Despite not selling as well in the United States, the Ace Attorney series seems to have aquired a bit of a cult following. It’s not that hard to notice a Phoenix Wright or Miles Edgeworth cosplay at just about every con in the country, and hearing the word “Objection!” rarely brings something else to mind first. And there lies one of the classic Ace Attorney tropes in and of itself – what is normally somewhat bland, like a suit for a lawyer, is jazzed up. One of the biggest tricks to making the Ace Attorney series original, and ultimately successful, is the inversion of what is normal and what is action packed, making the mundane high stakes and serious points less so.
The easiest examples can come almost instinctively. The games take a court case, often perceived as boring, and make it straight out of an action movie; characters faces and words blow up in tense moments, music intensifies during greater points of logic or plot. Conversely, many scenes are watered down, such as the fact that every story involves murder. Characters like Manfred Von Karma are never explicitly mentioned as executed, but characters will talk about the daughter with words like, “Her father’s gone, you know.” In general, tough times are watered down in adjustment to the kids in the audience. Read more
Michael Manna, also known to wrestling fans as Stevie Richards, has signed on to voice a recurring role in director Larry Longstreth’s new animated series, Four Tanks and a Healer. If you’ve followed Manna’s career, you know that he doesn’t fit the mold, anyone’s mold.
“He’s earned his cred (both nerd-wise and tough-wise) in my eyes,” is what Longstreth posted when making the announcement of Manna’s joining the production. When I spoke with the director recently, he had this to say. “[H]e’s a walking hypocrisy—he jokes about being a nerd athlete,” says Longstreth of his multi-faceted colleague. “[He] has a huge interest in all things tech. He’s a fan-boy.”
It’s true. Manna has his fingers in many pies, notably of late, the t4show, where he and co-host, Josh, “Colm” Coleman, review everything from the latest iPad, to video games, fitness products, and pro-wrestling shows. “It’s funny, I never quite fit,” says Manna. “I still don’t quite fit into the wrestling realm of the world. I don’t fit into the fitness realm of that world, and I don’t fit into the nerd part. It’s like nobody likes me. I am one of the most unpopular people in the world because I don’t fit into any of those categories. I’m joking, but I’m not.”
“I still wrestle, for money,” says Manna, and his most recent stint included the Extreme Reunion. Fans know how hard Manna works, coming back from a broken neck and a paralyzed vocal cord, among other injuries, to continue to delight. A recent facebook update photo on his page was of an empty gym, captioned, 345 am CAN. “I have CAN on my tights. It’s not for Canada, like some people say. It’s CAN, to remind me there is no can’t, only CAN.”
Can is the only word which interests Manna. He is intense, driven, and professional. In my one hour skype interview with him (my first, so please critics, be gentle), he had everything set up to record it, chatted with fans while it streamed live, and dropped me a copy via digital dropbox within an hour. He loves tech, gaming, and gets excited about anything cutting edge; Kickstarter being one of those things.
“I wish I’d invented it,” he said, referencing recent Kickstarter successes The Glyph iPhone app, the Pebble Watch, and a personal favorite of his, The Bat in the Sun. “[But] it’s really worth it. I mean if you’re going to donate to something and feel like you’re part of something, and Larry’s going to do everything he can to make his audience feel like they’re a part of the production, because they really are, by donating the money.”
Kickstarter also matters to Larry Longstreth since he is using the website to raise funds for Four Tanks and a Healer. A pledge can be anything from a dollar to over $5,000.00. Longstreth has created many levels in-between. For a $100 pledge, an avid MMO fan-boy or girl can have their favorite MMO avatar placed in the show. I asked him if fans could request special scenes for their character’s appearance, imagining fans of this blog maybe, pledging for a shot at having their avatar appear alongside Manna’s character.
“That would be dangerous. [It] might be OK if there were five of them—ten minute episodes. But it would begin to place barriers around my creative freedom.” Longstreth says.
So, I guess if you want a shot at having your avatar in Four Tanks and a Healer beside Michael Manna, you’d best get on it, because if you’re number six, no dice. If the Kickstarter project fails to reach its goal, the filmmaker will search traditional investors instead.
Voice acting seems a strange path for an elite athlete with multiple vocal cord surgeries under his belt, but Manna loves to perform and considers it another way to participate. “I voiced-over Daredevil in one of his [Longstreth’s] previous animations… It wasn’t as good as I would like to have for that voice-over I did before.”
“Larry gave me a great opportunity to be in that without having any voice-over acting experience, and he gave me a real taste for doing it… I think it’s another avenue that I want to pursue and explore to try to get better at.“
“I like doing anything performance-wise. I think, when I had all the vocal surgeries, and the implant in my throat through my vocal cords, I was told to start podcasting on a regular basis, and the podcasting is sort of my voice therapy. I love podcasting. I love doing radio. I’d love to explore avenues into doing some radio work… and voice acting is a natural analogy.
I think it’s a little bit more fun, because you really get the, on the level of wrestling, it’s the voice level of what we do performance-wise in the ring. We get to play a different character, we get to kind of use our imagination and that’s probably what makes voice acting and voice over work more attractive than any of the other stuff.”
Four Tanks and a Healer is an animated series based on the absorbing quality of MMO games. Manna’s role is that of Parik. Failed insurance salesman and divorced dad by day, elf warlock engineering whiz in the world of the MMO. And it’s the MMO world that makes this project truly unique. Longstreth describes it as, “World of Warcraft meets Family Guy.”
In a recent article for Cinema-crazed, the director talked about the importance of Four Tanks and a Healer being an animated series. The entire show takes place within the world of the MMO, their game characters portray them on screen. But like many addicted MMO gamers, real life and real relationships creep into their online world.
A self-described “casual MMO person,” who cites LOTR as his favorite MMO, Longstreth has spent considerable time studying how the bonds of gaming form friendships which are every bit as valid and important as those formed in “real life.” He’s watched the soap opera of life play out within MMO’ing and it’s this he wants to highlight in the series.
Manna has nothing but praise for his director. “That’s why I like working with him [Longstreth]. I don’t have to know what I’m going to be doing or who I’m going to be voicing-over. I know Larry’s work is stupendous. I know he puts his level of attention to detail of what he loves to do. Like he said on Kickstarter, he’s a gamer. He gets it. And I’m a gamer too.”
But I think Larry Longstreth will have his work cut out for him with Manna, who’s already lobbying for a larger role in the series. “I am hard on myself for never being satisfied. Larry’s going to find that out real soon when we start voicing-over this Four Tanks thing.”
It should be an experience.
(Just so’s you know, I’ve known Larry Longstreth since the mid 2000’s and worked with him as a film-maker through Cleveland IndieClub. Hopefully this article and the skype interview helps my fan-girl cred a little.)
Years ago, when I still figured that Star Wars was my childhood and I chafed whenever the smallest edit, alteration, or wrinkle was added, the advent of a game like Star Wars Kinect would have infuriated me. Older now, and a little wiser, I’ve come to realize that Star Wars is a franchise belonging to nobody in particular, an accumulation of sci-fi detrius that is repackaged and put before a new generation of tiny consumers every five years or so. It simply isn’t worth complaining about George Lucas’ baby anymore, and, to be honest, I highly doubt Star Wars Kinect is any worse than previous drops in a Death Star sized bucket, as Super Bombad Racing and Masters of Teras-Kai and any number of 32-bit first person shooters boasting FMV and blurry graphics pretty much pushed me out of the market for a good non-Nintendo 64 Star Wars game eons ago—a distrust that ran so deep I missed out on Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.
Before I post the video, allow me to acknowledge that, yes, it is rather jarring to see Han Solo and Lando Calrisian engaging in a dance-off, that it is moderately disturbing that Boba Fett talks more about his moves on the dance floor than he talks in Empire Strikes Back, that it is a little worrying that Princess Leia wears her slave outfit on the set of The Galactic Empire’s Got Talent. I’m not up on my nerdrage like I used to be, but I imagine these developments, Leia’s manner of dress notwithstanding, have millions of voices crying out, only to be silenced the next time an atrocity befalls their picture-perfect idea of what Star Wars should be.
It’s also worth pointing out that the X-Box Kinect is an absolutely stupid device. If Sony’s Playstation Move is one of the most unnecessary add-ons in video game history because Nintendo has a system that comes out of the box ready to do everything the Move does at a level that should shame the competition, the Kinect is, to my mind, the absolute worst of all time for making real much of the apprehension people had when Nintendo announced the Wii: Playing a game on it makes you look like a damn fool. The Kinect, being suitable only for children or the very drunk, can only support a very narrow spectrum of gaming. While it’s nice to want a video game that allows you to swing a lightsaber (anybody remember Star Wars Arcade?) without the added strain of a one-pound controller or the needless confusion of buttons, the fact of the matter is that the Kinect’s a video gaming dead end. With rumors of a new X-Box circulating and with no real must-have games, those who wanted the Kinect likely already have and deeply regret their purchase. Star Wars Kinect is a game for them.
Does the above video make you angry, or confused? If you’re angry, there’s nothing I can do for you beyond suggesting a soothing read-through of the Thrawn Trilogy, written back when the worst thing about Star Wars continuity, depending on your particular kink, was the brother/sister kiss from Empire, or the introduction of the Ewoks in Return of the Jedi. If you’re confused, fret not. I’ve put way more time and effort into deducing how, exactly, this video game shakes the foundations of Jedi heaven and hell.
Star Wars Kinect & You
Lando Calrissian Is Not the Smooth-Talking, Suave Businessman You Remember
Even though he tells a twi’lek client that she’s too pretty to be at his club—this, in Star Wars, being “smooth talk”—Lando is actually pretty bad at the whole nightclub thing, this despite being a master of the double blaster. Instead of hiring an incredible DJ to spin galactic jams, he’s uploaded his iPod playlist to the cold, emotionless Lobot, Cloud City’s cyborg “administrator”—essentially Lando’s soulless calendar app. Worse, Lando has chosen to put his club in Cloud City’s least attractive location—the carbonite freezing chamber. Notice the steam rising behind Calrissian? His lackeys are one false move from ending up like this:
Lando’s biggest problem, though, is that he’s just an asshole. Regardless of how you feel about anything else he does in the franchise, that’s a Death Star disco ball in the background, complete with the crazy laser that destroyed Alderaan. Sure, the Death Star was blown up and medals were eventually rewarded, but Lando is trying to make money off the slaughter of millions. There’s no accounting for taste in the Rebel Alliance, I suppose.
Han Solo Won the Millennium Falcon in a Dance Competition
Previously, it was well-known Star Wars lore that Han Solo acquired the Millennium Falcon in a game of Sabacc, a popular, high-stakes card game that Solo and Lando Calrissian were pretty evenly matched in. But gambling is the Devil’s business, and endless work has gone into scrubbing Han Solo’s image; he’s not a trigger-happy smuggler full of roguish charm so much as he’s a good man forced to do shady things by a bum government, who only shot Greedo because he was fired upon first. Han Solo is a nice man, and nice men don’t gamble, cheat, or swindle. For that matter, he didn’t take the Falcon away from Lando; it was merely the prize awarded to the man, woman, or Wookie coming in first place. Nobody was angry with the end result, and everybody had fun!
Princess Leia Is Not a “Slave,” Merely Jabba the Hutt’s “Reigning Dance Champion.”
As you can see from the picture above, Princess Leia decides when she’s chained to Jabba the Hutt and when she isn’t. For the record, the only time she isn’t chained to Jabba in Star Wars Kinect is when she’s dancing, and when she’s dancing, she’s always in the outfit Jabba chose for her to wear. When Jabba the Hutt told Leia that she’d come to appreciate him, he wasn’t lying.
Star Wars Kinect, in the levels involving Jabba, seems almost single-mindedly obsessed with documenting the intergalactic space gangster’s sexual hang-ups, from his love of bondage to his need to be insulted by the women in his life. Assuming a “special relationship” between Jabba and Leia, Jabba’s death aboard his sand-barge in Return of the Jedi must now be ruled accidental, a case of Jabba not knowing when to use his safe word. Poor Leia. Such tragedy in her young life. Is it any wonder she ends up with nice guy Han Solo?
Every Popular Dance Song—From “Y.M.C.A.” to “Bulletproof—Was Written “A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far, Far Away.”
Moreover, they were all propaganda pieces for the Rebel Alliance or the Galactic Empire. “Y.M.C.A.,” for instance, began life as “Empire Today,” a charming narrative on the benefits of becoming a stormtrooper, one of which was “hanging out with all the droids.” “Blasterproof,” which would later become LaRoux’s “Bulletproof,” was a charming song written to Jedi Knights considering making a switch to the Dark Side. “Hologram Girl” isn’t quite the paen to sexually liberated women it would later become in Gwen Stefani’s hands, but an ode to “real women” who dig things like engine binders and podracing.
Really, this is a tremendous coup for Star Wars fans, who have long lagged behind Trekkies and Stanley Kubrick nerds in pointing out ways that their preferred science fiction opus has taken root in the real world. Sure, 2001: A Space Odyssey has the iPad, but Star Wars has the music people play on the iPad. We may be close to replicating the technology of Star Trek, but considering the endless numbered dance shows on TV, the way Glee adapts popular music to suit the needs of its plot, and how hip college kids hold dance marathons to raise awareness and money for certain issues, we’re already living Star Wars. Yes, Star Wars Kinect may be a half-baked game on a nearly-dead peripheral, but sometimes the truth is revealed to us in less than pleasant ways. This game changes everything, people, and change is good.
2011 was not a good year to be a bastard. The hacking scandal in the UK press made the likes of Andy Coulson, Piers Morgan, Tony Blair, Rupert and James Murdoch, Rebekah Brooks and others look like total twats (you know, if stuff like the the mass murder of Iraqis, running a worldwide multi-billion dollar disinformation network and judging on Britain’s Got Talent didn’t already mean you had few worlds left to conquer in your career as an abstract representation of a woman’s vagina). The Arab Spring meant Col. Gaddafi was lynched, but not before being anally probed with a stick. Osama bin Laden found himself on the receiving end of the culmination of some Delta Force squaddie’s endless hours of X-Box Live practice. Kim Jong-Il, of whom I’ve been an admirer ever since I learned he could control the weather by sheer force of will, sadly passed away. And, finally, it turned out that pneumonia was the one thing Jim couldn’t fix.
So, 2011: not a good year to be a bastard.
Unless you’re Batman.
Because the casualty list of cunts was not limited to reality, but extended into that favourite fictional world where dressing up like a furry gimp and savagely thrashing the economically disadvantaged on a nightly basis is a sane – nay, heroic – response to serious urban sociological issues.
(In fairness, Batman’s origin makes a lot more sense than, say, Spider-Man’s. Parents killed by a criminal? Fight crime. Bitten by a radioactive spider? Dress up like… something… and fight… things. Erm. Great responsibility.)
In Arkham City, the sequel to 2009′s Arkham Asylum, Hugo Strange, Ra’s al Ghul, Talia al Ghul and, finally, even the Joker himself, all met their violent ends. In the Joker’s case, this was particularly final (and, sadly, predictable), as Mark Hammil, who has voiced the character on screen since my childhood, announced his retirement from the role some months before.
And Batman, make no mistake about it, is a bastard in this game. Aside from his usual M.O. of administering brutal beatings to his (mainly, let’s face it, disabled) adversaries, he also ties up women and psychologically tortures them (what else would you call his humiliating treatment of Harley Quinn here?) and makes constant quips about his vigilante war. He seems to hold out particular disdain for Mr Freeze, a character who I remember being a tragic figure in the outstanding early 90s Animated Series (many of the voice actors from that are retained for Arkham City, as well as head writer Paul Dini, from which I infer at least some degree of continuity).
Freeze, who has already been kidnapped by the Joker and put in an oven by the villainous Penguin (far and away the best part of this game, a cross between an Alan Ford character and Burgess Meredith), finds himself on the receiving end of Batman’s casual sociopathy, watching helplessly as the Dark Knight drains the fluid Freeze needs to live and begins to pour it down a drain. This was punishment for Freeze daring to negotiate, agreeing to help Batman only if Batman would save Freeze’s wife from the Joker. I mean, I’d have thought Batman saving a hostage would go without saying. Isn’t that what he does?
(Apparently not. Even after promising Freeze he would. And punching Freeze repeatedly in the face long after Freeze has been rendered helpless.)
Which is all a good laugh, and it goes in tandem with some very fun gameplay, which feels like a cross between the Spider-Man games and Metal Gear Solid. It should be noted that I’m not much of a video gamer – if it’s not Resident Evil 4, I’d usually regard it as an insulting waste of my time. So I made a pretty bad defender of Gotham City – about ten minutes into my tenure, I was given AIDS by the Joker, which means I’m vying with Matter-Eater Lad and those dreadful nerds in muscle suits you see on the news round-up, who end up getting their heads kicked in in some West Coast suburb in broad daylight, for the title of worst superhero of all time.
I do, however, consider reading nonlinear, avant garde or altogether fucked up literature to be a bit of a hobby. Borges, Beckett, Burroughs, Ballard, you name it, I’ve got an uninformed opinion on it. In addition, I am a bit of a comics nerd, despite my healthy disdain for superheroics. Despite these obvious advantages, I have not a fucking clue what was happening in this story. I don’t know why there was an Arkham City instead of a Gotham City, I don’t know why the Joker was infected with an STD, I don’t have the slightest grasp on the motivations of any of the villains (except for Clayface, whose character arc follows the natural ambition of a giant sentient turd in that he longs to play the greatest acting role in the world, which is apparently the Joker), I don’t know which Robin shows up, what Protocol 10 was, why the Penguin was suddenly a Cockney or why he had it in for Bruce Wayne. Dini, whom I’d always thought was a fairly straight-forward scripter (straight-forward in that most of his stories seem to involve his wife shagging Batman), should be sectioned under some kind of mental health act for imposing this psychedelic mess on the kind of young, simple, impressionable minds that play computer games.
If you’re a drugged-out out spacecase or an unemployed drop-out with too much time on his (I’m working under the assumption girls still don’t play video games) hands, I can’t really recommend this game. The target audience here is people with a grasp on reality that is slightly less tenuous. Likewise, if you suffer from depression, you might find what I assume is the trusty Unreal engine, combined with an essentially dystopic world where it’s considered politically viable to set up an open community for the mentally ill before using military helicopters to gun them down, contributing to some kind of episode. Which is not to say I give enough of a shit to weigh into the debate as to whether video games make you psychotic or violent – they’re far more likely just to make you stupid or functionally illiterate.
But if you don’t have an addictive personality or any kind of brain injury, you might enjoy the thrill of getting to be Batman: the only bastard left in town.
At the risk of taking a machete and hacking the Uwe Boll pinata to pieces, I’d like to point out that this is not the focus of the article, despite Uwe Boll giving the video game industry a reason to reject his ideas like a transplant recipient.
Movie-goers at the very least are perverse voyeurs who slip ten bucks into the slot of a peep show booth on the weekends. All the dizzying, mesmerizing sights that are on display are strictly from the “look but don’t touch” department simply because watching chaos and disorder that can never affect us in any physical way is by far the most safest means to enjoy such a journey.
Video games have obliterated that fourth wall to a point where you not only control the pace and flow of a story; you are directly responsible for the virtual life in your hands. Much like a general who commands far from a battlefield through a plethora of television monitors, barking out orders and watching them come to fruition. Sure, you’ll lose some men. Don’t worry there’s more coming. There’s always more coming.
The causality of decision making reaches far beyond the next save point. It means what you decide to do today could have exponential repercussions, quite literally, years from now, depending on how long the franchise stays alive and how many evolutionary systems it appears on. All of those breakfast McGriddles suddenly don’t sound like such a good idea, do they?
Video games are the skin movies have tried to live in but never could and vice versa. The translation of content between these two mediums has been broken and jarred at best, much in the same way a book is almost never turned into a great movie. And seriously, when was the last time you read the novelization of any film and thought “Pulitzer. All the way.” Come to think of it, what novelization followed the movie exactly, if at all? And what would possess someone to read what they’ve seen as if to prove to themselves it’s the same? It’s like eating pizza in Italy and getting pissed it doesn’t taste like Domino’s.
But I digress to make this point. When you spend millions of dollars for casting directors, scriptwriters, foley artists, landscape and design, musical scores; essentially all of the bone and sinew that becomes the basis for a movie, but produce an interactive technology, why on Earth would you reproduce it as a movie? What idea could you possibly introduce into such a confined space that would work better inside of a box, rather in an impossible environment and one I could enjoy on my own time.
This “remake” disease that has infected the landscape of cinema is little more than the next outbreak of “let’s do non-stop superhero movies” that has left most intelligent writers in quarantine and others emaciated and working for The Asylum. The fact is, a character that I have built a rapport with over a dozen hours by making he or she narrowly escape a death trap is a feeling of accomplishment I will never get from a ninety-minute cardboard look alike.
Hollywood needs to wake up to what everyone else in the video game industry has been saying since the last decade. Our medium is not your medium. Your medium can never be our medium. It’s time to stop trying to stuff the video game dough into the stringent movie house mold and put the debate to rest. With money as a sole justification to turn a video game into a movie removes the heart of the original project and simply tells all those hard working people at “Company Studios” that they didn’t do a good enough job the first time around.
Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. And Uwe Boll should have never.