Kickstarter Progress

kickstarter progress

With 18 days left on our Kickstarter, we have 55 backers and nearly 60% of our goal met! But I wanted to take this opportunity to thank some great peeps who’ve supported our project from the get-go:

The Otaku Judge – one of our first backers, most constant commenter, and great reviewer-of-anime – Thanks for turning Geek Out South-West’s attention over to us, thanks for your support, and thanks just all around. What a guy!

Geek Out South-West – thank you for the tremendous shout-out! Posted just today, we already got two additional pledges within less than an hour of your post. Hats off to you, sirs!

Ross Tunney – Another fantastic project creator you can find on Kickstarter – currently has a live campaign for his awesome, anime-inspired game, Data Hacker. Thanks for the shout-outs, Ross!

And I’d love to take this moment to thank not only anyone who has backed us, but anyone who has spread the word about Legend of Lotus – even if unable to financially back us. Please help us keep this campaign going! If any of your friends A) are rich B) love retro games or C) all of the above, send them our way for our eternal gratitude.

If anyone out there has ever wanted to take part in video game creation but lacks the time, the energy, the money, the skills or the… creativity, by backing even just $1, your name will be memorialized in our credits. By playing the demo and offering feedback, or becoming a $15 backer and downloading the game through its Beta stage, you can earn a special place in our credits as a consultant.

As long as we’re talking about Kickstarter, here are some great projects currently live:

Aegis Defenders – a visually stunning pixel art game

Steam Punk & Cthulu Soundtracks – a soundtrack production group to create awesome soundscapes for tabletop gaming

 

And finally, I’d like to give a preview of a new concept we’re planning to develop once Legend of Lotus is done:

1

We’re exploring 2D platformer construction using Unity – with a totally new art style. But not only will the art be completely different; the storytelling, game mechanisms/play, and goals will be completely different too.

aki

 

Without words, this game will tell the simple but moving story exploring the depths of the bond between a dog and her boy. It will be a pixel art game with puzzle mechanisms, and a simple, clear story with one goal: to get home with your boy. The above .gif is a rough design of the dog’s sprite, animated by yours truly.

Our goal to finish Legend of Lotus is January, provided the Kickstarter goes through. Production on Bound is slated to begin shortly thereafter. Wish us luck!

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Edo-Inspired Woman

I’ve recently been introduced to the Weekly Art Challenges on RPG Maker’s official forum. They’re fun themed little challenges that ask for submissions each week on the forum. Thought I’d share mine for this week’s. The theme is historically-inspired. This is mine, a woman inspired by Japan’s Edo Period:

edo

 

Her kimono is not in the exact style of the Edo period, but the lithe figure is a nod to that traditional period, as well as the make-up and hair style.

A Few Characters and Sprites

I wrote the other day about syncing up sprites and portraits. Today, I wanted to show a few completed ones:

bogs

bogs-walking

 

Hanlo-Normal

hanlo-walking

 

roguish girl normal

janna-walking

 

Here are some basic approximations of some NPCs and their sprites. If you take a close look, you’ll notice some details that might cause a discrepancy, as discussed the other day… but nothing too glaring, right?

Characters in the Cold

Ren Jacket-Normal

Jtaya-normal

So far, I have two jacket designs down for the colder climate areas! The only problem is that we might not be able to make the battlers match the difference – though the travel avatars will.

What do you think of changing character clothing depending on the climate?

Manga Review: Dawn of the Arcana (Volumes 1-12)

I used to spend every Saturday afternoon – or any evening/afternoon/day I had free, really – hanging out at Borders, sipping on some milk tea, and reading manga. It started with Sailor Moon, and other classics like Ranma 1/2, Rurouni Kenshin, Neon Genesis Evangelion, of course Dragon Ball Z, Trigun and loads of magic girl stories, like Ceres and Yu Watase’s other gem, Fushigi Yugi. It followed with the boon of manga that came later: several CLAMP works, Nana, and later, some sillier girly ones: Love Com, Monkey High, Otomen (hilarious!), and Skip Beat. But of late – and especially since Borders closed – I’ve felt like truly engaging manga were few and far between. It could be that I’m getting older. Or it could be that the American manga market is getting flooded with Twilight clones like Black Bird. Whatever the case, I turned to DC and Marvel to fill my animated reading needs though on a much sparser basis.

I picked up Toma Rei’s Dawn of the Arcana months ago – probably over a year ago – with low expectations. But I’ve just read volume twelve, and I have to say: it’s reminding me of the feelings – the anticipation and excitement – I had when I was a kid begging my parents to take my to Borders, where I was reading four-five different series at a time. Probably the last manga I felt this way about was Red River.

The Story

Centered on Princess Nakaba of Senan, she was born of an ignoble complexion for her land: red hair. True royalty in the region is viewed as having black hair. But her black-haired mother had run off with a commoner and thus she was born with a look that was not only disrespected, but relentlessly mocked and disgraced – to the point that she was hidden away from the land’s subjects for most of her life. Her only friend, Loki, is a member of another maligned group: the ajin, who are humanoids with animal traits that are enslaved and mistreated by humans.

Senan and its rival kingdom, Belquat, are nearly always in a state of war. To ease tensions, Nakaba is offered in marriage to Prince Caesar. In a classic tsundere style, Caesar initially is immature and taunts her, but the two soon fall in love. His father, the king of Belquat, though, fears the Arcana of Time – and it’s for that very reason that he wiped out her race, leaving her the lone survivor. Tension rises when he discovers her heritage.

Initially, it felt like standard fair to me. Girl marries jerk, eventually falls in love, but her best friends loves her and has always been kinder… she’s a princess… she’s super special because she’s just the most special person in the world… conflict, yadda yadda… obstacles to overcome………… you know the schtick. But Dawn of the Arcana has pushed expectations for me.

For example, Caesar and Nakaba, at this point, are only a prince and princess in Belquat – still under the rule of his antagonistic parents. Senan, on the other hand, is controlled by Nakaba’s cold and uncaring grandfather, and seems destined to be ruled by her spoiled bully of a cousin. Peace looks like a distant dream. But with each kingdom destroying villages of ajin and threatening destruction of the other, time is running short. The two become uncertain of whether they can wait for time to run its course. So they hatch a plan.

In a twist I never expected, Nakaba leaves Belquat – and by effect, Caesar – and returns home to Senan, where she remarries her cousin, the heir apparent, in a grab for power and with hopes of one day reuniting with Caesar. This was impressive to me because shojo manga so rarely has a girl that displays the strength needed to leave her love, by her own choice, indefinitely. And because of the limits of her power, she doesn’t know exactly when they will reunite. In many ways, it is Nakaba who leads Caesar along, hatching plans and somewhat dubious ones for a young girl, like a political (but of course it’s chaste) marriage, at that.

The story, to me, rates at a fair 5/5 – not in terms of this simplistic overview, but in the details Toma infuses.

The Characters

The protagonists are, of course: Nakaba, her eventual love Caesar, and her best friend/loyal protector/long-time admirer, the ajin Loki. The antagonists would be Caesar’s parents and a majority of Nakaba’s remaining family. The cast is also filled out by some fairly standard shojo characters: the willowy, princess-y girl who despite being everything Nakaba was expected to be is utterly sweet and her best friend; the jealous brother who wants to take the protagonist from her love interest due to spite more than love; the boy lolita; loyal-to-unnatural degrees servants.

What sets apart the cast, for me, are Nakaba’s true strength of mind, her willingness to step into moral grays, and her ability to deny her own wants in pursuit of her ideals. Her longing for true peace is such that she’s willing to sacrifice all else that is important to her. She’s willing to threaten lives to advance her goals. She’s willing to tread in the gray area that shoji manga all too often side-steps. And Toma really makes us see how gray her choices are, as opposed to some lesser manga who try to make minor offenses seems like major moral dilemmas.

The characters, weighed down by some pretty standard archetypes, are saved by the likability of Nakaba, and the balance made between the rest of the cast. I’ll give it a 4/5.

The Art

A bit simplistic, I do find it refreshingly nostalgic – a bit of a callback to the 90s style I grew up with. The people themselves are not superbly drawn, but Toma – or at least one of her assistants – is very good with clothing and scenery. Again, for a mainstream manga that I know probably has some serious deadlines to meet, I’ll give it a 4/5.

Overall

All in all, I’m hooked. It was slow going at first, and I mostly picked it up because the costumes were worth examining. But the story has really progressed in an engaging – even addicting arc. Overall, I’ll give it a solid 4.5/5 stars as a superb shojo manga.

Have you read this series? How do you feel?

Why a Reboot of Sailor Moon is Needed

Many people remember Sailor Moon as unwaveringly and unapologetically ridiculous and girly. And many people would be right.

In the name of the moon, and not S&M- definitely, certainly… I mean… S&M… Sailor Moon… holy cow! did I stumble onto a secret code?!, anyways- I WILL PUNISH YOU!

If, that is, they’re thinking about the anime. See, like many works the anime and the manga differ immensely.

This really terrific manga, which basically on its own revitalized and recreated the magic girl genre, had been reduced from basically a coming-of-age story for girls with a character who progressively matures and tackles difficult, literally world-changing decisions to kind of a platform for goofiness. Yes, while still unabashedly a girly fantasy, the manga also had more dramatic undertones, coupled with plenty of mythological allusions and mature themes. For example, in the later books Mamoru (aka Darien aka Tuxedo Mask) was even wiped from existence by the latest foe and Usagi, stricken with PTSD, couldn’t remember it as anything other than a dream (as he had been traveling to America for college at the time of the incident). Later, she struggled with the idea that staying with him in what was basically the afterlife could endanger the rest of the universe – literally a would-you-save-one-despite-the-many ordeal. Michiru and Haruka, in the manga, had a more complex relationship, too, than even what was presented in the Japanese anime – and were certainly not cousins. Feminine empowerment is highlighted, and so Usagi’s transformation from a careless teen to a responsible leader even more pronounced. Oh, also, Darien/Mamoru is a high-schooler, too, when we first meet him. So that’s way less creepy. (It was always pretty ambiguous in the anime),

One time, after my friends told me that Pokemon was now on Netflix and it was almost embarrassing to watch, I looked up clips of the anime that I so used to enjoy. One of the only ones I could find were of a kiss between Serena and Darien. And it. Was. Awful. “HMMMM… MUWAH MUWAH MUWAH, mmm MMM MMMMMMMMMMMMmmmMMMmmmmMMMMmMMM.” SERIOUSLY?! I WATCHED THAT?!!!! THEY GOT STUCK ON HER BUBBLE GUM?! HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSI-

Ok. Cool it. It was just a show. A show for kids.

*Deep breath*

Anyways… all this to say, basically, that an anime based on Naoko Takeuchi’s coming-of-age legend of a manga is certainly welcomed.

What do you think?

Character Outfits

Since times immemorial, iconic video game characters have had an outfit – one outfit – you identify them with. Mario and Luigi have blue overalls with oversized hats of red and green, respectively. Donkey Kong has a really phat fur coat and red tie. Link has a green tunic and slouchy, pointed cap.  But the video game, as a medium, has grown. Suddenly, not only can you design and select the gender for Revan in KOTOR (is it still too early for that spoiler?), but find a new robe with better Force conduction (or something) and boom. Your character looks completely different. Countless games allow you to modify the avatar you see onscreen.

Yet even in an age where customization exists, you still have your recognizable icons: Titus and his ridiculous belly-shirt, Yu Narukami in his black and white school boy get-up, Snake with his… eyepatch (although his outfits change).  Even cartoon characters that for generations did not have the same restrictions that video game tech of old have that: Race Bannon with his red, collared shirt; Sailor Moon, Goku, Kenshin, Mugen, Spike, Faye – despite fleeting occurrences when a new outfit plays into a particular point, having a look definitely helps with branding and identification. Also, it gives the fans a basis for cosplay (really, that was a concern of Hideo Kojima that prompted him to say a character’s costume needed to be “more erotic”). For big, branded adventures, being iconic certainly has advantages.

But here’s a problem I’ve been grappling with: our characters go through extreme weather. Ren/Taya/Axel’s hometown is a little desert town with the fortune of being near one of the region’s few oases. It is a dusty, dead, “wild west” kind of place. It’s hot. So Taya’s low-cut, sleeveless, skirted outfit makes sense – even the scarf, as many desert areas include cottony, breezy scarves and shawls so that a person may hide under its shade during the more brutal parts of a day. However, they travel north to Ever Winter – the human population’s wintery capital – for military training at the Academy… and then travel again to the spring-like mild temperature of the elves’ forest home. So should Ren & company keep their short sleeves for the entire trek? Maybe I should throw a jacket on ‘em – though that would, cover some of Taya’s… um… assets.

taya2

Sorry, Otaku Judge.

I think we should. Although Justin rightly points out that keeping them in one outfit follows the tradition of iconic RPGs since the conception of the genre.

What do you think?

Throw Back Thursdays: An Ode to Toonami

Cartoon Network’s Toonami block of action cartoons and anime was by no means my first exposure to anime, but it definitely had the biggest impression. Before that, I’d really only seen Dragon Ball Z on Saturday mornings on a different station, but I didn’t wake up early enough to see any others.

In fact, because Dragon Ball Z was placed so late in Toonami’s two-hour run, it meant I sat through other shows that I’m not sure I would’ve given a shot (like Sailor Moon. Which I came to love. But at first, it was way too girly – too big a risk factor for my brothers to make fun of me. Good thing it was on between Robotech and Dragon Ball Z).

Yes, Toonami steered me wrong with some shows: Beast Wars was a little too… er… young for me at that point. Not to mention, I’ve never really cared for cartoons done in CGI. ReBoot definitely wasn’t my cup of tea (though I know some people, like Justin, really enjoyed the second season), and they tried to parlay Power Puff Girls and Samurai Jack into the mix (perfectly fine cartoons, but I wanted anime, dammit!). Honestly, though, half the cool stuff I know is largely because of Toonami’s influence: Robotech, Ronin Warriors, basicalled all Gundam series, Tenchi Muyo!, Outlaw Star, Big O, Ruroni Kenshin – heck, even Cowboy Bebop and Ghost in the Shell – all of them reached me first through Toonami. The ones that didn’t (Neon Genesis Evangelion, Trigun) were introduced to me by people whose first exposure to anime was Toonami.

In fact, if I’d never watched Sailor Moon on Toonami, I never would’ve stumbled upon the manga at my local Barnes & Noble. I never would’ve sat in Borders (remember Borders?) for hours, reading Sailor Moon, then filling my time reading anything else I could get my hands on. I discovered some real gems waiting for the latest releases of whatever manga I was currently hooked on (Ranma ½, Crimson Hero, Clover, Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle, Alice 19th, Fushigi Yuugi…basically, everything else I’ve ever read until I learned to start searching), all because I was waiting for Sailor Moon or Saint Tail or something similarly innocuous (hey! I was 12!).

I’d always liked to draw, but Toonami opened up a whole new world of style to me, and I can’t deny: it has really, heavily influenced how I draw and what I create even down to this day.

So here’s to you, Toonami. Here’s to you, Moltar and Zordak and T.O.M. and eventually, Adult Swim. Without you, I’d still be a nerd. But not the kind that would eventually become ironically cool.