Wednesday, July 29, 2009

100 Bullets

So the end has find come for one of the longest running Vertigo titles. I remember first reading a preview for 100 Bullets in Preacher, and I was quite unimpressed. However, I did give the series a chance once the third trade-paperback was released. I was hooked.

The characters were interesting, the art was great, lettering tight, and the colouring added to the film noir hard crime style of the story. What I didn’t realize was that the story only reads well if you take the time to read it all in one go.

There are simply too many characters that are too similar in personality and design. You have to keep track of 13 families of the Trust, 7 Minutemen, and all the extra gang characters while trying to remember who is who and what is that painting and why should I care?

Don’t get me wrong the story is great, but Brian Azzarello really painted himself into a corner with a 100 issue run. The series should have been about 70 issues. There is a lot that could have been cut out of the series that would have made the plot tighter and flow much better. While it is good the whole Counterfifth Detective bit could have been cut. I would also remove the majority of the juxtaposed gang stories (especially the one from the last story arc) and the first Jack Daw story.

I only ever bought trade-paperbacks, so that means there were breaks in-between when I last read anything about croatoa, Lono, or Mr. Graves. During this time you forget who is who and when old characters are re-introduced after 40 issues you strain to remember who they were, especially if they are drawn pretty much like everyone else.

Before writing this I read all 13 volumes over a two-week span. I remembered every character and got a lot more out of the series than I had previously, but not everyone will have the inclination to show such dedication to the craft.

If you are a fan of pulp crime as a genre you will love 100 bullets, but those of you who are not already a fan of the genre or Azzarello’s or Rizzo’s work may find the series inaccessible, tedious, and a bit of test.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Arcade Fight Stick

So I broke down and bought an arcade stick for the PS3. Don't worry, I did not buy the official $200 job from Madcatz, but I did find a nice bargain on Ebay for $35. I am sure that the quality of stick makes a difference, but not when you don't really know what you are doing. Using the stick is supposedly a must have to truly master any fighting game. We'll see. So far I can tell you that I am nowhere near as good with the stick as I am with a normal PS3 controller. So mostly I have been frustrated that I have been losing a more than usual. I'll keep you posted on how I am doing and if a fight stick is worth your cash.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Street Fighter IV

I remember the first time that I played Street Fighter II; it was the fall of 1991 at a local arcade and my friend obtained a definitive victory over my E. Honda with a fire-ball throwing, dragon-punch using Ryu. The game was so different from anything that I had ever played. There was such a variety of characters, moves, and potential outcomes, enough to keep a player busy for several dollars worth of quarters. It was, is, and ever will be the greatest fighting game of all time; the Citizen Kane of fighting games, if you will.

Needless to say I loved the game. I was even more excited when I could purchase the game for my SNES in the summer of 1992. Countless hours were spent with friends playing a SFII full of combos, cheap moves, and trash talk.

But with the infinite deluge of Super Street Fighter EX Alphas Beta Gamma Plus Final Strikes that came out after SSFII Turbo Capcom complete lost me. However, I was very excited to read reviews on Street Fighter IV. I was hearing that SFIV was just like 2, but with better graphics!

So I picked up a copy for the PS3, and let me say that I am impressed. The graphics are top notch, the play control is the tight scheme that we all know and love, and the additional moves (focus attacks) add some great depth to an already deep and complex game. If you loved Street Fighter II you will love this game.

That being said there are some issues that some fans might find difficult. The last boss, Seth, is completely impossible on any level other than very easy. The unlockables and trophies range from very easy to achieve (like unlocking all the characters) to ridiculous (I will never get the trophy for unlocking every title because I will never master every combo in challenge mode for every character). This is not the game for a platinum trophy-seeking perfectionist.

The online mode is where the game really shines. It is a lot of fun to face off against players from around the world. You might win, you might lose, but you will always be able to try new tricks or learn a new combo. You can play in a free mode (where players of all skill levels can play), or you can compete against people around your own skill level in Championship mode. I say around your own skill level because the various rankings can still have a wide range of skill abilities in them.

For example I am currently in the lowest category (G3) so I only face other people in the G3 level. You get 1 point for a loss and a range of points for a win (maybe 10-100). But the G3 level is from 0-2000 points. So if I am starting out with my 0 point and I get to face the guy that has 1999 points I will probably lose. Once you get yourself the middle of the pack (900 or so points) you will have a better sense of being able to win with some regularity. I can only imagine that it is even worse in G2 as that level runs from 2001 points to 15000 points. So if you are awful and loose 2000 times in a row you will be bumped up into the G2 level and killed over and over again (however, if you lose 2000 times in row you should just give up and sell this game anyway).

If you are a fan of fighting games buy this game now! You will not be sorry. If you only sort of like Street Fighter I would recommend waiting until the game goes greatest hits. There is also some downloadable content in the form of extra costumes, but shame on Capcom for charging for them. Some of them are great (I especially like how Zangief can wear Hagar’s costume from Final Fight), but an extra $14 on top of a $70 game is a kick in the teeth. Content like extra costumes should be unlockable in game, or at the most $5.