Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Monsuno Episode 2: The Kohdok Way

As you guys can probably tell, I was not very happy with how the second episode of Munsuno went. After the first act, the episode becomes a mess where none of the characters act with any sort of common sense and the fate of everyone comes down to a childish game of rock-paper-scissors. There is little tension and even less character development.

So, here's how I would have written Monsuno, Episode 2: "Courage"

I'd leave the first act relatively unchanged, as I liked how it went. Chase showed ingenuity and competence when unleashing his monster to nab the truck and their looting of it also made sense. I might have added Bren ferreting out the emergency rations as a nod to his complaints about food from the first episode and filtered out the lame dialog ("Lish"? What the heck?), but nothing else, really.

Now we get into the changes: Bren should have been opposed to the rescue plan; "We're the ones who need saving, here!" However, he is vetoed by Chase and Jinja who start up the truck and insist that if he doesn't want to be part of the plan, he can just stay there. Not wanting to be abandoned, Bren reluctantly comes along.

Bren would still botch the passcode entry due to being nervous. After they get inside and Chase gets out, he should have unleashed Lock like he did before and either gotten on his back and run off to lead the soldiers away, or used Lock to chase them off.

The next bit should have been more frantic. Jinja has to spur the trembling Bren into action to find Quickforce with his "Hacking mojo". Bren putters around and finds Quickforce. Jinja states that the room would be full of soldiers and wonders how to clear it out. Bren hesitantly makes a suggestion and hits a button, triggering the alarm to empty the room. However, the truck becomes surrounded by more soldiers who aim their guns at them and tell them to get out. With a smirk, Jinja says "Well, I guess we'll have to drive there," and barrels at the soldiers who duck out of the way and begins her rampage.

Commander Trey, who is evacuating, would get a call on his walkie-talkie revealing that the kids are here. He is clearly enraged. He grabs Jon Ace and the two change course from the fleeing scientists and soldiers to head them off.

Meanwhile, Chase recalls Lock so he can hide and evade the soldiers better, as they would be looking for a huge bear, not a kid. The soldiers that Chase dodges who were walking down the same hall towards the rampaging truck would have to duck out of the way, then turn and pursue the vehicle (Seriously, what happened to them in the real episode?). The truck crashes through the door, but gets stuck halfway, destroyed beyond repair. Jinja comments about how the truck is wrecked and Bren is paralyzed to his seat, then yells at Jinja for destroying the truck. The truck is blocking access to the room and the two soldiers start to try pounding on the walls and the truck's back doors to get into the lab.

At this point, there are two pathways this story can take: Either (A) Jinja insists that, due to her tougher attitude, she should get Quickforce and tells Bren to hack the system to lower the field, which he goes along with, or (B) Jinja tosses the core to Bren and volunteers to rip out the field's electronic guts. With option B, Bren is unsure, but Jinja tells him everything will be fine. They get in their places. No bratty Bren-mon-wanting and no stupid rock-paper-scissors.

We cut back to Chase who is caught by Jon Ace and Commander Trey (JUST those two, maybe one or two soldiers) Chase and Jon Ace begin their fight. After Blackbullet takes its first hit, Jon Ace does NOT return it, but this is instead where Trey opens his briefcase (It's not handed to him, he already has it) and launches Riccoshot. Riccoshot launches its lightning attack like before. Chase finds the sight of these two more powerful Monsuno daunting.

Back with Bren and Jinja, the forcefield begins to come down, but at the same time the two soldiers succeed at busting into the room and one grabs Jinja, criticizing her driving skill. (A)Jinja throws the core to Bren before being fully restrained and (both)tells Bren he needs to get Quickforce. Bren is unsure as the forcefield lowers to reveal Quickforce, while at the same time the soldier approaches with his gun drawn, telling Bren to put his hands up. Bren nervously tries to get Quickforce to cooperate, but is having trouble. The soldier yells one more time "FREEZE!"; and Bren finally musters the courage to deliver the word "Return" in a more commanding voice.

Outside, Chase is being badly double-teamed by Ace and Trey. Just as Blackbullet is about to attack, Quickforce busts out of the base, Bren and Jinja on its back. Quickforce lunges at Blackbullet, dealing enough damage to defeat it. Quickforce lands and Bren tells Jinja to go secure them a ride. Jinja does so, grumbling "Give the guy his own monster and suddenly he thinks he's in charge".

Quickforce joins the fight. Riccoshot performs an attack that sweeps by and barely misses Jinja as she tries to find a working ride, yelling at the guys to "Watch it!"

They use the same plan as before and escape on Quickforce. Jon Ace looks at the wreckage and asks Trey "How are you going to explain this to Charlemagne?" Trey growls in response; "Those kids..."

After they land, Bren apologizes to Quickforce, saying that he had been against saving Quickforce before, but is happy that he ended up doing so now. The episode ends about the same, with Bren being praised for acting bravely in the face of danger.

So those are the changes I would make. I haven't really changed the plot or the flow of the episode that much at all, but I've increased the tension and desperation and made the actions of the characters make more sense. Rather than Jinja driving around on random impulse and Bren whining for his own Mon, I've given those two no choice in what happens. For Jinja's driving, it was that or get caught and/or blown up. In the case of Bren, he knows Chase is in danger and now he sees Jinja in immediate danger, so he has to tame Quickforce or else everything is lost. Having him freeze-up multiple times during the rescue and not giving off the bravado he shows during the plan makes his turnaround less contrived and more heroic and gives him good character development. Some scenes get extended, but others get trimmed of excess fat, so the story would still fit in the time slot given. Also, I give Bren a little more work, but it's his episode, so that's fine.

The loose and trite way the second and third acts are handled in the actual episode just ruins it for me and I hope to not see such worthless writing in the future.

You hear that, Michael Ryan and Benjamin Townsend? Your writing sucks!!

This is Kohdok signing off.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Monsuno Episode 2: An Explosion Too Far

And now, Monsuno episode 2: No One is Really Disabled As Long As They Have "Courage"!

Picking up where we left off, we find several S.T.O.R.M. agents looting the remains of Jeredy's lab. Chase and Co. are also hiding out there using the "Hiding in plain site" tactic. However, we need something to explode in the cold-open, so S.T.O.R.M. has planted a bomb to destroy the remaining evidence.

After the opening, Chase and co. find the bomb and book it before it detonates. After their escape, they see the S.T.O.R.M. troops that had been salvaging the ruins driving off in a large truck and go after it.

And now we are treated to an actual smart move: Chase knows he wields a huge monster that conventional weapons are useless against, so naturally he uses it to attack the truck and chase off its occupants, netting him and his friends a snazzy new piece of high-grade military hardware. Nice!

They also have the common sense to loot the truck, netting some additional info, a new product for the kiddies to buy, and some spare empty cores. They also come across an empty core that is active, indicating that there is a Monsuno attached to it, but it's missing.

Another one of Jeredy's logs comes up in the presence of the core, detailing the development of the monsuno "Quickforce", a sort of griffin monsuno made from high-energy ore. We learn that while Jeredy developed Quickforce to study energy limits, S.T.O.R.M. wanted to push Quickforce to its absolute threshold. We then see S.T.O.R.M. had looted the lab while Jeredy had been out, and Jeredy then sets off on his own.

Jeredy says that they would have subjected Quickforce to painful experiments, but you have to admit that a guy who is busy making huge, mashed-up biological monstrosities in the middle of a secret jungle laboratory has very little wiggle room when it comes to judging the morality of others. Also, it turns out that S.T.O.R.M., a known military organization, funded Jeredy so that they could, surprise surprise, weaponize the Monsuno.

So Chase and co. decide they need to save Quickforce.

After the act break, we find S.T.O.R.M. at a large science facility performing those nasty experiments on Quickforce. Jon Ace states how he cannot bear to watch the experiment, to which Trey responds callously that they need the information.

Back with our heroes, Jinja lives up to her pit-crew-worker fashion sense by hotwiring the truck and switching the radio from elevator music to heavy metal. She takes the wheel and they race off. They approach the base and attempt to get in, but Bren botches the passcode confirmation and they are caught.

With all the guts and none of the intelligence of Spike Spiegel, Chase volunteers to act as a decoy by leaping out of the truck and running for it...for some reason without unleashing Lock. Jinja and Bren hack the system to set off a chemical-detection alarm that would empty out the room Quickforce is in. Jinja then...*ahem*...drives through the hallways to get there, basically ruining the truck in the process.

Finally, at the room Quickforce is in, Jinja and Bren begin debating who should get Quickforce. Jinja believes she can handle the wild nature of Quickforce, but Bren insists he should get Quickforce. So, naturally with alarms going off and gunfire everywhere, the fate of the entire rescue operation is decided by, I wish I was kidding, a game of rock-paper-scissors. Bren wins and begins to try to recall Quickforce, but doesn't have much luck (Maybe if he remembered he needed to say "Return"?)

Meanwhile, Chase is trapped and gets in a fight with Jon Ace. Jon Ace unleashes Blackbullet, a fast, bird-like Monsuno who starts to make quick work of Lock. However, Chase figures out to use the smoke to obscure Lock until Blackbullet comes close, finally landing a hit. Jon Ace returns BlackBullet, admitting that Chase has built a fast bond with Lock that allows them to fight that way.

Not satisfied, Trey pulls out another new Monsuno-brand product and launches Riccoshot, a beetle monsuno that begins to attack Lock, causing intense collateral damage to the base in the process. Lock is overwhelmed by Riccoshot.

Not all is lost, however, as Bren has succeeded in taming Quickforce and joins the fight against Riccoshot. They trap Riccoshot within the science base and have Lock destroy the support beams, bringing the house down onto Riccoshot. Chase and Bren then escape on the back of Quickforce.

They meet up with Jinja who had been securing a ride. Thanks to her reckless destruction of their state-of-the-art military vehicle and Trey's reckless destruction of everything else, she shows up driving a small cargo truck resembling a golf cart. The three then sputter off into the sunset.

This episode starts off well, but quickly dips into the not-so-good territory. After the first act break, the characters lose most of their common sense with Chase trying to take on armed soldiers without using Lock's help despite having done so earlier, Jinja's joyride costing them a nice base of operations(and potential playset, I'm guessing), and Bren's game of rock-paper-scissors or die routine.

A big theme of the episode is Bren developing courage; however, we don't really see much of his cowardice beforehand and what little we see is handled in a very clumsy fashion. The stakes are also not very high when Bren tries to get Quickforce. It's not like Jinja had been nabbed by a soldier and he needed to courage-up Shinji-style to save her nor did he know of Chase's plight outside. Nope, he just wants a mon for himself and he'll take on anyone at Rock-Paper-Scissors to get it!

And what about Jeredy? I'm wondering about him now, as his data logs seem to be there to manipulate the kids into doing his dirty work. Could Jeredy have defected to the EEEVIL Eklipse after how S.T.O.R.M. treated him in order to get his revenge? I'm certainly entertaining the possibility of Jeredy actually being a villain at this point.

Speaking of questionable people, Trey has gone from morally questionable to full-blown psychopath. His rampant use of Riccoshot that he made no attempt to control or contain cost S.T.O.R.M. a billion-dollar facility and no doubt millions more with the aircraft he destroyed, a level that almost puts Bask Ohm to shame. If he's not the one on the receiving end of a Charlemagne lecture soon, I might quit this series.

So, after a promising start, this episode falls flat on its face and seems to center more around showing off the shiny new toys kids can buy rather than developing the characters, who are sadly still rather bland. Unless we get an episode with a little bonding and a little more character development, my hope for this series is starting to wane.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Monsuno Episode 1: First Impressions.

So, due to my lack of cable, I had to watch the first episode of Monsuno through iTunes.

A summary of the episode "Clash":

We start with the protagonist, Chase Suno, running away from a T-rex for some reason. After that short non-sequitur, we are introduced to the theme song, which sounds a bit like it's sung by T-Pain. I've heard it gets catchy after a while, but it's a bit unbearable the first time I hear it with slightly weak lyrics.

Back with our protagonist, as the T-rex is about to devour him, suddenly, the planet becomes inflamed, turns into Meteor from Final Fantasy VII, and explodes in an earth-shattering kaboom, killing everything. Huh... that was a quick series.

Except it was a dream. Chase shoots awake and is comforted by his friends Bren and Jinja. They talk about how they have been in the forest for almost a week trying to reach the lab of Jeredy Suno, Chase's dad. Chase is concerned due to his father's lack of contact and the three are going to see if he's alright.

They arrive at the lab the next morning to find it ransacked and Jeredy missing. They are then met by Jon Ace, an agent of S.T.O.R.M. whom Chase had met before. Jon explains that Jeredy's disappearance also worries him.

Jon leads Chase to a vault which only Chase can open. Inside is a glowing core and what is no doubt this series's Pokedex, the "Core-Tech Tablet", which Jinja and Bren argue over while Chase retrieves the capsule.

All is not well, however, as a large squad of S.T.O.R.M. agents armed with rifles storm the complex, lead by Commander Trey. Confronted by this, Chase panics and hurls his core, unleashing the creature inside, a monstrous Polar Bear that the S.T.O.R.M. forces dub "The Linchpin".
The S.T.O.R.M. squad's weapons are useless against the creature who proceeds to rampage around the complex, finally triggering an explosion due to a gas leak which destroys the lab. Chase, his friends, and the S.T.O.R.M. squad escape unharmed. The creature then pursues our heroes into the forest. When it catches them, it turns docile, giving Chase a ride on its back.

Later, they peruse the Core-Tech Tablet and discover an entry by Chase's father explaining "Monsuno", an unstable, living energy that could be combined with elements and DNA to create monsters. Chase also learns that the monsters made of Monsuno must rest within their core capsules and returns the monster to his capsule, complete with the Pokemon "Return" slogan.

They don't get much of a chance to rest, though, as they are set upon by a flying monsuno! The flying Monsuno herds them into an ambush set by S.T.O.R.M.. Another S.T.O.R.M. agent releases a second Monsuno. Acting on Jon Ace's advice, Chase releases his monsuno as well.

Things get bad in a hurry as The Linchpin is ganged-up on by the two S.T.O.R.M. Monsuno. One pins him down while the other one shocks him. The Linchpin becomes disoriented as the S.T.O.R.M. Monsuno prepare to do the same move again. Chase finally musters the courage to cheer on the Linchpin, granting it the sense to evade the attack, causing it to backfire and defeat the flying Monsuno. The Linchpin then glows and performs what I can only describe as a re-enactment of Abel's Super-Combo from Street Fighter 4 on the other Monsuno, hurling it into a truck that explodes. The chaos allows Chase and co. to escape.

At the S.T.O.R.M. command center, Jon Ace is reprimanded for aiding Chase, but not punished when he slyly mentions Trey's use of force against children. Charlemange, the leader of S.T.O.R.M., declares Chase Suno an enemy of the state and reveals that a war is brewing.

As they escape, Chase reveals that he has decided to name his Monsuno "Lock", after a poem his dad liked.

Meanwhile, at the EEEVIL fortress of...EEEVIL, a goatee'd man watches footage of Lock and laughs...EEEVILLY!

Now, as for the episode itself, it at least feels like a pilot episode: The characters are introduced and the conflict gets underway. It feels a lot like the first episode of Mobile Suit Gundam where the son stumbles into his father's greatest creation and somehow gets it to work well enough to escape the clutches of his enemy. It feels less like Pokemon in this sense; In Pokemon and other shows like Beyblade and Yugioh!, the subject of the series is presented as already concrete and well-known. In Monsuno, it starts with all hell breaking loose.

Another purpose of the pilot episode is to get to know the characters and sympathize with them. However, I don't really get that much from Chase, Jinja and Bren just yet. Maybe it's due to the fact that TWO episodes premiered and I have yet to see the second one.

If there's anyone who got good character development that I sympathize with, it's Jon Ace. Had he been allowed to finish his plan uninterrupted, he might have gotten Chase to cooperate better and have a different sort of story.

We also get to see his true character when he helps Chase even after the ruse is over. It also goes to show that S.T.O.R.M. isn't entirely made up of bad people, sort of like how Karl Schubaltz of Zoids: Chaotic Century's strong honor code revealed that perhaps the Empire isn't really evil after all. Then again, he could just as easily be like the idealistic Emma Sheen tangled within the corrupt Titans from Zeta Gundam. Remember that "Idealism vs Cynicism" thing I mentioned in my video? Well, Jon Ace is already experiencing that conflict.

So, unlike the pilot of Redakai that made me hate everybody, I at least found a character I enjoyed watching. I hope Jon Ace will be a frequent sight in this show and that any other members of S.T.O.R.M. will have good diversity as well. I suppose when Chase recovers from the shock of episode 1, and stops using "Crag" as a replacement for cursing, I'll like him more.

At least the characters are believable: Chase acts like how a frightened kid caught up in a situation he doesn't understand would act; he's scared and a bit selfish. Odds are this conflict will force him to grow up fast. Jon Ace acts as a bastion of honor in the army of S.T.O.R.M. with Trey being the cynicism with questionable morals, sort of like Schubaltz and Marcus from Zoids (Heck, Trey even LOOKS like Marcus...)

It's also easy to understand why S.T.O.R.M. would have a strong reaction to Jeredy's work. Monsuno are likely considered WMD's, and if somebody you funded said "I'm gonna make one of these WMD's for my teenage son," you'd probably flip out, too...

There are also some things we learn beyond how Monsuno work in the pilot episode:

* Core-Tech is a subsidy of S.T.O.R.M.
* Chase, Jinja and Bren know how to rough it, but they are almost out of supplies.
* Jon Ace's slip might mean S.T.O.R.M. is also unaware of Jeredy's whereabouts.
* Jinja is good at fixing stuff while Bren is good at hacking stuff.
* Monsuno can fight and use special moves autonomously.
* S.T.O.R.M. isn't exactly villainous, but does have questionable morality.
* Eklipse is likely EEEVIL!!

So, while a bit mild, the pilot seems to land closer to my "Best Case Scenario" prediction, which is a good thing. The series has some great potential and if this episode is any indication, I might have called it right.

It's better than Redakai, no doubt. I think I'll keep watching it to see how it pans out and see if the complex conflict I predicted comes to pass.

But, for the love of god, fix that theme song!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Kohdok's Toy Reviews: Paper Jamz Pro

Putting the Light Strike on hold for now, I review the other product Wowwee sent me: The Paper Jams Pro Series. Thrill as I play a rock ballad, then encounter my most challenging review, and most dangerous foe, yet!

Giveaway until March 11th! Don't forget about my Lite Sprites giveaway that ends in four days!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Why Redakai Continues to Fail at All Levels: Redakai Multi-Pack

So today at work I noticed that Spin Master had put out yet another product for the doomed Redakai line which continues to hog space in many stores with no returns. Walmart seems to be the only store taking the series seriously anymore, with Target and Toys R' Us either shuffling them away into a corner or putting them on clearance. I have already seen the larger action figures appearing at closeout stores in my town.

In this case, the product was fairly straight-forward: 3 "Power Packs", their term for Booster Packs, in one package for about $16. Now, merely the price causes this idea to fall flat on its face, but for a minute let us look at the bigger picture. Redakai is a game that from the very start has cost 50% more than all of its competition such as Magic, Yu-Gi-Oh, and Pokemon, a position they seem hesitant to back down from. One might blame the plastic cards, but a full deck of clear Star Wars playing cards that have the exact same gimmick as well as coming in a snazzy tin goes for just one dollar more than a Redakai booster of just eleven cards.

Other franchises have booster pack sets similar to the Redakai Multi-Pack, but most have an added incentive to buy a bunch of packs rather than just one, usually in the form of incentive promo cards or other items such as cards or tokens, while still costing less than Redakai and remaining a bargain. This Redakai set has no such bonuses and even lacks the hologram puzzle cards that come with single boosters and starter packs.

But this multi-booster pack has deeper problems than that. Walmart sells the "Starter Pack", a set that contains two booster packs and an "X-Reader" plastic case (Which cannot hold a full deck) for just $10. This means that one can either choose to pay $5 per pack and get a plastic case and puzzle card to go with it or pay $5.33 a pack and get nothing extra. It's sad when the pricing situation is so bad that the card game isn't even competitive against itself. Per pack, the starter set is by far the cheapest and people have no reason to buy single or multi-boosters unless their prices fall to be competitive with their own "Starter set". The tin's only boon is the guaranteed Ultra-Rare (The tin itself is poorly designed), but for bulk it is utterly inferior to everything else, pushing $10 per pack!

This is another example of Spin Master's hubris getting the better of it. Not only is the pricing high, it is inconsistent and is a symptom that the company knows nothing of how to run a trading card game. The thing is, they have no excuse for this ineptitude; there are plenty of working business models for the successful sale of card games and accessories as well as organized play that Spin Master could take notes from. As long as they have this attitude that they know better than companies that have been making card games for 10~20 years more than them, they will continue to churn out garbage like Redakai.

Still, as long as stores are willing to indulge Spin Master in their little problem child, it'll be a long time before Redakai and its problems are gone for good. Target and Toys R' Us have the right idea sending this ruffian of a toy to sit in the corner; if only the company I work for could get the same idea.

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Friday, February 10, 2012

Kohdok's Toy Reviews: Now in Blog form!

Hello, everyone, this is Kohdok here, the funniest and most bizzare reviewer of toys on the internet! I will be using this blog as an additional place to promote my toy review videos. I do reviews kinda like a mom blog, only a bit more on the technical side. I do get the chance to do some giveaways on occasion when they get subsidized, so stay tuned! To toy companies seeking reviewers, I get about 40,000~50,000 views a month on my videos, about half of those figures being unique views.

To start off, here is my 100th Youtube video, the first to be subsidized by a toy company and the first to contain giveaways! Visit my Youtube page at to see more!