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By Knafice-Man

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.

The 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 manga comics.

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: voldemort2099@yahoo.com.

(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 too.)

I 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 rather cool.

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.

The 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 that.

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.

By Gokhra

Mac Mini and iPod Shuffle

By Ahmed Ashiful Haque

Apple's recent 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 and mouse.

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.

Zoo Tycoon 2

By Niloy

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 hours.

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.

Still, 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.

However, 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.

Zoo 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.

Taking 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.


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