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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Beep Bop Boop: Top 10 Favorite Video Game Musical Tracks

I’ve been gravitating more and more toward video games if you haven’t noticed.  I don’t necessarily think this is straying too far from the toy theme.  Take a look at Mark Bellomo’s “Totally Tubular 80’s Toys” and you’ll see he has a whole section of vintage game machines from Coleco Vision to the Nintendo Entertainment System.  I did start my blogging on joystickdivision.com and the cblogs over at Destructoid so I'm just expanding this direction a bit more.  Also, I've kinda gotten back into playing a bit heavier since February when I was teaching full-time so it's on my mind a little more often.   I've been wanting to do this post for a while now but haven't organized it sufficiently (or was motivated) enough to complete it.  Don't worry.   I have a Transformers and Star Wars post coming up very soon.
What I'd like to speak of is what, in my opinion, is the finest selection of music presented in video games over the years.  This is an all-encompassing list from 8 to a million bits and everything in between.  These are all from games that, for the most part, have amazing total soundtracks and really presented challenges for me to actually pinpoint and choose one specific track.  Tell me what you think whether you agree, disagree, or have some choices of your own!

1. Peaceful ending – Act Raiser
In-Game Version

Orchestral Version
This song is absolutely beautiful.  Probably the first time I heard a track in a game and really thought to myself, "this could easily be in a movie."  Composed by the masterful skills of Yuzo Koshiro who actually had it performed in a special symphonic suite in 2004 in Leipzig, Germany.   This finale track really let's you sit back and take in everything you've done as you observe each of the lands you saved with exceptionally well written stories to wrap up each of your town's elders stories.  After all is said and done, you get a nice picked up medley of themes starting with (somehow) the 20th century Fox fanfare to kick it off to boot!  No matter where you go in this game, you have amazing tracks.  The opening title screen is epic, the sky palace has ethereal organ music to accompany your deity, even the crescendo of descending into the battles is great with that sustained lone horn as you are about to play the level.

2. Maniac Mansion – Opening Theme

This soundtrack was composed for the NES version by David Warhole (AD&D series) and George Sanger (7th Guest and 11th Hour)  and it is one of the best NES overall soundtracks.  It really utilizes everything it can get form the chiptune limitations.  Each character has their own individual track from funk to punk rock to surfer music but the opening theme is my personal favorite.  I remember most of the Lucas Arts games having some great old-school music.  Both of these composers would team up again for the NES version of Disney's the Rocketeer.

3. Toe Jam and Earl – Big Earl Bump

Probably some of the best original music in a game.  By original, I mean a game that truly produced stuff you will never hear again in a game of any thematic selection.  I doubt there are many Funk based-Alien-Beatbox titles slated for release any time soon.  Composer John Baker does a great job with the Genesis library of sounds and puts forth some of the catchiest music ever put out on the system.  In the first game, especially, the music outshines the actual game.

4. Final Fantasy II (IV) - Battle Theme

This was one game where I really think the whole soundtrack could be on the list.  From the Redwings theme, the towns, Palom and Porom's theme, the town music, boss battles and the opening which is one of the all time best tracks in video game music's history.   The track is selected is the Battle Theme.  It just really encapsulates what this game is about.  Banding your party together, hanging on as you take on insurmountable odds, keeping each other alive...I never saw this in a game or heard music like it and my 11 year old mind was blown.  Nobuo Uematsu composed this soundtrack as well as almost every other Final Fantasy game ever made.  This, I think, is his finest work by far.

5. Star Tropics - Captain Bell

Very unsung or overlooked gem of a game with a smashing soundtrack to top it off.  People have called it a Zelda clone, Action, RPG, etc.  However you slice it, it is an immersive, original piece of work deserving of proper attention.  The soundtrack is very well done with an island theme appropriate to the settings while it turns up the drama as the stakes get higher in the caves and eventually spaceship? Yeah, I know...I hate the end to this game too.  This and Shecola are my two favorite Island themes and who could forget playing the giant organ? This composer was hard to find out much about other than a name of Y. Hurai...strange, wish I could find out what else he's done.

(I couldn't decide on one specific track for each game let alone the series so I broke it into 3 and a half tracks from 3 separate games, enjoy!)

Castlevania 2: Simon's Quest – Silence of Daylight (Town Theme)

This game by far has the best music of any NES Castlevania title.  Composed by Kenichi Matsubara and containing classics still used today like Bloody Tears, you can't go wrong with this game's music, despite what problems the game itself may have.  I also love the woods and mansion themes.  This town theme though, what a great multi-leveled 8-bit piece of talent!

Symphony of the Night – Requiem for the Gods (Royal Chapel)

A perfect Castlevania theme if ever there was one.  This was composed by the very talented Michiru Yamane who has done every sequential sequel for the series since SOTN. (she also did SkullGirls and Rocket Knight Adventures...weird) This is a perfect mix of organ. chorus and works in game even better with the hollow sound of the church bells in the tower lofts.  Sad, Lonely and perfect for a game with vampires fighting vampires.

Super Castlevania IV- Entrance Hall/Chandeliers

In-game Version
Orchestral Version
Wow!  This one is the beginning 6-1 and 6-2 of the level.  My favorite level of the game as well when you finally get inside Dracula's castle.  It's pure 16 bit throwback to the original Castlevania's first level.   Then you are balancing for your life swinging from chandelier to chandelier in mode-7 craziness.  It was duel composed by Masanori Adachi and Taro Kudo (Super Mario RPG) from Konami studios.  This track was so good they remastered it in orchestral goodness at Castlevania: The Concert in Stockholm,  Sweden in 2010 where SOTN composer Michiru Yamane was performing on the piano along with the full orchestra!

7. Metal Gear Solid – Encounter!

"INTRUDER!"  Such great, dramatic music that raises the frantic level about 100 points.  If stealth, evasion and sneaking could have a flag-track, this would be it.   Granted, there are some other great tracks like Psycho Mantis's theme or the intro music or even the title screen's computer-esque motif with the ever present woodblocks touches when you're sneaking around.  Pure tension on overdrive. All of this was brought to life by the in-house Konami composer musicians, notably Kazuki Muraoka who did the original Metal Gear.

8. Batman Arkham City – Title Screen

I could listen to this track and be totally in a Batman induced trance.  Such a great buildup with the low horns.  Honestly, I'm waiting for the Nolan BatMan theme to kick in at any time over the low staccato beats in the beginning.   It seems like a perfect mix of the Burton, Nolan and animated themes rolled into one yet original on it's own.  Dark, Heroic and Dramatic.  Nick Arundel, who also did Arkham Asylum, hits it right on the head next to Danny Elfman or Hans Zimmer.

9. Rygar – Guru

This track is mysterious, moody and fits the setting perfectly.  Composed by T. Hasuya who was also known for his awesome work on Clash at Demonhead. (Waiting for that VC release any year now) Sad that Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde ripped it off note for note.  Rygar is an overlooked old school gem that I often hear people discount as a throwaway game for being to hard, to slow, or boring.  I enjoyed it profusely and that has a lot to do with the sound direction.  It has such an early feel to it and I think it works perfectly.

10. Rayman Origins – Treasure Chest Chase

Few games based on cartoons really put you in a situation where the music is a character all it's own.  This is one of those games where every frame of animation oozes the love and time put into it and the soundtrack is no different.  Again, as with most mentioned games here, each level has its own unique feel but I gotta say, I  loved the banjo twang of the treasure chase scene since I heard it as the promo theme a year ago.  Christophe Heral and Billy Martin put this together so nicely, I don't even mind dying over and over and over trying to win that ruby tooth.

Monday, July 30, 2012

League Assignment: Got fuel to burn, got roads to drive!

Summer’s coming to a close but there’s still time for one more vacation. Plot out the ultimate pop culture road trip.

Above it this week's assignment for the League of Extraordinary Bloggers should we choose to accept it.  I whole-heartedly accept! Have at you!

Okay, so I'm not going to follow any rhyme or reason about logistics and for the massive gaps in drive time I'll be using the magic of green screens, warp drive and the transporter room...sue me, this whole thing is happening in my mind, nitpickers.
Make it so
Let's start close to home...First off, I want to hit up the Monroeville Mall...need I say more?  Okay, for those of you uninitiated, this is THE famed mall from George Romero's Dawn of the Dead.  My roommate in college was an absolute horror addict and his 15th birthday present was to have his mom take him and his sister to the doomed holdout against the Zombocalypse.  He informed me that it was exactly like it was in the 70's and it was really a sight to see and experience.  A gigantic chunk of that iconic film was shot there and it's amazing that nearly every shot in this setting was on location and is still there today from the elevators to the access halls and AC vents.  Super Cool.
Very different without 1,000 undead crawling around.


Next up would be a multi state pair of toy shop stops in New York and Ohio.  The first would be the Dragon's Den in Ploughkeepsie, NY.  I heard about this one from the documentary on Mark Bellomo called Collectible Spectacle.  It seems like a really great place to make some nice vintage finds.  After that, I'll zip over to Toys That Time Forgot in Canal Fulton, Ohio.  I saw a review of this place on Micahc6v8's youtube account and I have debated in all seriousness the logistics of a day trip to this place.  It looks absolutely amazing and both of these stores look like some of the best brick and mortar toy stores around.  Below is the review and some bobble heads for your amusement.

Seems like you could get some nice finds at the Dragon's Den!

Very cool haul over at Toys that Time Forgot!
You want it, they probably have it.

Between NY and OH, I'll go very far out of my way to pick up some snacks from the Quick Stop in Red Bank, NJ...while I'm there pick up some back issues from Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash.  Hell, let's hit up the SilverBall Pinball Arcade and Museum at Asbury Park too.  Who said Jersey isn't fun?
Doesn't quite feel the same in color though...
Got a quarter?

                     Then we can drive really fast over to the Lucas Valley and egg the Skywalker Ranch...hell, maybe that's where they are hiding all the Vintage Collection Figures.

Hey, these blogs are pretty much built around the suspension of disbelief...I'd approach with awe and wonderment...

And then I'd yell something like this.

Let's end with some greasy spoons... in the Sunshine State no less!
I absolutely love diners and there'd be no better places to geek out to Tarantino films and get my grub on than these famous eateries...Sadly, I found out with this assignment that the bowling alley from Big Lewbowski was torn down and Stan Mikita's Doughnuts doesn't exist.  Merrr.

I'd  start by getting breakfast at Pat and Lorraine's (the opening shot from Reservoir Dogs) I will leave a tip though. :)
4720 Eagle Rock Blvd Los Angeles, CA
Yep, that's the Hawthorne Grill from the Pumpkin and Honey Bunny Scenes in Pulp Fiction...It's closed. Bummer.
13763 Hawthorne Boulevard, Hawthorne, Los Angeles
As is Johnie's Coffee Shop (famed from Big Lewbowski and American History X) Damn it, I need more coffee!
Wilshire Blvd and Farifax, Los Angeles

Good thing I can always count on Jack Rabbit Slim's (Actually Mel's Drive in)
8585 West Sunset Boulevard  West Hollywood, CA

This wraps up my cross the nation trip and I hope you pretend-enjoyed it as much as I pretend-enjoyed writing it.  No, I actually learned quite a bit while researching this post and am very much considering a trip to the Pinball Museum in the near future. 

Check out Mr GreenPlastic Squirt Gun who speaks of Pez, Comics and a decades old mine fire burning out of control.   My kinda party!

or Mr. Goodwill Hunting 4 Geeks who gets his kicks on route 66 as well as makes a deposit with Dinny the Dinosaur!  "Califorrrrrrnia"

Saturday, July 28, 2012

LEVEL 1: Top 10 (well...13) All-Time Favorite Opening Stages in Video Games

Forever burned into our retinas.
Back to some video game attention.  Let's be honest, there are so many games from our past that always seem to start with a bang and fizzle out.  This isn't necessarily the rule because as with games like Twilight Princess or Ocarina of Time, they certainly ease you into the world by having you find your sword or herd sheep and catch fish for an hour before having you slay any dragons.    Often times, especially in the years of rentals, we mostly liked "Level 1" because it was either the easiest or we ended up playing it over and over due to lack of codes or skills to advance.  Sometimes, it was because it was the game on display in a department store and you only had a few minutes to play it or you were at a lucky kids birthday party and he or she managed to pop in a new title before mom and dad nagged everyone outside to "experience real life". Pshhh.   Knowing nothing but level 1 was especially true in the age of merciless old school NES difficulty.  Anyway, I'm going to list a few of the most influential and memorable oping levels I played in my life and the impressions they left on me.  So, without further adieu in no particular order...

Confined to the super fine details of a ship (or rig later)...
...To the vast breathing room of the following title.

Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty /and/ 3: Snake Eater - Hideo Kojima's magnum opus gets a tie between the second and third stories respectively.  These are games built around larger than life story arcs, fleshed out and original characters, and massive set-pieces.  I considered including the first Solid game however it just doesn't start in the same scope as its following titles do.  (I will say the first Metal Gear Solid totally reignited my interest in modern gaming as Metal Gear Solid 2 pretty much single-handedly selling me on the PS2)  Metal Gear Solid 2 was especially notable for me because, besides Final Fantasy VII packed with Tobal No. 1, it was one of the only times I remember people buying a totally separate game just for the demo inside as they did with the Zone of Enders for MGS2.  Don't get me wrong, I remember Zone of Enders being a really great PS2 game but I distinctly remember being in a friend's dorm room and the first thing out of everybodies' mouths were, "Where's the Metal Gear demo!?"  That intro, the cinematic feel, the higher defined graphics and sound, rain effects...it was quite a lot to take in.  THIS was how Metal Gear should be.  Unfortunately, Solid gets replaced with Raiden almost immediately but that introduction...man, I wish the whole game just continued from there.  Metal Gear 3, answered our wishes (somewhat).  This time we get Solid's biological dad, soon to be Big Boss...you know, the antagonist from the NES titles, and incremental to every other game.  The into starts us with "Virtuous Mission"...pretty muc serving as an appetizer for a massive game set in the jungles of the U.S.S.R...Honestly, when I put this game in on Christmas morning, I couldn't believe the scope of the surroundings and it floored me that I was playing a Playstation 2 game.  It was one of those "hold all my calls" moments.  

Holy hell was this game dark...try describing this scene to someone in 1999.

Silent Hill - If you want survival horror...look no further than Silent Hill.  This original Playstation title just was something I never saw before.  Granted, I played Along in the Dark and the Resident Evil games but something about this game really hit the nail on the head.  This was truly a game that knew how to utilize the limitations of the PSone's hardware to its' advantage through endless fog and obscured enemies that came out at you from the infinite blackness.  The almost constant inability to see clearly and being enveloped in darkness while unsettling backgrounds, desolate solitude and creepy sound effects immerse you in this town only fitting for a horror environment.  You wander through the abandoned town as you clearly feel the eyes stalking you beyond the menacing fog.  Then you finally get the day/night switch as the sky blackens, the air-raid sirens wail and your bearings are lost.   The twisting camera angles really work as your run down the alley which gets incrementally more unnerving, then you hit a set of previously unseen dead ends while tiny monsters give pursuit.  (The director of the film must have noticed this since this cinematography in the alley scene was perfectly copied in the movie)  This was the first game I played that set you up to seemingly be stabbed to death and really made you as helpless as can be.  The risk worked as we are now seeing more and more of these games that, unfortunately, should have ended a while back.   A true case where better graphics actually hurt a title like this.

This is a grab from the arcade but really, can you tell the difference?

Final Fight - This was the first in-box game I received for my Super Nintendo on Christmas morning.  It was such a stark contrast to the Super Mario World included with the system with gritty fighting through crime-ridden surroundings replaced stomping turtles and eating fire-flowers.  This game was a really eye opener for showing off the SNES's power.  Never before did it really feel like I was playing the arcade in my house.  Granted, there were some differences but to my 9 year old self, this was it for having some coin-op action in my room.  Huge sprites, mindless action, super colorful settings dropped my jaw to the floor.  I think I played that first level more times than I can remember and taking out that whistling boss Thrasher was always satisfying as hell.  You notice how on almost all beat-em-ups.."the streets" are always the first level...Double Dragon, Streets of Rage, X-Men, Simpsons, Captain Commando, Rival Turf, Combatribes. etc.  Any one of these could have made the list, honestly but Final Fight will always have a place in my button mashing heart.

This surprisingly put the SNES to shame...take your victories where you can get 'em SEGA.

Aladdin (Genesis) - I remember seeing this game in Blockbuster Video on display and it absolutely blowing my mind.  I could not believe how spot-on the characterizations where and how fluid the animation was.   This had me sold on a Genesis hook, line and sinker.  It was vastly superior to the Snes title that my cousins had just in the look and feel.  The reason being that Disney Animators were actually taken aboard to design the Genesis version and wow, did it make a huge difference. All the little touches in the first level were absolutely stunning between the snake charmers, the different swordsmen, the jugglers, the coal pits, the spitting camels, Aladdin's expressions!  And...I'll be! Alladin gets a sword in this title!  Sega, you might not have gotten it right every time but you certainly deserve credit where it is due!

You're about to play the best RPG of your life!

Final Fantasy III - This game, in many respects, is possibly considered the best game ever made by many people. (third best to me)   The story elements alone can make you take a step back and ask if your really playing a Nintendo game which is something many often throw out on the possibility of involving or deep plot material.   The introduction is wonderful for setting the stage as the the huge world of intrigue and magic we will be jumping into with our amnesiac heroine Terra.  The lonely trek through the snow, as the low build to the music comes about and eventually has us arriving in the snowy mountain town of Narshe and then we see the true elements of what Final Fantasy means with mechanized technology, magic, monsters, espers, guns...a timeless world encompassing elements of every fantasy genre one can think of.  Hey, if you don't get a little bummed when Cid dies, you have a heart of stone.

Ridley...we meet again.

Super Metroid -  Another one of the tops of the charts games for the SNES and often considered the perfect Metroid game, this game starts out with a great introduction.  It's interesting to note that as the era of 16-bit came about, we saw more games that tried to set us up with an actual plot and introductory level that not only gave a player a tutorial on the ins and outs of the gameplay but also served as a jumping point for the story about to be experienced.   You're introduced to the baby Metroid, the destroyed station, Ridley and an epic escape with nice involving cinematic visuals and music.  I'm ready to play some Metroid, are you?

From this screen forward, Konami gained a fan.

Castlevania - My neighbor had this game and it was a cross between Castlevania and Ghosts N Goblins where my choice was going to go.  I loved ghost games with the whole Halloween feel to them as a kid.  Castlevania edges out the monster game competition though.  With Simon at the gates, the entryway in the courtyard, zombies, dogs, fishmen, bats...this game had it all.  Even with the crumbing steps, the vegetation growing on the castle keep, the rusty gates, rod-iron doors, cave-like basement, torn massive draperies and the super freaky Vampire bat all while the best music in any video game played in 8-bit glory.   This level is only the tip of the iceberg which has since not ceased to stop as Dracula's castle has only grown with time but what a way to enter the world than with this great introduction.

Gotta say I played this level many times in Hill's Electronics Department
Sonic the Hedgehog - Initially, I was a Nintendo kid through and though but I always found myself playing this game (along with Altered Beast).  Be it at friends' and neighbors' houses, family parties, in stores with the Sega display, this game was seemingly everywhere.  Even though Mario was my mascot of choice, Sonic and the Green Hill Zone left a great impression on me with the super bright and vibrant colors, comic like enemies, great sound effects, "Blast Processing" or quick scrolling and I always enjoyed playing this game.  I guess it was the fact that I'm more of a methodical collector when playing a game was the reason why I gravitated more toward Mario as I didn't like that you missed so much of the level and Sonic was never meant to be about backtracking or collecting and favored the "move right and ask questions later" strategy.  Still, Sega Genesis definitely had quite a flag-bearer behind it and I can see why it worked on so many "Sega-Kids".
It all begins as you venture out into the rain...I KNOW, it's RAINING in a video game!

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past -  This is my all-time favorite game and I can't go a year without dusting off the SNES and giving it a go.  It is the only game I still have the box and booklet for as well.  Talk about an introduction.  You wake up on a rainy night to find your uncle gone.  You venture out into the storm (which is expertly portrayed) and wander into Hyrule.  This just was mind-boggling to kids whose last experience with the overworld was Zelda II's tiny little Link doll wandering the grid map.   You find your way into the castle past the guards and end up in the basement with actual light effects and perfect huge details to find your uncle slain!  He imparts his sword and shield to you and puts the task to you to rescue Zelda.  You battle the guards of varied armor and weaponry.  Take out a Ball and Chair wielding guard and rescue the princess as you delve deeper and deeper into the castle's basements.  Zelda leads you out and briefs you on the quest you are about to embark on and now after all that, the game can actually start...and those 3 castles you need to complete afterward...yeah, there are 8 more.  I love that these games were packed with so much to look at and take in before you even really started playing.  All of what I just described encompasses only a percent of what is to come and this is why Zelda is the modern epic it still is.
One of those games where you couldn't believe the screenshots were real.

Shadow of the Colossus -   A more modern game from Ico creator Fumito Ueda,  this title leaves us with no side-quests, no underlings, no experience points... it's about as straightforward as can be.  Traverse the land and slay the Colossi.  Sounds simplistic in almost a boring sense, right?  Well, you'd be dead wrong and we get that sensation from the very first Juggernaut we meet.  You leave the huge temple after the sad, lonely title screen showing us how small our character is in this massive land of ruins and overgrowth.  The game makes you really feel like you take on a journey between each beast you encounter which puts us right in the Wanderer's shoes of seeing how big the world really is.  It actually takes time to find and get where you're going and, as with the first colossus, after riding across the plains and climbing a sheer cliff, we come through the landscape and find the first mountain of a challenge.  We literally, have to climb the features and contours to slaw this huge, amazingly detailed beast as the birds nested in his shoulders and head fly away as he comes to life.  But even as daunting as the battle is with expertly forced perspective, cunning strategy and seemingly useless weapons we get that hint of sadness in the music and the pain wanderer experiences as he defeats the first challenge setting up (without saying a word) the events that are to come and which truly make this a game few forget once they've completed.

What a game...I remember my dad building the towns while I fought the battles.

Act Raiser -  This game certainly took its risks.  It was a very close to launch title with no presupposed basis carrying from the previous system.  It was multi-genred taking roles of world sim, God-game, platformer, RPG as well as hack and slash action.  For all of the gambles it placed, they all seem to work together and pay off nicely.  The combination gets the game moving at a decent pace, a story comes out that is told much better than if it was simply all action, and your omnipresent role puts you in a position few games ever previously did.  But as for the action, it all starts with the first level in Fillmore, a forest to be precise, and it is one of the best introductory levels to any game.  It really shows what the Super Nintendo's capabilities were and shines with epic music, a multitude of engaging enemies, every color in the rainbow, walking tree platforms, and a larger than life centaurian boss.  And this is just for starters!  Wow.

Even the password is a mainstay of 30 somethings across America.

Contra -   Any shooter you ever played with broken controls, awkward weapons or weird level designs have no excuses after Contra.  Contra and it's following games is a series that does everything right almost every time.  The opening stage is awesome from the green jungle, blue water, exploding bridges, turrets, drones, troopers, bullets flying, tons of power-ups and super fast action.  It is pretty much the template for how to design an action game.  It really floors me to think of how bad games like Platoon and the Predator were when Konami was able to nail it so well in a game jam packed with action that surpasses the arcade game it's based on. (same goes with Ninja Gaiden)  I mean with a game that has essentially, Arnold and Stallone on the cover fighting a Xenomorph named after Nicaraguan guerrillas, can you really ever go wrong?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

League Assignment: Eye spy something...


...That is all

Hello again folks!

Simple but says it.  Wanted to get this done earlier but I'll just say to everyone who already put group shots up; imitation is the highest form of flattery...and plagiarism. :)

As you see throughout the scene, I incorporated quite a few individuals I had sitting around in the toy room who met this week's strict criteria, let's take a look:

 My wife's Glow-worm is prominently displayed. 

Sy Snoodles and Greedo are representing some vintage Kenner love. 

 Alec DeLeon is standing guard in his green E-Frame. 

Transformers got a healthy showing  with the Constructicons, Brawl, Classics Hound and Reissue Hoist. 

The Slaughter's Marauders, Sci Fi, Wild Bill and Footloose are rocking out in the Equalizer with the PAC/RATs for backup...all they found was a lone Cobra safety cone.

 A solitary Toad Storm Trooper lingers in the rear. 

The green Battle Beasts are ready.  

Couldn't be a green page without some Ninja Turtles...Genghis Frog and Muckman jumped in the shot at the last second.

My lone Hero Quest orc is just milling about.

Kermit can safely say it is pretty damn easy bein' green!

Infinite-Hollywood-Time is sporting the St Paddy colors in his figure menagerie!

Shezcrafti is all turtles all the time!

Caught some Tendril action over at the GREEN plastic squirt gun, bonus points for having green in his blog title!!!

The Dork Horde's Lair is looking at the coolest, M.U.S.C.L.E. inspired, green Zombies ever made.

You won't like Brian at Cool and Collected when he's angry!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Hasbro, you did it again....

I read the news today, oh boy....

Just saw on KG's Vintage Collection page as per the source Flyguy.com's page, if you are looking to purchase the last wave of the soon to be "indefinitely discontinued" Vintage Collection figures (Weequay, Nien Numb, Lumat, Royal Guard, Prune Face...and a bunch of prequel b.s.)  you better get out your credit card and be ready to buy an entire wave all at once.  More after the jump.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Weekly reviews! 2012 TMNT figures and Avengers Minimates!

I made a couple quality purchases this week that didn't require checking my mail, tirelessly browsing Ebay or having to access my Paypal account!  These last 2 weeks actually had me going to a Toys R Us and finding something worth buying twice!  Actually, there was a third time as I actually had a Fall of Cybertron Shockwave in my hand and I put it down...big regret there since that line seems like it's going to be rare as hell.  Additionally, I finally broke down and ordered two of my long overdue Star Wars Vintage Collection figures. (got them both for 20 bucks with shipping included...score!)   Very soon, a Luke in Hoth Gear and Wedge Antilles will be getting their 7 month late reviews! 
Do the new Tutles measure up??? Let's find out.

But as for the two things I DID get, they were some nice ones.  I got what appeared to be the last set of Minimates Avengers that any local TRU seems to be carrying and the 2 pack was of Hawkeye and Black Widow, the two lesser popularly known members of the Avengers Initiative from the blockbuster summer film.  I also managed to find two of my favorite Ninjas, Leonardo and Donatello, from the quickly selling Nickelodeon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line by Playmates.  They will get a bit more attention in this post as seeing an honest to God TMNT display with proper attention paid to it instantly rocketed me back to 1989 and it's been a long, long while since I was so excited to buy a toy.

Some fine packaging houses these two great figures.
Black widow comes packed with functioning holsters
Hawkeye's got an alternate face and working quiver

The Minimates were super cool.  The pair came packaged in a Toys R Us exclusive box with nice illustrations of the Avengers team on the peg flap and two Minimate illustrations of the individual characters on the bottom corners.  The flip side of the box has a nice shot of the entire Avengers Collection. (Wish I could find the Iron Man, Hulk, Captain and Thor sets) They were very well produced figures with super detailed costume art on their body parts with nice hair attachments.  Black Widow comes with a twin set of handguns and Hawkeye comes with 3 arrows and a bow.  Whats really cool about his weapons is that his arrows can fit in his quiver and the one he's holding has a slot to fit into his bow to make some nice poses.  He also comes with two interchangeable heads; one with goggles, one without.  My only gripe is that with most Minimates and it pertains to their ability to stand.  I wish they all either had bigger feet (a la the Sentinel) or got clear plastic stands (a la Ryu) since most of these will be sold to a collectors market.  Overall, nice purchase.  If  you like comics, get 'em.  If you like the Avengers, get 'em.  If you like toys, get 'em!

 Ahhh... so nice to see Playmates has still got the touch!

I did like the packaging a lot more on the old figures though with the triptych of our hero or villain springing across the cardback.

They even have a nice little fold out "collection guide"...totally threw me back to the old Kenner Books you would get in a vehicles or playset!

Onto the star of the show today. That's right, my reboot Ninja Turtles! Thanks to Shezcrafti for posting that new theme song footage which I thought of the entire ride to TRU on Thursday. I already stopped at one location to find the shelves swept clean. I was pissed off but a little happy that these guys are getting an enthusiastic response. I saw that they had all four turtles, Splinter, April and Kraang. Kraang looks bad ass btw. April and Splinter don't thrill me. I didn't want to go hog wild so I paced myself and grabbed Leo and Don. Got em home, admired the packaging for a while and opened them up the next day. The packaging has nice artwork supporting the up and coming series with your rank and file stat card on the back and your "Collect em all" display of the series 1 Turtles figures. I tell you, this whole thing is just great. I'll say again, it had Birthday, Christmas morning, and trips to K-Mart with my mom memories pouring into my consciousness. (and really, it was just a great feeling to finally have a toy line available in stores to be psyched about again)

Lookin bad ass as per usual!

Weapons fit nicely into place.

These figures are actually really well made.  They are finely detailed with little battle scars on their undersides and shells.  Their bodies are made of a softer plastic while their shells are hard. They have 11 points of articulation and have balljointed necks, shoulders, elbows, groins and knees. There are fine paint detailing on their leg, knew and elbow wraps as well as little gold touches on their buckles on their weapon harnesses which fit snugly into place.  Their weapon kits are beautifully sculpted with actually variance to their weapons instead of the same set each figure got on the Gen 1 Playmates figures.  (Don get a Naginata,  San Setsu Kon Nunchaku and two large disk shaped Shuriken...Leo gets three 8-pointed Shuriken's  pointed, a tang dagger, an additional katana and a set of 3 kunai knives.  I like how the weapon kits match the skill set of the specific turtle as well.
You get some amazingly detailed and varied weapons here next to the 80's set on the left

                     I Always wanted Leonardo to be able to do that!

Both editions have their strong points but I'm really liking these new guys a lot

I love that they kept the original look of the faces on the turtles with the opaque white eyes following the original toys and the Laird/Eastman comics.  Never liked the pupils on the Toon Turtles...it just made them look goofy. (Wish they made red bandanna variants)  They are very stylized with big, sturdy feet (3 toes this time!) over large calves and forearms in a caricatured manner.  Their faces are badass but I did notice two griping points.  The first being that they are nowhere near as detailed or dark as their prototypes are on the leaked production photos. Also, I was under the impression that their weapons were going to be in color (detailed on the bo grip, the sword grips, the chain on Mikey's nunchucks, etc.) Here they are only solid plastic in their mold color.  All in all they are tiny gripes and the positives way outshine the negatives.  I like the variant in each turtles skin (although not nearly as dark as the classic G1 Turtles as you can see in the compare shot)  Also, you cannot remove their belts unlike their earlier versions. I never liked that about the old ones so that works for me.  Gone are the "L", "D", "M" and "R" buckles as well.  Again, works for me.  They are super textured with muscles flexed, grit on their hides and folds in their wrappings.  All in all, totally worth the buy and I cannot wait to get the other two and a Foot Soldier!