Everyone’s blogged this today, but even so, let me add my “holy crap that’s amazing!” to the fray.(0)
Archive for the 'Graphics' Category
That I was going to see this movie was a given. The thought of not seeing this movie never crossed my mind. My agenda for the week looked roughly like this: 1. See Final Fantasy. 2. Do some other stuff.
I’ve been mulling over my opinion of the movie for several hours now, and I’ve only come to one real conclusion: I do not want to go see it again any time soon, which means that my roommate’s on his own, since I ditched him to see it with some co-workers tonight.
But that I don’t want to see it again any time soon is not the damning statement that it might sound like. I just don’t want to see it again because the story is pretty generic, and the pacing drags like crazy. Many many scenes seemed to be shouting to me. They were shouting “Hey! Look at these pretty pictures! Here, I’ll give you a good long time to really appreciate them. Go on, don’t be shy. You can stare.”
“Get on with it!” I found myself frequently wanting to shout. “Yes, I can see that you make pretty pictures. Can you make a pretty story?”
Crafting this story must have been a nightmare for the filmmakers — they were simultaneously trying to create a movie that could be marketed and received equally well in both the US and Japan. I’m not Japanese, so I can’t comment on their success over there… But in the US, I think that audiences will be able to put two and 2 together and find parallels to all that “environmentalist stuff.” And considering the narrow line the movie makers were walking, I think the story was “good enough,” though I recommend in the future they choose one side of the pacific or the other and run with it.
While the story itself was good enough, the telling of that story was, much like A.I., poorly paced. And the editing was just choppy, especially near the end of the movie. And choppy editing, combined with a predictable (if disappointing) ending and the feeling that time was slowing to a crawl just tends to make me cranky. A good enough story, but not-so good telling of the story. Okay, fair enough.
But who cares about that? It’s all about the graphics. Trust me. If the story starts to make your left eye twitch (a sure sign of a bad story if there ever was one), you can just shut off your thinking part and drool at what Square dared to do. You know the characters aren’t real, and they never pretend to be real, but as long as you don’t let that get in the way, they’re more than good enough; If you just check your disbelief at the door you’ll do fine. I did find it amusing that the best looking characters were the more minor characters. The two main characters just felt far less real than some of those more minor characters did, and the face of the villain was a ridiculous caricature of pure sinisterness. There were a few other animations that felt out of place, like the random steam dials near the end of the movie, but I tried not to let things like that distract me. The visuals were great, and worth the price of admission alone, in my opinion.
Two other quick points: The story sure reminded me an awful lot of Final Fantasy IX at the broadest level, and it was completely ridiculous how the villain died. Now that I think about it, the villain was completely ridiculous in general, and probably the most stupid and inept villain I’ve ever seen. In fact I think I’d claim: Worst villain, ever. Wow, what a moron. At least Kuja (in FFIX) had some depth.
Wait, I’m not making myself clear. The more I think about the villain, the more angry I get at how ridiculous he was. But I can’t actually explain why publically without giving away the end of the movie. Seriously, the movie would have been written without that character, and it would have been better for it. He was just there because movies need bad guys, and so here’s the guy you should hate. He’s the one with the sinister face and the black leather coat wanting to shoot a giant laser at the earth, so it’s easy to tell which one he is. Only I’m hating him for all the wrong reasons.
Anyway, see it, stare wide at pretty pictures. I give it a 3.5/5, and if I were forced to use whole numbers I’d round up to a 4.
I picked up Zone of Enders for two reasons: 1. It came with the Metal Gear Solid 2 demo. And 2. It looked like an amazing, anime inspired, mecha combat game. And having played and beaten the Metal Gear Solid 2 demo, I can say for a fact that it came with ZOE. And having beaten ZOE, I can say for certain that it’s an anime inspired mecha combat game. As to whether or not it’s amazing… Well, it depends on which scale you’re judging.
Let’s go with three scales, for simplicity. First, there’s gameplay. How much fun is the game to play, how does it control, and how is the experience of beating the game? Well, it’s a hell of a lot of fun to play. The game makes controlling the Jehuty feel like second nature, and it reacts like you want it to without getting in your way. In fact, at times it didn’t even feel like I was consciously doing something, and it just happened. In fact, it’s so easy to play that I spent a couple of hours just playing old missions over and over. Alas, there were only three different kinds of enemies in the whole game (not counting bosses), so I eventually tired of just beating up drones and had to actually play some of the game. The bosses, on the other hand, were moderately interesting, and each had a little trick that had to be figured out to beat them. Unfortunately, there were only three real bosses. Fun factor: 5/5.
Next, there’s the story scale. And when it came to playing the game, I discovered the worst voice active I’ve ever heard, combined with the corniest plot I’ve ever seen and the most cliche Neon Genesis Evangelion rip off story ever. Little boy accidentally gets in big robot. Little boy kills someone. Little boy doesn’t want to kill. Little boy has to kill. I want to kill little boy and whoever his voice actor was and whoever was the voice actor of the big robot’s computer. Oh, what’s this? Hitting start skips a cut scene? Ohhh… I didn’t watch any of the story after the first 15 minutes (Which turns out to have been a pretty large portion of the game, but more on that later). Of course, it didn’t help that the missions were all totally cliche, and consisted of any one of Protect everyone, Destroy everything, or fetch item allowing you to destroy everything. And to top it all off, the game was really short. Like three hours short. Story factor: 0/5.
And finally, Graphics and Sound scale. Unfortunately, because “voice acting” falls under “Sound”, this scale break down does a huge disservice to both the Graphics and Sound Effects, so I’m going to pretend that the voice acting falls under the previous category. The graphics in this game are amazing, and the attention to detail superb. This game really shows what the PS2 is capable of doing that the PSX wasn’t. From the trails that the Jehuty will scrape into the ground if you fly too low, to the countless buildings you can destroy and the cars parked in driveways, it’s amazing. And the sound effects are nice, too. Explosions, explosions, everywhere! Graphics and Sound factor: 5/5.
My, what a dilemma we’re faced with here. Amazing game play and amazing graphics, but amazingly horrible story and voice acting. So I guess ZOE qualifies as an “amazing anime inspired mecha combat game”, as long as your definition of amazing doesn’t mean amazingly good in every possible way. Now, normally I’m the story-whore and my roommate Keith is the graphics-whore, and I would have smelled a game with a story this bad a mile away… But the gameplay and graphics are so good that, despite the stinking story, I can say that this is a game you should play. I give it a 3/5, but with all kinds of asterisks and footnotes. However, it’s also a game that you should rent and not buy, because it’s so short. In the five days Blockbuster allocates you, you’ll be able to play this game two or three times and spend plenty of time with the Metal Gear Solid 2 demo while you’re at it.
But while I recommend you play this game, I urge you to remember that you can skip every cut scene by hitting start. And if you don’t believe me, you can taste the waters yourself, but… I don’t recommend that course of action, and don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Earlier today, we saw Shrek (flash warning), and it was very good. But before I dig in, there are a few pre-show details that were interesting.
Upon entering the lobby of Berkeley’s United Artists Theater, I noticed a display for Myst 3: Exile (flash warning). The thing is, it wasn’t your typical movie theater display — it was a display filled with what appeared to be game boxes on sale. Only, upon closer examination — it was a display filled with empty boxes. And then, in the theater, the first “preview” we were greeted with was for Myst 3, and it was very beautiful and cinematic. In fact, when it ended, there were many questioning murmurs, and I overheard one person ask “it’s not a movie?” If I had more time, I’d be interested in playing it, but I think I’ll wait until it’s price drops, as the prices of all computer games do months after they’re released. The question is, with such a breathtaking preview in such high profile movies as Shrek, why did they bother with such a cheesy, wasteful, unattractive display as the one that was in the lobby? Ah well, I’ve never understood marketing…
So anyway, Shrek… It was very good, and we enjoyed it immensely. The animation fit the movie perfectly. There were fantastic dragons, magical transformations, and whimsical executioners… Perhaps the most notable aspect of the animation were the beautiful textures, which can be seen in some of still shots, and especially in this picture of the beautiful Princess Fiona. The motion in the movie was also very well done, from the lumbering, occasionally limping Shrek, to the various fairy tale creatures.
My biggest complaint, and one that I’m hardly justified in complaining about, is that, at times the Ogre’s personal habits were completely disgusting. But Shrek’s an Ogre, and Ogre’s have disgusting personal habits, because that’s what Ogre’s are — and his personal habits are part of the story, so that’s why I don’t really get to complain about it. If you see it, just be prepared for some disgusting bits — they’re well worth it, though, because the rest of the tale is tons of fun.
Definitely worthy of a 5/5, and the first movie I’ve seen in awhile that I already want to see again.
There was ample Disney bashing, including a whole Disneyland parody which was brilliant. The soundtrack was perhaps a little too hip for a fairy tale, but I can forgive that. And of course, the world will never be free of Matrix references, which is, to me, a bad thing. Admittedly, the movie was filled with references, but even with a clever new twist, a matrix reference is hardly original these days.
Over lunch with a co-worker, I brought up some of the stuff I was rambling about after seeing The Mummy Returns last night, and we figured out why computer generated voices aren’t as interesting to movie makers as computer generated visuals. The reason, we decided, was because there is no need for computer generated voices.
“Well, do we even need computer generated animation?” You might find yourself asking. And the answer to that is definately yes. In the Pearl Harbor trailer, there is a scene in which the camera flies around some planes flying in formation, and then one of them drops a bomb and the camera follows the bomb as it falls and strikes a ship. Now I’m not a movie maker, but I’m pretty sure that would be hard to do the old fashioned way.
But with voices, there’s no need to generate them. It’s pretty easy to record a voice, and at worst, it might need to be modified with a computer to create an echo or alter the pitch. And if all else fails, todays speech synthesis tools probably provide the desired fake voice. In fact, the only synthesized voice I can think of hearing lately is when Dr. Hawking is on a show, or is made fun of. So with that taken into consideration, I’m not sure if there’ll ever be much demand for a computer which can produce voices.
Of course, this has nothing to do with the demand for a machine which can produce voices, but a computer and a machine, as Searle will remind you, are different things. So if you’re not keeping score, just remember that a computer is something which manipulates symbols and follows instructions, while a machine can go further and do more. It’s the difference between simulation and duplication.
I saw The Mummy Returns this evening, and every commercial I saw made a big deal that The Rock (WWF star, I think) was in the movie. Okay, fine, whatever. So as the movie opens, there’s the story of the Scorpian King (who is played by The Rock), and we see The Rock grimace and and groan and he has one line, not even in English, which he gets to say (scream?) twice. And then The Rock disappears from the movie for two hours.
And when he returns, we find the head of The Rock attached to a… Scorpian Centaur Crawfish-lookin’ thing. But the head didn’t look quite right. In fact, it occured to me that the head was computer animated, along with the rest of the creature. Sure, there was a lot of computer animation in the film, some good, some bad… But why did it occur to me that The Rock’s face had been animated as well? Well, for starters, the animated face was a much better actor than the The Rock we saw in the beginning of the movie. The textures on the face were a little funny, but at least it had meaningful expressions.
And of course, a little more than a month from now, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within will be released. Now, whether this movie is good or bad, it is significant in that the whole show is going to be computer generated. The still shots have looked amazing, but we’ll have to see how well two hours animated people look.
Well, everything in Final Fantasy except the voices are going to be computer generated. I wonder why all the emphasis has been on making realistic graphics while there has been no emphasis on creating realistic voices (or smells, or what have you). I’ll be truly impressed when the whole thing is done with computers for real.
But that does bring up a question: Will the next generation even be able to tell the difference between computer-animated movies and the old fashion kind? Now, before you dismiss me as being insane, let me explain myself. I saw a preview for Pearl Harbor this evening, which featured some planes flying and a bomb falling, along with a lot of other details. All of these things were computer animated, but they were very well done. They were so well done, in fact, that it was only a vague sense of uneasiness and some impossible camerawork that clued me in to the animated aspect.
Things like flying planes happen, but how many people have actually seen a formation of planes up close? The point is, people won’t be able to tell that these things aren’t real because they haven’t ever seen the real thing to compare it to. It’s easy to decide that the fantastic world of Final Fantasy isn’t real, but will anyone be able to tell that a World War II dogfight isn’t real? Or for that matter, that a New York murder mystery isn’t real? Now, before you suggest that the next generation will be able to compare the computer generated movies to today’s movies and see what real movies looked like, remember how unreal black and white movies can seem, or even movies from a couple of decades ago.
Perception and Reality are fine lines which are influenced by familiarity, and it won’t be long before even our generation will be believing a romantic comedy told with computer generated copies of Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks (though they’ll still have to pay the actors for their voices. I really don’t want second rate voice actors — believe me, I’ve heard them as bad as they come).
And despite what may sound like a lot of negative opinions, I’m very eager to see what’s possible. Hopefully actors won’t do the same thing to the computer animation as the RIAA did to the digital music.