Just when I thought the awesome anime producing powerhouses
of Japan were having a break (I can't recall any recent anime series
or movie releases), Appleseed enters the picture. This is the latest
anime movie released on 14/01/05 in theatres and it's one of the most
impressive CG (computer generated) productions we've seen. It's worth
the long wait for an astonishing new CG anime after Final Fantasy:
The Spirits Within and Animatrix: The Final Flight of the Osiris.
The story is comparable to many other sci-fi stories. The year is
2131 and the world is now a sphere of vast barren land. This is the
result of a worldwide non-nuclear war. Deunan is a soldier who doesn't
know the war is over and still battles on in the badlands till she
is hunt down by a beautiful Hitomi and Briareos, her former lover.
When she regains her consciousness she finds herself is Olympus the
Utopia city. In time she finds out that there is a new more intelligent
race named Bioroids who are running the show in Olympus. She is one
of the many soldiers who have been taken from the badlands to join
the OOAF (Official Olympus Armed Forces). She finds that her old love
Briareos is no longer human. After being separated from her in battle
Briareos has a near fatal accident and the only way to save him was
to convert him into a cyborg. The city of Olympus is strangely perfect.
As much as Deunan likes it here this disturbs her. And some of the
humans in Olympus are already planning an assault on the bioroids.
animation is intense and in some ways better than FF: Spirits Within.
I was absolutely stunned after watching the trailer. The animation
is considerably more fluid than FF and Final Flight of the Osiris
(which was also done by the FF team). The character designs are in
the manga style. They look very good indeed, though not realistic
like the previously quoted FF. The backgrounds and scenarios are highly
detailed and look brilliant. The trailer starts off with a battle
scene of Denan fighting off ten or so robots. The action is fast paced
all the way. Another scene of a storm in sea captivated me. It was
just too realistic. You gotta see it to believe it.
There was an Appleseed manga too. I also found out
later on that Dark Horse has released an English version of the Appleseed
For more info on Appleseed and downloads go to: www.appleseedthemovie.com
You can download the trailer from: http://www.xcessionsites.com/media.php?id=4
Check out for the comics in: www.darkhorse.com
Any questions or reaction directed to the author are
welcome at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
(note from the Rising Stars Desk: Appleseed is originally
one of Masamune Shirow's mangas. Shirow-san is most noted for Ghost
in the Shell, of which the second movie has just recently been released
just couldn't wait but had to see Elektra even though the print was
not all that good. She was much too enticing in Daredevil and her
very own movie promised a lot of background goodies. Unfortunately,
it was another one of the Hollywood sugar coated moneymakers. What
the heck does that mean? Well, it spells out a bit of disappointment.
The Plot: Elektra
(Jennifer Garner) is spectacular in the comic books, no doubt about
that. The movie kinda dulls the role though.
Elektra is a super
hitwoman. She is remorseless and deadly with no fun for the joys of
life. Yes, she goes through a life of drudgery without enjoying things
like the weekly publishing of Rising Stars.
Of course, this
couldn't continue forever and all changes when she gets a new contract.
She is asked to reach the destination for her next hit two days earlier
in which time she gets to meet with her target. It's a 12-year-old
girl named Abby (Kirsten Prout) and they bond. So, instead of killing
the girl Elektra becomes friends and vows to save the girl, no matter
what. Adding to this is eth little girls handsome single father sporting
a stubble and there's a bit of romance afoot. Now Elektra has joy
for life once again but good things don't last when you still have
about more than half an hour of the movie left.
Enter her new
enemies who are assassins hired by the Order of the Hand, which is
a secret Japanese society that seeks "The Treasure". Not
only that their secret base is a temple atop a skyscraper which is
The Hand is a
colorful lot. There's team-leader Kirigi, ink-covered Tattoo whose
tattoos come to life in menacing snake forms, the behemoth Stone,
agile Kinkou and psycho-femme Typhoid (Natassia Malthe) who tries
to soul-kiss Elektra to death. And it seems these bad guys have been
hired from Buffys script as they all disappear into a puff of yellow
dust when they die.
verdict: Jennifer garner runs around a lot in Alias and she does the
same thing here. It makes sense cause she looks awfully good doing
The movie has
a lot of action. At times, you think that that is all that it has.
You get some back story that involves Elektra's training under the
stern blind martial arts master Stick who can bring people back to
life and materialize at will. Disappointingly, there is no mention
of Daredevil anywhere in the story. Also, the villains have too much
supernatural powers and it goes a bit out of context when you thin
that the basis of the story is in people having their natural abilities
heightened to supernatural levels. There's nothing natural about tattoos
coming to life although it looks good.
It's a great pop
corn movie where you chew blankly for the 90 minutes or so it takes
for the movie to end. Its got neat action though very few choreography
as there is too much of close-ups. Probably its to show that the actors
are thinking deeply as to what they are doing here. Its got its sentimental
as well as action bits put together nicely enough but somehow the
comics are better. Good but not quite that good.
Mini and iPod Shuffle
Ahmed Ashiful Haque
unveiling of the iPod Shuffle and the Mac Mini caused a big stir and
with good reason. There's a lot more than what meets the eye on both
these "downsized" devices.
For years, people
have criticized Macs for being more expensive than Windows PCs. Although
at one time that was the case, when you look at comparably equipped
Macs and brand-name Windows PCsthat is, once you add the hardware
features and software that comes with a Mac to a Windows PCthe differences
in price are much smaller, if they exist at all.
But with the release
of Mac Mini, things have changed. Apple has achieved a new goal: to
make a $500 computer that's not a piece of junk. Yes, the Mac Mini
is small. In fact, it's so small that you'd have to stack eight of
them to top your regular Tower casing. And it's sleek and beautiful,
sized only at 6.5" x 6.5" x 2" and 3 pounds. And the
tiny machine comes with a G4 1.25 GHz processor, 256 MB RAM and a
40 GB Hard drive. A different model, with a better processor and 80
GB Hard drive, is available for $600. And all these comes comes with
a hoard of Apple's brilliant software and, of course, the Mac OS X.
But the minis
are CPUs only. They call it BYO DKM, bring your own display, keyboard
Welcome to the
iPod shuffle. It's Apple's first $99 iPod, and also the first to lack
a screen, wheel controller, hard drive, and 1,000-song storage capacity.
Apple is now offering the simplest and cheapest 512 Megabyte ($99)
and 1 Gigabyte ($149) portable music players on the market, with the
ability to hold ten or twenty albums worth of music in an iconic white
casing the size of a pack of chewing gum. Featuring super-simplified
controls with none of the decidedly non-mainstream visual interface
oddities of earlier devices, the iPod shuffles are designed so that
anyone can use them.
With only a single
exception, the iPod shuffle is as simple as a portable digital music
player could be. At 3.3" x 0.98" x 0.33" and only .78
ounces, it is cigarette lighter-sized and weighted, dramatically smaller
than any earlier product to bear the iPod name. Still, it can play
songs randomly (it can shuffle the songs) … hence the name iPod Shuffle.
It can promise rechargeable 12-hour battery life just like a fourth-generation
iPod, but the
actual battery length is about 16-18 hours.
Oh, and as Apple's
website says, do not eat the iPod shuffle.
I know what you're
thinking. You think this is just another tycoon game, only this time
it's a game where you lock animals up, give them rotten food and then
charge human idiots money to see the animals. Well you know what?
You're so right. I mean, you're right about the part with the cages,
the rotten food and human idiots. Unfortunately, that's what Zoo keeping
business is all about.
Anyway, I am aware
of the fact not many of you enjoy playing games like this, unless
they offer something special. In that sense, I think that you would
not appreciate what Zoo Tycoon 2 has to offer. It looks too childish;
the controls are too simple…
But the game feels
just right. I never thought I would love this game so much - and it's
not the new, improved looks or the fact that it harbours new, additional
features. It's the game's core game play that held me enraptured for
The premise of
Zoo Tycoon is simple - you are a Zookeeper who's in charge of a specific
Zoo. In case you've decided to play the campaign, you'll be assigned
different tasks, from getting an bankrupt Zoo back up and running
to buying specific animals or protecting endangered species. Your
money is limited so sometimes you'll be forced to go at a slow pace,
which isn't tiresome at all. And that's it - you get the Zoo, the
rest depends on you. Every campaign consists of several scenarios
that must be completed in order to successfully finish the campaign.
You can also try your hand at the free-form mode, where you'll be
able to build your Zoo the way you want with unlimited funds. All
the buildings and animals are also at your disposal, so all that is
needed of you is to pick a map and off you go.
I noticed the game never felt too difficult, even at the later stages.
Maybe this is because Zoo Tycoon 2 is intended to be a kids' game,
I don't know, but I rather missed the possibility to manage difficulty
settings as performing most of the tasks in the game didn't present
a big challenge for me (like storming the digital beach at Normandy?
-Medal of Honour). Luckily, it'll take you a lot of time to build
all that needs to be built and buy all the animals you'll need, so
eventually; you'll have quite a lot to do. I had a lot to keep me
busy, so I soon forgot about looking for that "one big challenge"
and instead started to enjoy what I was given.
Zoo Tycoon has
undergone some changes compared to the original, not only in terms
of the graphics but also with the interface and the addition of new
animals and buildings. The principle has more or less stayed the same,
so the players familiar with the original game won't have any problems
with the sequel. Zoo building and management is easy enough for the
first-time players to find their way around in no time.
The Zoo building
tools are very easy to use. It is possible to change the shape of
the terrain, build different paths and fences as well as some additional
structures such as hotdog stands that improve the mood of your guests.
You should take care to build enough restrooms, benches, soda drink
stands and such in order to keep your guests happy once they get tired
of watching the animals. Of course, they will always complain about
something but that's just like real life, isn't it? Once a guest complained
there were not enough coffee stands in the Zoo, and I had three of
the damn things (he was standing next to one). The best thing was
when a dromedary camel spat on a spoiled little brat that kept shrieking
and cheering and getting on my nerves. Other guests thought it was
funny too, so I earned myself a nice little donation. People, this
is most important, keep your donation boxes visible in order to get
the idiots, err, customers to part more easily with their money.
it is not that easy to keep your animals happy. As you won't have
much money in the beginning, you'll be forced to do most of the dirty
work yourself. Until you are able to afford some maintenance workers
to take care of the trash and zookeepers that will tend to the animals,
you'll have to get your hands dirty once in a while and take care
of everything yourself. What does that mean? It means that, granted
to this new option, you'll be able to switch to first-person view
and see your Zoo through the eyes of a simple tourist. You can now
walk around your Zoo and see how things are going. And while you're
there, you may as well sweep the trash and see how the animals are
doing. You can replenish their food and water dishes, groom or wash
them, even clean their poop (I would use another word, but this is
a kids' game after all). If they are sick, you can treat them; in
short, you will be the centre of their little world. If you do not
pay attention to your animals, do not feed or clean them regularly,
it will affect their mood and eventually their health. You'll be sorry
if you neglect your animals not only because it will affect your game
play, but also because it can lead to some unpredictable consequences.
And yes, clean that poop.
Although the game
does look childish, what I really loved about Zoo Tycoon 2 was the
way animals acted.
They all behaved
as they do in real life, making exactly the same noises, engaging
in the same activities, displaying the same psychology. It felt great
watching them eat, play and procreate. I was a part of that process
and I really enjoyed it (I was NOT a part of the procreating process).
If you in any case don't like animals, you won't understand my joy
as I watched two little cubs play with a ball two times their size
or as I participated in the silent happiness of a female moose who's
just given birth to two little mini-moose, or whatever they're called.
Tycoon 2 now runs on a new 3D engine that does not only make things
look beautiful, but also helps you to build and decorate your Zoo
better and decide about the position of the exhibits. While your staff
and guests look nice, the biggest attention has been paid to the animals,
which are rendered with a lot of accuracy and detail. They all look
and move very realistically, just as their surroundings. For a tycoon
type of game, Zoo Tycoon looks good, especially when you switch to
first-person view - and while you're browsing around in first person,
why don't you make some use of your camera and take some photos of
the animals that you'll later put in your photo album.
everything into consideration, here is how I feel: Zoo Tycoon 2 looks
and plays good. It does have that irritating childish feel and some
minor bugs, but if you're a animal-lover such as myself you will love
it, for one and one reason only, and that is its addictiveness. Although
it is lacking in number of scenarios and difficulty levels, this is
an incredibly fun game to play, and although you may not be able to
shoot the humans, you can feed and tend the animals, which will give
you that happy, warm fuzzy feeling. After all, this game does not
have any major flaws or downsides, it is easy and fun to play and
you can indulge yourself in it for many hours. It's not all about
competition, it's rather a virtual simulation of a Zoo where you can
simply spend some pleasant hours with animals, watching them play,
give birth and eventually die. Especially die.