Archive For December 2008

Impressions: Far Cry 2

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Far Cry 2

Welcome to our very first "Impressions" post. In this series of features, our staff will briefly tell you their opinion of an anime, manga, or game based on their current impression. They're less like reviews and more like little journal entries, so don't expect fully-formed opinions just yet.

Though Far Cry 2 (PC, Playstation 3, Xbox 360) has been overshadowed by much "bigger" releases this holiday season, a small handful of game journalists have spoken up on its behalf. After hearing Joystiq's Ludwig Kietzmann talk it up for over a month, I figured it was time to give this open-world shooter a try.

No, this is not a continuation of the original Far Cry, so before you ask, you don't need to have played the previous game. In this iteration, you are a mercenary sent to an African country to kill an arms dealer called "The Jackal" who has been pitting the two sides of a civil war against each other. When you enter the country, however, you catch malaria, get caught in a firefight, and miss your chance of catching The Jackal. Now you've got to fend for yourself in this war-torn country while working toward completing your mission.

As far as I've seen in the Xbox 360 version of the game, the open-world design is really working out well. Driving a car around a beautiful African savanna is cool enough, but when guerrillas drive by and start ramming your car, filling you full of bullets, things really heat up. In my first hour or so of play, I was randomly attacked by rebels at least three times, and one time they wrecked my car, causing me to stop and fix it (yes, you have to fix it yourself) before moving on. Another time I decided to hop on a small motorboat instead of fighting, and rode the boat off into the sunset.

It's that kind of visual and gameplay aesthetic that has really made my first hour with Far Cry 2 a great experience: moments of quiet serenity (even beauty), punctured by frantic violence that starts as quickly as it stops. It prompts a sort of gut instinct, and sometimes I find myself driving away before I've even thought about what I've done. Completing the immersion is a minimal HUD, problems like malaria and guns that jam up, and completely interactive environments. Hell, I shot a lantern at a campsite and set fire to an entire field of trees, then sat in my boat and watched the blaze framed against the night sky. That's a real game experience right there.

I'm amazed and delighted at how much thought and passion seems to have been put into the design of an ostensibly trigger-happy game like Far Cry 2. And to be honest, I can't wait to get back to Africa.

Review: Ryoko's Case Files (Sub)

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Ryoko's Case Files Medium: TV Anime
Genres: Mystery, Supernatural
Director: Tarou Iwasaki
Studio: Dogakobo
Licensed? No

When Tom Jones sang “She’s a Lady,” he was probably singing to this lady.

Ryoko’s Case Files has come and gone, and with the exception of the title character, I may not remember either event. Though light-hearted, episodic and glazed over with an aristocratic and political tone, the only lasting kick is the one provided by Miss Ryoko herself.

Ryoko Yakushiji (don’t try to say it out loud, you’ll crack your teeth) is the superintendent of JACES, Japan’s private, rentable secret police. This means she operates as she wants, without consequence. Debonair, ruthless and classy, Ryoko’s arrogance has major cougar appeal. Using her seemingly unlimited monetary resources and personal connections, Ryoko travels Japan to stir up trouble. By her side, whether he likes it or not, is her self-proclaimed bodyguard/baby-sitter/chauffer/shopping-bag-carrier Jin’ichirou Izudami. Together they solve mysteries of a vaguely sci-fi inclination.

Think of it this way: Imagine The X-Files, but Scully has emasculated Moulder into paying her bar tab, accompany her to pick out shoes, and occasionally shooting a giant snake. Though much of the series is narrated through Izudami’s eyes, his bland characterization provokes no empathy, and his cluelessness doesn’t help the series either. Because Izudami has no idea what is going on, neither do we; but the alternative of being inside Ryoko’s head would be a Lovecraftian descent into unspeakable horror.

The pacing lags in this episodic mystery series, and the romantic interest between Izudami and his boss is a moot point due to her overt nature and his inability to put the clues together: she wants him. The mysteries themselves lack detail, drive and creativity. Sure, it’s a giant snake or a mind-controlling tree (which are cool in and of themselves), but the drama falls dead in its tracks once Ryoko appears, solves the mystery, shoots it in the head, and leaves without any logical explanation.

On the plus side, some of the supporting characters help add color, but no one is capable of out-shining Ryoko. Her self-appointed rival, Yukiko Muromachi, often stands in her way (literally) to tell her to stop investigating government officials. Their rivalry sparks (literally) in an orgy (figuratively) of pranks and competition. JACES’ office staff, a collection of dismissible stereotypes, is often thrown in the middle of Ryoko’s political drama. I also enjoyed Ryoko’s ninja-level badass French maids; although, like the rest of the series, they made little sense.

Ryoko’s Case Files does provide some very funny moments centered on Ryoko’s impulsive, manipulative and subtly risqué behavior. If the rest of the cast could hold a candle to her attitude and fearless arrogance, this would have been a great ride, leaving me waiting happily for a second season. But as it is - a weak mystery show with static characters and an imaginary plot - I remain unmotivated.



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Apology: MangaNEXT Con Report

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I just want to send out a quick apology to all of our readers who may have been anticipating a convention report for MangaNEXT. (I don't know, maybe somebody's been waiting for it) Due to a lot of personal things eating into my free time (and maybe my own bad judgement too), I never wrote up a con report, and It's far too late to try to publish one. For the record, I'd like to say that I really enjoyed my time at the convention, and I thank the staff for kindly providing me with a press pass.

If anybody is still looking for info on the convention, why not listen to Ani-Gamers Podcast #008 - MangaNEXT Superpodcast? It was actually recorded at MangaNEXT and it contains, for all intents and purposes, a con report in audio form.

A new anime site is born: Anime Vice

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Anime Vice

Those of you who pay attention to the links in our sidebar might have stopped by anime blogger Gia Manry's personal site, a geek by any other name, where she regularly posts news and commentary on the anime industry. Well, our friend Gia has recently launched her newest site, a community-oriented anime site called Anime Vice. It's owned by Whiskey Media, the creators of gaming site Giant Bomb, so it pretty much runs on the same interface as its sister site.

The site just launched on Thursday, so Gia and the rest of the Anime Vice staff will be hard at work filling it with content. Give them a visit over at www.animevice.com.

This Week in Ani-Gamers ~ 11.30.08-12.07.08

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Oy, I'm rather sorry about the slowdown in articles, but I've had some big personal projects catching up with me in the past week or so. Still, the content will keep coming, so you can look forward to some good stuff in the coming weeks. Among the posts in the pipeline is Ani-Gamers Podcast #009, in which Mitchy and I review Mirror's Edge. Plus, a Far Cry 2 review will be up as soon as I'm done with the game. Oh, and here's a thought. If you want us to write about something, talk about it on the podcast, or whatever, shoot me an email at editor@anigamers.com (or use our contact form). Your comments are always welcome.

As for this week, I did a Far Cry 2 writeup and finally published Uncle Yo's Ryoko's Case Files review. Check out the goods after the break.




News:
A new anime site is born: Anime Vice


Reviews:
Ryoko's Case Files (Sub)


Features:
Impressions: Far Cry 2


Notices:
Apology: MangaNEXT Con Report


On Deck:
[Review] Ani-Gamers Podcast #009 - On the Mirror's Edge
[Review] Eyeshield 21 vol.1 (Manga) - Mitchell Dyer
[Review] Mega Man ZX Advent (DS) - Pigeonflu
[Review] Origins: Spirits of the Past (Hyb) - Uncle Yo
[Review] Paranoia Agent (Hyb) - Uncle Yo



Thanks for reading. See you next week!

To subscribe to these posts by email, click here.

Playstation Home open beta to launch this month

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Home in 12.08 - FINALLY!

As hard as it might be to believe, Sony Computer Entertainment of America's Playstation Home director Jack Buser confirmed today that the open beta stage of Sony's Sims-esque social interface - Home - would be launching on the Playstation 3 this month. Nope, he didn't say "this month, next year" (i.e. December 09), he actually confirmed that Home is on its way by the end of the 2008 calendar year. Disgruntled Playstation 3 owners (or soon-to-be-owners come the holidays) will undoubtedly be delighted to finally be able to try out the feature after over a year of delays and broken promises from Sony.

While there is definitely a lot to celebrate about for Playstation 3 players, it's still rather troubling that the open beta stage is the furthest that Sony has gotten so far. Home was originally announced in March of 2007 with a rough launch date of October 2007. It has been over a year, and the OPEN BETA (not the final version) is just reaching us right now. If anything, the development time was likely lengthened both to improve Sony's lacking online infrastructure and to combat Microsoft's Xbox Live updates in the New Xbox Experience. Sony will certainly need to do something to quell Microsoft's sizeable grip on online gaming.

Perhaps Home will be just the weapon to defeat the Xbox Army, but count this blogger among the skeptics.

[via Joystiq]

Ani-Gamers Podcast #009 – On the Mirror's Edge

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Mirror's Edge

MitchyD makes his debut appearance on the podcast to review Mirror's Edge with Evan. We pretty much love this game to death, but - believe it or not - we find some problems with it. Also, Links of the Day are in there at the end. As for future shows, I'm going to try to find a guest host to come in and mix things up. If there's anybody you want to hear on the show, email us at podcast@anigamers.com.

Show notes and links can be found after the break.

Direct Download - RSS Feed - iTunes - Email



[0:00:00] Intro

[0:00:09] Opening Song: "R.O.D Theme" by Taku Iwasaki (R.O.D. OVA opener)

[0:00:24] This episode is our Mirror's Edge (Xbox 360) review

[0:00:48] The show is on the road! Mitchy and I discuss podcast things, including the first time he was on the podcast, when we lost the audio.

[0:01:51] Time to find out what we've been doing: i.e. reading Watchmen, playing crappy video games (and Left 4 Dead), and maybe watching some Death Note.

[0:16:21] Clip from "Still Alive" by Lisa Miskovsky (Mirror's Edge OST)

[0:17:22] The Mirror's Edge review. No real structure here; we just sort of talk about the game in bits and pieces. Pretty much, it's awesome, but the combat sucks. Avoid fighting at all costs.

[0:46:46] Another clip from "Still Alive"

[0:47:26] Links of the day: Mirror's Edge 2D (Mitchy) and The Akinator (Evan)

[0:53:09] Ending Song: "H.T." by Tsuneo Imahori (Trigun opener)

Links:
Hulu Anime Channel
The Situation at Tenpenny Tower (The New Gamer)
Mirror's Edge 2D
The Akinator

Urgent Message from "Case Man"

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From: Case Man <caseman457@gmail.com>
Subject: Armacham must be stopped!
Date: December 11, 2008 11:47:48 AM EST
To: tips@anigamers.com

Reliable sources have informed me that anigamers.com and its readers may soon be targeted by a mysterious corporation. Please help me.

Armacham has corrupted the FEAR 2 game module but it seems they are determined to unveil LEVEL 3 of their testing whatever the consequences. Despite disastrous results in the initial testing they are currently looking for 13 candidates to test the module in a device called the FEAR LAB in New York City.

I fear for the safety of anyone who becomes involved in this test and I'm determined to stop it all costs.

I've hidden additional evidence at http://www.armacham.com/rf3437, which I've had to encode for my safety. Once you unlock the files you will see what I'm talking about.

I'll be in touch

R

Carl Horn, Jason Thompson respond to manga obscenity case

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Comic Book Legal Defense Fund

Iowa resident and manga fan Christopher Handley has been having a rather unpleasant two years. In May of 2006, Handley ordered a package from Japan containing "inappropriate" manga (namely yaoi and lolicon). When the postal inspector intercepted his package and applied for a warrant, Mr. Handley was followed home by police, who searched his home and found a handful of "obscene" images among his collection of more than 1,200 comics.

Now Mr. Handley, 38, is being tried in the Iowa court system for supposed violations of the PROTECT Act, which provides for up to twenty years in prison for obscenity violations. The Comic Book Defense Fund, known for their vigorous protection of the First Amendment rights of comic book retailers and creators, have agreed to help defend Mr. Handley in the first recorded case in which a private citizen has been accused of obscenity in the privacy of his own home.

Carl Gustav Horn (of Dark Horse) and Jason Thompson (of Otaku USA), two of the most respected names in the manga industry, contacted Anime News Network regarding Christopher Handley's trial. They have published two lengthy editorials begging manga fans to understand the implications of a guilty verdict in Handley's case and, if possible, to donate to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. The articles are great reads for all manga fans who are interested in their industry's continued survival - which is hopefully each and every one of you. Please read these fantastic articles, and consider a donation to the CBLDF.

"20 Years in Prison for Buying a Manga" by Carl Horn
"Manga, Censorship and Obscenity" by Jason Thompson

PS Home beta launches amid... no hype whatsoever

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Surprise! It's Playstation Home!

Earlier this week, we announced that Sony's Playstation Home beta would be released at some point this month. Two days later, Sony let everybody know that the beta would be launching... the next day. If a Sony executive is reading this, allow me to direct your attention to a certain console that used a similar strategy a couple of years ago. Perhaps you will notice how stunning its sales were.

As such, the Playstation Home launch was also plagued with problems. Until 10PM on December 11 (around six hours after the official launch), very few people were able to download or log into Home due to unknown errors. By December 12, most of the bugs were sorted out, but by that time the hype around the launch had already faded. Sound like another high-profile Sony release? At this rate, it looks like Home will also go "the way of the Sackboy."

Regardless, if you're a Playstation 3 owner with some time to kill, make sure that you try out Home. Ineffective release or not, there are people to meet, games of Warhawk to play, and victims to quincy.

[via Joystiq]

This Week in Ani-Gamers ~ 12.07.08-12.14.08

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A good news week? Implausible! Nevertheless, it seems that this week had a pretty fair showing of news. The big story is of course the surprise launch of Playstation Home, which caught many (including Sony) quite unawares. Then there's some serious business, with Carl Horn and Jason Thompson's fantastic editorials over on ANN about the Christopher Handley manga obscenity trial.

The redesign is going swimmingly, so I think that we're on track to release by the end of the year. Don't worry, we won't pull a Sony and tell you that it launches tomorrow - there will be fair warning before we shut down the site and set up the new look.

Well, it looks like that's it for this week. Keep reading, and if you like us, tell your friends about us! We'll give you a present for doing it. We promise. That present may or may not be this week's posts, which are wrapped up in a neat bow directly after the break.




News:
Playstation Home open beta to launch this month
Urgent Message from "Case Man"
Carl Horn, Jason Thompson respond to manga obscenity case
PS Home beta launches amid... no hype whatsoever


Podcasts:
Ani-Gamers Podcast #009 - On the Mirror's Edge


On Deck:
[Review] Ani-Gamers Podcast #010
[Review] Eyeshield 21 vol.1 (Manga) - Mitchell Dyer
[Review] Mega Man ZX Advent (DS) - Pigeonflu
[Review] Origins: Spirits of the Past (Hyb) - Uncle Yo
[Review] Paranoia Agent (Hyb) - Uncle Yo
[Review] School Days (Sub) - Uncle Yo
[Review] Sky Crawlers (Sub) - Uncle Yo



Thanks for reading. See you next week!

To subscribe to these posts by email, click here.

Club Nintendo launches in America

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While it has been available in Europe for what seems like ages, Club Nintendo finally launched in North America today. The rewards program encourages you to register your Nintendo products in exchange for loot, which is a brilliant marketing campaign, but the launch has been a bit harsh.

If you can get beyond the bugs, crashes and errors, you'll be able to link your My Nintendo account to the Club, or create a new one with which to register and earn. Answering surveys for registered products nets you more coins with which drop on the less-than-outstanding rewards. For anywhere between 300 and 800 coins, you can grab yourself a sweet Wii Remote holder, DS game-case, or themed playing cards. If you're nostalgic, you could even trade your gold coins for a Game and Watch DS collection.

Further encouraging you to fill your DS and Wii library is the Gold and Platinum program. If you stick enough games in to your collection, you'll qualify for Gold and Platinum status, which earns you "special" prizes. How do you get in? Find out after the break.

"Gold or Platinum status is based on the number of Coins earned in a Club Nintendo year. Each Club Nintendo year begins on July 1 and ends on June 30. If you earn 300 Coins during a Club Nintendo year you will reach Gold status. Earn 600 Coins during a Club Nintendo year and reach Platinum status!"

It doesn't seem too difficult to earn a lot of coin if you're an avid Wii or DS gamer, as the breakdown of earning coins offers a decent amount per product:

  • Wii games = 50 Coins
  • Nintendo DS games = 30 Coins
  • Wii Shop Channel games and Wii Channels = 10 Coins


You can also earn additional cash for indicating your intent for buying a game or registering the product within a month of its release.

So if you're interested in grabbing some grab-bags, check it out at Club Nintendo. The Ani-Gamers staff will surely be suckered in to this marketing gimmick in order to earn rad free goodies as well, and we'll be back with reports on product quality for those who are curious.

Review: The Sky Crawlers (Sub)

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The Sky Crawlers Medium: Anime Film
Genres: Action, Drama, Military
Director: Mamoru Oshii
Studio: Production I.G
Licensed? Yes (Sony Pictures)

Anime director Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell, Patlabor, Blood the Last Vampire, Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade) has been off the radar for quite some time. On Friday night, December 12th, the Lincoln Center of NYC became the only place in the country to check out his newest piece, The Sky Crawlers.

Based on a novel series by MORI Hiroshi, Sky Crawlers is a story of perseverance and the banality of an existence centered on combat. There is a war, a struggle between two nations happening in the skies above us - but it's not our problem. Yuichi Kannami is a top fighter pilot who has just transferred to a new base. New plane, new missions, new crew to meet. And, like every other pilot there, he is a Kildren: an immortal "child" who will never grow up. These genetically-engineered living dolls trudge through their day-to-day routines, repeating tasks and only feeling the thrill of life while fighting in the skies.

Peter Pan references set aside, this movie drags at the pace of a coma. Harold Pinter himself would admit the film's minimalistic approach is a bit too slow. Even the dog-fight scenes between the fighter planes seems to lack immediacy and drive. On top of that, Tetsuya Nishio's (Naruto, Jin-Roh) symmetric and almost flat character design gives little complexity to the film's aesthetic. The coloration is bland, holding an almost salt-worn quality, which only drives Oshii's point home about how dull a Kildren's life is. Without the aerial combat, this film could have been made live-action in the 1960's and no one would have known the difference.

On the big screen, the fighter plane sequences are dazzling. The sharpness of the 3D is so well done, it's easy to forget you're watching an anime. Every bullet shot tears across the screen, and for the first time, bullet-time meets air planes: Max Payne would be pleased.

Yet, pacing set aside, Oshii has created a fascinating proposal: a world that uses a never-ending war as a means of keeping the peace. The lackluster nature of the immortal Kildren only smooths out their passion and personal drives, keeping them willing to fight. As the story progresses, Yuichi becomes close with his mysterious captain, Kusanagi, and the two develop a strange cat-and-mouse/friendly fire relationship as they delve into the others' past secrets. All of their questions and searching lead back to their mission: to fly until shot down, until confronted by the mysterious and untouchable Teacher.

Subtext and subtlety are more important to this film than the amazing plane fights. The bare minimum script leaves small clues in an almost "Memento" style, that does not need to be pieced together in order to follow the film. What matters in the symbolism. The children cannot surpass the Teacher, the "father" figure who taunts them silently from above. The Kildren's lack of drive for life causes them to shut down their hearts, blur their memories, and live half-consciously just to stave off their immortal boredom. If only they'd take the cues from every vampire story every written: IMMORTALITY IS BORING.

This film could only be made by Mamoru Oshii: cryptic, distant and profound. Once again, he has crafted a piece that provokes serious analysis and discussion rather than cosplaying fangirls.



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Site redesign this weekend

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I promised that we'd be done before the end of the year, so I will be shutting down Ani-Gamers this weekend in order to put up the new site redesign. This will constitute Ani-Gamers v2.2, for those keeping count. (I don't really know why you would, but whatever!) There will be a new layout, but all of the content will generally stay the same.

At some point tomorrow the site will be shut down and will only be accessible to the staff, so please don't be alarmed that you can't access it. I will be working as quickly as possible to bring everything back online in as short a time as I can manage. This might result in a couple of bugs, but it should also mean minimum downtime for our users.

Thanks for your patience everybody! I'll have a new post up to welcome you to version 2.2 as soon as the update is done.

Happy Holidays, and welcome to AGv2.2!

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A very Ani-Gamers Christmas

It's official: Ani-Gamers version 2.2 has been all wrapped up and put under the tree for you guys. But lucky you, this present doesn't have to wait until December 25th to be opened! That's because as of today I have completed initial work on the new layout. Everything should be working just like before, excepting the new menu and sidebar formats, which should be self-explanatory. We finally have a prominent feed button up in the upper right, and there's a cool spotlight under that to show off the latest big posts.

Remember, some parts of the site (especially a couple of the back pages) aren't complete yet, so they will still reflect the old layout. Over my upcoming break, I should be able to iron out any problems you guys might be having with the layout switch. Remember to email me if you find anything truly amiss that needs immediate fixing.

Enjoy version 2.2!

This Week in Ani-Gamers ~ 12.14.08-12.21.08

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The theme for this week was definitely the update to Ani-Gamers version 2.2. As the holiday season kicked into full gear, and my own personal work reached a crescendo, I suddenly found the time (and sheer force of will) to sit down for half a day and implement the latest update. Wow, that sentence sounds like a movie trailer, right? Anyway, on to business.

This week's non-update-related articles are simply two pieces by staff writers MitchyD and Uncle Yo. Mitchy wrote an extensive news post about the launch of Nintendo's North American branch of "Club Nintendo," and Karl published a spectacular review of Mamoru Oshii's newest thought-provoking, sleep-inducing film, The Sky Crawlers.

This will be the last entry in this column before everybody (in America at least) is off from school/work for that not-so-secular holiday break. So, I'd like to wish everyone a happy, healthy, and safe holiday season, whatever it is that you're celebrating this year.

But before you get to all of that present-wrapping business, make sure that you check out the latest posts after the break.




News:
Club Nintendo launches in America


Reviews:
The Sky Crawlers (Sub)


Notices:
Site redesign this weekend
Happy Holidays, and welcome to AGv2.2!


On Deck:
[Review] Ani-Gamers Podcast #010
[Review] Eyeshield 21 vol.1 (Manga) - Mitchell Dyer
[Review] Mega Man ZX Advent (DS) - Pigeonflu
[Review] Origins: Spirits of the Past (Hyb) - Uncle Yo
[Review] Paranoia Agent (Hyb) - Uncle Yo
[Review] School Days (Sub) - Uncle Yo
[Review] Tokyo Godfathers (Sub) - Vampt Vo



Thanks for reading. See you next week!

To subscribe to these posts by email, click here.

Review: Left 4 Dead (360)

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Left 4 Dead Genre: Action, First-person shooter, Survival horror
Designer: Mike Booth
Developer: Valve Corporation
Publisher: Valve Corporation/Electronic Arts
Console: PC, Xbox 360
Rated: M for Mature

You've got a Zombie Survival Plan, right? If not, why don't you? Humans live in constant fear of the brain-consuming living dead because the very idea of a reanimated corpse is terrifying. Luckily, whether you've got a plan or not, Valve's Left 4 Dead is as good as it gets to further educate yourself on the potential dangers of the impending apocalypse – or to see if your plan holds up.

But the gruesome first-person shooter has a couple quirks that rock the foundation of everything we thought we knew about the undead menace.

Firstly, they don't brainlessly lumber around waiting for you to put a bullet in their brain – they run, scratch, kick and violently try to rip you a new one. And they aren't alone. They'll come in bloodthirsty packs if you give them the opportunity (which you'll be forced to do numerous times). Multiple variations of special "Infected" include the pouncing "Hunter," vomiting "Boomer," and the gargantuan "Tank." Their deadly super-attacks are a constant threat, especially when making an exciting vehicular escape during the finale of each "movie's" fifth act.

Left 4 Dead Because Left 4 Dead is so centrally focused on four-player co-op, you'll need to coordinate to get the best of the ever-changing AI. Far from just another mindless shooter, L4D encourages you to stick close to your team, patch each other up when wounded, and cover all of the angles when someone mistakenly sets off a car alarm, thus summoning a stunning amount of enemies. Ideally, each play-through is completely different from the last, but you'll start to notice familiar patterns as you continue to complete the nearly story-free missions. For example, upgraded weapons appear in spot A or spot B, and the Tank spikes intensify once you cross a certain threshold. Nevertheless, there's enough variety to add longevity to the experience with the mixing up of enemy spawn points, grenade locations and med-pack cabinets.

If you find yourself exhausted from surviving as the four endearing characters – Bill the grumpy war-vet, Louis the nervous nerd, Zoey the fearless college kid, and Francis the vitriolic biker – you can switch gears to competitive multiplayer in Versus. With two teams of four, your squad alternates between Survivors and Infected, giving you control over the aforementioned special zombies as you try to foil your opponents' escape. The Infected team requires precision cooperation, perhaps more so than the rifle/shotgun/machine-gun toting humans, as you're quite vulnerable as a zombie. Lengthy respawn times might turn some away from the mode, and impatient people will find themselves staring at that countdown a lot if they're not willing to wait for the perfect opportunity to strike. Acting alone will earn you a shotgun blast to the face, so cooperation is crucial.

Sadly, only two of the four possible campaigns are available in Versus. The multiplayer mode adds excellent legs to a shooter that you might otherwise tire of after a couple completions, but after extended play you'll certainly start to become bored of looping the same stages. Even so, it is without a doubt addictive and fun to blast your way to the next safe house as you flee from the horde, protect your friends, avoid the lethal one-hit-kill "Witch," and make smart use of multiple tactics. L4D slowly becomes more formulaic than frenetic, which doesn't play well in to the themes of the game. Moments that previously haunted you, such as rooms filled with shredded corpses, eerily silent sewers, and the trumpeting crescendo that signals an incoming swarm become routine rather than emotionally evocative.

Left 4 Dead Still, it's impossible to resist the urge to fight off the attacking mass of bloodthirsty Infected in a desperate struggle to survive. More campaigns would definitely have been appreciated, because you'll breeze through the entire game in six to eight hours. Because the AI is constantly changing, if only slightly, every match does manage to feel different. With a breadth of witty character dialogue exchanges to listen to, the dread of death can briefly be alleviated with a whimsical comment or ironic joke, too. And with the addition of Versus multiplayer, you'll have plenty of horror to experience as you strangle, shred and smack human players around. So, it's not for a lack of things to see and do that Left 4 Dead feels slightly limited; it's the limited places to experience these moments that hurts.

Left 4 Dead is a fantastic twist on an established (and played out) theme. With very little story to speak of beyond scribbles on walls, there isn't very much depth to anything but the combat, which is endlessly entertaining regardless of how long you play. It's just a shame that many players will become bored once they've finished the campaigns, especially if they're not into the competitive mode.

For the rest of us, there is no end. Only survival. And we'll contentedly shoot our way to whatever boat, chopper or plane wants to take us to our next terrifying co-op adventure.



great.

Review: Tokyo Godfathers (Sub)

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Tokyo Godfathers Medium: Anime Film
Genres: Adventure, Drama
Director: Satoshi Kon
Studio: Madhouse
Licensed?Yes (Sony Pictures)

Satoshi Kon is like a master mechanic. Give him the parts, and he will concoct a machine that breaks new ground in whatever genre he pursues. In Perfect Blue, he made a seemingly traditional psychological drama that in fact directly attacked the underbelly of otaku-dom. In Millennium Actress, a simple biographical story took us to realms rarely touched in such narratives. Paranoia Agent broke down the conventions of murder mysteries, resulting in a twisty show that never seemed to go where you expected. In Tokyo Godfathers, Satoshi Kon takes a trio of cold, hungry homeless people, and weaves around them a story of hope, redemption, and sacrifice: a story as emotionally touching as it is subtly funny.

Tokyo Godfathers takes place, naturally, in Tokyo, where Gin, a gambler and alcoholic, Hana, a former drag queen, and Miyuki, a runaway teenage girl, - all homeless - find an abandoned baby in the garbage. It is Christmas Eve, so they decide to try to find the baby's mother rather than simply hand it to the police. The three take the newly-named Kiyoko all around the city in search of her parents, meeting a wide array of side characters and learning about themselves and each other along the way.

Unlike Kon's usual fare, Tokyo Godfathers cuts back on the surrealism and takes a more realistic road to reach his classic reality-fantasy split. From the get-go we are hit over the head with striking dichotomies between idealism (a church choir) and realism (a crowd of hungry homeless). Throughout the movie these themes are continued as Gin searches piles of trash under the beaming lights of Tokyo Tower (an important visual motif in the film). The only time we feel the typical Kon come through is in a brief dream sequence where he brings back his traditional identity-confusion and complex symbolism.

The major difference between Kon's other stories, however, is the focus on characters over narrative. While the central plot remains strong, with Kon's trademark narrative crescendo/subtle ending combination, the focus of the audience's attentions in Tokyo Godfathers rest very heavily on the three main characters. We are made to laugh with them, smile with them, and sometimes cry with them, as they meet new friends and battle terrible circumstances to bring a baby back home.

This central tale, the concept of three pieces of "human trash" being blessed with a piece of unspoiled humanity, is something that we can all relate to in some way. Gin, Hana, and Miyuki are all given fair time to play out their own separate dramas, but Miyuki most surely steals the show. She represents a fascinating and complex parallel in which a young girl runs from her parents, only to embark on a journey to find the parents of an abandoned girl. These sorts of deep-rooted thoughts of home and family that run through the three characters are what hold together the sometimes disjointed little vignettes that make up the story.

Gin and Hana perhaps sum up the themes of the film perfectly in one exchange. Gin reminisces about his daughter, telling Hana, "a father never forgets his child." Miyuki, shaken by a message from her father, suddenly storms out of the room. After a moment, Hana adds, "a child never forgets its parents."

As we have come to expect from Kon and his go-to studio, Madhouse, Tokyo Godfathers looks beautiful. The backgrounds (especially the snow-covered buildings and streets) are as stunning as any classic Christmas painting, and all of the characters move with a lively and often comical fluidity. Even so, the film suffers occasionally from Kon's traditional character design problem: Most of the male side characters look a tad similar, meaning that audiences will have to pay close attention to understand who's who.

Arguably it doesn't have much competition, but that doesn't stop Tokyo Godfathers from being the best Christmas movie to ever come out of the anime medium. Satoshi Kon has pulled together three pieces of garbage, and given them a light to shine their way through the cold and dark. He has engineered a film that finds beauty not in shimmering lights of Tokyo Tower, but in the hopes and dreams of two rejects, the tears of a runaway, and the shining face of an abandoned child.



great.

Ani-Gamers Podcast #010 – Comic Book Legal DEFENSE FORCE

Topics: ,
Goddamn Playstation Home! Hosts: Evan "Vampt Vo" Minto, Mitchell "MitchyD" Dyer
Topics: Playstation Home beta and Christopher Handley's manga obscenity trial

As if last episode's mind-bending advance recording didn't confuse you enough, this episode was recorded a full twelve days ago. That means that we're not even thinking about Christmas or our end-of-year top-10 lists, because this was recorded on the 14th. We manage to have some pretty focused discussion in this episode about PS Home and Christopher Handley, so have a listen. For next episode, we might just be doing a big end-of-year episode with Mitchy, Max, and Karl.

Show notes and links can be found after the break.

Direct Download - RSS Feed - iTunes - Email Us!



[0:00:00] Intro (this link is for people who are about to ask me who Walter Amos and Rob Fenelon are)

[0:00:10] Opening Song: "R.O.D Theme" by Taku Iwasaki (R.O.D. OVA opener)

[0:00:21] We couldn't find a specific topic, so we decided to talk about the latest posts on the blog. This meant that we pretty much just discussed the Playstation Home beta and Christopher Handley's manga obscenity trial.

[0:00:42] Evan does the whole introduction thing, then pimps an episode of the Anime Jam Session podcast. Our very own staff member and occasional podcast host Uncle Yo appeared on episode 20 of the AJS podcast, where he performed a bit of his comedy act. Apparently the AJS site is down at the moment, but when it's working again you can find it at this link.

[0:01:35] What'cha Been Doing? We've been reading Black Jack, watching Gurren Lagann and Appleseed, and playing Far Cry 2 and Valkyria Chronicles. This segment also contains Battalion Wars and unintentional video game racism.

[0:16:55] Break: Clip from Battalion Wars 2 cutscene. Engrish ensues.

[0:17:26] Discussion. We start with the Playstation Home beta launch, and Mitchy talks about how much he is bored by Home. Then I talk for a few minutes about the viral marketing campaign for F.E.A.R. 2. Next is a long rant about Christopher Handley, manga obscenity, and why the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund needs to change into the Comic Book Legal DEFENSE FORCE.

[0:46:46] Break: "Kaeshite! Knee Socks" by Hirano Aya, Katou Emiri, Fukuhara Kaori, & Endou Aya

[0:47:26] Links of the day: Right Now, Someone Is Reading This Title (Evan) and Katamari on your iPhone (Mitchy)

[0:53:09] Ending Song: "WORLD END" by FLOW (Code Geass R2 second opener)

Links:
Anime Jam Session podcast
Playstation Home open beta to launch this month
PS Home beta launches amid... no hype whatsoever
Urgent Message from "Case Man"
Carl Horn, Jason Thompson respond to manga obscenity case
Right Now, Someone Is Reading This Title
Katamari on your iPhone

This Week in Ani-Gamers ~ 12.21.08-12.28.08

Topics: ,

I hope everybody had a Merry Christmas, full of fun, family, and anime/manga/game-related presents. Head to the comments for this post to let us know what gifts you got. As for what's going on here at the site, we've had a few developments this past week. For one, the Ani-Gamers Podcast finally hit double digits with the release of episode #010. Second, we traded some blogroll links with the folks over at the Reverse Thieves anime blog and the Joystiq Podcast Appreciation Group Podcast. (Yes, a podcast about a fanclub about a podcast)

Finally, keep an eye out for news about our "Best of 2008" awards. We're currently compiling staff votes and considering a format, so a blog post about it should be up by next week. Until then, head past the break for the awesome reviews and such that we published this week.




News:
FUNimation to announce ten new series before year's end


Reviews:
Left 4 Dead (360)
Tokyo Godfathers (Sub)


Podcasts:
Ani-Gamers Podcast #010 - Comic Book Legal DEFENSE FORCE


On Deck:
[Review] Eyeshield 21 vol.1 (Manga) - Mitchell Dyer
[Review] Mega Man ZX Advent (DS) - Pigeonflu
[Review] Origins: Spirits of the Past (Hyb) - Uncle Yo
[Review] Paranoia Agent (Hyb) - Uncle Yo
[Review] School Days (Sub) - Uncle Yo



Thanks for reading. See you next week!

To subscribe to these posts by email, click here.

Fans to celebrate Macross launch in Akihabara this February

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SDF-1 Macross

Some very dedicated Japanese fans are preparing to celebrate one of the most important events in world history, an event that changed the course of countless lives for hundreds of years to come – and it never really happened.

That's because in February of 2009, the giant spaceship "SDF-1 Macross" from Shoji Kawamori and Noboru Ishiguro's original Super Dimension Fortress Macross series launched after its ten-year rebuilding period. As announced on the official Macross Frontier website, there will be a completely non-fictional event held in Akihabara, Tokyo to celebrate the fictional launch of the fictional spaceship. The event, which has been given the superfluous title "Macross: The Super Dimension Space Launching Ceremony ~It's Really 2009 Already…It's 2/22 (Nyan Nyan Nyan), Deculture!~," will feature guests from all over the world of Macross – yes, real guests like animators and voice actors.

Hey Japan, in case I haven't reminded you in the past couple of months... you're totally crazy, okay? First you have a funeral for Raoh of Hokuto no Ken, and now you're celebrating the launch of a fictional spaceship? You're crazy... but we love ya even more for it, kid!

[via Anime News Network]

The Best of Ani-Gamers ~ 2008

Topics: , ,

Over at the Anime Almanac, my good friend Scott VonSchilling has just put up a post going over the best articles on his site in the past year. We've had a good year too here at Ani-Gamers, so I thought that our readers might appreciate a retrospective look at the amazing things that little anime and gaming blog has done since last January.

2008 was undoubtedly a good year for Ani-Gamers. In the early spring, I applied a drastic makeover to the site's design, giving it a sleek new look for version 2.0. Around that time, staff applications started popping up from all over the country. Soon after, Ani-Gamers was hitting the con scene. Uncle Yo started performing all around the country, and I started meeting fellow bloggers and future friends like Scott VonSchilling, DJ Ranma S, Kuro Usagi, Hisui, and Narutaki. We have reached the end of 2008 with a podcast, hundreds of posts, and some great staff members. And I don't think that our momentum is gonna slow down anytime soon.

After the break, I've got links to the top 15 Ani-Gamers posts of this year, ranging from reviews to podcast episodes to feature articles and covering a wide range of topics. Enjoy, and Happy New Year!

Anime Reviews

Spiral (Hyb) • Evan "Vampt Vo" Minto

In this long, angry review, I poured my heart out about the 2003 anime Spiral. It's 26 episodes long, and there is only one consistent theme: black turtlenecks. This is by far my favorite of all the bad reviews that I have ever written, since I really wanted to get some entertainment out of Spiral after spending a grueling 8+ hours on it.

Kure-nai (Sub) • Karl "Uncle Yo" Custer

Karl took a look at the overlooked gem Kure-nai in August, and he wrote up a concise yet thoughtful review that touched upon a lot of the more subtle points about the show. This anime might have gone under the radar when it released, but Karl's review is a great reminder of what a lot of people missed out on.

The Skull Man (Sub) • Karl "Uncle Yo" Custer

Shotaro Ishinomori's Skull Man started as a 1970's manga series, but in its 2008 anime reversioning it received a fresh coat of paint – black paint. Karl's in-depth look at the mystery and horror of the world of The Skull Man is only matched by the show's inclusion of "some werewolves and a small battalion of mechanized maniacal army clowns with flame-throwers and rocket-launchers."

The Sky Crawlers (Sub) • Karl "Uncle Yo" Custer

More recently, Karl has contributed a fascinating review of the early screening of Mamoru Oshii's The Sky Crawlers. While many fans might cringe at the slow pace of Oshii's philosophical piece, Karl takes it all in and provides a markedly intelligent commentary on the film.

Tokyo Godfathers (Sub) • Evan "Vampt Vo" Minto

I absolutely love Satoshi Kon's films, so being able to watch and review Tokyo Godfathers was an absolute treat. This review is gushing with all sorts of love for Kon's work. Of course that's natural for a movie that is gushing with so much raw emotion. This post is pretty much the antithesis to my angry Spiral review.

Manga Reviews

MW • Mitchell "MitchyD" Dyer

MitchyD joined our staff halfway through the year, and got right to work on reviewing manga. Even though he hadn't quite tried reviewing the medium before, he got off to a great start with this review of manga legend Osamu Tezuka's MW. Mitchy makes fascinating points about the sheer depravity and shock value of Tezuka's most grisly classic.

Fushigi Yuugi pt.1 • Evan "Vampt Vo" Minto

I guess I really like my bad reviews, because this is yet another one. Though many might think that Fushigi Yuugi is a classic among shojo manga (I'm looking at you, Jason Thompson), I really only found it to be an unoriginal story with no real character development or palpable drama.

Video Game Reviews

The World Ends with You (DS) • Maxwell "Pigeonflu" McGee

One of the best DS games in recent memory got what it deserved in Max's awesome review: 4 stars. Max raves for six paragraphs about the fascinating-yet-confusing plot, fantastic gameplay, and stylish presentation that make The World Ends with You one of the best games of the year. Oh, and he of course discusses his "two-player co-op mode."

Castle Crashers (XBLA) • Maxwell "Pigeonflu" McGee

Another Max-produced review, this one is about Castle Crashers, a game that made a big splash on the Xbox Live Arcade this past summer. If you haven't already downloaded this title, check out Max's fantastic review so you can be ashamed at your utter foolishness!

Left 4 Dead (360) • Mitchell "MitchyD" Dyer

Of course, Mitchy's Left 4 Dead review has to make the list, if only because Mitchy, a professional video game journalist, took time out to write his first and as of yet only video game review for Ani-Gamers. Luckily, Mitchy's honest, witty writeup is also a very entertaining look at the experience that is Left 4 Dead.

Podcast Episodes

Ani-Gamers Podcast #001 - Andy Brick Interview

Every podcast has to have its beginnings, but fortunately ours wasn't quite the trainwreck that some first episodes are. This episode has a special place in my heart because it was actually my first ever interview, as well as my first ever podcast episode. Beyond that, it's actually a pretty interesting look at the musical composition that goes on in video game design.

Ani-Gamers Podcast #003 - Fansubbing Panel w. Greg Ayres

This is where I've got to pull Scott from the Anime Almanac back into the picture, since he and I both had an outpouring of comments due to our opinions on Mr. Ayres's controversial panel. I side with Greg and Scott in that I do not support fansubs, and so I decided to post my partial recording of Greg's "Fan Subbing" panel from AnimeNEXT 2008. This is one of the most intelligent and entertaining looks at fansubbing that you will ever hear.

Feature Articles

Big Apple Anime Explosion: Anime Comes Back to NYC • Evan "Vampt Vo" Minto

StumbleUpon latched onto this article with a passion, and it literally became my defining piece, the one that drove Ani-Gamers hits through the roof. For those who still haven't checked it out, "Big Apple Anime Explosion" is all about the new opportunities for anime fans to get together and experience their hobby in New York City. I even got to speak to Kinokuniya manager John Fuller and NYAF organizer Peter Tatara in the course of my research.

See You Space Cowboy: The Legacy of Toonami • Evan "Vampt Vo" Minto

While this feature didn't receive quite as much publicity as my "Big Apple Anime Explosion" one, its still one of my favorites. A few weeks after the untimely death of Cartoon Network's Toonami programming block, I felt the need to write up a personal message, a sort of obituary for the childhood years spent watching the block. Colored with childhood experiences and stories from TOM voice actor Steve Blum, this is one of my most emotional posts.

Otakudemia: When is an anime not an anime? When it's a Gothic novel • "Ink"

Finally, this one is an article from our newest staff member: "Ink." He defined himself to Ani-Gamers readers with this groundbreaking piece that uses an academic style to examine the gothic leanings of Le Portrait de Petite Cossette.



Before I finish up, I naturally need to thank some people. First, I'd like to extend a heartfelt "Thank You" to everyone who has read this blog over the past year. Maybe you only read one article. Maybe you read all of them. Maybe you're just a podcast listener. Maybe you're one of our affiliates or blogroll members. Nevertheless, it is your support and dedication that motivates us to continue to write and record new content for you. Thank you so much for reading; rest assured we will do everything in our power to make 2009 an even better year for Ani-Gamers and its readers.

Finally, I cannot conclude this article without the most important "Thank You" of all: one that goes out to the diligent staff members at Ani-Gamers. You have been writers, podcasters, readers, and most importantly: friends. Our staff is made up of amazing people – people who never stop working to make this site a better place – and without them we would not have done nearly any of the amazing things that we did this year. So, whether you only wrote one article, or you stuck with us all year, I would like to thank each and every one of you from the bottom of my heart. Kevin A., Karl, Mitchy, "Ink," Max, Alex, Kevin O., and Jessa: here's to another great year!

Have A Very Happy 2009!