December 2, 2008

Superior Metroid

Metroid review
This review contains spoilers

1994's Super Nintendo treasure Super Metroid is one of the greatest gaming experiences I've ever had and one of my favorites of all time. It's also a mainstay of virtually every "best video games ever" list compiled. Whether it's placed somewhere in the top ten or even the number one spot, you'll get no argument from me. The game takes the rocky structure laid out by Metroid I and II and turns it into a smooth gameplay masterpiece. Originally touted as Metroid 3, as it was the third game made in the series at that point, Super Metroid has been bumped up to number 7 with the additions of the Metroid Prime trilogy and Metroid Prime Hunters, those games being set after the original game in the series chronology. Metroid Prime Pinball doesn't fit in anywhere, as it's merely a different platform used to tell the first Prime's story.

The first experience I had with the game was around the time it was released in '94, as a rental. My time with the Metroid franchise back then was limited to a few play sessions with a friend's copy of the original game. Needless to say, I didn't like it too much, so I wasn't sure how well I would take to number three. I guess you can judge by this review's opening sentences how things went. I would attain my own copy of Super Metroid soon after, and during the time I owned that grey game cartridge I played it to death, completing it numerous times and often starting a new game right after completing the previous one. My love affair with Super Metroid ended when I sold my Super Nintendo console and games to make way for the Nintendo 64, and it wasn't until the release of the game on the Nintendo Wii's Virtual Console service was I reunited with my old lover.

When beginning a mission in Super Metroid, you are treated to a brief recap of the events of the previous (at least, previous as it was in 1994) games in the series, Metroid and Metroid II: Return of Samus. You see Samus destroy the Mother Brain during her initial quest through the planet Zebes, followed by her discovery of the Metroid hatchling deep inside planet SR388. This Metroid is the last one in existence, so Samus takes the infant to a space colony for its scientists to study. Moments after leaving the gelatinous creature in their hands, or should I say containment unit, she receives an S.O.S. from them... they're under attack! Samus quickly returns to find the space station is a state of ruin, the bodies of the scientists motionless on the floor. The Metroid larva is missing as well, and as she searches through the colony for it, she encounters her old nemesis Ridley, a purple space dragon who has the kidnapped hatchling in his grasp. Following a brief battle, Ridley flees the space colony and returns to Zebes. Samus, after evacuating the collapsing space station, follows the creature in her Starship to rescue the larva before the Space Pirates are able to clone it and begin the Metroid menace anew.

Zebes Field Guide
The planet of Zebes is comprised of seven regions with unique environments and life forms.
Crateria- The rocky surface where Samus' Starship touches down. As it is your starting point, you'll find the weakest enemies here, and quite a few weapons if you dig far enough. It also allows passage to every other area except one. Holding the all-important Bombs is the bird-like creature Torizo, who impersonates the Chozo statues strewn throughout Zebes. Keep your distance and repeatedly fire away at his chest to dispatch of your first major challenge in the game.
Brinstar- An area overgrown with vegetation where most of the platforms are made up of twisting vines and fungus, and the enemies are insect-like. You'll revisit a familiar section from the original Metroid game where old "friends" are eager to see you again. The mini-boss of this land is the thorny, large mouthed Spore Spawn who can only be attacked when he periodically opens his indestructible shell to reveal a soft core. If you're lucky you'll discover the entrance to the hideout of Kraid, a mammoth lizard who hurls spikes at you and has a severe dislike of ammunition fired down his throat.
Norfair- The deeper you go within Zebes, the hotter it gets. Welcome to Norfair, where you can hardly transverse the area without a more powerful suit and steam comes up from the ground with every step you take. Thick skinned creatures who can either spit lava or are made up of the molten rock themselves lie in wait to ambush you. Drop in unexpectedly on the magma-fleshed Crocomire and get him to cool off with a hot dip. Even further within the bowels of this carved out furnace is where Ridley waits, employing the strongest enemies in the game to protect his dwelling, including a much stronger Golden Torizo.
The Wrecked Ship- Resting in a Craterian lake is a mysterious space ship just begging for a bounty hunter to explore. It won't be an easy plunder, as you soon stumble upon the bulbous, tentacled demon known as Phantoon. As he's sapping the ship of its power, you won't be able to explore the bulk of it until you knock the ecto-plasma out of him. He hates Super Missiles, and has a little strategy that will make you reconsider using them against him. Residents of the wrecked ship include the angry souls of the craft's previous inhabitants, robots run amok, and even the environment itself with snapped wires raining sparks upon you. What's the origin behind this abandoned mother ship? That's another tale for another game...
Maridia- Strap on your Gravity Suit and dive into Zebes' underwater caverns, where various aquatic alien life forms get in your way as you progress. One such creature is the large sea snake Botwoon, who dips in and out of the holes in his chamber to take shots at you. If you can survive the quicksand and prove to be an acrobat with your Grapple Beam, you'll enter the lair of the mutant Draygon, who will pound you into the sand unless you give him a gut full of firepower. Or maybe you'll find an easier, more creative way to dispatch this green monster that just might shock the both of you.
Tourian- The high-tech hideout of the boss of the Space Pirates. You'll discover that they were able to clone the baby Metroid as you'll find several of these flying fanged jellyfish eager to drain you of life force. Enter the final chamber that houses The Mother Brain and shut down her life support system and pulverize the lumpy grey matter to halt the insidious schemes of the pirates once and for all. Although it may be a bit harder this time than it was in your first encounter many years ago.

Weapons and Upgrades
Morph Ball- The most bizarre feature of Samus' Power Suit is the ability to roll up into a perfect sphere to enable her to slip through tiny passages and lay bombs. Pretty handy in dodging enemy attacks as well. Don't try this at home.
Bomb- An infinite supply of explosives required to break through most obstacles, or at least reveal which type of item you will need to get through them. Also can be used as a weapon against slow moving enemies who wander too close, although skilled players might be able to use the knock backs from a chain of detonations to reach higher areas.
High Jump Boots- Now you can really defy gravity with this metallic footwear, which allows you to finally make it to those ledges which were just out of reach only hours before.
Speed Booster- An addition to your boots that will allow you to run at blinding speeds over quickly crumbling bridges and through certain types of rock. If you halt yourself during the peak of your run you'll begin flashing, which can enable you to somersault through weaker enemies or launch yourself like a rocket!
Grapple Beam- One of the neatest additions to your inventory. This will shoot a beam that can latch onto certain blocks and enemies and let you swing over lava beds and chasms. It can also disintegrate smaller baddies.
X-Ray Scope- An upgrade for your helmet's visor that emits a search light that can expose secrets in the terrain. Along with the map system, this item is a godsend if you wish to explore the entirety of the unpredictable world of Zebes. As useful as it is, it's only a luxury item and is unnecessary to complete the game.
Spring Ball- If you're like me and suck at the bomb climb technique, this will be your saving grace as it allows you to jump while in Morph Ball mode. You may miss this one during your first run through Zebes, but you can easily beat the game without it.
Space Jump- The sky (or ceiling) is the limit when you equip this eternal jumping device. Now you no longer have to put up with that aggravating "wall jump" crap. But don't think you need to rebound off a wall to use it, a somersault into thin air is all you need to start reaching new heights.
Screw Attack- Sonic the Hedgehog would be proud of this somersaulting buzz saw attack that lets you cut through enemies and crumbling terrain alike. Nothing can withstand the electrified slicing terror of this upgrade except Metroids and bosses.
Varia Suit- An upgrade to the stability of the Power Suit, and the one Samus is oft seen wearing in Metroid promotional materials and the Super Smash Bros. games. It reduces damage received from enemies and traps, as well as enabling her to withstand the extreme temperatures of Norfair and boiling water.
Gravity Suit- The second and last upgrade to the power of the Power Suit. Besides giving it a neat purple color, it cuts damage even more than the Varia Suit did, and more importantly, allows you move under water without being hindered by its reduced gravity. You wouldn't be able to travel very far in Maridia without it.
Charge Beam- The no-brainer addition that I wish made its debut in the Metroid series sooner. Now your beams can pack a more serious punch without having to switch to missiles to eliminate increasingly stronger enemies. And if you go into Morph Ball mode while charged up, you'll deploy five rolling bombs at once!
Spazer Beam- Three beams are better than one. This splits your shot into a trio of lasers rather than a single blast.
Ice Beam- A Metroid series regular, and the weakness of the creatures from which the games take their name. Temporarily incapacitate the bad guys and use them as a stepping stone, even in midair!
Wave Beam- They can run but they can't hide! This purple beam will shoot through surfaces to trigger switches and deal damage to out of reach enemies.
Plasma Beam- While the Wave Beam can shoot through solid surfaces, the Plasma Beam goes through enemies, causing mulitiple hits upon entry and exit. It's usually strong enough to eliminate any alien with one supercharged blast.
Hyper Beam- The "Holy Shit" beam. Destroy walls and slice through pirates like a hot chainsaw through warm butter. And you have your worst enemy to thank for it?
Energy Tank- Essential to survive the onslaught of aliens as you explore Zebes. Each adds 100 units of energy to your overall life meter. There's quite a few to find on your adventure, and you'll need most of them to withstand the punishment of vicious enemies and unforgiving bosses.
Reserve Tank- Four poorly conceived energy tanks that you can use to "reserve" life. Why not just give us four more regular energy tanks? You can either set them to refill your energy automatically when your health hits zero, or allow you to refill them manually. Why wouldn't you want it set to auto? Would anyone rather die than survive? These are sort of like futuristic versions of bottled fairies from the Legend of Zelda series.
Missile- Your regular beam not splattering alien guts fast enough? Switch over to missile attack to waste them a bit quicker. Five are required to open red doors, but you won't run out of them too quickly. Additional packs are found throughout Zebes and are the most plentiful items in the game.
Super Missile- These green tipped missiles are much stronger than the regular ones, travel faster, and are needed to open green doors. The explosion they cause is so strong that if it hits a surface, it'll cause the environment to rumble and can even knock wall and ceiling bound aliens off of their perches!
Power Bomb- These provide a blast that'll cover the area of the entire screen, battering enemies and walls alike. These are required to open up orange hatches. Unlike your regular bombs, there is a limited amount at your disposal. Don't abuse them, as there is a large time frame between when you find your first pack and subsequent ones. Oddly enough, the knock back is the same as from regular bombs. The power bombs also are the key to a couple of secret abilities unknown to many players. One is the ability to absorb the energy from power bombs and missiles to refill your energy when it gets to a certain low point. Another is to add a second unique attack to each separate beam, although none are particularly useful.

-Believe it or not, your upgraded beam is more powerful than missiles, especially on bosses. Keep in mind that you do not have to wait until the charge-up animation is at its largest before you can fire the beam in its most powerful form. You only need to hold it for about a second and a half before it's ready to go at full blast. Plus it has wider range than missiles and unlimited shots. Become a markswoman with your beam, the space bounty hunter's best friend.
-There are two false walls in Ridley's Hideout that even the X-Ray Scope won't detect.
-Unless you're hugging a strategy guide during your first play through, you'll probably only be able to unearth about 70% of the items by yourself. But worry not, for that is enough to successfully ruin the Space Pirates' plans.
-If you wish to go back through Zebes to search for remaining items after conquering the game, I advise you not to use the second save unit that sits just before the Mother Brain duel in Tourian. That is because there is a door that, upon passing through it, remains closed permanently, barring you from returning to the rest of the planet. Just use the first save unit that you find as soon as you enter Tourian, as this section isn't that long anyway.

Super Metroid is easier than Metroid and Metroid II, mostly due to a much more diverse environment and the presence of an in-game map. No longer will you get lost in similar looking corridors, making you wonder if your hand drawn map is disjointed. While you're transversing this world, you'll encounter many familiar creatures from Samus' first run through Zebes. You'll also meet the infamous Space Pirates for the first time, who have the appearance of humanoid mantises, and possess the ability to shoot plasma from their pincers. Some of them even had martial arts training. The music in the game sets the mood and helps draw you into the adventure, such as the ominous music as you march down the hall to Kraid's lair and the hellish chanting within the lava-flooded ruins of Chozo civilization that Ridley claimed for his hideout. An interesting feature is the ability to mix and match the many beams you gain to increase effects and firepower. Metroid II's Spider Ball sadly doesn't make an appearance, but it returns in Metroid Prime and magnetizes the Morph Ball so that you can climb up certain rails as opposed to any surface of the environment. Why didn't they just call it the Track Ball since its function is different? Since I'm asking questions, did anyone else have an SNES game pad with turbo capabilities and use it to help you cheat on the bomb climbing technique?

Unlike many of the great classic games in Nintendo's history, Super Metroid was only released to consumers twice: on the Super Nintendo for its debut and Nintendo Wii's Virtual Console. It never was put out for the Game Boy Advance or as an unlockable bonus within recent Metroid games. So the opportunity to relive this epic space trek is welcomed with open hands. So how did I perform when I revisited one of my most beloved gaming experiences? I completed my first mission in 5 1/2 hours with 90% inventory acquired, missing a reserve tank, a power bomb, and some missiles. I backtracked afterward and discovered much of the missing stuff within the quicksands of Maridia, as well as a well hidden item just before Kraid's hallway. I think during my first play through back in '94, I logged something like eight hours with around 70% weaponry found. After that, I purchased the official strategy book and used that to guide me on subsequent tours of Zebes, this time completing 100% with a lower time, allowing me to view the best ending. I would go on to play this game numerous other times, now able to nab all items in a bit over two hours by memory alone. It was fun each time and never got boring. Is that statement redundant? As for the reward for a perfect ending, if you thought Miss Aran looked sexy in her body-hugging Zero Suit, the outfit she's got on under her Power Suit in this game makes the newer one look conservative.

Some final lingering thoughts. As you abandon planet Zebes after the self-destruct mechanism activates, you are able to save the speed boosting Dachola and the trio of wall jumping Etecoons. But what about the helpers you meet in Maridia, like the hovering turtle, its offspring, and that tunneling droid that enabled you to get the Spring Ball? Sure they could injure you and didn't seem to be intentionally trying to aid you, but I still feel HORRIBLE about leaving them behind to get obliterated. At least I can take solace in the idea that their deaths were quick and painless, being vaporized in one twenty-fourth of a nanosecond in the megaton explosion that annihilates the planet.

There. I feel better.

And that's just the way it is.

November 6, 2008

Return of the Godot

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney review
Phoenix Wright: Justice For All review
This review contains spoilers

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney- Trials & Tribulations is the third and final entry in the court drama series of games starring the only likable lawyer in the world. There are five cases this time around, as opposed to the four contained in each of its predecessors. That's keeping in mind that the fifth case in the first game was created as a bonus for its American/DS translation.
There are no new gameplay features introduced here, utilizing the mechanics used in Ace Attorney and Justice For All. Instead of reiterating my descriptions of features, tips, etc., just read my reviews of the previous games, the links provided up top. The difficulty of this game is considerably lessened, with your character dropping the player hints in what he personally feels you should pay particular attention to during court proceedings. In the previous two games, cases would take from one to three days to resolve, but here everything is wrapped up in one or two. That certainly doesn't mean these cases are shorter, as there are more witnesses and testimonies to go through this time.

Main Cast
Phoenix Wright- The spiky-haired defense attorney is back under your control as you guide him through three of his most trying trials yet. He's always prepared to give the finger to contradictions. The index finger, that is.
Mia Fey- Wasn't she killed off in the second case of the first game? Yes, but the elder Fey daughter still manages to capture more game time than living people, albeit it in flashbacks and spirit channelings. Now you get the opportunity to portray her and play out the first two cases of her storied attorney career.
Maya Fey- Wright's ever-present assistant, a spirit medium who is in line to be the next Master of the Kurain Channeling Technique. She isn't that bright, but will occasionally call your attention to details you might have missed otherwise.
Pearl Fey- The young cousin of Maya and guardian of the "romantic relationship" between Phoenix and Maya. She is a gifted spirit medium in her own right and will always jump at the chance to help her friends in their investigations.
Godot- The caffeine-fueled cyborg with an apparent grudge against Wright plays the part of your prosecuting nemesis in this game. Unknown to everyone, his mysterious history will tie all your lingering questions together.
Miles Edgeworth- The greatest prosecutor of the 21st century has returned home after spending much of the past year traveling abroad, studying the judicial systems of other countries. He was summoned to respond to an emergency that will see the player live out their dream of controlling the famed attorney... at least for a short while.
Dick Gumshoe- He's back and slower than ever. You can't set foot on a crime scene without bumping into this guy, who will do whatever he can to inform you of the situation at hand and provide some helpful clues to help you begin your investigation.
Larry Butz- The lovelorn childhood friend of Wright and Edgeworth returns to be the discarded banana peel on the path of enlightenment. If you can crack this nut you might actually find valuable testimony to help you clear your client's name.
Dahlia Hawthorne- A southern belle type straight out of A Streetcar Named Desire, Miss Hawthorne is a redhead whose smile could melt the sun. Alas, it's all a front to conceal her truly demonic soul. She'll capture your heart with her faux sweetness and stomp it into hamburger with her real attitude.

Case Previews
Turnabout Memories- This tutorial takes you back in time as you play as Mia Fey in her second court case ever. Your adviser is Max Grossberg, Mia's mentor whom you met in the second case of the original game. Your opponent is tutorial fodder Winston Payne, the so-called "rookie killer" who is normally the one getting killed by the rookies. The defendant is yet another familiar face, a college student named Phoenix Wright. The crime pinned on the young art major is that he killed his girlfriend's ex-boyfriend by electrocuting him with a snapped power line. Witness to this event is Dahlia Hawthorne, Phoenix's delicate and frail flower of a girlfriend. It's up to the future proprietor of Fey & Co. Law Offices to expose Miss Hawthorne as the evil witch she truly is. If only she wasn't hindered by her client, who does everything in his power to spare his true love of her fate.

The Stolen Turnabout- A museum is hosting an exhibit featuring the treasures of mystical Kurain Village. Maya and Peal Fey, residents of said village, drag Phoenix along to survey the display. It's soon discovered that the urn containing the ashes of Ami Fey, the originator of the Kurain Channeling Technique, has been stolen by the phantom thief known as Mask DeMasque. On the case is both Phoenix Wright and self-proclaimed Ace Detective Luke Atmey. But before the crime can be solved, the elusive criminal apparently turns himself in. To make things weirder, the wife of the confessor implores Phoenix to clear her husband's name! Can the Ace Attorney discover who exactly is under the mask of DeMasque? Even if he does... will that only lead his client into a much worse situation?

Recipe For Turnabout- Phoenix Wright faces a crushing defeat at the hands of Winston Payne?! Nobody can believe it, especially Phoenix himself, who didn't even know the event took place! After reading a magazine article about his supposed loss, the Ace Attorney realizes he has an impersonator out there who has the city fooled. Now he must not only clear his own name, but the name of the accused who he is being blamed for failing to save, one Maggey Byrde, former police officer, current waitress. She is charged with murdering a man who won big with a lottery ticket by poisoning his coffee so she could claim the fortune for herself. Phoenix convinces the judge to reopen the case so the real deal can have his turn at clearing his client's name, and it's up to him to find out who really tainted the coffee. Will this also lead him to discover who his inept doppelganger is?

Turnabout Beginnings- Join Mia Fey once more in her court debut and find out what happened here that caused her to abandon her career for an entire year. It's truly a day for the beginning of many Ace Attorney regulars, as it is also where Dick Gumshoe began his job as a detective, and Miles Edgeworth opposes Mia in his first official day as a prosecutor. What's more, Miss Fey meets the dastardly Dahlia Hawthorne here. By Mia's side to coach her is a man named Diego Armando, who strikes quite a similar appearance to a character players have become quite acquainted with during the course of this game.

Bridge to the Turnabout- The main event. Not only for this game, but the entire series as well. All unanswered questions regarding the Fey clan find their complicated answers. Maya Fey signs up for a channeling class at a training center up in the mountains, and she drags Phoenix and cousin Pearl along. There they meet a spiritual woman named Elise Deauxnim and nuns named Bikini and Iris, the latter of which Phoenix has never met before and yet believes he knows. At nightfall, Maya adjourns across a bridge to a small hut to train, and soon it's discovered that Elise has been murdered, with the sole eyewitness claiming it was perpetrated by Iris. Phoenix attempts to check up on Maya, but the bridge she is on the other side of is on fire. He tries to cross it and ends up falling into the river below, causing him to be hospitalized. Miles Edgeworth is summoned to substitute as defense attorney for Iris while Wright is out of commission. In turn, Edgeworth calls upon Franziska von Karma to serve as prosecutor. Thus begins a long and complex scenario where truths you never anticipated will be revealed during the final showdown between Phoenix and Godot.

Final Case Examination
What a trip Bridge to the Turnabout turned out to be. It told us what happened with Misty Fey after her disappearance and what Morgan Fey's revenge would be after she vowed it following her imprisonment in the second game. Then we were treated to the origins of the devilish Dahlia and mysterious Godot. It makes me wonder if the writers for this series had the entire "Fey Family Saga" script written out as they were working on the first game. Although the way things were eventually presented, I'm starting to think the characters of Dahlia, Iris, and Godot were created when the third game went into production, and then shoehorned into the Fey clan storyline, because there were zero allusions to them in prior games. If you couldn't tell, the Ace Attorney series writers are big on foreshadowing. The additions of the new characters in Trials and Tribulations only seemed to add unnecessary and often confusing elements to the flow of the last case. Let's list the major bullet points and see if your brain isn't oozing out of your ear canal after trying to make sense of it.
-Mia and Maya's long lost mother, Misty Fey, returns to the scene as Elise Deauxnim after seventeen years of being in hiding.
-Morgan Fey, mother of Pearl, aunt of Mia and Maya, and sister of Misty, is also the mother of Dahlia Hawthorne and Iris, who turn out to be twins.
-Morgan Fey, determined to make her nine-year-old daughter Pearl the new head of the Fey clan, wrote instructions for her daughter to channel the spirit of the late Dahlia Hawthorne so that she would murder Maya Fey, thus fulfilling Morgan's dream of her side of the family being in charge of the clan.
-Godot, who overheard the jailed Morgan Fey telling Pearl where to find the instructions, got to the documents first and read them over. He then returned the papers to where Pearl would eventually find them instead of discarding or editing them in order to avoid this entire catastrophe.
-Godot contacted the missing Misty Fey and told her of the plan that Morgan had concocted. They then planned on having Misty head to the mountain retreat and channel the spirit of Dahlia before Pearl could. I'm guessing Misty wanted to be the one to kill her daughter? Or not, as Godot planned on being on the mountain with her to kill her in case things got out of hand, a much better idea than restraining her during the channeling in order to prevent her from doing any harm.
-Maya reads an article in a magazine about this place in the mountains where she could hone her channeling powers. How Morgan knew this was going to happen is beyond logical explanation.
-Apparently, Morgan knew her daughter Dahlia was going to be executed for her crime of killing her ex-boyfriend, and wrote these plans before she herself was imprisoned. You see, Morgan planned on framing Maya for murdering a doctor in a channeling session gone wrong, so Maya would be the one to go to jail, leaving Pearl to be the new Master of the Kurain Channeling Technique. Of course, she never depended on Phoenix Wright to be there to save the day.
-Sister Iris loves her deranged sister so much that she helped frame Maya for the murder. She also helped plan her phony kidnapping years back. Then Iris, pretending to be Dahlia, hooked up with Phoenix to get a necklace back while her sister laid low. I sincerely hope that "Feenie" isn't considering hooking back up with Iris when she gets out of the pen, as she seems to have a severe lack of morals.
-The "corpse pendulum" idea is more ludicrous than the idea that the cape the Ringmaster was wearing would fly off his neck after getting bashed on the head with the bust of Maximillion Galactica and becoming affixed to that same bust, which would then cause Moe to think it was Max flying through the air as it was being lifted back up to Acro's room. This is in reference to the third case in the second game.
-Didn't they try to link this case with Recipe for Turnabout, after Phoenix mused on where Tigre Furio could have gotten his hands on potassium cyanide? Not to mention that that scenario played out in the same way as Godot's murder by Dahlia, with cyanide secretly being slipped into the victim's coffee?
-I'm sure there are some more plotholes I haven't figured out, but I'm sure you get my drift by now.

Pitting Edgeworth against Franziska was great. This built upon the hatred Franzisaka has for her "big little brother" Miles, who she believes is a disgrace to the von Karma name. So it was two students trained in the Manfred von Karma School of Prosecuting trying to defeat the other. Then to have Miss von Karma tag along with Phoenix for the rest of the day opened up some new questions, although these were only meant to be puzzled upon by fans of the series as opposed to furthering in-game story lines. At least, in this game anyway. I'd wager von Karma has developed a crush on her sworn enemy, most likely developed during her obsession with beating him in court during Justice For All. In the scene where Wright and Karma met up with Godot in the training room, the cyborg prosecutor insulted Franziska, likening her appearance to a horse, and instead of whipping her detractor, she whined to Phoenix in an effort to get him to stand up to him on her behalf. It's all reminiscent of a schoolyard crush, where one kid would tease another that he/she liked just to get that person to pay attention to them. Other points of interest is when Phoenix thought of Franny as being "cute", before she whipped the ensuing smile off his face. Don't forget the previous game, where Phoenix brought her flowers in the hospital, and the conclusion where Franziska held onto a card with a sketch of Wright on it, which was drawn by Maya, vowing to present it to him some day. Getting back to Franziska and Edgeworth, it seems that tensions between them lessened considerably during the final day of investigation, possibly stemming from the fact that they were working towards the same goal. I would wager they developed respect for each other. Now it appears that they are peaceful rivals, no longer wishing to "destroy" each other, instead figuring their future battles will be friendly competition. Either way, if you told me at the conclusion of the second game that the third one would end with Phoenix, Edgeworth, and Franziska willingly attending a celebration dinner together, I would have said you were kookier than the Butz.

Top 5 Minor Characters (exclusive to this game)
#5. Desiree DeLite- Eager for a life of action and adventure, Mrs. DeLite can often be seen speeding from mall to mall on her motorcycle while wearing her skintight racing suit. She always stands by her man, who won her heart by coming to her aid when she was under attack by a pair of muggers. No matter how much evidence mounted against Ron, she always believed in him. She would make an excellent sidekick for the recently reformed Mask DeMasque.
#4. Furio Tigre- The anti-Phoenix and most likely more tiger than man. One of the best parts about him is how he was able to fool so many people with his Wright impression, giving you an idea of how clueless the people in this game's world truly are. He's the most intimidating character you've met yet, who's vicious enough to send everyone ducking for cover when he roars. You just couldn't wait to get this guy on the witness stand in order to expose him for the low-life crook he is.
#3. Lisa Basil- Although your interactions with her are few, her plastic appearance leaves a lasting impression on you. Her cool blue character design and her "living computer" personality is one of a kind in this world. The Ace Attorney series takes place in the (not too distant) future, and a SciFi-looking person like her could come in handy in upcoming games.
#2. Ron DeLite/Mask DeMasque- It's amazing how he can make you want to strangle him into a lifeless limp at the start of the case and then make you want to pat him on the back at the end. He's extraordinary for his creativity in designing his alter-ego and the flawless executions of his heists. I guess it's somewhat admirable that he is so devoted to his lady that, upon losing his job, he would resort to stealing a priceless artifact in order to fund his wife's shopping sprees. After turning over a new leaf upon receiving a "not guilty" verdict, Ron has become a crime fighter.
#1. Luke Atmey- Zvarri! Probably the best minor character in the Ace Attorney series, even greater than Matt Engarde and Damon Gant. He has a classic villain design featuring an elongated nose, a magnifying glass acting as a monocle, a suit suited for the noblest of noblemen, a maniacal cackle, and a bizarre black and yellow hairstyle that couldn't possibly exist in real life. Quite reminiscent of a character out of an old school detective story. He even has his own theme music, a classical sounding suite you'd imagine plays on the old-fashioned phonograph in his office. Speaking of which, his office also has a fireplace, a looming portrait of himself, a book case full of scientific tomes, and an elaborate chemistry set. Luke probably had a privileged upbringing in high class society and an expensive education. Upon hearing it, Maya stole his catchphrase and often repeated it whenever she came upon a realization. I guess that will live on long after he does, sadly. It's an awful shame this will be his only appearance, as he is now imprisoned with charges of theft, blackmail, and murder. He just wanted love. I like this guy so much that if I were put in charge of assembling a cast for a Phoenix Wright anime, I would cast Luke as a regular. Zvarri!

Previously I mentioned that this is the last in the series of Ace Attorney games starring Phoenix Wright. This is true and misleading, as there is a fourth game in the series where Wright is replaced by a young up-and-comer named Apollo Justice. Even further down the line is a spin-off title featuring the Perfect Prosecutor himself, Miles Edgeworth.

Now for my final verdict on the judge. He's still the same old hair-brain, but I guess I can accept his blissful ignorance if he can. But guess what? HE HAS A YOUNGER BROTHER! Who is somehow Canadian.


June 2, 2008

I've Got A Blue/White Certificate

Some news and notes concerning the TOP SECRET PROJECT I've been going on about.

-I've officially signed a contract with the company. I'm employed now, but I won't be earning money until we start making it.

-The domain name for what will become our official website is registered and waiting to be created, with both .com and .net addresses.

-My third largest contribution to the project, following story and character treatments, was devising summaries for ten episodes. I basically just think of the plot and which characters will play a major part of a particular episode. I figure these ten will comprise season one, and that it might be a good idea to have the pilot episode be a two parter. Part one: introduce the characters, part two: CONFLICT! I spent a good amount of time just pondering plots, and I initially came up with a lot more than ten. So I wrote all my ideas down, worked with them a bit, then separated them into a few season's worth. Each season will have a specific storyline to network them all together. They can all be enjoyed individually, but it'll be a much better experience for audiences to catch them in succession. And think of the convenience of picking up the season sets on DVD!

-Aside from the company president and myself, we also have an artist. He made a career as a conceptual designer, illustrator, and sculptor. Whether or not you've heard of his name, you'll surely know some of the stuff he's worked on. He's created props, models, toy molds, concept art, and more for television, theater, merchandise lines, and even museums. Not even for obscure clients either, he's worked for the big names on features everyone's heard of. But he's been tasked with the most difficult challenge of his career: taking my brainstorms and bringing them into the physical realm for all to see. I would love nothing more than to show off the artwork he created based on my descriptions, but that falls under the shush order we're all being held under. I just wanted to give an idea of the serious muscle involved here. Trust me, as soon as I'm given the green light, I'll finally be able to tell you what the hell I've been up to all this time. But don't expect the cover to be blown for many months, possibly not even until next year. We will probably wait until the show is picked up and put into production before I can talk in-depth about it.

-After showcasing our project to various large entertainment conglomerates, we are now waiting for them all to mull over the idea and hopefully decide to sign us on. I've seen the Power Point presentation that was used to sell the idea to company executives, and it contains a condensed version of the story, character art by our artist along with my descriptions, and a list of the unique gadgets I designed specifically for the show. It's excellent, and accounts I've heard from these people have been positive.

-Neatest of all, I am now a member of Writers Guild of America, West. Check out the certificate I got, with confidential information blacked out, of course.

These things are hard to come by, so I'll explain the requirements one has to fulfill. You have to gain a certain amount of "units" in order to qualify for membership, while are doled out based on the level of work you have contributed to in the entertainment writing field. I earned all 24 necessary units in one shot, since I created a "bible", or a long-term story projection, for a television series. Then there's the registration fee of $2,500, which was handled by my boss. So between my first paycheck and paying for the registration, this guy has invested a lot of faith and cash in me to help make his product a success.

-As if I didn't have enough confidence that things will work out, check out what I found inside of a fortune cookie.

The Chinese cookie vendors are very wise people. As a bonus, here is what was featured on the reverse side of the fortune.

The Epitaph is educational. Just don't go stealing my lucky numbers.

And that's just the way it is.

April 14, 2008

Big Loss, Major Gain

The video game project I talked about getting hired for earlier has been canceled.

Instead, I'm now assigned to work on the TV show that grew from it. And I'll also be working for the company itself rather than the spin-off product. Pretty heavy stuff coming from nowhere and landing somewhere. The story and characters I created for the game will now be the focal point of the show's concept, although somewhat modified. So whether or not this show is a success, or if it even gets picked up for production, really rides on my shoulders. But I'm quite fortunate that my employer is business savvy and knows the proper way to build and promote his brand. Plus there's probably other talented folks under his umbrella that will ensure this plan pulls through.

As usual, I'm under a "gag order" so to speak, as it pertains to publicly discussing information about the project, but just to keep the world updated as to the going-ons in my life, I'll remain as vague as possible on the details of my work.

I can't claim that everything I wrote was originated by me. The president gave me a list of criteria that he wanted me to meet. After all, he is the one who came up with the whole project. He gave me the blueprint, hired me as the foreman, and I constructed the building to his specifications. How's that for an analogy?

Here's the short, but busy, list of concepts I have submitted.
Story- Where the protagonists and antagonists came from, the nature of their conflict, and where they'll be taking it.
Heroes and Villains- Eight pure hearts and sinister souls apiece will be butting heads. The heroes were relatively easy to create, as I thought up all eight in one night. The villains, however, were much tougher. We started out with four, adding more as the weeks progressed. Three of those were from my own mind. Naming them was the hardest task of all. No John Does in this bunch.
Accessories- A list of twenty-six (for now) "wonderful toys" the heroes will have at their disposal.

The president of the company will soon be meeting with some pretty high-profile companies to see who wants to take this project on. Phew. Basically, an unproven writer was hired to craft a salable television show. How often does that happen? Think of all the script writers in Hollywood slipping their scripts underneath the bathroom stall occupied by producers in hopes of being discovered. If the second major literary work in my career strikes gold, then 2008 and beyond will be a very big for James Gannon.

I've got all the confidence in the world that I'll make it.

And that's just the way it is.

February 25, 2008

Shmalentine's Day

Some men CAN handle the pressure on Valentine's Day!

Ladies and gentlemen, lovers of all ages! The Epitaph proudly brings to you its guide to Valentine's Day!

A couple of weeks ago my local newspaper ran a column by one of its regular journalists that ticked me off enough to comment about it. Perhaps you have someone like him who writes for your daily rag in your neck of the woods. But even if you don't, you'll probably recognize the material. His normal columns are like the blueprint of a cliche sitcom where the man is an out of touch moron, his wife is the intelligent cynic, and their children are the products of the modern society that frightens and confuses the father. We get it, today's world is lunacy and your generation was a better, simpler time. All men are clueless meat heads and women are clever manipulators. But I will hand it to him, he's at his best when he's discussing the peculiarities of Rhode Island, his most common subject matter.

Last Valentine's Day, the writer published a column that could have been the script of the aforementioned sitcom's traditional and predictable V-Day episode. He started off badly by titling his piece "Men just can't handle the pressure on Valentine's Day". Not some men, not most men, but MEN. That's all inclusive. Maybe you can't handle the "pressure", don't try to cast me in a bad light as well. I'm not afraid of Valentine's Day. Let's dissect some key points in his article.
-Valentine's Day is a plot by women? All females concocted this plan just to see their male counterparts "suffer"? Maybe this column is satire. No one could truly believe this. Okay, let's say V-Day is in fact an evil plot by the women-folk. Maybe it's true significance is to separate the men from the boys. The vertebrates from the invertebrates.
-He is right when he states that V-Day is a money-making holiday for candy and card companies. The same can be said for Easter, X-Mas, and to an even lesser extent, Halloween. But whose fault is it for being a consumer whore? Keep in mind that this is not a birthday or X-Mas where you max out your credit card. Not that you should do that anyway. The only time you should be saving up your cash for weeks in order to buy her a single piece of jewelry is when you're ready to enter that holy sanctimony of marriage. If she demands you to empty a diamond mine every year, drop her early. Remember when you were a single guy? What was the term for a woman who demands constant reward for no reason other than being with you? Gold digger. You're not supposed to marry those.
-Many women would not appreciate it if you made a public spectacle of your affection for her.
-"Don't get me anything" translates to "Not only do you have to get me something, but it has to be excessive"? On what planet? Did you marry an extraterrestrial that doesn't grasp our language? If your wife tells you she wants nothing, or not to go all out for a gift, here's some helpful hints, from me to you. Buy her the traditional holiday fare of candy, flowers, and card. Or take her out to a nice restaurant. Say "I love you", mean it, and prove it. If your wife will tell you that she doesn't want anything for Valentine's Day, and then you honor her wish or, out of the goodness of your heart, buy her a little something just to show that you care... and then she puts you in the proverbial dog house because it isn't what she wants... trust me, serve up those divorce papers now. She either isn't happy with you anymore, or just can't be pleased, is miserable, and likes to spread her misery. You'll be much happier giving her half your net worth than spending the rest of your life in fear of this woman. I can not imagine the evil creature you're married to who will get mad at you for not breaking the bank on a gift for her after asking for nothing. Love is supposed to be shown, not purchased. I'm sorry you're either married to a woman that can't be pleased, or your wife married a man who doesn't know how to please her.
-Why do women need so many purses? Is this an original musing, such as wondering why women need so many shoes?
-Okay, I laughed when the writer and his brother recalled previous V-Days when they got their wives crappy gifts. Their ineptitude amuses me. Do they not get this holiday? Get a gift that shows love, not one that will help with the wife's chores. Unless they specifically ask for it.
-A woman has every right to treat their husband like a brainless goon if they can't handle or even understand Valentine's Day.
-The only part of the column I agree with is when the writer's wife told him "You're a weak excuse for a husband, and I don't know why I married you". You got her a fuckin' oven mitt for Valentine's Day. Not only that, you just admitted such to the entire state. Maybe the true reason why she asks for nothing is because she knows you can't handle it. Does she ask for nothing on her birthday and X-Mas too?

I wonder if your wife reads your column. She now knows that you are clueless when it comes to her interests. Then again, she probably already knew.

What the hell is wrong with you if you dread buying her a gift? How long have you known this woman and you don't know her wants? If you need a hint, ASK HER! I've bought romantic gifts for a lady-friend who didn't know she was going to receive anything from me. You know what? I had a fun time doing it, because I actually like to put a smile on the face of a girl I'm into. I didn't feel forced or intimidated. And guess what happened? She liked my surprise gifts so much, she proclaimed that I should be her official shopper. You see, I'm not even married to her, and yet I "get her". I know what she likes, and there was, at no time, the desire to pull my hair out in frustration over what to purchase. V-Day helped build affection, not destroy it.

"Ah, but James," you all say, "you're single and never married, you couldn't possibly know what it's like to go through what I do on the days leading up to Valentine's Day!" That may be true, but let me share a fun little fact with you all. I have parents. And I was lucky enough to grow up with them. That means I've been around to witness many a V-Day between a married couple. So what gifts do my mother and father exchange every year on February 14th? What bank-busting presents did they give that they spent weeks pondering over buying for their significant other in order to keep the marriage peaceful? Candy and cards. That's all. There was no anger, silent treatment, or remarks such as "is this all I'm worth to you?" Instead, they thanked each other and went about their happy union. Ya know why? Because my parents actually love each other, not the material rewards they thrust upon the other. The only disagreements they ever have with each other revolves around my mother's unrelentless purchasing of decorations.

Finally, unhappy men in relationships, if your partner insists you splurge on them for Valentine's Day, then let them know about Steak and a Blowjob Day.

And that's just the way it is.

February 12, 2008

Von Karma Strikes Back

If you are unfamiliar with the Phoenix Wright games, it is recommended you read this Epitaph first.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney- Justice For All
is the second entry in the Phoenix Wright trilogy of games. It contains four new dramatic and humorous cases. It plays similar to the first one with a few new gameplay elements thrown in to improve the experience. There are many references to the events of the previous entry, although the game won't be rendered unplayable if you don't have any prior knowledge. But much like when starting any series, it's highly recommended that you start at the beginning.

Like Ace Attorney before it, Justice For All is rated T for Teen, as it contains blood, mild violence, and suggestive themes. Although there's no citation for language this time, despite the presence of such words as "dammit" and "crappy". Then again, Capcom slipped the D word into MegaMan 7's original SNES release and didn't suffer for it. Or did they, for it was changed to "darn" when rereleased in the Anniversary Collection. Back on topic, the blood warning comes from the fact that, once again, Phoenix is saddled with nothing but murder cases. Can't the guy ever get to defend a petty thief, where the repercussions won't be as severe? Mild violence should be obvious because the scene of the murders is described in detail. As for suggestive themes? Let's just say that a couple of characters have rather "inappropriate" reactions to the weapon of choice used by the new prosecutor.

New Features
Patience Bar- The first title allowed you five errors in court before ending your game. This time you get a meter that depletes a certain amount depending on the seriousness of your mistake. This allows you a little more headway if you screw up, although certain bad decisions can cost you your entire meter.
Psyche Lock- Sort of like contradicting witness testimonies in court, except you do it during the investigation. Present evidence to break apart people's attempts to shield hidden truths. The patience bar will deplete for every wrong move you make, but having it emptied will not result in a game over, just an end to the interrogation. You can also stop in the middle of questioning if you feel you don't have the proper evidence to proceed. If you fail to complete the process, you will have to start all over again. Quite a pain if you have no patience bar left, forcing you to go through the entire thing in one shot. However, successfully breaking all the locks will refill the patience bar by fifty percent.
Character Identity Evidence- Now you get to present profiles of people involved with the case as evidence. You'll often be asked questions regarding a "who" rather than just a "what" this time around. Mostly as the answer to: "If the defendant isn't the murderer, THEN WHO IS?!"

Main Cast
Phoenix Wright- The cunning attorney is back and can't seem to catch a break. He has a knack for snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, although he'll need a little help from his friends (and you).
Maya Fey- Phoenix's partner in justice. Her nosiness often helps Wright find vital clues at the crime scene. She is a spirit medium who can often call upon help from "the other side".
Pearl Fey- Maya's eight-year-old cousin who is a prodigy in spirit channeling. She'll lend Phoenix support while her cousin is busy with her "misfortunes".
Franziska Von Karma- The nineteen-year-old daughter of prosecuting demon Manfred Von Karma comes to America to get revenge on Mr. Phoenix Wright. But it may not be for the reason you'd think. Her two trademarks are her untouchable winning streak and the whip she cracks in court.
Dick Gumshoe- The slow-witted detective who is always first at the crime scene. He'll often give you valuable help during the investigation, much to the chagrin of the prosecutor's office.
Mia Fey- Your deceased mentor and Maya's sister. She'll usually be by your side in court proceedings to set you on the winning path, utilizing the bodies of her relatives.
Lotta Hart- The human camera from America's heartland returns with a recurring role. Lotta always seems to be around at the right (wrong?) time, and her snapshots always find their way into the court record. And herself onto the witness stand.
Miles Edgeworth- After a year of seclusion, the star prosecutor returns after discovering not only himself, but what his profession truly means. Is he on the side of Wright or wrong?

In addition to these, many new characters will play a part in the various cases, including a few familiar faces from the preceding game.

Case Previews
The Lost Turnabout- The tutorial, but much longer and tougher than the one in the first game. While napping in the court lounge, Phoenix is hit over the head and incurs temporary amnesia. Not good since he has a trial to tend to!
Reunion, and Turnabout- Visit Kurain Village, Maya's home and training ground. You stop for a visit while Maya tries to channel a spirit for a doctor wanting to question a deceased nurse. But something horribly unexpected occurs that lands Maya in hot water.
Turnabout Big Top- Who ever would have thought the circus would play host to a murder mystery? When the lights permanently go out for the Ringmaster, the world's greatest magician is fingered as the culprit. While trying to clear his name, you'll meet all the colorful characters of the Berry Big Circus, who will turn the court house into the Greatest Show on Earth when they're brought in as witnesses!
Farewell, My Turnabout- The lavish Gatewater Hotel hosts the yearly Grand Prix awards, a show that honors the top entertainers in the world. The Nickel Samurai gains top honors, but when his rival The Jammin' Ninja is murdered, his prize is an all expense paid trip to the detention center. This case contains many twists and turns, including one that WILL make your jaw drop. As well as a life-altering decision where you will be forced to choose between your heart and justice.

Is there anyone that can tell me why each case in the Phoenix Wright series contains the word "turnabout?"

-SAVE OFTEN! Especially when you're about to make a decision where your patience bar is at stake, such as attempting to break through Psyche Locks or presenting a piece of evidence in court. Like the game before it, the correct choice can often be vague, and too many mistakes will force you to start over from that particular segment of the case. And also like the first, there is much text to read, and you probably won't be able to tolerate going through it too many times.
-Don't bother trying to break Psyche Locks when you first encounter them. You'll usually have to do a bit more digging around before you find the required "keys" to unlock them.

And that's just the way it is.

February 11, 2008

Animal Forest Crosses Over to the Big Screen

I heard the news on a game site quite a few months back, found it interesting, but thought nothing else of it. That's because it was related to a game to film adaptation that would probably never be viewed outside of Japan, aside from importing. But after browsing YouTube a couple weeks back, I inadvertently stumbled upon the film, kindly pirated and uploaded to the service by a fan. WITH subtitles. I figured I wouldn't be able to see this movie any other way, so I put my conscience in my pocket and proceeded to watch Animal Forest: The Movie. That's Animal Crossing for all you English speaking fans. And if that's the name you know it as, you probably won't understand the movie's official web site.

Animal Crossing would take a whole other blog entry to describe, so I'll give the basics. Unlike traditional games that have an ending to work towards, A.C. is a sandbox experience. That means you can pretty much do what you want with the several tasks within the game, and it continues indefinitely. It's like The Sims in that regard. You play the part of a human who moves into a forest with various anthropomorphic animals. You interact with them, do chores for them, find a large catalog of items to decorate your own house and present as gifts to other animals, earn money to expand your dwelling, catch fish and bugs, and numerous other objectives.

The series began its life on the Nintendo 64 console in Japan. It was planned for release in North America, but they decided to hold off and bring it to our Gamecubes instead. The game is digital crack. I played just about every day for months. At least, it seemed like that long. A sequel was put out for Nintendo DS, while a third incarnation of the franchise is planned for release on the Wii. It's online capabilities are being heavily touted, but I hope they decide to give it a graphical upgrade as well. I'm no graphics whore, but we've had two generations of game systems pass since its first inception, and 64 bit graphics leave much to be desired on current consoles.

The movie is based mostly upon the second Animal Crossing game, subtitled Wild World. Just about every job animal and traveler make an appearance, as well as the buildings they work in. You'll see my personal favorites Crazy Redd and Lyle, as well as Brewster and his coffee shop The Roost, located in the museum as always. Also seen in the museum are the dinosaur fossils that can be obtained in the game itself. The characters also behave the same as their digital counterparts with their unique personality quirks. Blathers prattles on and on about historical facts, Resetti blows his gasket, and Tom Nook is a major douchebag. And you haven't seen anything until you witness old Mayor Tortimer running along the beach with a surfboard. But best of all, my favorite villager from the first Animal Crossing game made the cut... Hopper the Penguin.

Not only are the setting and characters related to the game, but the look, features, and mechanics find their way into the flick in one way or another. The filmmakers went all out and paid special attention to detail. The designs on the trees, hell, even what's growing on the trees themselves! Tom Nook's shop is littered with the various odd items that can be collected throughout the game. You'll definitely recognize the background music. There's changing seasons and festivals. Bug catching, fishing, and digging, along with the usual bounty of those activities. Numerous shirts and all those crazy accessories that could be purchased from the Able Sisters shop. Designing outfits that become so popular that everyone in town starts to wear them. You know those symbols that would pop over a character's head to reflect their feelings? Happens here, too. Even the damn stationary made it in. And believe it or not, there's the hardship of a beloved villager moving away. There's even more that I chose not to mention. K.K. Slider also shows up for a performance. He has a normal speaking voice, but when he sings, it's still in the indeciphrable language from the games. But translated with subtitles. Fucking Awesome. It's as if they made a list of all the game's contents and said "THAT'S THE SCRIPT!"

It's neat to see the movie populated with villagers that the viewer themselves probably acquainted themselves with from the game. When I heard the name "Apollo", I immediately remembered him as the grumpy bald eagle before he even came on-screen. Speaking of which, I decided to boot up my copy of Wild World after watching this, just to see how my village looks after me being absent for more than a year. And yes, Apollo is still living there. All my PRECIOUS HYBRID FLOWERS have died off because I neglected watering them, and weeds have taken over the town.

The Animal Crossing/Forest games are a big success in America as well as Japan. I think Nintendo should have taken a gamble and brought the movie stateside like it did for the Pokemon films. Although the plot of this movie is geared towards a younger audience, I recommend anyone who's ever been addicted to this game, even older folks such as myself, to check it out at least once. You'll get a kick out of how faithful it is to its source.

This adaptation was handled directly opposite of how The Super Mario Bros. movie was done. While Animal Crossing's movie world is an animated replica of the game's, the Mario movie took so many liberties with the source material that it turned into an "In Name Only" flick. This should be required viewing for any director looking to handle a game to movie project. Pay the fuck attention, Uwe Boll.

And that's just the way it is.

Game Character Development

Gamers creating their own characters in games is nothing new. Capcom would sponsor contests in video game magazines that allowed readers to design and submit new Robot Masters for the MegaMan series. Wrestling games allow players to build their own dream athlete, customizing everything from their physical appearance to their repertoire of holds. Can't forget about Will Wright's runaway success called The Sims, allowing you to create tiny replicas of yourself and your friends and control every aspect of their digital lives. And most recently, Nintendo DS (Wii version forthcoming) played host to Drawn To Life, an innovative game where players take on the role of "The Creator" and use their styluses to draw not only their game character, but weapons and platforms as well. Before a few weeks ago, the preceding examples were some of the many outlets I had in making my own video game characters. With all that in mind, try to imagine being granted the position of creating game characters that will be built into the game itself for the whole world to enjoy.

I've already discussed being drafted to work on a still-under-wraps video game, and that my first assignment was to write a story that would help sell people on the idea of running with it. With that taken care of, and thankfully well received, I was asked to develop characters for the game that would be marketable. I had to make eight of them, down from the original number of twenty. You see, twenty was the first number thrown around because it was understood that the only difference each character would have is a certain ability the player could utilize to help them beat the game. But then it was decided to give the characters character. And it would be far easier to develop eight rather than that number plus twelve. Which means less bodies for you guys to keep tabs on.

One of the major guidelines for creating this cast was that we wanted them to have different ethnicities and nationalities so that everyone would be able to identify with at least one. Then there was our first idea of giving them their own unique abilities for gameplay reasons. I took five days to create those eight major characters. As I said before, these are not going to be throw-aways who will only be seen in one game. We're talking the possibility of merchandising here. There are profits that could be riding on my shoulders. So after creating them, I sat with them awhile to see if I was comfortable with presenting them as the figureheads of this project. I really felt they would be worthy, so I submitted them to the game's mastermind for approval, and he accepted them.

Here's the list of traits I used to construct the characters.
Name- Important for more reasons than to just keep us from referring to everyone as "that guy". A good name will help you remember the character more, plus it adds a degree of likability. For example, do you think Sonic the Hedgehog would have become a video game icon if he were called Zippy instead? He could have been put into the same great games, but there's just something more appealing about "Sonic" than "Zippy". Anyway, since this project called for a cast with different ethnicities and nationalities, I found a site that had listings of names from cultures all over the world. This helped me in finding names unique to each world region.
Ethnicity/Nationality- All ethnic groups are represented, and I chose the most diverse nationalities as the foundation of the character personas. If I left out yours, I apologize.
Expertise- These characters will have to do more than stand around and blink, they got to get out there and give you an enjoyable game experience with their talents! Each one is special and you will have to capitalize on each individual's strengths to get you through the game.
Description- This explains what each character is all about, such as their role and their personality. Some of their attitudes are even based on what their major skill is. I even figured how they may get along with each other, creating strong friendships and shaky ties.
Outfit- We're looking to keep this game from receiving the much feared Adults Only (AO) rating, so we have to put clothes on them. I made them some threads that would match up well with the three previous traits I discussed.
Hair- I chose varying hair styles to top our characters off with; no one shares the same type of mop. Hmmm... I guess I was wrong. I failed to create at least one character for an oft-neglected group of our society to identify with: bald people.

I even went as far as sketching how the main characters would look and based the outfit and hair descriptions off what I came up with. That's probably a major reason why I continue to draw to this very day instead of sticking completely to the writing process. It just helps me relate to the character more if I can give them form.

I've already birthed quite a large cast of characters for my own stories, so creating a brand new roster was a lot easier than I thought it would be. And consider the fact that I was making them for someone else's approval. A daunting task to be sure but I think I nailed it. So now that I've got the story and game characters down, what's next?

February 2, 2008

Main Page Revamp

For those of you who stop by to regularly... oh wait, my psychiatrist warned me about talking to imaginary people. Let me start again... for those of you who accidentally stumble upon my my art gallery's tribute exhibit during your Google image searches for Shadow the Hedgehog pictures, I have made a few changes to my site, each with varying degrees of importance.

The first and most major change is obvious as soon as you click that link I created in the first paragraph. The buttons I created to lead you to each page are gone, instead replaced with a table that shows a text link with the last two updates (three at first) to that particular page directly to its right. Before, I had a bunch of graphics huddled together, with a long list of updates piling up beneath them. I wasn't too sure if everyone would have noticed or paid any attention to them upon visiting my site for the first time, this time you have no excuse. Keeps the front page clean too, instead of having a large listing of updates dating all the way back to early 2007. This sort of reminds me of my days using AOL Press in the mid-90's when I had a similar setup for my role-play wrestling game. I wasn't just a wrestler, I was also a promoter. BACK TO THE PRESENT. For cosmetic purposes, I added yet another Lady Demon original graphic for the background. The cold, icy strip beside a stone gray layout fits the atmosphere of my site perfectly. I remember before I even created this site two years ago, the first thing I envisioned for main page navigation were hand drawn buttons. Yep, it was good for a while, but then I mulled it over recently and decided that the way it is now would be much more convenient.

As for those drawings I "scrapped", they will now be resized and utilized as decorations elsewhere in the site. I've already placed the tombstone used as the button for The Epitaph on the blog itself. As a matter of fact, most of the graphics will be placed on the pages they were originally created to lead you to. But first I will rescan them so I can have them appear bigger. But I'm not going to waste my time clearing out the dead space around them this time, I only have MS Paint to edit pictures with.

Second update: new site-wide navigational system. I figured if all page links were accessible from whatever part of the side you were on (except when viewing the web comic or blog) it would encourage visitors who enter from one page to give others a look as well. I've noticed that very few outsiders discover my site from the main page, and their stays are not long ones. I guess that single home link I would place on the bottom of every page wasn't up to task. Sorry little mausoleum graphic, you're getting a job transfer.

Minor third update. I put in dividers on my art gallery and cast pages. The images there started to collapse on each other and get mixed up with different texts. The dividers help separate and keep them in line.

Fourth and most insignificant update. I didn't like the idea of having the word "gallery" used twice in the art section of my site. The whole thing is called the "Art Gallery", then there was a subsection called "Tributes Gallery". So I subbed the second word for a new one. I already used Wing and Collection, and what other word could be used to describe a part of an art museum? Exhibit, you fools! That's why I'm a writer and you're not! What works have I had published, you ask? Okay, I'll shut up.

And that's just the way it is.

January 27, 2008

Dream Girls

I know I'm not the only one who dreams of girls who are off limits. I've dreamed of Stephi plenty of times (and told her so because I have no shame). But I raise the issue now because, for the past five days, I had dreams of a different woman each night. And they're all dreams I can recall even a while after having them. I'll bet you all would agree that it's hard to recall vivid details of dreams after waking up.

The first night, I dreamed of a slender blonde beauty who always dresses in black despite being a Light Spirit. I didn't work directly with her, but I've crossed her path often at my last job. We weren't what you would call "friends", but we peacefully co-existed nonetheless. Which is why I can't figure out why she took center stage in one of my dreams. Within that dream, she seemed to be crazy over me, and she talked with a very seductive tone. We were at a party that seemed to be set in my grandfather's old house for some unknown reason (it was a dream, remember) and we sought refuge in a bathroom in order to have alone time. I won't go in to too much detail on what happened there, but she seemed to have a sudden dislike in my pants in that she wanted to get them off me. And there was also a shower scene. Sorry, too much information.

Second night. I found myself in the past at my old school bus stop in front of the fire station. Two girls, one being my second biggest real-life crush (we'll call her Em), and a friend of hers who I used to also associate with (who we'll call Tee), were also there. Just like now, I was not on speaking terms with this crush. Then the "bus" comes, a large, square-shaped vehicle that could only exist in the dream world. The bus' interior had chairs in the middle and padded ones lining the sides. I occupied one of the cushy seats, and Tee sits two chairs away from me. She has the intention of getting Em to sit between us. But other kids are piling onto the bus and one girl takes the seat. Then Em arrives, and both her and Tee argue with the bitch and demand that she get her ass to another seat. So she does, and Em takes her "rightful" place. Without even sharing any words, Em and I begin to play the flirty "I'm tired, can I rest my head on your shoulder?" game, alternating with each other. We even have our heads together at one point. While my old crush's appearance is different now, she had a look I was more familiar with from years past in this dream. You try to forget old relationships and then your mind has to pull crap like this.

Third night starred a beauty I'm sure many are familiar with. None other than 2008 Australian Open tennis champion Maria Sharapova. While it isn't out of the ordinary for one to fantasize about being with the young Russian tennis babe, she was way out of character here. The good news is that she was interested in me, the bad news is that she wasn't that bright, and prone to fits of crying whenever she did something to make her realize that fact. I guess she was overly frustrated. But in good boyfriend fashion, I was there to comfort and reassure her. Wouldn't you? I also vaguely recall driving another "dream exclusive" vehicle that was so big I couldn't even go under underpasses. Hmmm... "under underpasses". Can I say that?

Dream four. There's a Dark Spirit who works at a record store I frequent often who's "hide in a corner of the store so I can steal glances at her without her noticing" hot. She's been there for as long as I've been visiting, which has been years. I always look out for her as soon as I enter. Oh yeah, the dream. One night, I enter the record store, and all seems normal. But then the next day when I go there, it underwent a slight change. It was gutted and transformed into a beauty salon, and the girl was the owner. And the only one who worked there. Very odd indeed. Now that I think about it, she also made appearances in other dreams as a worker in variations of the same store.

Last night's dream featured another slim blonde babe. Famous for her appearances in World Wrestling Entertainment and Dancing With the Stars... and a cameo in Bubble Boy... none other than Stacy Keibler. A lady known mostly for her exquisite legs, but it's not like the rest of her isn't worthy of equal attention. I mostly remember us meeting, and in a bizarre twist, me offering her my autograph. She didn't turn it down, for what it's worth. But the pen I was using to sign paper was very strange. I would try to write "To Stacy Keibler", but for whatever reason, the letters came out so big it covered the entire paper. No room to write "From James Gannon" on it. So I would try another sheet, but same results. I went through a lot of paper, and to her credit, Stacy was very patient. I guess she really wanted a no name writer's autograph. I think I did finally manage to get what I wanted written down with that "dream pen".

Five nights in a row, five different girls. That's business as usual for "players", but these encounters were only in my mind. If I my slate of luck continues for six nights or more, I'll alter this entry to include them. Until then, have pleasant dreams. I know I will.

And that's just the way it is.

The Mechakaiju War

Every kaijuphile's dream almost comes true in Marc Cerasini's fourth and final book in his Godzilla series. I'm sure we all fantasized about the ginormous tussle that would take place if Toho's stable of robot monsters were to come together in one story. While budget constraints may have prevented Toho from realizing this dream, it's no extra cost to include many complex kaiju in a book. Unless you count licensing fees. Godzilla vs. The Robot Monsters employs Mechagodzilla, MOGUERA, and Mecha-King Ghidorah, each metal monstrosity controlled by a different nation for their own purposes. Throw in Godzilla, Anguirus, and a couple others, and you have the makings of a man vs. nature epic unlike any kaiju story before it. But something went wrong.
While Godzilla at World's End was awesome because it had one great plot, Robot Monsters takes a hit because of the problem that plagued Godzilla 2000: One too many storylines going on at once. Although the problem wasn't as bad as 2000's, plus most of the storylines eventually combined with the main one. So while it starts out in branches, it heads to the same path.
This book contains forty pages less than the previous one and offers one less kaiju. Well, technically two, since I consider Ghidorah and Mecha-Ghidorah to be one.

Kaiju Cast
Godzilla- After clawing out of the earth from an active volcano, Godzilla returns home to Japan to defend his turf from a "new" foe.
Mecha-King Ghidorah- The extraterrestrial terror is revived and suited with mechanical components. Now a cyborg under control of a ruthless Mongolian warlord, the tri-headed dragon is more evil than ever.
Anguirus- Russia's own kaiju threat, this time the spiked beast takes on the role of destructor rather than savior.
Baragon- Awakened by an underground mine blast, this dinosaur-like kaiju has a monster-sized hunger that seemingly can't be satisfied. With a glowing horn and incredible jumping and burrowing abilities, this mythical beast terrorizes an Indian reservation.
Mechagodzilla- A robotic double of the King of the Monsters, developed jointly by America and Japan. This super-weapon is operated via mind control for top maneuverability.
MOGUERA- Mobile Operation Godzilla Universal Expert Robot Aero-type. A mechanical monster built by the Russians for defending their homeland.
Fire Rodan- Mutated pteranodon with the ability to fly at Mach 1.5. Suspiciously fertile.

The story begins a year after King Ghidorah's defeat at Godzilla's hands. Apparently, he was too battered to survive, especially since he lost his middle head. It's unknown how he did manage to live for twelve months, and where he spent this time, but he crash lands in Mongolia in a comatose state. On cue, a brutal Mongolian tyrant and his troops appear and claim the fallen space monster. Meanwhile, a weakened Godzilla wanders beneath the Earth's crust following his duel with Biollante in the previous book. While looking for a way out, he collapses in a river of lava and would surely have perished if he didn't flow into an underground chamber rich with radioactive ore.
A Russian oil drilling station in the Caspian Sea draws the attention of Anguirus, who plows through the naval defense force before wiping out the structure itself. This prompts the Russian government to launch their kaiju-like war machine MOGUERA ahead of schedule. Their intention is to capture him alive in a containment facility to symbolize the power of the new Russia.
While MOGUERA is given a few test runs through an obstacle course in preparation, another mech is being built in a Mongolian robot factory. In the three years since the remains of King Ghidorah is seized, he was slowly being turned into a cyborg. The intention is to use a young girl to link her mind with the gold dragon's in order to control it. But there are difficulties, as the free-willed monster snaps out of its electronically induced trance and nearly trashes the facility. A few lives are lost before its half-conscious state is restored.
Anguirus climbs out of the Caspian Sea after being attracted by the sounds of a pumping oil field. It was merely a trap to draw the spiky shelled dinosaur into battle with MOGUERA. The two monstrosities begin to grapple, with the flesh and bone kaiju overwhelming his metal attacker. After being stunned by electricity-based mazer attacks and falling over after destroying a tower, Anguirus is finally injected with a sedative by MOGUERA, which quickly takes effect and puts the aggressive creature to sleep.
A volcano on the island of Krakatau explodes, unleashing the King of the Monsters to the surface of the Earth once more. When he heads into the water, he is immediately tailed by a French warship, the captain of which was inadvertently responsible for waking Godzilla about a decade earlier. After difficulties in getting Godzilla at the proper distance in order to safely launch their nuclear payload, the radioactive dinosaur creeps upon the ship and smashes it like a brittle piece of Styrofoam.
The unconscious Anguirus is tied to giant helium balloons and transported towards the containment facility by helicopters. But while flying over the city of Moscow, terrorists fire rockets at the airborne supports, taking out enough of them to send the quadrupedal lizard plummeting to the busy capital below.
On an Indian reservation in Montana, an explosion in a uranium mine disturbs the rest of the prehistoric kaiju known as Baragon. After such a long hibernation period, he begins to seek out food to satisfy his hunger, terrorizing animals and humans alike.
Fire Rodan is spotted flying towards U.S. soil from the Atlantic Ocean, taking out a naval destroyer on the way. He eventually heads to Pittsburgh, landing in a baseball stadium and causing many casualties among spectators and ballplayers. He eventually decides upon a peak in the Appalachian mountains to build a new nest.
Now awake, Anguirus starts to tear Moscow up while Russian military units try to lead it toward the prepared containment unit. They are successful, and MOGUERA shows up to put him down once more and lock him up at last.
When the Chinese military starts to strike the border of Mongolia, Mecha-King Ghidorah appears and easily devastates the whole of them. The Mongolian warlord decides that his super cyborg has the ability to conquer the world, and begins by attacking Beijing.
In the town of Denning, the medicine man of the Blackfoot Indian tribe stands up to Baragon. Using the magic arts possessed by his ancestors, he strikes the large lizard with a concentrated bolt of lightning from the heavens above, sending the monster into retreat. But Baragon's troubles are only beginning when Mechagodzilla confronts him. Despite a valiant effort to take the heavy robot down with bites and leaps, the mutated dinosaur is injected with shock cables and zapped with millions of volts of electricity. Unable to overcome the King of Robot Monsters, Baragon escapes by burrowing miles into the Earth from whence it came.
The Mongolian dictator declares war on Japan, prompting Mechagodzilla and MOGUERA to fly to Tokyo to fight off the cyborg kaiju as a team. When Mecha-King Ghidorah finally arrives, it's an all-out war of colliding metal and searing beams. The phenomenally powerful Ghidorah fights off his enemies very well... until Godzilla, who has finally returned "home", joins the battle. The kaiju king resumes his battle with Ghidorah, this time in the capital of Japan instead of America. But to the surprise of all, MOGUERA turns its attack towards the newcomer and fires injection needles into Godzilla's flesh, pumping him full of a powerful toxin. It turns out the Russian Colonel, who commandeered the controls from the main MOGUERA crew, has killing off the King of the Monsters as his top priority. But the battle is far from over as Godzilla overtakes the traitorous robot, pinning it against a building and tearing it to pieces with his claws and radioactive fire. As this happens, Mechagodzilla is getting trampled by Mecha-King Ghidorah, but the distracted Mongolian machine is eventually knocked down by Godzilla. With his powerful foe down, the nuclear dinosaur starts to tear him to bits as well, as the uprighted Mechagodzilla chips in with a barrage of explosives. In a last ditch effort, Mecha-King Ghidorah breaks away and flies towards the Sea of Japan. The young girl who piloted the three-headed cyborg finally comes to her senses and crashes her vessel into the flagship that housed the Mongolian dictator, taking him out, as well as herself and King Ghidorah once and for all.

There seemed to be no less than six storylines going on at the same time, although equal time was certainly not devoted to all of them: Godzilla's return. Rodan reproducing. Ghidorah's revival. Baragon grazing. Anguirus and MOGUERA's feud. Mechagodzilla's controller impatient about finally getting to control Mechagodzilla. The only monster battles in the entire book are Anguirus vs. MOGUERA, Baragon vs. Mechagodzilla, and Mecha-King Ghidorah vs. Mechagodzilla, MOGUERA, and Godzilla. Disappointing after World's End, which had more fights than the line-up of Wrestlemania 2000.

The main monsters, according to page time they received, were Baragon, MOGUERA, and Anguirus, in that order. And Baragon only appears after half the book is over. But if we want to talk about who stars in the book as far as exposure goes, it has to go to the crew members of MOGUERA and the Indians of the Blackfoot tribe. To borrow and alter a quote from Ian Malcolm of the first Jurassic Park movie: "Now eventually you might have MONSTERS in your MONSTER book, right?" That might be a slight exaggeration, but really, why did we pick up this book in the first place?

The storylines that received the most page time were Baragon's ravaging of Montana and the MOGUERA unit itself. The giant horned lizard's attempt to turn the Blackfoot Indian reservation into his own all-you-can-eat buffet was the high-point of the entire book. Cattle, buffalo, cowboys, Indians, and business men were indiscriminately pounced on and devoured. With Mechagodzilla's crew on a promotional tour of Russia, there was no force in America that could fend the beast off, but then the book takes a mystical turn when one of the characters finally decides to take up the mantle of shaman for his tribe.

The motivation behind Anguirus' attack is never explained. Sure, a wild kaiju doesn't really need a reason to run amok, but in the previous story, he existed only in legend before surfacing for the first time with the sole purpose of defeating Gigan. He was an earth defender last time, so why does he start destroying real estate for the hell of it?

Fire Rodan returns from Godzilla 2000. It was his offspring that was featured in Word's End, remember? Papa Rodan had absolutely no reason to be in this book, as all he did was mimic his also pointless role from last time. He flew to America, destroyed a structure or two, laid an egg, and flew back home with his brood. That's it. He participated in no storyline, thus contributed nothing. His offspring had a much more limited role in the last book, but it actually played a part in the outcome by saving the humans from being grounded by Battra. But despite this gripe, what little he did was a bit of a good read. He landed in the new ballpark of the Pittsburgh Pirates, probably thinking it to be a concrete nest. Cerasini does a good job showing what would happen if this airborne kaiju were to touch down in a stadium, with much detail paid to the accidental death and destruction his mass and wings would cause. It's worth noting that Cerasini is a native of Pittsburgh, so this may be a tribute, albeit a twisted one, to his hometown. I'm sure if I wrote a story where the Boston Red Sox were crushed to death, my fellow New Englanders would string me up like a pinata.

My last major disagreement with the way this story was handled concerns Mechagodzilla, who only shows up towards the end. Mechagodzilla is one of the most popular monsters in Toho's kaiju catalog who should have had a lot more effort put into his first appearance in this Godzilla book series. The robot monster's pilot is given more attention, and as I stated in a previous review, no one looks at Godzilla media for the human cast, they want the monsters. The least we could have asked for was a first meeting between Godzilla and his metal clone so more time could have been devoted to them, as they are featured prominently on the book's cover. Speaking of the cover, another masterpiece by artist Bob Eggleton, it depicts Godzilla and Mechagodzilla facing off over a Russian landscape as Anguirus is bombarded with missiles in the foreground. So just by looking at it in the store, you'd probably expect a grand battle between the two akin to their movie counterparts somewhere within its fifteen chapters. But no, they don't even as much as scratch each other, but battle on the same side. This would have been fine, considering the fact that both monsters are varying degrees of "good" who face a common enemy, but again, the cover foreshadows a conflict, and the name of the book itself is Godzilla vs. The Robot Monsters, and the one monster he battled was only half robot. Everything about the presentation was misleading.

G-Force returns from Godzilla 2000, as The Big G is viewed as an immediate worry as opposed to the last book where there were more immanent kaiju threats to take care of. The flying ship Garuda from the film Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II makes an appearance to aid MechaG in his travels. After three books, Nick Gordon is finally dropped even though his character was finally turned tolerable in the last book. But we do see the return of the first book's main character, Brian Shimura, who covers the conclusive battle and just happens to be the uncle of a member of G-Force.

There is a noticable error in the time line between this book and the predecessor. Godzilla at World's End ended on January 22nd, 2001, but this book begins December 13th, 2000. While I at first figured that the prologue featuring the discovery of King Ghidorah could have occurred during the events of the previous book, it tells us that "at that moment", Godzilla is wandering through the center of the Earth where he was left at the conclusion of the last book.

Something that caught my eye was a brief scene to illustrate Godzilla finally setting "foot" on Japanese soil once again. It featured two factory workers named Ken and Ryu. A reference to the two main fighters of the Street Fighter video game series? Then Ryu states "I'd rather be driving my car than spending time with my girlfriend, any day." There aren't really any guys who think like that, are there?

Once again, the book's main selling point occurs in the last couple of chapters. But overall, the story was still good, but it was a wasted opportunity. The Baragon and Anguirus segments play a big part in entertainment value. Godzilla and Mechagodzilla fight on the same side for the first time in any Toho endorsed lore. Unless you count video games where two players could choose those monsters and compete as a team. Which I don't and neither should you. This book is also the first in the series where Mothra doesn't make any appearance, but it's fine because her help wasn't needed. And despite everything going on, it would have been better if the book was longer to devote more attention to those storylines which received little. Generally, Godzilla vs. The Robot Monsters should have contained more scenes of Godzilla versing robot monsters.

Book Roles vs. Movie Roles
The norm of Cerasini's Godzilla novels is that he invents unique new origins for existing monsters. Here's some small descriptions of the parts they played in the movies that inspired their appearances here:
-Mecha-King Ghidorah was originally a hero. After Godzilla whipped his tail in a fight that also saw the three-headed monster lose his central head, visitors from the future revived the carcass with their modern technology, and a few robotic enhancements, to put a stop to Godzilla's rampage.
-The G-Force Mechagodzilla was created solely by Japan out of the scraps of Mecha-King Ghidorah. So this story could never occur in the Heisei series since one monster is made out of the remains of another.
-MOGUERA was also a Japanese G-Force creation. In the films, he could split into two different mechs; one airborne and a ground-based vehicle that could tunnel underground.

Godzilla vs. The Robot Monsters ends with several unique prospects for future installments. Godzilla is poisoned by a concoction cooked up by the Russians, leaving us to wonder how it will effect him in a sequel. Baragon is supposedly buried underground once more, but we can all assume that a massive monster who can burrow like a mole could resurface any time he pleases. Anguirus is contained within a pen in Russia, but you know such a hostile kaiju can't remain imprisoned for long. Mechagodzilla, MOGUERA, and Mecha-King Ghidorah are destroyed forever, but who's to say the two robot monsters can't be rebuilt again? And Rodan is home at the North Pole once more, waiting to appear in every other book to do nothing more than lay eggs. I just can't wait to see what's cooked up for the fifth book.

Sadly, waiting and seeing isn't even an option anymore. Although a fifth was planned, Toho's deal with Random House expired. It's too bad, because we'll never find out how much offspring a single Rodan can yield in its lifetime. Godzilla and The Lost Continent was the planned sequel, which would have seen the returns of Varan, Manda, and Battra. Though they got their tails (or abdomens) kicked, we never actually see them perish. I also wonder if Gigan or Megalon would have shown up, two others who disappeared without us truly discovering their fates. The premise is that a new Texas-sized continent surfaces from beneath the ocean. So naturally the world's nations decide to play "finder's keepers" with their weapons at the forefront. But the aforementioned monsters have already claimed it as their own. The hook here is that ancient ruins are discovered, as well as survivors of a nearly extinct race. Not only that, what's described as "a totally new monster" shows up with the power to devastate all the world's armies. Would this be a brand new Cerasini created kaiju? Or just a Toho creation that hasn't shown up in the novels yet? The idea of an ancient civilization coming back to life harkens back to Godzilla at World's End, the best book in the series, so I would like to think that this new story would have been at least as good. but I guess we'll never find out...

My favorite novels in this series from best to worst are Godzilla at World's End, Godzilla Returns, Godzilla vs. The Robot Monsters, and Godzilla 2000. You might probably judge by my reviews of a couple of these books that I hated them, but that is far from the truth. I've basically been reviewing them for what they were: Godzilla adventures. For what they were, the numerous human portions of the stories were excellent, but if I wanted a people story, I would have picked one out. I'll probably go back to these books and read them again someday. It's a crime to think these fantastic books were priced from 4.99 (the first) to 5.99 (the rest). For their quality, they were worth much more.

Then again, who's to say that a lot of the problems I griped about were even Cerasini's original intentions? If anyone's ever paid attention to the development processes of Godzilla ventures handled by outside companies, you would know how controlling (compassionate) Toho is about their lunch tickets. They are very particular about how their kaiju are handled, so who's to say that potentially great books like 2000 and Robot Monsters were heavily altered by the Toho reps? Sure, it's an unnecessary handicap when the franchise is in the capable hands of an obvious fan like Cerasini, but Toho's guidelines are also required to prevent Godzilla's good name to be sullied by the likes of Sony/Tristar's 1998 Zilla movie. The reason why it was such a blasphemous deviation is because Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich took the Godzilla guidelines and basically used them as emergency wipes in case their trailers ran out of toilet paper. So while admitted non-Godzilla fans like Devlin and Emmerich could have used the guidelines, I think giving Cerasini a bit more rope to do his own thing would have made his already awesome works far more enjoyable. Speaking of that abomination against Godzilla, rumor has it that the reason why Random House didn't release the final Godzilla book before their rights expired is due to the poor reaction to the Zilla movie. So not only did that mutated iguana kill the real G's image in America, it also made sure that the paper used to print out copies of Lost Continent remained in the trees.

And that's just the way it is.