Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Yo-kai Watch Fades to Black in Darker and Edgier Incarnation

Yesterday, Bandai unveiled a commercial for the upcoming Black Yo-kai Watch, as well as a webpage.  While it's always been a practice of the series to release new watches with new medals to go along with them (because money, basically), this latest took people by surprise, to say the very least, by appearing a great deal more macabre than the series' more mainstream, popular appearance.  This watch is said to have a mind of its own, as well as an agenda; apparently something to do with spitting out a green ghost that swallows people and then hawks them up transformed into loogie-covered arthropod yo-kai (Yes; really), and Bandai has announced that the anime will elaborate on all this.

This move will likely be controversial, and its effects on sales remain to be seen, but it is nonetheless interesting on many levels.  First, it's not without precedent; it being no secret to many who have looked into Yo-kai folklore that much of it started out rather dark.  Accordingly, the new medals have a new art style reminiscent of classic Japanese illustrats of Yo-kai; including the design of Jibanyan shown above, with sharper teeth and more realistic cat-like features.  While you shouldn't expect him to be pouncing upon any human prey, there's a good chance that this moment in Yo-kai Watch lore will provide a more adventurous vibe than the episodic comedy we've seen so far.  Perhaps this will also be linked to the upcoming crossover announced earlier with Gegege no Kitarou; a series related to Yo-kai that has been going on for half a century, and plays them closer to their horror story roots.

Perhaps the most potentially exciting revelation about this new development, though, is that it will introduce new Yo-kai that seem to be the human protagonists of the series fused with--and named after--various arthropods.  Nate Adams becomes "Caterpillar Man", and thus far is the only one whose transformation has been detailed, but a closer look at the gallery of medals (directly translated) reveals that Barnaby "Bear" Bernstein becomes "Centipede Man", Eddie Archer becomes "Fly-Man", and Katie Forester, in probably the coolest transformation, becomes "Mantis Woman".
A zoom in of the medal for Mantis Woman, or "Kamakiri Onna".  By the way, don't search for that Japanese text unless you like viewing mantis cannibalism.
There may, of course, be more humans-turned-Yo-kai yet to be revealed.  In the meantime, though, the presence of these transformations could mean a major plot development will take place in this series, in the form of many more humans learning about Yo-kai--this, again, would make sense with the Kitarou crossover.  While, such a revelation occurred in the Halloween special, Horrors of Dracunyan, that episode turned out to be a dream--or was it?!  A few signs point to it having been an alternate world; such as has also been described as the setting for the Black Yo-kai Watch stories, so who knows?  Could we be getting a whole story arc about our protagonists fighting against tough opponents in this Dark World?  Expect to learn the answer come February, when the event begins.

In the meantime, draw me some Mantis Woman fanart.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Yo-kai Watch Blantantly Plagiarized By Taiwanese Developer

Ever since Yo-kai Watch dawned on the world, it's been dogged of accusations of being a ripoff of Pokemon (Although back in the latter series' heyday, there was a Yo-kai-based game that ripped it off far worse.); a reputation it still hasn't shaken off in the West, where it hasn't supplanted Pokemon in pop-culture the way it had in Japan.  This makes it rather ironic that now Yo-kai Watch, itself, has been ripped off by Taiwanese developer Werold, in a little Android app called Mokai Adventure--which some would argue means it's also ripping off Pokemon by extension.
Like, I totally believe you pulled that number out of thin air!

So how much more is this ripping off Yo-kai Watch?  We'll start that examination by reading its "Story Plot":
Granted; phones are more relevant than watches these days.

The redundancy doesn't end at that header; look at that cumbersome mess of a a third paragraph!  Still, I'd say Taiwanese plagiarists have somewhat better grasp of English grammar than mainland China's plagiarists.  Moving along, here's your handy assistant, Mokaipedia, which assuming it's sentient, presumably checks itself when it forgets the name of a Mokai:
It seems to me that taping a paper encyclopedia to a tablet screen defeats the purpose of carrying a tablet.
So what exactly are Mokai; assuming they're anything but a legally distinct ripoff of "Yokai"?  When doing research for this article, I learned that the game's mascot mon is named "Gremlin", which makes me wonder if it's some variant of "Mogwai".
Although I personally would have guessed "Pikachu-Daruma-Mike Wazowski Fusion".
A quick consultation of the iTranslate app confirms "Mogwai" is Mandarin for "monster" (so is "Yao Guai", the Mandarin reading of "Yo-kai"), so it's hardly unfeasible that "Mokai" is an actual variant of this word, but as my knowlege of Chinese languages is basically limited to knowing that yes; there are more than one, I'll need someone else to answer that one.  Meanwhile, though, don't expect these Mokai corresponding to actual monster legends to be a trend, and even when they are, some are handled rather oddly.

So, a Yeti, basically?  Because it would be simpler to call it Yeti.  Note also, I have no idea why it has horns, nor why a creature supposedly living in cold climates has hairless hands and feet.
The Banshee is a rare Mokai whose design I think is great, who has a sensible and recognizable name, and who actually looks like what she's supposed to be.
 Now let's resume examining how obvious a ripoff this is of Yo-kai Watch.  Just as in that game, you can modify your creatures' attitudes with books.
Although to its credit, I don't remember whatever the Hell "Pudding Gems" are being in Yo-kai Watch.
It plays an important role in battles arranged like this:

Three active, three benched.
Here's a rather familiar-looking school hall:
Here's a rotund cat with a bell:
Using Payday?

Not convinced yet?  Just watch footage of it in action! 

Or alternately, you can download the app for free, if you own an Android.  It also offers in-app purchases, or it will until the lawsuits start!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Yo-kai Watch Plushies Inspirit Dollar Tree in Bittersweet News for Fans

It's raining cats and dogs and ghosts!
Reports of Yo-kai Watch's death in its native Japan were greatly exaggerated.  The series has declined, but it's still raking in cash and beating Star Wars in ticket sales.  As a series that taps into Japan's preexisting Yo-kai or (or Yokai, or Youkai, or Yookai, or...) legends going back centuries, as well as the unique gimmick of designing many characters based on puns of the Japanese language in itself, it's fine-tuned to be marketable to there.  In other countries, which aren't familiar with Yo-kai, to which the visual puns often are lost in translation?  Not so much.  Though it seems like only yesterday we were seeing it pushed heavily in all its forms at Gamestops and other major chains, its small plushies going for $10, more recently news has broken of these plushies finding their way into various bargain bins--most notably, at Dollar Tree stores all across America

This is potentially troubling news for American fans who want to keep getting this series here; not to mention for series creators Level 5, who obviously had high hopes for it here.  Whether these boxes upon boxes of Yo-kai plushies spent some time at Targets that eventually dumped them off at Dollar Tree, or warehouses unloaded them at Dollar Tree because those more upscale chains didn't need to replace the items they still hadn't sold, this points heavily in the direction of the series failing to catch on here.

However, while the American fans may not be numerous enough to generate the sorts of sales the series needs, they're certainly abuzz about the silver lining to it all.  Since the news broke on Reddit a little over a week ago, loads of new posts and several new threads have emerged dedicated to promoting excursions to one's local Dollar Tree and snagging up what might be the entire first line of plushies for about the price major retailers would charge for just one of them.  It's a good time to be a Yo-kai collector.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

River City Ransom's Roxy's Return Revealed?

If you're still following River City Ransom Underground, Conatus Creative's ambitious sequel to that most famous of Kunio Kun series games, you likely know that after the umpteenth delay, they no longer are setting release dates, though they say they're "content complete"; whatever that means.  Still, two people involved in the game have been good enough to offer at least a bit more insights.  One is Andrew Russell, the programmer, whose video blogs about how he does important things in the game can be viewed here.  (But warning; it's very technical!)  The other is Sarah C Maas, and I'm not actually sure what her job is in the team, but she's answering questions, and that is at the subject of this article.

While Sarah isn't allowed to answer everything, she did tease a bit about Roxy, saying to a person they'd have to wait and see.  With a winking text emoticon, to boot.  So while that's not exactly a yes, it would seem Roxy is at least planned to be in this game, and likely playable at some point.  But how far might they have gone towards implementing her?  Recently, I've dug up some media and info that suggests she might well be there, and in the game as of release. (Whenever that may be.)

Let's turn to that silhouette at the head of this article; it's from a post made three years ago on RCRU's Facebook page.  It is quite obviously a female, though it doesn't look much like the official art of Roxy, who in the Japanese original was named Hasebe.  Yet whoever she is, we might just have gotten a fuller view of her since then, courtesy of this shot:

If you squint, you can see a very similar hair style blending into the carpet.
It can be found on Google Image Search, and it points to a site called www.just-gamers.fr.  However, the RCRU page on Just Gamers doesn't actual seem to have the screenshot, and it was probably one of the many broken media archived there.  I may be wrong, but I believe this was taken from a video that used to be online, but I can't find it anymore.  I'd love help from people who know where it might be.  Meanwhile, though, it seems likely this is the character who was previewed on Facebook three years ago, and based on her position in that screenshot, she's likely a player-controlled character rather than one of the enemies.  The less-answered question remains, is she Roxy?  Maybe not, but there's one more thing that points to her being so, and it's another game inspired by River City Ransom.

Scott Pilgrim Vs The World, referential to video games in general, but specifically modeled on RCR, also has a character called Roxy, and this is what she looks like.  The similarities to the girl we've been looking at so far in this article, though not absolute, may well be pointing in that direction.  Since Conatus Creative is, much like Scott Pilgrim, Canadian and in love with River City Ransom, it makes sense that they'd derive at least some inspiration. (Update: Since I wrote this, I saw a video interviewing Bannon Rudis, confirming that yes, a Scott Pilgrim Alumnus contributed to this game.)

All this is to be treated as speculation rather than a definitive answer, but I think it's based on some rather convincing evidence, so stay tuned!

Update: Another image with this character has been located at Kamgraphica, a web design company who took on RCRU as a client.  She is in the same pose, which likely implies it's her standard fighter stance.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of the Shadows (2016) Review

This is why I love garbage trucks.  Well, one reason.

The underlying message of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is embrace the unique and be yourself.  It's about as original as mozzarella and tomato sauce on pizza, and a lot of media have sent it better, but given how the film lives up, it couldn't be more poignant--and in fact, it's an axiom Platinum Dooms should have already been observing two years ago.

You may recall my gripes with 2014's movie, that it seemed perpetually afraid of the brand's premise; focusing far too much on humans providing exposition dialogue and reinventing the Foot Clan as generic Western thugs with ski-masks and assault rifles.  Though far from the worst movie Platinum Dunes has made, it was glaringly a Platinum Dunes movie at the expense of being a Ninja Turtles movie.  Come this sequel, though, that's changed dramatically; certainly, some of the standard Bay-isms are still here, like constant wreckage, fetish-fuel and wide-angle shots of the sky, but the mutant lion's share of the screentime goes to scores of the brand's famous outlandish traditions.  In addition to the obvious return of the Turtles and Foot Clan, Pizza, Casey Jones, Baxter Stockman, Bebop, Rocksteady, Krang, a hotrodded garbage truck, the classic theme song and even (in a small sense) Vanilla Ice are all here to massage the sweet-spots of nostalgic fans.

At least some of them.  Time to address that mutant elephant in the room; for anyone who doesn't know, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles began in 1984 as an independent pictorial panel book--laypersons would (incorrectly) refer to it as a "comic"--by Mirage Studios, and it was a surprise hit by independent pictorial panel book standards, so it became an ongoing serial, and by 1987 it was successful enough to license a toyline, with an animated series produced by Fred Wolf to promote it, but because of censorship and probably some "creative differences", the cartoon ended up drastically different from the book.  Still, it was an even bigger hit, to the point it outshined the original book in the public mentality, and ever since then, TMNT fandom has been haunted by cockfights over which iteration ought to be seen as the true essence of the brand.  This film has gone for the path of least resistance and focused mostly on things from the Fred Wolf cartoon, but there are certainly some neat nods to the original Mirage books too, and they're the sort that could pave the way to more influence in future films.

Having all these callbacks to the brand's heyday gives the movie the downside of being extraordinarily busy and frenetic, and inevitably, some elements work better than others.  The titular Turtles are onscreen much more and packing a cool truck that recalls the vehicles in the 2003 cartoon, and fellow mutants Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and Rocksteady (Stephen Farrelly) are constantly there to fight them, yielding much delight.  The rest of the Foot Clan have been corrected from gangsters back to ninjas, and even Karai gets a fight scene in this time.  On the other hand, the brand's flagship human vigilante Casey Jones, who is also onscreen a lot, is played passionately but inappropriately by Arrow star Stephen Amell.  While people often denigrate Megan Fox as an unremarkable one-note actress, as it happens that one note isn't far off from the Fred Wolf incarnation of her character April Oneal, which is obviously the version this filmverse channels.  By contrast, Amell is charming and witty, but incredibly dissimilar to any past version of Casey Jones, and only sells the role for as long as he puts on his mask and beats on foes with his hockey gear.  That could have been any number of athletic male leads, but they went with shipping a famous attractive man with their famous attractive woman, and unfortunately, Amell spends too much time just being the dreamboat.  Tyler Perry brings a spot-on tone to the iconic mad scientist Baxter Stockman, but they didn't capitalize by giving him many funny lines.  Then there's the fussy and smart-Alecy alien wardlord Krang, delighting every moment he's onscreen, which are tragically few.

However, even if some elements of this film are underwhelming, they're never boring, which again, is a huge change for its 2014 predecessor.  While most jokes aren't worth roaring with laughter over, they still work much better in their context than the trailers suggested.  The film's energetic and playful mindset is infectious, frequently soliciting at least grins and giggles, and in the sad event that it drops the ball, it picks the ball right back up and charges into new territory too fast to stay resentful at it.  Visually, it brings in ample toyetic frills in the best sense; though textbook Platinum Dunes in terms of its appetite for action, they did well making that a action a good combination of graceful and zany.  The 2014 film's tired out instances of men in black clothes shooting automatic weapons amidst steel and concrete have given way to such gleeful sights as a rhinoceros driving a tank through white-water rapids, and as to the Turtles' lair and truck, the only possible criticism of them is they don't get enough screentime.

To say Platinum Dunes outdid themselves here would be rather vague praise given their stereotypical pedigree, so I'll go further and say that in some ways, they even outdid every other filmmaker that has made a Ninja Turtles film.  In some ways; not in every way.  The film's quasi-Lovecraftian scenario of competing against villains to recover macguffins to summon a higher power is neither original nor exceptionally developed, its message is wholesome-but-thin, and its revivals of series icons usually don't appeal quite as much as the original iterations that made them so lovable in the first place.  Yet quantity can have a quality of its own, and from the opening where ninja-stars replace the standard stars on the Paramount logo, to the end credits wherein a very faithful cover of the Fred Wolf theme song plays, this film has by far the highest quantity of loving tributes to the brand.  It's certainly not the only way to make a movie, and probably not the best way, but coming from Platinum Dunes, this is the way to make a movie that feels long, long overdue.  A for effort.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Yes; Kunio Kun's MMORPG Lives Again...As a Pathetic Zombie.

Back in January, I reported on the revival of an MMORPG based on the Kunio Kun series, which I had previously tested back during its 2010 beta.  As a person who was saddened by that game's apparent discontinuation, I was delighted to stumble upon news that it was back in China, and the wide array of screenshots I saw seemed to promise a robust game.  Not having an iPhone with enough room to install the game, I've just had to rely on searching around the Internet for footage.  Then last night, I found extended footage--and unfortunately, the game seems pretty bad.

Sure; it's pretty, colorful, the animation is nice, and the female protagonist is rather sexy for a chibi, but that's where my praise ends.  Beyond looking immensely button-mashy and prone to a lot of the standard flaws of MMORPGs, as someone who played a past incarnation of this game, I can say that this one has been stripped down from where it was. 

For example, the 2010 incarnation of this game. had a fully explorable world from which you entered dungeons; a genre standard, while this new version has a mission select, and that's about it.  The 2010 incarnation gave you a wider degree of character designs options, while this new version gives you only three choices at the start, a male character who looks exactly like Kunio, a male character who looks exactly like Riki, and a female character whom I earlier said was Hasebe, but might not be, as there's another girl who looks more like her in the game. (A digital translation rendered her name as "Penetration Spray"; I could make a joke there, but you've probably already made it to yourself.)  While I previously pegged that for some sort of deemphasis on MMORPG aspects in favor of telling a story following canon characters in the Nekketsu series, the reality is this still a MMORPG; just one where legions of players that all look like one of three people show up. As you do missions, you get money, and then you can buy things that chance your character's appearance.  A lot of them probably depend on Microtransactions, too.  This game nickel-and-dimes you for things that used to be available at the start.

As to the weapons and vehicles I reported on you being able to buy, they're indeed in the game, but when it looks like battles are winnable just by button-mashing, why bother?

The worst part is that this is, by all evidence, a finished, fully available app, meaning it's essentially the sad ending for a project that's had Kunio fans intrigued since 2008.  It's free to download if you're curious, but I say it's better to keep waiting for River City Ransom Underground.


Sunday, March 6, 2016

Time to Petition for an Action Figure of Misty from Pokemon!

It's time to start this up, my fellow fans!

If you couldn't tell from the last article on this site, or my myriad irritated posts elsewhere, I am no longer an ultra-loyal consumer to the Pokemon series.  I don't hate it; in fact there are aspects of the universe I really like, but the lather-rinse-repeat nature of it all has gotten to be too much.  Still, I feel no regrets about those days past when I enjoyed it, and one of the things I enjoyed was the Pokemon anime's take on Misty.  She was tough, sassy, could deliver a good snark and would stand up for what she believed in, and looking back, I'm pretty sure she was the first fictional girl I had a crush on, if not the first girl, period.  I know many nostalgic fans really miss her.

So I've started up a petition and I beg all ye faithful to sign!  We request a good, articulated action figure of Misty as a 20th Anniversary gem!  I don't know if this'll actually help a figure get made, but it can't hurt, and we might even make some friends of like minds in the process.  Head on down to this page to sign and comment!  Misty commands you!