Sunday, May 17, 2009

Favorite RPG Universe: Suikoden

Talk to any fan of J-RPGs, and they'll tell you they have a favorite series of games. Most of the n00bs will tell you Final Fantasy. The "hardcore" ones might tell you Fire Emblem. Others still might tell you the Tales series. (Particularly if they like anime.)

Me? My favorite series has always been Suikoden.




Y'know, I love Japanese RPGs. I really do. But one thing that's always gotten to me is that they seem to have something against continuity. I don't get it, really, but they do. For all the morons that whine about Final Fantasy ("How can it be "Final" when you're up to like, fifteen?"), each one of those games is a completely different world in a completely different universe.

Its a bit disheartening. As I mentioned in my Lunar post, no good RPG ever relies solely on its story, seeing as how the story is probably going to have a few cliches in it. The key to a good RPG is in world building. You create a world in which gamers WANT to play in, and the story (though still important) generally becomes secondary. So imagine playing a video game in which they've done everything right (in your opinion) in creating this really fun world that you're almost dying to see again, and then you hear about a sequel! And you wait and wait for information, and the FIRST thing you hear is that this game will have absolutely zero ties to the last game. You'd be pretty upset, right?

This is why Suikoden is my favorite RPG series. All five games (plus three side games) take place in the same universe and are interconnected, showing you how this world progresses over the course of several decades. Granted, most of them tend to be set on different continents, but it gives you a sort of investment in the world itself as you liberate each continent. Sort of makes me feel like I'm saving that world, which obviously would appeal to me.

Anyhow. Like I said--Suikoden, much like Lunar, has its own interesting world. The first two games all had their major artistic work hand-drawn, which gave the game its own distinctive "feel"--very important for a game you have to invest 40-60 hours in to beat. It all looks very old timey and pre-Industrial Revolution, displaying high fantasy in a way that at least I'd never seen it look before.

Thus far, I've played two of Suikoden's five main games (I have an ISO of Suikoden II, but I just never get that far in it. Takes up too much memory to run it so I always end up forgetting about it. Anyhow, oddly enough the two I've played are the first and the last one.

The first one was one of the four Playstation games I got when I first found myself addicted to games. (The other three were Tales of Destiny, Brave Fencer Musashi, and Final Fantasy VII. All RPGs. Surprise.) Suikoden was the first one to really grip me, and it turned out to be the first game I ever actually finished, so naturally I have a special attachment to it.

For various reasons (let's not make this longer than it already will be), I sadly never got to play Suikos II-IV (of course, IV sucked so no loss there), but Suiko V came out just around the time I was graduating from high school, so my mom bought it for me as a graduation gift.

It was one of the games I'd most anticipated since this decade has been home to mostly average J-RPGs (and endless Halo and GTA clones). Would've been a real downer if this game had sucked, but fortunately it turned out to be just as good, actually in my opinion BETTER than the original, fully cementing my part as a member of this universe's fandom. So, what about the Suikoden universe is so attractive?

- The huge casts. For those who don't know, one of Suikoden's most distinguishing features that truly sets it apart from most J-RPGs, is that a side goal of the game is to collect The 108 Stars of Destiny, which is 108 different characters in the game, to help you in your quest. Now, this isn't entirely necessary, and the game gives you everyone you need to beat it, but to get the "best" ending, the stars are necessary to cause a miracle to occur, generally leading to you saving the life of either one of the stars, or a character that's close to the main hero. The quest itself is very engrossing, requiring you to pay close attention to every town and area you visit with actual people involved in order to recruit every one. Granted, you miss out on a bit of characterization with so many characters, but just recruiting each person gives you a sense of attachment to most of them, honestly.

- The different battles. Another distinguishing feature of Suikoden. Even the basic turn-based battles are quite a bit different than normal RPGs. Rather than tying you down to a mere four, or worse still, a paltry THREE characters, the game grants you a hefty six-member party to beat down the random baddies and bosses. It also forces you to think strategically, since some characters are just short range, and thus have to be placed on the front-line, while other characters are mid-range and thus can be placed on either the front or back line, but will only be able to attack enemies on the front line in the back, and of course there are long-range characters that can attack from anywhere. They also include some pretty cool combo attacks that can be executed with certain groups of characters.

But that's just the turn-based. Being a very political series of games, Suikoden is realistic in that fights are often fought with armies, so every now and again, as you're working toward taking down the oppressive kingdom of the day, you're made to go up against factions of their army. The fights themselves are actually quite simple, since the mechanics break down to rock-paper-scissors--you're given magicians, archers, and warriors. Magicians destroy warriors, archers destroy magicians, and warriors destroy archers. But there's quite a bit of strategy involved since you're usually on the losing side of things, as far as numbers go, so you have to figure out how to work things in your favor so that you lose almost no soldiers while they lose plenty of theirs.

And the last kind of fight is One-on-One matches. These are very personal matches that occur between (usually) the main character and an important villain of the game. They most often come right after a boss battle or a war battle. Again like rock-paper-scissors, you have three options: Attack, Defend, and Special. Attack > Defend, Defend > Special, and Special > Attack. Strategy is again involved because over the course of the fight, your opponent will say various comments that will clue you in to what his move will be, and if you don't pay attention you'll get smashed. The variety in Suikoden makes the most problematic aspect of RPGs--the battles--much less of a problem, and honestly I don't ever really get bored playing a Suiko game, even while power-levelling.

- The castle. One of the coolest things about Suikoden is that if you're going to have an army, you've got to have a base of operations. So in each Suikoden game, one of the things you do very early on is you find a castle to work out of--usually an out of the way place that's been abandoned by an ancient civilization for quite a while. Its pretty cool, having a place you own in a video game (I see how people get attached to that stuff in MMOs), and even more cool is that as your army grows, your castle becomes larger and larger, eventually becoming this grand place with numerous rooms and several floors.

- Scale. Nothing worse to me, in an RPG, than when there's no sense of scale. I can't play RPGs that only take place in one city, for instance (Evolution, Grandia Xtreme). I need things to feel like its bigger than my character and his friends, otherwise I can't invest that many hours. Fortunately, Suikoden, even though it only ever takes place on one continent, always shows an impressive size to its worlds with its different races (Kobolds are awesome) and various cities and areas to explore.

- The plot. Again, no good RPG relies solely on its plots, but Suikoden wouldn't be too bad off if it did. Each game always offers an interesting plot filled with political intrigue and enemies that are a lot more physical and actually...human, as opposed to most of the games I play, where you end up slaying gods, demons, personifications of concepts and all that other shit that's too cosmic for some.

Granted, you usually end up facing some sort of magical being at the end, but that's part of the fun for me!

So yeah. I'm addicted to Suikoden. Want to play Tierkreis, and wish SuikoVI would come out, even if it were on the PS3. Can't wait to collect those stars again and wreak havoc on another kingdom that's lost its shit. Lunar's still my favorite game, but until Lunar 3 hits stands and lives up to expectations, its not really a universe. Suikoden is.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Favorite RPG Universe: Lunar

Another new series of columns. JiH is really booming, huh?

Voice in the background: But you haven't updated in weeks!

...Gotta do something about the more noisy people in my room. Maybe rope and a ball gag....

Anyway! This is the start of yet another new series on JiH. Depending on when you actually ask me, I'm a pretty hardcore gamer, and my favorite genre has always been RPGs--particularly of the Japanese variety.

This is fairly logical, since: A.) Before I discovered RPGs (my first being Super Mario RPG, but we'll get into that a little later), I was at best a casual gamer, much preferring comics instead, and B.) Western RPGs tend to be a little too PWP (that's, Plot? What Plot?, for you people who've never read a fanfic, particularly of the pr0n variety) on consoles, and considering I'm primarily a console gamer, well...

So this new series will be devoted to my favorite RPGs, and split into two versions: Favorite RPG Universes, and Favorite RPGs I wish *had* Universes.

The first one of these just has to be Lunar, which is a large part of the reason why I love J-RPGs so intently. (And why I mostly don't game these days. Well. That and the overflow of FPSs.) However, due to the nature of Lunar, it sorta-kinda straddles the line between it being one of my favorite universes and being one of my favorite RPGs I wish had a universe.

For those who've never played Lunar...first of all, go play it. You're missing out. But the original Lunar is about a young boy named Alex, who wishes to become a Dragonmaster, the hero of Lunar and chosen warrior of Athena, the goddess of Lunar. (Which is hinted to be our moon that was terraformed into a livable planet by her powers.) To do this, he must travel the world in search of Four Dragons, in order to pass their trials and receive the pieces of the legendary Dragonmaster armor they possess. And of course you get to meet a number of new characters who join you in your quest along the way, and there are your expected twists and turns in the plotline. And, of course, you get to save the world.

Dragon Master Alex.  Look down.  He's standing over your favorite RPG Hero.

Y'know, on its own, this could have been sorta weak. "Smalltown boy goes on quest, saves world"--THAT was ancient when this first came out for the Sega CD over a decade ago. But no good RPG relies solely on its plot, and Lunar doesn't either. Instead, it makes use of its other elements to suck you in.

Like, its characters. In a world where nearly every original idea has been used, reused, deconstructred and then reassembled, you'd be hard pressed to find someone who wouldn't tell you that the characters of a story are just as, if not much more important than the plot. And Lunar's characters are, to me, awesome. From the playboy thief Kyle and his fiery priest on-again, off-again girlfriend Jessica to the arrogant Nash and even the quiet main character, Alex and his beautiful childhood friend/girlfriend Luna, they're all fleshed out, three-dimensional characters who all have their own parts to play. The party is (I'm guessing, intentionally) kept small, so that you can actually grow attached to everyone over the course of this 35-40 hour adventure. Granted, Alex is one of those characters that almost never speaks, but they give him just enough scenes with dialogue and interaction with the team that the game actually manages to pull off that "see the world through his eyes" thing while making him more than a one-dimensional shell.

The game also relies on its unique world, another thing any great RPG absolutely must have. Sure, Burg is your typical "small town from whence comes the world's hero", but they manage to make it feel like a real place--it almost has a personality of its own, unlike many RPGs where the initial town is boring and...downright empty. The same can be said for every other city of the game, from the floating magic city of Vane (coolest floating city ever!) to the bustling seapot of Meribia.

To me, the absolute pinnacle of praise I can give *any* game (or universe) in terms of world building, is that it makes me wish I could live there. And while I played the game, for years after I finished it, and even now just thinking about it, the Lunar universe is a place I really would not mind living in.

Of course, part of this just might be the gorgeous graphics. This game has had two major releases during two different eras of gaming--the 16-bit and the 32-bit--and during both, it managed to stand out due to its lovingly crafted game world (again, from the overworld to the cities to its dungeons, each place feels diiferent and customized) and its stunning anime art for both the characters and its numerous movie scenes.

Granted, anime J-RPGs are nothing new today, but most of them seem to be lacking. Like, rather than have anime cutscenes there to enhance an already good game, these days it seems more like they throw it in to distract you from the fact that you're playing a mediocre one.

Lastly, though certainly not least, there's the music.

...Y'know what? Lunar--BOTH Lunars--are the BEST soundtracks in gaming. Hands down, point blank period. You can keep the Chrono Trigger soundtrack and all those Uematsu Final Fantasy OSTs most RPG fanboys and fangirls cream over. They're alright, but its an effort to actually LISTEN to most of them.

With Lunar, there's no effort. Its like, most soundtracks, they "feel" like soundtracks, if that makes any sense. Like, its good music, but its not really something you want to hear when you're not playing the game. With Lunar's soundtracks, I'm known to sit down and just listen to them like I would a CD. Plus (and I realize I'm going to sound crazy saying this), a lot of game soundtracks...I don't know, they just work a little too hard for me. I know that may not make sense, but to me it just feels like, rather than add to the story beats, they're so complex that often they can become distracting.

Perhaps the key lies in simplicity, as Lunar's 24 song soundtrack clocks in at a short 55 minutes, each song short and to the point, evoking the exact emotion they should for their given purpose. Listening to "Determination", there's no way you can tell me you don't feel both depressed (since its the "...We didn't even stand a chance..." song indiginous to most J-RPGs) and steeled all at once.

Of course...I guess it all could just be me and maybe nobody sees where I'm coming from on Lunar's music. But y'know what? Man, I don't give a shit. /Jamie Foxx

And all this stuff about Lunar goes for its sequel as well. Yeah, I realize I didn't talk so much about it, but that's because its nowhere near as fun to me. Granted, Lunar is near-perfect in my eyes, so its not really an insult, as I'd take L2 over nearly any other game aside from L1.

My biggest problem with Lunar 2 is that...Lunar 2 is to Lord of the Rings as Lunar 1 is to The Simarllion. To expound, basically Lunar 1 is like this big, First Age-ish epic where the world is absolutely *covered* in magic and alternate races, and your characters are sort of archetypes because that's what "larger than life" characters tend to be, and everything almost has this mythic feel to it, and you just know what you're doing now will be spoken of in legends decades, even centuries later in that game. (Even the end of Lunar 1 is a lot like the end of the Silmarillion, where a lot of the powers and beings that existed at the start are either wiped out or have just plain gone away by the end due to the machinations of the villains.)

But with Lunar 2...you get this feeling that magic is slowly dying out, and that maybe less than a few hundred years from the present in that game, that world will basically be like ours. Being a guy that likes the lofty, crazy powerful crap, its only natural Lunar 1 would appeal to me more. But I've seen people say they prefer L2's world and plot more, so I guess its a toss up.

Anyway, the reason why this game sort of straddles the line between being a universe and being a game I wish had a universe, is because its existed since the mid-90's and there are only three games, with only one being up to the quality of the original. This is despite the fact that there are so many possible stories one could tell with this universe, you could easily get games out of it for the next decade, carrying it up to at least Lunar 8. (I have concrete ideas for L3 and L4 already.) Nevermind the various gaiden stories one could tell on the portable systems.

Game Arts/Kadokawa Shoten/Studio Alex appears to prefer instead releasing endless remakes of the original, all of which continue to make money (or they wouldn't keep doing them), just to prove that Lunar 1 is STILL one of the most bad-ass games ever.

But hey...uhm. Guys? You know what ELSE could be REALLY bad-ass? L3. Seriously. Just...y'know...think about it. Please?

Friday, May 1, 2009

Invincible Iron Man

So, several months ago I was on here complaining about Marvel. Another bitch fest, this time about how they'd pretty much ruined Iron Man. I was right, but a lot of things have changed since then. So in the interest of being positive, I figured I'd talk about the changes Marvel has made since then and how positive they've been for my favorite Marvel superhero.



And here is the rest of it.

Actually, right around the time of my writing that particular story, they had just released a new comic book series, called Invincible Iron Man, created with the intent to capitalize on the successful movie.




The series (written by "rising star" Matt Fraction and drawn by Salvador Larocca) was initially crafted to be a "partner" book to the other Iron Man book, taken over by the Knaufs (the writers of HBO's Carnivale). This was meant to be the high-octane, big action Iron Man title, in contrast to the main title at the time, which had metamorphosed over the course of the Knaufs' run into this odd...very un-Iron Man-like...espionage, 24-type book.

At the time I was still pretty pissed that not only had Iron Man become a freaking sell-out, thanks to Civil War, but they'd just canceled the superb all-ages title, Marvel Adventures: Iron Man, so after checking out a few interviews of Matt Fraction's on popular comics news sites and seeing where he was headed with everything, I decided to go ahead and check this new series out.

First off, to Matt's credit, his first story arc was an idea I've had for years (obviously he didn't steal it....its just a case of great minds thinking alike), and he did it heck of a lot better than I could have. The story is called The Five Nightmares, and it centers around Tony Stark going up against Ezekiel "Zeke" Stane, the son of Obadiah Stane (yes, the one from the movie...nice tie-in, really), an old Iron Man villain who nearly defeated Iron Man after he took advantage of Tony's alcoholism to steal his company right out from under him.

"Zeke" Stane plays the typical villain part of "child with a grudge throwing a tantrum", but what makes him interesting is that, in his own way, he manages to beat Stark at his own game: By furthering the Iron Man technology, creating Iron Man 2.0--the true merger between man and machine, where the man actually is the armor, where the offensive weaponry is actually powered by your own caloric intake. Zeke uses this tech to first make himself known by giving it to suicide bombers, and after proving its worth, he launches a devastating attack on the four most important factories Stark Industries.

Its a big, crazy, explosive, comic book version of a summer action flick. People die. A lot. Stuff gets blown the fuck up. A lot. And in the end, the hero wins. ...But like most Marvel comics, its a bit of a pyrhhic victory. In any case, all of this explosive-y craziness is covered in various themes and character moments. The story is called "The Five Nightmares" because it deals with the logical worst five nightmares a man like Tony Stark would have, which are (of course) coincedentally all seen in this arc. It deals with what its like to be the Man of the Future, and what happens when the Man of the Future meets the Man of HIS Future. It deals with what might be the thought processes of the geniuses of today--the blogging, Twittering, text messaging teens of today--if they had access to the advanced super-science of the Marvel Universe. (And, y'know, if they were psychotic.)

And most importantly, it deals with Tony Stark. The REAL Tony Stark. The other book had gotten lost (keep in mind, all my opinion) in its subtitle, "Director of S.H.I.E.L.D.". It completely forgot all the aspects that had made Iron Man popular, which this book thankfully remembered. Tony Stark is a playboy. He's the owner of one of the biggest companies on Earth. He's a scientist on the level of Reed Richards, so he's one of the most brilliant people on the planet. And he's a superhero. And the Five Nightmares handles ALL those aspects in addition to dealing with all the things he's done and character changes he's dealt with since Civil War. Its completely amazing work.

Matt Fraction walks an interesting tightrope. The Civil War story, in the opinion of most "old-school" Tony Stark fans, pretty much ruined the character, and I'm sure I'm not alone when I say I thought the only way to get the real Stark back was a full-on retcon. However, at the same time, from a sales perspective, you can't risk pissing off all the "new school" Tony Stark fans that are fans now because they like the changes that have occurred with him since Civil War--either because they agreed with him (*coughs*conservatives*coughcough*), or because they find it makes him a more interesting character. Personally, I would've told this group to kick rocks and done a complete 180. But Matt chose to take the hard road, and in doing so tried to bring back the characterization that made the original Tony who he was, while reconciling the choices he's made during and since CW with that guy, who's a completely different person. It makes for a compromise that's meant to make both groups of fans happy, and considering I was hard line against the changes and I'm enjoying it, he must be doing a good job.

Actually, I'm currently LOVING it. The current story seems to go further down the road of bringing back the "old" Tony Stark without admitting to the new fans that he screwed up. Its called "World's Most Wanted", and its a twelve part epic dealing with the fallout of yet another "big event" story, Secret Invasion, and how it affects Tony. If Civil War and its fallout put Tony at the top of the food chain, Secret Invasion and its fallout has drop-kicked him right back down to the bottom. The entire world now views Stark as a failure, since his vaunted StarkTech *all* failed miserably during the invasion of Earth by the Skrull race (only natural, since if you make yourself the big dog then you're bound to be attacked like that...which was his intent), and Tony lost his place as Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. when Norman Osborn "saved the planet" by being seen around the world taking the killshot to off the Queen of the Skrull Invasion forces. Yep, that Norman Osborn. The one that used to wear green and purple, hop up on a rocket-powered glider and spend his nights screwing with Spider-Man. They've put HIM in charge of everything.

"World's Most Wanted" shows the battle between the new head man in charge Norman Osborn and the fallen Tony. Osborn, having replaced S.H.I.E.L.D. with H.A.M.M.E.R., his own personal government organization, wants access to the giant database Stark has with the identities of every sanctioned superhero in America. (Shh...no "I told you so's" just yet. I'll tell you when.) Tony not being a complete idiot, realizes what kind of havoc that would cause, so he takes the database and goes on the run, placing the information in the one place he knows Osborn can't find it (his brain), and goes on a mission around the world with the intent of completely "zeroing out" the computer the data is held on. Yes. That DOES mean what you think it means.

The story sees Osborn throwing all the contacts he has at his disposal at Tony, which are quite considerable, since elsewhere he's been shown to have deals with the most major villains of the Marvel Universe with the intent of letting them get away with whatever they want as long as they stay out of his way. This would be challenge enough, but Tony has to do this while on the run, and while his brain slowly grows less and less intelligent. He's even forced to operate weaker and weaker Iron Man models, as his brain becomes unable to operate the higher end models. Which brings me to yet another reason I love this run. Tony's eventually going to end up in the gray armor (I'm sure), but for the past few issues, he's been running around in this:

Designed by Sean Chen during Kurt Busiek's initial "Heroes Return" story during the late 90's, this is the first Iron Man armor I saw when I bought the comics, and my fucking FAVORITE version of the standard Iron Man suit, ever. Its beautfiul, isn't it?

Anyway. The comic is only 13 issues in, with another six parts to go with this World's Most Wanted storyline. I have no idea where it will all end up, though I at least hope its with an improved version of the Iron Man suit. I was sick of the Extremis armor.

This is definitely one of the best comic books on the stands right now, and the only, minor complaint I have about it is that I wish James Rhodes was in this book too, alongside Tony. He was already on the run as of the end of Iron Man volume 4, he and Tony could have been in this together. Let's face it: Eventually Tony's going to end up in the gray armor, two steps away from being retarded. Already he's well in over his head, and there's only so much Matt can throw at him in the stories without it being ridiculous that Tony can win. With a fully upgraded War Machine at his side, they could've put them both up against a lot more, and shown the deep friendship Stark and Rhodey share. But this is a minor complaint, so there's no way I'm going to let it bother me.

Oh. Last thing: Pepper's Iron Maiden armor? The shit. That is all.

A shot of Positivity: Brave and the Bold

So I've been thinking about my latest posts, and I realize they're mostly negative lately. This is a problem, as its sort of the opposite of the mission statement I had for this thing, so we're going to shake it up this time and do something positive: Let's talk about something I actually LIKE.


And here is the rest of it.

Batman: Brave and the Bold. For those not in the know, this is Warner Bros. latest superhero animation effort. Admittedly, at first, I thought it would be the most awful DC-related cartoon ever, with no saving graces. At least Teen Titans eventually attempted more adult storytelling, after all. But, honestly if you look at this art....


....Can you blame me? They picked the worst promo art ever, though I suppose they WERE trying to get the little kiddies interested, and not the 20+ crowd. I wasn't even going to watch this thing, convinced it would be the other abortion WB, like "Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes" was.

Of course naturally, then I saw the trailer, which, upon noticing I was paying attention, slapped the shit out of me and commanded that I watch the show. I couldn't say no, so back in November I tuned in promptly at seven to watch the first episode: Rise of the Blue Beetle.

I don't do reviews, so I won't be talking about the flaws and merits or whatever. I'm just going to gush about the things I love about this show:

- Batman has a sense of humor again. This show has done something the comics hasn't bothered to try in decades. It showed me that you DON'T have to only choose between the lame, cheesy Adam West-era Batman and the brooding, near-emo Rorshach clone that we've seen in all forms of media since the late-80's. There is a happy medium, and Brave and the Bold has found it. This Batman is determined, without being dark. Driven, but not obsessed. Oh, and he does quips. I love it.

- This is what the modern Silver Age really looks like, folks. You know, over in comic world, people bitch almost endlessly about how DC Comics is trying to go back to the Silver Age of comics, just because they've restored a few elements from that era that never should have been thrown out in the first place. But see, what they have going on there isn't even close to the Silver Age.

...However, Brave and the Bold is, and its lovely. Batman's back in his blue and grey duds (always liked those better). Green Arrow is back to his days of being a wealthy philanthropist with a Robin Hood attachment, as opposed to the left-wing extremist he's been in the comics since the 70's. (I actually like both versions, but this one definitely fits Brave and the Bold better.) But its not all Silver Age either. Jaime Reyes, the new Blue Beetle, is one of the main co-stars in this series, and the show is without a doubt better for it. And most importantly, the heroes can actually nab victories that aren't all pyrrhic-like. I missed that.

- Batman's Utility Belt. The era of "realism" for comics killed one of the coolest things *in* comics: Batman's utility belt. I dislike the Adam West Batman as much as the next Bat-fan, but his utility belt was appropriately awesome. Bat-shark repellent!? WIN. Unfortunately, new comics have downgraded the belt into basically just a place to keep his Batrope and his Batarangs.

Fortunately, Brave and the Bold has changed that. Now, not only Batman's belt, but his entire outfit, is equipped with all sorts of fun gadgets again. Laser swords, Nth-metal knuckles, his costume is apparently able to go into outer space with little to no problems as he's equipped with a booster pack and an oxygen mask, and that's just what we've seen in the episodes so far...that I can remember. I'm sure there are plenty of fun toys I've either forgotten or we've yet to see, and I want to see every one of them.

- The Guest Stars. Super-what? Wonder Who? This show is a DC geek's dream. They skip past all the big boys like the rest of the Trinity and all the other guys that popped up in the Justice League. Even the big name heroes that pop up like Green Lantern and Flash, use lesser-known heroes in their episodes like Guy Gardner and Jay motherfucking Garrick (the coolest Flash ever). Other guest-stars include, but aren't limited to, Aquaman, Red Tornado, the Atom (the new one, Ryan Choi), B'wana Beast (...I feel like they should've maybe used Grant Morrison's version), Kamandi, and Wildcat.

Oh. And Adam Fucking Strange, the coolest Silver Age Hero EVER. (No, he doesn't have superpowers like most heroes. And he doesn't know a billion martial arts like The Question or Batman. He just has above-average intelligence, ingenuity, a jetpack, and a fucking ray gun. And he's the singular hero of an entire PLANET.)

Seriously, this show is a geek's paradise, if they bother to give this show the time of day. Nothing is left out. They even have a two-parter where Batman visits Earth-3, home of the Crime Syndicate! (Which, by the way....kids understood that. There are other Earths. Things aren't the same on them. That's all there is to it. I don't understand why adults make this so hard to get.)

Seriously, if you don't have a geekgasm watching at least one of these episodes, you're not a DC fan. Period. My personal favorites are:

*The aforementioned two parter, "Deep Cover for Batman!", the "season one" finale in which Batman goes to Earth-3 as his parallel Earth's identity, Owlman to inflitrate the Crime Syndicate.

*The S2 opener "Mystery in Space!" (even the title should make fellow comic geeks happy) in which Batman teams up with Aquaman and Adam Strange to save Strange's adopted planet Rann.

*The Halloween-themed Trials of the Demon episode, in which Batman first teams up with the Golden Age Flash (the *real* One True Flash, if there has to be one) to take down Scarecrow and Scream Queen), and then in the main episode travels back into the past to team up with Etrigan/Jason Blood as well as Sherlock Holmes (yeah, THE Sherlock Holmes) to take down Gentleman Jim Craddock, the man who would eventually be The Gentleman Ghost. Time Travel, steampunk-type stuff, and Homles? They combo'd that into A Perfect Win.

Oh, and the last thing I really love about this show?

- Each episode is jam-packed. Its like how older comic fans complain that back in the day comic stories would be told in one issue, whereas now they often use anywhere from 4-12 issues to tell a complete story? Well, cartoons (specifically superhero toons) have been doing that since the early 90's. Spider-Man: TAS used to run into the Part XIVs. No joke.

But Batman: Brave and the Bold, season endings aside, are not only complete episodes each week, but they start each episode off with a mini-adventure between Batman and another hero, shoving twice as many heroes and villains into this series. As a result we've gotten to see the Green Lantern Corps twice, Jay Garrick, the Question, Jonah Hex, Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth, Elongated Man, Dr. Fate, and others.

Seriously, this show is a geek's paradise. I hope they keep it on for the full 65 episodes, then drop Batman from the title and give the show another 65 episodes as simply, "The Brave and the Bold". It worked for Justice League.