Tag Archives: Sci-fi

PSO2 goes English, and we love it!

3 Apr , 2014,
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Asiasoft announced that they were publishing Phantasy Star Online 2 in English (PSO2) about a week ago, and just this afternoon, I got several hours hands on with the game during a closed door media preview.

Having already tried the Japanese service, I had some high hopes. This was a Sega title, after all.

For the uninitiated, PSO2 is an MMOARPG (the ‘A’ here stands for action, in case you were wondering) with console style graphics and aesthetics where you play an ARK recruit in a sci-fi setting.

With the customization options, you can pretty much adjust anything. Well, almost anything. :x

With the customization options, you can pretty much adjust anything. Well, almost anything.

ARK recruits are essentially the equivalent of space cadets, and once you’ve customized your character (and the level of customization is quite comprehensive) and picked one of several races and classes (with localized archetypal names of warrior, ranger, and wizard), you’re thrust into a fairly deep and involved story line with all the hallmarks of a classic JRPG.

The good thing of course is that the game can be played solo or with friends, and features instanced dungeon maps linked to a central hub. Friends, naturally, make things go a whole lot smoother.

Beat on alien life-forms, steal their treasure, have fun with friends.

Beat on alien life-forms, steal their treasure, have fun with friends.

I was a little sad that I didn’t get to roll a Deuman or Braver at the outset, but I’m sure that the good folks at Asiasoft will be making them available sometime in the near future. *hinthint*

Now, on to the localization.

One of the biggest challenges I’d expected this release to face was the dialogue and the VOs. The original Japanese cast included some top name seiyuu, and matching up would be a tall order. It was a pleasant surprise when I discovered that rather than dubbing the NPCs over, the company had chosen to streamline the written dialogue instead, without compromising any of the nuances from the original.

And that, of course, was a win in my books.

Needless to say, PSO2 is a game best experienced, and with the Beta test coming up 10th to 13th April, we’re giving away some Beta keys to a few lucky readers who live in  Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, or the Philippines.

These keys will also give you early access when the game goes live sometime in the next two months, so be sure to check out our Facebook raffle  for more details!

You can also keep tabs on the latest developments PSO2 in English developments through their official Facebook page.

The Hunger Games

23 Mar , 2012,
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The Hunger Games - Poster Art.

Many films promise a veritable buffet for movie lovers – cool visuals, competent acting, a watertight plot – and many films fall short. The Hunger Games, a big-screen adaptation of Suzanne Collins’s dystopic science-fiction novel, is no exception.

The film paints an image of a bleak future ruled by decadent corporate bigwigs in The Capitol, where the underclass toils in outlying, slum-like districts. As punishment for an insurrection, each district must offer up a pair of teenagers each year in tribute, to participate in a televised death match called The Hunger Games.

It all begins on the cusp of the 74th Hunger Games, with the protagonist Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteering as tribute in her sister’s place. Also chosen is Peeta Mellark, a baker’s boy who’s long held a torch for the spunky Katniss.

What follows is a tale that bears striking similarities to Kinji Fukasaku’s Battle Royale, with a liberal smattering of Man vs. Wild thrown into the mix and it’s pretty much repetitive after awhile.

Katniss climbs trees, skulks in bushes, slings arrows a la Rambo, and somehow or the other, gets out of hairy situations because she’s the girl of destiny. ’nuff said. There’s a romance subplot between Katniss and Peeta, but the chemistry’s lukewarm at best, and while the film attempts to include something of a political metaplot, it gets muddled and lost in the woods really quickly.

Somehow, The Hunger Games feels like a step back for Gary Ross, whose directing credits include Pleasantville and Seabiscuit. Sure, he’s managed to cobble something of a movie together,  but this one sure isn’t going to win him any awards. It’s got a long, plodding setup (which takes up at least a good half of it’s 142 minute runtime), a premise that might as well be thrown to the wolves, and while Battle Royale elevated schoolyard violence to an art form, The Hunger Games  just drops it in the gutter.

It’s apparent as well that it was Jennifer Lawrence who carried the show. Her performance as the tough-as-nails Katniss was reasonably good, though Josh Hutcherson, by comparison, was pretty much an accessory on screen. It was also a shame that the other Tributes didn’t get a whole lot of screen time, and frankly, I would have enjoyed more of Woody Harrelson’s kookiness as mentor Haymitch.

Watch if you’re curious, but I’d suggest sticking with the novel instead.

John Carter (of Mars)

8 Mar , 2012,
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Disney's John Carter - Poster Art

Disney’s been pumping out big budget hits for awhile now, so it comes as no surprise that the company would fund the gloriously pulpy romp that is John Carter.

Directed by Andrew Stanton (who helmed several Pixar projects including Wall-E), this big screen adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs turn-of-the-century interplanetary opera casts Taylor Kitsch (Gambit in the Wolverine movie) as the titular loincloth-clad Virginian cavalry man turned swordsman, whose incredible feats on the planet Barsoom earn him the title “Warlord of Mars”.

I have to admit that as a big science fiction fan, I was rather skeptical when I sat down for the screening.†After all, the series was a seminal work, and while Carter’s many adventures were the subject of multiple comic book and small screen adaptations, few had come close to capturing the grandeur of Barsoom and it’s diverse cultures, or the tone of the original.

I didn’t have high hopes for Stanton either. He had a slew of animation experience, but Carter was his first live-action film, and directing real humans and directing a bunch of pixels were two different things altogether.

But surprise, surprise! Not only did the movie not didn’t disappoint, it was spectacular and then some.

I have to compliment Stanton’s clever juxtaposition of highs and lows. The story was a little formulaic at times, but overall, the pacing was just right. The action scenes were brilliantly lurid (with copious amounts of (blue) blood, gore and explosions), and thanks to his†grasp of dynamic camera angles and creative composition, proved generally entertaining.

The attention to fine detail was remarkable, and it showed through in the creation of pieces such as Zodanga’s crawling citadel, the sky ships, the alien creatures and elaborate costumes. †It was evident Stanton put in a 110% on this one.

In terms of acting, Kitsch’s performance was less kitschy than his last outing, while Lynn Collins (who also starred in the Wolverine movie) sizzled as not-quite-damsel-in-distress Dejah Thoris. The duo looked good together, and while their on-screen chemistry was a little lacking, there was potential there and that speaks volumes. Mark Strong’s performance as unapologetic Thern mastermind Matai Shang was also impressive, and it was a shame he didn’t get all that much screen time.

An awesome movie that’s sure to get your geek on. I’m hoping for a sequel already, and knowing Disney, it’s probably already in the works.

Stan Lee's Romeo & Juliet: The War

6 Feb , 2012,
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The star-crossed lovers, from Romeo & Juliet: The War.

Romeo & Juliet’s been on the big screen. It’s also been adapted into an anime, and now, with comic legend Stan Lee’s sci-fi re-envisioning of this tale, it’s also a graphic novel.

Set against a backdrop of glowing neon, naked steel and harsh concrete, Romeo & Juliet: The War infuses this classic tale about star-crossed lovers with cybernetic warriors, genetically modified ninjas, and plenty of action splashed across 146 gorgeously painted pages.

The Montagues and Capulets are super soldiers – the progeny of two rival scientists charged with defending the Empire of Verona against its enemies – and while lasting peace has been brokered beyond the metropolis’s borders, the rivalry between these two factions run deep, and all it takes is a spark to ignite a new kind of conflict.

It is against this backdrop that The War unfurls, playing out the tragedy in three acts.

Check out the paneling for the fight sequences.

Nothing spells "love" quite like laser beams and explosions.

Skan Srisuwan and Studio Hive lend their creative talents to this volume, and the result is simply drool-worthy.

The futuristic city is rendered in brilliant detail, the character designs are exquisite, and the combat and conflict that exemplifies The War shines with fluid dynamism and a kinetic nature that synergizes perfectly with the invigorated art style and staccato paneling.

Mind you, if you’re hoping for a soppy love story in this rendition of Shakespeare’s classic, you’re out of luck. I can count the number of pages where the titular characters whisper sweet nothings to each other and kiss on one hand.

That is, of course, not to say that there’s no love in this epic space opera. After all, Romeo raids the armory and lays siege to a cathedral in the explosive finale, and all for Juliet. It’s a novel approach, to say the least, and I’m not ashamed to say that I found it vastly superior to what the Bard had come up with.

A really great read. Now, they just need to turn this into an animation or something.

In Time

27 Oct , 2011,
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In Time - Poster Art

In Andrew Niccol’s ln Time, time is of the essence.

He paints a twisted dystopian future where everyone stops aging at 25, and time is currency. Everything’s paid for in hours and minutes – those who’ve amassed enough of it can live forever, while the impoverished struggle and toil just to live another day.

Enter Will Salas (played by Justin Timberlake), a factory worker from the slums of Dayton whose chance encounter with an upper-class  man (played by White Collar’s Matt Bomer) leaves him with more time on his hands than he’s ever dreamed of, and the Timekeepers, cops who regulate the flow of time in the city, hot on his heels.

Travelling to New Greenwich, Will meets and falls in love with Sylvia Weis, daughter of one of the world’s wealthiest men, and the two embark on a crime spree kinda like Bonny & Clyde.

Niccol demonstrates the same sort of verve and daring he did in his revolutionary ’90s work Gattaca. In Time boasts high production values, slick visuals, and some really excellent writing.

The script was punchy and punny (rather excessively so), but it was tight enough that by the end of 115 minutes, most of the major questions were answered. It was also timely (hurhur) in that it touched on a perennial problem – class division, and the notion of haves and have-nots.

As for the cast, they were beautiful and mostly proficient. Contrary to popular belief, Timberlake could in fact do more than pose and look pretty, and both he and Seyfried made a decent screen couple. It was Cillian Murphy (Inception) who ultimately sold the show as Timekeeper Leon, portraying the character’s chilling intensity and slavish devotion to the law to a ‘T’.

A great watch if you’ve got the time to spare.

The Griff

11 Oct , 2011,
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The Griff - Cover Art.

What happens when the world goes to pot courtesy of a horde of ravenous flying lizards?

That’s the nightmare scenario Christopher Moore and Ian Corson paint in The Griff, a graphic novel that’s got all the hallmarks of an action-adventure movie.

In The Griff, aliens have invaded the Earth, descending from the atmosphere in a mothership that spews deadly… well death in the form of creatures resembling the griffins from folklore (they’re really more like wyverns, but you can’t always expect the writers to be big on D&D).

They’ve destroyed all civilization as we know it, leaving only scattered remnants alive, and this graphic novel charts their struggle for survival.

Thanks to Moore’s unique style and Corson’s film roots, this wonderful volume transcends what might have been an otherwise mundane plot.

Sure, it’s about a bunch of unlikely people (the male lead’s a sk8ter boy, and one of the supporting cast is a middle-aged chain-smoking  guy in a hamster suit) banding together against the alien threat, but hey, there’s plenty of twists and turns along the way to keep things fresh.

The characters too, while archetypal, grow as the story progresses. They’re not flat caricatures to say the least.

In terms of the art, Jennyson Rosero puts on a decent showing.

Nothing says "I love you" better than a BFG.

That's one ugly Griff.

Character designs are strong (I especially loved the goth programmer girl), and there are some really impressive full-page spreads in there.

I spotted some continuity issues however, and the art’s not always consistent in the more complex scenes, but those weren’t significant.

Simply put, it didn’t really detract from the overall appeal of the plot, and that was what mattered the most to me.

A great read for an independent title. Be sure to put this one on your reading list.

 

Real Steel

7 Oct , 2011,
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Real Steel - Poster Art

Seeing as how the reel robots in Transformers were a real letdown, it was hard for me to take Real Steel seriously.

The only names on the roster I could remotely recognize were Hugh Jackman (X-Men) and Shawn Levy (who was responsible for a string of average comedies), and the premise (Rocky meets Rock’em Sock’em Robots) was kinda weak.

It was a pleasant surprise, then, to discover that the film delivered on all counts. It had plenty of robot-on-robot action, the actors were proficient, and the story, while formulaic, had heart.

Real Steel is set in the near future, where boxing matches are fought between man-made machines.

Jackman plays Charlie, a down-and-out ex-boxer turned robot handler who gets a shot at turning his life around when he is saddled with Max (Dakota Goyo), the son he never knew, for the summer.

Max is mature and sensible, a perfect foil for the unreliable and sketchy Charlie. While the two get off initially on the wrong foot, they begin to bond over Atom, a scrapyard castoff they pick up and mold into a real fighter.

The movie’s finale comes in the way of a bout between the home-made ‘bot and Zeus, the World Robot Boxing champion,  and it’s an impressive finish, to say the least.

Though the robots and visual effects were impressive, it was the synergy between Jackman and Goyo that really stole the show. Goyo, especially, proved incredibly versatile for his age. It was a miracle, because the script wasn’t exactly inspired. Still, Levy’s touch kept it interesting enough that things moved at a decent pace.

Real Steel’s the sort of film that made no pretensions to be anything but good, old-fashioned family entertainment, the sort that comes with a moral at the end of the story (this time, it’s all about responsibility and dedication, and boxing robots) and ultimately, that’s what it manages to deliver.

An entertaining watch.

Time Lincoln

2 Sep , 2011,
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Time Lincoln - Cover Art

Abraham Lincoln’s not exactly a cultural icon here (we’re more likely to identify with Lyo and Merly than the 16th President of the United States), but when I spied Time Lincoln on the shelves, I knew I had to find out more.

I mean hey, it’s like chemistry. Some elements out there just *click* in the genre blender – like time travel and steampunk (as opposed to cowboys and aliens), and Time Lincoln promised that in tons.

And when I looked at the blurb on the back, and the little footnote that said Story & Art by Fred Perry, I was sold.

The story of Time Lincoln begins in the opera house, on the night of the titular character’s murder.

Communist dictator Joseph Stalin has somehow acquired time traveling powers fueled by “Void” energy, and has traveled into the past to take out his biggest adversary – Ol’ Abe himself.

Unbeknownst to Stalin, this very act proves to be the catalyst which sends Lincoln spiraling into the time stream, starting him off on the path to becoming a true trans-temporal hero and our villain’s greatest foe.

Fred Perry’s manga-inspired style, the same style he’s perfected in Gold Digger,  is evident in Time Lincoln. It’s all incredibly detailed.

Great variance in panel sizes.

...and the use of colors heighten the dramatic qualities of the page.

I especially loved the character designs, which were sleek and crisp, and the accoutrements – the steampunk gadgets and accessories – were sheer genius.

Judicious paneling, coupled with the inventive use of backgrounds and solid colors, also helped heighten the drama and story flow.

And since we’re talking about story, it’s one that doesn’t disappoint.

It’s always hard to write good time travel fiction, yet Fred’s managed to do a decent job of it without any nightmare plot holes or gaping loose ends.

Sure, there’s bits that could have been beefed up, but overall, it’s  solid.

It’s entertaining, in that pulpy sorta way and what’s more, there’s plenty of humor and pop culture references, so be prepared to be tickled.

Give this graphic novel an hour or two of your time. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

Cowboys & Aliens

10 Aug , 2011,
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Cowboys & Aliens - Poster Art

I’m big on genre mash-ups. What geek isn’t? But there are certain lines film makers shouldn’t cross, and putting Cowboys & Aliens together on the silver screen is one of them.

Jon Favreau’s adaptation of the titular graphic novel (the graphic novel wasn’t half bad, by the by) casts Daniel “James Bond” Craig as a quintessential amnesiac gunman, who kicks ass without so much as a semblance of plot in the first ten minutes, liberates a horse, and rides into the town of Absolution as the title credits roll.

There, he has a run-in with local tough Percy Dolarhyde, kicks more ass, meets the very obvious love interest Ella (played by Olivia Wilde), gets identified as wanted criminal Jake Lonergan, and is tossed in the lockup.

He’s set to stand trial before the county judge, but before he can be transported, the town is attacked by mysterious space craft, and the townsfolk are abducted willy-nilly, UFO catcher style (yes, people get snapped up by grappling hooks). Jake blasts one of the space craft out of the sky with the strange bracelet he has equipped, but the alien aboard it flees.

Harrison “Indiana Jones” Ford, who plays Dolarhyde’s dad, decides to mount an expedition to chase the aliens down, and predictably, Jake joins the party. What ensues is a chase across the scrublands, inside the bowels of an overturned river boat, and past that into mountain territory where the cowboys and aliens had their inevitable  showdown.

Bored yet? I know I was by the end of the first half hour.

Despite the big names on cast and Favreau’s ministrations (or perhaps because of his ministrations), Cowboys & Aliens turned out to be a complete farce. It suffered from horrible writing, two-dimensional characters, an abject lack of humor or levity, and the aliens looked like rejects from a late night creature feature.

It’s an obvious case of fail on the adaptation front, and blatantly clear that the movie fell into the trap of trying too hard to be different, when a faithful rendition of the original story might have worked better.

I don’t know about you folks, but I regretted spending even a single cent on this debacle.

Grab the graphic novel instead, folks. That’s where it’s really at.

Revolver

9 Aug , 2011,
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Revolver - Cover Art

Imagine going to bed and waking up to another life, another world. Next, imagine conking out there, and waking up in your own reality again.

Revolver, a neat little volume by independent comicker Matt Kindt,  is just such a tale.

Sam, as average a guy as he ever could be, creeps home one night after having one drink too many at the bar.

He wakes up the following morning, only to discover that he’s somehow dropped into an alternate reality where the world’s gone to pot. Explosions rock the newspaper office he works at, the world is plunged into sudden war and violence, and he’s forced to do everything (even kill) to survive.

The next time he wakes up, and he’s back in his routine, mundane existence, questioning if everything he’d experienced in the other world were simply a dream, but the minute he closes his eyes again, the phenomenon repeats, plunging him into a series of inexplicable dangers and encounters.

I shan’t give much more away, save that the primary thrust is Sam’s ability to suddenly ‘revolve’ from one reality to the other. It’s pivotal in Sam’s character growth from wussy, underachieving office guy to tough-as-nails survivor, and this forms the bulk of the plot.

The real world and the other world, side-by-side.

Admittedly, I wasn’t impressed by the art, which seemed rather simplistic. Kindt’s a good artist, don’t get me wrong – the perspective and the paneling were decent – yet the style just didn’t gel (or maybe I’m just too used to digital painting and clean lines).

Still, I appreciated his layout and presentation. The use of two different tones (one blue, one brown) to denote the different realities was creative and deliberate, and this dichotomy played perfect complement to the stellar story.

It was also apparent that the writing and dialogue were probably Revolver’s strongest suit.

The juxtaposition between the experiences of ‘real world’ Sam and ‘other world’ Sam proved fascinating, and the consequences of his actions in both worlds kept me hooked, while the constant shuttling between two worlds gave non-linear narrative a whole new meaning.

A great read for those who don’t mind the art, and are gunning for something cerebral.