Thursday, July 17, 2014

Senran Kagura's producer thinks it'll look breast in augmented reality

First off, I haven't dropped off the face of the earth - nor have I forgotten about  Kawaiian Punch's new posting schedule.  Things got a bit wonky with Fourth of July festivities, then Germany had to go and win the World Cup and... well... here we are staring down the barrel of an amazing, breast-shaped augmented reality helmet.

Perhaps an explanation is in order....

What you're looking at is a still from a pitch-perfect parody video put together by the man behind the popular, boobacious beat 'em up Senran Kagura - Mr. Kenichiro Takaki himself.

For those unfamiliar with Senran Kagura, it's a fun - and completely fan servicey - take on the 'ol arcade style of brawler with rival schools of ninja girls fighting against one another. There's a surprisingly deep commentary on the problems with the traditional moral dichotomy of good and evil mixed into the games, but most people stop paying attention to any of that troublesome plot stuff once they realize the girls can literally knock each other's clothes off.

Anyway, in honor the release of Senran Kagura 2, Takaki-san and his team put together this amazing parody video that pokes fun at the Oculus Rift and PlayStation's Project Morpheus with a (fictional) piece of headgear dubbed the Pi Vision.

Pi, for those fortunate enough not to live on the parts of the internet that I do, is short for Oppai - which is basically the Japanese equivalent of "boobies".

What's really amazing about this video is the very fact that it exists in the first place.  Sure, it's a commercial for the upcoming 3DS brawler Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson - but it's fascinating to see how far Takaki's willing to go for a joke.

I had the honor of interviewing Kenichiro Takaki back at E3 and I was completely blown away at how incredibly grounded he was.  Sure, he worked about five Oppai-related puns into our interview (only one of which made it into the copy)... but that's just how dedicated he is to his life's purpose. He's like something of a modern day breast evangelist.

Legend has it that Takaki once tried making other games way back when, and he even found some modest success with them...but then something happened and he dedicated himself to the singular task of covering the world with boobs and nubile ninja girls.

No one's sure what exactly launched Takaki down this new path in life, but he emerged as a larger-than-life hero at the helm of the multi-million dollar Senran Kagura franchise with technology, dreams, and resources that the average man can only dream of.

He's kind of a Bruce Wayne in the first half of Batman Begins if you stop to think about it.... only, y'know, with boobs instead of bats.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Here's one Legend of Zelda hoodie you'll happily wear in public

Full disclosure: this isn't the first hoodie inspired by The Legend of Zelda that I've posted here, but I'm returning to the topic since many found the neon green hue and fun-sized plush sword of the first one to be a bit too cartoonish for their tastes.

It was fine to wear around a con, maybe, but it wasn't quite up to snuff for the sartorially minded.  Those Links-about-town looking for a more refined Zelda hoodie that was stylish enough to wear out to a bar, after-hours work function, or distant cousin's wedding were left wanting more.

Well now, they shall want no more!

What you're looking at is the side profile of Etsy crafter SixOnClothing's amazing Legend of Zelda (with SHIELD and BELTS) hoodie.  More Twilight Princess than Wind Waker in its appearance and inspiration, its subdued, forest-green hue and chocolate brown accents say, "I've rescued a princess or two in my time, but I've also got a 401K and some other boring adult things going on."

Even with its undeniable air of refinement, there are still those who might find the hoodie's shield a bit too ostentatious - so, happily, SixOnClothing offers a much more subtle plain version that still looks suitably Link-ish thanks to its windsock hood.

The downside is that the style of this Zelda hoodie comes at a price - $120 for the deluxe version (with shield and belts) and a much more modest $60 for the plain green, brown, and white version.  Both will only set you back $9.00 in shipping and require four weeks of lead time.

If you've got a few extra rupees lying around and don't mind waiting a month or so for your hoodie, this is definitely a hoodie for - and by - the discriminating Zelda fan.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Now you can build your own Hobbit house for under $2,000

Way back when, an enterprising crafter took to Etsy selling a chicken coop in the shape of a hobbit house.  This was certainly an object of geek desire... but it was only really something that those who owned chickens - or perhaps a pack of chihuahuas - would ever really lust after.

Well, now that same Etsy crafter is back - and this time they're offering a hobbit home for more than just your chickens.

What you're looking at is an incredibly cute Hobbit Hole Playhouse Kit by returning Etsy artist Hobbit Holes.

Billed as an "imaginative" playhouse that'll give "the young ones in your life a space for endless hours of creative play", this ready-to-build hobbit hole is made of locally milled wood and can feature live edge cedar clapboard roofing as an upgrade.

To be perfectly honest, I have no idea what that actually means... but I do know that it makes the roof look incredibly cool.  The inside of the hobbit hole measures a spacious 4' x 8' and the center clearance is about 56" (4'8"), making it - unfortunately - a bit too snug for most adults.

The happy side to this is that the Playhouse Kit is relatively cheap, and will only set you back $1,595.00 for the base model (plus $495 for shipping).  So, in other words, if you can justify the cost of a modest European vacation for a kid's playset, this geektastic lawn decoration is pretty much the only playhouse your kids - or vertically challenged friends - will ever need.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Who needs the Oculus? Imagination is still the best form of immersion for gaming

Recently, much of the gaming world has been going absolutely bonkers trying to figure out how the next iteration of peripherals will enhance the experience we currently enjoy on our TVs, handhelds, and smartphones.

Wearables - your smartwatches, Google Glass, etc. - are still anyone's guess, but virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift and the PS4's Project Morpheus represent an amazing area for potential player immersion.

While such headsets aren't the coolest thing you can slap on your head, they're currently able to let you make out with your favorite fantasy characters and even see what it's like to swap genders for a few minutes.

But is this really the best form of immersion that gamers can hope for?

In a sense, these headsets and the experiences imparted through them are an extension of our desire to lose ourselves in the fantasy of gaming.  Ever since the first DM arranged a special mix tape for his D&D gaming campaign, those responsible for games have employed a variety of tricks to pull players deeper into their fantasies.

The ultimate extension of this is LARPing, naturally, but even here players are still required to engage their imaginations to really bring the experience to life.

Sure, some LARPs are more elaborate in their setups than others - but no matter how cool the setting and costumes are, players (hopefully) need to make the last leap themselves and invest some belief in what they're seeing to transform the 19-year-old kid in green face paint into a menacing orc raider.

Costumes like this, however, can totally stand on their own

But when you bring a VR headset into the equation, you're disabling a player's imagination and hijacking their senses.

I've dabbled in a few of the current headsets on the market, and while they're all undeniably cool at making you feel like you're actually inside of a game - I left each hand-on (face-on?) with a lingering sense of confusion and disappointment.

At no point during the experience did I, as the player - the consumer of the game / fantasy / experience - have to work to help bring the game to life.

Back when games were limited to 16-bits or less, we had to actively imagine what was happening between the gaps in animation and narrative to get the most of out the experience - that experience has been deadened some as graphics have improved to their current capacity... but even here we still need to fill in the missing pieces that graphics and audio can't fully convey.

And this is a very good thing, since it's keeping us - the players - engaged in the processing of the game.

It doesn't matter if the game in question is a tabletop RPG or a cutting edge PS4 zombie shooter - there will always be a time where the game falls short and our imaginations are left to take over.  Whether we fill in a backstory where none exists or turn down the lights to make a Resident Evil game more terrifying, we're still taking active steps to add to what's being presented to us.

In a Rift or a Morpheus game, however, our imaginations are, paradoxically, being held at bay.  Short of the sensation of temperature changes on our skin or a taste of a kiss on our lips, there's really little that we can't experience when we're hooked up to those machines.

Time will tell if this disconnect will serve as the breaking point that keeps VR gaming from going over this time around or if people will embrace the tech for the amazing potential that it offers.

The novelty of the experiences made possible by such hardware are nothing short of staggering after all, but even those fall short of what we can accomplish when we literally put our minds to it.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Object of geek desire: crocheted Magikarp hat

Ah, Magikarp.

Ever since the Gen 1 Pokemon games, this feckless flopper sat unloved in the dusty boxes of trainers young and old.  Sure, there was the temptation to evolve it into the amazingly badass Gyarados - but one look into the derpy, dead eyes of Magikarp let you know it was going to be a very long, and very embarrassing, climb to level 20.

Thankfully, nostalgia was much kinder to Magikarp than I ever was - and he's become something of a pity mascot for the Pokemon franchise. That trend continues this week, with one of the most elaborate Object of Geek Desires to date.

What you're looking at is an incredibly detailed, hand-crocheted wool Magikarp hat.

Made by the intrepid etsy crafter Coralista, this hat can be worn just about any way you'd like - and can even swallow your head to keep you warm if you'd like.  The hat measures 20" from tail to gaping mouth, and you can even select the color of the 'karp you'd like: regular 'ol orange, or shiny yellow.

Unfortunately, the hat is a made-to-order number - which means it'll take 8-12 weeks to complete before it ships.  Thankfully this means it should be ready right in time for the fall, which is a great time to wear the 'karp out around town.

If the $250 (+$8.00 shipping) of the karp hat is a bit too rich for your blood, Coralista's got a bunch of other knit Pokemon merch available in her shop for a fraction of the price.

The knit Cubone is cute and all, but it'll never trump the unbridled majesty that you'll get with the 'karp hat.

Monday, June 23, 2014

You can thank the media for the whole sexism in Zelda debate

One of the biggest hot-button issues in modern games journalism - and, if you choose to believe it, the modern gaming scene - is the issue of gender diversity in games.

This issue simmers in the back of a great many minds, but manifests chiefly as a criticism against the lack of female playable characters in Triple A games.

For many in the press, the lack of a female playable character is akin to sexism - and they have no trouble calling attention to the problem, particularly with headline-grabbing franchises like The Legend of Zelda.

But the problem with this approach is that it seems very few people outside of the gaming press actually *care* if you can play as a female character or not - and these types of articles are, for the most part, unabashed clickbaiting.

Kotaku is by far one of the chief offenders in this department - and this past E3, they asked Legend of Zelda game designer Eiji Aonuma repeatedly (to whit, twice in the same interview) why the series hasn't had a female playable main hero in its 25-year history.  Aonuma's shut-down of the reporter is pretty awesome, but there's a deeper issue at play here.

It turns out not every girl wants to play as a fem-Link.

Shocking, I know

I came across many of these female gamers during my time at E3, and one - at Nintendo's official booth - had the most compelling argument against the knee-jerk "make Link a girl!" speculation that followed the teaser for the Wii U open world Zelda.

The girl in question - I'll call her Kate -  was in charge of demos for Hyrule Warriors at the Wii U I was lined up on, and it was plain from hearing her talk to the press that this girl knew the ins and outs of the Zelda universe like the back of her hand (which, incidentally, had a pretty sweet tri-force tattoo on it).

When I got up to Kate, I complimented her on her Zelda tattoo - showed her my own - and she happily showed off another of hers - this time, the Hylian Crest on her shoulder blades.  This girl wasn't just a Zelda demonstrator hired by Nintendo, she was a life-long Zelda fanatic.

I knew a bit about Hyrule Warriors from the press coverage before the event, and so my enthusiasm to play the game made me ignore the first part of her pitch.  Without thinking, I selected Princess Zelda as my character.

"Wait, you don't want to play as Link?" Kate asked.

"Nah - I've played as Link before," I began.

"I've never played as Zelda before and I like that this game lets me play as a girl."  Not that I expect Kate reads Kawaiian Punch, but this is in-line with my odd preference for gender escapism in games.

A brief, awkward silence followed as I began to plow through fields of moblins with Zelda's graceful rapier work, so I turned the conversation back around.

"Who would you want to play as?"

"Oh, that's easy." Kate began.  "Link. No question.  It's not a Zelda game without Link as the hero."

At this point, I opened my mouth to ask about her opinion on the Wii U speculation - but couldn't even draw a breath before she continued on.

"And did you hear that people think that Link in the trailer for the new game might actually be a girl?  That would be so lame!"

Intrigued, I looked away from the screen in front of me to see if she was kidding.

"You wouldn't want to play as a female lead in a Zelda game?"

"Absolutely not," Kate replied.

"It wouldn't be a Zelda game if I couldn't play as Link rescuing Princess Zelda."

I nodded at her opinion and went back to button-mashing my way through the beautiful world of Hyrule Warriors.  Kate had given me a lot to think about.

Walking around the rest of E3, and chatting with peers at events after-hours, it became abundantly clear that not many people outside of the gaming press were pulling for a new Zelda game that starred Zelda over Link.

This isn't to say that such opinions don't exist - some people have gone above and beyond to make Zelda games more appealing to female players - but the vehemence mustered by western gaming press (of which I was formerly a member) seems very much out of step with the fan perception of the games.

Admittedly, my retelling of my conversation with Kate (and others at the conference) is a bit of compelling anecdotal evidence - and the plural of anecdote is not, and will never be, data... but this criticism cuts against the gaming press as well.

A handful of articles taking non-western developers to task for not casting strong, empowered female leads in their games does not mean the entirety of the game-playing public wants the same thing.

Sometimes, it's best to not fix what isn't broken - chances are good that fans of both genders enjoy the games for what they are.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Kawaiian Punch is back, has not yet reached its final form

After nearly two weeks away from the site, I'm happy to announce that I survived E3 and - as promised - I've returned to announce a major change to Kawaiian Punch.

The long and short of it is that I've accepted a new position in the gaming industry that has me doing legitimate work - like, in an office and everything!  This is a marked change from the blessed freelancer status I've been "enjoying" for the past three-and-a-half years, and it also means that I'm, fortunately, going to have less time to write here.

What's that, you say - shouldn't that be unfortunately?

Nope.  Because now I'll have to focus on quality over quantity.

At some point in the past, it became readily apparent that my usual long-form posts would be unsustainable on a daily basis, and the site slowly turned into another geek news aggregator where I put a new spin on any 'ol story that caught my eye simply because I felt guilty leaving the site fallow for a day or two.

Now that I'm forced to step away from daily updates due to z0mgDREAMJOB commitments, I can finally turn the good ship Kawaiian Punch around.

There will be some changes, of course.

For starters, I'll be switching away from daily updates to much more sane biweekly (twice a week) updates - one on Monday, which will generally be longer in form, and the other on Thursday which'll be your garden variety Object of Geek Desire installment.

The end result of all of this will be a fresh, new Kawaiian Punch that'll offer content, views, opinions, and - hell - maybe even exclusive interviews on a more laid-back schedule.

I'll still pop in to post the occasional lulz pic on the KP Facebook page just to let you know that I'm still alive and well and... well, that's about it for site news.  Look forward to the first KP 2.0 post on Monday!