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Pokemon: Detective Pikachu – This Generation’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit September 24, 2020

Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
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A few years ago I wrote an essay declaring that the game Halo: Reach was our generation’s version of The Dirty Dozen. Today, we’re going to do it again. In the late-80s Disney took a huge gamble and made their most technologically ambitious film of that time. Who Framed Roger Rabbit was a classic sendoff to old Hollywood depicting animated characters as no different than live-action film stars who actually exist in the real-world, get married and have 9-to-5 jobs. When a well-known cartoon character is framed for murder, he has to hire a human private detective to help clear his name. Here’s the trailer:

Who Framed Roger Rabbit was Directed by Bob Zemeckis, and starred Charles Fleischer, Bob Hoskins and was based on a novel by Gary K. Wolf. While it was a tremendously successful film at the box office when it released in the late 80s, it was an expensive and difficult movie to make. In fact, it was so difficult to produce that it was believed that no movie like it would ever be made again. There may be some truth to that since Disney has been unable to make a sequel to this day.

Meanwhile, on other side of the world game developer Nintendo has dominated the gaming handheld market for twenty years with the incredibly successful Pokémon franchise. Originally created by Satoshi Tajeri, Pokémon allowed players to explore a region full of magical creatures where they could capture, battle and trade amongst each other while on the go.

By today, Pokémon has been recently declared the most popular consumer franchise in the world, beating out other enormous franchises like Hello Kitty and Star Wars. While numerous Pokémon animated feature films and an ongoing animated television series have been produced over twenty years, there has always been a fan demand to see a live-action film adaptation of the Pokémon games. The problem was the story of a standard Pokémon game is not easily translated to a two-hour film and due to the otherworldly appearance of the game’s creatures production prices would be high. It was believed creating a live-action Pokémon feature film would be a difficult to impossible task.

However, in 2019, Warner Bros, Legendary Pictures, and The Pokémon Company teamed up to make the film Pokémon: Detective Pikachu based on the spin-off game of the same name. The film stars Ryan Reynolds, Justice Smith, and Kathryn Newton and was directed by Rob Letterman. If you haven’t seen it yourself, Here’s the trailer:

WARNING: Just be aware this article is going to include SPOILERS for the film Pokémon: Detective Pikachu. If you’re uncomfortable with that, I recommend watching the flick yourselves before continuing with the rest of this article.

Watching both trailers back to back probably made you see some parellel’s in the two film’s plot right off the bat. Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Pokémon: Detective Pikachu were both heavily inspired by the film noir genre. In fact I remember writing a paper about the Roger Rabbit film as a perfect example of film noir when I was back in college. Had I been born a few years later, I probably would’ve written that same paper on Detective Pikachu. Film noir is a classic genre of film, usually revolving around a murder mystery or some difficult case a hero must solve. Visually the genre’s films are shot with heavy shadows, the dialog is foreboding with heavy use of allegory and in the end the hero must solve the case. Just from that description of the film noir genre you can see a similarity in plot between the two films, can’t you? Well we’re not done yet.

So what went into making both films in the first place? Since it is impossible to produce complex fictional animated characters on set, actors were hired to film scenes while their animated co-star would be added in later during post-production. While Who Framed Roger Rabbit used 2D animation drawn by artists, Detective Pikachu used lifelike 3D models rendered in a computer. This was done to match their source material’s respective animation style. They also hired crews who were not only the absolute best in the industry in their respective field, but were fans of the franchises the films they were working on were based on.

So how did this all work on set? Unlike a purely animated film which would have actors recording their voice overs separately depending on their schedules, both films had their voice actors on set (slightly off camera) so the actors who were on camera could have an easier time acting opposite what was essentially an invisible person. Bob Hoskins had to undergo training to imagine his costar was in the room with him, despite the fact he was (in reality) talking to an invisible being. Charles Fleischer, who played Roger Rabbit, treated his role as off-camera acting and would deliver lines off camera in timing with Bob’s dialog. Roger had no on-set body double, Charles was the ONLY actor to perform him throughout the film’s production. In fact, Charles was so method with getting into his character, he spent his mornings before filming began getting into a rabbit costume similar to the one Roger wore, so to help his performance.

Pokémon: Detective Pikachu was produced in a very similar method to Who Franed Roger Rabbit. Sadly, we do not have as extensive a look into Detective Pikachu’s production as we do for Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but from what I was able to see I was taken aback by how similar what I saw was on Detective Pikachu’s set to the Roger Rabbit film.

The majority of Detective Pikachu saw actors Justice Smith and Kathryn Newton interact with a computer generated Pikachu performed by actor Ryan Reynolds. Since Pikachu’s performance was being added in post-production, that meant that Justice Smith had to believe he was really talking to a fictional electric mouse to sell his performance to the film’s audience. I’m not an actor but even I know this is not an easy task, but it seems the actors were up for it. I don’t know what it says about the greatness of Justice Smith’s acting capability but he had to undergo Mime training while filming a scene in the film where his character interacts with a Mr. Mime. The Mime who trained Mr. Smith appeared very impressed with Smith’s performance in the film’s Behind the Scenes footage.

At this point, I’m afraid I have to reveal the film’s biggest spoiler. At the end of Detective Pikachu, we learn that Justice Smith’s father is in fact Ryan Reynolds, and Mewtwo’s actions put Ryan Reynolds inside Pikachu’s body to save his life following a major accident. When Mewtwo reunited with the group, he could restore Mr Reynolds back to perfect health. In essence, Ryan Reynolds, or if you prefer, Detective Pikachu, was Justice Smith’s father the whole time. This was a huge reveal that I can remember not everyone in the theater audience I sat with was willing to accept, and even online critics like Doug Walker did not see coming. (ED NOTE: I saw it coming).

We never saw the face of Mr. Smith’s father throughout the majority of Detective Pikachu. Never once does the camera focus on a picture of him when the audience is exploring his apartment and all archived video footage we see of him is of his backside. This was likely done intentionally to hold back the film’s major reveal, but it also made me wonder how practical this was for the performers on set.

Both Justice Smith and Kathryn Newton had to be on set interacting with (to them) Pokémon they would have to imagine were next to them. It was entirely possible for Mr Reynolds to use a body double for any moments we saw Smith’s father on set however, in the behind the scenes footage I watched from the film’s production, Ryan was clearly on set in costume (as Justice Smith’s father) acting alongside the rest of the cast. This could’ve either been done for the benefit of the actors on set or could be seen as a testament to Ryan’s dedication to the role.

The one thing I can’t seem to confirm is if Reynolds was on set delivering Pikachu’s lines to Smith or if his voice was dubbed in later. Needless to say Ryan took his role very seriously to the point of method acting. How method did Ryan get? Well they did include this documentary with the film’s home video release but I’ll let you be the judge just to how accurate it is.

If you ask me I feel both films succeeded in their premise to mix live-action actors with animation. In both cases, the films broke ground in not just what can be done technologically, but what actors can be capable of performing. While it is highly unlikely we will ever see a new Roger Rabbit film, (the rights are currently tied up between Amblin and Disney and Mr. Hoskins sadly passed on many years ago), I would be more than happy to see Detective Pikachu as a jumping off point of a live-action Pokémon cinematic universe! My only hope is that if they intend to go the same route they did before, they cast the right skilled actors for the roles (or just bring back Justice Smith and Kathryn Newton).

Hope you guys enjoyed the article! If you haven’t watched these films for yourself yet, or want to watch them again after not seeing them in a while you have several options. Pokémon: Detective Pikachu can currently be found on the HBO MAX service and Who Framed Roger Rabbit is currently on Disney+.

Science Check: Marvel’s Avengers September 21, 2020

Posted by Maniac in Editorials, Science Check.
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It’s been a long time since we played a game that inspired us to break out the lab coats and do a proper Science Check but we have been playing the multiplaform game Marvel’s Avengers all month and I must say that I have come across a scene that shook my plausible belief in this game about a team of super powered individuals. What happened? Well, read on and find out.

Just be aware there will be SPOILERS for a great moment in Avengers and if you haven’t played the game’s main story yet I recommend completing the single-player campaign before finishing this article. With that out of the way let’s get started with our article.

Sometimes, you’re forced to make some severe leaps of logic as to just how plausible a video game’s grounded reality can be. Some things we’re willing to take for granted, like enemies will simply just carry health and ammunition supplies with them at all times, and you will be immediately able to make use of them.

But then sometimes there will be moments in gaming which skirt the bounds of reality and you are forced to ask yourself…COULD THAT REALLY HAPPEN? Fortunately for me, I happen to have a bunch of friends on speed dial with science backgrounds and when I ask them questions, they have no problem filling me in on just what reality would do in these situations.

So this is Science Check, where I take a look at the leaps and bounds of scientific logic that games have made over the years and check if it would indeed work, or if you tried doing it in the real world, you’d be totally screwed.

During a major set piece of Marvel’s Avengers, the titular heroes need to do an investigation of an illegal laboratory located in Earth’s orbit. However, getting into space, even for The Avengers, is not easy. A S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier can fly but not into space. Helicarriers use jet turbines to stay aloft, which redirect air pressure in the earth’s atmosphere for thrust. No air, no thrust. They also couldn’t call up any international space agencys due to the dubious legal gray area the team was operating in at the time. That meant a rocket or shuttle launch was also out of the question. So the solution for getting into space meant Tony Stark would need to build an Iron Man suit capable of orbital insertion. That’s what we are going to be talking about today.

Building a space launching Iron Man suit wasn’t a bad idea since it was something Tony had been thinking about for years but could never accomplish up to that point. Tony mentioned that he had no issue with constructing an Iron Man suit capable of operating in space, his problem was getting the suit to launch into space. Essentially, with the game’s current technology, a power unit capable of getting Iron Man into orbit would either weigh too much or be too underpowered to fit in the suit. Getting into space requires power, and building a power source capable of orbital insertion (get used to that phrase we are going to be using it a lot) was difficult. In the event the suit was too heavy or too underpowered would cause it to flame out during launch. Tony’s had similar issues minimizing the size of certain Iron Man control systems throughout his comic series, with my favorite solution coming in the Extremis plotline, so this kind of issue is not unheard of.

So how does Iron Man fix his power problem? Tony’s solution was to use some of Hank Pym’s Pym Particles (yes the same ones Ant Man uses to get really small or really big) to miniaturize his biggest power control systems small enough to fit into his prototype suit. That brings us to this scene:

Okay, you saw it. But is it possible? I admit having played this scene and immediately thinking to myself, “This video game about a heavily radiated genius, a WWII super soldier, a man wearing a powered suit of armor, a super spy, a Norse God, and a girl with the ability to morph the size and shape of her limbs may not be very realistic.”

Let’s break down every single component of that launch, shall we? First off, can he really generate enough power to get him into orbit with just his modified power systems? We also see him going pretty fast while wearing little more than a skintight suit of metal armor to protect him from the forces required for orbital insertion, would a human body survive that? Finally, we see Iron Man launch during a lightning storm, could that be considered hazardous? Well, I’ve looked at all of these concerns and right now we are going to find out for sure if this scene could really work!

Tony Stark powers his Iron Man suit with something called an Arc Reactor. As you may remember from the very first Iron Man film, Tony was able to build a miniature reactor while in captivity to serve two purposes. First, to power a surgically implanted electromagnet that kept metallic shrapnel from entering his heart, and second to power the heavily-armed suit of armor that would help him escape. The first arc reactor he constructed in a cave with scraps was capable of “3 gigajoules per second” and while he never states the power output of later models (I’ve heard numbers high as 15) they clearly exceed the capability of the original model.

I would like to say that I know for a fact that you can or can’t get into space with just an arc reactor…but I don’t. We use rockets fueled by propellants such as hydrogen and oxygen to get into orbit. They require enormous fuel tanks and expend almost all of their energy in a matter of minutes. The Iron Man suit flies by using what is called “repulsor technology” which converts energy from a power source (like an arc reactor) directly into lift. That’s how Iron Man is able to fly without having to lug around an enormous fuel tank on his back. Sadly, we don’t have repulsor technology in our world so I can’t tell you what this fictional technology is fully capable of. I wish I could tell you an exact power output required for a rocket to get into orbit, but none of the rocket scientists I know will currently take my calls. On the side note, the Iron Man space suit clearly looks like it is made from gold and titanium, so it shouldn’t have an icing problem.

Now let’s talk about how fast the suit is going. I may not be a rocket scientist but even I remember what I heard from Walt Disney Presents. Launching into orbit, regardless of the fact of if you’re doing it in a rocket or a suit of armor, requires you to exceed the natural acceleration of earth’s gravity of 9.8m/s. Any less and you would start falling back to earth immediately. I appreciated the fact that Crystal Dynamics left players the ability to view the gauge readings on the screen as Iron Man ascended so we had an idea about how fast he’s going. True to that acceleration demand, the Iron Man suit is depicted as always going faster and faster, increasing speed by a Mach a second maxing out at Mach 32. That would certainly be fast enough to get into orbit but it does open some new issues.

Iron Man does not make his historic space launch on the ground. He launches from atop a SHIELD Helicarrier while it is aloft, which would in theory save his suit a little bit of power. Sadly I do not have insider specifications of what kind of max altitude a fictional airship from the Marvel comics has. Since we aren’t sure just how high an altitude the Helicarrier is at when Tony launches, we are going to assume it can reach at least the same altitude as a modern commercial jet. If the airship is lifted by four massive Jet Engines it can fly at an altitude of at least 12-15KM. (UPDATE: Iron Man VR lists cruising altitude of a conventional SHIELD Helicarrier as 30KM.) If AIM’s space lab is at the same orbit as the International Space Station, that would put it at an altitude of 408KM. That means even while launching from an elevated position, the Iron Man suit still needs to travel nearly 400KM while constantly accelerating to reach its destination. The gauges we see in the game put the station at around 300KM away at launch so it is possible either the Helicarrier can be at an altitude of around 100KM or the facility was in a lower orbit than the ISS is at. Either way it gets a pass.

Also remember Tony is traveling through a lightning storm during his flight. While the player has the ability to dodge the storm, he does endure a few bolts on the way up. Honestly, I can’t imagine he has much to worry in that case as long as the Iron Man suit is insulated. About a decade ago I was actually on a plane that flew through a lightning storm and we came out perfectly fine. In fact, the crew of Apollo 12 was struck by lightning twice during their launch from Cape Kennedy, and thanks to Al Bean’s quick thinking (with help from mission control) were able to reach orbit by resetting one of their more obscure console switches. I could easily believe the Iron Man suit is insulated and is controlled by a crash-proof computer, which should provide some protection against getting struck by lightning. I imagine as long as the bolt didn’t damage the suit’s structural integrity, Tony would be just fine. This also gets a pass.

However, there is something Tony may not be able to survive, and that is the need for speed. His suit topped out at a speed of Mach 32 as it entered orbit. Could Tony survive going Mach 32? Well, as far as we can tell, this version of Tony Stark is not using the Extremis suit, and he still has his Arc Reactor surgically installed in his chest so I am arguing for this article that the game’s version of Tony Stark is 100% human. The fact he likely also has a heart condition would likely disqualify him from being an astronaut, but so would being over six feet tall. Speed and acceleration by itself will not severely injure a human, but extreme G-forces will. As we saw Tony’s suit climb in speed, we also saw his body’s G-Force on a separate part of the display. That gage reporter a force at around 3.5G the entire trip. This is a pretty comparable force to what astronauts receive when they enter orbit and they have endured it with no long-term effects. Tony likely also works out and eats regularly so, as long as his diet isn’t entirely hot dogs he should receive a pass here.

My technical advisor also followed up with me about questions of just how Iron Man planned to return to Earth. They argued it was harder for him to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere than it was for him to get into space. While this may be a spoiler, Tony’s plan was always to steal one of the station’s escape capsules and use that to return to Earth. The escape plan doesn’t go off entirely without a hitch, but this satisfied by advisor’s curiosity.

I have to admit everything about this launch is coming up as very possible, with the only exception being the fictional Iron Man technology being a wild card. If we would assume a man could build a suit of armor capable of flight powered by a miniature reactor in his chest, anything is possible. Anyone willing to give me 1.4 billion USD to try it for myself?

Marvel’s Avengers is out now on PC, Stadia, PS4 and Xbox One. It is coming to Xbox Series X/S and PS5.

My History With Dot Hack – Dot Hack Tribute Day August 6, 2020

Posted by Maniac in Dot Hack Tribute Day, Editorials, Uncategorized.
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Nearly two decades ago, before my home had access to G4TV, I would watch the digital cable network over at my cousin’s house whenever he needed me to fix his computer. They were lucky enough to have a house geographically located in a spot that received regular utility service upgrades, and because of that their cable provider was able to offer them digital cable and high speed internet half a decade before they offered it in my area only a twenty minute drive away. In 2003, if you were a gamer, G4TV was absolutely incredible. They even had gamer-focused channel bumpers which showed commercials for new and upcoming games. That’s where I first learned about .hack//.

I know that’s just a silly bumper but it was the best I could recover, but I thought it would be fair to show you how devoted G4 was with gaming back then. My first actual experience with the franchise came when I witnessed a review of the third game in the series, .hack//Quarantine for the PS2. Sadly it has been impossible to find that original review online, but after learning about the game I wanted to learn more.

.hack// (pronounced Dot Hack) was a truly transmedia property made up of video games and animated series. It presented the question of just what it would be like to be trapped inside a VR MMORPG everyone in the world played. Massively Multiplayer Games (MMOs) had taken off in the second half of the 90s and by the early 2000s they were poised to revolutionize how games were played (this would eventually come to fulfillment in 2004 with the release of World of Warcraft). It’s cyberpunk theme, grounded futuristic setting, and honest comprehension of the gamer lifestyle was really up my alley. The only problem was I didn’t own a PS2, and could not afford to play the original games. However playing the games weren’t my only option to getting into the world of .hack//, there was another.

Do you remember when I said that .hack// was a transmedia property, with not just games but animated series to go along with it? At the same time G4 was in its heyday, another US station, Cartoon Network, was airing Japanese-created content in a now-legendary programming block known as Toonami. .hack//SIGN was the first animated series produced for the franchise, and its story tied directly into the events of the original PS2 games. To a kid like me, this was a next level of technological integration. Heck, Toonami would even review the games themselves during channel bumpers.

This was a great time for the franchise and for lovers of games and anime, and unfortunately I missed out on nearly all of it. By the time I finally got my own PS2, it was impossible to find copies of any of the original episodic games on store shelves. Online marketplaces willing to resell used copies demanded high prices (something that continues to this day). In fact the final game in the original series, .hack//Quarantine, is one of the rarest and most highly sought after used game in the entire PS2 library. By the mid-2000s, I had fallen out of following the franchise, however the franchise continued to receive fresh new content throughout the world.

A second episodic game series was primed to come for the PS2 in the second half of the 2000s, .hack//G.U. Three games would get released for that series, and its players (who had played the original games) would unlock some extra in-story nods. On the transmedia front, an exclusive prequel series, .hack//ROOTS, was released to tie into G.U., but it wasn’t very well received by critics or fans. The G.U. games, on the other hand, were better recieved by critics and fans than the original .hack// titles.

The era following the release of the G.U. games was a dark period for fans outside of Japan. .hack//LINK for the PSP was never released in North America, nor was the PS3 .hack// fighting game (which came bundled with a CGI-film was was also never released in North America). Manga was seeing fewer English-language releases due to ongoing issues with the American publisher (Red Bard, who we featured earlier today, had a whole video on it). By the 2010s, it seemed that the West would no longer be seeing anything in the .hack// franchise. At this point I had tuned my attention elsewhere, and it seemed I would be parting with the franchise.

At the end of 2017, something I never would’ve imagined happening…happened. BandaiNamco officially announced they were porting all three of the .hack// G.U. games to the PC and PS4 with a whole bunch of new content.

This was the best news I had heard in a very long time. With this HD re-release I would finally get the chance to play some of the .hack// games myself on a platform I actually owned. While I quickly learned they were not porting the original four games, I still appreciated BandaiNamco’s effort and bought a copy with the hope this meant we would be seeing more from the franchise down the roads. The games ran great, kept their original visual aesthetic and had new features. It was everything that should be expected in an HD Remaster of a game.

Once I had the PS4 game, I quickly realized just how out of date my .hack// knowledge was. I had missed out on not just the original four games but multiple animated series and several books. Thankfully, FUNIMATION had re-released all of the shows produced for North America in DVD boxed sets and I spent a pleasant month tracking down copies of everything I could.

My search was a success, but once it ended, nothing further has been published in the West from the world of .hack//…or has it? I discovered an entire community of gaming enthusiasts, anime fans, otakus and lovers of Japanese culture were out there and they all had a lot they wanted to say about .hack//. That community is part of the reason why I decided to devote this entire day to the franchise. I want to give props to YouTube Channel ModalBeat, who’s in-depth discussion of the first games was instrumental for my understanding G.U.’s background. Since I had previously devoted an entire Sunday to his video series in my Gaming History You Should Know articles, his videos are not going to be featured today but if you haven’t checked out his work you totally should.

Sadly, there hasn’t been much news coming out of BandaiNamco since .hack//G.U. HD was released. At the very least I’ve been hoping they would port the earliest games, or localize a title that had never come to the West, but nothing new has been announced. That’s part of the reason why I’ve devoted this day in tribute to the franchise, because I believe the publisher needs to know how much we love this franchise and want to see it return…again.

If you’re interested in watching anything that is currently available in the US, you have just a few options. .hack//G.U. HD Remaster, which includes HD ports of all three G.U. games as well as a fourth bonus episode, is currently out on the PS4 and PC (through Steam).

How You Can Watch Dot Hack Animated Shows Right Now – Dot Hack Tribute Day August 6, 2020

Posted by Maniac in Dot Hack Tribute Day, Editorials, Uncategorized.
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If you’re a new fan to the .hack// franchise and you’re interested in experiencing some of the shows for yourselves, you’re probably wondering where you’ll have to go to do that. If you happen to live in North America (referred to henceforth as DVD Region 1), I’ve got some great news for you. Despite the fact some of the shows are nearly twenty years old, the content is still available through several modern distribution methods, and you can watch whatever you want however you want right now.

Just be aware this information is liable to change at the drop of a hat and because of that I recommend seeking these shows out as soon as possible. In a world where everyone prefers to subscribe to streaming services it means content shuffled around constantly. There’s just no telling what will happen to them when their current distribution deals expire.

As of today, there have been four anime series in the .hack// franchise that have been released in North America in some form. They range in this order, .hack//SIGN, .hack//Legend of The Twilight, .hack//ROOTS, and .hack//QUANTUM. There has also been an an animated adaptation of the G.U. games called .hack//G.U. Trilogy and while it isn’t considered canon to the .hack// franchise, it is still a an adaptation of a great story. Sadly, we are not going to be discussing the four-part .hack//LUMINALITY series, as each animated episode was bundled on DVD exclusively with the original games and were intended to be watched as part of each game. Because of that, they have not received a separate home video distribution and for us to have any chance of watch it now, we’ll have to hope BandaiNamco will re-release the original games on modern platforms.

For those of you concerned about the technical information from the shows, or where it stands in the subs vs dubs debate, this is where you want to read. If you’re only interested in how you can watch the shows right now you can skip the rest of this paragraph. The majority of .hack// shows were produced in a standard definition widescreen format. That means you’ll only be able to find most of the shows on DVD or in Standard Definition digital formats. Only .hack//Quantum was produced in High-Definition and as such is the only show that has received a Blu-Ray Disc release or could be purchased digitally in HD. As for Subs vs Dubs I have good news for both sides. Nearly all of FUNIMATION’s DVD boxed sets include English and Japanese audio along with English subtitles. The only exception is .hack//G.U. Trilogy, which has no English audio dub and can only be watched in English via subtitles. With all of that out of the way, let’s talk about where to watch some anime!

First off, let’s talk about a method that is still a great option for collectors like me, DVD and Blu-Ray Disc. A few years ago, FUNIMATION obtained the distribution rights for North America’s .hack// series, and they have used that right to re-release complete DVD Boxed sets for each of the shows adapted for Region 1. Back in the early days of anime on DVD, .hack// shows were broken up across multiple volumes of episodes, making customers have to purchase separate standalone discs to obtain all of a single show’s episodes. These original discs are no longer in print and while you might still be able to obtain them through the secondhand market you’ll get a much better deal buying FUNIMATION’s re-released complete series boxed sets. There’s no complete .hack// boxed set but each show is available for individual purchase. In one package of DVDs you’ll find all episodes from each series and a few special features along with special OVA’s. HD purists will need to know only .hack//QUANTUM was given a Blu-Ray Disc release, and I recommend getting that over DVD, because FUNIMATION released it as a combo pack and a DVD version of the show is included.

The reason I recommended buying the series on disc as the first option is because once you have the discs, they’re yours forever. Short of your DVD player breaking (a trivial thing to replace) nothing can take your ability to watch those discs away from you, even if the rights to distribute them change, your discs will remain in your collection forever. However, most people aren’t interested in watching films on disc and prefer to keep a purely digital collection of film and television, or prefer to subscribe to streaming services. We got you covered in that respect next.

FUNIMATION has all of the North American shows up for sale on various digital marketplaces including Apple’s iTunes. Content purchased through iTunes can be watched on Apple TV, iPhone, iPad, PC or Mac, to say nothing of other devices like recent Samsung TVs or Amazon Fire. The prices vary depending on the amount of episodes produced for each series of the show but some shows can be purchased for very low prices. I haven’t checked Google or Samsung’s digital marketplaces at this time but if someone has, they’re welcome to post a comment below with what they’ve found.

If you’re a person who prefers to subscribe to online streaming services, .hack// has also been put on several of them. Most users will be able to find the entire collection through the premium FUNIMATION app, which can be downloaded on multiple platforms including Apple, Samsung and Google. Just be aware, subscribing to that service is not free and if you aren’t a subscriber you’ll only be able to watch a very limited selection of episodes. Those episodes can be watched in English, and the picture quality is very good, despite being in standard definition.

If you prefer to watch on a different service, the free streaming service TUBI has SIGN, Legend of the Twilight and ROOTS available to stream right now for free (with ads). You can get the TUBI app on various devices including Amazon Fire, Apple, Google and Samsung. Heck it even works on the Comcast X1 Cable box. I freaking love this service as it has a ton of great shows and films I have wanted to watch for years now. Just be aware Tubi versions of the show are not of great picture quality, and are currently Japanese audio only, which means you’ll need to enable subtitles to watch them.

And that is currently how you can watch most of the .hack// animated series. The shows used to be available on Crunchyroll in their original Japanese audio, but since the company split with FUNIMATION’s service I don’t think they’re available on Crunchyroll any more.

Unfortunately, I can’t provide information outside of Region 1 for how to watch these shows, but knowing that most of this content was originally produced in Japan (known henseforth as DVD Region 2) it is safe to assume the shows should exist in that region. If you’d like to import Japan’s DVDs or Blu-Ray Discs into your home country, keep in mind that region locks might prevent the discs from playing on your home player. Just make sure to buy a player compatible with your region’s power outlets.

Go forth now, start watching, and explore The World! We will be back soon with more highlights from across the web!

Atlus Should Make Catherine Games for Smartphones and Tablets July 27, 2020

Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
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Catherine remains one of my favorite games of all time due to its unique art style and mature story while its base gameplay has been keeping me on edge every single night since Catherine: Full Body was released on Nintendo Switch. I loved playing the game on the Xbox 360 and the PS3 back when it launched in 2011, but I have to admit I may be enjoying it even more on the Nintendo Switch due to the portable/television nature of the platform. With the extreme popularity of modern mobile devices (including Android/iOS smartphones and tablets) and the record-breaking profits modern mobile games making due to that install base, why doesn’t Atlus release a Catherine game on mobiles?

I know that title is a huge proclamation but you gotta hear me out. I’m not saying Atlus should make a Catherine sequel for mobile devices. A full sequel would be better served on something like the PS5, Nintendo Switch or Xbox Series X. What I am saying is that Catherine’s addictive block climbing gameplay and even its story beats, if properly adjusted, could work really well on a mobile device like the iPhone. There’s more than enough processing power in a modern smartphone or tablet to replicate Catherine’s graphics and art style, and modern touch screens offer infinite possibilities for control. As for the game’s story (if they wanted to include one), there are tons of possible ways to present it. I want to break down my ideas for a portable Catherine game, and I hope that if I can paint a picture as to how it could work, would make you ask to play it yourself.

Before we get started, I would like to make my opinions on something quite clear. It would be critically pointless for me to write an article about a game made specifically for smart devices in today’s day and age unless I addressed the elephant in the room, microtransactions. Microtransactions have been implemented in smart device games for over a decade, and are considered today’s main source of income for mobile game developers. Old-school gamers like me would call them a plague. If Atlus was to release a game for the mobile market, especially something that features Catherine’s puzzle-based gameplay, in theory nothing would stop them making it a microtransaction-filled game that would probably lock content behind arbitrary timers. If that happens, honestly, I wouldn’t want to play it and even if I did, I wouldn’t spend a single dime on any in-app purchases. That’s because I’m against the use of microtransactions due to the fact that by definition, a game that revolved around it would be entirely dependent on Atlus’s continuous financial support. The second Atlus chose to end their support for the game, the game would cease working and all the money a user spent in it might as well have been set on fire. Granted, that’s true of all games that feature microtransactions.

If Atlus is going to release a Catherine smartphone game, there are superior methods to sell the game on digital marketplace that will not provoke anger from the gaming public. If they wanted, they could charge up front to buy the game in full, but I believe the better idea would be for them to go the Super Mario Run route and offer the first few levels of the game as a free demo on the marketplace, and provide the ability to unlock the rest of the game as an in-app purchase. Or, if Atlus planned to do an episodic release and add more levels later on, they might be able to get away with charging for individual chunks of levels, with a sale price for a full content unlock. If you remember I was a person who pleaded with Atlus back when Catherine was first released to release new puzzles as DLC back in the day and I think that would be the fairest pay structure gamers would be willing to agree to.

With all that out of the way, let’s talk about gameplay and controls. Catherine’s tight controls are legendary, and if you ask me they were improved a lot in Full Body. So how would gameplay work if adjusted for a smart device? You could use the device’s gyroscopes to adjust your view of the playfield (tilt up to move the camera to look up, tilt right to look right, etc) and swipe to move in several directions. Moving blocks could require pushing and holding your finger on the screen as the block is moved. I’m sure drop timers for the blocks could be extended beyond what they are in the original game to compensate for any potential misswipes, or if they choose to make a Rapunzel-type game, the power levels for maximum moves could be increased. That, is essentially how you could get a Catherine game on a modern mobile device. I designed that control layout over the course of mere minutes, just imagine how much they could be refined if I had given myself more planning time or had actual game development experience.

Now let’s talk about how we could present the game’s story. First off, there’s no requirement that we really have to have one. In fact, if Atlus just wanted to port something in the style of Catherine’s arcade game Super Rapunzel to portable devices they would save having to include a story entirely. However, if Atlus wanted to make a story-driven portable Catherine game, there would be plenty of options for them to present the story to the player.

One would be to offer still images with simple scroll text boxes after the end of every series of puzzles. This would be the simplest option by far. The developers would merely need to create an original high-resolution piece of art for each story beat, and the player could tap through a series of scrolling text boxes. You could have a voice-over for these sections, but I don’t recommend it as most users will click past to skip the sound clip as soon as they finish reading the text. This is not the most elegant way to present a solution, but it would help lower the app’s download size (which would make installing and updating it much quicker).

Another option for story presentation would be to include prerendered in-game cinematics. This would basically mean you would watch preproduced/compressed video files that were rendered on the developer’s computers. This would be a better option than still images. Part of Catherine’s charm was its great cinematics and we know Atlus still has access to the game’s assets. Including full motion video would allow for improved story presentation and could even include character voiceover and subtitles. The downside would be these cinematics would greatly increase download times (although streaming them could be an option it’s not a great one) and video compression would mean image quality won’t hold up well on higher resolution devices.

In my opinion, the best option would be to produce in-game cutscenes. Portable devices have more than enough raw power to replicate Catherine’s signature art style, and it might be more resource efficient to produce in-game assets, environments and textures and have the smart device render them. This could be a better option if the developers wanted to include an in-game voiceover, but text bubbles would be sufficient. This kind of option would not only cut down on file size, it would allow newer devices to scale resolution.

If you’ve read this far I know what you’re asking, how mature a story could we get away with in this day and age? I think the line the game’s developers have already set should work just fine. What would the story be? I would be fine with anything, as long as it followed the same logic as the original games and gave some nods to the original game’s characters. I really have a soft spot for this franchise, and I think it has the potential to be brought to even bigger heights.

Catherine: Full Body is out now for PS4 and Nintendo Switch. Catherine (Classic) is out for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3.

Does Pokémon HOME Mean The End for Pokémon Pass? July 18, 2020

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Since the days of offering Mew at Toys ‘R US during the first generation games, there have always been promotional giveaways for Pokémon players tied to going shopping. I love when The Pokémon Company hosts a promotional giveaway. In fact I’ve done countless articles and videos on this site about all the ones I’ve attended. In the more recent era, these promotional events were held at GameStop stores, a game-exclusive retailer who would typically know when they were happening, and successfully distributed promotional items and Mystery Box codes to whoever asked. Then for some reason, The Pokémon Company decided to partner with larger retailers including Target and Wal-Mart for their promotions. To say that this was a failure would be an understatement.

Big stores are big, and it’s much harder to find specific promotions in large stores like Target and Walmart than it is to find them in a store like GameStop. Since Pokémon merchandise can be sold literally anywhere inside a large box retail store (ranging from electronics to toys) it’s a guessing game as to where a Pokémon promotional display could be put up. Also, asking a big box store’s employees about specific promotions the vast majority of their customers would not be aware of is an exercise in pain and futility. Trust me, I speak from experience. As someone who’s had to deal with asking a consistent line of clueless employees about events, I can tell you I am sick to death of receiving weird looks from retail employees who clearly have better things to do than answer my question about promotions their superiors failed to brief them on. For all those reasons, I can’t tell you how frustrating the decision to hold promotions at major retailers were for loyal players. Then Pokémon Pass was released, and it solved all those problems.

Pokémon Pass was everything I could’ve asked for. While it couldn’t help me obtain any physical Pokémon promotional goodies, most of Pokémon’s recent promotions are digital and Pass was able to distribute codes and digital downloads for in-game goodies perfectly. To use Pokémon Pass, all I had to do was install the app on my smartphone, enable GPS, and boot it up while the event was active. As long as it could detect I was physically at the address I was supposed to be, I could obtain the digital promotional code l needed, even if the store hadn’t put up the promotional material and employees weren’t briefed on the events. This was the greatest thing in the freaking world for many reasons. I didn’t have to make searches up and down the large retail stores for a poster or display stand that may or may not have been put up, and I didn’t have to hassle any of the overworked employees who didn’t get briefed about it either. If there was a problem with the codes for any reason, it could even issue me a new one (although there were limits).

Earlier this year, Pokémon HOME was released. This is a badly needed service for players of games like Pokémon Go or Sword/Shield. It’s a cloud-based platform where players can store Pokémon from across multiple Pokémon games. On its surface, HOME seems to include all the features of Pokémon Bank and Pokémon Pass in just one application. The Mystery Gift feature inside Pokémon HOME can use your smart device’s GPS to determine if you’re somewhere a promotional event is happening and award you a gift even if you’re a free user. You would think I would be happy about this, one less application I would need to keep on my phone, but I am not.

As far as I can tell, The Pokémon Company has not used HOME’s method of distribution at this time, but they certainly could start whenever they feel like it. I’m kind of torn about how I feel about this. First off, you have to install Pokémon Home on both your Switch and smart device to obtain a gift through it. That means you can’t currently obtain Mystery Gifts in the Switch version of Home even if you’ve earned one. Second, any Pokémon obtained in Home will stay there unless they get manually transferred to a supported game using the Switch version of the application. This is so much more annoying than simply redeeming a Mystery Gift code in a supported game. I’d rather just put the Pokémon in the game I’m playing, and then transfer it to Pokémon Home later. Home can generate Mystery Gift codes, but only for in-game item distributions and if you’re a free user, Pokémon Home can only hold thirty Pokémon before getting full! Since you absolutely need to transfer Pokémon out of Home as soon as possible anyway, you might as well obtain them in the game.

Here’s my biggest problem with this service, Home’s smart device interface. Unlike Pokémon Pass, Home does not currently give a heads up on the details of upcoming exclusive promotions. Home does have a News feature, but that can get filled with lots of miscellaneous news, including updates for Sword and Shield. With Pass, I could always get a clear heads up when promotions were happening and where I had to go to use them. HOME also doesn’t support photo stickers or digital wallpapers like what is offered in Pass. I really like that feature, and as someone who changes their phone wallpapers regularly (sorry honey), it will mean I’ll need to get that content from other places.

I implore The Pokémon Company to keep supporting Pokémon Pass for the time being. Sadly, since HOME launched, not a single promotion has been offered in Pokémon Pass, although I acknowledge the current worldwide pandemic might be a reason why. Obviously the world is currently in such a state that precludes non-essential travel, but when the world returns to business as usual it would be nice to see more promotions coming for it!

Gaming History You Should Know: MoCap LLC July 12, 2020

Posted by Maniac in Editorials, Gaming History You Should Know, Uncategorized.
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I know I usually spend my Gaming History You Should Know articles highlighting some of the best fan produced content from across the web. Forgive me as I decided to give the history lesson personally today.

There once existed a basic cable channel called Spike TV. Billed as the “Channel For Men” it succeeded in being what networks like G4TV (after the TechTV merger) failed to copy, an exciting network with a decent mix of original and classic programming. Spike TV knew its audience, and knew that the people who watched their channel likely played video games, and while the station was not dedicated to games, the station broadcasted several gaming specials over the years including The Ultimate Gamer and Countdown to Launch. These were, as their name implies, occasional one-off specials that typically aired during the midnight launch of games like Halo or God of War, but I remembered enjoying them. By 2009, Spike TV moved into producing regular gaming-focused content. As gaming hit the mainstream, Spike TV offered a weekly gaming show called GameTrailers TV.

Hosted by Geoff Keighley, GameTrailers TV previewed upcoming games, showed behind-the-scenes content from game developers and highlighted major gaming events. To help the show’s pace, a series of live-action shorts were integrated into each episode focusing around the lives of people who “worked” in the gaming history, Mocap LLC. Starring Chris DeLuca, Kara Klenk, and Jon Gabrus, MoCap LLC was a comedy show about the business of gaming motion capture.

You know what, words fail me here, you’ll just have to see some of the original MoCap LLC shorts for yourself. They are thankfully still online but just be aware there will be some dirty words.

That was (of course) just the earliest examples of the show. More shorts followed, many of which were posted on the GameTrailers website (which is sadly now defunct). If you’d like to see all of them, check out their YouTube Channel.

Somehow, through what I can only describe as some kind of divine intervention, Spike TV announced they would be turning Mocap LLC into a limited series of six episodes, with actress Lauren Turek joining the group. Oh and we knew there would only be six episodes, because all of the network’s promotional advertisements for the show focused on that fact. The six 22-minute episodes aired during the mid-spring of 2009. The show aired its first episode in April and I loved it, but there was no consistency in the Spike TV schedule for some of the later episodes. Sometimes the episodes aired at midnight, sometimes they aired (I think) as late as 3:30am. This could’ve been because the episodes aired unbleeped, so maybe they had to air on super late night due to some arbitrary Spike TV standards, but that didn’t really excuse why the show moved around on the schedule so much. I know for a fact I missed watching at least one episode because of scheduling inconsistency. There’s only so late someone can stay awake to watch a show.

Rewatching the show today I can say I still love it but I honestly couldn’t tell you why I liked it as much as I do. Maybe it was the fact that it’s unabashed content was a breath of fresh air, or it could’ve been my appreciation a gaming-focused comedy series aired on a major cable channel at a time that simply didn’t happen. Even G4TV was moving away from gaming-focused content at that time and they were supposed to be a station that was entirely about games. So to see Spike TV air something like Mocap LLC gave me the feeling the network was sincere about its interest in gaming at that time, something G4 had (at that time) lost.

Okay, so now you’re probably asking yourselves, where can I watch the show? As far as I know, MoCap LLC never recieved a DVD or Blu-Ray Disc release back in the day. In fact I even remembered emailing Kara Klenk if she knew anything about a home video release back in the day but I never heard back. Episodes were sold digitally (unbleeped) on Xbox Live marketplace back in the day but the episodes were in a very poor-quality standard definition. While most of the episodes went up on the service quickly, I had to wait several months for them to post the final episode. Thankfully, Chris has reposted all six episodes (unbleeped) on his website. While the episodes are in matted SD quality, the picture quality is a billion times better than the versions Xbox Live offered.

If you liked the shorts and have the free time, give the show a watch. I’d like to think that while it was VERY brief, Mocap LLC served as a precursor to shows like Mythic Quest (on Apple TV+). Huge props to everyone involved with it, and to Chris for making the show available on his site. I hope you’re all doing well!

Movies to Binge Watch for Tabletop RPG Players July 1, 2020

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It’s Independence Day Weekend, and with venues all over the country still closed due to ongoing safety concerns, many RPG players who play their games on tabletops with pencil and paper will be stuck home unable to resume the games they’ve been playing with their games. So, to kill some time, I’ve been combing through several of the various online streaming services for some films I’ve enjoyed about the subject over the years. I’m going to include a little bit of something for everyone here. Some of these are fictional, some of them are non fictional. None of them, as far as I know, received a major theatrical release.

Just a few notes here. A lot of these movies are made with low budgets, but in my opinion that kind of adds a layer of sincerity to them. All synopsis will include a trailer and a tip as to what online service might be offering it. Honestly this is not a complete list and if there’s any movies you’d like to see in this list post a comment below and I’ll check it out.

Of Dice and Men

This was probably the first fictional film I ever saw that was about Tabletop RPG players so I wanted to talk about it first. This is the story of a DM who has to pull together his players after life and politics causes turning point in their lives. From what I heard, it was based on a play that was originally written for PAX and was adapted to a film. You can find it on Amazon Prime.

Zero Charisma

This was the first RPG-inspired film I had ever heard about but since it had been off certain streaming services for a while. I wasn’t able to watch it myself until recently. This is about people who keep their lives the same for as long as they can. Just a heads up about this one, it has a lead that’s hard to love but a lot of people can relate to him. You can find this on Tubi or Amazon Prime (I’ve also been recently informed it’s on Crackle).

Monster Camp

I have mentioned this documentary a few times when I’ve talked about Live Action Role Playing (LARP) so this is a little something for the LARPer crowd. This documentary goes into great detail about everything that goes into creating a fun LARP, what the players are expected to do, and what kinds of characters end up running it. You can find this on Amazon Prime.

The Dungeon Masters

I first saw this on Hulu many years ago and it’s been floating around streaming services for quite some time. This is more a reality show type documentary about specific gamers and how they deal with their desires to play, and how the game effects their lives. You can watch it on Tubi.

The Dwarvenaut

This is a documentary about the life of artist and businessman Stefan Pokorny of the Dwarven Forge. Stefan’s plan is to start a kickstarter for an all-new expansion set. He needs to generate several million dollars to to release the expansion, can he make it? Sadly, this is not a film you can find on any streaming service right now but it’s so good I could not ignore mentioning it. After it got pulled from Netflix in my region I haven’t seen it return to any other service. If you want to check it out, try seeking out a home video release.

My Thoughts on the First Pokemon Presents Stream June 17, 2020

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The first Pokémon Presents stream was held this morning and we have a ton of new announcements to go through. It was an incredible way to kick off this new format of video announcements and I’m going to break everything that was said down for you.

1. DLC1, the Isle of Armor is out for Pokémon Sword/Shield and you can play it if you purchase the expansion pass on the eShop.

If you already purchased the Expansion Pass off the eShop just update your game and get back into it. Also update Pokemon Home while you’re at it. I’m loving the first expansion so far, since there’s a lot to do in it with an enormous wild area to explore with tons of classic Pokémon returning. I’ve been throwing my PokéBalls left and right. The issue I see is it’s got a serious level grind (All Wild Pokémon are level 60) and one of the challenges requires you to take a low level Pokémon an level it to at least 70. That said it has fun collectibles although those Diglett are near impossible to find in some areas.

2. Pokemon Smile is out free for iOS/Android devices.

It’s free so there’s no reason not to at least test it out but I’m clearly not the intended demographic for it. I tried it out and am currently unable to angle my phone in a way to have the camera see my face while I’m brushing unless I’m brushing while on my knees. Children would probably have a lot of fun with it.

3. Mega Evolution is coming to Pokémon Go‬. Also, you can find Galarian Far’fetched if you play Pokémon Go right now.

Can’t comment on Mega Evolution since that’s not really out yet. However, it was a GEN6 staple…even though Pokémon from earlier Gens could do it. Does this mean we will see GEN6 Pokémon come into Go yet? As for the limited-time event, Far’Fetched found in this event do not evolve into Sir’Fetched. That is a huge bummer but when you take into account that far’fetched are not supposed to even spawn in the US at all, if you previously missed an opportunity to get one, nows your time to rectify that.

4. New Pokémon Snap!!! No seriously that’s it’s title.

I know a guy online who will be very happy about this announcement. It looks incredible can’t wait to play it myself. Honestly I don’t care if it’s merely a remaster of the first game with new Pokémon or if it’s a sequel. Pokémon Snap is a beloved game that deserves attention, it was probably one of the most fondly remembered of the Pokémon spin-off games by the mainstream Nintendo audience.

5. Pokémon Cafe Mix is up for preorder!

This game looks cute but that’s not all I have to say about it. A Pokémon Cafe exists in the real world and it looks almost exactly like this! Now can we get more of them, I want to drink a latte with a Pikachu in the foam! Anyways you can preorder this for free on your platform of choice, iOS, Android, or Switch

6. Mythical Gigantamax Event in Sword and Shield for 1,000,000 player defeats of Zeraora.

Can’t comment on how I feel about this. Don’t know anyone who would want to do it with me and I really don’t think I have a chance by myself. I do think it’s great that all players can benefit together for a combined goal. That is typically the component that makes Pokémon Go Fests so much fun!

That’s not all! Another Pokémon Presents will stream next week. We still haven’t heard a peep about Pokémon Sleep or Detective Pikachu 2 (Nintendo Switch) yet so my fingers are still crossed those will finally be revealed.

Things to Do While Waiting for Pokemon Go to Come Back June 1, 2020

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If you’re reading this as of the time it is being posted, you’ll know that Pokémon Go is currently down for scheduled maintenance. It isn’t expected to come back online until 9PM EST (6PM PST). Seven whole hours of downtime! What do we do until that happens?

Here are some things you can do while you wait for the service to come back online. These are in no particular order.

  • If you have a copy of Pokémon Sword or Pokémon Shield you can obtain a free Galarian Ponyata right now through the game’s Mystery Gift function. Here’s how to do it.
  • Download the Pokémon TV app to your smart device. It is a free application. A bunch of great Pokémon animated films are currently up for free viewing on it. If you have an Apple TV or Google Chromecast you can also watch the films on your television.
  • If you have a Nintendo Switch, a PokéBall Plus and a copy of Sword, Shield, or either of the Let’s Go games you can still transfer Pokémon into the ball. While you won’t be able to use them in Pokémon Go while the service is down, the PokéBall Plus can still track your steps and respond to your training gestures on its own.
  • Look up some hilarious Pokémon Memes, or make some of your own.
  • Watch Pokémon: Detective Pikachu on HBO if you haven’t already seen it. If you have already seen the film and own a copy of the movie on disc or digital services you should totally watch the film in Detective Mode! It offers a picture-in-picture filmmaker commentary throughout the film that provides a behind the scenes look into the making of the film.

So those were just some of our ideas. If you think there’s any we missed post a comment below and we might add them! Stay safe out there, and Train On!

Pokémon Go is out now for iOS and Android devices. Pokémon TV is out for iOS, Android and Apple TV devices. Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield are out now exclusively for the Nintendo Switch.