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Because I need stupid puns in my writing!

Puns in my blog mean we've reached an all-time low

More school hijinks this episode. I find it cool how Vice-president and Haru can potentially have all these experiences without any time passing. In this case the entire storyline taking place within a short amount of time will actually make sense! As far as vice-president and Haru are concerned, this episode throws a wrench into things, since it’s heavily implied that Chiyu, Haru’s childhood BFF, also likes him to some degree. And here I was hoping for a simple tale about a school idol and the fat kid going on the internet together. Ah well.

I'm honestly surprised there's not more fanservice in this show all things considered...

Afterward we get into super exposition time. Something that might throw people off is that since people are speaking through their internet connections in this show, they don’t have to use their voice. Basically, thought speak, with them staring at each other and reacting in real time despite not actually talking. It’s pretty crazy.

What we learn is that leveling in Brain Burst is really difficult. Like worse than DnD. The game is apparently capped at level ten, where you get to meet the developer and throw a party or something. However, no one has been able to do this. Vice-president used to be one of the seven badasses in the burst linker program who reached level nine. Most of the level nines decided to maintain a truce, since getting to level ten would require beating five other level nines without losing once, risking the loss of the brain burst program if they did. Basically, it’s so ridiculously harsh that they all stopped playing, with the exception of vice-president, who wanted to throw a giant level ten party or something. She killed the red king with a surprise attack, then was forced to retreat when the others teamed up on her.

They forgot to turn off friendly fire.

Another interesting thing to note is some history about Accel World. It’s been 15 years since people installed Neuro-Linkers, the devices that allow people to enjoy the matrix lifestyle. As a result however, the only people who have literally had them their entire lives are kids. A prerequisite for the brain burst program, other than hating social life, is to have one of these permanent models. In other words, all Brain Burst players are kids. I suppose that could explain their behavior.

 

Finally, we get to the plotline of the next story arc. Someone in school is after the vice president. They know her identity and want all her points. If she uses her full shonen power however, that person will run away screaming and altert every other burst linker in brain burst to her location. And so Haru, the newly christened “lackey #1” agrees to help with next to no hesitation.

She's actually pretty casual about sticking it in, all things considered. *Ba-dum tish!*

Only problem is, the culprit might be Chiyu. Of course, being the protagonist Haru has a heart of gold, so he’s very troubled by this decision and goes off to confront it head-on, much to vice-president’s annoyance. Fortunately Taku, who is also Haru’s childhood BFF and Chiyu’s boyfriend, shows up and reassures him vaguely using a half-assed socratic method, thus leading Haru to go and do the intimate cable connection with her to read her memories. Because he’s her FRIEND, DAMMIT and that’s totally OKAY! I’m sure that’s exactly what Taku had in mind. What follows is an awkward, extended sexual metaphor. Granted they did state right out that such a connection is something only lovers typically do, however it’s hard to justify Haru’s position in this case even though he does find something suspicious.

I think Haru’s characterization is consistent and though out pretty well, since despite his generally nice personality he’s also extremely unsure of himself when he’s not gaming. Real life circumstances are challenging his morals and frankly he doesn’t have the backbone to back them up. Hopefully we’ll see some consequences to this and some positive changes in Haru’s character. Or they could just play video games online. That’d be cool too.

Kids nowadays just don't understand the concept of grinding...

Too bad stage selection is stuck on random

In my attempt to actually keep up with a series, I’m starting with Accel World. This is complicated by the fact that I really didn’t summarize the plot of the first episode much. So, a quick re-cap:

Haru is at the bottom of the food-chain at school. Picked on and forced to be a bully’s lackey, his only escape is virtual reality, which seems really advanced, as it turns him into a cartoon pig. His only accomplishment is apparently online squash. His life reeeally seems to suck right now, and he inadvertently takes it out on people around him since he doesn’t want to be pitied. Enter the student council vice-president with a really long name. She takes a liking to him and beats his high-score in squash. Then invites him to lunch where she gives him the brain burst program, which amps up his reflexes using computers or something. After that she warns him not to go on the internet for a while. He ignores this advice and suddenly gets assaulted by a psycho on a motorcycle.

This was when Haruyuki learned the benefits of grinding.

The second episode picks up immediately afterward, with Haru and his fancy new avatar getting their ass kicked. As it turns out, Brain Burst is basically a fighting MMO with high stakes. The points you get from the game let you use hax in real life, but the only way to get more is to beat people up online. Since Haru wants to repay her for getting rid of his bully, he decides to team up with miss vice-president, because it’ll obviously endwell. He displays more intelligence than your standard protagonist by insisting to keep their relationship strictly business, but he didn’t count on her being a maser troll. Ah, high school drama.

What do you mean you didn't stick it in?!

The rematch between Haru (AKA Silver Crow) and the ghost rider knock-off is kinda funny. After getting in a surprise attack Haru intends to use the timer to win automatically. Not just incredibly cheap, it’s something you wouldn’t expect from a main character. Haru continues to be unique… 😀 Things don’t as planned however and Haru is forced to reach his hidden shonen potential to kick reason to the curb and surpass the impossible. Or in this case a guy who confused an MMO with a racing sim. I could’ve done without the Harley-Davidson trivia though….

My dream of a world where people use usernames in everyday conversation...

What is even a street fighter?

In typical late fashion I’ve put together a list of anime I decided to check out for this season. Success is debatable.

Shining Hearts

That bread is huge.

I thought it was a swords and sorcery anime, but for the most part it seemed to be about making bread in a fantasy setting. If it ends up anything like Yakitate Japan it’ll be a winner, but I somehow doubt it. As for the characters, the main character seems laidback, while his three co-workers definitely want his balls. That’s about as eloquently as I could ever put it. Everything seems nice and happy, but shit is gonna hit the fan based on obvious foreshadowing. I’ll watch some more of this, but only because I like the artist (-_-;). A good possibility of this being stupid harem though. We’ll see how this goes.

Maken-Ki!

Perfectly understandable given the circumstances. I wasn't sure if they were real either.

The protagonist has an irritating design. His personality is stereotypically shonen to an aggravating degree except during fanservice portions, where he reverts to being a perverted character stereotype. The girls are cookie-cutter and irritating, most especially the tsundere. Super-powers are mystical items that random characters have for no apparent reason. I was going to watch this for the art style, but not anymore. This anime literally has nothing original going for it. It doesn’t even try to present things in an innovative way.

Haiyore! Nyaruko-san

So wait, does that mean he's into tentacles?

The premise of this anime is interesting: A guy is living under the same roof as a Cthulu god while his parents are on vacation. However take away the Lovecraftian context and you get little more than a stereotypical anime about a guy being dragged into a hidden world by some attractive, mystical high school girl. The show uses comedy at every opportunity to carry it from one situation to the next. Understandable, since it’s not something you would want to see taken seriously (my cthulu wallpaper can attest to that). In other words, pure slapstick comedy with random Cthulu references for flavor. Expect Swimsuit, hot spring, karaoke, festival, and other episodes to show up. I think my worst mistake in watching this was taking the premise seriously. My bad.

Upotte!!

When you think about it, angry teenage girls are a good metaphor for the arms race.

In an effort to learn from my mistake where I took Haiyore! seriously, I started watching everything else on my list with next to no expectations of quality. That may or may not work. In the case of Upotte!! it definitely helped me not turn it off after seeing the opening, what with the overflow of fetish fuel presented. I can definitely see the relation to Strike Witches, with a combination of transforming assault rifle school girls with slice of life. It’s probably one of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen; I was still confused even after they explained it. That confusion may or may not prompt me to try watching more of this show. Despite the weird concept however, it’s not really that notable aside from the fact that the creators seem to have done their homework.

Queen’s Blade Rebellion

It's about time this series got a pole dancer...

Going in, I expected this show to be little more than boob-shots. What I got was a confusing plot and… boob-shots. Also robots and a complete lack of any adherence to physics. I would elaborate, but frankly just thinking of this show makes me tired…

Jormungand

Still a better love story than twilight.

This was another anime that I feel like I’ve seen before. A child soldier named Jonah teams up with an arms dealer named Koko and her merry band of psychopathic mercs. It felt like watching Black Lagoon all over again, which isn’t a bad thing. For one thing, it doesn’t take place in Japan, so the environment feels fresh and interesting. Also, a notable thing about the art style is that all the main characters have DEAD eyes. It’s notable in various anime to give the psychopaths, evil guys, or psychologically damaged people eyes with no shine that you typically see in most of the bubbly characters. Black Lagoon did this to the characters when they go serious or pissed off, and many of the antagonists in Hellsing also shared this trait. However this is the first series I’ve seen where literally ALL of the apparently major characters have dead eyes. It’s a good art trick that points out how screwed up these people are, most especially Jonah, who looks like he’s going to shoot someone in every scene he appears in.

Polar Bear Cafe

And then they shot his kneecaps

It’s an anime where a Polar Bear runs a cafe. You can’t possibly lose! The fact that the animals are drawn realistically instead of the cartoonish style I was expecting makes the anime surreal, especially given the show’s focus on comedy. That said, it doesn’t seem like there’s much of a plot. Mostly it’s just gags. I may keep up with this one just to see more of the panda’s bullshit.

Accel World

I'm surprised they haven't pulled out the GITS references yet

This show has a familiar premise; characters interacting in a virtual world through extremely convenient interfaces in the near-future. They fight online for truth, money, justice, and possibly free future porn. I swear I’ve seen this movie before… The thing that stands out is the main character Haru; He’s the polar opposite of your standard male protagonist. Physically speaking, he’s a short fat kid with a particularly cartoony face that portrays him in the most unimpressive way possible. He gets bullied in the first few minutes into buying lunch for some punks only to later hide in the bathroom and log onto the internet to escape his problems. He tops that off by treating his childhood friend like shit when she tries to help him. His crowning achievement in life is virtual squash and his virtual avatar is a chibi-piglett.

MFW his squash habits boost him to harem-level popularity levels later on.

They basically made the main character about as uninteresting and pitable as possible. This actually makes the fairly straightforward plot more interesting. Whereas most series have forgettable protagonists in favor of the cute girls and crazy action sequences, you actually remember Haru because of these features. He stands out, and you probably root for him out of pity if nothing else. His struggles have more meaning because it’s clear from the beginning that Haru is at the absolute bottom of the food-chain in every social circle he is or will be involved in. You don’t know where his journey will take him, but it’s gotta be better than what we see here. That said, I’m still calling bullshit if this series turns into a harem, unlikely as that seems.

That’s all I got through. Everything else seemed less agreeable to my awkward tastes. I don’t know if I’m going to chronicle any of these episodically, especially since this is two weeks late, but who knows, maybe I can stick to a schedule for once. Practice makes perfect… As for the series themselves, it’s nice to get into something with no prior knowledge bogging me down, but I notice that my perception is still skewed regardless. I need to work on that…

Anime: Making me long for shitty classes, asshole friends and absolutely no adventure. This is why I can't have nice things.

Black Rock Shooter (BRS) is a cool concept. The sales figures for her figurines probably say more about how cool her design is than anything I could say. Narratively speaking, a badass alter-ego that not only spawns whatever artillery or sharp objects she can think of, but ignores all forms of stabbing, bludgeoning and harsh words, is also pretty self-explanatory. Heck, most people who watch this probably know about BRS in some form. The crazy part of this anime was that the “normal cast” was just as compelling as their sharp and pointy counterparts, after a point.

How about some support, mother? After all your daughter is in a battle to decide the fate of high school girls everywhere!

The plot revolves around Kuroi Mato and her crazy high school friends, albeit only the female ones, because let’s face it, the BRS franchise mainly catered to otaku who like the character design before the implied les-yay showed up during the OVA. Now all sorts of people can enjoy it! Well, except for the normal people, but no one likes them. Anyway, as it turns out, high school girls deal with a lot of shit in their day-to-day lives, and they have to blow off steam somehow, so they… create spiritual alter-egos who use those emotions to fight it out in an alternate world based on a child’s book! I mean what else can they do to relax between homework, school clubs, social lives, chores, and japanese societal expectations of women? Understandable, I think.

 

Yeah baby!

 

The character design for Mato threw me off initially, since I thought she should have looked more like her counterpart in the face area.

As the series progresses (all eight episodes of it), you learn the backstories behind all five of the main characters, essentially the people connected with the titular alter-egos important enough to get their own design. Much character development is had by all, with notable scenes of the characters freaking the hell out. This is probably why the artist for the “real” world is noteworthy. The character design doesn’t seem to stand out until you see some of the various expressions on all their faces. Of course, you also get several exciting CG fight scenes, which fulfills the action quota that many fans expected. Initially I felt like the action was just there to show off the cool CG, but by the end it grew on me, particularly the girls’ penchant for unique weaponry.

 

That moment when you realize you're only here for the psychadelic mega-cannon

 

The main thing that kept me from watching the series for a while was the whole “touchy-feely girls” thing. Watching this, Rinne no Lagrange, Hanasaku Iroha, and others, I’m a bit tapped out on anime focusing on “girl-talk.” Each of these have female leads in high school, and as a result their character development is, well, girly. It’s understandable, but really, I should probably invest myself in a hardcore shonen title before going back to new anime after this run… That doesn’t mean BRS isn’t a show you shouldn’t watch however. It’s got a unique style to it, along with mindfuckery thanks to the CG world. I highly recommend it.

 

...and then my sanity shattered!

BRS was produced by Ordet with CG production by Sangizen.

Now if only they’d localize the PSP game so I could review that….

Hopefully this is only the start of Redjuice's success...

So following the aggravating disappointment that was Negima’s end as well as the sad example of unimaginative thinking that was Mass Effect 3’s ending, I sat down and finished the anime “Guilty Crown.” As you can probably tell by the less than optimistic title to this post, that didn’t end well either.

The series follows a young man named Shoe who goes off and gets involved with terrorists after he inadvertently absorbs their superweapon. With the idealistic goal of making friends and gaining the affections of a convenient pop idol who can pop off a headshot at 50 meters, Shoe embarks on a journey to take down a bunch of vague tyrannical government agencies that in no way represent American intrusion into the Japanese economic system. After getting made fun of and generally shown how much of a beta he is to the terrorist alpha leader Guy, he ultimately comes into his own, mastering his mystical power of FRIENDSHIP WEAPONS to demolish the tyrannical puppet government at the cost of his new/old friend Guy. While this only takes up the first half of the series, I liked it. I was rooting for Shoe despite the terrible (English) connotations of his name, and honestly was interested in seeing him grow.

Character designs distract you from suspecting how screwed up some characters can get.

The second half of the series takes fans’ expectation of a cool action sci-fi shonen romp and punches it in the face. Shoe’s growth is implied to be complete, but that too is quickly shot down along with his right arm. More than half the main cast dies on both sides and by the end Shoe is left with  a rather bleak resolution to the crisis after fighting Zombie Guy and getting most of his schoolmates killed. Apparently he can barely see, has poor motor control, and didn’t grow his arm back. I have to say that while I can admire bits of sacrifice as far as some plotlines go, the series basically left Shoe with next to nothing besides a replacement girlfriend in a wheelchair. Admittedly, it could’ve ended much worse, but I feel like Shoe sacrificing himself would’ve fit in with the series’ theme near the end. It’s bleak and depressing regardless, but I can’t help but feel this ending was actually crueler to poor Shoe. Kinda screwed up, to be honest, because the way I saw it all his hard work doomed him to a debilitatingly slow death in a physically broken form without the love of his life to help get him through it. Even his surviving friends seem to not have been in contact with him on a regular basis.

Now that we’re past the review, let’s see about something else- some odd facets I’ve noticed through these fictional endeavors about myself, in particular this show. I find myself largely content in my day-to-day activities, but whenever I consider the future, I either experience gut-wrenching terror or dark, poisonous fatalism. I have no real dream or ambition beyond having the means to live comfortably and carefree. I’m told I’m good at writing, among some other things, but I honestly can’t tell whether I’m just kidding myself because I’m lazy or if I genuinely don’t care. Even with some kind of talent I have no idea how to utilize these skills effectively and the ways I have been taught don’t work for me. These shows, games, and other mediums that I peruse consistently point out characters with goals that they not only work reasonably hard toward, but seem to have the proper skill set to achieve. I’m fully aware that the plots are what make things work out for the protagonists most of the time, but I can’t help but be jealous on some level. I look at a number of goals I might find myself working toward and soon discount even the process of working, because I’ve already found it to be a fruitless and unsatisfying endeavor. Even what work I do get done feels empty and not my own. Take this blog for instance. I’ve already come to terms with the fact that it will not be successful, will not help me in any feasible way, and will ultimately be left to collect dust when I can no longer work on it for whatever reason.

I guess you could say that I’m like a lot of people who want validation for their continued existence. Being an unemployed full-time student who has never taken a significant break from school, I have yet to see a real payoff for any work I’ve ever done, and don’t feel as if I can really contribute anything to people.

I could go on about these issues of mine, but it’s midnight where I am and about the only thing that will make me feel useful in the morning is a good night’s rest. As for Guilty Crown, it’s an entertaining series with a unique flavor, not to mention character design by a Deviantart user. Need something out of the ordinary but still recognizable? It’s a good bet.

Like a bad Monday

Asura’s Wrath is an exciting game. Mythological adaptations fighting each other while screaming at the top of their lungs plus space ships? How can you go wrong? To be honest, I loved the game. On a basic level, the game works really well. The melee combat and Quick Time Events (QTE) work great, the voice-acting is… enthusiastic, the art style is really emotive, the core aspects of the game are great. It’s the extraneous stuff that really screws up the game.

The shooter segments are little more than you mashing buttons until a QTE occurs. Everything in these segments is a barrier between you and the next fight. While I can understand the placement of some random bosses to break up the story, these just seem odd to me. Similarly, story events between “episodes” are still pictures (drawn by different artists each time) with voiced dialogue. It’s little better than telling the story through random text files. Considering how great some of the cutscenes in this game are, it seems odd for them to resort to this.

When you’re in the melee combat segments, the game is great. Brutal and dynamic. Why the game couldn’t be just this is beyond my understanding of game design I suppose. It starts off relatively easy, seeming to skip from QTE to QTE, but the battles get harder and harder (if not bigger in scope), with more on the line. It reminds me more of Enslaved than Devil May Cry, however the controls are responsive and I encountered no glitches. Asura has a huge amount of unique animations for different enemy types, and Liam O’Brien’s yelling really brings out the brutality. Considering how short his effective range is I was surprised how smooth the combat was. The character animations remind me of Street Fighter IV, and you really see it when getting a close-up of character’s faces. Speaking of faces, what is Ganondorf doing in a Capcom game?

And from the darkest depths I heard a voice.... "Tingle Tingle Kooloo-limpah!"

Speaking of storytelling, why in the name of all that is anime are there episodes? Why not just continue to tell the story? If they wanted an anime, why not make an anime? It interrupts the action at the worst time, every time. Not only that, but they show a “next episode” preview literally seconds before the next segment is about to start. It makes me want to go to a restaurant and punch it so hard it turns into a TGI Mondays.

Every anime needs a hot-spring episode!

There is also a fundamental flaw in the presentation of the game’s story as a whole. They present a prologue telling you who the character is, what he’s fighting for, and what happens to set him on this path of revenge. Immediately afterward, there is a tutorial segment establishing that Asura has amnesia. Throughout the game he learns of his past. This is redundant and stupid. It’s poor storytelling, and ruins any attachments to the reveals later on in the story. Without the prologue, we would be learning about Asura’s past and the world at the same time as him. Instead, we already know, and so the reveals are negligible.

It's as if they were planning this all along...

That’s not to say the story isn’t good however. The tale of revenge, religious idiocy and awkward parenting is awesome while it lasts, and while short, combines some of the best elements from not only God of War and CyberConnect’s Ninja Storm series, but Kingdom Hearts, Resident Evil 4 and Zelda as well. I’ll let you find those references for yourself.

Still, the real meat of the game is in the melee combat. The game has been described as an “eastern god of war” in some publications. While that certainly seems to be what CyberConnect went for (with a touch of shonen anime), it doesn’t measure up as a game. In fact there’s almost no “levels” in this game. You’re either in an arena combating enemies with melee or running through a rail-shooter segment. QTEs placed between cutscenes round out the levels. I swear to god the next time someone complains about Final Fantasy XIII I’ll simply reply that “at least it wasn’t as bad as Asura’s Wrath.” Only… XIII-2 seems to be doing the same thing as seen here. Oi…

In the end, this game tried to get me emotionally involved, but the episodic bullshit coupled with the sporadic storytelling quality kept it from being as good as it could have been. In the end, as badass as some of the characters are and as interesting as the story ended up, all I really wanted to do was punch things. Thankfully, this game delivers that in spades. Then again, maybe I should expect this from Capcom. Goofy storytelling that you shouldn’t take seriously coupled with typically good gameplay.

I think I’ll just draw from the wisdom of Augus: “Relax my son. Enjoy every moment: You fight, then eat good food. You fight, then drink fine wine. You fight, then sleep with beautiful women. Hell, fight with beautiful women! That’s what it truly means to live.”

As there were previously no pictures of Augus in this review, I was forced to rectify that.

Asura’s Wrath was developed by CyberConnect2 and published by Capcom.

If this review seems to have mixed opinions, it’s because Capcom.

Press my nose to hear a sound!

Journey is a game that puts you into the role of a walking, beeping carpet. No I’m not kidding. You find yourself in the middle of a desert with nothing around you except a vague mountain-shape in the distance emitting light. You quickly move toward it! Or not. You could just sit there if you want (hit select).

Journey is advertised as an exploration game with no prompts except the mountain in the distance. I was intrigued by how thatgamecompany could make such a concept interesting, and unfortunately my fears were somewhat founded, though the experience was still mildly enjoyable while it lasted. If you ever wanted to explore unpleasant survival situations, this is the game. Hot desert, cold stormy mountaintops, and of course dark caverns with evil beasties.

Along the way, provided you’re hooked up to PSN, you will meet random people and help each other succeed at… stuff, such as jumping farther. There’s really no rhyme or reason for or against co-op in this game. While a partner can speed up your progress through the levels, the game is so short that having a partner could be counted as a detriment to the overall experience. You can’t team up with friends and can only partner with random people, though you at least discover their identities in the end-game screen. There is no dedicated co-op function beyond meeting passerby throughout the game. This makes staying together with particular co-op partners a chore, since they can be easily lost if you mess up on a platforming section. Add on that you can only meet one person at a time, removing any chance of hilarious amounts of identical walking carpets, and the loneliness really starts to set in. Having removed the chance for ridiculous human spontaneity, the game is forced to a near-identical progression of events in each playthrough. Unfortunate, and probably an intentional part of the design.

The only slightly competitive part of this game is comparing scarf sizes.... You might have reach, but I have flexibility...

The protagonist’s scarf lets you jump when it glows- allowing you to flap about like a bird, which is more exciting than it should be. It doesn’t usually last long however. You’re only given the ability to jump when you need it.

Sliding down sand-dunes is the best part of the game. The almost-sandboarding easily picks up the pace from the quiet traversal during other parts and provides a fun change in gameplay. It seems like an odd decision, in a relatively open “exploration” game like this, to give you limited ammunation for your jump function.

No dialogue, no directive. You can spend as long as you want screwing around, though it gets boring quick since it’s mostly just desert. While the game certainly is pretty, it’s still just a pretty desert/cave/mountain, and there’s really not much there beyond one or two secrets. In fact, the game is a lot more linear than advertised. While you might think you’re free to explore, it’s actually just very wide areas with invisible walls, holding next to nothing in them.

Considering how short and linear it is, it’s not quite worth the price of admission. They try to tell a story, but it’s simply too complex (something about a destroyed civilization and the main character being the avatar of their rebirth) without dialogue or exposition. Thatgamecompany has always been known for simple, expressive games, but this time they seem to have abandoned some of the experience for narrative, which is unfortunate. In my opinion I don’t think every subsequent game they make has to be bigger than their last, but they felt the need to do so here. I mean, Groundhog Day? Don’t they know time loops never end well? Or end for that matter…

I came into this expecting a profound experience, like what I experienced with Flower. While I did discover a flower in the desert (yay cameos), the experience wasn’t nearly as memorable for me as Flower was. But hey, maybe I’m just partial to flight sims.

Wait, didn't I already play Uncharted?

Journey was developed by Thatgamecompany.

 

Because this kind of game is more believable if everything is smaller and remote-controlled. Actually, that might not be too far off...

In my endless aggravation at being unable to play Mass Effect 3 or Journey, I downloaded this, since the series always gives me a laugh or two.

A tutorial level introduces you to the odd driving controls and the strangely fascinating experience of driving a virtual RC car. Not as intense as their full-size counterparts, but engaging nonetheless.

There is also an racing event that I took part in called “Night Club” that was easier to control than the tutorial, or perhaps it was merely my imagination. Regardless it was a fun game, and should prove entertaining for any racing fans, though I don’t see this selling that many copies. Motorstorm has always been a rental franchise to me.

Calibrations you say?

Got a minute? The Mass Effect 3 demo is out, and that means I get to ignore Valentine’s day in lieu of a sneak-peak at some fun space marine action. I also get to test out my new review formula, though it’ll have to do without funny internet pictures as I have to get up in 4 hours. Do tell me what you think in the comments. Especially if you disagree. After all, the reason I’m so harsh in this review is probably because I love this series so much…

In the demo you play through two levels; the opening mission, which is a terrible representation of the gameplay (you have no powers) but a great representation of why Shepard is shooting things, and a later mission that puts you around level 12 in order to give you a taste of the different powers at your disposal.

Being a lover/critic of Mass Effect I went ahead and tinkered with all the classes. Unfortunately the multiplayer is unavailable to PS3 users even if they have an EA account, so I was unable to experience that. For my playthroughs, I utilized all of the classes to see how things have changed. Not as much as I had thought they would actually. I don’t even want to imagine playing this on Insanity difficulty however, considering the how the enemies behave. Dicks.

-Class Breakdown-

Soldier is… crap I think. The one saving grace is incendiary ammo, which kills things extremely quickly. Adrenaline Rush doesn’t slow things down enough for me to really like it, though the damage boost is nice. Concussive blast, while fairly useful, recharges far too slowly. Grenades are normal frags, and not really noteworthy, especially since they are in such short supply. The melee is a punch reminiscent of God Hand’s punches, only with a holographic blade to the face. It’s just that satisfying. Unfortunate that the worst class has the best melee kill.

Sentinel is the class that can take damage and dish it out at close range. It’s main function is the Tech armor, which increases pretty much all of Shepard’s stats while activated. Better yet, when it’s depleted it explodes outward, damaging surrounding enemies. Add to that both Tech and Biotic powers, and Sentinel is the most versatile and arguably the best class in the game. Grenades lift oponents into the air for you to shoot at, replacing the Biotic pull in function. The melee is a satisfying decapitation move with two omni-blades.

Infiltrators are the stealthy snipers. They have a cool trick of automatically slowing down time when they zoom in with a sniper rifle, and the ability to turn invisible. Basically they’re all about the kill shot. In addition they have the ability to take control of enemy synthetics and light things on fire. Their grenades… are sticky. They stick to people so that they can’t run away when they explode. They’re my favorite, obviously. It would seem like the Infiltrator is more suited to long-range fighting, but it does have an interesting melee with an electrified omni-blade. Of course there’s also the option of cloaking, walking up to someone, and shooting them in the face before they realize you’re there. That’s always funny.

Engineers are specialized in tech powers. They come with the ability to control synthetics and mess with enemy weapons, but they go even further by having the ability to summon a drone into combat that distracts and sometimes incapacitates enemies. They also have the Sentry Turret in place of grenades, which is self-explanatory and useful for bringing added firepower to bear. They are masters of the electronic field but lack skills specialized in getting through fleshy enemies. The melee is essentially the fire punch from pokemon, only with a bitchslap rather than a punch.

Adepts are considered the Biotic powerhouses. Essentially you’re supposed to focus on using your powers when you’re an adept because your weapon proficiency is less than ideal. That was not the case in this demo, as you’re presented a full arsenal in the second mission. Nevertheless the adept class allows you to fullow manipulate the physics engine in this game to toss your enemies about like the rag dolls they are. While the signature move is the singularity, the pull move is notable for being specifically useful in taking out Cerberus Riot shield users. The grenade of choice is the cluster grenade, a biotic grenade that releases multiple fragments which cause a number of biotic explosions, sending enemies flying. It’s actually the most useful in terms of damage/area covered. The melee move is simply a palm thrust backed by a biotic shockwave.

Vanguards are by far my favorite class for one simple reason. Biotic charge, or “stinger” as I like to call it- Dante would be proud. There is nothing quite as satisfying in this game as zipping around the battlefield smashing foes and blasting them in the face with a shotgun. High risk, high reward. I’m going to die a lot as a vanguard. The vanguard also comes with some other basic biotic abilities and the fantastic incendiary ammo. While not exactly a glass cannon, this class is far more offensive than the rest, which makes for a significantly different playthrough from the others. In a departure from the other classes, Vanguard doesn’t actually have a grenade power. Instead, the Nova ability creates a shockwave around Shepard, utilizing his/her biotic barrier instead of a cooldown function. I didn’t really fancy it and stuck with Stinger. As for the Heavy Melee, it is surprisingly identical to he Adept’s melee in that Shepard backs up his/her palm thrust with a biotic shockwave.

As it stands, I played each class at least once in their “default” style, similar to ME2. According to numerous other reviews I’ve seen, it seems like it’ possible to vary the class playing styles further. BioWare encourages heavy tinkering and multiple playthroughs, so I figure there’s still a lot I haven’t discovered about this game (and not just because it’s a demo). One thing I found interesting and a bit disappointing was that I got the same weapon loadout regardless of class. Whether that is because of class customization later or because Shepard lugs all his weapons around like in the first game, I’m not sure, though I suspect the former.

-What I Liked-

1)     You seem to be able to run much faster in this game, not to mention the dodge roll.     Mobility in the previous games was inadequate in the thick of combat. Now it is simply as     it should be.

2)       Enemies are much more… mobile. Dicks, all of them.

3)     Guns make better sounds in this game! I swear they did a developer diary about this but it’s     cool to see in action.

4)     Heavy melee is an inta-kill move, and oh so satisfying after the malarchy that was the melee in the first two games. Still, I do have a major issue with it that I will go over…

5)     Wrex, Liara and Garrus. All in the same mission. Hell yes, these new characters can bugger off. Bugger, I tell you. I don’t WANT new people. All I want is some beautiful third persona quality time with Liara, Garrus and Wrex. And Tali. Maybe even Alenko. But not Ashley. She is so very dead. But back on topic, I’m playing this game for the returning characters, not these Gamespot wannabes.

6)     Character creation still has codes for making pre-built shepards. This is going to be hilarious, though admittedly if I truly wanted the best Mass Effect experience I’d play it on PC. Alas…

7)     Jennifer Hale’s voice is awesome. Again. Once you go FemShep you can’t go back.

8)     Character dialogue didn’t show up enough in the demo, but what I did see was promising. The fact that the conversation barely involved Shepard was also cool. For all the cool characters in ME2, they didn’t interact with each other enough. They just stayed in their corners of the Normandy, doing calibrations…

9)     I like the new loading screen. None of this blueprint crap, just Earth… burning… :3

10)     The game is a lot more cinematic. Characters rarely just stand around and talk, they’re almost always doing something while conversing.

11)     The character animations, while still using the same engine, are more elaborate. The cinematic scenes mean that you don’t have to stare at people standing around talking in the middle of warzone this time.

12)     Switching between weapons is smoother than before, and aiming is tighter.

13)     Biotics seem to be a bit more useful in is game than in ME2. Each class is given the proper tools to take down certain targets in one way or another.

14)     The majority of powers are the same as in 2, though the grenades and melee moves are new. Still, those who played through ME1 and ME2 will be familiar with most of the powers and will be able to jump right in.

15)     Based on some of the items I looted during the demo, it seems both weapons AND armor are customizable. That’s good, because armor customization was great in ME2… if you had the DLC.

16)     Your health no longer recharges like your shield does, which makes sense. You have toadminister Medi-gel to heal. Not sure if I like it, as it caused me to die a few times, but it does make things more tense and interesting.

-What I DISliked-

1)     Conversation options aren’t really there. You make a decision once or twice in the demo, but most of Shepard’s dialogue is pre-determined. Other characters’ dialogue isn’t affected much by your decisions in either. However, this is the demo we’re talking about here.

2)     The power trees aren’t really much more elaborate than the second game’s so much as they’re disguised to look complicated. What it boils down to usually is increasing the range or power of the move, or reducing the cooldown period.

3)     Melee combat is not some amazing new thing. Sure I like the animation, and it works pretty much perfectly, but it doesn’t quite have the “visceral” feeling certain other 3rd-person shooters have. It’s a feeble attempt to copy Gears of War that falls flat. No limbs are lost, there are no marks on your enemies, and blood stays inside your adveraries. It’s a war for the survival of the galaxy for crying out loud, we expect a little blood and guts!

4)     While the graphics are an improvement over the previous games, it’s not so amazing as I was lead to believe. The animations feel a bit off at times and the environments surrounding the levels seem a bit poorly done if you stare at them for a bit. I’m hoping the final product looks better, as I know demos are prone to being somewhat unfinished in this regard, especially in the case of Mass Effect 2’s PS3 demo.

5)     Why haven’t they rendered the Normandy’s windows… again? They’re odd block designs that don’t allow you to ascertain what’s going on. Maddening…

6)     BioWare still can’t get hairstyles right. Also for some reason the default shepards have unique features to their design that you can’t utilize in character creation. Wtf? This is the main reason I wish I could play the PC version. This game will be modded to all hell, and the community will end up making some fantastic looking Shepards. Perhaps someday… Preferably in a future where Origin has flopped and the series is back on Steam. 😛

7)     The demo did not allow you to select your weapons. I understand not being able to modify the weapons, but I would have liked to be able to pick particular kinds of weapons for the class I played. There is no sniper rifle in the demo and I was claustrophobic with the new AI.

8)     I find it grating that BioWare seems to have given no elaboration whatsoever about what happened at the end of the second game. How much time has passed? Why is shepard lounging about in a room? Why the heck would my shepard give these incompetent humans my gorramn space yacht? And most importantly, what the hell happened to my space hamster?!

9)     The scene with the kid was rather…. forced and annoying. What is this, a Michael Bay film? Ah… EA did hire him for Need for Speed didn’t they? Shit.

10)     What’s with these “action” and “narrative” modes? If people don’t want to worry about the story or gunplay mechanics, they shouldn’t be playing Mass Effect. Maybe it sounds dickish, but Mass Effect is a shooter RPG series. Play it for what it is dammit.

11)     Major powers all use the same cooldown period for each character. It’s aggravating, even more due to the fact that it was made this way on purpose for the sake of balancing multiplayer. I use adrenaline so I can’t use concussive blast? Using singularity means I can’t use pull? Why not give us a mana bar or something if this is how you’re gonna do it? Mass Effect has divurged from Kingdom Hearts and I don’t like it! At least Kingdom Hearts fixed their spell system… But it’s not all bad, since they did tweak it so that only actual powers are affected by cooldown. Medi-gel and Ammo powers are considered separate it seems…

12)     Why oh why can I not blindfire from behind cover? Stop getting up when you have no shields Shepard! Cover fire damn you! Garrus is bleeding out and Liara is being manhandled by Cerberus operatives who probably pre-ordered her figurine!

13)     I know this is an old thing that came up in 2, but WHY IS THERE AMMO?! It makes no sense in the universe of Mass Effect! Heat sinks are only barely acceptable on automatic weapons. There’s no good reason to use the system with your sniper rifle! This is one of my biggest problems with the series, and BioWare basically just ret-conned it before forgetting they ever changed anything in the first place.

I’ll be keeping my optimism in check for this one. I’m buying it day 1 on PS3 (which was graphically inferior to the 360 version, much to my infinite sadness), but I’m going to assume the worst as far as this game is concerned. I’m going to assume stupid decisions, broken gameplay, and another retarded final boss fight. I’m going to assume there will be more cheap scenes like the one with the kid, and expect less than half of my old party members to show their faces. Why? Because I assumed as much with Dragon Age 2. I was right about a lot of my assumptions about that game, but there were also some great surprises. I’m trying to be a realist or something. I look at where the Mass Effect franchise has gone, seeing facebook games, iOS games, sensational novels with glaring plot inconsistencies, eight-page comics that could’ve been part of the actual game story, and more!

I already know BioWare has sold out. I’m merely hoping that the huge amount of money EA has throw at this game is enough to make it a mildly cohesive experience. Who knows? Maybe Mass Effect 3 will totally blow my mind narratively. Or maybe it won’t. At the very least, I enjoyed playing the demo. Thanks for reading, but I should go. I was in the middle of some calibrations.

God that sounded forced…

Anime viewing~

This is a new sort of post for my blog. Seeing as how I regularly watch anime, I figure I could at least try to write something related to it, since I’m putting off the Dragon Age 2 review (because people care about that game right?) and Mario’s Time Machine (also relevant!). That and I need practice for my writing that isn’t related to school, because in school you only write about BORING THINGS!

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You can just tell this is going to be the best thing ever

~ Daily Lives of High School Boys – Picking on me just because I’m the younger brother…

Daily Lives of High School Boys is an anime based on the manga by Yasunobu Yamauchi. The show is literally exactly what it sounds like, but the characters are… exceptional examples. Whether it’s creating their own skits out of everyday situations or lamenting their complete lack of success (or interaction) with the opposite sex, you can be pretty sure it’ll be hilarious. Or disturbing. Hasn’t been both yet, however. It’s up to episode five and I have to say I’m enjoying it more than I thought it would, since I take fiction too seriously. The interesting part about this show is that a lot of the jokes are hilarious regardless of cultural background, or at least I think so. The situations are ridiculous, true, but the characters are also easy to identify with, a contrast with most anime protagonists who are defined by their power-ups or harem.

Basically, watch it. The thought of this anime being ignored makes me depressed for some reason.

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You may be surprised to find that PLOT is, in this case, being used in a misguided fashion.

~High School DxD – So much PLOT.

I watch it for the PLOT! YES! NOTHING SUSPICIOUS HERE GUYS!
…well, falsification aside, it’s really nothing special. The show starts off with the oddly perverted protagonist being killed after his first date impales him and reveals herself as a fallen angel. Then the female lead shows up naked with him in his bed, reveals herself as a devil, informs him of his new job as her servant, and introduces him to the oddly compartmentalized supernatural world. He then sets out to become a “harem king” even though he’s basically powerless. Then he gets a deus ex machina and goes about being a protagonist. I don’t even care.

I had hoped there would be more humor in the show, but so far it’s made up of pointless action with unnecessary gore, as well as… plot. Yes. Totally stole that joke from somewhere. To be honest I think the show would be more interesting if they dropped the action parts and just detailed Issei doing odd jobs around his town in order to rank up as a demon. That would allow for both humor and PLOT. Unfortunately this anime has something to prove, and it continues to go down a generic shonen path, barely dealing with Issei’s issues of having been betrayed by then forced to help kill his first love. I honestly can’t see this anime going past 12 episodes. The manga defines things a little more clearly, but I doubt it’s going to run that long without doing something really… different. I daresay the only reason I found this anime noticeable was because of the ending. Poledancing anime girls? Eh, why not… it’s not like I have a life or anything to get back to.

I don’t recommend watching this one unless you’re bored and need animated PLOT in your life.

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Are you guys done yet?

~Zero no Tsukaima f – same old same ol- wait, where are we going?

Zero no Tsukaima is about a normal Japanese boy named Saito whose only defining trait is his uniqu ski jacket, and how he gets pulled into a strange portal that forges a contract between him and Louise, a rather craptastic mage in some fantasy world somewhere. He gains the admittedly badass ability to use any weapon with maximum proficiency upon touching it, based on the Norse Gandalfr myth. Soon afterward it’s revealed Louise is actually good at magic, just not the kind that anyone can teach her. Then there’s fighting and explosions and the two of them trying to advance their relationship. They fail, at least for three seasons.

This is supposedly the final season of Zero no Tsukaima. Admittedly, I only watchd the first season and skimmed through the next two, but I can tell that it only dragged on the plot. Whatever hijinks have ensued, it seems like they’ve only barely explained Louise’s powers and the reason for Saito being summoned. If the plot were really going to go anywhere I don’t think they’d still be at the school where the series started, so it’s no great loss. Five episodes in one of the character’s father tries to start a war, fails, and everyone goes back to what they were doing. While it seems they’ve shifted the setting to Saito’s new “kingdom” or something, I’m not holding out that much hope. I can only hope the plot does something new and interesting with the characters. I already know not to expect much action out of the show unless we’re in the final story arc of the season, but at least the romantic aspects of the show will be forced to actually go somewhere if this is really the end.

I’m gonna have to give it a “tl;dr.”

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I support this reboot

~Naruto Shippuuden – Tearing apart my heartstrings, datteboyo!

Why am I writing about Naruto? You either like it, or hate it. Or think it’s one of those weird animes that has gone on too long. Regardless, I have to say that Naruto has really gotten good. Without going into detail about the plot, I have to say that Kishimoto is pretty good at tugging at my heartstrings. You wish these characters could’ve had a nice relatively peaceful ninja life together, but the villain basically prevented all of that. I will be quite happy when that masked prick gets a swirling mass of “believe it!” shonen power down his throat.

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You have to be under 18 to pilot mecha

~Rinne no Lagrange – Fun in the sun at 200MPH.

Back to new anime, Rinne no Lagrange feels to me like a new Nadesico series. It’s just so upbeat, and while the characters obviously take things seriously, there’s room for humor and slice-of-life stuff alongside the plot, which has yet to be revealed. Said plot is about a high school girl who likes helping people out while wearing her PE uniform. She helps out an alien girl who isn’t wearing pants by piloting a cg mech reminiscent of Macross. Apparently the mech saved her from drowning when she was a kid, and only wants her to pilot it. How adorable.

The battle scenes are painful to watch due to CG and the oddly designed mechs. Say what you will about Gundam, the action scenes are always done well. I actually found myself disappointed when the mechs in this show transformed OUT of jet mode. One thing I will say is that this show has very cool music. Also, I love tropical settings. In the end, I’ll continue watching it as long as the plot keeps progressing somewhere.

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How she stuffs her hair into that hoodie I cannot fathom. Probably magic.

~Black Rock Shooter TV – Welcome to my CG-enabled nightmare.

Black Rock Shooter was originally a fan-made permutation of Vocaloid’s Hatsune Miku I believe. Having gained popularity with various figmas, fanart and one PSP game that I’ll never be able to play, they finally made an OAV telling some sort of story about the titular character. They even gave here a real identity.

Kuroi Mato is a Junior High School Girl who dreams of kicking ass and taking names in leather shorts, a kickass jacket and not much else. Her choice of weaponry just screams shonen and her bland expression tends to be one of her more endearing factors. While I don’t have a statue or figure of her, I do want one. Someday perhaps.

Plot-wise, the TV series is an elaboration on the OAV. While the OAV foused on Mato and Yomi becoming friends and having crazy battles in some kind of nightmare-metaphor world, the TV series seems to have expanded the number of core characters and made the battle sequences more than just a sort of metaphor.

The one thing I really don’t like about the TV series compared to the OAV is the character design. In the real world everyone has gotten rounder and a bit more cutesy, which is admittedly fitting for the “girls having feelings” bits. Meanwhile the battles between Black Rock Shooter and the other dark magical girls are done in CG. While they’re entertaining, they’re just not as cool as the OAV, and it has little to do with the OAV having high production values. CG scenes just look awkward to me. Fortunatey it hardly ruins the experience, and I’m happy enough that there IS a Black Rock Shooter TV series to accept the new design choices. Now if only that PSP game would come out over here…

And that’s essentially all the anime I’m watching at the moment. Come April that’ll probably change as there are quite a few series I intend to get into, specifically Accel World and Fate/Zero. With any luck, I’ll also finally start watching the Persona 4 anime. Tell me what you think, non-existent audience!

Or don't. That's fine too.