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GamelogoBy Australian Ninja

Remnants & Relics. Buttonhole *Special* Feature

Welcome dear reader to Remnants & Relics, the first in an ongoing series of features looking back at various aspects of yesterday's video games. This series is one that I'd hoped to kick off many months ago, but I just haven't had the time to do it justice, until now. So consider this your opportunity to put on your best pair or rose-tinted glasses, open up a luke-warm can of clichés and prepare to hop aboard the way-back-machine.... It came from beyond two dimensions! -A Look Back at Isometric Gaming-

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ToonlogoBy Australian Ninja

ACMI Day Tripper

Welcome Buttonhole readers to another feature that is so choc-full of goodness that I've divided it into several sections. The top half is about the Indy video games showcased at ACMI. The bottom half is about the Pixar exhibit. It's ridiculously long and all terribly interesting to read, so you may as well read it in two halves, or just the parts that interest you. After reading about the ACMI exhibits on their website and getting more than a little excited, I decided to make the perilous trek to inner Melbourne. With time on my side and money stuffed in my pocket I ventured forth to the train station. Once on board I passed the time by staring out the window, reading a volume of Dark Horse's Concrete and snacking on tasty fruit. Arriving at Flinders St, I wandered around until inevitably finding my way out of the rat-maze like station.

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ToonlogoBy Australian Ninja

Classic Comic-book Review. Kraven's Last Hunt

"Here lies Spider-Man - Slain by the Hunter" So reads the grave of one of histories greatest superheros. "But he's not dead, is he? What happened to everyone's favourite web-slinger? Spidey seems to be alive and well now, what with his three movie deal and a string of monthly Marvel comic-book titles to his name, so why was he buried six feet under? The year is 1987. The company is Marvel. The character is Sergei Kravinov also known as 'Kraven the Hunter.' Back in the 60's Stan and Steve (Lee and Ditko, respectively) churned out a heap of cool villains for the title "Amazing Spider-Man." Doctor Octopus, The Cham

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Vice City Stories_PS2_Cover.jpg Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories. PS2 Review

Remember how, we built this Vice City, on Pee-Sss-Twooo....

Publisher: Rockstar / Take Two Interactive

Mon, 9 April 2007

Aussie_N6 by: Australian Ninja

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Let me tell y'all bout a man named Jed, poor mountaineer bearly kept his family fed, untill one day he took over Rockstar games and yelled "I'm rich Bi-yatch!"

Vice City makes its triumphant return in VC2, more commonly known as Vice City Stories.
That means more running over pedestrians in a comical fashion, more laugh out loud radio comedy, more big explosions, more guns, more sexual innuendo, more 80's nostalgia along with a few new tricks.

As a big fan of the Grand Theft Auto series, with Vice City being my favourite GTA game ever - and also my most played PS2 game - the excitement I felt when purchasing this title was almost too much to bear.

The original Vice City I played non-stop for twelve consecutive months. Not every day, but every week for damn sure. Yes, this game was my very own 'Everquest / Evercrack.'

Rarely do I give a crap about new game releases. Sure I play a truck-load of excellent games throughout the gaming year, but I have a thing called a life and don't really pay attention to when a game is going to be released, or how super-mega-wonderful its going to be and how "Mario's Final McHalo Fantasy Shooter Quest Solid XIV" is the second coming and blah blah blah.

Except when it comes to Vice City Stories. This is the one game I made an exception for and scrounged online regularly for details and screens. I anticipated and looked forward to this title from day one. My most excellent brother has the PSP version, so I got a taste of VC2 last year, and of course I was a little green with envy.

I prayed daily for the game to be released on PS2, so that it could join its brother Liberty City Stories in making the leap from the PSP onto my console of choice; Lord PS2.

Games? I love 'em dearly, but I don't like hype. So I'm just gonna say I loves me some Vice City Stories despite its many flaws on PS2.
Then tell you straight why I love VC2 but why you may not.

So sit back, this review -like the game - is massive and I'm throwing convention and good sense out the window so I can just ramble on about all the good shit in this game.

I'm usually a pretty positive and optimistic guy, except when I'm not - but I'm going to tell you what just plain sucks about VC2.
Yeah, I know I shouldn't fill up a big chunk of a review about a game I love with negative criticisms - but that's what I'm doing.

Vice City Stories_PS2_Screen_Z.jpg
Junkies, hookers, crooks and shysters, remember the good times with a postcard from Vice City!
Number one: the graphics suck ass, they are just plain ugly. The PSP version is gorgeous with its slick LCD screen and beautiful high resolution graphics.

The PS2 version of VC2 has grainy textures and a dull muted colour palette that just looks terrible.

How the hell did this happen?

Why does it look far worse than the first Vice City released around five years ago?

Why do the vehicle graphics 'shake' at high speeds like the Enterprise being pulled into a black hole?

I thought games were supposed to look better later in a consoles life span, not awful.

The graphics look worse than San Andreas even, and that game had to sacrifice something to fit everything in - hence the ever present 'Grainy Mcfilter' effect.
Don't get me wrong, VC2 is still pretty in places - like the neon building skyline at sunset in the above picture.

Number two: The pop-up in VC2 is really affects the gameplay and is almost inexcusable. Sure pop-up was in the PSP version, but it still sucks here on the PS2. Try driving down the road at high speeds on a bike and see what happens.

You can literally count the seconds until a vehicle magically ghosts itself right in front of you, too fast to possibly swerve and avoid an annoying collision.
Sorry Rockstar, the only pop-up I like is when my toast is done. Please go and sit in the corner and think about what you did wrong.

Number Three: The amount of hard bastard missions that frustrate you to no end is at a record high.
Sure every GTA game has them. Difficult missions that are beyond hardcore, causing rageahol induced fits of profanity.

Like those extra hard missions? Good, because VC2 has more than its healthy share. Only the persistent will prevail. While difficult you will pass them eventually, probably after playing another game for a while.

I like challenging games sure, but I don't like games that cheat and punish you for no good reason. "Not happy Jan."
Shame on you Rockstar, I bought your Midnight Club and Manhunt games, you have so much cash that its piling up in sacks on your front lawn like raked leaves in the autumn.

I expected better of you people - the PS2 conversion of VC2 is just plain lazy.
When we have amazing looking games like God of War and Final Fantasy XII at the end of the PS2's lifespan, you think that VC2 would at least look and play as good as the previous game Vice City that was released around five years ago. Not so.

Okay then, the good news is the game is as fun as ever to play - with minor/ major annoyances depending on your attitude. Were this game produced by a lesser company I would not have bitched so much.

But Rockstar generally produce consistently high quality games and VC2 just sticks out like a sore thumb. Fortunately the strengths far outweigh the weaknesses.

The core gameplay in Vice City Stories is mostly the same as the original Vice City.
This PS2 version is virtually the same as the PSP version, obviously minus the MP3 custom soundtrack option and multiplayer etc, not that I care anyhow. If I want custom soundtracks I just turn on the Xbox.

So what's new in VC2?
First up is the very welcome ability to swim, unfortunately it is limited to surface swimming and the oxygen bar depletes rapidly, but it can be upgraded later in the game.

Next up is the [improved?] combat system which now includes grapples, knees, throws and an instant kill neck-snap.
While it's nice to have an expanded repertoire of moves, they are still clunky and awkward to apply in that GTA kind of way.

Vice City Stories_PS2_Screen_Y.jpg
Go Night Boat! Aww, there's always a canal
As for vehicles, straight from Satan's Bottom, oh wait I mean 'San Andreas' - are the four wheeled quad-bikes and a hovercraft.

Then there is the all new Jet-Ski for watery fun - sweet.

Another new feature is the asset property missions that see you taking over many small buildings all over the two islands.

Doing so gives you a new save point, stacks of free 'asset' cash and allows for mini-missions available at the newly acquired businesses. Basically each building is the same, and taking over is similar to controlling territories in San Andreas.

This means that once you have conquered an area, rival gangs will no longer be in that particular area. It's odd to explain but basically it's an optional but worthwhile side quest. Overall it is very different from previous 'asset property' missions in other GTA games.

New to GTA again are the Air Ambulance and Air Fire-fighter missions that have you putting out fires and rescuing people, but with a helicopter.
The normal ground based Fire truck, Ambulance and Vigilante cop missions are here too, so nothing is culled from the side missions.

The vigilante missions in particular can be attempted on a Police motorcycle that makes them much easier and more fun to complete.
Each of these mission types also has checkpoint at level 5 and 10, so you never have to replay the early ones even if you die or get arrested. All of them are easier overall and really worthwhile completing early in the game for cool bonuses.

Yet another handy new feature is that when you inevitably die or get arrested, you can buy all your weapons and ammo back for $2000. This applies at all times whether on a mission or just wandering around the map.

The last new noteworthy vehicle is a cool mini-helicopter or 'autogyro' straight out of that Bond film 'Connery San in Japan' - okay okay, it's really called "You Only Live Twice" and damn it's a cool film.

That little copter reminds me of another thing I love about GTA.
The way that Rockstar unashamedly grabs the best bits of old movies and TV shows and crams them into GTA games.

Whether it's the ad parodies via billboards and radio commercials, or the obvious influences from shows like Miami Vice - Rockstar are true masters at crafting an incredibly fun virtual playground in videogame form.

The radio banter from the DJ's and insanely funny ads and talk show interviews are brilliant as ever, so I won't elaborate on these elements. Let's just say there are times when you will want to stop playing to give your undivided attention to the radio. For your own safety, please assume the regulation laughing position.

Hey, did I mention that the voice of one of the main characters in Vice City Stories - Lance Vance - is voiced by Philip Michael Thomas a.k.a. Detective Ricardo Tubbs of Miami Vice fame? I did, good!

The voice talent is excellent as ever, even though the story itself is rubbish. The voice actors are not as high profile as big budget games like San Andreas though.

But the only voice actor that really matters my friends is the man himself, Mr 1980s Phil Collins. But wait there's more. Not only does he lend his talented voice to the game, he also appears in the game in certain missions as himself, lending a certain sense of the surreal to the game.

Vice City Stories_PS2_Screen_X.jpg
I've been waiting for a gun like you, to come into my life

I tell you what, it don't get much better than this.

An 80's themed game with a kick ass soundtrack

that not only features two songs by Phil Collins

but actually has the genuine 80's fossil himself as a character in the game.

It's like the next step up from Love Fist, [the 'band' created for the original Vice City] in creating a hybrid real / imaginary world.

Throw in more neon lighting and pastel colours than your eyes can handle, then season with an ex-Miami Vice star in one of the main character roles and, you have a tasty gaming delight that you are sure to enjoy.

Moving along, the soundtrack to VC2 is just pure awesomeness prepared in a blender of 80's nostalgia.

Funk, pop, rap, electro, rock - its all good.
While my PSP owning brother favours the V-ROCK, I'm more into the cheesy pop sentimentality of Emotion and Wave 103.

Why? Because I can't help but sing along with those damn 80's songs. In fact Vice City is to blame for my choice to buy Singstar 80's on PS2. Stupid Memes.

Highlights from the wicked beat sound system that is Vice City Stories radio?

How about New Order's 'Blue Monday.'
That's enough to send shivers up my spine right there, but then we have
Run D.M.C. with
'It's Like that' not to mention Foreigner's
'I want to know what love is.'

Let's not forget the big little man himself, Mr Phil 'Genesis' Collins with the superfluous fluffy song spectacular 'In the air Tonight.'

Other great highlights include Judas Priest, Blondie, Motley Crue, Marvin Gaye, Blondie, The Pretenders, INXS, and Frankie Goes To Hollywood.

Oh yeah, some guy named Rick James, "I'm Rick James - Bitch!!" contributes a track too. All up some great tracks that hold up well even when you hear the songs for the Nth time.

I guess it's time to end this rather large and sometimes cuddly review here.

So is this game for you? If you've never played any GTA games but are curious to try one - then this game is not for you - go play San Andreas instead, you'll have a ball.

If you've played some or all of the 3-D GTA games so far, then VC2 is 'more of the same' and you're not missing anything by not buying it.

However if you love this series of games and are not yet sick of them, then knock yourself out baby, snap up this half normal retail price game and go nuts.

For those looking for innovation, a true sequel, or something new from the Grand Theft Auto series - you best wait for GTA IV later this year.

by: Australian Ninja

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ToonlogoBy Borgieman

Manifest '07 Report

Ninja's note: Once again, it's time for another Buttonhole report on the Melbourne Anime Festival, otherwise known as Manifest 2007. If you missed Ichibod's feature on a previous Manifest, check it out here. This Manifest coverage comes to you courtesy of forum regular and newest Buttonhole contributor Borgieman, a cool guy who knows his Anime and has been known to play a video game or two. So read on true believers! A Day at Manifest 2007

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ToonlogoBy Australian Ninja

Only Yesterday. Anime Review

The problem with having favourite films is that every time I watch another Studio Ghibli film it becomes my new favourite. It kind of renders the word 'favourite' meaningless when every Studio Ghibli film takes my breath away. Still, I can't complain about being thoroughly entertained by this whimsical and insightful film, "Only Yesterday". This gem was directed by Isao Takahata, well known for his anime film Grave of the Fireflies. Although Only Yesterday is a light hearted film that ambles along at a leisurely pace, it still manages to explore themes such as love, work, family relationship struggles, following your dreams and country versus city living. In the film, the main character Taeko decides to take a working vacation in the country, getting away from her office bound job and unexpectedly starts t

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ToonlogoBy Jason

Speed Grapher V1. Anime Review

Well, "I don't like it" was my initial feeling when viewing this Anime for the first time. Subsequent viewings haven't changed my views a great deal. Nothing really stands out as being absolute shit but it seems that this series tries too hard. It's almost like they were more interested in creating something 'edgy' and confronting but sadly forgot to include an even remotely palatable story. The hero of this particular piece is a bloke called Tatsumi Saiga. Tatsumi is a photographer and a veteran war journalist for whom taking photos has become somewhat of a fetish. Although he seems to have become jaded - nothing is worth wasting his film on - that is, at least until he stumbles across an exclusive club for the mega rich

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