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Anime Review
Gundam Seed
Gundam Seed is one of the latest in the long line of the Gundam franchise that's been around since the late seventies. The original Gundam was a classic, and the sequels (Zeta, Victory) were probably the finest space epics ever. Ergo, Gundam Seed had some really big shoes to fill.
And I'll grant you, of the 50-odd episodes, the first forty-or-so had me riveted to the screen. Considerably due to anticipation, true, but there was very good action, the sort of tension you expect from a wartime story that takes itself seriously (notches above Star Wars and more like Star Trek), and some twists, early on, that you wouldn't expect. And a very genuine cause of conflict: the racist hatred on both sides (Earth Alliance, and the native space-born ZAFT) made it believable.
Unfortunately, though, Gundam Seed gets bogged down in a mire of side-characters that shouldn't be important but who unfortunately end up affecting the plot in adverse ways; this, coupled with one rather unlikely romance in particular and truly horrible pacing near the end utterly destroy what was shaping up to be a worthy Gundam series, and instead sentence it to being merely mediocre.
Nevertheless, the show does have satisfying visuals, at least during combat; the leading mecha (termed Gundams throughout), such as the Strike, Duel, and later on the Calamity, Justice, and Freedom, are all satisfactorily angular, and sound like heavy metal most of the time. Character designs, while forgettable in that they all look similar, aren't hard on the eyes, and voice acting isn't bad by any standards. The music is genuinely good, and while the opening and ending themes take a bit of getting used to (being strongly J-Pop) the soundtrack is generally fitting. The animation is smooth and fast, and suitably colourful (though I still find pink explosions a tad disturbing); the gripe here is that many sequences were re-used over and over again.
However, technical proficiency without a plot hurts, and Gundam Seed, I'm afraid, lacks heavily in the latter. The sequel, Gundam Seed Destiny, is currently airing, and looks to correct some of the original's flaws; this, however, is something you'd preferably avoid except as background material for the sequel.


Transformers

By Le Chupacabra

While RoboTech and (to a lesser extent) Thundercats were more of a mainstay for our generation, those pushing twenty (or maybe thirty) will remember the days of Voltron and Transformers. While Voltron was cool and all, the concept behind Transformers was pretty awesome: they were, as the show puts it, robots in disguise. Able to transform into a vehicle, each Autobot (the good guys) and Decepticon (obviously the bad guys) was pretty unique. While our generation caught the re-runs of it, it definitely intrigued many and this became yet another timeless anime to love and respect.
Anyhow, in order to capture the market once again using nostalgia as a weapon, Hasbro decided to make a spin-off from the original. Thus Transformers: Armada was born. Now, why they turned it into Pokemon-with-robots is beyond me, but where the show lacked, the game made up for it in spades.
You play as the three main characters from the (new) show: fan-fave Optimus Prime, typical-hot-headed-troublemaker Hot Shot (aptly named, too) and the level-headed medic, Red Alert. The aims are simple: procure all the Mini-Cons, destroy the Decipticlone army (and the Decepticons)… oh, and make sure your home-planet of Cybertron isn't blown into smithereens.
Atari has turned a very lame and hackneyed premise into a frantic, all-out shooter with tonnes of blaster action, earth-shattering explosions, challenging boss fight and incredibly lush visuals.
Since it's a Transformers game, with a tap of the Triangle button, your Autobot of choice instantly turns itself into a giant truck, race car or utility vehicle, respectively. It's a good thing too! The battles can often get a little too (read: insanely) hectic at times, so it's best to be able to leg it ASAP. Normally you'll be running about and strafing around as you unload your blaster's energy beams into the enemies. However, the addition of the Mini-Cons adds a LOT of strategy and diversity to the combat. Once you find one, it's sent back to HQ or you can equip it on the spot. They boost your functions with an immensely wide variety of effects. Some grant you temporary invisibility which allows for much ease in the recon missions. Others will increase your fire-power to gigantic proportions by letting you assault the enemy with a barrage of missiles or EMP shockwaves. Some even increase your speed and one even lets you glide across large gaps which would have been otherwise impossible to pass. There are also particular Mini-Con combinations that actually end up giving you more energy and life. There are literally hundreds of combinations that help you tailor your Autobot to your tastes. This helps turn a normal shooter into something a bit more special. The boss fights are pretty exciting as well. You'll be facing off against enemies like StarScream, Megatron and other Decepticons. The fights are hectically paced and require quicker reflexes than usual. One particular fight stood out though. See, this level requires you to infiltrate a giant aircraft carrier which is attacking an important research facility. Once you're done sighing with relief after you exit it, your jaw will drop as the WHOLE level you just played turns into a titanic-sized Decepticon: Tidal Wave. Man, the guy is freaking HUGE! It took quite some time to take him down, but it was really fun!
The visuals are masterful and breathtaking in this game. The horizon expands for miles of explorable territory and is evocative of Far Cry. Everything you see is full of detail and it's with a great sense of scale as well. In the forest levels, each individual tree is lushly rendered with all the leaves and the bark in full glory. This attention to detail is much appreciated, since the developers could have ridden on the wings of the license and made it look like butt. Whether it's a Decepticlone trooper blowing up in a shower of metal parts or the biting wind obscuring your vision in Antarctica or the sun glaring anime-esque-ly off your 'Bot, this game is a beauty. The only problem is that they've added ragdoll physics (basically to add to realism to any interact-able object, usually characters) to robots. Watching Hot Shot twist turn painfully after taking a missile is good stuff, but aren't robots supposed to be, you know, stiff and robotic? It's a little thing that'll mildly peeve some and greatly frustrate others, especially during some jumps as I can unfortunately recall.
Sound-wise this game follows the book: typical techno-fare during normal battles and maybe something more dramatic and pulse-pounding during boss fights. Voice-overs are done by the cast of the current show, although they're limited to cutscenes. Boring. However, once thing makes up for it: the 'transformation sound'. The 'wer-ker-ker' sounds that the Autobots make when turning from giant robot to vehicle or vice versa will bring tears of fond remembrance to the eyes of old-school fans.
So, there you have it: an exciting shooter with great graphics which goes the extra mile by taking a slightly molested license and turning it into something worth playing. This one's for everyone to enjoy!


Madagascar

Review By Gokhra

Unlike Shrek where the story depended a lot on hints of pop culture Madagascar is wholly and detrimentally dependent on its stars. Well, almost.
The plot:
Chris Rock plays Marty, a zebra with a zest for life and an itch to break free of his Central Park Zoo confines. His best friend is Alex (Ben Stiller), a pampered celebrity lion who has no idea that he is supposed to be eating his best friend. He gets lots of prime steaks for dinner and thinks it's a synthetic product. His life revolves around eating, getting his mane taken care of by a team of beauticians and wowing the crowds. Sidekicks include Melman (David Schwimmer) who's a whiny, hypochondriac giraffe and Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith), a sassy hippo. The zoo also includes a band of militaristic penguins who are devising a way to escape to Antarctica using spoons for shovelling underground.
Zebras live for about 20 years and having a bit of a midlife crisis on his 10th birthday, Marty flies the coop. He takes a stroll down Park Avenue heading for Grand Central to catch the train to 'The Wild'. His pals eventually find him, as do the police armed with tons of tranquilizers. They end up crated on a ship to Africa. Unfortunately the super penguins knock out the entire ship crew, manage to hack into the ships computer navigation system and set for Antarctica. The city dwellers though manage to fall overboard and end up stranded off the coast of Madagascar, otherwise known as The Wild.
There they meet a bunch of lazy lemurs who like to sung and dance all day when they are not being eaten by carnivores. In the meantime Alex starts missing out on his prime steaks and has a dream sequence of red steaks raining down on him like the rose petal seen in American Beauty. He also starts accidentally tasting and nibbling Marty.
The question is will they will they adapt? Will Alex be the next Hannibal and literally have his friends for lunch? Will the annoying giraffe stop whining about his doctors appointments?
The verdict;
You could almost see and hear Ross Gellar from Friends in Melmans gestures and mannerisms. Likewise you can see Chris Rocks hyper attitude in the zebra. The resemblance between the characters played and the actors playing them is uncanny. Though it is Sacha Baron Cohen with his odd and effeminate portrayal of King Julien, the loony leader of the island's lemurs is the most original and strange character.
It's a hilarious tale about friendship among unlikely individuals. It deals with a lot of their vices and how they overcome their differences. But forget all about looking for real life connections. Sure, you will find them if you look hard enough. Heck, you will find similarities to real life even in something as ignoble as cow dung if you look hard enough. But that's not the point of this movie. Just sit back and enjoy the show and a few days later you can do it all over again. It's that type of a story.
The only problem is that the best print available is a slightly blurry print with Russian intros.


Sites Unseen

God, I love the Internet.
I'm writing this on the day the HBP's been released. The book's been released just a few hours ago, and here I am, downloading the chapters uploaded minutes ago. Now how cool is that?! And before you get to read this, I'll have finished book! Anyway, if you are interested, here are the chapters: [dda.mail15.com] By the time I was writing this, it had half of the chapters uploaded. But by the time you'll be reading this, it'll either have all the chapters… or, it'll be down. Also keep an eye at Mugglenet.com. They ought to have some interesting stuff since they are the only ones who'll be interviewing J.K. this time.
As you can probably see, the Sites Unseen is a bit different recently. More links and fewer descriptions and such. Do you like it this way? Also, the photo with this Sites Unseen is taken by me. Do you like?
As usual, all the links are available at [niloywrites.blogspot.com] for your convenience.
Bangladesh never looked THIS good!
[doiop.com/phitarBD]
Nah! Of course it did! But the photos the link points to are awesome. Taken by photographer "pithar", these shots are pure eyecandy. Make sure you see these. Also check out the other photos taken by this guy at [doiop.com/phitar]
Microsoft Journal Viewer
[doiop.com/MSJ]
If you use the MSN messenger then this 7 MB download is a must. Installing this will enable the wonderful handwriting feature in your messenger, allowing you to send little scribbles or "ink messages" when you chat. And it's tons of fun… no other feature compares with this one.
Planarity Flash Game
[doiop.com/planarity]
A stark and simple Flash game with one stark and simple line of instruction: "rrange the vertices such that no edges overlap." Seems friendlier than "abandon all hope ye who enter here", but the two could be used interchangeably. I'm pretty sure there's an episode of Star Trek where Jordi defeats The Borg by making them play this game.
Photos of arcades in their glory days
[doiop.com/retroshots]
While fishing through a dumpster (not sure why), someone found a bunch of discarded photos from arcades in their glory days. They're now online for your nostalgic, viewing pleasure.
Zoom
[doiop.com/bigzoom]
The term "sequential art" has come to be used by many comic strip creators who simply want a more high impressive term for what it is that they do. Istvan Banyai's Zoom is a fine example of what the term "sequential art" originally meant, and a real treat for the eyes.
Short films from SxSWclick festival
[doiop.com/swsx]
The top five short film finalists for the SxSWclick festival are online for your viewing pleasure. I recommend downloading the ones named "101" and "Man up." The others aren't much good. And if you don't have MPEG4 video codecs (i.e. have troubles watching the videos) use 8-MB VideoLan clinet (from videolan.org) to view them.
Franken-tree!
[doiop.com/okinawa]
Perhaps you can call this art? It seems someone has manipulated a tree to grow into the shape of a hut. There are some other Frankentree experiments on the home page.
iSerenity
[iserenity.com]
iSerenity takes you away from your usual desktop setting and delivers you via a variety of sounds and image environments to a tranquil, private and entertaining space. iSerenity offers the capability of a sound machine without the added expense. In addition, iSerenity is always in motion, expanding and adding new environments for your viewing and listening pleasure.
Canstruction
[canstruction.com]
Amazing sculptures made entirely from stacking cans. It sounds simple, but these guys have done some incredibly elaborate work.
FLIPBOOK!
[doiop.com/flipbook]
A little swell Flash hoodoo at the Fabrica site allows you to make short flipbook-style animations. Make your squiggles, and send them to a galley where they will be used to give poor children in third world countries brain- destroying seizures.
Many attempts seem to end in random violence, but few lack the attention to detail shown in Tamagotchi Pooping [doiop.com/pooping]
Just Curious
[justcurio.us]
justcurio.us is a community site dedicated to getting questions answered anonymously. You can ask questions, or respond to questions other people have asked. It's a neat little thing.
Grandmas: The next frontier in gaming
[oghc.blogspot.com]
On my list of funny things to see a grandma do is curse, talk on AIM and play video games. OGH is a hilarious gaming and swearing fiend who is being blogged about by her grandson. The blog features video of her in action and also some choice quotes. It's a nice read.

By Niloy
[niloy.me@gmail.com]

 

 
 

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