Archive for May, 2013

What a Wonderful Month, Again

Every one of these days is going to offer so very, very much.

About a year ago I sung the praises of the month of June right here on Vagrant Rant, mentioning a handful of promising entertainment media releases releasing that month that made it a truly exciting time to be a fan of movies and videogames. Well, quite frankly, the 2013 edition of June smashes the 2012 version on promise alone. My word, look at just ten of the things that will be available to us this month (in chronological order): Continue reading

The Baddest of the East

Today marks the long awaited Korean debut solo release from CL, leader of mega-successful K-Pop group 2NE1 and the self-proclaimed “baddest female of Seoul city”. It’s kind of a big deal in K-Pop circles and so to celebrate, here’s a little something on Korean female idol rappers.

If you’ve ever had a taste of K-Pop music lasting longer than an hour or so, you’d have a pretty good idea of the genre’s attitude to hip-hop music. Hip-hop influences run through just about every bit of dance choreography you’ll see today, but there’s more to it than that. It pervades the image of nearly every group in some form, whether male or female. For example, outside of Girls’ Generation (coincidentally the most popular K-Pop group around these days), pretty much every girl group now packs an obligatory “rapper”. That’s regardless of whether said rapper actually has any background rapping, or whether their “raps” consist of anything more than talking in a slightly modified voice over a beat.

While this can result in some cringeworthy sounds, it also gives some rappers who do know what they’re doing a platform to the kind of recognition they just wouldn’t get on the underground scene. Because of K-Pop’s corporation-driven, highly standardised nature, which breeds the kind of male-female parity that only such unapologetic profit-chasing can produce, what we’re left with is a situation where, by association, female rappers receive just as much attention, if not more, than their male counterparts. I certainly can’t think of any other country where this is the case, at least not off the top of my head. And sure, idol group rapping is naturally going to be tamer than the underground stuff, but that doesn’t mean it can’t sound awesome (It certainly doesn’t hurt that the natural flow of the Korean language lends itself well to a good rapper).

So ignoring the likes of Tasha, a hugely respected Korean solo R&B/hip hop artist who is pretty incredible at what she does, as well as just about every other actual full-blown hip hop artist in Korea, I’m going to focus here on rappers that come from idol groups. What follows is my admittedly limited opinion on the seven best Korean female rappers going around in K-Pop groups at the moment:

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7. Lime – HELLOVENUS

Despite debuting last year as part of one of the girliest groups K-Pop fans have seen in a while, Kim Hye-Lim or “Lime” has some pretty impressive rapping talents. Not only can she belt out a tune with the best of them but she can also switch up rap styles, pulling off either speed or flow-based rhymes when the situation calls for it. Fans are still waiting for a HELLOVENUS release that actually shows off these skills in earnest, because for now they don’t really fit the group’s image, but no K-Pop group stays to one concept for too long…

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IDO: Playstation Plus

Well what do you know, looks like I’m in a bit more of an apologetic mood than usual. Let’s do another one.
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I N   D E F E N S E   O F

–==Playstation Plus==–

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Note:
For those without a current generation Playstation console or just not in the know, Playstation Plus is a completely optional online subscription service for owners of its consoles, launched by Sony in mid-2010. In Australia, it costs $20 for a 90-day subscription and $70 for a year’s worth. The company also likes to throw around free 30-day trials for the service as bonuses with its new games from time to time. The biggest reason to be a member of Playstation Plus is access to what the company calls its “instant game collection”, which is basically a constantly changing list of games available as full downloads for free. Members are able to play these full games until their subscription runs out, at which point they have to either renew their subscription, pay for the game completely or surrender the legal right to play it. The service also provides small discounts on normally priced game downloads (which can be played for as long as you like) and allows for automatic game and system updates on PS3 while it isn’t being used, among other things. Glad we got that out of the way. Now:

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The Case Against:
The one thing that the Playstation 3 always had over the Xbox 360 in the online department was that it was free. You didn’t have to pay any stupid yearly online fees just to enjoy a multiplayer game online with your friends. While Playstation Plus technically doesn’t change that, it does represent a cynical attempt by Sony to take more money from its loyal customers. This leaves a bit of a sour taste in the mouth, but it’s nothing compared to the outrage that is the service itself. The idea of downloading a game and being forced to pay to keep playing it is utterly repulsive. The service is a blight on the Playstation name and it should not exist.
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More like Playstation Minus, amirite? hehe

The Defense:
A lot of things attract hate on the internet. Wait, what am I saying? Everything attracts hate on the internet. But the reasons for hating on Playstation Plus that I most often encounter on forums and the like are simply some of the weakest I have ever seen. And they are a lot more plentiful than they should be. Continue reading

IDO: Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale

It has been a LONG time since I last did one of these, perhaps because I haven’t felt the need. But this one is kind of topical. Nintendo just announced that it will be debuting its new Super Smash Bros game at E3 in a couple of weeks, and I fear that means this awesome game will be forgotten, if it isn’t already.
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I N   D E F E N S E   O F

–==Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale==–

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The Case Against:
Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale is a shameless rip-off of the Super Smash Bros series. It looks and plays exactly the same; but with a HD graphical sheen to it. Because of this it makes little to no sense that it even exists at all, given that it cannot hope to compete with the sheer presence of Nintendo’s many, many recognisable characters. Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon aren’t even in it! What kind of self-respecting Sony mascot fighter doesn’t have those two? Also, the menus look horrible. The game isn’t worth anyone’s time.
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The same thing?

The Defense:
Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale launched last year in October for PS3 and PS Vita and it hasn’t quite sold as well as Sony may have hoped. Sure, it came close to the company’s rather low expectations and in that sense the game didn’t actually do badly per se, but it didn’t exactly do Smash Bros numbers. Of course it was never going to do Smash Bros numbers, but that was because of a whole range of factors ranging from budget to marketing to the cobbled-together nature of SuperBot, the studio that made it. But its very average sales performance had absolutely nothing to do with it being a bad game. Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale is not a bad game. It isn’t even a mediocre game. It’s a really good one, actually.

Here’s why. Continue reading

Xbox Won?

Yes, the pun is too obvious. No, I don’t believe it is true at this point.

So something pretty big happened this morning. Three months after Sony lifted the curtain on the Playstation 4, Microsoft finally unveiled its next generation gaming console, henceforth known as the Xbox One.

The whole thing was done in under an hour and had a bit of an unfinished air to it. E3 is less than three weeks away, after all, and Microsoft probably felt like they needed to leave some content for their major LA keynote.

If you missed the presentation, this amazing minute-and-a-half video sums it up pretty well:

As expected, the internet is abuzz with fanboy wars right now. Generalisations and melodrama are sweeping forums the world over. Most of them are declaring the PS4 the early winnner of the latest console ‘war’. Personally, I think that’s ridiculous. We just don’t know enough about the X1’s games yet -I shall be waiting until E3 before deciding which of the two consoles to pick up first.

In the meantime, I have thrown together a short list of three things I like and three things I dislike about the Xbox One so far, based on what we do know:

Continue reading

Nanananana

WHY IS IT SO COLD? Aren’t we meant to be the sunburnt country or something?

It’s a bit of a quiet time in entertainment media at the moment. Call it the calm before the storm if you like; Microsoft will be revealing its next generation Xbox in a matter of days and E3 is only a few weeks away! And let’s not forget a little film called Man of Steel – that juggernaut will be hitting our screens before we know it!

Anyway if you’re feeling blue today (maybe because of that aforementioned temperature) take a dose of this to lift your spirits. Here’s a freshly released example of what can happen when Korea and Japan work together:

Game Review: Zero Esape – Virtue’s Last Reward

Now for a little gem that came out very late last year in Australia and got buried in the AAA blockbuster rush. It only came to my attention last month when it was available as a free download on Playstation Vita as part of the Playstation Plus service. I liked it so much that I tracked down a 3DS copy of the game so my Vita-less friends could play it.

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Platform:
3DS, PSV
Developer: Spike Chunsoft

Rating: M
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Creeeepy.

Creeeepy.

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It was agonizing.

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The first time I was faced with that terrible screen, forcing me to select either “ally” or “betray”, I stared blankly at the two options for what felt like hours. There were so many implications to that decision, so many permutations. What if my opponent betrayed me after I left myself open by choosing to ally? What if I was the one who betrayed a vulnerable player, bringing them that much closer to their death? Which option was worse? Such is the primary dilemna at the heart of the truly mind-bending Virtue’s Last Reward.

Simple, but never, ever easy.

Simple, but never, ever easy.

Continue reading