Custom Street Fighter Lego Figures

If only these were the real deal!  Custom Lego designer Julian Fong has created a set based on the original 12 World Warriors, plus the New Challengers.  While they aren’t a part of Lego’s official catalog of products, he’s submitted them to the company’s CUUSOO division.  Fingers crossed, people!

Lord knows I’ve already got a ton of those Kubrick figures for the Metal Gear Solid series.  These would look right at home on the shelf next to them.

Custom Video Game Anime Openings

Well this is a pleasant surprise.  Do you like anime?  Do you enjoy video games?  If so, the folks at Nico Nico Douga have produced some very impressive tekaki videos.  For the unfamiliar, these involve taking the opening or ending sequences to various anime and tracing over them by hand, frame by frame, to alter them into something completely different.  In this case, they’ve altered the likes of Full Metal Alchemist, Lupin III, K-ON! and more, transforming them into rather impressive sequences for FFVI, MGS, Phoenix Wright, and a few others.

Check out these clips:

Full Metal Alchemist / FFVI

Lupin III / MGS


Roundtable #3 – HD Re-Releases

This one has been sitting in the LVLs. boiler for far too long (we wrote this in September to October, so some of the topics have come out, like ICO/Shadow of the Colossus, which Jason mentions seeing previews for in this article.  He did put up some post-purchase thoughts on it here) – luckily, what Jason and I have to say remains relevant. XD

Anything that makes money will always be subject to fads. Movies have been seeing an upswing in magical children’s franchises, thanks to Harry Potter, as well as vampire stories attempting to cash-in on the Twilight craze. Games are no exception to this approach, and it appears that the current trend these days is the HD re-release.

On paper, it makes a lot of sense. You take a big franchise that a lot of people enjoyed, improve the graphics slightly, then repackage the product and sell it for an easy $40. This essentially allows the publisher to sell existing work to a new audience, while also enticing the original players to buy the same product twice. It all sounds so brilliant, but I’m not entirely sure that I like the direction this is heading in.

Take the God of War games, for example. I remember when the original came out in 2005, and everyone and their brother was telling me that I simply HAD to play this thing. I never really got around to it, though, so the HD re-release sounded like as good a time as any to see what all the fuss was about. Unfortunately, I wasn’t very impressed. Some of this was due to the core gameplay, but a large part was definitely from the “HD” conversion. Or really, lack thereof.

When I think of the difference between HD and standard definition, I think widescreen, 1080p resolution, vibrant colors, smooth images, and high quality models. What you get with the God of War re-release is widescreen and 1080p. The textures look positively watered out, as though they’re still at the same resolution as on the PS2. It’s the same with the models, as well. Granted, I don’t expect a company to completely remake a PS2 game with graphics on par with something for the PS3, but it’s a bit much to label this an HD release when the characters still look this rudimentary.

The biggest problem, though, is the presence of jaggies. The PS2 always had an issue with these things, but they’re magnified ten-fold on these conversions. Has no one heard of full-screen anti-aliasing? You can’t tell me the hardware doesn’t have the horsepower to perform that sort of task, considering the fact that it’s running a game from the previous generation. This, combined with the low-resolution textures, is what annoys me the most about this sort of release. You would honestly be better off playing the original PS2 versions of these games on an old CRT than plunking down $40 – $50 for the re-release.

Resident Evil 4 suffers from a similar fate. It really feels like a quick and dirty conversion rather than a true HD remastering. Thankfully, previews for Ico / Shadow of the Colossus HD are much better. It appears that Team Ico has actually put some work into making these classic games presentable in HD, beyond simply updating the aspect ratio and calling it a day. Just the thought of being able to play SotC at a reasonable frame rate has me excited, let alone the ability to earn Trophies in a pair of games that I truly love.

And I think that’s where a lot of developers are going wrong. They seem to be taking the quick and easy route with these HD re-releases, rather than showing that they care about the products and the experience the end user has with them. I’m actually a little afraid of what the Metal Gear and Silent Hill collections are going to look like when they come out later this year. Konami has screwed up those franchises enough with the later iterations. It would be sacrilege to simply slap the letters “HD” to the end of MGS3 or Silent Hill 2 and expect people to pay honest money for them.

Maybe I’m just expecting too much out of the industry these days…(probably not, though)

Jason makes a ton of valid points – enough that it’s hard for me to add to them. I don’t have a HDTV, so the novelty of HD alone doesn’t really work for me. I don’t care to have HD versions of my games when SD works just fine (and I can read the goddamn text – give me an option for bigger text, developers!).

It especially doesn’t work when the game is HD in the most slapdash of fashions. The one HD port I do own, Beyond Good & Evil HD, retains what made the game so good gameplay-wise, and the overall world seems sharper, but it created more problems than it improved. Graphical glitches and tears, the lip sync being knocked off-kilter, the loss of additional languages…I am glad I bought it because I wanted to show UBI Soft there’s a fanbase for the (hopeful) franchise, but I didn’t buy it for the Hi-Def gloss it was splashed with (I say splashed because it wasn’t amazing enough to say painted).

The industry is in a weird way right now. HD rehashes can be farmed out to second-tier devs because the majority of the hard work is already there. Most publishers don’t want rehauling of the entire graphical engine because it would a) cost too much and b) take too long. Konami in particular seems awe-struck with the concept and half of their line-up seems to be HD ports of their more prominent series. Is the thought of Silent Hill 3 running slightly improved visuals and featuring a scant amount of trophies enough for me to sink money into it twice? Probably not.

Thankfully, there’s one factor that levels the playing field on the side of the consumer. That would be the passage of time. It’s a bit much to expect people to pay $40 to $50 for an HD collection (or even $80, in the case of MGS), but after a year or so, they’ll all be down to a reasonable $20 each. A lower price won’t undo the lack of attention given to some of the visual upgrades, but at least it helps make the overall investment easier to accept.

Naturally, there’s also the choice to avoid them entirely. By their nature, these aren’t new entries in any of their respective franchises, so no one would be missing out on any new plotpoints or character developments.

True, true.  While we’re on the topic of “enhanced” portage, has anyone tried Ocarina of Time 3D or Starfox 64 3D? These seem to be more than your run-of-the-mill rush job, with massive visual overhauls but maintaining the gameplay of the N64 classics. Could these be the standard to reach if you want to remake a game compared to lazily having your B or C-grade teams sort of pretty it up?  I suppose we’ll see how well these ports do and what next year brings.

Awesome Enemy Encounters – Sniper Wolf and Freezies

BOSS BATTLE GREATS – Sniper Wolf (Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes)

Sniper Wolf was quick to leave her mark in player’s minds – capping Meryl’s kneecaps and arms in a hideous display of gore, leaving her crippled and bleeding profusely.  After finding a weapon capable of combating the threat, Solid Snake is caught offguard and has no choice but to surrender himself, which led to one of the more intriguing conversations in the game with Wolf commenting that she would not think of anything else but him until she killed him…powerful words.  After escaping his imprisonment, he obtains Wolf’s handkerchief from Otacon (who loves her), which, if used, allows Snake to get past Wolf’s pack of (actual) wolves without having to subdue them.  The boss fight between Wolf and Snake takes place in a massive field laced with snow, rocks and trees, with the two trying to out-snipe each other.  Very tense stuff, and her final death throes were among the most poignant of the Foxhound mercs Snake had to engage.  Beyond Psycho Mantis and his bizarre mind games, I think Sniper Wolf was the greatest encounter in the game.  She had a fascinating design and made a definite mark on me as I played through Metal Gear Solid.  An all-time great, no question.

ENEMY LEGEND – Freezie/Slipice (Mario Bros.)

An odd choice (I’m becoming known for those), but as I was pondering what ice enemy I was most impressed by over my long gaming career, the Freezie kept crawling into my thoughts.  It’s a simple, yet game-changing foe, who serves as more a stage obstacle than an actual threat, but in a game where precise timing is a necessity, Freezie adds much to the overall experience.  He does what his name suggests – freezes the platform it’s on.  This makes Mario and Luigi’s traction take a nosedive, and timing your leaps to flip over other enemies is now that much harder to accomplish.  However, it’s not damning – the game is still winnable, and Freezie can also be hit from underneath to shatter it before it becomes a thorn in your side.  The novelty of having a piece of the stage suddenly turn to ice made a mark on my youth, I guess, as I seem to have fond memories of encountering this early enemy.  Go figure.


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