Thursday, October 28, 2010

Monster Island: The Game That Never Was

Irrational Games (the studio responsible for the BioShock titles) recently posted an old, unused pitch idea for “Monster Island” on their website: an action strategy video game wherein the player could control a city-demolishing monster OR the hapless humans attempting to survive its destructive spree. Some of the proposed ideas included:

- Twenty different playable creatures as well as the option to create an original monster.

- Three different times periods/locations: Ancient Greece, Medieval Europe and 1950’s Japan.

- Resource management-based gameplay if playing on humanity's side.

- Multiplayer mode for four players.

Having read through the document (which you can download as a PDF here) and lamenting that this project never went into production, I can’t help but suspect that a significant reason as to why it never saw the light of day was due to the fact that it was too large in scope for the game systems that existed at the time of the pitch. As awesome as the outlined concepts sounded, I can't imagine a PS2 or X-Box being able to accommodate the extent of what the developers were considering.

That being said, I could totally see the current generation of game systems handling said ideas just fine. C’mon, Irrational Games- just because you passed on the opportunity ten years ago doesn’t mean you have to abandon the idea forever! I’m still waiting for something to fill the void left by the non-existent sequel to Playstation’s War of the Monsters...

Monday, October 25, 2010

Movie Review: Mega Monster Battle- Ultra Galaxy Legend The Movie

Allow me to start off this review with a quick question. Would you consider your knowledge of all things Ultraman to be:

A) Thorough

B) Casual

If you’re like me and fall into the “B” category, then Mega Monster Battle: Ultra Galaxy Legend The Movie might be a bit of a mixed viewing experience. When it comes to the Ultraman movies, it’s been explained to me that the films (for the most part) are aimed strictly at young fans, so being only peripherally familiar with the franchise made Mega Monster Battle: Ultra Galaxy Legend The Movie a tricky film to review.

The movie begins with the introduction of the Land of Light; home planet of the Ultramen. The inhabitants’ peaceful daily routine goes sour when Ultraman Belial, an incarcerated renegade who previously attempted to overrun the world with an army of monsters, escapes from his space prison. Belial heads straight for the Land of Light, knocks around the locals and successfully makes off with the “Plasma Spark”- the power source for the whole planet- leaving behind a frozen wasteland. Now the only hope in stopping Belial and returning things to normal lies with a powerful Ultra named Zero, who is away training in a remote galaxy.

While what I’ve explained up until this point, story-wise, seems straightforward enough, things get a little more convoluted once the cast of characters from the television series Ultra Galaxy Mega Monster Battle appear and drop into the story with the assumption that the audience is completely up to speed with the show. That’s when I realized that I wasn’t watching a stand-alone, self-contained movie; this was a massive crossover exercise showcasing the entirety of the Ultraman franchise. To make use of a geeky analogy, imagine if Marvel Comics decided to make a film that featured Spider-Man, The X-Men AND The Incredible Hulk AND The Avengers AND Blade the Vampire Hunter as they team up against a selection of popular super villains. Would this make Marvel comic fans happy? Probably. Would there be time in the movie to explain all the details and nuances of said characters for the uninitiated viewers? Probably not.

While I couldn’t appreciate the movie on any sort of nostalgic level, Mega Monster Battle does move along at a decent pace with no shortage of rubber-suited, monster-brawling antics, so I was never bored. It is kind of weird, though, that all the various creatures from the Ultraman rogues gallery which make appearances are are mostly reduced to the level of cannon fodder; being easily knocked around with an ease that I can’t help suspect is probably contrary to the challenge that they presented in their original television appearances.

Admittedly, the film does reach a numbing point by the story’s climax, as you might expect from sitting through an hour and half of interchangeable silver and red characters punching stuff. As I had mentioned in my previous review of the original television series, Ultraman himself is a rather uninteresting individual- basically a deus ex machina plot device used to defeat the giant monster antagonist at the end of an episode. Teaming up a bunch of them together does little to solve this shortcoming but it’s not as if the movie was ever intended to be a deep character study.

Overall, Mega Monster Battle can be best summed up as a harmless “popcorn” film. You’ll probably get more out of it if you’re an Ultraman fan, but even as an outsider looking in (like myself), there’s still enough entertainment value to make for an amusing watch. Three out of five.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

City of the Gods: The Return of Quetzalcoatl

Something to look for next time you’re at a book store, City of the Gods is a newly-released novel from author Patrick Garone. The plot summary:

When an enormous UFO appears over Mexico City and begins broadcasting instructions in the ancient language of the Aztecs, anthropologist Sandra Ramirez is sent in with a team to establish contact with the ship. Instead, her assignment goes horribly wrong and she soon finds herself drawn into the invader's plans to violently transform our world and its history. Earth's only hope lies with Quetzalcoatl, a reawakened Mexican god who holds the power to either defend our planet or to assure its destruction.

Alien invasion + mexican mythology + giant monsters? I like that math!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Troll Hunter (English) Trailer

This film has been on my radar for for a while but I’ve been hesitant to post anything about it up until now, as it mostly amounted to a teaser trailer and a couple of fragmented clips. However, blog reader Benjamin brought to my attention that has posted an english-subtitled trailer. Looks pretty cool!