Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Superhero Media: Dragonball Evolution

Brace yourselves, because I'm about to say nice things about Dragonball Evolution. Not a lot of nice things mind you, just a couple. The film is terrible, but not because it's a bad adaptation of Dragonball; it's terrible on so many other levels that are, actually, far more important. So before I get into dissecting the flaws in production, tone and development in Dragonball Evolution, I'd like to talk about what actually works, because some of it actually does. Firstly, Justin Chatwin aside, the casting is actually pretty good. Chow Yun-Fat as Master Roshi? Good cast. Emmy Rossum as Bulma? Nicely done. Jamie Chung as Chi-Chi? She was in Big Hero Six, why not? Randall Duk Kim as Grandpa Gohan? Fuck, that's good casting right there. Clearly, some care went into the creation of the film. Also the speech Piccolo gives at the turn of the second act, "Imagine, being shackled so tightly, that every atom in your body stood compacted, that was my hell", is a great moment that no one really seems to remember. 

Just as I'm typing this, I'm recalling other bits I liked about Dragonball Evolution, the fight between Goku and the bullies is a lot of fun, this was probably the best interpretation of Mai until Dragonball Super and the joke with Goku's hair is pretty much lifted whole-cloth from the anime. Where Dragonball Evolution really fails is that the entire production is simply far too lazy. Lazy direction, lazy effects work, lazy adaptation. Sure, there was basically no way this film was ever going to be a direct take on the manga or anime, but it didn't need to be this... bland and generic. A common criticism of Dragonball Evolution is that it "turned Goku into Spider-man", and whilst I can see where that comes from, it's inaccurate; what the film does is take the typical Hollywood template of straight, cis-male, adolescent and give it a handful of DB iconography to wear for the narrative. Sure, that sucks for us fans of the original, but that was all we were ever going to get, and it's not like Fox came around to your house and smashed your DVD collection. 

I'll say it again, Dragonball Evolution is bad, but hey, it pretty much was never going to be anything else but bad. Dragonball just doesn't have that much material that really translates well to live action. Sure, I like fan films like The Fall of Man and Light of Hope, but they're still kind of dumb and crummy, just in a fun way. Remember, I read Fletcher Hanks comics and own almost every Gamera film on DVD, something doesn't need to be "good" to be enjoyable. Dragonball is awesome. Silly, illogical, goofy, self-contradictory and fucking awesome. We don't need a serious, high-minded, dramatic take on Goku and friends, because that would suck. It sucks in Dragonball Evolution, not because the film fails to get there, but because the concept doesn't work from the ground-up. Much as I love the Cell Saga or The World's Strongest or the Tien vs Goku fight, I don't need to see them in live action, it wouldn't make my affection for them any more or less relevant. Give this a watch if you haven't, form your own opinion.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Super Mission Force: Savage Land Stouche

I finally got a chance to play a game of Super Mission Force, only more than a year after its having been released. I played at the Axes and Ales Wargames club in Preston, Melbourne, with Viv (of Knights of Dice fame) and Ara (from Mana Press). Yes, the Melbourne wargames scene is so small that I know both those guys. Anyway, I found some nice stat cards for the game here: 

Sorry I can't find the original link right now, so I can't credit the creator, but if they're yours, tell me and I'll correct that here. 
I wanted to play a couple of games before I started creating my own characters, just so I had an idea of how various powers and skills worked. 

 One of the gorgeous tables at Axes and Ales, made for Tribal (from Mana Press), but it works perfectly for the Savage Land as well. 

 The clash was between Team Bat (Batman, Robin [Tim], Nightwing and Batgirl [Babs]) and The Avengers (Captain America, Hawkeye, Black Widow and Beast). 

 Hawkeye was easily the most effective model on the table, taking out Nightwing and injuring Batgirl. 

Much as can happen with SuperSystem, the combats became bogged down with little progress. 

Batman made an early move for the objective (the statues in the centre of the table), but ended up stuck nearby. 
Team Bat are surprisingly colourful as a group. 
Another glimpse of the clustercuss that knotted itself near the objective. 
Captain America flings his mighty shield! But neither Batgirl nor Nightwing yield, nor take any damage. 
Batman and The Boy Wonder stalk through the jungle. 
Viv wishes I'd printed the cards a little larger. 
Batman and Black Widow clash. 
  As is appropriate, Hawakeye pulls off a risky shot into combat, taking down Nightwing and winning the game for the Avengers. Boomerang arrow Katie, trust it. 

After my first game, I can't say I'm all that enamored with Super Mission Force. From what I've been reading on various blogs, the Lead Adventure Forum and the Super Miniatures Gaming Facebook group, SMF is possibly the best thing Scott Pyle has ever produced. Sorry, but I'm not seeing it. I will play a few more games before I render any verdicts, but at the moment, SMF seems to have all of the problems that SuperSystem has, but sacrifices the granularity in favour of fast character creation. I like that attack and damage have been reduced to one roll, but that doesn't stop combats from bogging down as they always seem to in Goalsystem games. The good news is, I'm keen to play more rules with Supers in mind, maybe I'll find something that covers the bases I'm looking for other than my own Ultimate Alliance stuff. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Superhero Media: Seige

Annihilation and 52 aside, I'm not the kind of comics fan that really goes in for the big "crossover" events. If I get the chance, I read them, some I like, most I don't, but I'm happy to co-opt ideas from them for supers games. Siege is one of those "events" that copped a lot of flak for being "continuity management" when it was being pushed by Marvel, and whilst I think there's more to it than that, the criticism is not unfair. Norman Osborn, the Iron Patriot and Director of HAMMER is manipulated by Loki into attacking Asgard, which is currently in the American Mid-West and ruled by Balder, who was revealed to be the bastard son of Odin. God, that's a lot to get out of the way for what is, essentially, a big fight comic. By the end of the fight, Steve Rogers is Director of SHIELD, Osborn is in prison and both Sentry and Ares are dead; basically a reset for the new paradigm. 

All of that works against the overall quality of the comics, but there are enough fun moments and not-overdone fan service to make it a fun read. Most of the "world building" happens in the bookends, leaving a fun romp in the middle where a host of classic Avengers battle an army of supervillains. Most of the big names get a fun panel or two, Spider-Man quips, Cap beats face and Iron Man is arrogant, all the hits. Actually, that's a good way to describe Siege, it's a new Avengers "album", but when you start to listen, there's only two new tracks and the rest are reversions of old hits. It's not bad, just not really that good either. One major moment that I have to talk about is the death of Ares at the hands of Sentry. I like the idea, no really, that a superpowered human gone rogue has the power to take down a literal god; there's a nice sense of rationalism versus religious dogma there, that has been explored better elsewhere. The problem is the [splash] panel in which it happens:

Now I'm no prude; I own the entire run of Garth Ennis Punisher MAX, I think A Serbian Film is brilliant and I regularly rewatch both Luther and Wire in the Blood, however... This is too much. For a comic that is meant to be read by a large swathe of Marvel fans, the fact that I can see Ares' spine shatter takes it beyond the acceptable for me. This could have been even more evocative in shadow, or stylised, almost anything but two-page gore porn. It really leaves a sour taste in the reader's mouth and spoils an otherwise fun comic. As an excuse to have dozens of heroes and villains beat on each other, Siege is good enough, but it's not Secret War or even Secret Wars. If you want to see where Marvel NOW! started to spawn from, maybe worth a look, otherwise pretty forgettable.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Even more Smash characters... getting silly

Man, I thought my wants for "Smash Switch" were self-serving and backwards, that was before I watched a bunch of YouTube videos of "hardcore" video game fans and their wish-lists. Say what you like about mine, but at least I'm not demanding that Smash become a Fire Emblem fighting game spin-off or feature every single protagonist from the Golden Age or think that fucking Goku is going to work. No, stop it, I don't care that there are Goku mods for the existing games, it's never going to happen, so use the space you've been saving on your shelf for that Goku Amiibo for something useful. 

Rant aside, I, too have a wish list of utterly improbably characters that I'd like to see in Smash, so here's another list of characters that I want to beat up the Fire Emblem crowd with. Yes, they're silly and unrealistic, but that's half the fun.

Segata Sanshiro
A brilliant marketing icon for the Sega Saturn, Segata Sanshiro has gone on to have a life of his own, appearing in comics, video games and even songs. A master of martial arts and every Sega Saturn game, Segata possesses superhuman strength and agility, being able to deflect a cruise missile with his body alone. Oh, and he carries a giant Sega Saturn as strength training and a handy weapon. In Smash, Segata would likely be a tough and agile melee character with brutal Special Moves and taunts that encourage the playing of Sega Saturn.

Duke Nukem
I said these were silly, and there are few video game icons sillier than Duke Nukem. For the younger readers of Lead Capes, the classic Duke Nukem games were actually a lot of fun, with "Duke Nukem 3D" actually being something of a deconstructionist classic, not that we got that at the time, we just liked the blood and boobs. Duke is a goofy spoof of the '80s action hero, complete with buzz-cut and tank top and really only seems more at home in the current era of poorly-shaven, Caucasian "dude-bro" game protagonists. With all of the sword-based characters in Smash, why not a guy with guns? Also, he could "rocket-jump", because that would be a lot of fun.

Phoenix Wright
That's right, I can enjoy Japanese pop-culture without being a full-on weeb. Full disclosure, I've never played an Ace Attorney game, but I have watched a couple of the adaptations and think the character is pretty unique and enjoyable. I'm not sure how he'd work in Smash, but I would totally play him as an alternate when I didn't want to stomp one of my friends.

Cole MacGrath
My "Superhero Media" of inFamous 2 was a while back, so for those who missed it, I thought it was a great game. Cole isn't an amazing character, but his powers are cool and Bayonetta proved that having only two games and a cool set of moves is more than enough to get into Smash. I'm not sure how it could it be managed, but some kind of switch between "Good" and "Evil" Cole would be fun, especially if it was based on player choices throughout the match. Perhaps picking on foes with higher damage brings out "Evil" Cole? I don't know, but it sounds like a fun mechanic.

Travis Touchdown
The real question is how has this lightsabre-wielding, Otaku assassin never been in Smash before? No More Heroes was a brilliant game that used mechanics to tell the story in a way few video games manage. Suda51 has mentioned several times that he'd like to see Travis in Smash, so that's at least two people who would be happy to see him again. Play wise, I'm thinking a hard to control sword character with some randomness to him. Much like Conker on a previous list of mine, Travis could easily keep some of his adult humor, so long as it was subtle enough to go over the heads of younger players. 
Think I'm done? Not yet! There's at least a couple more of these I want to do, so stay tuned for more Smash stuff in the future.