Review- Before Watchmen: Ozymandias/ Crimson Corsair

Before Watchmen: Ozymandias/Crimson Corsair collects six issues of the Before Watchmen: Ozymandias mini-series and the Crimson Corsair backup feature stripped throughout the Before Watchmen line.  Both are written by Len Wein (co-creator of Marvel’s Wolverine) with art on Ozymandius by Jae Lee (Fantastic Four: 1234) and John Higgins (2000 AD, colourist on Watchmen) on Crimson Corsair.

Ozymandias is written as an autobiography of Adrian Veidt, the man known as Ozymandias.  It follows him from his childhood as the son of immigrants to his travels in Alexander the Great’s footsteps to his making his fortune as an adult and to his superhero career.  He interacts with historical characters from the 1960’s and to the other heroes from the Watchmen books.  The books goes into his thoughts on how the world will react to a superhuman like Doctor Manhattan and shows the path that led him to his role in the original Watchmen series.

The Curse of the Crimson Corsair, originally stripped into two page installments amongst the books in the Before Watchmen line, is a supernatural pirate story, much like the comics that were popular in the Watchmen universe.  The story follows a young Scotsman named Gordan McClachlan, thrown overboard for mutiny.  He is “rescued’ by the Crimson Corsair, a cursed pirate sailing a ship of the damned.  In order to save his soul and escape the Corsair’s fate, McClachlan must gather three impossible tributes.  But will the quest damn his soul anyways?

Ozymandias is s slow read.  Adrian’s journey is mostly him reacting to the world around him and planning to save it.  The main action sequence happens in issue #3, where the Comedian fights Ozymandias to a drawn, foreshadowing events within the pages of Watchmen.  Like all the writers in this series, Wein is beholden to what was set up in the original book.  Jae Lee’s art is great for this book, giving the characters a realistic yet classic look.

The Curse of the Crimson Corsair is only loosely connected with the Watchmen mythos, and only in the fact that, in the story’s narrative, superhero comics died out and were replaced by pirate  and horror comics.  The story is dark tale that reads like something out of the old horror comics.  John Higgins’ art is very moody and sets this story out from the rest.  It is definitely a strange story to have in  the Before Watchmen series, but those familiar with the original comics will understand it’s inclusion.

Also included in this collection is a one-shot featuring the origin of Minutemen member Dollar Bill.  With art by Steve Rude, the story follows how an out of work actor became a superhero mascot of a New York bank and proved himself to be a true hero to the rest of his team.

For fans of  Watchmen, whether or not you’d like the book depends on how you feel about DC revisiting these heroes.  The particular book is fine, but the real draw is the Curse of the Corsair story, so it really depends on how much you like violent pirate curse stories.

Before Watchmen: Ozymadias/Crimson Corsair is out now for $29.99USD ($34.99CDN) .  IT IS SUGGESTED FOR MATURE READERS.

PS Vita/PS3 Review- Dragon’s Crown

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(Note: This review is my opinion only. I have not received any payment for this review)

Dragon’s Crown, developed by Vanilllaware and published by Atlus, is a third person side scrolling action game, with RPG elements. In it, you choose from six different classes (Amazon, Dwarf, Elf, Fighter, Sorceress, or Wizard ) and embark on a quest to stop a plot to take over the kingdom and find the legendary Dragon’s Crown.

Choose from six different classes
Choose from six different classes
The Dwarf is a slow, but powerful fighter
The Dwarf is a slow, but powerful fighter

The game, out now on both the PS Vita and the PS3, features beautiful hand-drawn graphics and backgrounds, Both version are identical (with the PS3 having a bit more to the special effects) and look amazing in motion. The lead artist, George Kamitami, who worked on CAPCOM’s Dungeons & Dragons arcade games, definitely drew inspiration from manga, fantasy art and the aforementioned D&D games.

The Elf is quick and nimble and can attack at a distance
The Elf is quick and nimble and can attack at a distance
Dungeon?  Check.  Dragon?  We're all good here!
Dungeon? Check. Dragon? We’re all good here!

The gameplay is also similar to games like D&D: Shadow over Mystara and SEGA’s Golden Axe, but with RPG elements. Weapons and armour are earned after completing each quest, but have to be appraised (for a fee) in order to be used. These weapons and armour have a minimum level you must be to be able to use. You usually get items that are in or around you characters current level, sometimes one or two levels higher and sometimes not even for your character class.

The Wizard can cast powerful spells against his foes.
The Wizard can cast powerful spells against his foes.

Combat is simple. You are in a 2.5D world, able to move from the foreground to the background. You have the basic melee attack done by the Square button, with a charcter specific attack used with Circle (i.e., the Elf shoots her bow, Wizard casts spells, etc.), jump with X and item pick up with Triangle. Item use, which includes magic rings, spell scrolls and potions, are scrolled through by the D-Pad left or right and used by D-Pad down.

Different dungeons include a pirate-infested cave.  Steal their genie and use it against them!
Different dungeons include a pirate-infested cave. Steal their genie and use it against them!

Movement is done with the left analog stick. The right stick controls a curser that is used to activate rune stones, open chests and doors and interact with the environment. In the PS Vita version, you can use the touch screen to perform these actions.

The story is told though cut-scenes like this one
The story is told though cut-scenes like this one

Games like Dragon’s Crown are best played with other characters, either AI or other players, helping you on the quest. Dragon start out letting you recruit companions from the tavern screen. They do not level up or repair their equipment, so you will be looking for newer companions as you progress. They can be found in the various dungeons as bones, which you bring back to the temple to be resurrected at your cost. Then, they can be selected at the Tavern to join your party.

Other players can join you as well. Local multiplayer is open at the start on the PS3, with up to four people able to join. As you progress in the game, ad hoc (local with two Vitas) becomes available as well as online play on both versions, with random players able to drop into your game. There is no voice chat, however so if you are trying to complete a side mission in a certain way, it is best to play offline.

The more the merrier.  Just hope they are all on the same page.
The more the merrier. Just hope they are all on the same page.

This game is fun to play, especially if you are a fan of similar games, but there are some complaints I have. First, there is little customization to your characters, Besides naming them, inputting some key phrases and weapon choice, you Elf looks line all the other Elves. Changing armour and accessories do not change you characters appearance, with is too bad, but understandable. A secondary look, much like Shadows over Mystara introduced in that series, would be welcome.

Secondly, You have not real control over your NPC companions. You cannot know what characters you will get when you resurrect bones found in the dungeon (though some may give hints with the dying message you read with their bones, especially if generated from another player encountered online.) If you are a Level 20 Sorceress, you might have the other classes at lower levels but a bunch of other Sorceresses at or around your level.

The equipment screen can only be accessed while in town
The equipment screen can only be accessed while in town

Lastly, item management can be only done in town. Later on, when given two paths, you can switch equipment only if you have a extra set already sorted out in Bags. Bags will have weapons armour and accessories not associated with any other sets. If your weapon or armour breaks mid-quest, you are stuck with it until you finish the dungeon.

The Sorceress can summon skeleton warriors, food and is best used in a support role.  And, yes, she's busty.
The Sorceress can summon skeleton warriors, food and is best used in a support role. And, yes, she’s busty.

Once this I have to mention, because it is all over the gaming sites, is the art direction. Personally I like the art, but some have voiced concern over the way females are drawn in this game, especially the Sorceress. She is a busty character, with her cleavage being prominent in her poses and the way she moves. I think it’s common for fantasy characters to be drawn like that. Same with some of the still art. The mermaid has a nude human half,, with her nipples covered by a swimming fish and her ass blending in with her fish features. This is nothing knew and is a common depiction. But there is one that I found a little over the top: A warrior priestess, clad in plate mail, lying injured with a hellhound head still biting her leg. She is drawn with her legs spread over, moaning in pain. Now, sure she is dressed fully, but there has to be a better way to draw her. Especially when the game lets you click on the pictures to learn more about the character (with the mermaid’s saying “She eyes you, not so subtly judging you” and the Priestess’ saying “Her armor protects her body AND her modestly.” if you touch near any…sensitive areas.) This may be a personal taste issue and a Japan versus Western sensibilities issue.

The Mermaid in her natural habitat.  Notice: no seashell bra.
The Mermaid in her natural habitat. Notice: no seashell bra.
I guess there is no time for modesty when you have a Hellhound head stuck on your leg!
I guess there is no time for modesty when you have a Hellhound head stuck on your leg!

Both the PS3 and the PS Vita have a save share feature that lets you upload your saved game on one system and download it on the other and continue playing where you left off. It is nice to be able to play the game on my Vita and then continue the same character on the PS3. Unfortunately, both version are sold separately but, as a digital copy for the vita with the PS3 version would have been nice (like with Playstation All Stars), I prefer having a physical copy for my Vita.

Surviving the dragon fight depends on teamwork.  Use the shield to protect your party from his fire attack
Surviving the dragon fight depends on teamwork. Use the shield to protect your party from his fire attack

Overall, this is a great game for those who like a good mindless dungeon crawlers with a little bit of item management thrown in. As a fan of the Dungeons & Dragons arcade games (available now for download on PSN, Xbox Live or Steam), this is sort of the direction I would have hoped the series would have taken if it continued. The cross save features are nice for those who have both versions, it remains to be seen if any paid DLC (if any) will be a cross-goods compatible. If you are to get just one version and you have both systems, I would recommend the PS Vita version because it is a good solid game for the system which uses it’s touch screen well

The fight with the Ancient Dragon is tough.  There is little cover and you get no continues.
The fight with the Ancient Dragon is tough. There is little cover and you get no continues.

Dragon’s Crown was released on 6th August 2013 in the North American market. The PS3 version retails for $49.00 CDN while the PS Vita version retails for $39.99 CDN. This game is rated T (TEEN) by the ESRB ratings board for Blood and Gore, Partial Nudity, Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco and Violence

Rating 4/5

Review: Before Watchmen: Comedian/Rorschach

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BEFORE WATCHMEN:  COMEDIAN/RORSCHACH is a graphic novel collecting two series in DC Entertainment’s BEFORE WATCHMEN line,  Both series are written by Brian Azzarello (100 Bullets, WONDER WOMAN) with art in COMEDIAN by J.G. Jones (FINAL CRISIS) and in RORSCHACH by Lee Bermejo (WILDC.A.T.S.)

COMEDIAN follows the life of Edward Blake, aka the Comedian during the 1960s.  The story reveals his close relationship to the Kennedys, both John and Robert, and his work for the CIA.  After President Kennedy assassination, Edward loses himself in Vietnam, becoming more violent and unstable.  He starts to see how everything he believed in was a joke and that he is the only one laughing.

RORSCHACH follows the unstable masked crimefighter and he takes on the scum of New York’s underworld.  A near fatal encounter with a crime boss named Rawhead sets him off on a one man war against his gang.  Meanwhile, a serial killer named the Bard is killing off women and carving words onto their flesh.

Brian Azzarello work in both book is good.  He writes both characters as flawed men, both committed  to doing what they think is right, no matter what the cost.  With the Comedian, it cost him friends and even his sanity; with Rorschach, he is already so far gone that he doesn’t know anything else.  Again, with the BEFORE WATCHMEN books, the writer is constrained by what occurs in the main series.  There is no real development or surprises in this story, besides some collateral damage.

Both Jones’ and Bermejo’s art work well in their books.  Both  draw their stories dark and moody.  Overall, the art in both books are well done.

This collection suffers from the same main problem as the rest of the series. but are by no means bad.  The story is decent, though I preferred RORSCACH’s tale of urban decay to COMEDIAN’s inserting the main character into real-life horrors and tragedy, like an anti-Forrest Gump.  Azzarello is a  very good writer, given free reign to write the story as he see fit (check out his current run on the New 52 Wonder Woman, one of the best things to come out of that).  He did not have that in these stories, which is too bad.

BEFORE WATCHMEN:  COMEDIAN/RORSCHACH is on sale now at books stores and comic shops.  It retails for $29.99 US ($35.00 CDN) and IS SUGGESTED FOR MATURE READERS