Friday, November 11, 2016

A Retrospective Look at the Nintendo Wii U, Part Two: Double Your Screens, Double Your Fun

The other day, I posted part one of a retrospective about Nintendo's Wii U, the home console that is scheduled to be replaced by the Switch console in March 2017. In the first part, I examined where the Wii U fits in the long history of video game entertain, specifically in the genre of games that provide unique controllers and control schemes to engage players in new ways. In this part, I'll be looking at what I enjoy the most about the Wii U's signature GamePad controller and what it has contributed to the home console gaming experience, as well as what I hope the Switch will continue from the Wii and the Wii U. Read on ...

Sunday, November 6, 2016

A Retrospective Look at the Nintendo Wii U, Part One: Video Gaming in (Wii)Motion

Last month, Nintendo finally released details about its next gaming console, the Switch. Previously referred to by the press as the NX, the Nintendo Switch will replace the Wii U as Nintendo's flagship home console when it becomes available for purchase in March.

By now, I've lost track of how many times magazines, newspapers, blogs and fan posts have declared the Wii U to be a failure as a console, both in terms of total sales and entertainment value. Yet as a long-time video game geek, I'm happy to say that the Wii U is the best console that I've ever had in terms of providing satisfying and memorable video game experiences. Sure, Nintendo dropped the ball in terms of marketing the Wii U and it should have provided more games that effectively utilized its main feature--the GamePad controller--but overall I can't complain about it one bit (no pun intended).

As a sequel system to the Wii, Wii U took everything that worked about its immediate predecessor and added to it in order to create a unique console that does things that others can't. Click below to the first part of this retrospective, which traces the strengths of the Wii U back to the era of arcade coin-ops. Part two will look at the best of what the Wii U had to offer with its unique GamePad controller and what will hopefully be transitioned from Wii U to Switch.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Great Moments in Halloween Mask History: The Syngenor

Being a lifetime horror and sci-fi geek, I've lost count of how many times I've seen tie-in merchandise items that are made in the image of characters from popular comic books, movies, TV shows and video games. Yet every now and then, a piece of licensed merchandise becomes more recognizable and enduring than the media property from which it originated. Case in point: the Syngenor mask, a monster mask that has made regular appearances in Halloween costume catalogs since the 1980s and can still be found in some costume shops.

When I was younger, I had seen this mask appear a number of times in catalogs and in geek-centric magazines such as Fangoria and Starlog, so I assumed for years that it was just one of the generic monster masks that mask companies produce that had no connection to anything other than Halloween and other costuming events. Little did I know that the Syngenor was in fact a movie monster ... just not a very popular one. Read on for details about this pop culture oddity, a licensed mask that took on a commercial life of its own outside of its point of cinematic origin.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

A Look at the Batman '66 Comic Book Series

With the upcoming animated film Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders scheduled for release later this month, I thought that I would prepare myself by reading Batman '66, the most recent incarnation of the Adam West and Burt Ward TV series that ran from 1966 to 1968. For those of you who don't know, Batman '66 told all new stories that were set in the Batman universe as it was depicted in the '60s live action Batman TV show, and its publication as a regular comic book series ran from 2013 to 2015. I borrowed a few trade paperbacks from a buddy of mine to see how well this comic book captures the campy humor and outlandish plots from the original TV show, and I'm happy to say that the talent behind the comic book do justice to the source material. Read on ...

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Transformers and Micronauts, Together Again

In the current era of shared universes that was popularized by Marvel's blockbuster movies and their spin-off TV shows, it seems that every major media company is finding ways to shove multiple franchises into a single narrative setting to increase their collective profitability. Multiple shared universe movies are currently in development, and a few titles in the toys-to-life genre of video games used shared universes as a way to mix and match characters, vehicles and settings from different franchises. Even comic books are getting into the act, which brings me to the topic of this post: IDW publishing is launching a set of comic book series under the umbrella title of Revolution, a title that brings together several toy lines that are owned by Hasbro into a single shared universe. Stories in the Revolution title will consist of characters from G.I. Joe, Transformers, Action Man, M.A.S.K., Rom, Micronauts, and possibly others.

On the surface, IDW's Revolution title is just another attempt to hop on the shared universe bandwagon (see also the Future Quest comic book series by DC). But for Japanese toy robot enthusiasts like me, Revolution marks the semi-reunion of a toy line that was imported from Japan and repackaged into two separate lines in the U.S. during the '70s and '80s: Micronauts and Transformers. Mego imported the original Microman toy line from Japan and sold it under the name Micronauts between 1976 and 1980. The New Microman toy line ran in Japan from 1981 to 1984, and Hasbro imported some of the Microman "Micro Change" robot figures for use in the Transformers toy line, which also consisted of imported toys from Japan's Diaclone line. As the name "micro" suggests, the Microman toys that appeared in the original Transformers line were those that transformed into smaller objects (e.g., hand guns, tape recorders, cassette tapes, cameras, microscopes, etc.) while the Diaclone toys were those that transformed into larger objects (e.g. cars, trucks, airplanes, etc.).

Above and below: The Micro Change robots as they were originally advertised as part of the Microman toy line.

Since the Revolution title has been launched with the obvious intent to promote Hasbro toys, I doubt that its stories will do anything to reference and utilize the shared origin of Micronauts and Transformers. Nevertheless, if I were in charge, I'd mash together Microman, Diaclone and Transformers with a few other similarly-themed Japanese robot toys lines (such as Machine Robo and Zoids) to produce a series of video games, manga and anime titles along the lines of Super Robot Wars, a Japanese shared universe franchise that began in 1991 and still runs to this day. A nerd can dream ....

A cutaway diagram of one of Mircoman's pre-Transformers Micro Change Robots.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Killer Kids Double Feature Review: Cooties (2014) and Sinister 2 (2015)

The killer kids trope has long served as the go-to narrative device for whenever horror story tellers really want to disturb audiences. (Sure, monsters, ghost and maniacs can be scary, but precious little children? That's inconceivable!) Yet like any other trope, there are ways that it can be used for maximum effect and ways that devoid it of shock. The films I'll be looking at in this review, Cooties and Sinister 2, fall into the latter category but for very different reasons: one could not come up with enough material to support the trope, while the other laid out the trope so explicitly in its dialog that it lost any capacity to surprise or scare. Read on for my complete reviews (with spoilers ahead for those who have not seen the first Sinister movie).

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Photograph the Angry Spirits of Rougetsu Island in Fatal Frame 4: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse

I finally did it--I made it to the end of Fatal Frame 4: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse, the game that was released exclusively in Japan in 2008 for the Nintendo Wii. Just getting my hands on this game alone was a chore (you can read about that effort here), so finally finishing it feels like quite an accomplishment in my video game geek-ified mind. Personal obsessions aside, Fatal Frame 4 (or FF4) is an impressive game in its own right and a great addition to the Fatal Frame series. Read on for my complete review.