ROM Update for Contra with Friends

Contra with Friends

Well shit.

Seriously. When I first planned the story boards for “Contra with Friends” I had way too many shots, and on top of that I wanted to include what I thought would be a semi-complicated shot. I knew the shot might end up being more than I could handle, so I went through the boards again and really scaled everything back, and I tried to see where I could get the most out of my assets. I thought I had it all nice and tidy and ready to roll.

Well I’ve been working on the “semi-complicated” shot for well over a month now. That would be “Shot 04″ to be exact. I decided to wanted to do this traditionally, meaning no fancy puppeting with Flash. It’s all straight up drawings the old fashion way. It’s 97 frame long running at 24fps, meaning it’s only about 4 seconds long. Some of it is running on twos, so I don’t actually have to draw all 97 frames… well I sort of do. This shot has three characters involved, all interacting with one another in some way. I of course starting out by roughing out the entire sequence. There was a lot to tweak during that phase, some of which meant that I needed to go back and reanimate some of the frames completely. After that I went through and “cleaned up” (I use this term loosely because my clean up job is yikes) each of the characters. So while it’s 97 frames long, each character is their own symbol, so I need to go through those three symbols separately. Two of the characters are around for half the time, so they’re both around for the same length as the main character. To put it into simple terms, it’s a lot of god damn drawings.

So for the last week and a half I’ve been coloring these cleaned up frames. I’m currently halfway through only one of the characters. Each colored frame (as seen above) takes me about 20 minutes to do. I’m probably doing it ass backwards, but the colors are on three layers. The flat color is its own, the shadows/highlights are another, and the black clean line is on top. I average around 3 – 4 frames each night I work on it. At this rate, I’m going to be here for a long while. In an effort to shave off a few minutes, I actually ditched the highlights on Bill’s pants moving forward. I went as far as to erase the ones I put in on some of the previous ones too (they just so happened to still be there on the first frame when I grabbed that still).

This is leading me to possibly rethink the rest of the short. I obviously can’t continue the rest of the short like this, I’ll just never get it done, and to be honest, it wouldn’t be worth it. I’m currently in the process of maybe further changing the pacing of the short and the actual story and jokes. If I do that, the short won’t be called “Contra with Friends” anymore. I had thought maybe I could get this whole short done by the end of May, hoping I could have it out before I leave on vacation. I’ll be lucky to have Shot 04 done by the end of May. It still needs all the character animation, then it needs some slight effects work, a background, and finally some camera work. The end of June is looking the MOST likely. What the fuck was I thinking?

So of course I need to make it all worth it, which is why I’m rethinking most of how this short is going to play out. I may leave it as is, but I guess the silver lining of this particular shot is that I can rebuild around it. This shot isn’t telling any kind of joke or anything, I just want to capture the essence of Contra.

Anyway, yeah I wish I could go back in time and tell myself I was crazy for even thinking this was a good idea.

The Magazine Treasure Chest

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Ever since I moved into my house I’ve had two giant storage containers full of video game magazines sitting in my basement. They’re ridiculously heavy, in fact, after pulling them out of storage I’m not even sure how I was able to get them down there in the first place. I had two purposes to go through these containers, one of which actually pertains to ROM Vol 2, and the second of which is to simply throw this stuff out.

What I’ve discovered in these bins however are not only vintage game magazines, but pieces of my art and my life that I actually forgot I had. I’ve found so much stuff that I decided to make a multi-part feature for the site because there is just way too much to cover all in one shot. I figured a good way to start this series of articles would be the one that pertains to Shamoozal the most, my rediscovery of the first picture of Jacquo the Rabbit I’ve ever drawn. Yup. The original.

I thought I had lost this notebook as I’ve managed to throw out most of my old grade & high school notebooks (yes, I kept those in addition to my magazines because many of them were more like sketchbooks than notebooks). I must have been kind of forward thinking because I put it in with these bins knowing that it would be safe. The best part is that since he was first drawn in a notebook during class (Religion class no less) is that it’s actually dated. I can peg the creation of Jacquo on October 15th of 1998. The actual year isn’t written, but considering the vast amounts of notes I left myself about the impending release of The Legends of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, I can naturally guess that it was 1998. This would put me in my Junior year of high school, already working at KB Toys, and already running the Shamoozal in some form.

Looking at this Jacquo, not much has changed. I buttoned up his coat, ditched the ear tag and necklace and cleaned up his fur a bit. He’s also saying “bitch” which I thought would be hilarious to come out of a rabbits mouth at the time (it’s not that hilarious). I’m pretty certain in all of the old Jacquo shorts (which no one will ever see) he said “bitch” in all of them. Probably multiple times in some of them. “Bitch” was Jacquo’s “Cowabunga” basically.

In this second image I’m envisioning him on a bar stool. I can remember trying to figure out how big I wanted him to be. In my mind, he was kind of a Roger Rabbit size character, not the size of a adult human or the actual animal, but somewhere in between. Next to that is a shot of him bending over and farting. The shot is ugly, but I was obviously fleshing out the idea of the first Jacquo short here in the middle of class (of all places). In the first crude episode of Jacquo (again, one you won’t see) I used this exact shot and animated him farting at a character. Basically in “Jacquo the Drunken Rabbit” Jacquo is having a drink when someone tells him he “can’t do that here.” Jacquo gets mad says “Shut up bitch” in which the opposite character responds “WHAT?” only to be followed up with a six frame animated loop of Jacquo farting. The end. That was the whole short. I know it by heart.

Interestingly enough, further ahead in the book I found a poorly drawn storyboard sequence for “Jacquo the Drunken Rabbit 2.” That “short” played out exactly as depicted here. It’s terrible, but I find it kind of funny that Religion class is where I not only created Jacquo, but where I continued to develop the character and the shorts. This storyboard sequence could have been in a Science notebook for all I know, but somehow it ended up in this very Religion one days, maybe months later (it’s not dated).

I was likely going through some sort of rebellious period here. Thinking back on it, I didn’t particularly like my teacher for this class and I dreaded school on top of that. I actually had her the following year for Algebra 2 I believe (or some sort of Math) in which I continued to draw pictures all through class. She thought that moving me to the front of the room would solve my problem. Not so as I continued to draw right in front of her face (I guess that IS pretty rude). I can vividly remember her calling me out in front of the entire class while I was drawing what I thought was a sweet picture of Qui Gon Jinn from Star Wars Episode 1. She made me look like a fool and told me maybe I’d actually be doing well in class if I stopped drawing and paid attention. I looked at her and said nothing thinking about nothing more than finishing this drawing before the bell rang. When she stopped, I looked down and went right back to drawing. I sure showed her! But then she sure showed me when I actually failed the class. I willingly failed it though, I handed back several tests where I only signed my name at the top and didn’t fill in a single answer. Maybe I was a prick.

I guess there’s a bit of me in Jacquo after all.

Read the rest of the Magazine Treasure Chest

Part 1 – First Drawings of Jacquo
Part 2 – My work sort of in print
Part 3 – Magazine Memories
Part 4 – Old Drawings

Movie Info of the Week (May 2-6 2011)

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My DVD/Blu-Ray Pick
Green Hornet

The Green Hornet – I never got around to seeing this movie and I heard mixed reactions. Maybe that’s why I never saw it, not enough positive feedback to persuade me. But it still seems like it could be fun. I’m a fan of Seth Rogen and director Michel Gondry has created some amazing projects, including one of my favorite movies, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Christoph Waltz was amazing as the villain in Inglourious Basterds so I’d like to see him as a baddie yet again. It got caught up in the superhero genre even though its not really a superhero type movie. More like a vigilante story with comedy mixed in. Now that its coming out on video, I’ll definitely be checking it out.

My Theater Pick
Thor

Thor – I am finding it a little hard to get pumped up for the various comic book movies due out this year and in the coming years. Maybe its overkill? I don’t know but Thor isn’t really sparking much interest from me. I felt the same way about Iron Man and ended up really enjoying the hell out of that movie. In fact, it was one of my Top 10 movies of 2008. I’m hoping Thor surprises me too but the idea of a Thunder God coming down to Earth and trying to “fit in” with modern times while battling the other gods, just doesn’t get the hype train moving out of this station. Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman are fine actors and all, and Kenneth Branagh is a good director, but I guess the story just isn’t jumping out at me. I will still see it regardless.

Box Office Results
Fast Five

Holy Hell. Fast Five made over $80 million at the box office this past weekend, setting a record as biggest April opening ever. EVER! Fast Five now owns that month. Insane. Part 5 in the series has made more in the opening weekend than any of the others. For sure we will be seeing Part 6 and maybe even 7. The other new releases bombed big time because Fast Five stole everyone’s cash. Summer blockbuster season starts this Friday so we’ll see if Paul Walker and Vin Diesel can hold on to that coveted spot.

Also coming out in stores this week is The Dilemma, From Prada to Nada and The PJs Season 1.

Also coming out in theaters this weekend is Something Borrowed and Jumping The Broom.

Movie Info of the Week (Apr 25-29 2011)

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My DVD/Blu-Ray Pick
South Park

South Park: Season 14 – not a lot to choose from on the movie front this week so I’m picking one of my favorite TV comedies of all time. Yes, South Park is still hilarious after 14 seasons. One of the edgiest shows out there while keeping current with pop culture. Season 14 poked fun at Tiger Woods, Facebook, Tom Cruise (again), NASCAR, Jersey Shore and Inception. There’s an episode about medicinal marijuana, Coon & Friends return and a hilarious finale with the Shake Weight and an obsession with the Food Network. Season 15 starts this Wednesday, April 27th so there’s no better way to get in the mood than rewatching Season 14.

My Theater Pick
Fast Five

Fast Five – When the original The Fast & The Furious movie came out, I wouldn’t have imagined myself being intrigued by a fifth installment of the series. I wasn’t even the least bit interested in the second installment. But after the terrible 2 Fast 2 Furious and the even worse The Fast & The Furious: Tokyo Drift, the franchise brought back the stars and had a decent outing with Fast & Furious. Yes, these names are so annoying. Anyway, Fast & Furious director Justin Lin returns for Fast Five, bringing back the stars of the previous movies like Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Ludacris, Tyrese and Jordana Brewster. This time adding in Dwayne THE ROCK Johnson as the cop on their tail during a big heist. Looks like it could be another fun action movie that is leading into summer blockbuster season.

Box Office Results
Rio

Rio is still kicking ass and taking names at the box office bringing in close to $27 million. It even beat a Tyler Perry movie this weekend. That’s really saying something since those movies always make some big cash. Madea’s Big Happy Family was right behind it with about $26 million. Lets see if Rio can hold on for yet another weekend.

Also coming out in stores this week is Growing Pains Season 2, Knockout with Stone Cold Steve Austin and Dinoshark.

Also coming out in theaters this weekend is Dylan Dog: Dead of Night starring Brandon Routh as a vampire hunter, Prom starring a bunch of teens getting ready for prom and the animated sequel Hoodwinked Too: Hood vs. Evil.

I still sort of like the movie Lucas

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I was flipping through the channels tonight while my wife and I were feeding the babies getting them ready for bed. That is when I stumbled across Lucas, the 1986 film starring Corey Haim in which he plays a geeky kid that’s attempting to woo over the slightly older Maggie, played by Kerri Green. Surprisingly my wife has never seen it, and since it had been so long since I’ve seen it I decided to leave it on, mostly for nostalgic sake.

While I only saw the second half of the movie (if that) during this viewing, I was still familiar enough with it that it was easy picking up what was going on. Not that Lucas is some complicated tale or anything, it’s actually a semi-predictable high school coming of age tale. The semi-predictable part is kind of what makes the movie still interesting to me. See, Lucas doesn’t eventually win over the woman of his dreams, and while it’s heavily implied that a very young Winona Ryder has eyes for him, nothing ever comes of it. In the end, all Lucas gets is a little bit of respect when in actuality all he was looking for was love.

It’s a strange story really, and bit unsure of what it wants to be. Is it a love story or coming of age story? Is it both? Lucas spends the whole movie courting Maggie (and who can blame him? She was one of my biggest celebrity crushes growing up), the new girl in town that befriends him over the course of the summer. He gets angry with Maggie when she begins to conform to normal school activities, like becoming a cheerleader, and is even more upset when she takes a liking to Charlie Sheen’s character (also super young. Crazy how calm and cool he looked here as opposed to what he’s doing these days). Lucas even goes as far telling Maggie that he’s taking her to a dance, showing up in a snazzy outfit, but she refuses and instead decides to hang out with Sheen. He finally catches them making out a bit later and has a small meltdown.

When Maggie confronts him about it, Lucas asks why they need to be “just friends.” It’s an interesting subject, how many people have heard that in their life? I mean, I know I have anyway. Countless times. Maggie kind of shrugs it off and explains that she’s older and then finally says that she’s just not into him like that. I guess that is kind of what it boils down to doesn’t it? I mean, either you’re into someone, or you’re not. Still, Lucas attempts a kiss and gets rejected. Maggie attempts to make light of it and he has a shit fit and orders her away.

So this is where things get a little weird. The final 20 to 30 minutes of the film sees Lucas trying out for the high school’s football team. It’s out of character for little Lucas, whom has spent the entire movie shitting on this kind of behavior, but he’s so eager to win over Maggie that he’ll do anything. Long story short, he gets tortured by the team, ridiculed by the coach, but eventually gets to play. In what has to be one of the longest slow mo scenes ever, Lucas has his big chance to make a play during the game. He completely drops the ball and gets destroyed. Bodies upon bodies stacked up on him. They pull out his beaten body and send him to the hospital.

It’s here where Maggie learns that Lucas was actually fibbing about the type of life had. He told her he came from money, but he really lived in the world’s worst trailer park. Maggie questions what she knows of Lucas, but still loves the kid even though it’s not “in that way.” She visits him in the hospital and the two have a bit of a strange conversation about where they’ll be in their lives 17 years from then.

When Lucas returns to school, he’s greeted with jeers from the other students, but it turns out they really have a surprise for him. He opens the locker and finds a brand new football jacket with his name and player number on the back. The entire school then proceeds to slow clap for him (but in Sheen’s case, he just bangs on the locker he’s standing next to). Lucas is thrilled that he has been accepted by his peers, and the film ends with him in celebration.

So the character arc that Lucas takes is a bit strange. Lucas’ goal was not to win respect from the rest of the school, especially the football team. He simply wanted to impress Maggie, which didn’t work. She still liked him the same regardless of what he did, for better or worse. Instead he became one of the most respected kids in his class, just because he decided to go get his ass beat. I suppose this could be looked at as a big weakness in the film, but I guess that is kind of what makes it unique. Lucas doesn’t get what he think he wants, but what he needs. And maybe, just maybe I see a little bit of Lucas in me when I was that age. I guess I can relate to him. I didn’t exactly have the happy ending in high school either, but I guess not many do. Which is fine, I had my happy ending not long after in meeting my wife.

Anyway, why the fuck am I still awake right now and writing about Lucas? Shit.

Movie Info of the Week (Apr 18-22 2011)

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My DVD/Blu-Ray Pick
Kings Speech

The King’s Speech – based on the true story of King George VI, played by Colin Firth. He is forced into the role of King but has a speech impediment that blows his confidence. Oscar winning and nominated performances by Firth, Helena Bonham Carter and Geoffrey Rush. Best Director in Tom Hooper and also Best Screenplay. What else? Oh yeah, Best Picture. Lots of awards and praise for this film. Definitely worth a watch due to that alone.

My Theater Pick
Water for Elephants

Water for Elephants – picking a Robert Pattinson movie for my Theater Pick of the week may seem like an odd choice but honestly I don’t hate the guy. Good for him for cashing in on the tweens by taking the Twilight role. But lets see if this kid can really act. This movie is based on a best selling novel and deals with a love story between people working at a circus. Reese Witherspoon and Christoph Waltz complete the love triangle with Pattinson that causes the tension. Looks like its beautifully shot and might have some really dramatic performances. Its not a definite winner but it has potential.

Box Office Results
Rio

Rio rocked the box office, bringing in $40 million. Animated movies just DESTROY! Hop tore shit up the last 2 weekends and now Rio probably will for a couple weeks. I guess there’s nothing better than taking your kid to the movies and hoping he/she zones out for a couple hours. Scream 4 may have taken second place but it didn’t even crack the $20 million mark. Surprisingly a limited release called The Conspirator from actor/director Robert Redford made the Top 10, pretty much ensuring it will get a wide release.

Also coming out in stores this week is Gulliver’s Travels, Somewhere, The Way Back, Rabbit Hole, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Season 6 and American Dad Volume 6.

Also coming out in theaters this weekend is Madea’s Big Happy Family and Disney Nature’s African Cats.

Pilotwings Resort Review – Two greats form one kind of great

Pilotwings Resort

Pilotwings Resort

A glance at my save file on Pilotwings Resort, the strange 3DS launch title that acts as a sequel to Pilotwings 64 and quasi-sequel to Wii Sports Resort, reveals that I’ve spent a majority of my game time playing Free Flight Mode. Free Flight Mode is actually ripped directly out of Wii Sports Resort in which the goal is to slowly explore all of Wuhu Island in an attempt to gather information on the island and find hidden items. At first I had zero interest heading into Free Flight mode as I felt I had my fill of Wuhu by the hours I’ve spent playing Air Sports in Wii Sports Resort, but upon playing I once again became addicted to what is essentially a cheap filler mode in order to pad the game.

Here I am, spending a solid chunk of time on my brand spanking new (and over priced) 250 dollar 3DS unit playing something I played before roughly two years ago. I don’t regret this at all, because I was having fun doing this. To me, it’s a testament to the mechanics of Pilotwings Resort, a series that has always struck a good balance between simulation and arcade control. Sure, I’ve played this all before, but not with Pilotwings pitch perfect hang glider, rocket belt and plane control. The 3DS’ slide pad feels great, and the range of subtle motion may even put the traditional analog stick to shame. I almost kind of found myself wanting something like this for console games. Maybe I’m just having some kind of honeymoon with the slide pad and my feelings on it will level out with time, but as of now I’m kind of loving it.

The core game itself is made up of a bunch of bit sized missions (roughly 3 minutes long each) where the player earns stars to progress. All of these missions could probably be seen in less than 2 hours depending on the skill of the player. The real challenge lies in getting three stars on all of the missions in order to unlock the final set of hidden missions. Dedicated players that come to adore the game can then attempt to get a perfect score on every mission (something I personally don’t have in me) which I imagine will lead to other rewards. I spent a healthy amount of time, roughly 10 hours total, going through all of Mission Mode and Free Flight. Not too bad for a game being billed as a three hour experience (though admittedly, Free Flight did get tiresome when I was down to the final few objects to find). If Pilotwings clicks with the player, they’ll be in it for the long haul, but if the player is only interested in blowing through mission mode, they’ll obviously feel somewhat cheated by what the game offers.

Being that this is my first and only 3DS game, my initial reaction to the 3D effect was that while I found it kind of neat I would never play with it turned on. I had a headache after a few minutes the first night I had the 3DS and thought that would be the extent of my time with 3D turned on. After all, when I saw Avatar in 3D I had a pounding headache by the end and found myself having a hard time even seeing the 3D in most cases. Regardless, I decided to toggle the 3D on from time to time and I’ve now come around to it. I like playing Pilotwings in 3D, and while some of the claims that 3D changes the game in that players can better judge their distance is kind of bull crap, it sure does look fancy. The actual 3D effect has some issues as far as finding the sweet spot, but that’s an issue inherent in the 3DS itself.

As a launch game Pilotwings makes a fine product, though unlike the N64 days this isn’t the only choice other than Super Mario 64. I guess depending on your perspective of the 3DS launch it is either the only choice, or eclipsed by other offerings like Super Street Fighter IV. It lacks the length, variation of modes and air craft of Pilotwings 64 (at least, from what I remember) but it makes up for that with the most sound control and flight mechanics in the series. Also, it’s just such a nice relaxing game to tune out too.

Would I buy a 3DS just play Pilotwings? No (though I guess you could say that I did personally do that… oops), but if you already own a 3DS or plan on getting one anyway, you could do much worse.