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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Aion Review

Title: Aion
Genre: RPG Online
Producer: ncSoft

I first heard of Aion probably a few months ago, but didn't pay too much attention to it as I was still busy playing WoW: Wrath of the Lich King. It wasn't until I made my routine visit to JB Hi-Fi and EB Games that I noticed this new game. And the concept art for it was unreal.

I've been playing WoW for the last 5 years, and during that time I have tried a few other MMOs such as Guild Wars and Perfect World International, but not one was able to capture me as WoW has. There are a few others out there that are pretty big too. Age of Conan and Warhammer just to name a few, however I never really tried them out as they hadn't sparked my interest.

After a few years of the monotonous level grinding and rep farming, it was time for me to try something new. And when I picked up the latest issue of Atomic magazine, and saw the release date for Aion I made a mental note to check out the official website. Let's just say that I'm glad that I did.















I was able to get my hands on a copy of the game just recently. After spending 45mins intalling and patching the game I was ready to play. Oh I forgot to tell you, remember the days when a game installation required several CD's? Well, those days are back. Only we've moved on from CD's to DVD's now. Aion has 2 DVD's, dual layers of course as the system specs mentions that you need 15 GB of free space. The account creation process was a bit of a pain, but eventually that was done. The game took a bit of time to load. but because of that I was able to see what graphics engine was powering the visuals. It was none other then CryEngine, for anyone that can remember the first Farcry, players were given a lethal dose of eye candy. The login screen was breath taking, as expected of CryEngine.












Once logged in, I was required to create my character and I had a choice between two races. The Elyos and Asmodians. The class selection is very limited, players are given the choice of choosing Warriors, Scouts, Mage and Priests. The warrior class is recommended for beginners, how ever since I have played WoW for a while I decided to go for a casting class...the Mage.

After selecting my class, I was taken to the character creation screen. The level of details that the developers have gone into to allow how a character looks is mind blowing. I'm sure there are other MMOs out there that allows that much freedom for players to create their character, but for me, the only other game that allows for character customization was Perfect World International. Even then I was impressed. Aion's character creation and customization allows your imagination to run wild. At the time of writing this review, I have heard of players spending time re-creating famous figures, namely President Obama and Wolverine.

During the character creation process, the player is given choices such as the shape of the head, and body type. However, by clicking on the head or body, another pane appears and further customization options was available. Players were able to customize the face, hair style and hair color, eyes and eye color, lips and lip color. There is even a palette that you can use to get the color of the hair or eyes to just how you want it. The characters height can be customized as well, you can either as tall as a giant or as small as a gnome...personally, gnomes are only good for kicking.


video

Character creation out of the way, I was in the game and playing. Well, not yet...the player was greeted to a brief introduction of how the story unfolded, not bad I have to say. Now then, we are able to play, the interface is very familiar, and if you are a veteran of the MMO scene, you will feel right at home here. I was already impressed by the login screen, I was left speechless the moment I was given control of my character. The level of detail given to the environment is breath taking. Mind you, I'm running an old Nvidia 8800GTS factory over clocked card, with most of the settings on high. I guess with that setup the game environment would definitely look good.












After completing a few small quests I was told to head off to the nearest town, which was a hop skip and jump away. Most would agree that the hardest thing to render would be water, well the producers of Aion has done a top notch job at rendering the water. Not only do you get the sense that there is water movement, but you can even see the reflection on the waters surface. I'm not too sure if that was mainly due to my system having Direct X 10 as the game requires DirectX 9. But no matter I was treated to some whole some eye candy, and I wasn't going to complain.












The first town that I came to is Poeta. Questing and levelling in Aion is the same as in any MMO; killing, collecting and talking to NPCs. And by the time that I had arrived to level 10, I was given the choice of either being a Sorcerer or a Spiritmaster. All the other classes branches off from the base class as soon as you reach level 10 and have completed your Ascension quest.

There are 3 types of quests in Aion. Your campaign quests (yellow icon), your side quests (blue icon) and profession quests or Work Orders, this allows you to level your profession. Another feature that is unique to Aion is the title that a character can unlock. Each title allows the players to have different buff. Titles are usually unlocked as you complete both the campaign and side quests.

To travel around in the world of Aion the player has your normal flight paths, but at level 10 you can teleport to different locations. What I feel is a great feature is the wings. At level 10 and after completing the Ascension you are literally given your wings. At lower levels flight time is severely limited to 60 secs, but flight duration increases as you progress through the levels. Unfortunately, flying zones are very limited, lets hope that with more patches players are able to fly anywhere they want.













Storage room is quite limited in Aion. We are given one bag, referred to as a cube. But the cube runs out of space very quickly. You can unlock more rows, but even that runs out in no time as you complete quests and gather raw materials to level your professions, and lets not forget that potions takes up room in your cube too. Banking services are also available, and can be found at the capital cities as well as some major times. Players will find that there is also a facility similar to the auction house, and also the player can set up their own stalls to sell things to other players. The mailing service is also quite limited. If you wanted to send multiple items to another player, you would end up spamming the recipient until kingdom come.

I just reached level 19 on my sorcerer, I am enjoying the game immensely. Like I mentioned earlier, there isn't a lot of titles out there that would get my attention off WoW. I can honestly say that for some odd reason, I feel at home with Aion. While I am a believer that says WoW ha raised the bar for how MMOs should be, Aion's level of detail and story line has captured my imagination. All that I need to do now is to reach cap level and try out the pvp area and see if this game is really worth investing time and effort into.

***Editors note: At the time of writing I was playing on a my desktop that has the 8800GTS. I just took delivery of a new Dell XPS notebook which has an ATi HD 4670 card installed.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Weekly Review 27/9/09

Otaku Down Under is into it's second week. Thanks for all the visitors that have dropped by this week. Kenji and I began two multiphase projects. Firstly we had Kenji's awesome Japanese travel experiences and the second project is my Gundam building tutorial.

On Tuesday we got our largest amount of traffic to date we had 20 unique visitors which we presume came in to ODU searching for the cause of the dust storm which was covered in the Welcome to Mars entry. Overall I have to say this experience is highly addictive and lots of fun. We'd appreciate more comments and if you like us please become a follower... Don't be shy haha. Kudos to Christian for responding!

I'd like to wrap up this blog entry with a quote I thought of and contemplated over all week,

"Life is a game with only one final game over. There isn't any save points or continue options. So have fun while it lasts!"

- Hiroki


Giiitar!!!

I've had an intention of learning the guitar for a very long time ever since I finished high school. In fact I was inspired by my mate Kane and the boys who have since further refined their talents and invested in more musical goods! The final trigger was set by my workmate Hans who really inspired me to go out to get a guitar. For the time being I am trying to get acquainted with musical theory E,A,D,G,B,E  I am itching to play as soon as possible.






As expected when asking for guitar advice I messaged Kane and told him I had the intention to play metal/rock and upbeat pop music. His advice as fate would have had it was the Gibson or Epiphone (also manufactured by Gibson) Les Paul range. This particular series of guitar also happens to be what Yui from K-On! happens to play with. Her one is the Gibson 50th Anniversary Les Paul Standard which is going for a whopping $8504.







For the time being I got my eye on the Epiphone Les Paul Standard which is going for ten times less its price!



Saturday, September 26, 2009

Large Scale Super Saiyan Goku

Goku is the main protagonist of the Dragonball metaseries. He is heralded to be the strongest warrior in the universe and has been pitted in many what if versus scenarios against Superman and even Yoda. I have been watching Dragonball as long as I can remember way before it was dubbed in English and became mainstream in Western culture. So naturally seeing this figure was like a hit of nostalgia and brought me to an automatic SOLD situation! I picked it up for a bargain price of $30.


Okay lets get to the figure review! Goku stands at an impressive height of 60cm because of the figures sheer height it was hard to take a decent photograph with a desktop wallpaper hence this set was taken while it was still on the shelf. The figure is made out of a very interesting plastic it soft to touch but extremely tough. When I took it out of the box some assembly was required the boots and pants were seperated from the upper torso.

Putting this figure together was lots of fun, the intstructions suggested to heat the plastic to 40°C to attach the parts together. The pieces fit in perfectly when they were softened by the heat and when the plastic cooled the parts were locked tightly together. The figure doesnt have any articulation at all it just stands majestically above all. However the sculptings are very detailed from the individual strands of Super Saiyan hair through to the flowing lines on Goku's clothing, well worth its relatively cheap price tag. I especially like the shades of oranges and blue, the yellow used for the golden Super Saiyan hair and of course the traditional green Super Saiyan eye pupil. All the colours were very well selected and extremely eye catching.





The only thing I don't like about this figure is that it needs to be on a really flat surface in order to balance properly. The boots weren't designed too well and at times the figure topples over. Overall it still is a good figure. This series also includes normal Goku (without Super Saiyan hair) and Vegeto (Fused Goku and Vegeta with Majin Earrings). And you guessed it it's available at Hobby Dream!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Hiroki's Gundam Building Tutorial- Planning

Okay lets say you just got a flashy new kit from Hobby Dream, Hobbyco or maybe Ebay perhaps. Do you believe you can do better than most the kits that are being showed on websites, but don't want to invest in an expensive airbrush? This is the tutorial for you! I will cover planning, preparation, painting, assembly, detailing and decaling. The kit that would be used for this set of tutorials is the SD 0 Gundam.




Planning involves concept brainstorming (thinking of what kit to buy and what to do with it), researching to find resources that support or aid with your ideas, choosing the desired finish (matte, semi gloss, gloss or metallic) and selecting the best colours to bring your idea to life. The final step is to buy the kit, paint and tools. 

I want this kit to look like how it was presented in the first episode of the first season of Gundam 00. The first step is to find resources from the internet to serve as your guide. If your idea is totally original find a black and white concept of your base model and add your own colours in. Having physical resources to serve as a guide simplifies the entire process by ten fold.










It is a good idea to choose your finish in advance so that you can buy paints in that finish. Use a colour chart from your desired company. In my case its Tamiya. Apart from buying paint spray cans in the chosen colours it is advisable to buy paint jars in the same or similar colours in case detail painting or a touch up is needed.


There has been a long debate for which type of paint to buy acrylic or enamel. The paint type is your own choice I like enamels because they are thick and easy to apply but however they can be an absolute nightmare to remove. Acrylics are runnier and harder to apply but can be flushed away with water.




After brainstorming the colours I decided on are Ocean Grey, Matte White, Park Green, Haze Grey (to serve as undercoating), Bright Red (to be purchased) and Gold (to be purchased) and Matte Black (to be purchased for metallic undercoating)




The basic tools you will need are a

1. Modelling board

2. Nipper

3.  Hobby knife

The last two items can be substituted with scissors and nail clippers I use two different types of scissors and three different grades of clippers

4. Brushes for detailing (I dont use brushes but be rest assured that my detail painting and touch up results are just as good)

4. Sandpaper.


                                   


Before work begins open the box and check the parts while they are still in the packaging make sure all the parts are there and in good condition this will ensure that you are still eligible for a refund!



Once you are confident that all the parts are complete in all aspects open the bags, wash the trees and pat dry. Although its not common there is still a chance that excess dye may still be on the surface of the tree. Washing serves as a precautionary measure against excess dye ruining your paintjob.



Once all the trees have been washed it is time to prepare the parts for painting!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Arriving in Japan - Part 1 Kenji no Nippon Yassumi

Hiroki managed to persuade me to write my experiences while I was in Japan. I was in the country for around four weeks, so I'll be splitting my experiences in several parts. I hope that my experiences will help those that will be traveling to the wonderful country in the near future.

I flew out of Sydney's Kingsford Smith International Airport with a friend (Rose) on the 20th March 2009, bound for Kansai International (KIX). The flight itself took close to 10 hours, when we arrived to KIX it was around 20:30 local time, but it would have been 22:30 (AEDST).

I just wanted to note that prior to going on this holiday, I had immersed myself in the culture and learnt everything that I could about Japan. That involved watching documentaries, watching anime and J-dorama, also it involved listening to J-pop and trying to learn the language. Another important factor was also to read other peoples travel experiences to Japan and also asking my friend who is a native Japanese about the local customs and anything else that I was curious about. Mitsuko san hontoni arigatougozaimashita.

Well getting back, after completing all the immigration checks, I was very impressed by efficiency of the staff behind the counter. If you haven't learnt Japanese, or don't know any, you won't have to worry as there are plenty of English signage at KIX to help guide you.

My next mode of travel was the train from KIX to Kyoto. There is a train called the Kansai Airport Express, and that can take you to Kyoto in around an hour. It is also recommended for tourists to have purchased a JR Rail Pass before leaving for Japan, as the pass will allow you unlimited travel on various JR lines within the region and the duration of the pass. It also allows you travel on the Tokkaido Shinkansen. I'll explain the Shinkansen in another part. But for now, I needed to get to Kyoto from KIX, and since it was late in the night, Rose and I decided to purchase the ticket from KIX to Kyoto instead of checking in our JR pass and waste a day of non-travel.

The Kansai Airport express has a reserved and non-reserved. I can't remember if they also have a smoking compartment, since I don't smoke. But once I boarded the carriage I was in for a huge surprise in terms of how vastly different the Japanese people are compared to Sydneysiders and it gave me a new perspective to the term "civilized nation". For anyone that has been on any of the Sydney trains will know what I mean here, let me put it simply, Sydney trains are a mess at the very best. There's rubbish, graffiti in and outside of the train and also a very unpleasant odor, and you will be hard pressed to find a seat that doesn't have chewing gum or other food stains on it.

Now, the Kansai Airport Express looks brand new, as though I was one of the first passengers to have traveled on it. What helped me to come to that conclusion was the small team of cleaners that cleaned the train at each end of the trip. There were 3 cleaners to a carriage, one would sweep the floor, one would go around check for rubbish (if there was any) and the other would change the head rest cloth on the seats and change the orientation of the seats to face the direction of travel. All this was done in no more then 10mins. So once I came on board and settled in, I noticed a compartment where you can place your luggage without the fear that it would be stolen, also there was the absence of any foul odor.

The Kansai Airport Express has a train guard/inspector to come and check your tickets to make sure you have the right one and also traveling on the correct carriage, and before leaving the carriage he/she would bow to the passengers. Like I mentioned earlier, that this train ride would take around 1 hour. So I just settled in and enjoyed the trip. The service made a few stops on the way one of which was Shin-Osaka. This is where you would alight to get the Tokkaido Shinkansen. Please note, this is not JR Osaka station. If you want to go to Osaka, you would need to alight at Shin-Osaka and get a local service to JR Osaka.

Eventually we arrived at JR Kyoto station. Where our adventures would begin, which will be covered in other parts.

I have included a rail map of the Kansai area, hopefully this would help anyone planning their travel arrangements while in Japan.




Wednesday, September 23, 2009

MG Astray Blue Frame Second L

Its been a while since I saw a Gundam release and thought to myself

I MUST GET THAT!!!

I had an interest for the Blue Frame Second L for a while but held back years ago because it was only availble in 1/100. I was at Gundam Base and was amazed by this thing it is the absolute bomb! I shall put in my order to Hobby Dream immediately!







Cosplay Lucky Star style!

The Lucky Star crew have trampled on Macross Frontier territory and left their mark!







Images sourced from Ngee Khiong

Welcome to Mars!

I would like to extend a welcome invitation for the almighty Suzumiya Haruhi to come to Sydney!


Not being shy of wanting to see unatural phenomenon and meeting aliens, time travelers or ESPers she'll definitely love this sight. Sydney has been hit by a dust storm coming from South Australia. The strong winds have lifted the dust off the ground and have covered everything in between. The blanket is so heavy that the sun is struggling to penetrate through hence a red haze covers our city giving it a Martian appearance.

Harbour Bridge (Sourced from the Sydney Morning Herald)



I took these shots from my backyard today its quite a scene i haven't seen it before and I believe it wont be the last time. Beware Sydneysiders don't put the laundry out!





Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Good Smile Company Akashiya Moka Awokened Vampire Version Review



Akashiya Moka is the most fragile and the most powerful female character in Rosario + Vampire. Before we begin the review let me introduce you to Moka's sealed appearance. She has pink hair and green eyes. Her Rosario hangs on her chest and can only be removed by love interest and fellow human classmate Tsukune.

Okay lets get onto the review. As you can see from the Rosario hanging limply in Moka's fingers the seal on her S Class vampire blood has been lifted... shes ready to fight. She gains the traditional silver hair and the blood red eyes of her vampire heritage and of course for appeal the wallpaper was selected to also portray her aura of demonic energy (original artist unknown).






The sculpting on this figure is tops the female curves are reproduced accurately and the way the hair curves upwards is a very nice touch. Lets start with the costume, for dramatic effect they gave Moka an extra set of baby bat wings on her back and a bat wing cuff on her left wrist. The Rosario and the various chain accesories are made from real metal. The dress is semi gloss in appearance and the frills are lined with a pearl white paint which seems very standard with Good Smile's paint schemes as of late. Another stunning but minor addition about this figure is that it has fingernails! Talk about attention to detail!
 

The base of this figure is pretty neat its mirrored and Moka is actually sitting on a crucifix. I guess they designed the angle where Moka sits to be an angle made for panchira shots!
 




The build quality of this figure is very sturdy and the peg holding the crucifix to the stand is very tight. Be rest assured that the mirror base wont fall off. Afterall Good Smile Company still want you to be in good luck for the next seven years so you can still buy their figures ie Saber Lily Distant Avalon.

 This figure is a must for all Moka fans!

It is official Otakun's favourite store is.... Hobby Dream!

Otaku Down Under is happy to announce that a dear friend, Fiona the proprietor of the Hobby Dream stores has let us update their newest arrivals onto ODU! If you are not aware Hobby Dream is the best store in Sydney to get Gundam models and anime merchandise like figures. They restock weekly and also offer a model building course to learn how to bling up your models too!

Find Hobby Dream at either

Shop T7 Capitol Square,
730-742 George St.

Sydney NSW 2000
 
or
 
Shop 55, 1 Dixon St.

Haymarket NSW 2000

Okay the products of this week are!

Sangokuden Ryofu Talgeese (Crystal Version)





Sangokuden Zhou Tai Gundam





Revoltech Queen's Blade Nanael





Revoltech Raoh Fist of the Northern Star





1/144 HG 0 Gundam





1/144 HG Reborns Gundam


                                     


1/144 HG Seravee Heavy Artillery Type





1/144 HGUC Gundam Type 7



Monday, September 21, 2009

First Week Review

Wow one week has passed Otaku Down Under is starting to take form. Apart from posting what we always wanted to do Kenji and I worked around the clock whenever time can permit to add to Otaku Down Under's physical appeal.

Firstly we designed Otakun into digital form and have him branded in our header. Followed by the necessary identifying feature we changed various colour settings so that they match the blog's settings (Thank God black is an easy background colour to work with.) The last modification is a hit counter after all we do want to know how many unique visitors we are getting!

In order for our current and potential guests to find us easier in Google we also changed the blog title,

"Otaku Down Under- Anime, Games, Cosplay and Japanese pop culture appreciation in Australia".

Since Kenji had already discussed his future projects let me take the opportunity to discuss mine I will be reviewing,

Figures

1. The Moka Awoken Vampire figure
2. Large scale Super Saiyan Goku figure

Art

Gundam First Battle 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle

Anime

Advent Children Complete

And as a teaser for future posts to come Kenji came back from Japan recently he is going to recall his experiences in the "Empire of the Rising Sun" with lots of pretty photos don't miss it!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Kenji's Future Projects

As we have already witnessed, Hiroki is posting as though there was no tomorrow.

But just in case if you guys were wondering that reviewing figures is all that I'm doing, well you thought wrong. My figurine count may be higher then Hiroki's, and I will certainly doing more reviews of figurines but I have other things in mind that I will be reviewing in the very near future.

I have just finished watching Fight Ippatsu - Juudan chan, and a review will be coming for it shortly. Also, I'm a big World of Warcraft fan. Anyone that plays the game will know that Blizzard has announced the third expansion, and I'll be reviewing it when it gets released.

In a nut shell, this is what I'm planning to do:
  • Fight Ippatsu - Juudan Chan anime review
  • Clannad & Clannad ~ After Story Anime review
  • Vandread anime review
  • Figurines
  • WoW - Cataclysm review (when it gets released)

Annelotte Figurine

This was one of my many purchases while I was in Japan earlier this year. At the time, I knew nothing of Queen's Blade Rebellion, but I decided to get the Annelotte as she looked really cute.

The detailing on the figure is fantastic. I compared it to it what little images of her that was available on the internet, and I can say that the facial details are very accurate. The detail on the armor is also superb, you can see the rivets that is holding the armor together as well as the patterns that decorates the armor at various places very clearly.

One thing that I didn't notice before was the dragon head necklace that she had. Initially I thought that it was just a normal necklace, but when I was taking pictures of her, I was able to see the details on the necklace clearly.

Like I said earlier, I knew nothing of Queen's Blade Rebellion, and was I in for a surprise when I opened the box. It was then that i discovered that you can remove her armor. I have Annelotte fully armored, but I found that putting the armor pieces in place can be quite difficult. Perhaps the producers planned it that way so those Otaku who are lucky enough to be in possession of her can have the armor completely removed while on display. One piece of her armor I found particularly annoying is her cloak. It is held to the back of her skirt by two indents, and if you move her around too much it can easily come off.

But overall, for the little annoyances, I really like this figure for the attention to detail that the producers gave it. Also for the kind and gentle facial expression that can be seen, and of course the cast off function of the armor.

Here's some of the pics of Annelotte that I was able to take, enjoy.








































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