Sorry for this late feature but I wish to share to you geeks and hobbyists that during the 2019 edition of the Toycon held this past June at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City, I spotted the display of Macross.
I’m a Macross fan and I always make it a point to find stuff related to my favorite anime franchise whenever a convention happens. Here are some that I spotted during the Toycon.
At the 2nd level of the convention center was a function hall which has a large display of collected items of varied entertainment franchises. The one showcasing Macross had toys, action figures, plastic models, video games, music CDs and some printed materials.
What caught my attention was the display of the YF-19 from Macross Plus complete with its weapons in full view.
Also seeing an original copy of the 1990s Sega Saturn video game adaptation of Macross: Do You Remember Love? instantly made me remember playing and enjoying the PlayStation version of that game. The Sega Saturn game can be seen in the picture below.
As much as I enjoyed the display of Macross memorabilia, I regret to say that I was unable to find any more related collectibles or products for sale among the many vendors at the lower level during the Toycon. I searched for whatever Macross stuff I could find (t-shirts, comic books, action figures, models, cards and others) but ended up with nothing.
Then again, it should be surprising at all. Macross as an entertainment franchise is not exactly popular here in the Philippines and Macross Mania in the country has ended long ago. To say the least, the popularity of Macross here in the Philippines is limited to older fans and collectors. Anime is a lot more popular among Filipinos in this modern age but that does not mean Macross found a new nor large audience.
If ever the legendary Shoji Kawamori (whom I met at AsiaPOP Comicon Manila in 2017) or any notable Macross-related talent comes here in the Philippines, only then will the Macross brand gain attention.
If you love anime or Macross, then I invite you to read my retro movie review of Macross: Do You Remember Love? right here. I also wrote about the famous Lynn Minmay here.
I can declare it out loud that this new giant monsters movie, even though it has some notable flaws, is indeed a more enjoyable cinematic experience than the 2014 Godzilla movie (directed by Gareth Edwards). What I like about it is that the movie studio and the filmmakers responded to people’s complaints about the 2014 movie.
I will start with the strong points of the film with comparisons to the previous film. In the 2014 movie, people I talked with complained that there was not enough of Godzilla and the grand final battle was barely enough to make up for the monster’s lack of presence. This movie solves that with a lot more of Godzilla on screen and the final battle is grander! As sentimentalism was thrown out, the film also concludes a lot stronger as well!
Some people complained of the lack of giant monsters action in the 2014 film which had lots of slow scenes, a reliance on in-story news media coverage of disasters and an over-emphasis on building up suspense. Godzilla: King of the Monsters solves all of that by ramping up the giant monsters action (lots of monster battles with more than enough action to satisfy moviegoers), established a faster pace on storytelling (as a result, the movie never dragged and did not feel like a 131-minute movie at all), and noticeably reduced the news media focus as well as the suspense build-up.
In the 2014, Monarch’s purpose on monitoring the global presence of giant monsters was established and this sequel raised the stakes further pushing the organization on doing what it was established to do. Ken Watanabe’s Dr. Serizawa has noticeably less screen time due to “competition” for spotlight with the many other characters but the filmmakers managed to make the most out of him.
Speaking of giant monsters, this movie heavily outclassed its predecessor! Apart from Godzilla are other notable kaijus from the long-running Japanese Godzilla film franchise like the 3-headed dragon King Ghidorah, the deadly Rodan and the grand looking Mothra!
It is clear that director Michael Dougherty and the team made sure that each of those iconic monsters from Japanese cinema not only got sufficient screen time but also honored them with spectacular scenes! King Ghidorah really looks terrifying and even horrific. Rodan alone made the high-speed flying sequence in the film memorable while Mothra was a giant monster that very few people would wish to destroy.
Apart from the giant monsters action, the film’s action sequences are a big improvement over its predecessor even though there were some common action cinema elements recycled (note: tough guys with guns). There the definitely are a lot more thrills now that the suspense build-up has been reduced. Godzilla: King of the Monsters was clearly made to entertain and prevent moviegoers from getting bored.
The movie obviously is not perfect. I never expected it to be perfect at all and as I suspected, the film’s biggest weakness is, again, its human characters. Like the 2014 film, this one has a cast of many people who were created to make moviegoers care for them as the story moves on. Clearly the filmmakers and the actors failed to deliver the goods but in fairness, the cast is more interesting compared with that of the 2014 movie.
In the 2014 Godzilla, the cast was weak, the characters were mostly not worth caring for and there were so many scenes with them. There were times back then I wished the character “development” scenes were cut to speed up the pace. In this sequel, the cast was nowhere as boring as their 2014 counterparts but their dialogue was either weak or had too much exposition (I felt like the characters explaining this and that were talking to the moviegoers).
Speaking of the script, the film failed to justify its concept of the Russell family which first appeared in a short scene (that took place during the 2014 film’s story). The family focus started decently with Vera Farmiga as Mrs. Russell (with her daughter living with her) working with a device that could help humanity gain some control over the giant monsters. As the story went on, the spotlight had to be divided by the large cast of characters and the monsters which ultimately made the Russell family less relevant. Kyle Chandler’s entry into the film as Mr. Russell did not save the family aspect of the story even though he proved to be the “instant resourceful and knowledgeable” character of them all.
While the cast had mostly one-dimensional characters, at least Charles Dance’s performance as the human villain proved to be interesting. Apart from being the leader of a team of armed personnel and having a history of being disillusioned with humanity which led him to becoming an anarchist eco-terrorist, there is still this element of mystery about him. Although he leads a group, could he be working discreetly for some sort of secret society or a group of elite people with sinister intentions for reforming the world? We won’t find out until the next movie.
Charles Dance casting in this film seems inspired. I remember how good he was in playing the villain in 1993’s Last Action Hero. His role is not very loud but still his presence in this movie is the best thing of the weak cast.
Other problems? As great as the giant monsters spectacle were, there were these camera framing problems. There were many monster action strikes that were “filmed” too close to the camera. I felt that the filmmakers tried too hard to deliver moviegoers the “in your face” action with the monsters and ultimately those efforts ended up being an annoying experience. With regards to storytelling, the plot is serviceable at best but, then again, we cannot expect a very engaging story with Godzilla so this is not a surprise. At the very least, this sequel’s plot works better than that of its predecessor. The plot here does not drag mainly because the filmmakers put heavy emphasis on spectacle and speed.
If there is an advantage the 2014 movie has over the sequel, it’s the sense of scale. The giant monsters are indeed gigantic but they moved rather fast for their size and this breaks the sense of scale for moviegoers. They looked gigantic but they don’t feel gigantic when in motion.
As for Milly Bobby Brown’s character, the scenes in which she escaped from the secret facility going into Boston and then entering the baseball stadium’s operation room without even being detected or prevented by security measures were just unbelievable. And I thought the concept of poor security in Terminator Salvation was bad. Oh yes, Bradley Whitford’s attempts on providing humor ended in failure. He was more annoying and never funny.
Overall, Godzilla: King of the Monsters is indeed highly entertaining and anyone who loves on-screen battles between giant monsters will surely enjoy it a lot. Its cast is weak (although nowhere as weak as the 2014 film), its storytelling is flawed and there were some parts that made the 2014 look better but still the good stuff outweighed the bad stuff. As far as Hollywood-made giant monster movies go, Godzilla: King of the Monsters is indeed the best!
Oh yes! One last thing! The playing of threads from the theme music from the 1954 Godzilla movie was a very nice touch and will resonate with any moviegoer who enjoyed the Japanese Godzilla films. Clearly the MonsterVerse continues to deliver the fun and greatness!
A few months ago, I had lunch at Sigekiya Ramen inside Commercenter, Filinvest City, Alabang. Many times have I been consuming Tsukemen or ramen at that restaurant which has been operating since April 2016. The notable thing about Sigekiya Ramen is that they maintain a high level of quality on their food (which explains why they use many imported ingredients) which, in my opinion, justify the prices.
After some thinking during my visit, I decided to try, for the first time ever, one of their rice meals and I ordered their Chicken Teriyakidon Set.
It did not take too long for them to serve me the meal which came with a bowl of rice topped with chicken laced with teriyaki sauce and some sesame seeds, a cup of miso soup and a small serving of salad.
Slowly I took a sip first of the miso soup which tasted good. Then I examined the chicken on the rice bowl which turned out to be boneless. In terms of serving, the amount of chicken was generous.
Using chopsticks, I went for a portion of both chicken and rice. The result? A delightful taste! I can say that the chicken and rice were both well cooked and the teriyaki sauce prepared was pretty flavorful. Slowly, I kept consuming more of the rice and chicken, alternating with the soup and the salad.
To put things in perspective, teriyaki refers to a Japanese dish consisting of fish or meat marinated in soy sauce and grilled.
Overall, Sigekiya Ramen’s Chicken Teriyakidon Set was a nice hit and I can say that I got my money’s worth.
Hong Kong, China Share in Day’s Glory in Subic Bay
Subic Bay, Philippines – April 28, 2019 – Fresh from its domination of the sprint events a day earlier, powerhouse Hong Kong found the men’s and women’s elite field in the 26th edition of the 2019 NTT ASTC Subic Bay International Triathlon (SuBIT) Asian Cup , a tougher nut to crack and had to settle for a share in the day’s glory with HK winning the men’s side and China ruling the distaff side at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone.
HK’s Oscar Coggins , now campaigning in the men’s elite from the junior ranks, took advantage of his familiarity with hot weather racing conditions, took first place in 1:49.20 , repulsing the challenge of the feared Japanese team that took the next 5 slots after Coggins with reigning Asian Games champion and top seed Jumpei Furuya settling for a very close second place in 1:49.30 while Takumi Hojo placed 3rd in 1:49.45. Rounding out the top 5 finishers were Shiruba Taniguchi who negotiated the 1standard distance race in 1:50.11 , and Yuichi Hosoda in 1:50.36.
” I like the hot weather, I have been training n Australia the past two months , but I really did not ease up until the finish line. I am happy with my time, ” said Coggins who took the lead at the 6K mark and steadily pulled away from the rest.
Another surprise however was in the local side where 19 year old Cebuano Andrew Remolino upstaged his older and more experienced national team mates with his 17th place finish in 1:54.49, his first sub two hour race, target ko sana majasali sa top 10 malalakas lahat ng kalaban, sa mga locals, nakauna ako sa swim leg at na maintain ko yung lead, wala ng nakahabol, ” said Remolino who trains under his father, coach Andoy Remolino.
With his finish, the younger Remolino has positioned himself as a contender for a slot in the forthcoming SEA Games, : hopeful ako na ma select ako sa national team , ” added Remolino after the race supported by the POC, the PSC, SBMA and its Tourism Department, Standard Insurance, Asian Centre for Insulation Philippines (ACIP), NTT, ACEA Beach Resort & Hotel and Pocari Sweat.
On the women’s competition, defending champion Mengying Zhong, reasserted herself anew and led practically led from start to finish but pulled away in the final run leg en route to a solo finish in 2:04.17 with the Japanese afain relegated to runner up finishes with Aoi Kuranoto a far second in 2:04.41, followed by Yurie Kato who negotiated the 1.4K swim -40K bike – 10K distance race in 2:05.32. HK’s Yan Yin Hilda Choi took 4th place in 2:05.37 while in 5th was Macau entry Long Hoi with a finishing time of 2:05.57.
Best placed Filipina was national triathlete Kim Kilgroe who finished in 12th place overall with her time of 2:10.10 even as she is practically assured of a slot in the SEA Games together with Kim mangrobang who is training and competing in Europe, and SEA Games gold medalist Claire Adorna who ended in 15th place in yesterday’s race in Subic. Adorna clocked 2:13.01.
” This was definitely a strong field with several world ranked participants . For the national team, we will have our final qualifying race in Korea in June where we will bring our national training pool for a camp and race in the Asian Cup, then we will announce the final selection for the SEA Games, a minimum of 3 , maximum of 5 triathletes, ” said Triathlon Association of the Philippines ( TRAP ) president Tom Carrasco Jr. who cited the performance of Remolino in the race.
Press release and photo captions composed by Lito Cinco.
Twenty-one years ago, I had a great time playing Resident Evil 2 on the original PlayStation console. I enjoyed the first Resident Evil on the same console in 1996 but it was the sequel that turned me into a fan of the game franchise.
A few months ago, Capcom released the remake of Resident Evil 2 (which I bought for Xbox One) completing the promise they made way back in 2015. Sure details of the game were kept in great secret until E3 of 2018 (when it was first previewed) but I can tell you from my experience that the long wait was indeed well worth it!
Before I go on, let me share to you that while just about everyone called this new version of RE2 a remake, for me it is more than that. I personally would call it a remake with expansion.
Now I can discuss the game
Gameplay and Presentation
The way this game was remade and expanded, Capcom’s team did a great job to modernize Resident Evil 2 a lot. This is not a carbon copy of the 1998 game design done with 3D environments and a 3rd person view (over-the-shoulder) for the 8th console generation. The developers went the extra mile adding some new challenges and gameplay features that just might inspire other game developers to follow suit.
At its core, RE2 Remake is technically a 3rd person adventure game that carefully blends horror, action and exploration combined with suitable storytelling split into two sides. When you play a new game, you get to choose either Claire or Leon. Once you finish the game, a “New Game – 2nd Run” option comes up which allows you to play the other character on the other side (or scenario) of the main story that you just finished.
While the 1998 game had pre-rendered backgrounds presented in 2D (which makes sense with that game’s outdated tank-like controls), this game has every environment in full 3D which you can freely explore and revisit. As you control your character with a 3rd person view complete control of the view (that allows you to look around), the developers used shadows and darkness in many parts of the game to ensure an atmosphere of horror and suspense. There is nothing like walking down a very dark corridor with your flashlight not knowing what’s ahead of you.
Of course, there is the classic Resident Evil challenge of solving puzzles and item management. There are also these containers where you can put your items into for safekeeping and the good news is that identical containers in other locations instantly carry those stored items.
As this game deals with zombies, the game developers went all out on making each zombie and monster very detailed and grotesque to look at. The 3D artists seem to have studied anatomy while the in-game physics handlers ensured that whatever part of the zombie’s body gets hit by a bullet, it gets the corresponding damage. The zombies are scary and grotesque and compared to their 1998 counterparts, they are tougher and more dangerous to deal with. With regards to the monsters, the standout is the Licker which in this game is much more dangerous even if you have lots of ammunition. The Licker is capable of jumping a great distance towards you with a lot of speed to boot. The Licker can push your character down on the floor when you least expect it.
More on the monsters, the 3D art on William Birkin is incredible! It’s as if the game developers took a close look at the 1998 William Birkin (much lower polygons back then), watched John Carpenter’s movie The Thing for inspiration and then made the modern William Birkin look more monstrous with photo-realism in mind! The more mutated Birkin got, the more incredible the visual detail and scare factor got!
The most defining gameplay challenge is exploring the police station with Mr. X (a Tyrant) walking around searching for you. He walks around obsessively and can go into most rooms although he cannot enter the room with game saving devices (typewriters). Mr. X is very dangerous and each time he appears, the tension and fear run up high forcing you to get away somehow. As long as Mr. X is in the game, you must listen carefully to the ambient sound (note: raise the volume of your sound system or that of your HDTV) to watch out for the sounds of the steps he takes. The louder the steps, then it means his presence is very near you.
As expected, guns are the main weapons to use and eventually you will get to use a shotgun (for Leon), a machine gun (for Claire), grenade launcher, flame thrower and others. This is not a straightforward shooting game however. Zombies are tough as they take a lot of bullets to put down. This will force you to get the most out of each shot as the impact per shot is directly affected by the quality of the aiming which itself goes down as your character moves. To get the best aim, your character has to stand still and when you fire, you better hope that the zombies (which constantly move) do get hit. Sure you can move and fire at the same time but you won’t get good results in return. Forget about doing the Gears of War tactic here. Just pace yourself, be strategic, then aim and fire.
Your character gets to use a secondary weapon in the form of a combat knife or a flasher or even a grenade. Imagine your character is armed with a secondary weapon. If an enemy grabs, you will be prompted to use the secondary weapon to damage (or push back at least) the enemy and allow yourself to keep your distance away without getting hurt.
When it comes to survival, the classic gathering and mixing of colored herbs are back. Taking inspiration from 1999’s Resident Evil 3, the game allows you to create new ammunition by combining items needed for creation. As the items are varied, you can decide which kind of ammunition to make. Speaking of which, the amount of ammunition in this game is pretty limited and this will compel you to conserve bullets and make the most out of what you have to survive.
On the aspect of exploration, the locations in the 1998 RE2 are back but they have been expanded even as key locations from the old game were recreated in 3D. The police station seems bigger to me this time but the standout zone of exploration is the dark and gritty sewer (which puts the sewer in the 1998 game to shame). There are a lot more places to explore and the good news is that there is something worth collecting when visiting those places.
As for the deep underground science experiment facility, the game developers made the place really looked like it was used for work by the employees. There were lots of equipment around that were not presented as mere in-game decorations but rather they gave me a clear idea that work was done previously before disaster struck. There was even a sleeping quarter for stay-in employees which really looked lived-in.
Storytelling (warning: mild spoilers ahead)
A zombie outbreak struck Raccoon City. Near the city, Claire Redfield (who’s searching for her heroic brother Chris) and Leon Kennedy (a rookie cop on his way to the police station) incidentally get together after having an early confrontation with zombies at a gas station. As they got into the city, an out-of-control truck hits their car (which they got out off in time) and separates them. Claire and Leon make it to the police station only to find out that it is hazardous with zombies and corpses inside. From this point on, they have to figure out what is going on, who is responsible and how they could escape and survive from the ruined city.
As this game is a remake, it is no surprise at all that the original script from the 1998 game was not reused but rather this new game has a new script inspired by it. The intention was to reintroduce not only the characters but the game’s core concepts to a modern gaming audience who, by today’s standards, are very used to watching very cinematic cut scenes in their video games.
The dialogue is lengthy and for the most part the voice actors performed nicely on delivering the drama (and the expository dialogue) and bringing the characters to life. The script captured the essence of 1998’s RE2 mostly but there were a few noticeable differences that bothered me.
For one thing, I noticed that Leon Kennedy in this modern game does not really take charge of his situation and even gets fooled and manipulated by Ada Wong who poses as an FBI agent. By comparison, Leon has a subtle but notable taking of responsibility (and taking charge) of the situation in the 1998 RE2. Remember dialogue in that game with Ada telling her that they cannot progress if she does not let him take charge? Remember the scene when the jailed journalist was told that if he wanted to survive, he would have to leave with Leon? Those character traits of Leon taking charge against the odds really happened back in 1998. The remake’s Leon is more gullible and naive by comparison. Was this a deliberate alteration done by the script writer? We don’t know yet but the difference of Leon’s personality is noticeable.
Next is the lack of strength in the way Leon and Claire reacted to the zombie outbreak in Raccoon City. The scene where they get together for the first time at the exterior of the police station showed them being too casual (not that concerned) of their situation. Their exchange of dialogue felt better suited in a romantic movie. By comparison, their portrayal (getting reunited after the initial separation) in the 1998 game was more convincing.
Next, I have a problem with the way Claire decides to fight the heavily mutated William Birkin in their 3rd fight. It’s just not convincing in relation to the entire situation of the outbreak. Even though Claire Redfield has no military training (she knows self-defense only), she decides to risk her life fighting him completely disregarding the need to quickly save Sherry (suffering at this point) and escape with her. This scene is clearly another one of those “because the game requires it” situations. By comparison in the 1998 game, Claire reacts naturally with silent fear each time she sees William Birkin.
Apart from the differences between RE2 1998 and RE2 2019, there were these inaccuracies regarding the narrative of the game. Supposedly, regardless of which characters were used on each side of the main story, the core story’s events took place in close proximity to each other if not at the same time. This however does not explain Annette Birkin’s appearing in BOTH sides of the main story specifically in the moments leading up to the 3rd boss battle with her mutated husband William. She appeared in Leon’s side of the scene and also in Claire’s side of it. Was there a clone of Annette Birkin made behind the scenes?!
And then there was Mr. X who in the main story appears to hound both Leon and Claire respectively. What happened to Mr. X during Claire’s side of the story goes into direct conflict with Mr. X being the final boss in Leon’s side. I can only speculate that there were two identical versions of Mr. X in the story which the game developers never bothered to explain.
This remake of Resident Evil 2 is indeed a great game to play and I sure got my money’s worth having finished the single-player campaign a total of six times (focusing on the scenarios) even though there is a lack of zapping (which the 1998 game featured) and the narrative lacks precision when dramatizing the two sides (scenarios) and emphasizing the little details between them. The other game modes like The 4th Survivor, The Tofu Survivor and others add value on the side but for me, the real stuff of the game is the single-player campaign.
It’s not a perfect game but it is great enough for Capcom to keep me interested again in the Resident Evil game franchise. I hope that secretly they are working on a full 3D remake of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (which has a visual clue in the RE2 Remake).
RE2 Remake redefined survival horror as much as it modernized the core concept of the 1998 game. In terms of survival horror gameplay, this game is the definitive model on how to do it. Forget about the debacle that was Resident Evil 6 because RE2 Remake is the one to play.
Resident Evil 2 Remake is highly recommended even if you are not an RE fan.