Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Time for ACTION.

I've been focussing on a new little particular of this blog lately; making sure there are a few different, accurate labels for each post.

Basically, because it's a neat way of finding what you're interested in, without sifting through crap like sand lizards and TMNT vs. the RoboBugs. I mean, me personally, I love crap like sand lizards and RoboBugs, but I realise it may not be everyone's cup of tea (in which case, what kind of sick-ass tea are you drinking?!)

So I've been able to use a few key labels that encapsulate key demographics of this blog: plush... video game... that sort of rot.

But what is a toy blog without a label for ACTION FIGURES? Why, it's hardly a blog at all! FYI, I reckon making the term capitalized, bold and italic makes it much more dynamic.

The only thing is, I came to a bit of a snag... how do you define an action figure, really? Wikipedia gives a fairly robust definition, highlighting some key features of an action figure. Things like accessories, and body articulation.

So then, does anything that comes with nifty weapons and a spinning head fall under the classification of action figure? If so, is Regan MacNeil an action figure?

I know which ones are obviously action figures. The Turtles, Clifford the Rock Climber, etc., they fit the definition to a tee. But then you reach a grey area. The recently departed Ickis, for example, lacks accessories or full articulation, but he otherwise has action figure qualities: is he a contender? How about the posable McDonald's toys, like Robin Hood and Manta Ray? Frankly, I think they stretch the boundaries of 'action' to the umpteenth degree. It's like Christian rock; it's an oxymoron.

Anyhow, I'm opening the floor for discussion (just don't fall in!) - to you, the toy enthusiasts, what makes an action figure an action figure?

Monday, January 16, 2012

#0035: PES 2008

Loves me some football. The American variation, that is. The hits, the catches, the thrills! What a game. Though my countrymen will always tout hockey as sport #1, I must confess, football holds my fancy like no other.

Soccer (or football. Or futball, whatever the hell that is) is another kettle of fish. Fun to play with your friends, very tactical and athletic. But as for watching it? Ugh, it drags!

It's not that I have anything against the conventions of soccer (except the pathetic flopping and wailing of the European players), but, put simply, the field is just too damned big. It makes it tedious to watch as players have to trek across fields so far you'd expect them to set up camp overnight before finishing their journey.

Because of this, nobody freaking scores. If I wanted to watch people not scoring, I'd observe the awkward advances of pimply-faced teenagers at a blue light disco.

There are exceptions, occasionally. I was 110% behind Australia during their latest World Cup bid in 2010; and watching their uphill battle, surrounded by Aussies in the tacky Cafe Oz of Paris, France... Golly, really felt like I belonged.

Add another, more Nintendo-related element, and you'll pique my interest, too. I will gladly dodge bombs and electric fences before scoring five simultaneous goals in Mario Strikers Charged. And I will merrily purchase Pro Evolution Soccer 2008, for the sole reason that it features Miis. I shit you not, I bought this for Miis.

Playing your first straight sport game will always prove an uneasy endeavour. Just look at my latest attempts with NBA 2K12. I've long been an NBA admirer, but tragically I chose to pop my b-ball cherry in a year where my Toronto Raptors are rated a league-low 62. I can't stop opponents from driving to the basket, I leave them open for easy 3's, and I can't do the opposite to save my life. Plus, I'm intent on getting Jamaal Magloire on the court, just because he's Canadian. Take five, Calderon, it's time for MAGLOIRE MAGIC.

Or, rewind to Madden 2003, where I blindly flung the ball into triple coverage, ran into my blockers like they were magnetic, and routinely went for it on 4th & 27.

...Though hell, I still go for it on 4th & 27. The digital Brett Kern doesn't even need to suit up when I'm in charge.

To it's credit, then, PES '08 is remarkably easy to get the hang of. This is, in part, due to the intuitive control scheme that really takes advantage of the Wiimote. Point and press where you want your dude to go, and off he obediently jogs. It's like Warcraft, only without declarations of 'directing their sorrow' or some other emo night elf crap.

Press A on defence to pressure a ballcarrier, where an eerie red aura surrounds your player as though he were literally boiling with fury. Press B to pass, wiggle your nunchuk to score *giggle* *snort* and bob's your uncle, you're playing the beautiful game with the best of 'em. One thing I appreciate is that the advanced techniques are crucial to succeed as the difficulty rises, but not a necessity when you're starting out. As such, you won't immediately become victims of a 0-2 massacre.

Champions road is where the meat is at. Enter tournaments with a team of scrubs, beat your opponents and claim one of their players for your own. It's the Gengis Khan of franchise modes, and though none of these guys are real players, I still gain attachments. Castolo was originally the MVP, collecting 10 goals and 3 assists across his 11-game career, but then, Ordaz came along and changed everything. 25 goals and 7 assists to his name as the star player for the Los Angeles Farts. And oh, old Dodo, he was useless. Only 2 assists from midfield, and the team's only red card.

In case you couldn't tell, I actually do like PES '08. It's pretty solid, but due to my apathy towards soccer, it just doesn't hold my interest for as long. Might as well cash it in for maximum value before the Wii U comes along and renders it obsolete (I mean, beyond the fact that it's four iterations dated).

But first, I have one last game to play... For the pride and glory of a nation...

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Toying Around

On January 11th, 2011, I began to undertake a most unusual task. Not unusual on a base level, mind, because it was a premise as simple as clearing out all the clutter of my youth and getting rid of my old toys.

Unusual, however, because I have chosen to reflect with care (or disdain) on each item I discard, like Shakespeare would form a sonnet, or the media would blurt another Tim Tebow article.

And though it has lessened the guilt I feel about rejecting these old plastic/fluffy/digital friends, it has also made this process really... freaking... slow!

To observe, I have recently unleashed Ickis, item #34. That's less than three toys a month. 0.1 toy a day. 0.00006 toys per minute! If this were a production line, I would have gone out of business.

But whatever. It's a labour of love. A strange, creepy kind of love (like Billy Bob and Angelina Jolie), but it's there. Without the blood in a vial.

I digress. Happy one year anniversary to INAKA! How much more progress do I have to make until I've cleared away an entire tub of memories?

...A fair bit.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

#0034: Ickis

Nick-nick-nick-nick, nick-nick-nick-nick, NICKELODEON!

Ask 90s Tony what his favourite channel was, and he’ll emphatically blurt Nickelodeon! Inquire what kind of kid he was, and he’ll reply that he was a Nick kid! Then, for the love of god, please don’t tell him to get into the back of your van, because he’s already said too much. Why is he talking to a time-traveling stranger?

The children’s entertainment channel Nickelodeon has been around for a lot longer than many realise (launching as the Pinwheel network in 1977, the year of the Blue Jay!), but they didn’t really hit their stride until 1990, with the opening of Nickelodeon Studios, and the premiere of their original animated material in 1991.

I say all this as though I knew this factually, but I purloined this info from Wikipedia. The same Wikipedia that once proclaimed Canada to be the ‘national land of goat’. So you’ll have to excuse me if I ever cite slightly inaccurate knowledge.

The fact remains, however, that I was the key demographic targeted when Nick was in its renaissance in the 90s. I was the middle-class North American child, and I was all about slime, the big orange couch, and Stick Stickly. To kids of today, their favourite Nicktoons are most likely Spongebob Squarepants or Danny Phantom. But for me, it was probably Ed Bighead or the Gromble.

Am I really being elitist about watching a network for children’s programming in the 90s? Why yes, I am! Because it was marketed to be inclusive; you were part of their team… you wrote to them, and they’d respond! You told them about your birthday, and they’d display your name in a gigantic machine operated by a green creature. Dammit, we were as much Nick as Nick was Nick!

In 1994, we were introduced to a school of monsters, whose coursework consisted primarily of scaring the bejeezus out of people. I think such classes still exist in Namibia, but they’re scarce and unfocused. My favourite monster out of the main trio was this guy right here, Ickis. My reason for favouritism was simple, and consisted entirely of RED.

Nabbing some Aaahh!!! Real Monsters toys was cause for celebration, because as near as I recall, these suckers were pretty elusive. Either they just sold by the buttload, or Mattel had little faith in the franchise, and thereby under-produced the demand. I’m not particularly fazed by the actual answer, though a collection of four packaged toys is currently fetching $87.96 USD (12% off!), under the venerable old guise of ‘HTF’.

Ickis, arguably the main character, is a neurotic, almost Woody Allen-esque monster whose lacking confidence stems from, among other things, the fact that he resembles a bunny rabbit. As such, he’s often finding ways to cheat his way to success, or ends up being a pussy and leaving Oblina and Krumm to do all the hard work. In retrospect, I’m hoping that I didn’t associate with the character, because that’s a pretty shitty role model for an impressionable six year old to emulate.

Despite his shortcomings, however, Ickis has the power to grow to multiple times his original size, for maximum scare factor. This quality is represented in true form within this toy… STAND BACK, HE’S GOING TO TRY SCIENCE.

Well, yeah. I mean, all things considered, it’s pretty good. You lift his arms (or push on the back of head. I like to do this because it resembles a trash bin lid) and he unveils his sinister red eyes and a row of fearsome teeth. The only growing he does is purely symbolic. It’s an emotional growth, to be sure.

Beyond that, his arms are fairly static, due to being the (possible) instigator of said transformation, and his legs can be turned about and about to your heart’s content. I’m sure you can write that into your playtime experiences somehow.

And that’s about it, really. I open 2012 with a fairly uninspiring toy coupled with a fairly uninspiring entry. But that’s okay, because I’m quite certain that ending 2011 with the unboxing of Krillin wasn’t exactly a riveting thrill ride, either. Truly, the world will end not with a bang, but with a whimper.

As such, 2012 too opens in this fashion. No bang. Simply a large black man from Honolulu.