November 26, 2014

Nintendo Day in Toronto

Last week I took a trip to Toronto for a visit. I had not been back there in about 3 years. The trip there was quite perilous and snow filled, which I posted pictures of on Twitter as it was happening, but well worth the effort to return to civilization for a few days.

I spent most of the time exploring and shopping, picking up some toys, books and movies. Luckily for me, there was a special Nintendo event happening in town to celebrate the then-pending release of Super Smash Bros for Wii U and Pokemon Omega Red and Alpha Sapphire on 3DS, and I was not going to miss it.

There were lots of game stations set up for people to try Smash Bros. on Wii U, a stage for 8-Player Smash battles, an Amibo display, lots of photo opportunities with cool backdrops, cosplay, freebies, and an intricately decorated cake. Yes, even Mario and Luigi were there. As if I was not going to get a picture with them!

We all got to play Smash Bros. for Wii U a day before release, which was great. Everyone who played got a Smash Bros Champion belt. I won a match with Jigglypuff and had this photo taken for posterity. You might note the stark visual contrast between myself and my chosen character in this instance, but there is no arguing with victory. Of course, the guy I was fighting against also got a belt, so it’s all good. The belt is just cardboard, but who cares? It’s totally awesome! Unfortunately, Jigglypuff did not fair so well when I took the stage for an 8-player Smash, which was a chaotic and hilarious mess.

It was a very fun day overall. I really felt, in all the lights and noise and enthusiasm over these games and characters, that this was home.


October 15, 2014

Pac and Smash.

Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS was released recently. I preordered it and have been having a lot of fun playing it since it’s release day. Of course, being a major game from Nintendo, there wasn’t much reason to believe that it would be anything less than great. Still, keeping in mind that this is the first Smash Bros. title on a handheld system, it’s pretty amazing to see just how little compromise was made to recreate that fun gameplay we know and love from the prior home console releases. The game plays great, the secret characters are cool, and there are plenty of surprises.

It was kind of a strange feeling to hold that package in my hands and know that I am about to play this game for the first time when there has been so much anticipation building up for well over a year. The roster reveals, video posts, and trade show exhibitions made for a finely cultivated atmosphere of hype. Things really reached a fever-pitch during this year’s E3 when a large tournament was held. Even from home, this tournament was incredibly fun to watch. It was later that night, though, when an announcement video was released that got me hyped beyond anything else I’ve seen.

Pac-Man! The character I most hoped for is in Smash!

Of course, Pac-Man’s inclusion wasn’t entirely unexpected, as Bandai Namco was involved in the production of the game. Still, I have to admit, I got pretty excited after seeing this, especially since his implementation into the game looks so well realized.

Why Pac-Man, of all characters? I don’t know. There’s nothing about him that seems suited to fighting games, even less so than some of Nintendo’s usual characters like Kirby. Maybe the novelty of that is a big reason why. But he’s such an iconic, important character in the history of Video Games. It’s only right that he’s represented in the era-spanning mash-up of Smash Bros. They really made him into a fun character to play as, and a lot of creativity has clearly gone into giving him the moves to stand toe-to-to with any other fighters.

Captain Falcon was always my favorite character in Melee and Brawl, and I’ve enjoyed playing as him and the other characters too, but in my time with this new incarnation of Smash, it’s been all about Pac-Man. Having Mario, Megaman, Sonic, and Pac-Man all in one game together is totally cool. Whenever I set up that match, I fight to make sure that Pac-Man wins.

As great as it is having Smash Bros. any time on the go with the 3DS, I think the main event is going to be when the Wii U version comes out in a few weeks. I’ll be practicing my Pac-Attacks until then.


August 22, 2014

TFcon 2014

Last month I went to TFcon 2014, once again held at the Delta Meadowvale Hotel in Mississauga, Ontario. This year, the show was held a little bit earlier in the summer, on July 11-13 instead of towards the end of the month. As usual, TFcon promised a fantastic gathering of Transformers fans, with plenty of activities, a huge dealers’ area to buy toys, and lots of fun connecting with old friends and making new ones.

In previous years I drew a comic to go along with the voice actors script reading, but it always took up so much time that I felt I shouldn’t do one this year, having just graduated from college. It was the right decision, but since this was the first year in a long, long time that I have not contributed to TFcon in any way, it felt like something was missing for me. I kind of felt bad about that, so it was a different experience.

Also, my usual partner in crime, the infamous Guber, was not in attendance this year. He was stuck in Turkey as part of his strange globetrotting adventure. A TFcon without Guber is like a Tranformers toy missing its accessories. Its weird, rainbow-colored accessories. So, if only for that reason, it seemed like a much quieter, more subdued event.

That all said, I still had a good time. Here are some pictures.

The Transformers costumes seen at TFcon get more and more impressive with each new event.

Here is a close look at the winning costume. As I understand it. Prowl was made out of a Power Wheels car.

Knock out, Soundwave, and Shockwave.

Gary Chalk (Optimus Primal in Beast Wars and Optimus Prime in Armada/Energon/Cybertron) made his 3rd appearance at TFcon, and is always a fantastic guest. Making his first appearance was Neil Kaplan, who played Optimus Prime in Robots in Disguise. Neil and Gary had a panel together that was one of the nest voice actor’s panels I’d ever seen. They were both really informative and absolutely hilarious. When the discussion turned towards how they had become “Budget Peter Cullens”, they both started doing Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh as Optimus Prime. It was so incredibly funny that I had tears in my eyes.

That night at the bar, I got a chance to talk to Neil a bit and listen  is him go on about cartoons, movies, monsters, super heroes, and everything else that’s awesome. He really gets the whole convention scene and is a totally cool dude. He even tweeted me while I was on the way home on Monday. It was like TFcon was still happening in the car.

One of the highlights of the show was the concert by The Cybertronic Spree, a rock band that dresses up as Transformers characters and plays music from the 1986 Transformers movie. They put on a great show that is totally unlike anything you’d ever seen but just as awesome as you’d hope. Unicron on the left plays guitar in the band.

Plenty of toys to buy. It had been awhile since I bought some toys, as I no longer live in a city with a Toys R Us. So, I had to take the opportunity.  Here’s what I picked up.

Generations Sandstorm, Beast Hunters Optimus Prime, Generations Rhinox, Fall of Cybertron Sideswipe, Starscream, Air Raid, Jazz, and Ultra Magnus, Prime Rumble, Kup, and Hotshot, and finally, a Darth Vader with removable helmet. Nothing too special, really. No crazy exclusive Japanese recolors. Just some recent toys I didn’t have and was able to get at decent prices.

Well, actually, there was one other toy that I picked up. Something very special. So special, in fact, I’ll save it for its own post.

Of course, there is much more to TFcon than pictures can convey, and so much more than just buying toys. It’s a great fan community experience that no other convention can match. To wrap this up, I’ll say that, by this point, if you are are a Transformers fan in Canada, or are in close proximity to Ontario, and you have never been to TFcon, you are certainly missing out. The staff is always on the ball and the fans are a big part of why this convention is so memorable. It’s like a big family reunion, except it’s way better because there are also robots.

If you’re not in Canada, and maybe even if you are, TFcon is now running a second show in Chicago. I’m not sure if I can make it to that one, but I definitely want to.

I used to go to several sci-fi/anime/comic/toy conventions in the Toronto area every year. I wish I could still do that, but I live too far away now. So, there’s only enough room in my year for one. I’m glad I make that one TFcon.


August 1, 2014

Annual Check-Up?

Well, I hope that this will become a more frequent occurrence than one a year from now on, but I am once again embarrassed by the fact that it has been almost one year since my last weblog post. I wish I could say that I was too busy to update here, but really, I just haven’t felt up to it. Well, enough of that nonsense. Let’s get this awkward first update after a long absence over with so I can get this blog back in order.

Game Addict by ninjatron on deviantART

Through most of the year, I was busy with my second and final year of College. I graduated from the Video Game Art program with distinction, which means 4.0 GPA. Not to brag or anything.  I actually don’t really know why I got that mark. All I really did was show up and do the work. I made sure I did the projects as best as I could in the time I had, and I did everything the way I thought it should be done. That’s just the way I operate.

I have mixed feelings on the program overall. I don’t regret going through the experience, but there were several flaws in the course. Some were the result of things that were outside of anyone’s control, like when one of the teachers got really sick and had to leave the program entirely, throwing everything into chaos. Other things simply could have been handled better, like the ridiculous workload resulting in a deluge of projects due at around the same time, and having to spend way too long on certain assignments that should not have been as important as they were. It was stressful, tiresome, and exhausting, so I am definitely glad that this stage of my life is behind me. But I met some great people, got some experience with software that I had never used before, and it was good to have something to do everyday that contributed towards my artistic development.

There is some artwork I did for the class up on my deviantArt page, so you can check out what’s there now. More will be coming as I give them an extra bit of polish.

Since school has been over, I haven’t really felt like doing much. I’ve been sick a few times, so it’s hard to be productive. That’s really why I haven’t updated here yet. Other than being sick, I’ve mostly been spending my time trying to get organized. Cleaning out my hard drive, sorting out files from assignments, setting up reference images in appropriate folders, all that stuff. Not very exciting, but I might as well do it now while I have the chance. It’s all about building towards the future.

But what was exciting was that I went to TFcon! I will talk about that next time.