30 September 2013

Xperia feat. HATSUNE MIKU

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A bit of an old news by now, but Sony recently released Xperia feat. HATSUNE MIKU (nicknamed "Mikuperia"), a special variant of Xperia A smartphone featuring voice synthesiser program mascot (and virtual idol) Hatsune Miku.

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The phone's outward appearance has a black and teal green colour theme, together with one of Miku's twin tail on the back side. The artwork is done by iXima, whose image is used for the PlayStation Vita Project Diva f skin and also a base image for the upcoming Dollfie Dream doll.

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Software-wise, The Xperia feat. HATSUNE MIKU runs a customised Android 4.2 OS specifically for the phone. This is true even with the start-up animation.

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Custom tailored Miku-themed applications such as the music player (Voicaloid-sung songs included), downloader, and weather forecast can be found. It even has an app called "Find Creative News", where you can keep updated with new Vocaloid-related works on Pixiv and NicoNico video! Widgets such as battery and alarm are also custom made for the phone.

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In case you want other characters other than Miku, custom palettes and wallpapers for other Vocaloid character such as Kaito and Megurine Luka are also available.

There are also many Miku wallpapers drawn by various artists, songs, voice tones etc for you to customise further on phone.

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To promote the phone, advertisment banners can be seen in Tokyo. This one from twitter is seen in JR Shibuya station.

The quantity is limited to 39000 units. Originally it was only available via pre-order, but one can still buy it from docomo's network web store as of today. That said, a phone network contract with docomo will be required as part of the payment for the phone.

There are increasingly more products featuring collaborations with Miku recently. After the Miku glasses and Miku Domino Pizza, we now have an official Miku smartphone. There are a lot to offer, which is pretty ideal for big fans with lots of customisation to offer. While it's supposed to be limited to Japan only, those who are willing to get over with the contract part and possibly the proxy can actually go for it.

EDIT: My friend Yui got one recently as well. You can check his review here!

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29 September 2013

Kantai Collection anime adaptation announced

The team behind the increasingly popular web browser game for anthropomorphised Japanese WWII warships "Kantai Collection" (aka Kan Colle) has announced an anime adaptation is on green light, and that a PS Vita port is also being developed at the moment (release date not known).

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As mentioned last month, Kantai Collection is a simulation and management game where you look after a fleet of Japanese WWII warships in the form of anthropomorphised girls, and take them to battle against alien-like warships, of which some of them are also partially or fully humanoid as well. The game does not feature plot, and there is not much of a setting too. Nevertheless the game generates a lot of fanart and doujins based on the ships' characters.

There has been speculations that the game will eventually be so popular in Japan that an anime adaptation may happen soon or later, and it does happen, though it may not be aired until the next summer in 2014.

This leaves a big question: What is the anime going to be about?

As all of the characters are based on WWII warships (and more will be coming with future updates), an reenactment of the Pacific War is possible, but it can be tragic as in real history a majority of the ships sunk, which does mean permanent death for that character in the game's equivalent (though you can still get more from crafting or as drops, but it can still be a shock for players). Another possible route will be a plotless, slice-of-life approach, which will be more of a comedy instead.

Summer 2014 can feel like a long way away. At the moment the game's popularity is glowing hot, and I hope it will remain high by the time anime comes out. Is it going to be good? I have no idea, as I don't even know how they would do it. We'll see how this will develop. :o

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25 September 2013

Ace Combat Infinity announced

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Project Aces announced their latest Ace Combat game for PS3, titled Ace Combat Infinity. It will be available to download on PlayStation 3 as a free-to-play online game.

There has been several teaser images and trailer by production team Project Aces and its video game producer Kazutoki Kono throughout the summer, most with little solid information, but the latest trailer released during Tokyo Game Show this month has a bit more detail so far:


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Ace Combat Infinity will feature a setting based on Earth but with events based on most of its previous games in a separate fictive world, where an asteroid hits earth despite multiple governments' attempt to build superweapons to stop it. World order has taken a great hit, and there mercenaries are hired to fight. The story is still not exactly known, but the game will feature a singleplayer campaign, and a competitive co-op mode (the main gameplay mode) where two teams fight the same enemies but compete for the most damage inflicted. A lot of boss-like superweapons from previous games such as the Stonehenge railgun network will be expected to make appearance in this game.

Being a free-to-play game, Ace Combat Infinity will feature microtransaction of some sort, and posing limits of game play by having a fuel system, where you use up "fuel" or energy units per play and these need recharging by waiting out a period of time, or pay for extra standby energy units with money. The producer mentioned the system to be similar to that for Mobile Suit Gundam: Battle Operation, which is also a free-to-play game under Bandai Namco Games.

The game is expected to be released sometime this year.

While it's good to hear that there will be a new Ace Combat game, the free-to-play approach can be a little worrying in my opinion. Mobile Suit Gundam: Battle Operation, which Ace Combat Infinity will have its microtransaction system based upon, has a long waiting time. You can play up to three game sessions in a row, which are 10 minutes each, and after that you'd have to wait for the energies to recharge, where the rate is 2 hours per energy before you can play again.

The exact system for Infinity is still yet to be known, but I hope the waiting won't be as long as that for Battle Operation, of which Chinese localisation was released in Hong Kong network back in March. I stopped playing Battle Operation mainly because it's mostly waiting than playing. Free-to-play works relatively well in social games and smartphone games because you can pop in and play now and then, but for game consoles one would expect to sit down and play for as long as he likes.

A lot of games now under Bandai Namco Games have taken the approach of free-to-play concept. This includes Tekken, Soul Calibur, Ridge Racer, and Gundam Battle Operation as mentioned above. Now Ace Combat Infinity will come under this category as well. Unlike the Gundam game this should most likely be a global release, with the producer's intention to attract greater audience. Will it be successful? Well we shall see once the game is released.

Images from Ace Combat Facebook page
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23 September 2013

Custom mod Nendoroid Puchi Shoukaku

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Web browser game Kantai Collection (aka Kancolle) is becoming immensely popular in Japan. While merchandise are announced and some are now available for pre-order, some people make their own. Here is one that is spread around recently, which is a custom mod nendoroid puchi Shoukaku by Katakori (カタコリ), based on the Japanese aircraft carrier of the same name.

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Anthropomorphised aircraft carriers in Kancolle are depicted as girls in Kyuudou (Japanese archery) attires. Shoukaku is no exception, who is drawn by コニシ.

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Back. The ship details, as well as the planes that form the arrowheads, are taken directly from a 1/700 scale Shoukaku model.

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One of the WIP pictures. The head is from Ultimate Madoka. Epoxy putty is applied for the chest plate and sleeves. It is also later applied for the legs as well.

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Skirt part with guns mounted from a 1/700 scale Hibiki destroyer model.

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White line on the skirt is made with carefully carved out finish sheet, which are very thin coloured films as an alternate solution to painting over fine details I suppose.

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Printed decals for flight deck and head band.

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The finished nendoroid. She looks much cuter than I expected!

All work and images are from Katamari (かたまり).

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16 September 2013

Big Zam Tofu Photo Contest Results

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Back in June Big Zam Tofu made its debut to the public after the glorious successes of Zaku tofu and Z'gok tofu for the glory of Zeon. In July a photo contest was held for the best diorama featuring the Big Zam tofu, and results were out in end of August. Let's see how the Battle of Solomon is acted out in tofu form!

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Here is the overall winner, of which the diorama is named "The Fall of Solomon"

Not only are there GMs and a G-Fighter on the left, but also Doms on the right, as well as Dolze Zabi's monsterous-looking spirit behind the Big Zam! The mega particle beam is made of stretched fried egg and

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Cold dish award:

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Rice dish award

The fact that the dish of Big Zam rice is supported by the "legs" and a dessert glass at the back is pretty impressive, and there are well sculpted pilots being towed by a Zaku in the foreground!

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Salad award

Nice to see Zakus which are moulded with the Zaku Tofu, and there is even Char's Zaku added into the fray. The Gundam on the right is made with hanpen.

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Curry Big Zam with a 3D Mega Particle Beam!

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Sleggar in Core Fighter vs Dolze Zabi in Big Zam! The faces of the characters are apparently chocolate and food colourings on cookies.

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Spaghetti straws as beam cannon effects~

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Chips as beam effects also work quite well, as long as they're not soggy~

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Chips as Mega Particle Cannon effect. The Gundam's beam sabres as chopsticks are a nice touch. ^^

Some dioramas are pretty well thought out and sculpted, others are just mouth-watering enough for me to want to take a bite of it! ^^;

More photos of other entries can be found in the Grand-prix photo contest website!

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7 September 2013

Mighty No. 9 Kickstarter Project

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Former character designer and producer of Mega Man video game series (aka Rockman) Keiji Inafune is developing a new game called Mighty No. 9 with the help of Kickstarter crowdfunding project.

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Mighty No. 9 is an all-new Japanese side-scrolling action game that takes the best aspects of the 8- and 16-bit era classics you know and love, and transforms them with modern tech, fresh mechanics, and fan input into something fresh and amazing!

You play as Beck, the 9th in a line of powerful robots, and the only one not infected by a mysterious computer virus that has caused mechanized creatures the world over to go berserk. Run, jump, blast, and transform your way through six stages (or more, via stretch goals) you can tackle in any order you choose, using weapons and abilities stolen from your enemies to take down your fellow Mighty Number robots and confront the final evil that threatens the planet!

Mighty No. 9 is being developed for the PC with gamepad support (of course!), and will be made available through Steam and DRM-free digital distribution methods. Other platforms, including home consoles, Mac, and Linux, are a high priority, but only if we can afford them via stretch goals. Should we reach those goals, anyone funding the project will be allowed to choose which version of the game they would like to receive. The estimated release date is spring 2015.

Overall, Mighty No. 9's concept and rough story line will sounds highly resembling to that of the original Mega Man - a 2D platform game where the protagonist robot will have to defeat rogue robots, obtain their weapons, and ultimately confront the one behind the chaos. In a way it will be a spiritual successor to Inafune's Mega Man series back in his Capcom time. What makes Mega Man memorable with fans was not necessarily the graphics or story, but rather the fast paced gameplay, easy control, and hard difficulty.

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Within just 2 days of its reveal, the project already met its minimum funding amount of 900,000USD. Fans are really getting pumped for it, which is shown by how quickly the minimum funding goal is reached, and even breaking through some of the extended goals already! The game is only just in the planning stage, and is forecast to release in 2015, so we will have quite some time to look forward to.

Will we still get to see more Mega Man / Rockman from Capcom? Unfortunately as Inafune no longer works in Capcom (his latest works, including Mega Man Legends 3 / Rockman DASH 3, were cancelled against his wish, which contributed to him leaving the company), it's really hard to see what is up for its future there, but hopefully its ideas and features will be succeeded down to Mighty No. 9.

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Kickstarter page
Japanese page
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3 September 2013

Hayao Miyazaki announces retirement

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Animator Hayao Miyazaki, who is known for his anime movies and his association with Ghiblio studio, announces his retirement after his latest movie The Wind Rises airs in cinemas.

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Miyazaki has directed and produced many well known (mostly) hand-drawn animated movies, such as Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (before he co-founded Ghibli Studio), Laputa, Totoro, and Kiki's Delivery Service, which are highly received in Japan and in neighbouring countries. The early movies did not attract much Western attentions however, until Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away were aired.

As Wikipedia states, "Miyazaki's films often contain recurrent themes like humanity's relationship with nature and technology, and the difficulty of maintaining a pacifist ethic. The protagonists of his films are often strong, independent girls or young women."

He often works with Joe Hisaishi, a well established composer who works on original soundtracks for all of Miyazaki's films since Nausicaä.

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His latest movie, The Wind Rises, features Jiro Hirokoshi, who was a chief engineer developing a fighter aircraft that was to be the predecessor of the famous Zero fighter.

However, some people on the Internet don't seem to pity this news, which is most likely related to Miyazaki's stance on the war. His statements that Japan should apologise for the comfort woman in World War Two, as well as to give way and split control for the disputed islands, were viewed by some as "anti-Japanese" or "traitorous" (see Kotaku for more details).

On the other hand, he announced his retirement from anime industry in several occasions, such as after Princess Mononoke aired in 1997, and after Howl's Moving Castle in 2004, making some wonder whether The Wind Rises would truly be his final work. It is possible that he may return, but will treat future works as a hobby, rather than a job.

There was also a report back in 2010 that Miyazaki wants to, but hasn't yet planned to, write a sequel for the movie Porco Rosso, supposedly called Porco Rosso: The Last Sortie. Could this be why Porco Rosso is aired on Japanese TV soon after the retirement announcement recently?

Although I haven't got around to watch some of his latest ones in the recent years, I enjoy watching Hayao Miyazaki's animated movies under Ghibli Studio since childhood. I think there are always something you can learn from his movies, where many involve moral issues, and while we may or may not get to see more movies from Miyazaki, I hope Ghibli Studios can do just as well.
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