The Bandai Tamashii Web Shop is open for everyone…sort of

I’ve been waiting for this news for quite some time now, but here’s the good: Bandai is opening the Tamashii Web Shop for international customers. As with Good Smile Company’s opening last year, international customers can now order goods that were previously only limited to the Japanese market. Just as with GSC, you are paying with PayPal and a flat shipping fee of ¥2,000 per order applies.

However, this is just a test run for Tamashii. As of current, the shop only has 1 item for order, a Figuarts Zero of Chopper – Are You Fine? ver. for ¥1,500. I am really hoping that this goes well and Bandai opens up more items from its shops. I don’t want to deal with middlemen who mark up their prices way too high and would much rather buy directly.

That being said, I’m ready to send money for that PG Unicorn Full Armor Weapons Set, MG Tallgeese III, and the CMS Decade Driver. Open up the shop and the money will come soon. For bonus measure, you won’t have to hear me whine about it anymore! Isn’t that reason enough?

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Is it time to Pop! open the Jungle Book? And, um, something Robin Hood

Funko has released some official images of its upcoming Pop! figures from two classic Disney films. The Jungle Book‘s Mowgli, Shere Khan, and Kaa as well as Robin Hood‘s Robin Hood, Prince John, and Sir Hiss (no relation to King Hiss) are slated for release this month.

While I can’t say that I was a fan of either film as a kid, Prince John, Kaa, Shere Khan, and Sir Hiss (see gallery) are adorable. I’m somewhat less found of the titular Robin Hood, but he still looks pretty neat.

Expect to see these guys on shelves near you in the near future, if they aren’t there already. (Especially if you’ve already bought them. Then you’d just need to look over to see them on the shelves.)

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Pre-orders open for Playstation Optimus, no tv connections required

Takara Tomy’s hotly anticipated Playstation Optimus Prime is now available for pre-order. The Autobot leader looks even better than the first color images had suggested and even features painted connection ports on his back.

While I’m not sure that I necessarily like Optimus more than the Sega Mega Drive (Genesis) Megatron, I find the design quite a bit more impressive the more we see of it. Like many of my colleagues, I also would have preferred that Optimus Prime’s alt mode be a Super Nintendo (thus evoking the 16-bit console wars) although I suppose a SNES might work nicer with Soundwave from a logistical standpoint as Laserbeak, Rampage, and so forth could be used as cartridges.

At a ¥10,000 list price, I doubt that I’ll bother picking up the Playstation Optimus Prime but I imagine that more eager (and less frugal) fans may jump on these pre-orders

[ Pre-order Playstation Optimus at HobbyLink Japan | AmiAmi ]

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Four Horsemen’s proud American Gothitropolis Eagle is open for pre-order

I think a definite favorite from Four Horsemen’s Gothitropolis series was their Bald Eagle. He was just so extreme! I mean he is the definition of patriotism.

His armor is red, white, and blue, he wears the American flag as a cape, and he literally is the national symbol for the United States. So this figure, named Eagalus, is now open for pre-order on Four Horsemen’s website. Although pre-orders did open today, only Kickstarter backers are able to order them now.

They also will be getting a special discount price too, US$28. Why didn’t I back this project?! This early access will be for 24 hours only and will end at 3pm EST tomorrow.

For everyone else who wants this figure, you can pre-order it tomorrow, September 15, starting at 3pm EST. However, you will have to pay the regular price, US$32. So Eagalus will come with a lance, interchangeable feet, and his American flag cape.

Of course, his package has to be patriotic too, so he will come in a package with an American flag background. Four Horsemen’s Eagalus will be flying out to homes in November. 

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It’sa Under the Radar: S.H. Figuarts Luigi and Play Set C pre-orders open

Mama Mia! We here at Tomopop have been so busy with SDCC and Summer WonFes news that we missed Bandai’s S.H. Figuarts Luigi and Super Mario Bros. Play Set C pre-orders go up!

Everybody’s second favorite plumber (YMMV) is slated for a December release through the Japanese market and January/February release through the American market. He comes with a Red Koopa Shell, an alternate pair of hands, a brick, and a stand. Despite being the younger, less popular brother, Luigi will run you a bit more than Mario as he features a ¥3,564 and a US$33 list price, depending on your preferred market.

Play Set C, also available for pre-order and slated to release at the same time, features a red pipe, a pipe cover part, Piranha Plant, Buzzy Beetle, and a coin. The set can be ordered for either ¥2,808 or US$26.

I have a somewhat strange confession to make in that I think that I find the SHF Luigi more appealing than Mario. The “B” character really strikes me as being the “A” figure, which I suspect mostly comes down to the choice of faces.

[ Pre-order Luigi at Entertainment Earth | HobbyLink Japan | AmiAmi | Big Bad Toy Store ]

[ Pre-order Play Set C at Entertainment Earth | HobbyLink Japan | AmiAmi | Big Bad Toy Store ]

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Open Order

When you go to a restaurant, it’s generally assumed that you aren’t there to engage in Greco-Roman wrestling. But imagine that you walk through the door, starving and hoping to satiate your growling tummy, only to have the staff constantly trying to get you on the mat. They give you the menu, ask you what you’d like to eat, and then try to get you into a headlock. Sounds pretty frustrating, right?

A friend of mine just finished Watch Dogs, which is mostly a decent game. It certainly isn’t the runaway success that Ubisoft was hoping for, but it also isn’t an abysmal showing for a franchise’s maiden voyage. It doesn’t necessarily do anything terribly wrong. In fact, nearly every major component of the game is remarkably mature, though perhaps unremarkably so if this was any later iteration.

Its shooting mechanics are perfectly acceptable and even sometimes fun. The driving can be oddly stiff but never gets in the way. And the hacking actually adds to the world, all of which is on top of a story that surprisingly eschews more than a handful of clichés. It’s a game that deserves a smattering of applause but not much else.

However, there is a pitfall that the game lands in so deftly that you’d think it was trying to hit the bottom. It was actually the first thing that my friend wanted to talk about upon completion. If you didn’t know, Watch Dogs actually has a reservoir of minigames for you to dive into when you aren’t trying to solve the game’s overarching narrative mystery. This involves chess, poker, and the classic street hustle shell game.

Unfortunately, the story requires you to embark upon playing a few of these minigames. And this is exactly what my friend and I discussed, half in a fair light and the other half in a hateful dark. About two-thirds of the way through the game, you begin searching for a man to help you decrypt a piece of data. There’s actually only one man who can help you, but lucky for you, he happens to be in the same town as you.

To convince him to help, though, you have to take part of the drinking minigame, institutionalized to be the crux of this particular mission. The minigame itself is a fun distraction, trying to guide a semi-uncontrollable cursor over button prompts that can move, change buttons, and hide all before the timer runs out. But in the context of the narrative curve, it brings everything to a grinding halt.

Watch Dogs

It definitely doesn’t help that the previous mission capping off Act II involved a gunfight, a car chase, and a few explosions. And then things slow down with this starter to Act III with some environmental puzzles involving finding how to unlock doors, and whammy. Drinking game.

You came to this game to drive, hack, shoot, and hack some more. The game put a menu down, asked what you’d like to do in this open world, and then said, “But real quick, do you mind playing this minigame that has nothing to do with the rest of me?” (That’s not to mention it’s a terrible message. Aiden gets blasted and then gets behind the wheel of a car with little to no repercussions aside from slightly blurry vision.)

Of course, that’s part of the charm of open world games, having a bevy of side activities. And Watch Dogs certainly is not the only sandbox to force its minigames on the player during its campaign. Grand Theft Auto IV made you bowl, and my god was that bowling a painful excursion. Red Dead Redemption had you play liar’s dice to goddamn completion, giving your free time a giant middle finger. But that’s precisely why they should stay side activities and remain off the beaten path.

Red Dead Redemption

I’m sure somewhere along the milestone planning of development, any of these could be excised quite easily, and there’s a reason for that: they’re nonessential. More than that, they are not integral to the game, which means their design was not top priority. Chances are, they are not as fully fleshed out as they need to be to hold your attention beyond the initial five minutes of curiosity. But through hubris or foolishness, open world games have a terrible tendency to shoehorn them into a mission or two.

The most frustrating part is that Watch Dogs was aware enough of this awful habit of the genre and bit a thumb or two at it. In an earlier mission, you have show up at an underground poker game with the hopes of finding a black market peddler. There are a few other dudes at the table by the time Aiden gets dealt in, and it seemed my worst fear was realized: a poker video game slapping me in the face when I’d rather be shooting bad guys.

But imagine my surprise when after the first bid (I raised), Aiden straight-up calls out the man you’re looking for and shit gets going again. It was a delicious stiff-arm to the open world staple. I loved that moment so much as I had just moments prior resigned myself to trying to guess how this poker AI was programmed. I chuckled at both the situation and the meta jollies I derived from it.

Watch Dogs

That’s why it’s so frustrating. Clearly Ubisoft knows better as it did better just a dozen or so missions earlier. They knew why we sat down at the table: to eat. And they knew better than to bother you when you’re so hungry for a fat juicy cheeseburger. But less than two hours later, they came back around and slapped it out of your hands and stuffed a pace-killing minigame into your mouth.

It’s a problem with many open world games even though there’s an obvious solution. That is to say, just don’t fucking do it. Maybe it’s the developers showing off or maybe it’s them not understanding the appeal of their own game, but it’s pervasive enough to be a checkbox on the list of What Makes An Open World Game. Really, just let the player eat in peace. This is a restaurant, after all.

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