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  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!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Breaking News: Seven Things You'll See in Pokemon Sun and Moon!

Yesterday, legions of Pokemon fans the world over tuned in to a special Nintendo Direct devoted to Pokemon; featuring the announcement of Pokemon Sun and Moon...and were soon disappointed that very little was actually revealed about Pokemon Sun and Moon.  Little more was shown in the revelation than that the game seems to feature trucks with Pokemon riding in them, which to be fair, is pretty awesome.

Still, for people who want more, they've got it in the form of key info leaked onto the website Game An' Love, which claims to have a man on the inside who came through with exciting tidbits of information.  While all of this has not yet been confirmed, we at Entertainment Examiner have determined it is all likely true.  So with that in mind, here are what Game An' Love announced as Seven things you'll see in Pokemon Sun and Moon Version:

1) A professor.  Fans can look forward to a brand new story that begins with them meeting a professor who has a lab in their hometown.  This professor will introduce them to the wonderful world of Pokemon, and a grand adventure begins!

2) A Fire-Type, Water-Type and Grass-Type Starter.  Within the professor's lab are three potential Pokemon companions you can choose from, which will grow and even evolve as you battle with them!  Enjoy the ensuing teamwork and learn valuable lessons about friendship!

3) Eight Gym Leaders. Throughout the game world will be cities and towns, and between them a total of eight gyms will be scattered.  These gyms are led by trainers called gym leaders, and they serve an important role in the game's story: When you enter the gyms, you can challenge them to Pokemon battles, and if you win the battles, you will earn badges!  Collect all eight to proceed!  At least one gym leader has been confirmed to be fanart and masturbation fuel!

4) The Elite Four.  These are four of the most skilled Pokemon trainers in the region, and anyone who defeats them all will be crowned the region champion, so train hard!

5) An Evil Team.  While details are scarce at this point, it has been confirmed that an evil team will be causing trouble in the region, and their name starts with the word, "Team".

6) Plenty of New Pokemon to Collect.  Will you be able to catch 'em all this time?!  Have you caught 'em all in the last times yet?!  Will you lose interest before you can catch 'em all this time?!  Buy the game to find out!

7) A New Season of the Anime, Featuring Ash Ketchum Losing The Championship and Not Aging.  The Pokemon Company is planning to pull out all the stops promoting these new versions of the game with an anime adaptation that doesn't star the actual protagonists of the games!  Join Ash Ketchum as he moves on from his old Pokemon and friends in an attempt to conquer the new region with a self-imposed handicap!  Those of you who liked Clemont, Bonnie, etc, and are sad to see them go, can go off in the corner and cry with the butthurt old coots who miss Misty, Brock, Tracey, May, Max, Dawn, Iris and Cilan!  Okay; there's probably not anybody there who misses Tracey or Cilan, but beat it anyway!  As fans, you owe it to yourself to make room for kids who don't know any better!

Conclusion: We want to stress again that these announcements have not been officially confirmed by Nintendo, the Pokemon Company, Game Freak, Creatures Inc, or Wizards of the Coast, but we expect they will be.  We've never had any reason to doubt the integrity of www.gameanlove.fu in the past, so we say it's time to get the hype train rolling!  Pikachoo-choo, Pokefans!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Brazilian Underwear Company Has the Same Name As Donkey Kong Villain

That reaction says it all.
Not so long ago, the world got a taste of the unexpected yet undeniably fabulous new boy band, Big Bad Bosses, which is made up of four veteran video game villains.  Of course, if you're Bowser, Ganondorf, Sephiroth or Dr. Ivo "Eggman" Robotnik, you can pretty much write your ticket to cash from any venture on name-recognition alone.  Yet what about those other villains; the ones who aren't as well recognized, and have been out of work for a while?  What do they do to branch out with a new gig?  Well, if they're oversized crocodiles, apparently they sell panties to hipsters. 

Get a load of King K Rool--not the Kremling King who menaced Donkey Kong in a number of video games, but an uppity underwear corporation in Brazil, which sees great potential in lavishly illustrating the one bit of clothing most people aren't even going to see.  Or to take it from their "Sobre" (About) page, run through Babelfish:

WHO WE ARE? Who says we need to have a single style or follow gender patterns? Whatever you want, wear what you want, be you! Why can't they be sexy wearing panties?
Well, for one thing, "sexy" is rather subjective, dependent on the sexes and orientations of both the viewer and the viewed; men shouldn't expect to get the same type of lust women do by wearing novelty panties, considering there's no ignoring that massive bulge they add to the product!  But go on, King K Rool:

King k. Rool is a Studio specializing in design of underwear. Our products are original and irreverent, evading patterns and encouraging the causes in which we believe. 
Well certainly, nothing says proud irreverence like flagrantly violating a major corporation's trademarks, with the exception of violating one of the trademarks that the company actually uses these days!

Experience freedom in art form and color!
 That might mean more if it was about the sorts of clothes people actually see.
CREATIVE DIRECTORS We're Aline and Maria Fernanda, friends, partners, designers, in love with music, zombies, video games and, mainly, by design.
I think that bit I bolded pretty much confirms they knew exactly what they were doing.
We've always had trouble finding underwear unisex and funny. Thus, we created the King k. Rool, who also believes in freedom of expression. 
Um, no.  Rareware, working for Nintendo in the 1990s, created King K Rool, and if I remember correctly, he was quite the tyrant.  On the other hand, though, he did like dressing up in many costumes, so I guess people are complex!  But you still didn't create him!

King K Rool's products fall into three categories, Unisex, Hipster and Calcita.  The supposedly Unisex undies don't seem to have a peehole, though to be fair, peeholes are pretty unnecessary.  The Hipster line doesn't necessarily look any more or less hipster than the others, but I'm just curious why they'd name it after people who are well-known as The Anti-Sexy--but then, why would you name your business after an anthropomorphic crocodile?!  I'd like to comment on "Calcita", but putting it in Babelfish only managed to change the last vowel to an "e", so there's a lost cause.

Really, King K Rool doesn't seem to like to go into much detail, as evidenced by a blog post of theirs about gay rights...that is just their logo painted in the wrong rainbow colors with the wrong line breaks.

I don't really know what else to say about this, but maybe they do, so contact these eccentric entrepreneurs on FaceBook or Twitter if you like!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

2Pac is Readying His Reunion Tour--Ready or Not

'Pac is back.

Ever since his alleged murder in Las Vegas back in the 1990s, rumors had circulated that Tupac Amaru Shakur, the rap virtuoso and radical activist, had merely faked his death, and fled to Cuba in order to plan his comeback, wherein he'd finish kicking off the black uprising he started.  These conspiracy theories only amplified with the ready availability of the Internet; many claiming 2014 to be the year he would return.  When that didn't happen, like many things that don't happen on the year they're supposed to happen, the theories lost a lot of credence.  Then, however, out of the blue, Mr. Shakur revealed last month on FaceBook that he is, in fact, still alive.

Like many others, I bombarded the account with questions, and I'm pleased to say that my questions were a great deal more articulate than other people's, although on FaceBook, perhaps that's not saying much.  This may be why I got a private message from 2Pac stating that he would like to talk.  I used this as a chance to interview him, where he provided extensive details as to what happened between then and now.

Thomas Fairfield: The obvious first question is, why did you fake your death?

2Pac: The whole gangsta feud I got caught up in with Biggie was getting out of hand, people were gonna die; I don't just mean the big guys like me and him, but also the crew's following us, and to bring a stop to it, I felt I needed to go to send a message first.  Look at the cover of Don Killuminati; I'm there nailed on a cross; I died for black America's sins.

Thomas Fairfield: The other subtext being that you would rise again?

2Pac: Lol yeah; there's lots of subtext on that album, and a lot of the fans have been pretty sharp in pegging it.  The name change to Makavelli referred to Nicolo Machiavelli, who wrote the Prince, which was a treatise on conspiracies to grab and hold power, and yes; one thing is to fake your death.  Then obviously there's the title.  The Illuminati, of course, are known as the big guys supposed to make big conspiracies, and the "Kill" part is because I'd need to be "killed" to get my conspiracy started.

Thomas Fairfield: When you faked your death, did you understand a lot of people would blame BIG, and do you think his murder was a revenge killing?

2Pac: Fact is that shit was happening already.  Already there was an attempt on my life, and I knew there'd be more.  Again, the shitstorm needed to stop and so I faked my death, and yeah; I'm sorry now if it caused Biggie to get killed for real, but gang violence did decline.  You turn on the radio these days, rap's still huge, but the bit about feuding isn't really around anymore, and that's good.  Black America is still pretty fucked up in a lot of ways, but it doesn't have that civil war shit anymore.

Thomas Fairfield: Is it true that you fled to Cuba?

2Pac: Yeah, and the shit that went down in Cuba was so crazy it nearly killed me for real, and it really opened my eyes.  People who idolize me seem to treat it like I did it all on my own, but that's not just not how it is.  I had guys working with me to pull that sort of play; the main one was a cat we called Barrio Joe.  I met him in LA, where he'd hook me and my crew up with black market goods and all that good shit, and we called him that because he had a slightly Latin accent, but he looked just like another LA black man.  Well, after a while of getting closer with Joe, he talks to me in private, and yanks the rug.  His real name was Jotoso Fiameto, and he was a Cuban that got to talking about how he was working to bring down the "evil white capitalist system" in America, that sort of shit, and he said I was the man to help with it.  I think the big thing with Joe was he didn't like me getting caught up in that gang war with Biggie's crew; he said it was ruining black men and they needed unity.  So he and his group helped me pull it off.

Thomas Fairfield: So when you say he was Cuban, I'm assuming you don't mean the sort of refugee fleeing the Castro regime and being no fan of such revolutions.

2Pac: Well he posed as one when he came here for a while.  This guy knew how to disappear and get off the radar when he wanted, and also how to make up fake shit about himself, so when he met me, he was just making like he was an Angeleno to most people there, but he was always an agent, and he trusted me with that secret because by that time, things were seeming like I was already unpopular with the US authorities, and knowing I was in the commies' pockets wouldn't help.

 Thomas Fairfield: How did he get you over to Cuba?

2Pac: After they fake-shot me--you can pretty much get the straight deal on all of the fudging that happened there if you watch those YouTube videos--he and some other man drove me to Jean Airport.  I don't remember the other man's name, but he was a lot lighter and had a much thicker Cuban accent.  They got me on their private plane, and we flew to New Orleans, where I was told just to stay on the plane.  After refueling, we flew to Jose Marti Airport in Havana, where instead of leaving into the actual airport, some Cuban Army trucks just picked us up from the plane, and they took us to some base.  I figured then they were just working to keep me hidden, but looking back, it was a capture.

Thomas Fairfield: It sounds like you don't think highly of the Cuban government.

2Pac: They're thugs.  I mean that as someone who knows thugs, knows the whole "Shits going down, we're attacking and you better get primed for it" attitude.  That's what the Cuban soldiers who spirited me into their base presented at the start, but also, they were up in my business and wouldn't leave.  They were flatterers, a lot of "We like you and know you are the man who will bring La Revolucion to America" shit, but a lot of times, they didn't make clear if they'd even heard my music.  I was an asset to them and it just got more obvious.

Thomas Fairfield: Sort of what the Soviets called "useful idiots"?

2Pac: They hoped I was useful, though pretty soon they figured out I wasn't an idiot.  The soldiers who met me first, they would prod me with some rebellious buzzwords, and I'd share my thoughts on the matter, and they'd be making these funny faces, like either they weren't on my level, or didn't really like what I said, or both.  They were always trying to butt in to tie it back to commie-speak.

Thomas Fairfield: How long did that go on?

2Pac: It was hours, but they let me leave that night, but not free; they stuck me in a limo but with a gunman watching, and they took me to this building, one of those typical Cuban buildings that is pretty but decaying, and that was where I lived all of while I was in Cuba.  They'd make like hotel staff, bringing me stuff like bedding, like food--pretty damned good food, I'll admit--and they even offered me hookers, but the guards were always around, and for months I wasn't even allowed to go anywhere without them.

Maybe two weeks into it, they took me to meet the big boss Fidel Castro himself.  He's some weird shit, really not like a human.  Think of a computer, not running a program, and then it is running a program, and then it's not again.  When my captor walked me into his palace, Castro came in from a different room, methodically, not much emotion, he sits down, and then suddenly he's acting like a human.  He greets me affectionately, showers praise on me for fighting the good fight.  I think Castro was lots more aware of me than his stooges that grilled me at the base.  He knew my music, knew of the feud with BIG, knew of my family history with the Black Panther Party, and he could level with me.  That first meeting, we had a lot of fun chatting, but once it was over, suddenly all the humanity left Castro again; his face went stoic, he about-faced and near-marched out the door with no more words.

The next interaction with Fidel Castro wasn't in person; his troops delivered me a shitload of papers proposing a bunch of new songs for a new album, they said based on his suggestions.  Not just ideas; lots of lyrics, and a lot of them I wasn't cool with.  There was this one called "Charge, Niggas Charge", maybe a reference to "Run Nigga Run" by MC Pooh, basically telling black men in America to charge at police and soldiers, even if unarmed and knowing that a lot of them would get mowed down, and that was when I knew the shit was hitting the fan; these red thugs wanted niggas in America to do the bleeding and dying for the so-called good of Cuba and international socialism.  Another proposed song was "Mickey Dead", which was asking people to go to war on McDonalds, some really gruesome shit like killing its managers and putting their own meat in burgers.  There were other proposed songs I didn't mind in themselves, but they weren't my songs I wrote; they were still telling me to be their mouthpiece.  I knew by now for real, I was being played, and the only way I'd get out of this shit would be to play right back.  I'd played the US, and now here I was in Cuba, and this was Level 2.

So I got vague; told Castro's goons I was excited to release a new album for the cause, but that I also wanted the words to be ones I wrote.  They said they'd go consult with him, and that's how I bought me some time.

Thomas Fairfield: So Castro thought he'd made a convert of you?

2Pac: I'm betting he was a little bit unsure of what was happening, but he also knew he had a potential golden opportunity.  So eventually, he sent me back the go-ahead to rephrase the songs, and to mark each so they knew I'd still done all the songs they wanted.  It's about that time I finally got a grace period, where I could wander around Havana how I liked.  They always checked back on me, but I got to have some fun tooling around, which is about that time people started noticing me, and the "2Pac is alive in Cuba" bit finally came out, though a lot of people were skeptical.

Cuba is a neat place in some ways, those pimpmobiles are just cool, but it's also a damn shithole in ways I don't think anyone who hasn't been there really gets.  I've seen the ghettos of America; the very bottom, but communist Cuba is far more fucked.  It's a failing society; buildings falling apart, cracks in the street that you can smell sewer shit out of, and this was in the capital; not Cuba's take on Compton!

Thomas Fairfield: Did it change your worldviews any?

2Pac: Oh yeah; shitloads.  The culture wafting around black America, and Mexican America, and all those non-rich sections of America, is one of telling them to bite the hands that feed them, because it tells them they ain't being fed enough.  They're taught to hate white men, hate capitalism, hate America, and to think Fidel and Che and those types are prophets of a better way for all the people who ain't rich in America.  Not many actually see the shit those guys turned Cuba to, where almost everyone's poor and those who aren't are fixing to kick you around all the time.  I know people talk a big talk about the rebels kicking the Mafiosos out of Cuba, but now they've stuck their own in, because they've had to pay people more and more to stand around with guns pointed at everyone else, and they've got less and less to pay.

Things weren't ever boring, though.  I'd always be meeting people, people who'd gotten wind that I was alive in Cuba, and a lot of them came up to get autographs just like they'd go and get weed slightly under the radar in any city.  By the way, US government snoops were very aware of it, at least that's what I was told, but I believed them in that case because we weren't even trying to be secretive, and there's no way the US isn't watching Cuba closely.  Castro's men always assured me that nobody from the US would ever come gunning for me, because then the Cubans would make a big stink about it and a lot of people in America would start rooting for them and against their own government.  That gave me the bright idea of giving the tourists I met a warning, that if the Cuban goons ever tried gunning me down themselves, sound the alarm around the world.  Tourists talk a whole bunch about what goes on with the Castro government; that government would probably wish they didn't, but you can't really censor this shit when everyone sees things literally falling apart.  So I ended up with my life in the hands of multiple people blackmailing each other, and the funny thing is it worked!  I wasn't free, but I was untouchable, and soon I was getting more into testing just how much.

Thomas Fairfield: Did they still push you to release the new album?

2Pac: They wanted me to, but I always managed to buy myself some time.  Flattery goes a long way with these types; I would tell them I loved what I saw in their socialist paradise, and I wanted to see more and write about it, and they bought it; they thought they owned me, or made like they did.  So I tooled around Cuba, and observed, and I would even submit writings I didn't really believe and say they were a preview of the album to come.  I met Castro a few more times, and he still always seemed a lot of smarter than his thugs.  I know his type well; they're plenty good at looking out for their own neck.  But Castro also has a big-ass ego not many men can match, you don't even need to know him personally to get that, and it's too big an ego to admit his economics are full of shit, even if doing that and dumping them would be better for everyone, him included.

Thomas Fairfield: How long did you stay in Cuba?

2Pac: It was my permanent home for almost five years, but I did get to go on some trips; trips the state said I should do to better explore their socialist dreams.  I went to Democratic Republic of the Congo, which Che helped found and which is a shithole; maybe even a bigger shithole than Cuba, and I also went to Vietnam, which is on good terms with Cuba and still has a communist government, but has made economic reforms and you can see the difference; Nam is pretty blinged out.

At some point, I met some Jamaicans who somehow managed to dock their yacht in Havana.  Looking back on it, I think they were pirates, because they were gun-runners and it's possible they got the guns right from the Cuban government--one thing communist states actually are good at is building shitloads of weapons--but they were really in it for themselves, and they offered to smuggle me out.  That's what Barrio Joe had said, too, and I wondered whether I was going into the hands of other captors, but at this point, after living as a Very Important Prisoner in Cuba, I was up for some unpredictability.  So I got onboard their boat with basically no possessions in tow, they fixed me up with a dreadlocks wig to look full-Jamaican--which hid me pretty well, because baldness had been one of my trademarks--and took me to Jamaica, where I was a free man soon after.

So there I had it; the socialists riding the high horse of ideological government captured me, while these Jamaican capitalists outside the law liberated me.  It was about the final eye-opening I needed.  I'm still in Jamaica; I don't feel good saying which town now, and I'm still planning my comeback, but it's gonna be a shock to some people.

Thomas Fairfield: Because of your changed perspective?

2Pac: Damn right!  I'm a libertarian now; not like Ayn Rand levels of crazy lawless, but I've got a new appreciation for personal aspiration and the American way, and lots of disgust for the sort of shithole alternatives that too many uninformed Americans still believe in.  I'm planning on calling my album "Metamorphosis", and hopefully I'll be able to promote it with a Metamorposis tour, and it's gonna drop some truth bombs!  I'm gonna have a track on there about Che and a lot of the nasty shit he did when fans weren't watching, a song satirically called "AmeriKKKa the beautiful", where I end up praising the sort of shit other rappers complain about, and there's also gonna be one called "Four Year Fellatio" where I dump some shit on the sort of self-righteous, pretentious shit fed to niggas and women and Latinos by college professors, junk degrees that give their groups a blowjob for four years, only to leave them unemployed when they get out and find businesses aren't interested in employees who try to guilt-trip them and bring them down!

Stay tuned, because the best is yet to come!  I'd say some Thugnificent-style shit, like "the new album is gonna be crazy", but who'm I kidding?!  This album will be damned sane!

That was essentially the end of the interview.  I was rather alarmed at that last bit, and asked some more questions, like whether he was swinging the pendulum too far the other way, but he didn't answer.  All I can say to 2Pac fans at this point, is brace yourself for a rug-yanking!

Knock-Off LEGO Pokemon Are on Sale For Absolutely Free!

In case you haven't heard, this year marks the 20th Anniversary of the Pokemon franchise, which has built up a big reputation as a cash cow miltank delighting children and irritating parents.  So of course, companies will be vying for the license to produce Pokemon merchandise, including construction bricks.  Back in the early 2000s, Mega Bloks held it, and this decade, Ionix has acquired it, with all the disturbing transforming functions it entails.

However, it seems nobody told two companies working with the site RD Depot.  That's right; not one but two companies seem to be producing brick-built models of the iconic Japanese monsters; iBlock Fun and Mini Blocks.  That's not where the confusion ends, either, as it would seem only Pikachu, Charmander, Bulbasaur and Squirtle are actually contained in the boxes labeled as them, while the Lapras box contains Gengar, the Snorlax box contains Mewtwo, the Dragonite box contains Eevee, and the Caterpie box contains "Mewtwochild"--how he differs from regular Mewtwo is not expained.  But hey; they're free!

The models themselves look...okay, from a fan-made MOC standpoint, and they certainly aren't as hideous as Ionix's Transformer Ash Ketchum or as lame as Mega Bloks' approximation of smaller Pokemon as simply their pictures painted onto cubes, but that's not really the point; the point is that this is most likely counterfeit, of the sort that is produced by people overseas who don't really know much about what they're making.

This is a warning to all parents browsing: Even presented with an ultra-cheap price, do not buy such toys for your children.  Toys produced in irrefutable factories outside the quality control of official license-holders are often made with dangerous ingredients like lead.  This blog post is presented in a semi-humorous fashion, but spread it with that key message in mind.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Kunio Kun's MMORPG Lives Again!

I share your enthusiasm.
If ever there was a video game protagonist who embodied the now well-tread cliche, "Fall down ten times, get up eleven", it has to be Kunio Kun.  It has now been three decades since Yoshihisa Kishimoto's scrappy Japanese highschooler first took to the streets in order to rescue his buddy Hiroshi from gangs, and from the original Nekketsu Kouha Kunio Kun sprung not only all-time classics in its canon, like River City Ransom, but the entire beat-em-up genre. 

For a series with that kind of importance, it's certainly taken its share of spills, with long hiatuses of no active-ownership sustained only by fan-made remakes, and more recently, an acquisition by ARC System Works that consistently produced games, but many of those games being just rehashes of older ones, and almost none being released outside of Japan.  Back in 2008, a Korean developer attempted to make an MMORPG based on the property, which fell off the map until 2010, when it had another demo, only to be apparently discontinued again the next year.

As of late, though, the stars seem to have aligned in this series' favor again.  It began with a Canadian indie developer, Conatus Creative, successfully getting permission to make a crowdfunded River City Ransom sequel, continued in the form of the PS3 successor to Crash N' the Boys: Street Challenge getting an American release, plus a port to PC via Steam, also under the River City brand (which is bound to cause some issues with different games in the series using the Japanese or English character names), and now, beginning late last year, the MMORPG is back, too--though only available in Chinese, so far.

Based on the media released, there are a number of changes since its last iteration in 2010.  Graphics have been revamped into less-chibified forms; perhaps to distinguish this further from ARC and Conatus-developed Kunio games, and in addition to the earlier version's focus on user-created characters, there seems to be a story focusing on three playable protagonists from the existing canon, Kunio Kun himself, his friend/ally/rival Riki Sameda, and Kunio's maybe-girlfriend Hasebe Kazumi.  At some points, there is obviously some degree of character customization involved, since you can buy clothes, including a rainbow Afro wig and a Mario cap. (If Nintendo is supporting this game, that's a good sign!)  The new story mode is narrated in-part by 3-D cut-scenes!

The game also has added a number of drivable vehicles, including a motorcycle, a mech suit, and--for that hipster in all of us--an excavator.  You can even obtain guns!  Combos look to be quite wild, which is a good thing, considering it has to compete with Conatus's impressive efforts!  There is no word yet on whether the game includes a high-definition iteration of the infamous bare-butt sauna, but perhaps we will find out!

The game can be downloaded for Android, iPhone, and PC, so go try it out if you're up for it!  I will post more if I can get it to work!  In the meantime, salivate over the colorful, well-drawn screenshots--including Hasebe's fine behind:

You've come a long way, baby.