Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Handmade Indiana Jones Father's Day Gift Guide

Father's Day is a little over two weeks away, loyal readers, and that means it's high time for another geek-themed holiday gift guide!

The association of Father's Day with the Indiana Jones trilogy is a natural one. Both celebrate the quintessence of manliness, and most children grow up secretly picturing their father beating the snot out of Nazis like it was his job (I can't be the only one).

Further, what other trilogy celebrates the nuanced relationship between father and child better than Indiana Jones? Star Wars, I suppose, but a series glorifying near-fratricide is a bit of a hard sell to Hallmark... but that's besides the point. You've got a few days left to find a super-special gift for your father, so take a leap of faith and see what your friend at Kawaiian Punch has dug up!

The Indiana Jones Man Purse

Price: $120
I would personally would have chosen "stachel", "adventure bag", or "sankara stone holder" but hey, Man Purse works too. While this item delivers exactly what the description promises, I think you'd be better served buying your father an honest-to-metro murse or a courier bag that looks closer to what Indy had strapped across his glistening, manly pecs.

Creepy-As-Hell Framed Grail Knight Print
Price: $35.00
Some fathers are fans of the more minor characters from a movie franchise (if your dad prefers Boba Fett to Darth Vader, he falls into this category). For the discriminating Indiana Jones fan of a father, there's a highly stylized-and highly creepy!- framed print of the feeble Grail Knight
from Last Crusade, a minor character who would deliver some of the more memorable lines from the film and go on to star in a Last Crusade-inspired Diet Coke commercial.

Random aside: am I the only person who wondered where this dude slept and peed? That chamber across the bridge with all the false grails wasn't exactly what I'd call spacious...

Crystal Skull Miniskirt
Price: ~$40.00
Some of us have fathers whose tastes are a little... less traditional. For these intrepid crossdressing souls, there's the Indiana Jones Mini Skirt. While some may balk at the idea of buying their father a skirt for Father's Day this is, as it turns out, far less offensive than buying your father a piece of merchandise that acknowledges the existence of a fourth Indiana Jones movie.

Indiana Jones Custom Print
Price: $15
I don't have the data to back this up, but I'm sure there's a demographic of fathers out there who own Boston Terriers and who appreciate the Indiana Jones trilogy. For those very fathers- and for the proud alumni of Boston University who love them some Indiana Jones- there's the Boston Terrier Raiders of the Lost Bark print. Sure, it kinda looks like the dog in question is actually wearing a ghostbuster's jump suit under a leather jacket... but I still rather like this print.

Indiana Jones Novelty Dog Hat
Price: $5
Assuming that the canine/Indiana Jones fan demographic is bigger than I thought, there's not a father out there who wouldn't love to dress up man's best friend as his favorite action hero. Indy himself was a professed dog lover (where do you think his nickname came from?), and besides... it really isn't the weirdest piece of dog-related Indiana Jones swag that I found on Etsy. For $5.00, it's worth the gag gift.

Authentic Leather Bullwhip
Price: $280
There is no better gift for the serious Indiana Jones fan of a father short of a leather jacket and fedora (which, Harrison Ford willing, he already has.) Further, nothing screams out "I love you, Dad!" and "I'll drive you the hospital after you take out your eye!" quite like this gift does.

(Also, as a bonus for the morbidly curious, the banner image is a 5x5 Indiana Jones custom print, available for $15.00. Because... haven't we all envisioned Indy riding a bicycle that had snakes for tires at some point in our lives?)

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Increase your hipster points with a doujin Final Fantasy Tactics Advance album

Doujin video game albums are guilty pleasure of mine. When a group of talented musicians and composers come together to let their hair down and release a relaxed interpretation of their already famous work, the results are often incredible.

The Final Fantasy XI themed group of The Star Onions is a shining example of what a doujin with a purpose can do, as it boasts two of the game's original composers in its roster (Naoshi Mizuta on bass and Kumi Tanioka on piano) and showcases their remarkable musical range.

I was listening to Final Fantasy Radio over the weekend when I heard an unfamiliar doujin arrangement of a familiar melody. Sensing that the song was almost over, I rushed over to my iPhone and saw that it came from an album from nine years ago dedicated to Final Fantasy Tactics Advance that I somehow missed hearing about until now...

I'm ashamed to admit that it took me a minute to place the melody itself, as the track it was remixing consistently ranks as one of the best video game tracks of all time:

After procuring the album in question, White - Melodies of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, the whole thing comes off as a solid "meh +" with Beyond the Wasteland being the standalone best song from the album. The rest of the arrangements are a bit too new agey and ambient, but it makes great background music to study or zone out too.

Best of all, the album can be downloaded its entirety for free by clicking here. If, for some reason, you feel like purchasing it, you can shell out $35.00 here and keep your morals in tact.

So download or purchase today, and increase your videogame hipster cred exponentially! Don't say I never did anything nice for you...
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Apple and Microsoft get the manga treatment

In terms of characters, few writers could ask for better protagonists than Apple and Microsoft. At times friends, often rivals, their checkered relationship over the past thirty years is the rich sort of backstory one would expect from the most profound of British televised dramas.

But have you ever wondered what Apple and Microsoft would look like as anime characters? If so, you're in luck!

Is it me, or does it look Microsoft look like he has some seriously jacked shoulders under that coat?

The above image hit the Japanese twitterverse over the weekend and became immensely popular shortly thereafter. Drawn by doujin artist Kuro Takatsuki, this picture acts as a hypothetical framework for what a buddy comedy starring Apple and Microsoft would look like on the pages of a manga.

Tech companies have been personified as anime characters before, mind you, but there's something compelling in the Takatsuki's design of the two characters that skips over the predictably hokey Perfect Strangers relationship that has come to define the Apple and Microsoft's relationship as of late and makes them look similar to one another, yet profoundly different. In short, it makes them look interesting.

Here are translations of the notes that Takatsuki wrote next to each character:
(thanks to Rocket24news for the translation!)

Apple:“Difficult to tell his age by his looks”
“High aesthetic values and a strong sense of pride”
“Has a lot of influence in the graphic design industry”
“Kind to newcomers but hates having to give detailed explanations”
“Thinks out of the box”
“Usually drinks a lot of coffee so prefers decaf”

“Friendly and has a wide variety of interests”
“Has more friends than he can count”
“While he’ll help you out with whatever you need, get on his bad side once and the friendship may be difficult to reboot.”
“Likes dolphins”
“Loves Starbucks drip coffee (dark roast)”

I never would have thought that Microsoft likes dolphins, but it makes some sense given his rational fear all things penguin...
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Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day round-up!

This is a moment of fail that old school gamers know all too well

It's Memorial Day here in the United States, which means that it is high time to sit outside, barbecue, and reflect on the sacrifices made by those who helped keep our country as free and kickass as humanly possible.

If by some mischance you're stuck at work today- or are simply looking for an excuse to indulge your inner geek while hiding from family or local parades full of small town Americana- your pal at Kawaiian Punch is here to provide some distractions for you on this most memorial of days!

First up is a video that made its way around the internet last week. A high school student gives the iconic first level of Super Mario Brothers the stop motion animation treatment with paper cutouts and an eye for design. Extra geek point challenge: see if you can spot the two mistakes he made in the otherwise flawless papercraft video...

If stop motion Super Mario Brothers doesn't tickle your fancy, perhaps a free video game soundtrack will. Released in 2008 and acclaimed as one of the best modern puzzle games (indie or otherwise), World of Goo is a product of the mad collaborative genius of Kyle Gabler and Ron Carmel. Gabler also provided the score for the game (available for free here) which ranks as one of my personal favorite game soundtracks of all time.

I almost almost convinced my wife that we should walk down the isle to this song...

...bu we eventually compromised and chose a piano arrangement of Final Fantasy VIII's Eyes on Me instead. Life, and weddings, are all about your geeky compromises.

Interesting aside about the above video: Kyle Gabler wrote that song as a joke send-up of early 1990s club music and recycled it for World of Goo. It has since become the most requested track from that game (despite appearing in only one level), much to his chagrin and amusement.
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Friday, May 25, 2012

Gram of Thrones: making Westeros a little more hipster

The success of the HBO series Game of Thrones has caused no end of grief for hardcore medieval fantasy geeks. What was once a series of impenetrably thick books read only by the most dedicated of recluses became a bit of hip cultural capital overnight- a show loved equally by geek and bro.

Now that the inevitable marketing tie-ins are beginning to cash in on the show's popularity (a House Stark babydoll t-shirt? Why not!), the grief of the once-insular fanbase of the books is all but palpable.

Still, these fans shouldn't be upset. If it wasn't for Game of Thrones on HBO, we'd never have the hilarity that is the Gram of Thrones tumblr feed.

The stark Starks look best without any filters...

Focused on the hipstarization of Game of Thrones, Gram of Thrones takes the most photo worthy moments from the show and gives them the Instagram treatment. In doing so, the characters become less abstract and are more easy to relate to from the mundane real world.

An off-scene look by Petyr Baelish, for example, looks eerily familiar to a friend's Facebook profile picture when viewed through the Earlybird filter. And who hasn't rolled their eyes at a friend's wedding picture that looks curiously like Cersei in sepia?

Whether the intent of Gram of Thrones is to poke fun at Instagram narcissists, fairweather Game of Thrones fans (winter is coming, bitches!), or just to have a good bit of fun- it's certainly worth perusing during the upcoming break between seasons 2 and 3.
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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Knights of Badassdom has a great trailer, still no release date

Last summer, I began to get excited over the incredibly geeky news buzzing around Knights of Badassdom- and with good reason. It's a movie with a huge and talented cast that takes place in a medieval fantasy (LARP) world and actually looks funny.

In short, it's pretty much everything Your Highness should have been...

So Tyrion Lannister, Jason Stackhouse, and Abed walk into the woods...

...but unfortunately, it's still lacking a solid release date and "Spring 2012" is damn near over. The movie's Facebook page is curiously silent about this point and other details, as is its main webpage- so it's up your friend here at Kawaiian Punch to fill you in on what the movie's about!

Start by taking the actor who plays the cool dwarf from Game of Thrones (Peter Dinklage), add True Blood's Jason Stackhouse (Ryan Kwanten), mix liberally with Firefly's River Tam (geek goddess Summer Glau), add a dash of Deadwood's Dan Dority (W. Earl Brown), and finally, finish with Abed from Community (Danny Pudi). Also, they're all LARPers who accidentally summon a real demon - a succubus, no less! - and have to put things right before they all die in a horribly icky fashion.

Still not convinced this is the movie for you? Check on the trailer below:

Peter Dinklage is reason enough to see this movie, but the production values and humor look equally compelling. If they had found a way to work Ken Jeong into this, it would pretty much be a lock for best picture of the year.

...assuming that it gets released in 2012, that is.
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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Take pictures with a life-sized Hatsune Miku via augmented reality

Augmented reality is a feature that game developers just don't know what to do with. Still at its infancy in this generation of handheld consoles, the technology has yet to really improve gameplay in any major way (ref: Spirit Camera) and has mainly been used as a gimmicky way to project game characters onto coffee tables and computer desks.

Thankfully for Hatsune Miku, she's cute enough that such gimmicks can be forgiven. At least, in the miniature chibi form; but what will happen when fans have the ability to superimpose life-sized images of Hatsune Miku over pictures taken with their PS Vitas?

The world is about to find out...

The augmented reality in the 3DS rhythm game Project Mirai is pretty darn cute.

The latest issue of Famitsu (via Anime News Network) shows a few examples of the new AR photography available in upcoming PS Vita title Hatsune Miku Project Diva F. Although the page scans are a bit distorted, you should be able to make out a recumbent Miku lounging on a bed, a surprised looking Miku in a kitchen, and Miku sharing an umbrella with a lucky fan.

Projecting an image of Hatsune Miku on your bed... did anyone really think this would be a good idea?

While it's easy to see the appeal of this feature (hello new Facebook profile pic!), one can only shudder at the eventual abuse it will receive.

It is unlikely that Project Diva F will ever be officially released in the west, but it will be far easier to import and play on a PS Vita than Hatsune Miku and Future Stars Project Mirai currently is on the 3DS thanks to the Vita not being region locked.

So if you've always wanted to score a pic of you and Hatsune Miku enjoying a tender moment in the rain but lacked the photoshop abilities to make it happen, you may want to take out a small bank loan and pre-order a copy of Project Diva F today.
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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Harry Potter fans flood England with unwanted owls

I hope that I can be forgiven for being in a Harry Potter frame of mind after yesterday's post, although it seems I might have overstated the zeal with which fans are keeping up with their Harry Potter fandom...

...and by fandom, I really mean "pet owls" because Harry Potter fans are growing quite sick of having owls as pets and are now inundating British bird sanctuaries with scores of the poor, unwanted avians.

No doubt memes like this also contributed to the pet owl fad.

At the (hor)crux of the matter is the fact that owls make terrible pets, no matter how adorable and helpful they might appear in the books and movies. Yet during the decade of unbridled Pottermania, fans ignored the fact that the nocturnal avians would rather remove a stray finger or unguarded eyeball than deliver the mail and began paying top galleon dollar to secure one as a trendy housepet.

After the novelty of owning an owl wears off and the reality of dealing with piles of owl pellets sets in, fans became eager to dispose of their once-beloved Hedwigs and Pigwidgeons.

Speaking on behalf of The Owlcenter in Carwen, Wales, one Miss Pam Toothill summarizes this fad perfectly, "People saw Harry's owl in the movies and thought how cute and cuddly they looked. Now they are bored and fed-up with all the work involved looking after an owl..."

In addition to having a name perfect for an adjunct professor at Hogwarts, Ms. Toothill also happens to have a very good point: owls require a lot of work, a lot of mice, and a lot of ice cream* to be content and happy. There's a very good reason why more people didn't have owls as pets before the movies, and it probably wasn't because of their well-documented plans to kill Simon Cowell:

*- Or so I assume. I am not (and never claimed to be) an owlologist, so you may want to check wikipedia on that one.
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Monday, May 21, 2012

Auror's Tale: A Harry Potter fan film worth getting excited over

By all accounts, the momentum behind Harry Potter fandom is still going quite strong. Many expected it to fizzle after the release of Deathly Hallows Part II, but that prognostication failed to take into account the decade of fan-created projects and the debut of Pottermore.

With the last book written and the last movie screened, Harry Potter fans now have something else to look forward to: Auror's Tale, a fanfilm written by and for adults set in the gritty underworld of New York City... and it looks pretty awesome.

This is the wizard equivalent of holding your gun sideways before you shoot someone

Auror's Tale is a new, darker take on the young adult lit universe of Harry Potter and is immediately distinguished by its artistic eye and substantial production values. Helmed by Leo Kei Angelos, Auror's Tale is set to release in 10 episodes beginning in the summer.

In an effort to avoid JK Rowling's legal team, Angelos and his company aren't looking to make any money off of the series... so Auror's Tale will be free for as long as it's allowed to run online.

Set in Manhattan, the story follows Hawthorne an Auror who joins New York City's Department of Magical Law Enforcement. Shortly after joining up with the DMLE (New York's... Magicalist?) he runs afoul of the Hellhounds- a gang of depraved wizards who are using magic to control the world of organized crime in the four boroughs because- presumably no wizard, dark or otherwise, would ever go to Staten Island.

Ok, so I made that last part up... although I haven't seen anything to suggest that they're filming in Staten Island. Anyway, here's the teaser trailer:

Despite how incredible it looks (and it looks pretty incredible!), I can't help but think it looks like Harry Potter meets Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels with a bit of Kindred: The Embraced thrown in for good measure. Maybe it's the roof-top, pre-dawn fight scenes or the fact that I've always wanted that show to come back in a less Aaron Spelling-y sort of way.

Vampires were so much cooler in the early 90s...
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Friday, May 18, 2012

The newest Vocaloid Mayu is here to break hearts, chop off heads

If you've always liked Hatsune Miku but wished that she was a bit more of a mentally unstable, axe-wielding goth lolita than you're in luck! Mayu is the very Vocaloid you've been waiting for!

I wasn't kidding about that axe-wielding thing...

Earlier this month Exit Tunes announced that Mayu would be their new Vocaloid character (Vocaloid3, technically) at the all-caps EXIT TUNES ACADEMY event. Although she's not quite ready for production yet, Exit Tunes is confident that Mayu will find a strong fanbase thanks to her design and rich voicebank.

In terms of her appearance, Mayu is a unapologetically GothLoli from the black corset-y dress to the plushy rabbit sidekick. As far as fetishwear for a Vocaloid is concerned, Mayu's style is actually quite understated... although that vinyl record headpiece is a bit much.

Exit Tunes has admitted that Mayu's appearance and personality are based on the yandere anime character stereotype (think Belarus from Hetalia) which means that in addition to looking a bit like a destructive mental case, she'll actually be a destructive, obsessive, and deranged mental case.

While this may turn off a few fans, there's something to be said for a girl who wears all of her crazy out in the open!

Mayu's vocals are a bit deeper than Hatsune Miku or Kagamine Rin but more youthful sounding than Megurine Luka. The end result is a richer voice that sounds appropriately breathy at points:

Given her appearance, I was expecting something more shrill and grating but I like where Exit Tunes is going with her voice.

...I just wish they chose a character design that would be less likely to have me stopped by airport security next time I decide to leave the country.
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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Which Final Fantasy Spin-Off Is Right For You? Theatrhythm Edition

The Final Fantasy spin-off retrospective concludes today with the soon-to-be-released (outside of Japan) Nintendo 3DS rhythm game Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy.

At its core, Theatrhythm is a game created to pay homage to the rich and beautiful music that has helped make the Final Fantasy so memorable. While most of the tracks on Theatrhythm are from the musical genius Nobuo Uematsu, lesser known composers like Masashi Hamauzu (FFXIII), Hitoshi Sakimoto (FFXII), and Naoshi Mizuta (FFXI) are represented as well.

If you ever wanted to Final Fantasy up your Guitar Hero experience, pre-order Theatrhythm today and start counting down the days until July 3rd or July 6th for you European readers.

(Warning: Many a spoiler follows below!)

The Basic Plot: Chaos and Cosmos are duking it out once again... this time with music!

The More Elaborate Plot: Similar to the plot of Dissidia/Dissidia 012 the gods Chaos and Cosmos are locked in a conflict and recruit champions for help. The distance, or Rhythm, between the gods is being disrupted by Chaos who has his sites set on smashing a magical, sentient crystal that is responsible for giving birth to all the music in the world.

Cosmos, apparently a huge fan of Uematsu and music in general, has once again called on her heroes for help to prevent this creative catastrophe from occurring. Unlike the conflict of Dissidia, where the gods asked their champions to fly hundreds of feet in the air while smashing each other's faces in, the heroes of Cosmos must strengthen the wave of harmony ("Rhythpo") to restore balance and make the crystal shine again.

There's really no dancing around it: the plot for this game is every bit as terrible and contrived as it was in Dissidia, but at least it is responsible for setting up adorable chibi gameplay that involves characters, music, and elements of every game from the franchise's past...

What The Game Was Supposed To Look Like / What It Really Looked Liked:

You’re A Hero Because: You have again been summoned from your game world by Cosmos to help save the world from the certain destruction. There's no word on what your hero's reaction to his or her chibi-fication is, however...

The Villain Is A Dick Because: He hates music,
apparently... which is quite odd, as Chaos/Keith David can really carry a tune!

You Need To Stop Him/Her, Or Else: The world as you know it will cease to exist, magical crystals will be destroyed, etc. etc.

Notable Additions To The Franchise: First Final Fantasy title released specifically for the Nintendo 3DS, first rhythm game in the history of the franchise as well as the first game to place the music at the center of the gameplay experience (although, a case can be made for Final Fantasy VI...)

This Game Is Perfect For:
Music nerds who also happen to love them some Final Fantasy, anyone who has gone to (or dreamed of going to) a Distant Worlds concert.
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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Which Final Fantasy Spin-Off Is Right For You? Four Heroes of Light Edition

The Final Fantasy spin-off retrospective chugs along today, this time with the 2010 Nintendo DS game Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light.

Less of a spin-off and more of a reboot of the series proper, this game takes the plot of Final Fantasy I-III and mixes in a few sprinkles of old school punishing game play and a restrictive inventory system to add to the charm/challenge. The story follows the 4 heroes of light as they fight to rid the world of evil demonic forces. Along the way, Satan turns someone into a parrot and your hero is turned into a plant. Clearly, some liberties were taken with the plot of this reboot...

(Warning: Many a spoiler follows below!)

The Basic Plot: At the ripe old age of 14, you present yourself to the king as part of a coming-of-age ceremony. When you arrive, said king tasks you with rescuing his kidnapped daughter. This routine task kicks off a string of hilarious misadventures that ultimately culminates in a battle with the prince of darkness himeslf.

The More Elaborate Plot: Chaos - the original and recurring baddie from many a Final Fantasy game - came into existence 300 years before the story of The 4 Heroes of Light began and fostered darkness in the hearts of men. This pissed off the great dragons of the realm, who apparently had other plans for the hearts of men, so they sent Chaos and his demon army packing.

285 years later, Chaos slips his imprisonment and the king's hero Garland Rolan is sent to stop the force of darkness but is instead corrupted by it. No one really notices or cares until you come along but by then they have bigger problems to deal with by then. Namely: a witch who kidnaps the princess, a rogue minotaur, Satan (who turns the king into a parrot a la Super Mario Brothers 3 and takes his place on the throne), a curse which turns the people of the entire kingdom to stone, a gang of pirates, a trapped treasure chest that turns the princess into a cat, judgmental and disappointed dragons, an army of demons, and- finally- a time loop.

It's small wonder that your characters have a hankering to kick Chaos's ass at the end of all of this...

What The Game Was Supposed To Look Like / What It Really Looked Liked:

You’re A Hero Because: Just after hitting puberty, you stumble into the wrong place at the wrong time and are immediately recognized by a grief-stricken king to be the very hero who can save his daughter. In reality, the monarch is Satan in disguise and he is sending you on a false quest to further his own goals. So, about that whole "hero" thing...

The Villain Is A Dick Because: He wears a jaunty top hat and exists only to tempt mankind into darkness and evil. Also, he commands Beelzebub, Belphegor, Mammon, and Lucifer which when combined with his outfit pretty much makes him the grand-daddy of all things fashionable and evil.

You Need To Stop Him/Her, Or Else: For once, the world as you know it will not be destroyed...

...but the souls of everyone in it will belong to Chaos. No word on what will happen to the legendary crystals, but you can safely assume they'll probably be toast.

Notable Additions To The Franchise: A punishingly restrictive inventory management system, 4-player Wireless co-op mode.

This Game Is Perfect For:
Those who love reboots of previously successful franchises, fans of old school Final Fantasy gameplay, plot, and difficulty.
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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Which Final Fantasy Spin-Off Is Right For You? Dissidia Edition

The Final Fantasy spin-off retrospective continues today, this time with the 2009 PlayStation Portable three-axis fighter, Dissidia: Final Fantasy.
The very apogee of fan service, Dissidia allows Final Fantasy fans to settle long-standing hypothetical forum debates such as "Who would win in a fight, Tidus or Squall?" or "Which villainess's cleavage would bounce more when hit with an Omnislash: Ultimecia or Cloud of Darkness?" While the plot and cutscene dialog in the game are both downright laughable, the fighting mechanics, animation, music, and gameplay are not to be missed!
(Warning: Many a spoiler follows below!)

The Basic Plot: Two rival gods, Chaos and Cosmos are locked in a stalemate for supremacy over the world. In order for each to gain the upper hand, they summon heroes and villains from other Final Fantasy games to fight for them.

The More Elaborate Plot: Taking a nod from the plot of the original Final Fantasy, the stalemate that the two gods are locked in is less of a conflict and more of a time loop. This conflict has happened twelve times prior to the events of Dissidia and in each one Chaos has whooped up on Cosmos despite the best efforts of her chosen heroes.

In the 13th cycle, Cosmos sacrifices herself to give her heroes (everyone from Final Fantasy I's The Warrior of Light to Final Fantasy XI's Professor Shantotto) an extra boost to their own powers and something to fight for. The ploy works, the heroes overcome Chaos, and the cycle is finally broken... does anyone really care about the plot of fighting games anyway? Just watch the opening cinematic and you'll want to play the hell out of it!

What The Game Was Supposed To Look Like / What It Really Looked Liked:

You’re A Hero Because: You were dragged into this conflict of the gods against your will. You were a hero in your own world, but after arriving in the world of Dissidia your memories were conveniently wiped clean. After adjusting to your amnesia, you decided it was best to fight for the cute goddess in the clingy dress.

The Villain Is A Dick Because: It isn't spelled out specifically in Dissidia, but in its sequel (prequel?) Dissidia 012: Duodecim it is revealed that he is an experimental creation gone horribly wrong (a la Final Fantasy VII's Sephiroth). Chaos is ultimately redeemed as a villain not by a rich and compelling backstory, but by the badass voice acting of Keith David.

You Need To Stop Him/Her, Or Else: The world as you know it will be judged guilty by the raging god Chaos and destroyed... just like it was the previous 12 times this cycle has played itself out. So really, there's not too much pressure to succeed: if you screw up, there's always the 14th cycle!

Notable Additions To The Franchise: The first Final Fantasy title to combine characters from multiple games, the first Final Fantasy game to adopt the Kingdom Hearts ground-to-air fighting engine

Best Version Available:
There's actually no reason to own Dissidia since it's sequel, Dissidia 012: Duodecim forces you to play through the original game's single-player campaign anyway.

This Game Is Perfect For:
Hardcore Final Fantasy fans, hardcore fighting fans, people who enjoy knocking their opponents 300 feet in the air and beating their faces into ruin with a dizzying string of physics-defying attacks.
Read more ...

Monday, May 14, 2012

Which Final Fantasy Spin-Off Is Right For You? Chocobo Tales Edition

The Final Fantasy spin-off retrospective series continues today with the 2007 Nintendo DS release of Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales.

More of a collection of minigames (microgames?) than a proper game itself, Chocobo Tales is full of cute nods to some of the most popular characters and enemies from the franchise's past. Adorable chocobos gambol about in pop-up storybooks with cactuars, bombs, tonberries, Ifrit, Shiva, and others while you try not smash your DS out of frustration with the game's merciless difficulty level.

(Warning: Many a spoiler follows below!)

The Basic Plot: Your black mage friend finds a foreboding book and accidentally releases a dark demonic force into the fairy tale world of the game. Your fellow chocobos are sucked into the book and it's up to you- the only remaining free chocobo- to go rescue your friends.

The More Elaborate Plot: The book in question is actually an archdemon named Bebuzzu who was turned into a book after he almost destroyed the world some centuries ago- presumably because transforming a demon prince into a sentient book was way easier than just killing him outright.

In his quest to return himself to a less bound form, Bebuzzu decides to drain the four legendary crystals of their powers and ruin the world in the process. In order to stop him, the human characters in the game rely on you- their trusty pet chocobo- to defeat Bebuzzu and save your friends from spending the rest of their lives as two-dimensional illustrations.

In order to accomplish this heroism, you track down magical pop-up books and complete mini-games to earn cards (think Yu Gi Oh! or Magic: The Gathering) which you use to do battle against Bebuzzu's minions. It's not the most traditional Final Fantasy game or combat system out there, but it is pretty darn cute!

What The Game Was Supposed To Look Like / What It Really Looked Liked:

You’re A Hero Because: Your friends asked you to help. Because you are their pet, they quite literally own your feathery butt... so you really didn't have much of a choice here.

The Villain Is A Dick Because: He wasn't simply killed the last time he tried to destroy the world: he was turned into a book and left to rot on some wizard coffee table, being driven insane(r) by his remaining consciousness and inability to talk, move, or do anything until someone opened his cover. In this case, I think the villain can be forgiven for wanting to smash something.

You Need To Stop Him/Her, Or Else: The legendary crystals will be destroyed and the world as you know it will cease to exist. Also, your friends will be stuck in a pop-up book (which will also be destroyed).

Notable Additions To The Franchise: First game to feature card-based battles, first game designed for 8-year-olds that made me almost rage on my poor DS (Tap Tap Trap is less of a minigame and more of a means of testing one's ability to endure psychological torture)

This Game Is Perfect For: Gamers on the go who want a iPhone-level gaming in a Final Fantasy atmosphere, completionists with the patience of a saint.
Read more ...

Friday, May 11, 2012

Which Final Fantasy Spin-Off Is Right For You? Final Fantasy Tactics Edition

Kawaiian Punch is hitting the road again, and that means it's time for another retrospective series!

Last time I did something like this, I focused on answering the burning question of which Final Fantasy is right for you? In writing that list I realized that with 25 years of history behind it, the Final Fantasy franchise has seen a lot of side projects and spin-off titles which are not that easy to keep track of.

To help make sense of these b-sides, I am running a five-part series covering some of the most prominent Final Fantasy spin-off titles... and what better place to start than with the spin-off that started it all, the 1997 release of Final Fantasy Tactics?

(Warning: Many a spoiler follows below!)

The Basic Plot: A kingdom is thrown chaos during a bitter war of succession. A lone warrior hears the call of destiny and enlists an endless cavalcade of friends/soldiers/fodder to take arrows for him, help him save the world.

The More Elaborate Plot: The King of Ivalice died from a mysterious illness and left a 2-year-old princeling to succeed him. A search for a regent began and two great war heroes- Duke Goltanna, the black lion, and Duke Larg, the white lion- were nominated for the job. Rather than resolve their differences amicably or have an election, they wisely decide to throw the entire world into war to see who gets to babysit said princeling for the next sixteen years.

As the game progresses, you- a lowly squire working his way up the ranks- learn that there is more to the conflict that a simple matter of succession. The kingdom is being manipulated into war by the church who wants to claim dominion over the realm once the two dukes off each other. Later still, it comes to light that the church itself is being manipulated by an order of zealots hellbent on freeing the Lucavi (espers/summons/eidolons/etc) and resurrecting their leader- Ultima, The High Seraph- so they can destroy the world. Because... why not?

What The Game Was Supposed To Look Like / What It Really Looked Liked:

You’re A Hero Because: You happen to be in the right place at the right time. Also, you believe in justice, honor, and have the sense to realize that something is rotten in the state of Ivalice.

The Villain Is A Dick Because: 1,200 years ago the world was almost destroyed by Ultima, the High Seraph but her host body was killed before the genocide could happen. Now that she's being resurrected she has a new army of demons ready to serve her and is dead set on picking up where she left off over a millenium ago. Now that's determination!

You Need To Stop Him/Her, Or Else: The Espers/Lucavi will be able to slip the servitude of mortals, come and go as they please, and generally pay everyone back for millennia of servitude with pain, anguish, and all manner of other unpleasantries.

Notable Additions To The Franchise: Introduced the fictional game world of Ivalice to the FF Universe, first strategy RPG in the series.

Best Version Available:
The original PSX version still holds up quite well but the iPhone and PSP ports are notoriously slow and buggy. The remastered PSP re-release Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions isn't half bad and is worth picking up if you have a PSP lying around.

This Game Is Perfect For:
Those who always dreamed of playing Final Fantasy on a checkerboard, fans of 16-bit sprites and everything that made Final Fantasy III's job system enjoyable.
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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Rosario + Vampire, why can't I quit you?

Once again, I fall for a ecchi harem comedy thanks to Netflix.

One the surface, there's really nothing special about Rosario + Vampire. It's powered by tongue-in-cheek fan service, revolves around fan service, and often replaces the plot and character development of the magna with jiggling, bouncing moments of shameless fan service.

...but for some reason, I couldn't stop watching the damn thing.

The story behind Rosario + Vampire is pretty standard for harem comedies: a feckless and simpering boy named Tsukune transfers to a new school and soon a horde of girls (all with different hair colors so you can tell them apart, naturally) fawn over him and compete for his affections. The only real twist that R + V offers to this formula is that the school is an academy for monsters and every one of the girls is a super-powerful supernatural sexpot while Tsukune himself is a simple, and fairly wimpy, human.

Even sexpots can be a bit unsure of themselves from time to time

The main romantic interest is Moka, a pink-haired ingenue who turns into an apocalyptically powerful vampire when the rosary around her neck is removed. Competing with her for Tsukune's affections are a succubus with near-prehensile breasts, a brooding and gothy ice queen (yuki-onna, if one wants to be pedantic), and a bi-curious preteen witch. They are far from the most complex or cerebral cast of characters, but they provide plenty of comedic moments all the same.

Despite- or perhaps because of- the open fan service, Rosario + Vampire is one of the more polarizing anime titles out there. A serious and snobbish otaku will turn up their nose at it, dismissing the series as lowbrow and unfocused while 17-year-old fangirls will squee at the mere mention of it. Falling somewhere between the two groups, I found it to be a perfect anime to watch when my brain needed a rest. Also, the english dub (which features Todd Haberkorn and Colleen Clinkenbeard) is quite good.

I would advise against watching R +V at the gym, or in any public place if you don't want to be answer a few awkward questions, but if you're in the mood for a new, guilty (guilty guilty guilty) pleasure and the following (most likely NSFW) trailer doesn't turn you off...

...this is probably the anime series for you. If you're still on the fence, there's the even more NSFW-y Season 2 trailer which features a truly impressive amount of panchira-induced nosebleeds.
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