Saturday 28 May 2016

The Worst Pokémon Sprites - Part 2

Over a year ago, I covered five of the most offensive sprites in the history of Pokémon games - but I had only scratched the surface of what is undoubtedly a horrifying visual ordeal.

Playing the VC download of Pokémon Blue reminded me once again just how abysmal some of the sprites were back in the day; so, without further ado, we must have a browse at some more stinkers.

To those not already aware, I also mention Pokémon Red and Green in this post, which were the original versions that were localised to Red and Blue when released in Western countries. So keep that in mind!

And so we begin...

#5 - Gastly in Pokémon Red and Blue Versions

Pokémon Red and Blue, and Green even more so, were known for cocking up many of the sprites of the original critters - be it due to ridiculous scaling, confused, deranged postures, or downright bizarre changes in shape. For the most part, they were just poorly drawn versions of Ken Sugimori's original designs - but Gastly's sprite is something else entirely.

I don't look at this sprite and dwell on any horrendous drawing or proportions, I just look at it and think - what is this? This is Gastly? Not one bit of it gives me any indication that the creators even looked at the original artwork. Where is the black body? Why are it's fangs so huge? It just looks like the brushstroke tool from Microsoft Paint with a creepy face attached.

#4 - Golbat in Pokémon Red and Blue Versions


That's just gross. Forget how badly drawn this atrocity is, just look how repulsive that is. Look at the icky saliva drizzling off it's slimy tongue - speaking of which, how does Golbat even fit a tongue that bit inside that minuscule head/body? Who knows. You can give it credit for actually depicting Golbat in a unique way compared to the sprites that succeeded it, but with how poorly drawn it is, you can't really say the good outweighs the bad.

I get that he's opening his gob to stretch his tongue out for reasons unknown, but it's a little too wide open, don't you think? It's like he could eat his own wings; Golbat's mouth may be permanently wide open, which I'm sure causes some serious lifestyle issues, but never this much. Also, what's with the eyes? They're not even properly attached to him, instead floating above the mouth - the iris' are even hanging off the edges of his head! Couple that with some pathetically tiny feet and you have a sprite that simply stopped caring about sensible scaling.

#3 - Moltres in Pokémon Red and Green Versions

Red and Blue's drawing of Moltres was bad enough, but this is something else - this is like something drawn by a toddler. We can of course immediately pick up on the fact that it doesn't look like Moltres whatsoever - why is the body shaped like an upside down heart? Why are it's wings pure fire instead of having fire attached to a feathery surface? Not to mention that the tail is absolutely pathetic as it quickly fizzles out into nothingness just inches after it leaves the body.

But what on Earth is wrong with the neck? Moltres' head is disjointed in some way, clicked to one side, permanently facing a downward left angle with no way out. It almost looks like it's splatted against a window in some classic cartoon gag. Man this sucks.

#2 - Machamp in Pokémon Red and Green Versions

Begone, foul creature!
Machamp is far from my favourite Pokémon, but he can still look badass in some postures - however, his laughably bad sprite from Pokémon Red and Green is certainly not one of them.

Just...wow. Whoever drew this evidently had no concept of proportions and measurements of the character - I mean seriously, his head is almost bigger than his actual body! His hands are bigger than his entire legs! It just makes absolutely no sense how they could be okay with passing off this laughable mess as a legitimate representation of the character.

One of the worst sprites the franchise has seen. Also, let's not forget the face; oh god, that face. That's one deranged smile.

#1 - Ekans in Pokémon Red and Blue AND Red and Green Versions

Meet Ekans. A pretty wide eyed, chubby fellow that evolves into a badass cobra, whose name is also craftily derived from a backwards spelling. Now, take a look at it's sprites from both Red and Blue (left) and Red and Green (right). Where is Ekans? All I see are two weird looking snakes. What went wrong?

Red and Blue, much as with Gastly, just depicted Ekans with a decently drawn sprite that was just annoyingly incorrect - essentially, it's too thin and the face is completely wrong. The only thing done right is the striped pattern across it's body and the rattlesnake tail. Not offensive when it comes to the overall drawing, but quite so when it comes to a comparison of Sugimori's original design.

But the Red and Green sprite? It looks the same, except this time, Ekans' face has been gruesomely fused with that of Bellsprout. I just don't see how they could've possibly derived such an image from Sugimori's artwork. Yes, Ekans is often shown looking gormless as it hangs it's gob wide open with it's weird, perplexing stare, but never so much that it looks like a trumpet. It makes you wonder how much effort goes into these games, how much checks they do, how much time they put into it - and at no point did someone question that maybe this wasn't very accurate?

Thanks for reading!

Thursday 12 May 2016

Movie Goofs - Thomas and the Magic Railroad (2000)

Thomas and the Magic Railroad is an interesting one. I remember getting it on VHS for Christmas in 2001, in a box set that included little plastic toys of main characters Thomas, Lady, and Diesel 10. As a kid, I was all over it; to see my childhood hero in a major live action film was overwhelming, and hearing all the Sodor engines talk with their own voices was equally mind blowing.

In retrospect, while it's nothing truly awful, it's certainly not good by any means. Though it was scripted and directed by series creator Britt Allcroft, the film is often criticised for severely "Americanizing" the original British series, with all sorts of gimmicky magical traits being introduced into what was simply an English railway with talking trains, prone to constant accidents which likely causes declining attendance and gargantuan insurance costs. Allcroft herself has said studio interference greatly changed the film's outcome, leaving it very different from the original story she had planned, which is always a shame at the end of the day.

And of course, such a flawed story is a comfortable home for many daft oversights...

  • A common mistake noticed by most people: Thomas enters the magic railroad with Lily and sees the coal truck on a neighbouring track. However, when Lady later travels down the same magic railroad, there is now only one track.
  • During the opening scene, an establishing shot shows all the engines hard at work at Knapford station. Amongst all the chit chat and ambience, one can hear James saying "Hello, Thomas!", despite the fact that Thomas is nowhere to be seen. Even stranger, one can even hear Thomas replying with a greeting of his own...yikes.
  • Sodor seems to be completely devoid of humans, making any services the engines are carrying out, passenger or freight, completely pointless. On top of that, it begs the question: who is supplying these engines with coal and water, and how are they having rolling stock coupled up to them? And on top of THAT, later in the film when Lady is reborn, she requires Burnett Stone to operate her, whereas all the other engines can move freely by themselves.

  • When Lady and Thomas pass under a bridge as Diesel 10 chases them, Thomas is smiling, despite them both being in mortal peril.
  • Diesel 10 has a claw attached to his roof known as Pinchy. Pinchy is later used to hold Mr. Conductor hostage and Diesel 10 threatens to drop him off the viaduct if he does not give him the information he needs. In order to escape, Mr. Conductor severs one of Pinchy's pipes, causing it to malfunction. Nicely done, but how did Pinchy get fixed afterwards? It is seen working just fine for the rest of the film, and with this magical Sodor being completely devoid of human presence, it doesn't seem likely that Diesel 10 would have anyone to go for repairs.
  • When by the windmill with Lily, Mr. Conductor, and Thomas, Junior is swept away and lands on Diesel 10, who whisks him away to his potential demise. But this isn't like Mr. Conductor, where Diesel 10 had him trapped in Pinchy; Junior is just sat on top of Diesel 10 with no means of restraint. He could've easily jumped off without risk of injury, seeing as he was able to survive being thrown into the sky and subsequently crashing onto a speeding train.
  • Why was James in that strangely positioned furnace? He was just parked in a siding doing absolutely nothing. It seems rather strange that he'd suddenly go to what is evidently the scariest, most dangerous, and most-likely-to-have-an-accident place that Sodor has to offer.
  • Diesel 10, a locomotive weighing at least 80 tons, can be supported by a single wooden sleeper when hanging off the broken viaduct, and can then crash onto a small barge without remotely damaging it.
  • There is no way Diesel 10 would have difficulty catching up with Thomas or Lady during the final chase scene. Thomas and Lady are tank engines that, in real life, would reach a top speed of around 40mph. Diesel 10, on the other hand, is based on a BR Class 42, which could reach speeds of over 90mph. But why I am bringing all this logic into a children's movie about talking trains? Because I have nothing better to do when I'm not at work.
Thanks for reading!

Friday 6 May 2016

Movie Review - Captain America: Civil War

Based on the renowned Marvel storyline of the same name, this latest installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe brings together what seems like a partial Avengers ensemble in what is strangely intended, as is with the comics, as a standalone Captain America storyline. The plot revolves around the Avengers faced with the consequences of their previous battles and the responses by the world's many governments - leading to conflict between the heroes who choose to accept the repercussions and those who believe they are a necessary evil for the greater good.

Civil War basically feels like a third Avengers film - or at least Avengers 2.5, as many are jokingly calling it. This isn't an automatic criticism at first glance; whilst it leads to some initial confusion when coinciding with the title, it can still work in theory. Sadly, for the majority of the film, it's not as ideally structured as it could've been - simply because the mixup of characters, many of whom are unnecessary, creates a series of tonal jumbles and narrative hiccups and makes what initially seems to a powerful story just overlong and overly complex for no justifiable cause.

Civil War explores some deep themes, bringing a number of political allegories into the mix; not as original as some may think, but still a promising setup, particularly for this franchise. Sadly, at times, such themes are briefly explored and so lose any powerful effect they were going for, and at other times the film is somewhat patronising in how it hammers obvious points into the audience in, on some occasions, lousy attempts to be innovative. The balance of character development is also equally flawed, simply because there's too many of them stuffed into the script - whilst Captain America and Iron Man shine alongside some of the more interesting sidekicks like Falcon and Vision (sometimes), the onslaught of random intruders including Black Panther, Ant-Man, and, famously, Spider-Man feel segue and make it seem like the film was written by dozens of different people who had no contact with one another.

Spider-Man himself appears for barely 20 minutes in an admittedly entertaining battle scene, and while Tom Holland provides a likeable performance as Peter Parker, his acting quickly morphs into something irritating and monotonous once he dons the spandex; indeed, the inclusion of this character feels like it was just a last minute decision fuelled by Marvel's sudden excitement at finally securing the film rights from Sony. On a promising flipside, performances across the rest of the film are generally strong, particularly from Chris Evans and Robert Downey, Jr., though a number characters including Black Widow and Scarlett Witch, despite having reasonably talented actors behind them, suffer due to mediocre writing. Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes gives it his all, but he also suffers from being somewhat uninteresting, especially when the film obsesses over his eventually irritating importance.

Civil War is not a bad movie - but it is a dull one. People will want to rip me apart for saying this, but for me this is just another disappointment, thanks to an unfocused narrative and way too many unnecessary characters. It leads to a film that, despite its great cast, thrilling action sequences, and witty humour, is often boring and frustrating to follow, and I just didn't experience the same stellar effect it seemed to have on many others.

Monday 2 May 2016

Movie Review - Kung Fu Panda 3

Dreamworks' Kung Fu Panda franchise, started in 2008, has become one of their biggest yet, and this is set to continue with plans to make it as large as a six film series. It's been almost half a decade since the second installment, but now the threequel is finally here, bringing a host of new characters and plot threads to the screen - the question is, do they justify yet another entry to the franchise?

Continuing his role as the Dragon Warrior and defender of the Great Valley, Po (Jack Black) is bestowed with further responsibilities when the renowned Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) finally retires and passes on his teaching duties to Po himself. After struggling to cope with conveying his skills to the Furious Five as a tutor, Po's worries further escalate when a sinister villain known as Kai (J.K. Simmons) emerges from the immortal world to seek long awaited vengeance, whilst also encountering his long lost father Li Shan (Bryan Cranston) and a secret Panda Village that unveils further truths about his forgotten childhood.

The Kung Fu Panda franchise uses familiar themes to convey its narrative, but has produced some surprisingly resonant results, with 2011's second installment (while not perfect) demonstrating some unique character arcs, expressed through some interesting plot twists and visual surprises. This time round, we build upon the ending of the first sequel, with Po's father coming to the Great Valley to seek out his son who went missing long ago. The relationship established between Po and his father, superbly voiced by Bryan Cranston, may not be as strong as it could've been, but it still produces some endearing results, especially when it comes to revealing further backstory on Po's family life. The other members of the panda village also have their own unique, loveable personalities, and they help add up to a superb climax once we enter the final confrontation.

The villain Kai isn't on par with Tai Lung and certainly not as badass as Lord Shen from the first two movies; his initial threatening finesse upon entry seems to be undermined by a number of samey punchlines and so it can be hard to take him seriously. Plus, this aside, he just seems to come across as a bit of a generic brute, with his potentially powerful backstory dismissed for the most part - still, as a sinister foe, he's reasonably entertaining, especially thanks to the solid voicework by J.K Simmons. For the most part, Kung Fu Panda 3 feels like a true conclusion to this series, combining narrative elements from the first two movies in equal doses to produce a respectable finale of the overall tale; so it's a shame that more sequels will continue to flood the screens for monetary gain. Not an animated masterpiece, but worth a watch as another enjoyable Dreamworks production.