Kombo had the chance to sit down with stuntman and actor Reuben Langdon last week for a chat about his work in video games. Best known in the world of video games for his voice and stuntwork as Devil May Cry's stylish hero Dante, Reuben is also responsible for the motion capture work behind Street Fighter's Ken Masters and Resident Evil's Chris Redfield. We talked with Reuben about his origins as an actor in Japan, his stunt work along martial artists Sammo Hung and Jackie Chan, how motion capture has changed and what it's like to work as some of gaming's best-known heroes.
April 2009 Archives
More than just about anything, the downloadable demo has defined the current console generation. Suddenly we can try all sorts of games before we buy them. Pick up an Xbox or PlayStation, and you could squeeze a solid hundred hours out of the system before even spending a cent on download or retail games.
So, are demos here to stay like analog sticks, or will they go the way of the Sega console and disappear for good?
Here I was, all ready to write you this nice post about how few top-selling games are Japanese anymore. I was going to mention how well the third Yakuza (Ryu ga Gotoku) is selling in Japan, despite being little more than a blip on the radar over here. Not to mention how the prime franchises over here are Madden, Grand Theft Auto, Guitar Hero, Call of Duty, while Japanese charts are populated with Monster Hunter, Pokemon, and Dragon Quest.
Then Nintendo had to go and take up half the top 10 with all their first-party titles in both markets.
At the beginning of April, I attended the Minnesota anime convention, Anime Detour. Easily the most interesting panel I had the chance to attend was an hour panel on DVD Production, hosted by Chris Ayres and Clarine Harp of FUNimation. I didn't get a chance to talk to either afterward sadly (maybe next year!), but the panel itself gave me plenty to think about. A lot of what they spoke about was the process of bringing anime to American DVD, but they also went into discussion on the increasing importance of the internet as a way get anime in front of audiences over here.
For someone who says they don't watch much anime, I sure watch a lot of anime. Of course, compared to my wife, very few people "watch much anime." There are a few shows I'm well into and expect to finish and a few that I'm just starting.
Shows I'm Well Into
In the last few years there's been this trend of manga, anime, and tv shows about gambling, con jobs, and manipulation coming out of Japan. On the anime side, they're all from the same crew, same voice actors, same studio, etc. The latest is One Outs, about a pitcher named Tokuchi Toua. I'm really enjoying it.
Much like Mahjong Legend Akagi before it, it's not about the game they're playing so much as the exchanges that occur while they're playing. You don't have to like baseball to get into it, either. I loathe baseball. There is literally, in my opinion, nothing more boring. So if you like a good psychological show, give this one a look.
Michiko to Hatchin
This show has two things I like: A hot chick with big boobs, and subtle show-not-tell character development. Best sentence I've written all day, that.
Anyway, Michiko to Hatchin introduces us to convicted felon Michiko Malandro and abused foster child Hana. Michiko is busting out of prison (and her shirt, amirite?) to track down a long-lost lover. On the way she stops to rescue Hana from her miserable life. The original thing that attracted me to the show was word of involvement by Shinichiro Watanabe - the mind behind Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo, two of my all-time favorites. Instead of directing/producing, though, he's the music director. Despite that limited involvement, the show has a lot of what I liked about those others. Instead of just telling you that Michiko, for all her bravado and flourish, is fucking miserable, they just show you. There are a lot of nice shots of people just being people. The show also takes place in Brazil (roughly modern day), giving it not only a variety of backdrops but gorgeous ones as well. The art is as much as the characters are watchable.
Hajime no Ippo: New Challenger
I was a Huuuuge fan of the first Hajime no Ippo show, with its 74 episodes, movie, and 90 minute OVA. The mix of action and comedy and slow-growing characters gave it a long life and through all those episodes it rarely dragged.
Now the new series has started, and it feels like I never stopped watching. All my old friends are back, doing what they do. And once again, it's a mix of great action, solid (if not very penis-centric) comedy, and really memorable characters.
If you watched and enjoyed the first series you'll definitely like this. If you haven't, dig around online and you can find the first series in English for something like $5 or $10 a disc for the legit release.
This show had me by the end of the theme song.
The art is gorgeous and alive, the music is great. The show is definitely adult and not just because it has sex and nudity. Also there's a funny monkey. If that doesn't get you, what will?
Soul Eater has the potential to be the 'next big thing' over here. Following in the footsteps of shows like Naruto and Bleach, Soul Eater is essentially a shounen anime. Considering that Naruto and Bleach bored the shit out of me, what keeps me coming back? Well, the show oozes style. Normally it's not good when one thing oozes another thing, but here I'll allow it. Constantly cool fight scenes, bright color, and fun characters keep me coming back, as does the occasional Excalibur episode.
After all, he's from United Kingdom. I'm looking for him, I'm going to California. Excalibur!
Astro Fighter Sunred
Hearing a title like Astro Fighter Sunred, you wouldn't be blamed for thinking that it's a show about this guy.
But, as you might know, I have a penchant for short-form gag anime. Yes, that is the main character, but when you're so overpowered that the villains have to beg you for a battle, what happens?
Oh right. You turn into this asshole. AFS turns the sentai genre on its head, making the evil organization Florsheim the sympathetic faction. Vamp-sama and his cohort are polite, giving, and generally very Japanese about the way they interact with everyone (not to mention no one seems to notice they're horrible monsters...). Sunred on the other hand is grumpy, lazy, and generally unpleasant to be around. Despite that, he has a cute girlfriend named Kayoko. She of course adores Vamp-sama and all his friends because they're so helpful and nice. The show is also strangely food-centric. Almost every episode includes a video about how to make some simple snack. If you want to know how to make some easy Japanese dishes, that's yet another reason to pick up this weird show.
Shows I'm Just Starting
Valkyria Chronicles is the story of a soldier with a tiny sniper that rides on his should--oh wait, that's not the story at all! No, Valkyria Chronicles is based on the PS3 strategy game of the same name. And it doesn't suck. How often do you get to say THAT about a video-game anime? Of course, it could quickly slide downhill but signs are good so far. the show nails the look of the game for the most part (though it does manage to soften up some of the side characters' looks), and brings the same feeling the game held throughout.
The story takes place in a fictional version of Europe, in a neutral nation that just so happens to be stuck between the Allied and Imperial forces and has the largest supply of the much-fought-over resource, Ragnite. Valkyria? Ragn-arock? Yay for random Norse words! Anyway, the main characters get swept up in the war effort and we get an interesting view of war from the point of view of citizens and career soldiers alike.
Japan's Conan. That's the easy description. Guin Saga's about an amnesiac warrior with a leopard mask fused to his face. So far, he's protecting a young prince and princess from a nearby kingdom, and also punching dudes so hard that their helmets leaves divots in the trees and start fires.
Guin Saga has been going for years and years in Japan, with over 120 novels published so far. Obviously the anime isn't going to cover nearly all of what's out there. However, if it keeps with the low-fantasy style it's unlikely to turn me away. The little prince on the left there is a total wiener, but his sister is badass. Anyone who likes sword-and-sorcery kind of stories ought to check this out.
There's no reason I should like this show. It's stupid, pandering, tripe. There's no character development to be had, or even much of a plot. Why do I like this show?
Because it's hilarious. Spoilers: The first episode ends with the main character hugging the Evil Liquid Bunny Girl until her Acid-Milk-Firing Breasts overload and explode. Watch at your own risk.
Albert Wesker might just be the villain of the PlayStation generation. Making his debut in the first Resident Evil game, the slicked-back megalomaniac has been threatening world domination for almost fifteen years through just about every RE title.
But when screen and voice actor D.C. Douglas auditioned for the role, he had no idea what he was in for. "I don't have any hobbies or relaxation things I do. I have been obsessed with being an actor since I was 7. Since I moved to LA, I spent my spare time writing or rehearsing some free waiver play in Hollywood. Later on, it was producing my own film projects. The last video game I played a lot was Pong, when I was a kid!"
Personal Note: This was a big one for me, as my first real interview, it was a lot of fun to do. If you read ANYTHING I post here, read this one.
Making everything -- from healing to opening doors a cooperative experience -- was a stroke of genius right from the beginning.
Making the ending to the final boss battle so esoteric, not so much. I'm also not terribly happy about the inability to swap weapons between players. There's no reason for it. The game's not perfect by any means, and I'll admit part of the reason I'm enjoying it so much is because I'm a huge Resident Evil fan.
My favorite, and probably the most subtle mechanic, is that box of ammo left behind by the Kalashnikov-wielding zombie you just perforated.
In 2001, I started Anime-Empire's fansub of Slam Dunk. Within a few episodes it became my favorite anime, a position it holds to this day. This was, of course, during the infancy of the digital fansub, when you learned about a new series through word of mouth or by poking around in a private FTP server (Torrents? What're those?). Those were tumultuous times indeed. Even an 8+ year-old anime like Slam Dunk could go months between episode releases.
I’ve been going on for years—quite literally—about how awesome Slam Dunk is. Without question it is my favorite anime and among my favorite manga. I’ve been begging people to check it out and now, finally, I don’t have to include extensive instructions with that request!
On the softcover front, VIZ is releasing the manga at a ridiculous price of $8 per volume. It’s awesome and you should check it out.
More important, though, is the anime. FUNimation, proving that they really ARE "in it for the fans,” has posted ALL of Slam Dunk online, subbed, for free. Without Ads.
Seriously, can you get much better than that? NO YOU CANNOT DO NOT SUGGEST THAT YOU CAN UNLESS YOU WANT TO EXPERIENCE INFINITE PAIN
So please, please, even if you don’t like basketball, check out a few episodes. Hanamichi is awesome.
First off, I must brag: My first front page!
As games continue to enjoy the benefits of increased budgets, the line between Hollywood and its massively multiplayer interactive replica narrows. Games have more capacity than ever to imitate and even surpass movies in visuals, audio and even storytelling.
When reading or even writing a review, it's easy to compare the experience to a movie, book, or some other piece of art. It's not exactly a stretch. However, there are aspects of gaming that just plain don't apply to a book, movie, song, or even painting.
The interactive aspect is just one. In more traditional art forms, the author has total control within the contained bounds of the created piece. No one can walk up to one of Picasso's paintings and turn a color dial, and you can't add your own jazz riffs to your favorite Miles Davis album. Sure, you can take that piece of art and do with it what you wish, but the art itself will still remain complete, outside of that.
"Jill, here's a lockpick. It might be handy if you, master of unlocking, take it with you."
- Barry Burton, Resident Evil
One of the tried-and-true tenets of video game design is to leave a trail of Easter eggs and hidden content for the player to find. You can keep them coming back to your game, give them a few more reasons not to sell it, and add some serious playtime in the stat box on the back.
I told you I'd explain where I've been! Here it is: I'm writing for Kombo.com weekly now! Expect links to each of those articles - you should see about one a week from me from here on, with some hopefully more interesting content. In fact, you should see an interview with my name on it very soon. Yay!