bit of autonomy I feel is necessary for a good story to work. There are two separate stories in which they find a stray cat which makes me wonder if it’s a serious issue with abandoned animals in the world of Pheonix Wright or the artists didn’t really discuss their story ideas with one another. There isn’t much forward movement in the stories (where not much has changed in the universe) but I’m pretty sure this isn’t surprising to anyone.
The manga varies in price between 10-15 dollars currently. If you're a passing fan of the series or simply looking for new sequential stories to digest, I would NOT recommend picking this up. There are better investments available. However if you’re a die-hard fan and need something to fill in until “Perfect Prosecutor” arrives, it might be worth checking out. In essence it’s officially sanctioned fan fiction but the love of the characters is apparent in the stories and it was fun seeing their takes on the character.
Mind if I take a moment of your time? I'd like to talk about a game I was eager to check out during PAX:
Bioware's 'Dragon Age: Origin' is being touted as a spiritual successor to Baldur's Gate. While it doesn't take place in any Dungeons and Dragons realm (which is a bit of a shame since D&D 4th edition was released not too long ago and would have been cool to see), it appears to have all the trappings of a fun fantasy RPG.
I would like to point out that I do NOT have an unbiased opinion about Bioware. Ask me about any of their games. I'll probably tell you it was awesome, or at the very least, probably was awesome. This write up continues this shameless tradition and will not be useful for those who are looking to justify their purchase.
What was available at PAX was a closed booth showing off the game. You would have to line up around the booth and they would bring in groups of people to check out a video demonstration of their game played by one of their developers. No hands-on unfortunately. They had these tattoo sleeves to give out as swag during this period and I believe Butmac got one later in PAX. Hopefully he'll be able to share a picture with it on in the near future! :)
Starting out - The first half of the demonstration discussed the setting as well as showing how the dialog trees would work in the game. The dialog trees are akin to older Bioware games which I felt was a step back though I can always replay Mass Effect if it bothers me that much. The over arcing story appears to be standard fair. In short, an ancient evil is awakening and it'll be up to you to stop it. Very few hooks are as pervasive as this one. The expectation that it will turn out well is based entirely on faith. It's in the execution where Bioware seems to excel and I imagine the story will have plenty of twists and turns along the way to firmly place it as an enjoyable story in it's own right.
Character designs are a bit bland in my opinion. Facial appearances are solid though I guess I haven't seen enough distinguishing traits that I can recall what the characters look like without bringing up an existing video. It doesn't have a consistent look for all it's characters that is either a.) very gritty realistic like Total War or Assassin's Creed (not sure about Altaïr) nor is it b.) extremely stylized high fantasy like World of Warcraft or Castle Crashers. They cited 'A Game of Thrones' as well as Frank Frazetta as their inspiration (thank you Wikipedia) though that's a very delicate balancing act and I'm not sure if they succeeded until I see a bit more of the game. The final result reminded me of Oblivion- the two mixed freely rather then a more homogenized look. This isn't a bad thing per se but it's an aesthetic that I think you have to grow to appreciate rather then something that can immediately garner your attention.
Engaging in combat (with a cut scene in-between) contained the second half of the presentation. Pausing battles at your leisure to issue orders is still prevalent. Hot-keys at the bottom allow the user to quickly select abilities and you're able to zoom in (third person) and out (to isometric) to view the battlefield and better understand where your characters are in relationship to the enemy. A huge step up was the interaction between the characters during fights. It's not simply just two models swinging their weapon around until the other falls over, there are quite a few animations where the player's party and the enemy seem to genuinely interact with each other. There is a sort of brutality to it, which makes it more interesting visually, and may help keep the player immersed longer.
Some other key points I'd like to briefly mention:
Music - I wasn't able to hear anything at PAX with the other booths going. Checking it out after the fact, it appears appropriate and will probably be a lot more memorable once I'm able to associate more of the game to it. Effects are really well done. The magic effects have a visual punch that don't overwhelm the screen and the blood (especially during a beheading during a combat sequence) added a visual satisfaction that was gory without passing into the cheesy realm.
Encapsulating the user experience - Maybe it's just me but the UI seems very heavily influence by World of Warcraft. It appears functional and leaves a lot of screen real estate though I wish they added just a bit more to distinguish their UI experience.
All in all, it's looking like exactly what it set out to be: A 3D Baldur's Gate. The game is shaping up to be a must have for any PC RPG enthusiast though it's a refinement of the formula more then anything else.
On a unrelated note, I'm about to share something I'm proud and terribly terribly ashamed to share. It seems that I have no qualms to use an exploit as well as I also have a high tolerance for monotony to see it through. SHAME!
Moments are brief intervals of time. They're meant to be small enough that a breath can feel like an eternity. Something so infinitesimally small, yet have a profound impact. Having just a single great moment that you will never forget would make any trip worthwhile. I was lucky to take part in countless moments during my stay in Seattle. There was some bad (like my hotel bathroom lighting attempting to kill my toiletries) but the good moments were SO numerous and SO enjoyable that nothing now can dampen my enthusiasm to go again next year.
'Unbelievable' fails to capture how fantastic the experience was.
Seeing the DToid panel and the gathering for the group picture afterwards has never made me feel more proud and blessed to be part of this community. Socializing well into the night, every night, I was able to meet the amazing DToid staff and community members. We spoke to each other like we had known each other for our entire lives. Even though, for many of us, we were meeting each other for the first time.
Don't make excuses not to go. I'm asking you, those who were unable to to go, to go next year. Sell blood or vital organs (not your own obviously - you need those for the food and alcohol) to get the cash. You might even want to try selling guns and/or drugs. They can net a sizable profit... I'm told.
You won't regret it.
Oh, I guess the actual PAX event was pretty cool too.
See everyone at PAX 2009. Thank you so much everyone at PAX 08 and I hope to see you all again. I love you guys.
(Just need to apologize. I really wanted to share this but I don't have a lot of pictures to pace the post.)
With this month's theme I thought I would take the time discuss one of my favorite video game characters (who I also used as my avatar) – Soma Cruz. :)
Soma Cruz continues a strong tradition of man-pretty heroes in the Castlevania series. I'd go into detail but I feel the following images will get the point across-
Seriously. So pretty.
You got to be kidding me!
Oh, not a guy. Got it. ;)
Another thing I like about Soma is that he doesn't use a whip (though this is kind of hazy with the whip sword item). It allows a protagonist to exist without being bound to the use of the 'Vampire Killer' whip that is synonymous with the Belmont clan. It's one of those minor touches but it's very interesting to see what items are used to in place of the most powerful weapon in the Castlevania universe.
3. Purpose (the actual reason)
I think the biggest reason I like Soma Cruz as a character is that he is inherently flawed through no fault of his own. He is intended to be the reincarnation of Dracula (very embodiment of pure evil).
Because of this, I draw a strong parallel of Mike Mignola's Hellboy to Soma Cruz. Soma is, very simply, fighting fate. Hellboy and Soma were born into a role with a very specific and nefarious purpose. Their upbringing however causes them to disregard this role and work for the forces of good. In the case of Alucard, he is a powerful and striking hero but because I can't see him ever succumbing to his darker temptations he's not as interesting to me.
You would like the characters to overcome their fate though there is constant pushes from outside forces try to 'restore' the characters true role. Hellboy is constantly reminded that he is the World Destroyer as he has the 'Right Hand of Doom'. Soma did not manifest to be the new Lord of Darkness in 'Aria of Sorrow', cultists try to kill Soma to help force a new Dark Lord from manifesting (and there is a mode that occurs where Julius Belmont needs to kill Soma when he does become the new Dark Lord).
Soma's persistence is extremely heroic as it has the potential to be very tragic.
I realize its mostly the concept of the character rather then his interactions but its made me fond of 'Aria of Sorrow' and 'Dawn of Sorrow' games.
HAVE A FUN AND ENJOYABLE 4th OF JULY WEEKEND EVERYONE!
I apologize for my terrible selection of pictures but sadly many of my images didn't turn out
(which is quite a shame). I'm pretty certain there are giant gaps in my memory from the
alcohol but I want to take the time to say that meeting many of you in person was an
absolute thrill. I want to thank Ron, Joe, Phist, and Nino for making it possible.
The photos are not necessarily displayed in chronological order.
Blehman is my hero:
At a random point, MaxVest had taken my camera and decided to pursue a career in
Seriously if there is a bad photo of itemforty I don't want to know about it.
I would like to get a tablet PC but they’re kinda (REALLY) out of my price range.
Yesterday, MaxVest introduced me to this neat DS application called ‘Colors!’ It’s a small DS application you can run with any DS Loader.
(Sorry for the crappy image - thought I'd try my hand at illustrating Peach again)
While not a real substitute for mobile tablet, does a really good job and is really quite a lot of fun. The brushes feel akin to Photoshop (which I’m used to) and the color picker akin to Painter.
Let me do a quick copy and paste of the features they have for it-
• Hard and soft circular brush
• Pressure-sensitivity can affect opacity and brush-size
• 512x384 image resolution with 2 stage zoom
• Replay the whole painting process of an image
• Hue-circle and luminance and saturation-triangle style palette
• Load and Save to memory card