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Live Blogs Let's Watch: Select Episodes of Cinematech (The Original Series)
BearyScary2013-08-04 20:41:34

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The Song in Your Heart/Twilight of the Superheroes' Games

Cinematech Episode 176: “ATI Summit” – This ep was about an event held by graphics card developers ATI exhibiting reeal-time demos of what their technology could do and how it could be applied to games. The main demo, made by Rhino FX, was called “The Doublecross” and was about a courier named Ruby who delivered a suitcase with a huge diamond inside to a bald bad guy. Ruby intended to rig the bad guy's tower to explode, but he foresaw her betrayal and sent ninjas to defeat her, or to delay her long enough to have her bomb take her with it. Ruby defeated the ninjas, retrieved the diamond from the bad guy, and escaped.

Timecode: 3:09: The making of “The Doublecross”. It discusses how Rhino FX worked with ATI to develop the short film. Possibly the most interesting thing is how it shows the construction of Ruby's character model in progress from pencil sketches to a 3D model. It shows how they developed the texture for her face from the basic skin tone to makeup, to eyebrows, moles, and blemishes. It also shows how they connected these tones to one model through “channels” to create her final look.

15: 04: “Staying Pictures”, a cute little animation in a simple, stick figure style about a shy guy trying to get the attention of a girl that seems more interested in listening to her music player. What does this have to do with games? It was made by Alex Evans with music by Karsten Pflum. Evans worked for Peter Molyneux's Lionhead Studios at the time as a Research and Development lead, and explained the creation of “Staying Pictures” on the show:

Evans: “There's a guy who's at Lionhead called Peter Holly, and he saw the stuff I was doing in my spare time, basically using coding to make films, and he was like, “You've gotta do this, man, more”. So we set up this thing called Bluespoon, which is – shameless plug – We go on tour with orchestras. The concept will be this: Can you make a film that really compliments the piece of music? But then the performer, if he decides to play the chorus five times, no problem, because it's all live generated, so, you know, with a live orchestra, it's different every night. And it's those kinda things, using game technology, my god, who knows what we're gonna do with it in the future. It's gonna be cool!

In the animation, the guy tries to get the girl's attention by giving her a flower. When she continues to ignore him, the flower wilts. Then, the guy pulls out a horn and plays a haunting song. From the horn emerges colored cords that form a sort of cube shape around blocks that light up and change colors according to the notes in the song.

There is something very poignant about this short animation. The song seems to convey the guy's loneliness, and the graphics are quite stunning. This is one of those things from Cinematech that I've watched over and over again.

19: 20: “Dangerous Curves”, another short film about Ruby. This time, Ruby is trying to escape from insect-like robots trying to pursue her through a tunnel. When she realizes that there is a fan at the end of the tunnel she has no choice but to abandon her hoverbike. The ensuing explosion takes out the bugbots.

Cinematech Episode 167: “Superheroes” – Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Oft-maligned games based on some of the awesomest superheroes ever. This was one of those fun eps based on a simple theme.

0:18: Did you know that Todd McFarlane's Spawn has been in a few video games? First, there was the mid-'90s side scrolling beat 'em up, then a terribly-received Play Station action-adventure game, a Game Boy Color game starring Spawn, a Dreamcast action game by Capcom, Spawn's cameo in the Xbox version of Soulcalibur II, and then Namco made the action game Spawn: Armageddon in 2003. The clips shown for this ep show cutscene from the game where Spawn confronts his archenemy, the Violator, who is already in his true monster form instead of his usual disguise as a gross, human clown. Even though neither character apparently requires lipsync, Kevin Michael Richardson and Steve Blum sound unusually bored threatening each other as Spawn and the Violator, respectively. Critics consensus pegged the game as average.

The Game Over sequence shows the earth opening up beneath Spawn's feet as he is dragged back to Hell.

2:10: Oh no, it's the infamous Aquaman: Battle for Atlantis! This is the notoriously boring-looking brawler starring the oft-mocked, aquatic DC hero. This game uses his darker, edgier character design from the mid-'90s where he had long hair, no shirt, and a harpoon for a hand. His epic mane in this game helped inspire the Golden Mullet awards for lack of excellence in video games on Xplay.

So I guess you could say that this game was most definitely not OUTRAGEOUS!

4:13: Assorted Batman games, starting with The Adventures of Batman and Robin, based on the legendary Batman The Animated Series. This was a highly praised side scrolling beat 'em up by Konami, who used to make excellent excellent licensed games. This game captures the signature look of the animated series rather well, but the game was supposed to be very hard as well.

Next, there was Batman: Dark Tomorrow (Xbox and GameCube, 2003), developed by HotGen and published by Kemco. This game is so bad, I don't think most people have even bothered to check it out, unlike, say, Big Rigs Over The Road Racing. It languishes in obscurity, possibly because of minor things like terrible camera angles. One reviewer claimed that this game had the worst camera of any game they had ever played. This was one of those games that was so bad, Sony had the PS 2 version canned. Game Informer gave it an astounding 0.75 out of ten. The story was written by Scott Peterson, who had written Batman comics in the past, with assistance by Kenji Terada, who wrote the first three Final Fantasy games.

6:28: Catwoman (Electronic Arts, 2004), a game that never should have been made, based on a movie that never should have been made, that Halle Berry should never have starred in, wearing a costume that Jean-Paul Gautier should never have designed. On Xplay, Adam Sessler had this to say about the game: “it's like Prince Of Persia, if Prince of Persia sucked.”

The graphics were kind of nice, but I thought that the “sexy” Easter Egg the player would get if they left the game idle for a bit was kind of creepy because it showed Berry's character licking her hand like a cat would lick its paw. It was suggestive but weird.

8:46: Assorted Superman games, including the Superman NES game developed by Seika and published by Kemco (them again?!). This is a somewhat surreal platformer with cutesy graphics. In this game, Superman, or Clark Kent, can run around Metropolis and get objectives from the Statue of Liberty, and clues from fellow Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane, cub reporter Jimmy Olsen, and editor Perry White. Superman also gets guidance from an utterly adorable Statue of Liberty. He can't fly until he gets a certain powerup. Not even Superman64 was that restrictive. This game is not fondly remembered, but at least it was better received than...

Superman64 (1999) by Titus. This is often considered to be one of the worst games of all time. Based on Superman: The Animated Series, this game had Lex Luthor trapping some of Superman's friends in a virtual world. Superman goes into the world to rescue his friends, where he is faced with... “Kryptonite fog” and rings through which he has to fly?

This game was criticized for its lackluster graphics, poor control, and a lack of interesting obstacles for Superman to clear. Indeed, developers seem to get stuck on the idea that Superman is so powerful that it is difficult to think up goals that are challenging for him and the player. Another thing noticeable from this montage is that some of the enemies are dressed entirely in black, another possible indication of developer laziness.

Several years later, Hardcore Gaming 101 covered S64 for their Weekly Kusoge section, and featured excerpts from Proton Jon's interview with the game's producer. He put the blame for the game's lack of quality on WB themselves, claiming that their restrictions made it impossible for his team to make a good game. It's sort of tragicomical.

There was supposed to be a Play Station port of the game, which allegedly looked better than the Nintendo Sixty Four version, but it was canceled, probably due to the horrid reception of the N64 edition.

11:22: The secret origin of Minute Man, from Freedom Force, a throwback to retro comic books. This charming cutscene is animated in a style similar to that of Jack Kirby. It tells the story of how an aged Frank Stiles became a superhero known as Minute Man. One day sitting in the park, Stiles spotted one of his former fellow scientists on the Manhattan Project, O'Connor, having a secret rendevouz with a Russian operative. Stiles trips and is seen by the dastardly duo, and O'Connor shoots him through the heart, leaving him for dead.

But then the statue of the Minute Man glows and calls out to Stiles, and he uses the last of his strength to crawl over to the monument. After touching the statue, Stiles feels power flowing into him. He becomes into a young, fit man whose muscles tear his coat at the seams, and his voice gains a heroic timbre. He theorizes that the statue was hit with some fantastic kind of energy, and that energy now flows in him. With this new power, he decides to use them in defense of his country. “Those reds might have killed Frank Stiles, but they're about to meet – the Minute Man!”

16:26: A good-looking promotional trailer for City of Villains, an Expansion Pack for the superhero-themed City Of Heroes MMORPG that let you create and play as your very own supervillain.

17:37: The famous arcade game based on Xmen from Konami. This was one of their four-player Beat 'em Ups. It has some [hammy, [Memetic Mutation memetically]] cheesy voiced dialog from the likes of the Blob: “No one moves the Blob!” The playable X-Men were Cyclops, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Storm, and Dazzler. Yes, Dazzler, in a costume different from her disco-inspired outfit.

18:54: Assorted Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, including the fondly-remembered NES platformer from Konami, their four-player arcade game, and Battle Nexus, one of the games made for the rebooted cartoon series. Unlike the other two games in the montage, BN is considered to be terrible due to design choices such as a shared life bar in co-op, short stages, and long cutscenes between said short stages. It is actually the lowest-rated TMNT game ever. HG101 did a pretty fascinating retrospective of TMNT games.

Reader Participation: What comic book games are worth a darn? I liked the Marvel Ultimate Alliance games and Marvel Vs Capcom 3.

I realized that the Statue of Liberty often gets a bum deal in video games. Let's run down a brief list of games in which the Statue appears:

Samurai Zombie Nation: One of the most surreal NES games ever made. This side scrolling shooter had you playing as the literally disembodied head of a samurai clan (or a tengu warrior in the original Japanese version) trying to help “save” America from an alien called Darc (sic?) Seed. Unfortunately, the samurai's “help” means devastating several American cities and attacking the citizens under Darc Seed's control by attacking them with his spit and eyeballs shot out of his mouth. Lady Liberty appears as the very first boss. Her crown is turned into hair made out of snakes and her torch spits deadly vertical flame. Of all the times to reference Medusa of Greek mythology. Where's Kratos when you need him?

Parasite Eve: In this blockbuster Survival Horror RPG based loosely on a sci-fi/horror novel, New York is under siege by Parasite Eve, a woman overtaken by her highly evolved mitochondria. Near the end of the game, Eve decides to make a baby and have it at the base of the Statue of Liberty. A giant, man-shaped mass of melted human goop protects her as she presumably gives birth to her bastard child. Aya Brea, a New York policewoman, kills Eve after she gives birth, and everyone assumes that all is well and recovery from Eve's citywide rampage can begin. But what they didn't realize was that Eve actually delivered her baby inside of the goop and it functioned as the womb for the Ultimate Being to gestate in until its true birth. Aya tries to kill that son of a bitch over and over, but it just keeps growing rapidly in strength to keep up with her, until it finally “evolves” into a green, translucent, creature, more aquatic than humanoid, and Aya has to weaken it with bullets containing her DNA and her own evolved mitochondria. Aya then kills it once and for all by blowing up the naval carrier they were on, and she narrowly escapes by jumping over the side of the ship.

One of the best games ever? Yeah. I think so. It was also the first-ever game by Square to receive a Mature 17+ rating from the ESRB.

Charlies Angels: An infamously bad beat 'em up based on the movies. The plot involves thieves who somehow stole the entire Statue of Liberty from New York during a power outage.

Grand Theft Auto IV: This game features Liberty City, an Expy of New York. Instead of the Statue of Liberty, it has the Statue of Happiness. There is a giant human heart chained up to the inside of the statue. If it isn't symbolic of something, then it was just included for the sake of the Rule of Scary, and that's scary in and of itself. I wonder if Grand Theft Auto V will have any horrifying Easter Eggs like this one?

References/Links: Giant Bomb, Wikipedia, HG101's review of Samurai Zombie Nation


Aug 3rd 2013 at 4:03:06 PM
Let's see... comic book games... comic book games... If you want to get technical, the X-Men/Marvel Universe RPG series was a good chain of comic book games.