Well, since I recently posted about the new TMNT comics series, it is fitting that I should post this. The new Turtles toon is coming. Can’t say I like what I’m seeing, but then again, I’m not the target audience anymore. I’ll still give it a try, but I’m wary.

Okami HD

I have to push back the post I want to write about The Avengers movie until next time. I learned a piece of breaking news (at least breaking to me) yesterday. One of my favorite video games of all time is receiving an HD makeover for the Playstation 3.

That game is Okami.

The cover of the PS2 version of Okami. Image taken from neoseeker.com, owned by Capcom.

It was originally released in the U.S. in the latter part of 2006 for the PS2. In a post from a few years back, I named it the best game I’d played in the 2000s. It was critically acclaimed, but was a flop in sales making any hopes for more games in an Okami series slim. To make matters worse, the company that developed Okami, Clover Studios, closed its doors shortly after Okami‘s international release making any dreams of sequels, prequels, or continuations of the series even smaller. Perhaps luckily in some ways, and unluckily in others, Clover Studios was a subsidiary of Capcom, one of the largest and most successful game developing companies in the industry. Capcom owns all the rights to Okami, and has experimented a bit with the franchise. Not even 2 years after its original release, Capcom ported Okami to Nintendo’s Wii.

The cover of Okami for the Wii. Image taken from kotaku.com. Owned by Capcom.

They did some things right with the Wii version. There was a strange parchment-looking filter on the PS2 that made the visuals look grainy and blurry and muted the colors to an extent. It was still a gorgeous title on the PS2, but I didn’t realize how vivid the colors were until the filter effect was removed for the Wii. Unfortunately the controls suffered in the conversion. Controlling the Celestial Brush with the Wii Remote is a breeze. Combat, however, is a different story. Quite frequently I would swing the Wii Remote to no avail; Amaterasu wouldn’t respond to the input. The combat was never difficult on the PS2, but for the Wii it became arbitrarily so due to those unresponsive controls. Nevertheless, the enhanced visuals of the Wii version made it my platform of choice for playing Okami.

A mediocre sequel titled Okamiden came to Nintendo’s DS system in Spring 2011.

Okamiden for Nintendo DS. Image taken from gamerfront.com. Image owned by Capcom.

I’ll give credit where credit is due: the developers of Okamiden worked hard to get the project greenlighted and they did so out of love and respect for the original. But as I said before in a post from last summer, Okamiden is mostly a carbon copy of the original game in both terms of gameplay and story. The visuals were great for the DS, but they were definitely not what fans of Okami were hoping for in a sequel. Everyone who loves the original wanted the to see the series in HD.

Capcom is basically the George Lucas of the video game industry. They milk their games and series to such an extent that they alienate their fans and consumers. Now they are poised to deliver Okami in full 1080p later this year. I am annoyed that I will be purchasing Okami for the third time on the third system, but I will purchase it just the same. Why? Because it is set to be a “definitive version” should Capcom put the time and effort into making the port the best it can possibly be. It will feature better visuals than the Wii version while retaining the controls from the PS2 original. Oh, and remember Playstation Move? Yea, me neither, but Okami will be Move compatible for gamers who want to do more than push buttons. Maybe they can even iron out the control issues found on the Wii!

Here’s the promotional video: 

I hope that one day there will be a sequel to Okami worth more than a passing mention, but if that can’t happen I think I’ll manage as long as I can run through Shinshu and Ryoshima with Ammy in HD.

Import!

I decided to import a number of the posts from my old video gaming blog. I only updated it sporadically, and I often lamented my failure to stay on top of it. Still struggling a bit, but doing better with this one.

I’ve wanted to talk about The Avengers movie for a while now, so that’ll be my next post. Until then!

EDIT: Apparently the formatting in the old posts was lost in the import. They’re a little ugly, but I’m not going to take the time to fix them.

IDW’s New Ninja Turtles!

Well, I’ve been super busy for the past few weeks attending NYU’s Summer Publishing Institute. But thanks to some technology issues, I’m stuck with nothing to do until tomorrow morning when I’ll be running around trying to get my part of the project close to final.

In the meantime I have a chance to do a short update, so I thought I’d talk about the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from IDW!

One of the covers of the first issue featuring Donatello, my favorite! Image taken from http://donnyslab.blogspot.com. Owned by IDW and Nickelodeon.

First of all, IDW managed to get Kevin Eastman, one of the Turtles’ original creators, onto the project. He hadn’t been involved with anything Turtles related for some time, so this is like a dream come true for TMNT fans having him as part of the creative process. The new series is not as dark or grim as the Eastman and Laird originals. This may be a result of the fact the new series is in color while the Eastman and Laird series was all black and white. But it is still plenty dark. I would place it as close to, yet somewhat darker in tone than the 2003 animated series before the “Fast Forward” season. The art is superb, and almost seems intentionally blemished to give it more character and a bit of grittiness that it wouldn’t have otherwise. The writing is also top notch conveying each of the Turtles’ personalities well, and giving emotional depth to all of the characters. A special surprise has been the characterization of Casey Jones who is more complex here than in any other iteration.

But the coolest thing about the new series is that it takes ideas, characters, and other aspects of the various different Turtles series (including the cartoons and films) and adapts it for the new series. For example, Krang from the 1987 toon is back! And he isn’t just a blundering brain anymore, but is quite sinister.

Krang from the 2011 TMNT comics series from IDW. Image borrowed from tmnt.wikia.com. Owned by IDW and Nickelodeon.

Other characters from the different series have undergone similar makeovers in their depictions. Perhaps unfortunately, the Turtles themselves have had some personality adjustments. They still follow the lines from the first TMNT cartoon’s classic song: “Leonardo leads, Donatello does machines, Raphael is cool but rude, Michelangelo is a party dude.” But they have been tweaked a bit. I haven’t noticed much of a difference in Mikey, Raph is perhaps a bit more sullen and even more terse than usual, Leo is kind of more hardcore and no-nonsense, and Don is, well, kind of a jerk. It is taking me some time adjusting to Don’s new personality quirks, and I’m unsure that I’ll ever get the hang of him constantly undercutting Leo and overall just being an arrogant snot.

They’ve also changed the Turtles’ origins somewhat. Unlike the upcoming Michael Bay Turtles film, they’re still mutants, but it’s been revealed they, along with Splinter, are actually reincarnations of a Japanese family murdered by the Foot Clan centuries ago. (As a sidenote, apparently just a few hours ago the Michael Bay film was actually pushed back until May 2014 because of some script problems, so maybe they won’t be Teenage Alien Ninja Turtles after all.) It’s a different approach to the Hamato Yoshi story than any other series. I guess it is kind of hokey, but this is a series about mutant turtles trained as ninjas, so whatever.

The Shredder just made his debut in the May issue, and I have to admit I geeked out even more hardcore than usual when I had the issue in hand. Don’t know what is going to happen with his character, but I’m excited to find out!

Despite the new quirks, I’m really enjoying the series. Unlike older TMNT series that were a pain to find anywhere, IDW is able to make the series much more readily available. The first four issues are available in a trade paperback collection with other collections featuring more recent issues on the way. Also, IDW recently added all of the issues to Comixology’s digital comics service (so awesome!). IDW is also reissuing the original Eastman and Laird series in gorgeous hardcover collections. If that isn’t enough, they’re also releasing the original series in color as a monthly comic. Some may not like the color because it does take away part of the grim atmosphere, but IDW has done a good job keeping them true to the original black and white in the coloring process.

To sum it all up, the new Turtles series is great, even if it is a tad different than older fans may expect.  And with IDW publishing the original comics series in new formats even disgruntled old fans have plenty to be happy about.

Turtle power!