Review: Vitruvian H.A.C.K.S Series 1: Penthesilea, Amazon Commander

With our second Vitruvian HACKS review, we look at the Amazon Commander and I don’t mean Jeff Bezos.

With the setting of Ancient Greece and the rich mythological and historical material of the that time period, Bossfight Studios had their choice of characters to bring into their Vitruvian H.A.C.K.S. line.  Indeed, they made figures of those with some historical basis (King Leonidas of Sparta) to figues from the myths and legends of the time (Achilles).  Since they included Amazons as a faction in this story, it made sense to include a named Amazon that figured into the story of Achilles.  So, we get Penthesilea, commander of the Amazons.

In Bossfights story behind the line, Penthilsea, daughter of Ares, is one Amazon’s Twelve Champions.  She led the Amazon army in the war against the Gorgons, who were championed by a brainwashed Achilles, her lover.  In the actual myths and stories about Penthesilea, she was an Amazon queen and fought for Troy in the Trojan War.  She confronted Achilles in battle only to be slain by him.  Depending on the version you read, Achilles either fall in love with her before he kills her or afterwards.  Either way, that’s messed up.

Front of the package featuring nice card art

The package is what we’ve come to expect with this line.  The figure and accessories are clearly displayed, the card are is unique to that character and the figure can be removed without damaging the package too much.  the back showed Penthesilea’s bio and cross-sell pictures for waves 4 through 7.

Back

A face that has seen so much battle…

The figure itself is build just like the Amazon Warrior from my last review.  The head is different, though, with her back hair in a pony tail and white bags that give her a more mature look.  Her eyes are also blue, which helps to give the figure personality..  The rest of the body is the standard female body with minimum paint save the black underwear painted on.  The armour is where the colour is.  Her bracelets and shin guards are all gold as is the breast plate, save some black clasps.  The skirt is blue with gold highlights in the belt and on the buttons along the fringe of the dress.  There is also a loop for her sword on the back.  As with the last figure, the armour is removable (with some disassembly of the figure) and is easy to get back on.

Armour fits in with the Ancient Greek setting.
Shown with the larger sword and her shield

For accessories. Penthesilea come with three swords.  Two of them are like the two with the Amazon warrior, but with gold handles and silver blades.  The third sword looks like a larger straight sword, again with golden handle and silver blade.  The shield and black and gold, with a design on it recreating art from that time.  She also comes with an extra set of hands and the black Bossfight Studios stand.

Can’t be and Amazon without some swords!

The articulation is the same as all the H.A.C.K.S. female figures.  She is very poseable, with a wide range of motion.  The concerns I have with the Amazon Warrior are the same here, with small pegs at the wrist and ankles you can’t help to worry about breakage.  Again, has not happened but definitely something to consider.

Sword fits in the loop on the back.

These are great figures, though.  We haven’t had a proper Greek mythology lien since Clash of the Titans since the early 1980’s, and, to a lesser extend, the Hercules and Xena lines in the 1990’s.  One day, I would like to get a gorgon figure, because that is where this line excels, at the snake bodies and the unique take on the Gorgon warriors.  Being late to this line does pose an issue, but there is a chance you could find on eBay or even from Bossfight Studios themselves for a decent price.  This figure was about $35 CAD though an eBay reseller (Kokomo Toys.)

Comparison with Marvel Gamerverse  Spider-man (Hasbro) and DC Multiverse Arkham Knight Batman (Mattel.)

Thnaks for reading my review.  Next I will review a figure from Vitruvian H.A.C.K.S. series Two.  This series is a fantasy wave with knights, wizards, elves and orcs,  We will be looking at the Elven archer Aspen.  See you then!

“Your armour, my Queen…”

This Review is for entertainment purposes only.  I have not received anything from Bossfight Studios, Kokomo Toys, eBay or anyone else for this review.  The item was purchased by myself witt my own money.  All opinions are mine and any pictures were taken by me and are for review purposes only.

Graphic Novel Review: He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Mini-Comic Collection

He-Man mini-comics
iHe-Man mini-comics

As a child in the early 1980’s I remember when the He-Man toys first came out,  They were different from anything else on the shelves at that time, a strange combination of Conan and Star Wars.  At first, though, there wasn’t any cartoon to introduce us to those characters.  To do that, each Masters of the Universe toy came with a mini-comic.  Those first books introduced us to He-man, Teela, Man-At-Arms and others as they fought Skeletor and his minions over the power within the mysterious Castle Grayskull.  These pack-in mini-conics lasts the entire line, even in its sister , Princess of Power and reappears in some form in the later lines.  Now all those classic stories are collected into one book.

This one.
This one.

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Mini-Comic Collection is a hardcover graphic novel published by Dark Horse Books, in association with Mattel and DreamWorks Animation.  The book reprints all 51 of the original mini-comics from the original Master of the Universe toy line, plus all the Princess of Power mini-comic and books from subsequent lines.  There are also interviews with various writers and artists that worked on the line.

First of all the reprinted books look amazing.  The original mini-comics were not that big but to see the art in a bigger, almost regular-sized comic format is great.  The art, for the most part, looks good in a bigger size and you can really see the details.  The colours are good too, albeit not a vibrant as comics today with the advent of computer colouring.  As mentioned before, the book is a hardcover and is fairly hefty, due to containing so much material.

The stories hold up well, despite being written for a boy’s toy line 30 years ago.  The earlier stories are an especially interesting read, as it is very different from what be got with the cartoons series.  He-Man was not Prince Adam, but a warrior from a jungle tribe.  There was no Sorceress, but a Goddess, a green skinned (as first) woman that gave He-Man his “techo-vest” with gave him his super strength and invulnerability.  Man-At-Arms was not the King’s armourer, but the caretaker of lost technologies after  a cataclysm wiped out civilization, and Skeletor was a demon from another dimension, seeking the power sword to conquer Castel Grayskill and unleash his kind on the world. The comics slowly build up the mythos of Masters of the Universe, adding details to certain character’s back stories (Teela is the clone/daughter of the Goddess/Sorceress) and introduced elements from other sources like Prince Adam (originally appeared in the DC Comics mini-series) and Oroko (from the FIlmation cartoon.)  Even though some elements were dropped as the series went on to be similar to the cartoon, the mini-comics were its own entity.

The original mini-comics were more like a story book, with different takes on He-Man and the Sorceress
The original mini-comics were more like a story book, with different takes on He-Man and the Sorceress

There are interviews with some of the creative talent involved with the mini-comic, with names that would be recognizable by fans of comics and pop culture.  The first few mini-comics (which were more like mini-story books) had art from Alfredo Alcala, who worked on various DC and Marvel properties, including Conan the Barbarian.  Other names that some might recognize are writers Gary Cohn (various DC Comic books in the 80’s), Christy Marx (Jem), artists Mark Texeira (Wolverine, Punisher) and Bruce Timm (Batman: The Animated Series and the DC Animated Universe) and even lettered Stan Sakai (creator of Usagi Yojimbo.)  The interviews go into their involvement in the MOTU series and their memories of working on the project.

Reading these mini comics gain is definitely a nostalgia trip for me.  I remember some of the stories, especially the early ones but there were some that I did not remember until I read them again.  Most of them I did not read before, as I lost interest in the toys due to the silly Filmation cartoon, but it is clear from this collection the mini-comic followed its own path.  Sure, some stories were blatant 12-panel adds for the new wave of figures or vehicles (Battle Bones really did not need an origin story!) but there are some hidden gems.  Original stories like Slave City and The Secret of the Elixir of Life introduced original characters that were not toys or on the cartoon.  Some were pretty violent, but not gory, with He-Man punching his foes or shooting them with a laser gun.  Nothing over the top, but it raised eyebrows them and would do the same (at least) today.

The book also reprints the Princess of power mini-comic which, like the He-Man ones, don’t follow the cartoon series.  the stories feature She-ra as she and here friends foil the schemes of Catra, Entrapta and others.  Only one story has the Horde in it and then, it is only Horde Troopers. There is also the mini-comics from The New Adventures or He-man (1989-1990) which has He-Man and Skeletor continue their battle in space in the far future and two retailer exclusive comics from the 2002 Master of the Universe reboot.  Finally, the book reprints three mini-comics released in the subscription-exclusive Master of the Universe Classics toy line.

Alongside The Art of He-Man book or by itself, this is a great book for fans of the various incarnations of He-Man.  As a trip down memory lane or as a way of learning more about the series, this is a great book to add to your collection.

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Mini-Comic Collection is available online, in comic book stores and book outlets everywhere.  Check the web or your local stores for price and availability.  It is also available as a 2 volume digital edition on Amazon.

PS Vita/PS3 Review- Dragon’s Crown

2013-08-11-161239

(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