Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Flashpoint 5 Thoughts *Spoilers!*

So it's finally here. The event that, good or bad, superhero comic fans haven't been able to shut up about since it was announced what came after it. DC Comics cancelling their entire comic line-up and relaunching 52 brand-new number one issues.

Seeing the resulting mess from DC trying to do little more than continue to make money and bring more new people into comics helped me get over internet forums, but other than that it's just been an anxious wait for me. This is a big deal in comics, the likes of which even Crisis on Infinite Earths couldn't quite bring to us. DC's taking a huge risk and if it fails, we might very well be without superhero comic books altogether. (Marvel isn't good enough that it can float them solo.)

A lot of people might be happy with that. Me personally, I'd be miserable. Say what you want, but superheroes REALLY thrive in comic books. Everywhere else, they're a very niche part of the whole. At BEST we'll get four superhero movies a year. Superhero cartoons are little 65 episode series that run 13 episodes a year for five years before getting canceled and replaced. We see two of them from each company at a time, maximum.

It sounds like a lot, but it does not compare to the sheer volume we get and the amount of stories we see from DC and Marvel's print medium. And it can be argued that some, or even a lot of those stories aren't great. But so many are. So many that could've never been made in other mediums.

Technically, all of it is being put on the line. If DC fails big, I'll be doomed to a handful of good indy comics...and a lot of stuff I don't really care to read, either because of quality or because my sensibilities don't match up.

All that said, having literally *just* finished the comic, I am very impressed. All the plot lines being set up come to a head in this one issue, but while it's larger than your normal comic by about ten pages, everything moves fast.

The biggest revelation of the entire comic book comes in the first five pages. Flashpoint, as an entire event, is immense. 14 different mini-series in addition to the main comic book, along with a couple one-shots. Multiple main characters provide a variety of perspectives, and it feels like you're living in that world. Seeing what Flashpoint did to some of the best and brightest heroes in creative fiction had me calling for Zoom's head, hoping Barry would put an end to him again.

...So imagine my surprise when I learn that it was actually Barry, not his arch-nemesis Professor Zoom that was the cause of it all. Indirectly, Zoom is still the root of this ruined Flashpoint world, but it's Barry's actions that cause the world to change into what it is.

As a result, Zoom is really just a footnote in the true story of Flashpoint. (Though he is properly dealt with before the story moves on without him.) The true story instead is an internal conflict with a familiar dilemma. Barry spends ample time in the Flashpoint world--time enough to discover fully what his actions have wrought. And it is at that point that he's presented with a choice to give up his chance to set right what should never have gone wrong...or restore things to their proper form.

Still, even this is not the true emotional crux of the story. The Wayne family steals the comic, as Geoff Johns brings us a scene from Batman that I would've never thought we'd see in a comic after post Batman: Year One.

All in all, it's a good comic. Not quite the epilogue the DC fans may have wanted, but it's still a good comic, and probably one of the better events I've seen in some time.

Now, on to Justice League 1...

Friday, August 26, 2011

Sage's Next Anime...

Love this universe. Tsukasa Hojo creates such a unique universe--one in which the hero Saeba Ryo can be both the biggest bad-ass and the goofiest pervert in all of Japan. ("You don't live very long if you cross the City Hunter.") With the exception of Kaori, every recurring character in this series is a joy to see return. (Even Kaori has her moments.)

The first 52 episodes are almost like a perfected way to write a series with a formulaic plot without ever FEELING formulaic. Nearly every episode Ryo's just saving a beautiful lady from people trying to kill her, or kidnap her, or whatever, and in most of them they fall in love with Ryo.

...And yet, despite that, each episode always seems brand-new and interesting. The details for each case are so different that you can marathon the series and not get bored.

And that's why I'm going back for the second round. From the opening, it looks like we'll be seeing more of Saeko, which isn't a bad thing. (Though Ryo's never going to get the panties.)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Song of the Week: Pharoah Monche, Styles P and Phonte - Black Hand Side

Guess with this I can say goodbye to Phonte rhyming? Hopefully not, but it was just vocals on this. Still interesting.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Song of the Day: Yukali - If this is Love

I'm extremely late to the party, but gimme a break. Just getting back into the Japanese R&B/Hip-Hop game. And this is one of the first tracks I ran across. FIRE.

...No comment on the male singer's name and trim, though. I comment.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Anime Flashback: Flame of Recca

Flame of Recca's another show I started over the summer. I'd been meaning to watch for quite sometime, but it just wasn't a big priority. The manga was one of the first ones I read as a teenager when I got my first computer, and to this day it's still a favorite of mine.

The anime, however, finished ages before the manga, and I was never a fan of incomplete adaptations. Particularly when the final arc is omitted, leaving the anime a shadow of it's manga.

Still, I had to see what they'd done to it, so I gave the series a shot. Series synopsis as described by AniDB:

Recca Hanabishi is a ninja, but is nearly killed in an accident. However, a girl named Yanagi heals him with her powers. Later, the two are tracked down by a woman who attacks them. She tells Recca to ignite his flame, but he is clueless. Just as she hurts Yanagi, Recca releases a powerful flame upon the woman. She is excited to see this. It turns out that Recca was a baby, from the Hokage Clan of the past, that was sent to the future in order to escape death. Now, Recca is the leader of the new Hokage Clan who must stop his half brother, Kurei, from kidnapping Yanagi.

Flame of Recca is one of the earlier shonen series, following in the steps of Dragon Ball Z in terms of tournament battles and escalating powers. As a result, it's easy for this series to be overlooked in favor of either DBZ or Yu Yu Hakusho. (Or Naruto/One Piece, now.) And it's true--overall if you're going for best 90's shonen, Recca is far outclassed. An unfortunate consequence of never getting a complete adaptation (the anime ran from 1997-1998 while the manga ran from 1995-2002), the anime is forced to give up not only the arcs that followed and made Flame of Recca more than your generic tournament series, it even dropped plot lines it had already introduced.

It's sad, really. Recca is one of a small number of shonen series that manages to keep a female character on the front lines of battle for the entire series (something even Yu Yu Hakusho couldn't manage), and make her both smart and a competent fighter. Come to that, Flame of Recca is one of but of a few series that refuses to write off ANY of it's characters. In shonen manga/anime, where strength tends to be directly equivalent to story relevancy (and consequently, the odds of a character being fleshed out), only the strongest characters get a real backstory and solid characterization. By keeping it's cast small, Flame of Recca offers us characters with more complex development than your average shonen (though even that's limited in the anime).

And it's the fact that Flame of Recca presents twists on classic shonen tropes that makes it worth an anime fan's time to begin with. Mangaka Nobuyuki Anzai has a habit of bringing us stories that don't necessarily bring completely new ideas to the table rather than a different way of looking at what's already been done. And at this, he shines--even if it doesn't necessarily look that way in this adaptation all the time.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Becoming a Better Duelist 2: Running Under the Limit

Back with another edition of Becoming a Better Duelist. We've covered the basics of deck construction, and why it's best to stick as close to 40 cards as possible. (It's something that's true in most any card game--the minimum number of cards maximizes the consistency your deck has.) Now, let's delve a little deeper into the concept *of* consistency, and while we're at it, I'll reveal another truth: Your deck doesn't *need* 40 cards. It's true. Most decks can accomplish their win condition with about 25-30 and the rest become cards to shut their opponent's actions down, or worse, "filler" cards that you probably won't need in your average duel.

And even if it did need forty cards and smashed at tournaments--eventually, the banlist will hit your deck, limiting the most essential parts to your deck so that it's not so overpowering everyone has to run the same deck to be competitive. So then what? Do you give up on the deck? Probably not. Add inferior cards to replace missing ones? That won't offer the help you need.

Instead, the better answer is to simultaneously reduce your potential dead draws, decrease the size of your deck, and raise your deck's consistency by adding draw cards.

This was the first spell card which allowed good draw power in the game: Pot of Greed. A very simple effect that allows you to draw two cards, It *seems* balanced, but the truth is those two cards could very easily turn the tide of a duel in your opponent's favor. So this card was banned about a year and a half ago or so.

However, there are two really good replacements I'll be talking about, along with a third which was recently created for the OCG but won't see release in America for three months yet, and a fourth that's created only for a specific type of deck.

Upstart Goblin - Draw 1 card from your Deck. Increase your opponent's Life Points by 1000 Life Points.

Upstart Goblin is the first of these we'll examine. It's effect is self-explanatory--draw an extra card while your opponent gains 1000 LP. The benefit of this particular card is you can play as many of them as you have in your hand.

The downside is obvious--it runs contrary to instincts to GIVE life points to your opponent. Not only does this make him that much harder to kill, but several of the most powerful traps cost life points to use so this is essentially letting them use those traps for absolutely nothing. Because of it's notable caveat of giving life points to your opponent, Upstart Goblin has been relegated to OTK (One Turn Kill) decks, where once the win condition is set up they can swing for so much damage in a single turn that the extra 3000 life points become irrelevant. Other decks are known to use it over the next card because of it's ease to obtain, but it's not recommended. Plus, well...let's get to the next card to talk about that.

Pot of Duality - Reveal the top 3 cards of your Deck, add 1 of them to your hand, then shuffle the rest back into your Deck. You can only activate 1 "Pot of Duality" per turn. You cannot Special Summon a monster(s) during the turn you activate this card.

The King of splashable draw cards. Casual players often look at the card in terms of net advantage and consider it worthless, but with the exception of one deck (which both cannot use it and doesn't need it), all other competitive decks play this card, and with good reason.

Remember last time I said that in a given duel, the ONLY options you have are the cards in your hand, on the field, and (at the start of your turn) the card at the top of your deck? This card breaks that rule--displaying the next THREE cards you'll draw and allowing you to choose whichever one you need the most for your current situation. Admittedly, it is at the cost of special summoning for the turn, but by speeding up your win condition, it balances the duel over the long term in your favor.

The only reason competitive decks generally don't run this in threes used to be the cost of the card. Going for over $150 on eBay, Pot of Duality at one point was only for those with far too much money. But a reprint of the card is out at the end of this month, so now a playset can be obtained for $27--still pricey, but considerably less so, making the only advantage Upstart Goblin had mostly gone.

The last splashable draw card I wanted to look at was Momentary Truce. Coming out in the recent Photon Shockwave set in Japan, the card allows both players to draw a card, but no battle damage can be inflicted until your next turn.

This one's a toss up. You're not giving your opponent LP, but more dangerous than that, you're giving them a card. You're counting on being closer to your win condition than your opponent is to their own, but you're also relying on the added bonus that no matter what your opponent does next turn, he is incapable of inflicting damage.

I like the card personally, but I'll be testing it in a select few decks before I commit to it over/in addition to Pot of Duality. Supposedly it works best in OTK decks, but even if that were true, it would still have to survive the opponent's turn, where a field nuke could ruin everything.

The very last card we'll look at is for a specific kind of deck, and I wanted to talk about it so players could learn what that deck is and whether or not their deck qualifies to run this card.

Pot of Avarice - Select 5 Monster Cards in your Graveyard. Shuffle those cards into the Deck, then draw 2 cards.

This seems like an excellent card at first. After all, everyone will eventually have five+ monsters in their graveyards, and the opportunity to take the best of those, put them back into my deck, and draw *two* cards on top of that is incredible, right?

Trouble is, most decks aren't fast enough for this card. Pot of Avarice is at it's best when it's used in a deck capable of synchro spamming--IE, abusing the effects of one's monsters to repeatedly synchro summon and dump cards into the graveyard.

Decks like T.G.s (Tech Genus) or plants do this with ease, and can often go through two of these in a single duel, swinging the tide heavily in their favor by placing key monsters back into the deck and drawing more cards leading to a exceeding advantage over one's opponents.

A good sign this card will do well in your deck is if you constantly find yourself synchro summoning twice or more in a single turn. Otherwise, put this card in a box somewhere and forget about it.

Don't look at draw cards as just draw cards. They essentially mean, for every one copy you use, your deck is running at one less card than is supposedly allowed. This allows for greater consistency in your deck. Sure, you can only have one copy of a certain card, but a draw card helps thin the deck a little bit, and each one you have makes it *that* much more likely you'll draw that one limited card that will win you the duel.

Anyway, I'm running a little long again. Over the next two weeks I'll be discussing staple spells and traps and how your deck benefits from running them. Catch you later folks.

Song of the Week: Mic Banditz - So High So Fine

Chill song for the first week of school. Stay relaxed folks, and remember it's just fifteen weeks.

Anyway, this is by a favorite hip-hop group of mine, the Mic Banditz, off the album Johnny Astro and the Diamond Crooks. Enjoy.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Song of the Week: m-flo - What It Is

"It makes me blow how you talkin' smack 'bout us, we paid them dues/It ain't just what you see/truth lies beneath, it's the chemistry..."

Verbal, Takahashi Taku, and Lisa kept me listening to hip-hop when the only other good thing out was Kanye West. They had a cool, early 90's vibe to their first two albums that kept them on repeat in my CD player--and this is one of their best songs.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Becoming a Better Duelist 1: Slimming Your Deck Size

After a brief bit of thinking, I've decided to start doing columns for my friends (most of whom are into Yu-Gi-Oh) about how to improve their game and become a better player. Of course, by no means am I saying I'm the best player ever, or even the best qualified to do this column--but I'm the one with the blog.

So, before we get to advanced deck building, card advantage, or budget playing or some of the other things we'll eventually cover, let's start with the basics: Deck Size. Now, when you're done snickering at how that sounds in your head, I'll talk about what that's so important.

Done yet? Ok, cool.

Now, the first mistake a rookie player makes, is looking at all the cards they *want* to run, and figuring that adding more, is better for you because more cards = more options. This is a fallacy.

In a 40 card deck, in which your opening hand is going to be five cards + draw phase, when you draw your opening hand (without your draw phase card), you've already gone through an eighth of your deck. This is a good thing. (Don't worry about decking out--that almost never happens unless your opponent's deck is designed to do so, which they usually aren't.) Having a significant (more than a tenth) of your deck in your hand presents you with more useable options for defeating your opponent, which is what you want.

On the other hand, in a fifty card deck, your opening hand is STILL five cards + draw phase, but this time you've only gone through just over a tenth of your deck. It seems like you have even more options because you have more cards, but that's incorrect. With the exception of cards that allow you to directly manipulate your deck--you don't actually have access to ANY of the cards in your deck besides the one at the VERY top. The rest are, usually, completely inaccessible. At the start of your turn, your options are your hand, the field, and what's at the top of your deck--ONLY that. This means that one card you think is really great and helps you win games? If it's not in your hand at the start of a turn, you're actually less likely to draw it if your deck is larger than 40 cards. It's more likely to be found in the middle (or worse, at the bottom) of your deck, where it'll remain lost in the land of bloated deckspace.

Now that we've taken apart the classic "more cards = more options" (only true if they're in your hand or somewhere on the field) argument for large decks, let's have a look at the other reason for keeping one's deck close to 40 as possible:

Win Condition. Now every good deck has this. You have a set win condition that will allow you to push to victory. This is why you stick as close to 40 cards as possible--you select ONLY the cards that will allow you to reach your win condition as fast as possible, and cards that will disrupt your opponent's win condition. (How many depends on the state of the meta at the time. We'll get into that later.) Doing this will cut your number of dead draws (a card that you cannot immediately play when you draw it) and hopefully lead to you having a deck where when you draw you: A.) Are able to swing and deal damage to your opponent, or B.) alter your opponent's field so you can do A.

Now what your win condition IS depends on the type of deck you have. The most popular strategy is to swarm and stomp, but it's up to you to decide exactly how your deck does that, and what cards are best to do so within the archetype/Type/Attribute/strategy you've chosen. I'll be talking more about win conditions next time, but this article is running rather long and was meant more to be a beginner's lesson on effective deck construction before we got to more vital details. See you next time.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Song of the Week: 88-Keys and Phonte

Another reason why I'm a huge fan of Phonte. Dude keeps it real when he talks about relationships.

"When you told me you was on the patch...I ain't know you was talking 'bout the NICOTINE patch, motherfucker!!!"


Marvel Television: Mockingbird

That's Mockingbird above, another project on deck for Marvel Television. Currently "in development", which means it's entirely possible I'll never actually see it. Described as a "Peter Parker nerd", Bobbi Morse (Mockingbird) is recruited to a secret organization. I'm not entirely sure what her origins are, but I did enjoy what I saw of her in Hawkeye and Mockingbird. My guess is that she'd be an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., and since the costume resembles spy outfits, hopefully there won't be a need to downplay the superhero elements.

Whether this finds a home on ABC Family remains to be seen, but for now I'm interested and will be doing my best to keep up with any information released about it.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Reason to Buy a Wii Presents Itself

Super Sentai: Battle Ranger Cross. It's no secret I'm a Super Sentai fan, and Gokaiger has been one of my favorite series thus far (and is probably due for a mention on this blog at the halfway point), showing some of the most fun fight scenes in Sentai--and some great tributes. Recently, a video clip came out showcasing footage for the new Gokaiger video game, combining the Gokaiger, Goseiger, Shinkenger, Go-Onger, and Gorangers.

This gives me a reason to buy a Wii *and* learn Japanese (level 3 on the way), since it sounds like there's an actual story for this. Only complaint is that it's on a more low-end console. Can't wait for the WiiU to come out and then this trend of games without cool graphics can end. Still, the game looks fun and I think the Wii is region-free, so I may get one for the sole purpose of playing this game.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Zo! and Phonte - Everything She Wants cover

Zo! and Tigallo Love the 80's was one of my favorite albums from 2008. Featuring producer Zo! and lyricist/crooner Phonte (Tigallo), these two cats made some of the whitest songs ever (Africa? Take On Me? C'mon Son.) into some laid-back, smooth R&B joints that embarass most artists on BET right now.

And they just did it again, with this WHAM cover of Everything She Wants.

Zo! (feat. Phonte) - Everything She Wants (Wham! Cover) by mixtapemaestro

It makes me sad that Phonte does more work as a singer than a lyricist, but it's whatever so long as I'm getting dope tracks like this.

The original, for people who want to get their hipster on.

I'd never heard the original until today, but I love both of them. Apparently WHAM was way ahead of the game over a bunch of 90's R&B acts on broken relationships. Mad respect to the group now.

Overcoming the OK Plateau

This is something I don't often discuss with people: I'm rarely satisfied with my accomplishments.

That makes me like quite a few people, to be honest. The connecting line with them, however, is that people like that are usually very successful. Not being satisfied with one's accomplishments leads to continuously trying to outdo those accomplishments, leading to excellence, which is great. Most people excel at something, or a few things--they find out what their special skills are and choose to become greater at those skills. This leads to fame, money, whatever.

In my case, I feel like I'm not satisfied because, more often than not, I don't feel I'm that great at a given task to begin with. I've always felt like a B+ student. IE, I'm above-average at most things, but not amazing at anything.

Usually, that's because I reach a plateau in a given skill, or craft, and with no idea how to surpass that plateau, I stay at that level, while others overcome that same level and reach greater heights; a fact that frustrates me to no end.

Earlier however, I discovered that this is not an uncommon problem (at least, reaching a plateau), and learned that there are steps any person can take to overcome it. Check out the video below if you're curious, or share my problem:

I'll be going over those steps in the future as I seek to improve my own abilities to get better at certain tasks. Already ideas are percolating in my head on what I can start improving on first. And hopefully this will help anyone else that sees this as well.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Nanoha in a card game?! Sweet.

The coolest anime character ever, Nanoha-sama (of Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha fame) is appearing in a video game about cards, Weiss Schwarz Portable.

...Along with the cast of Macross Frontier, Fate/Stay, and a couple other hugely popular franchises.

This game has a very low chance of being localized, but if they ever bring it here, I'll probably buy it, even though the Lady Nanoha and the Lady Fate aren't the center of this game. Trailer below, courtesy of Siliconera.

Heroes Fantasia: A Fanfic Videogame by Namco Bandai

Unfortunately there are no screens for this yet, but man...Heroes Fantasia sounds like a game I would've created in high school.

AndriaSang and Siliconera both reported this earlier today--Namco Bandai is working on an "Anime Crossover RPG" called Heroes Fantasia.

The game will feature characters from the following anime series:
Darker Than Black Ryusei no Gemini
Darker Than Black Kuro no Keiyakusha
Sorcerous Stabber Orphen
Sergeant Frog (Keroro Gunsou)
R.O.D Read or Die
Slayers Revolution
Rune Soldier (Mahou Senshi Riui)
Mai Hime

As a kid in high school I loved S'Cry'ed and Mahou Senshi Louie. And Mai-HiMe is one of my favorite anime series of all time. The truth is, I could not be more hyped about this thing. Hopefully we'll see an English release of this game, because it sounds amazing.

Screens and videos as soon as I get them.

Song of the Week: 88-Keys and Kanye West - Stay Up (Viagra)

This song appeared in my head for some reason. Gotta share it with everyone.

I miss when Kanye was relevant. Oh well. Song is still dope. Enjoy.

Hulk: Agents of S.M.A.S.H.??

This is kind of a hilarious announcement. I'm a little late with this one, but at the Marvel Television panel, the head of television at Marvel, Jeph Loeb, and writer Paul Dini announced a Hulk cartoon series airing on Disney XD.

There's only a picture for now, no video:

Looks kinda weird, but nothing being written with the Hulk right now adapts well to animation, so the best thing to do is combine the new ideas they've been coming up with and throw it at the wall. Still--it looks crowded. Hulk, She-Hulk (Jen Walters, I think), Skaar (Hulk's son), and Red Hulk? I think they're in danger of watering down the concept. Admittedly, I'm not a huge fan of the Hulk but I'll give a series a try.

...And, hopefully we'll be seeing a Marvel superhero block on Disney XD in the future, between this and Ultimate Spider-Man.