Saturday, November 3, 2012

Streetfighter X Tekken Vita Gameplay Video

Recently bought Streetfighter X Tekken as a digital download (that's CROSS not X according to Capcom) for the PS Vita. Here's a scrubby netplay match with me using Ryu x Guile. The game might not be one of the most well-balanced of fighters out there, but I enjoy the tag mechanics and it basically plays like Streetfighter IV with a few differences. It is noticeably easier to use combos as well as deal damage in this game through super arts, ex specials and tag-in combos, but that's not enough to ruin the experience for me as a mostly casual player. Pro-level matches look pretty funny with the turtling tactics and waiting for the time to run out though.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Project Diva F Gameplay Video

Just a little bit of gameplay with commentary for my latest acquisition, Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F for the Playstation Vita. Got the system specifically for this game and also because the system seems great for fighting games. Streetfighter x Tekken might be my next purchase. Hopefully, some good Jrpgs come for the system as well like they did late into the PSP's lifespan.

Not much of an achievement, but I got my revenge on this song off-camera.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

What's Up With Sword Art Online?

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you've probably noticed that I tend to write long, obnoxious essays and act like a know-it-all about stuff not worth knowing about. Anywayz, I thought I'd change it up a bit and ask you, the one who is reading this post right now, to tell me what's up with Sword Art Online? Why is it so popular nowadays? What is the appeal of this show to you? Why do you think so many people like it? Note that I am asking this as one who has never given the series a try, but dun worry, I don't mind spoilers, so spoil away if you think that will help you get your points across better.

The one thing that struck me as soon as I saw the character designs for this show was: Kirito = Hiraga Saito from Zero no Tsukaima.

What I do know from skimming some Wiki material, anime sites, image boards and some forums online is that it's based on a light novel series and that the premise is pretty similar to .hack - hah! Except people claim that SAO is much better! I liked .hack//sign and I've read a few of the .hack light novels and loved em, so I suppose I might actually enjoy this series if I ever get around to actually watching it.

For now, though. It's your show. C'mon, readers! Sock it to meh! What's up with Sword Art Online?

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Hanasaku Iroha: Beauty In Simplicity

16 year-old Ohana Matsumae who lives with her single mother in Tokyo is forced to go to some inn way out in the provinces of Japan and live with her grandmother whom she’s never met when her mother suddenly decides to start living with her latest boyfriend. To make matters worse, Ohana just shrugged off a confession from her childfriend Ko without ever giving him a definite answer. But wait, it doesn’t end there. As soon as Ohana arrives at the inn, she immediately meets a pretty girl who tells her to “die” for some reason and her grandmother immediately puts her to work as a waitress at the inn as soon as she arrives. Does this sound like the premise for a typical soap opera filled with tales of betrayal, angst and delicious tears? It might seem that way at first, but watch Hanasaku Iroha in its entirety and you will be pleasantly surprised.

To be honest, Hanasaku Iroha was a show that I started watching simply because I thought the main character, Ohana Matsumae was really cute. I saw an episode of this anime on Hero TV (a local 24-hour anime channel that shows all kinds of anime faithfully translated and redubbed in Tagalog from Japanese). I’d just finished watching Fate/Zero and needed something a little more down to Earth to watch and Hasaku Iroha seemed to fit the bill, so I began watching it and finished all of its 26 episodes in three weeks time. This might seem like a long-time for anime marathon experts who can gobble up 50 episodes or more in a single day, but for me, this is personally a pretty fast pace for a show that I really care about. I can marathon a 13 episode show in a single day, but that would probably mean that I didn’t care enough to actually “savor” the show, so to speak. Hanasaku Iroha however, grew to become an anime that I really wanted to “experience.”

At a cursory glance, there seems to be nothing out of the ordinary about Hanasaku Iroha, (apart from the gorgeous animation, which most people won’t really notice unless they’re observing the show from a critic’s eye.) but this is exactly the appeal of this series for me; the fact that it takes things, people and events which are so ordinary and commonplace and makes them so compelling without relying on explicit drama or deus ex machina to pull it off.

Personally, I feel that taken as a whole, Hanasaku Iroha’s greatest strength lies in its ability to gradually familiarize the viewer with the series and its all-too-familiar cast of characters that reflect those familiar friends and strangers that we all encounter in our daily lives and to make you care for almost every single one of them. It would have been easy for this show to take a more homogenous Ohana-centric route and simply focus on Ohana and her experiences at the Kissuiso as well as her budding relationship with Ko. Fortunately, although the show does indeed do this, it also does so much more by giving almost every character featured in the series their time to shine that by the end of the show, I was happy to see that everyone was doing well and “walking their own paths” so to speak.

At this point, I have to mention that the ending was simply one of the best anime endings I’ve ever seen. It stacks up quite well to one of my other favorites in the slice-of-life anime genre, Honey & Clover and if I were to go by personal preference, I would go as far as to say that Hanasaku Iroha’s finale is slightly better for satisfyingly resolving everyone’s minor and major problems and ending on a believably happy note – even for the Kissuiso thanks to the promise that everyone made to come back when and if it does reopen when the inn finally had to temporarily close down. The only thing that might have made the ending just a little bit better would have probably been a photograph of the Inn’s staff back together at the Kissuiso, but noticeably a little bit older than they were when they had to part ways.

As far as the ending goes, I agree with the Madam Manager/Ohana’s grandmother when she said that the inn had to close down so that it would stop holding everyone back with a dream that wasn’t theirs to begin with. At some point, I truly believe that their paths would cross again and the Kissuiso would reopen with everyone “festing it up” together. Hopefully, the Madam Manager and Beanman would still be around when that day finally arrives.

Another thing that I like about Hanasaku Iroha is that it manages to evoke a strong emotional impact and actually be somewhat of a major tear-jerker without using explicitly dramatic events. There were many times during the course of the show wherein it could have gone the “soap opera” route. Ohana’s Grandmother’s failing health could have been exploited to be used as a plot device for a “dying Grandmother” subplot. Ohana’s mother is not exactly the most responsible as a parent; fleeting from one boyfriend to another and telling her own daughter to go live with her grandmother in some inn way out in the provinces of Japan while she goes off to be with her current boyfriend, and this could have been blown way out of proportion to make her seem like an abusive mother who takes out some past grudge she has on her husband on her own daughter – I’ve seen it happen more than once in soap operas and typical Filipino films in the drama genre. While we’re on the subject, let’s not forget Ohana’s grandmother who not only makes her granddaughter Ohana work as a waitress at the Kissuiso as soon as she arrives from Tokyo, but also slaps her all in the 1st episode – evil grandmamma plot anyone? Furthermore, Minchi/Minko’s antagonistic attitude towards Ohana and the fact that the guy whom she likes, Tohru, seemed to have a thing for Ohana could have been used as fodder for a soap opera slapfest wherein Minchi plays the role of the main villain with Ohana being the oppressed, helpless heroine. Again, Hanasaku Iroha strays away from this type of overly dramatic, cliché plot and yet manages to pull off its own brand of subtle, non-bombastic drama that could easily elicit more much tears than your standard soap opera plot about some guy whose girlfriend is dying of brain cancer with betrayal, deceit and convoluted family ties thrown in for good measure.

At this point, I’d like to talk a bit about the characters. Although not everyone gets an equal amount of screentime, Hanasaku Iroha might have stumbled upon the golden ratio of character development and focus. The reason that I say this is because even characters who get very little screentime such as Ohana’s love interest and might-be boyfriend, Ko, actually get just enough character development for you to care about them throughout the show’s 26-episode run. There are also some characters that the viewer might feel like hating on at first such as the ever-bitchy Minko/Minchi who acts as if she’s eternally on PMS all the time and keeps telling Ohana to die or calling her a “balut” (yes, fertilized duck egg – that kind of balut) as well as the Engrish-speaking Takako who likes poking her nose into the Kissuiso’s business simply because the owner of the Inn’s son, Enishi is in love with her, but personally, as soon as the show hit about the 20th episode, I had learned enough about both of these character’s personalities and why they acted as they did to genuinely care about them and their personal conflicts as well.

Finally, it’s worth noting that Hanasaku Iroha is a show without any major or even minor antagonists nor great big disasters or heart-wrenching events. The series simply revolves around Ohana and the staff of the Kissuiso as well as some supporting characters such as Ko and Ohana’s mother from Tokyo and Yuina Wakura, a classmate of the girls of Kissuiso who is the heiress of the neighboring inn. The series has its fair share of humor, just a little bit of fanservice and offers a fresh, rarely explored take on the slice-of-life genre that hits this particular reviewer just right.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Puella Magi Madoka Magica Sucks! … Well, Not Really, But It’s Not That Good

Puella Magi Madoka Magica Sucks! … Well, Not Really, But It’s Not That Good

Now that the title has captured your attention, I’m sure that you’re prepared to use your supreme powerz of logic and common sense to engage in a lengthy back and forth debate with me after you’ve read this article and prove to me and to the whooole world why Madoka Magica is so awesome… yeah, whatever. Go knock yourself out. As long as that gets you to read this entire article, I still win. Also, this article will contain spoilers, so if you haven’t watched the show yet and don’t like being spoiled, then proceed at your own risk.

Honestly, I have been told (or at least it has been none too subtly implied before) that perhaps one of the reasons why I am not too fond of this anime (among other things) is because it has become quite popular to the point of being nearly mainstream as far as the anime fandom goes. Perhaps, perhaps… but if this is indeed one of the reasons why I am not a huge fan of this show, it’s definitely not the only reason. In fact, the more compelling reasons why this show does not really appeal all that much to me are more personal in nature and generally have nothing to do with the animation studio, character designs or the fact that this is another one of Urobutcher Gen’s works and I’m biased against him. If that were true, then I probably wouldn’t have written this other article in praise of his work on Fate/Zero.

With that long-winded intro aside, let’s get to the actual reasons why this show just doesn’t grab me.

#1: It’s An OMG! SUBVERSION Of The Mahou Shoujo Genre!!!
Really? Well, I will admit that it does take a more serious, adult-oriented approach to the Mahou Shoujo Genre than most other actual Mahou Shoujo anime, but does it really do anything that different that makes it as ZOMG Groundbreaking as its fanbase claims it is? Going into the show, I will once again admit that I already had a slight negative bias against it because it was enthusiastically recommended to me by an acquaintance as a groundbreaking subversion of the Mahou Shoujo genre, but if this recommendation did affect my perspective of the show, it was only in the very slightest sense. What I do know is that Madoka Magica just didn’t appeal to me from the very beginning. 

If the main draw-in of the show is that it’s a subversion of the Mahou Shoujo genre, then it feels to me that it’s a very flimsy reason to even like this anime in the first place. It’s like saying that you want to play an SRPG because everyone else is playing fighting games. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with this if that’s how you like it, but I do think it amounts to nothing more than fueling an innate need to boost your ego if that’s the only reason you can think of for liking the show. You just like it for the sake of being different. Again, not saying there’s anything wrong with that. I’m just stating how I perceive people who like this show for this particular reason.

#2: I Predicted The Show’s Most Epic Scene
That said, since my acquaintance had already forewarned me that this is a much more “serious” show than your typical magical girl anime, I actually predicted one of the series’ turning points wherein apparently, things begin to get interesting. Yes, I knew that Mami would die eventually (although I didn’t expect it to happen as soon as in episode 3), but I actually caught what I believe were some intentional foreshadowing events in episode 2 when I saw that she had some difficulty defeating that witch (GERTRUD). Here’s the video clip for your perusal: . Pay particular attention to how Mami reacts when those black butterflies surround her and grab her legs. Although this scene might not have the impact of the epic episode 3 zomgherheadgoteaten scene, I believe it’s actually a very powerful scene that establishes two things thanks to the clever use of music, character expressions and camera angles, which are:
  1. The girls are actually very fragile and quite human AKA people die if they are killed (subverted in later episodes)
  2.  Mami will die.
While it’s not too hard to defend the first point, it’s definitely difficult to explain the second one; why did this scene make me think that Mami would die? Perhaps it’s just a matter of my jaded perspectives kicking in, but it was a combination of the ominous Yuki Kajiura music and Mami’s (default?) expression with that somewhat sad smile on her face that made me think that “this character will not last through the entire show. Of course, I didn’t think it would be through OMNOMNOM, delishush Mami head. (I love how wrong I made that sound.)

Of course, if the predictability of that scene was the only thing that I didn’t like about that show, then that would be a pretty minor thing to complain about, right? Nope, it doesn’t stop there. In fact, I also believe that episode 3 was one of the highlights of the series even though the predictable scene which I predicted actually happened in this episode –as predicted! So let’s move on to reason #3.

#3 The Characters Are Underdeveloped
 Yes, I know that Madoka and Homerun(lawlz) are DFC (delicious flat-chest), but of course, that’s not what I’m talking about here. It seems that Urobutcher was so focused on attempting to tell an epic story within a 12 episode limit (to the tune of Torinoko City) that he forgot to show a little bit of love for his own characters – which is actually not atypical Urobutcher behavior, but I digress.   

The point that I’m getting at is that many of the characters feel flat and two-dimensional. While we are shown that the characters do change throughout the course of the series, most of the time, they are not even given the chance to become well-developed because the show is too busy telling us about how the Mahou Shoujo system works and that it’s fueled by evil alienz who consume vast amounts of delishush loli tears. 

We have Madoka who is basically just one useless sack of tears. I felt no love for her throughout the series – not even when she goes into Goddess Modo and apparently sacrifices herself so that Mahou Shoujo the world over would find some form of salvation by dying anyway but NOT turning into witches afterwards. 

We have Mami who (well, you know what happened to her.) Yes, she does appear again in the later parts of the series, but I honestly didn’t care much for Homerun’s time loop problems and she's basically the same person all throughout the show.

We have Homerun who just wants to have mad yuri sex to be friends with Madoka. Sure, she apparently goes from vulnerable liddle girl to ultimate bad-ass, but that’s actually only on the outside. She can’t help developing hax timehax skillz because of everything that she’s been through (she basically went through endless eight) and developing a more or less cold exterior as a psychological defense mechanism. On the inside, we all know that Homerun is still the same scared liddle girl who just wants to have mad yuri sex be friends with Madoka. She never feels any love or empathy for any of the other Mahou Shoujo all throughout the series and I think she’s a total bitch for that (sorry Homerun fans. Remember, it’s my opinion). The only reason that she'd try to save the other girls is because it would make her precious Madoka cry - as if Madoka needed any help with that. 

Next, we have Kyoko who wields a bad-ass spear/naginata/harpoon/call it whatever you want to. Is this girl the queen of inconsistent or what? In episode 5, we have her almost killing Sayaka in what turns out to be a one-sided battle between magical girls all because of her selfishness and then two episodes later, she feels sorry for Sayaka and wants to help her now? In fact, she eventually sacrifices herself to save Madoka from Sayaka who’d turned into a witch. Why would she? She had no strong motivations (at least not shown anywhere in the anime) to go from miss selfish to miss “did I become a hero?” (Crisis Core allusion for FTW, suckah!). 

The only character who I could empathize with was actually Sayaka who unfortunately also got Urobutchered before the end of the show. I liked her character and her story. She was always standing in Madoka’s shadow as far as potential for becoming a Mahou Shoujo was concerned and she had a strong motivation for becoming one being hopelessly in love with Kyosuke and wanting to help him fulfill his dream of playing the violin again. She sacrifices herself and becomes a Mahou Shoujo using her wish to fulfill his dream and the guy falls for someone else. Ouch, right in the soul gem! Vintage Urobutcher character sadism done right for once in this series.

#4 The Plot Is All Over The Place
This is Madoka Magica’s weakest link as far as I’m concerned. Although I went into this series with some misgivings, I actually began to enjoy it as soon as Sayaka’s arc kicked in. Unfortunately, that was the only part of the series that I genuinely enjoyed. The rest of the plot feels like it’s all over the place. Homerun’s arc was introduced too late and felt extremely rushed. Madoka, despite being the main character was pretty much just a wallflower who cries a lot except it’s not even cute like the main character of Alien 9, which is also an older mahou-shoujo-esque subversion but which was released much earlier so people’ve never heard of it. At least the sack of tears in this show actually fights back while crying, but I digress.

The time loop plot was the real deal-breaker for me. For example, if the Homerun seen for most of the show is the alternate future Homerun who came from the same time period but from an alternate timeline, then what happened to the Homerun in the time period wherein the characters for the majority of the show reside? Do we just blindly assume that she doesn’t exist or just went to a different school? I know it’s being pedantic, but with a show that takes itself as seriously as Madoka Magica – it’s well-justified to use a different level of scrutiny as far as its individual elements go. So where was Homerun? Oh wait, dun tell me… it’s the wasp butterfly effect. But wait, ya gonna tell me that that’s not the point of the show, right? Right? Well, it might not be, but it’s definitely a weak link which stood out like a sore thumb for me.

Finally, the bittersweet ending just felt like one huge cop-out for me. Why would Madoka sacrifice herself for such a pragmatically stupid wish? All she’s done is metaphorically given all the Mahou Shoujos a jewel-encrusted gravestone when they die instead of a hastily put-together cross marker made out of two sticks. They might not turn into witches after they exhaust their “hope” or whatever, but they’re still doomed either way. Was that really worth becoming an omnipresent, non-existence for, Madoka-chan? I don’t even understand why she feels so strongly about the Mahou Shoujo not turning into witches. She’s certainly shown no apparent motivation towards such a wish throughout the series. Maybe they should have shown that she was a devout Christian/Buddhist/Animal Activist who gives great importance to the afterlife. As predictable as it might have been, I would have preferred an all-out losing battle against Walpurgisblahblah once Madoka transformed – which would have actually made more sense given the direction that the series was taking. I was prepared to see an epic struggle, but all I got was Madoka using wishhax to bring the series to a pseudo-happy, bittersweet conclusion.

Furthermore, let’s talk about the fantasy elements, specifically, the Soul Gem. Basically, the Soul Gem is the only thing that the Mahou Shoujo have to worry about since that’s where their soul literally is and the body is already dead. Then why didn’t Mami keep fighting back after Charlotte bit her head off? It’s clearly shown that Charlotte first goes for her head and only then proceeds to devour the rest of her. The problem is, why didn’t she even struggle or react after her head got bitten off? Since she was already in a fighting mindset, I’d have thought that she’d at least attempt to jump away or start flailing wildly and spraying bullets in all directions even after she got decapitated, but no… she just stood there and waited for Charlotte to gobble her up.

#5 I Like My Pringles In Cans And Not Dancing Around In The Background
This is my final gripe with Madoka Magica and it’s a very personal one. I didn’t like the appearance of the witches, especially the backgrounds used whenever the girls were fighting one. The 3D psychedelic, animated backgrounds felt extremely out of place and frankly, quite unncecessary next to the appearance of the girls themselves as well as the appearance of the world in general. Some might argue that it contributed to the “dark” ambiance of the series, but it certainly didn’t have that effect on me. The only thought that crossed my mind is that “this show is trying too hard to be artsy and look different when it actually looks like Persona 3."

You Know What? I Don’t Really Hate It After All
Yup, sorry to disappoint if that’s the general impression that you got from reading this article because I tried to emphasize everything that I felt was bad/which I personally didn’t like about Madoka Magica, but I don’t really hate this show at all. Over-all, I thought that it was a pretty decent anime because I wouldn’t have hesitated to drop it halfway if I didn’t like it. I don’t torture myself by watching shows that don’t appeal to me despite what the contents of this article might have led you to believe. The animation is gorgeous, the character designs are unique and while I did mention that the characters felt underdeveloped and the plot is a bit wonky in places; over-all, the individual elements of Madoka Magica come together to make up a pretty good show – much better than most anime in recent years, but definitely not without its flaws.  

In conclusion, I feel that there is really nothing about Madoka Magica that really makes it stand out when compared to other anime in the same genre – and by that, I mean anime in the serious shounen genre, which is basically what Madoka Magica really is, except it’s wearing a very thin Mahou Shoujo disguise. Once you get past this clever gimmick, you’ll see that it’s a pretty decent show, but fails to stand out from the rest of the pack.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Game Review: Liberation Army

Liberation Army is the Gundam game for gamers on a budget. While, it's a bit dated, I don't think this game gets the attention that it deserves compared to other freeware titles like Warning Forever. It's a real-time-strategy/shooting game hybrid that plays like a 2D Dynasty Warriors clone. This game also reminds me of an old dos shareware game called Gladiator. You control a single unit while leading an entire army of humanoid mechs that look distinctly like mobile suits and engage an opposing army on a 2D battle map.
The gameplay is divided into the preparation and combat phase. During the preparation phase, you are shown the map of the next battle showing your formation as opposed to the enemies. You can buy upgrades for your allies, technology, new units, ships and choose the mobile suit pilot who will participate in battle. You can also customize your pilot's mobile suit by changing/adding/upgrading his/her equipment. In the combat phase, you control your own unit while having the ability to issue commands to your allies. Going rambo straight into a swarm of enemy fighters is the fastest way to get killed, thus, if you're thinking of showing off your Seed Mode or Newtype shooting skills, the game punishes you severely. Zooming straight into enemy territory makes it easier for enemy fighters to land critical hits by shooting you from behind. While your own unit is considerably tougher than normal units (with stronger upgrades), and is equipped with one sub weapon of your choice(even includes the beam saber... though it's kinda hard to use without taking damage), it does not have the ability to take down the entire opposing army all by itself. If you find yourself in a corner of the screen surrounded by enemy units with no allies in range, you'd best retreat to save your pilot from suffering too heavy damage to fight in the next battle.
Your territory grows in percentage as indicated in the preparation phase every time you win a battle by either making the enemy retreat or destroying all enemy units onscreen. The focus of the game is on slowly gaining ground and destroying enemy ships that deploy more enemy units while keeping your own ships protected. As your territory increases, the difficulty level also increases, with elite enemy mobile suits equal to your own joining the battle, each equipped with their own special subweapons. Luckily, you also earn powerful allies called escorts with their own special weaponry depending on the number of battles you've participated in. That aside, the AI for your escorts is not very good at dodging enemy bullets nor as powerful as the special enemy units, so you'd best not rely on them too much.

The battles seem to go on forever as I've yet to reach anything that indicates that there's an ending to this game. This gives Liberation Army a high replay value but unfortunately, after the novelty has worn off, it can get a bit repetitive.
The graphics are nothing special but work well enough for this type of game. Up to 600 units can fight onscreen at once, which effectively gives you the feeling of being inside a great gundam or macross type war. There's also a variety of midi tracks included in the game and you can manually replace them with your favorite mech-anime theme if you want. Surprisingly, the character art is a bit subpar for a japanese anime-type game as I've noticed that some of the facial proportions on the character portraits are a bit off. Luckily, it's not too noticeable and is not something that will distract you from having fun with this game.

Unfortunately, the developer's page isn't online anymore. I uploaded the pre-patched version of this game to mediafire.

Sigh... just google the game if you want to download it. It's not that hard to find. I'm tired of having mediafire take down the link every time I try to upload it. Don't worry, I'm pretty sure this version of the game is free.

The game has been completely translated into English by Aeon Genesis

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Game Review: Magical Boutique

This is a repost of an old review from my previous blog which now redirects to this page.

Magical Boutique looks and feels like a mini-game spin-off of the Mana series. (Legend of Mana, Secret of Mana, Seiken Densetsu 3, Sword of Mana, Dawn of Mana etc.) The colorful interface, Framboise' character design, the layout of the in-game interface, and the colorful backgrounds just remind me so much of Legend of Mana, especially.

Is this a good thing? Definitely! It doesn't feel like the creator just blatantly ripped off Square/Squenix just to somehow ride-on to their success - it just feels very close to that cozy, children's story-like atmosphere of the mana titles.

Of course, there are a few complaints I have. While the character art for Framboise is not very professional-looking, she's passable enough and I'd say it could have benefited quite a bit from dark outlines outside her body making her look more cartoony (Think simple cartoon network titles like Powerpuff and Dexter). Another thing is the text used in the main window. It just doesn't suit the game over-all. It looks too plain and well...default when compared to the pretty fonts used for the item descriptions and pretty much the rest of the game. I'd also liked to have seen a smaller text box rather than the fullscreen one the game is using. It just doesn't feel aesthetically correct to me... or they could have made the window look something like a piece of parchment paper while retaining the transparency.

VN purists (of the eltist variety) will cringe at the artwork used for this game. Actually, it's not that bad. It works well enough for this type of game and really, it's not that distracting to the eyes that you have to overreact to it.

A few looping tracks that sound magical enough. They do get repetitive after you've made your hundredth or so potion, but the music does its job well enough.

This is the meat and potatoes of the game. Honestly, I don't really like game VNs, but that's just me. Magbou is best described as a potion shop management sim rather than a visual novel. Your main task is to create potions for customers while being assisted by Framboise (shown in the video trailer) who can also make potions or go on quests to find more items for ingredients. You can also visit local merchants during special days to buy furniture that upgrades your shop's capacity or adds some special features.

The days advance automatically and you'll get an option to assign tasks to your current staff for the day or view your status screen and see what items/ingredients you've got in your inventory and what potions you can currently brew. Attempting to brew a potion that you don't have the ingredients to will end up with you wasting a turn. (naturally)

Your characters gain experience with each potion they brew unlocking higher level potions that you can sell to your clients. I should note that there is really no way to manually sell the potions you create to your clients and it seems to be controlled automatically by the game.

Bits and pieces of the story get unlocked automatically as the game progresses. I'm not quite sure, but I think some special events can only be viewed by completing certain tasks for story-based customers.

Just like any other management sim, Magbou suffers from repetitive gameplay, though it does offer some rewards for players diligent enough to attempt to unlock everything in this game (I'm not :P). Over-all, it's a solid title and a nice little time-waster for slow days. It's a game that you can just pick-up, play and leave at any time without feeling any vague moral obligation to keep on playing till kingdom come. It has a nice cozy ambience that just seems welcoming for all types of players.

So, to conclude, should I give you a numerical assessment of this game? Tsk. Why bother? Just try it out. I forgot to mention the best part. It's free!

Download Page

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Crimson Ranger Episode 1: Enter The Crimson Ranger

Pete Robinson was pretty much your average Joe. He had a thin build, average height and he was neither particularly attractive nor unattractive. Pete was quite simply just another face in the crowd – particularly that skinny, nerdy looking kid hanging out in front of Wal Mart. At 25, Pete led a rather lackadaisical lifestyle – pretty much just getting by with his day job working a 6-hour shift five days a week as an employee at Games R' Go, which was a single-branch game shop whose name is a cheap rip-off of a nationwide chain of video game retail stores. That aside, Pete was quite content living off of his monthly wages as long as he could pay the rent on time for his modest but comfortable rent-to-own condo unit and have enough money left over to keep himself from starving as well as import questionable anime/manga paraphernalia from Japan including dakimakura, sexy anime figurines and the latest doujin games from Comiket among others.
"Take care now, Dah-ling." Said Ms. Primela Rosenkreuz, Games R' Go's fabulous secretary.

Primela was a very attractive woman in her early twenties who had glisteningly gorgeous wavy brunette hair and a very natural-sounding trans-atlantic accent. One could easily mistake her for a commercial model or an actress. In fact, it's a mystery to some people why she chooses to stay with such a commonplace day job as being a secretary at a no-name video game store.

"Thanks, Primela. I'll see you tomorrow."

It was 5:00 PM and Pete was just on his way home from his job working at Games R' Go. The place was actually just a short walk away from where he lived so he decided to stop by the local hobby shop as usual on his way home.

"Heya Pete! Buying anything today?"

Sheryl Harrison, the hobby shop's manager greeted Pete nonchalantly. Of course, she was being sarcastic with the extra poke at the end of the salutation. After all, Sheryl was pretty familiar with Pete having known him as one of the shop's regular customers ever since he moved in about five years ago.

Sheryl was a very plain looking girl and was just about Pete's age. Her brown hair was frizzy and sort of looked like overcooked spaghetti. She also wore very heavy-looking dark-rimmed glasses that made her look quite nerdy.

"Hiya, Sheryl. Nah, I'm just browsing around today."

"Typical. Please put everything back where you found them, though. I need 
to do a triple-check on the inventory today."

"Any particular reason for that?"

"I'm thorough."

"Fair enough."

Of course, Pete knew that Sheryl's organization skills were top-class. She 
could even tell if a single keychain was missing from a messy stack of 200 similar, nondescript looking keychains – which Pete found out first-hand when he once tried to take an Ilyasviel Von Einsbern keychain when he was flat broke with the intent of coming back and paying for it next payday. Pete will never forget the embarrassment he felt on that day when Sheryl suddenly cried out.

"KIDNAPPER! Hand Ilya over right now, you loli-loving otaku!"

For such a petite-looking girl, Sheryl could give even an ex-war veteran a scare with the sheer volume of her voice if she put her mind to it. Not that there were any ex-war veterans in the vicinity during that incident.
Fortunately, she did give Pete, who had been frozen on the spot in a mix of shock and humiliation, a chance to explain. Eventually, she actually agreed to let him take home the F/SN keychain provided he didn't try anything like that again in the future. Ever since then, Pete always made sure to be very transparent with Sheryl in his transactions with the hobby shop. That aside, the two still maintained good relations afterwards since none of them were the type to carry on a grudge over such a trivial matter.

"By the way, chapter 6 of 'The Great Adventure of Black Trojan' just arrived 
yesterday. Interested?"

"Nah, I'm just browsing around today, really."

"Okay. I could put it on your tab as usual if you really want to."

"You've been reading that series yourself, haven't you?"

"Sure! And I want someone to read it with me and I'm actually just trying to give you some subtle hints so that you'll pick up on the series too and then perhaps we could have a discussion on the merits and demerits of the comic as a literary piece."

"Err… you kind failed at subtlety right there, Sheryl."

"I did?" Sheryl blinked her eyes twice.

She seemed genuinely surprised. Then, she took out a large, yellow book with the title "Subtlety for Dummies" printed in bold black letters at the front and startled mumbling to herself as she read.

When Sheryl started zoning out like this, it was almost as if she was possessed. Pete checked the time on his mp3 player/wristwatch. 5:36 PM, just enough time to leisurely walk home and still make it for the latest episode of Tomodachi Wa Mahou, an anime series that he'd picked up on recently thanks to a scathing review from a magazine critic Pete started watching the show and it turned out to be quite the opposite of what the review made it out to be.

Pete tiptoed out of the hobby shop making sure not to disturb Sheryl. He didn't bother saying goodbye to her since she probably wouldn't awaken from her trance for the next 30 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, in the city's outskirts, a great battle of unimaginably epic proportions was taking place.

"Give it up, minions of Wrath. For I am the red haze, the paragon of justice, the all-around busybody who destroys evil! The Crimson Ranger!"

The warrior, who was clad in red spandex while wearing what looked like a rose-tinted motorcycle helmet with a matching oversized crimson scarf, took an unorthodox fighting stance with one hand over his head and curled in a fist and the other hand in an open palm position and stretched out to the full length of his arm in front of his body as if he was making a stop sign. His feet were positioned far apart from each other and his legs were crouched like that of a professional tennis player reaching for a passing shot after playing the net on a weak serve in the quarter finals match of a grand slam tournament.

"Hah! Did you really think that we'd come here and fight against a man like you unprepared, Crimson Ranger? We're not your average one-hit kill henchmen, you know… we have INSURANCE!"

The henchmen, who numbered five in total and who were all wearing gray over-alls with matching "Scream" party masks on their faces, showed the Crimson Ranger what they meant by insurance.

"You fiends! How dare you take a child hostage?"

"Please help me! Oh paragon of justice and all-around busybody, Crimson Ranger!" Cried the little girl who was apparently struggling in vain at the clutches of the minions of Wrath… or at least it looked that way from the Crimson Ranger's perspective given the poor visibility he got from underneath his motorcycle helmet.

The hero of justice slapped his palm in front of his helmet in a move that is 
known as "the facepalm."

"You know… you could just drop the 'all-around busybody' part, kid. 
 Nevertheless! Prepare yourselves for my ultimate move…"
The Crimson Ranger dashed at the evil henchmen at a speed that was approximately just 20% slower than the speed of light.

"Crimson PWNAGE Speed Blitz!"

"What the eff!" Cried out one of the henchmen.

"How do you even pronounce the PWNAGE part!" Said another henchman.

"Gi! Gi! Gi! … what? Somebody had to say it." Added another henchman.
Meanwhile, as the Crimson Ranger rained down his trademark PWNAGE move upon the hapless henchmen while totally unmindful of the dangers of traveling at near light speeds with an innocent hostage in the vicinity, Pete, who was quite blissfully unaware of the epic battle that was taking place in order to save the world at that very moment, was happily strolling home while humming along to some Hatsune Miku tunes, which he was listening to via his mp3 player/wristwatch.

Suddenly, from out of the sky, a red comet plummeted down to Earth and crash-landed near the roadside right in front of Pete.

Pete was startled at first, but his curiosity was aroused when he saw something moving within the pile of smoke and rubble caused by the comet's impact. He poked around inside the rubble and to his horror, he saw a human hand reaching up from underneath the debris.

"Aggh! It's the alien zombie apocalypse! Run for your lives!"

But just before Pete could bolt to safety, the hand reached out and grabbed his left foot causing him to stumble and fall face first on the hard pavement.
A burnt, black figure emerged from the rubble and started coughing weakly.

"Ugh… they got me good. The old bomb in a decoy doll hostage trick… I should've known when I saw those ball joints… don't think I can make it."
At this point, Pete was almost ready to pee his pants in terror, so he just remained still and tried to play dead.

"Look, kid. Stop playing dead. I'm not a zombie." Said the burnt figure while still sprawled on the ground.

"Well, that's a relief. I guess I'll put this away then."
Apparently, Pete had managed to grab a broken piece of a lamppost which he intended to use as a melee weapon on the zombie, who wasn't really a zombie after all.

"What's your name, brave warrior?"

"Pete, but I don't believe I qualify as a brave warrior by anyone's standards."

"Thank you, Pete. Now take this badge of mine and listen up."

"Uh… are you even listening to me?"
The burnt figure handed Pete what looked a red sherrif's badge made out of plastic with three oversized protrusions that stuck out on its sides.

"Listen, Kid. That's not just some cheap Tokusatsu knock-off badge, I'll have you know. That thing you're holding happens to be the Red One Changer. It's a powerful ancient device created with Alien Technology that allows you to transform into the super-powered paragon of justice and all-around busybody, Crimson Ranger! Uh… you can skip the all-around busybody part, actually. Now look, I'm the original Crimson Ranger but as you can see, I'm too weak to be fighting evil right now."

"I'll say."

"Now that you have the badge, it's up to you to save the world from the minions of Wrath. An interstellar army bent on malevolence, destruction and mayhem who are currently targeting Earth. But… I cannot force this responsibility upon you…"

"Asperger's much? Didn't you hear me when I said I wasn't this 'brave warrior' that you're trying to pawn this piece of plastic off to?"

"… my time is short… just remember that if you don't use that badge and transform into the Crimson Ranger to fight the minions of Wrath, you will have to live out the rest of your existence knowing that you just sentenced billions of people to a 1984-like doublethink existence at the hands of an alien dictatorship that you could have destroyed using the pwnage powers of the Crimson Ranger. What is more… they are all animal-haters, LGBT discriminators and racists."


At that moment, Pete realized that the weight of the world rested squarely on his shoulders. Beads of sweat began to form on his forehead.
Also at that moment, the former Crimson Ranger's eyes, or what was left of them, narrowed down into slits and he smiled a most wicked smile… this move would later be known as the "epic troll face."

"I'll take your three seconds of silence as consent. The rest is up to you… Crimson Ranger!"

And with that, the former Crimson Ranger whose name was never revealed and never will be breathed his last.

"Good! I thought he would never kick the bucket – in a manner of speaking. I'll be taking that badge now, dah-link." Said a mysterious female voice in a snooty accent.

Pete turned around to see that it had come from an attractive-looking woman wearing a purple wig in a hime cut and clad in a tight, one piece white Speedo wetsuit cut hastily with zigzag design scissors at the midsection with a small purple cape and matching purple and white boots.
Suddenly, from out of nowhere, police sirens rang out and in a blur, six police cars had surrounded the mysterious woman in wonky cosplay attire.

"Oh my stars, gentlemen! Whatever could you want from little old me?"

"Don't move a muscle miss," said one of the policemen, "you're under arrest for… indecent exposure!"

The policemen moved in to capture the mysterious cosplayer, but she whipped out a double-edged broadsword from out of nowhere, since as you can imagine, there's nowhere to hid such a huge sword inside a tight-fitting wetsuit, and disappeared in the blink of an eye… only to reappear moments later just a few meters in front of the stunned policemen – who fell over simultaneously in the next instant.

"Don't worry, Dah-links. I used the back of my sword."

"T'would've been nice if you were using a single-edged sword… blarrgh." Muttered one of the policemen before losing consciousness and coughing up blood in a very disgusting manner.

"Eww…Ahaha! Well, at any rate. I don't think I hit anything vital… you'll survive!"

The woman then turned to Pete who did not know whether to laugh or cry at the ridiculous and somewhat awesome spectacle that was happening right in front him at that very moment.

"Now then, Dah-link. Where were we before we were ever so rudely interrupted? Ah yes, the badge please. I do so hate to keep my clients waiting."

"And if I refuse."

"Why, Dah-link. Then you'll have to face the wrath of Vanity – Miss Vanity!"

At that moment, Pete Robinson's life flashed before his eyes and it was utterly boring. He knew that his death was at hand and he would only be prolonging the inevitable, but something stronger than fear and even stronger than determination welled up within Pete's skinny frame.
Pete Robinson had made his decision.

"Transform! Paragon of Justice… Crimson Ranger!"

To be continued… See you in the next episode!

Next Episode Preview: Pete finds out that cup ramen is cancerous… from the internet! Will Sheryl finally convince Pete to read "The Adventures of Black Trojan?" Does Primela have eyelash extensions? All this and more in the next exciting episode of Paragon of Justice: Crimson Ranger

Note: The original version of this fic was posted in my fictionpress account here

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Game Review: Mystic Arts

Mystic Arts is a blend of 2D fighting and platformer by COMPILE. You control a female character who can punch, kick, execute combos and even has a short-range chi blast. The stages are on a fixed screen with multiple levels that you can jump onto, which is where the platformer part comes in. Each stage is littered with enemies which you have to finish off in order to proceed.
The enemies also behave differently depending on their appearance. Some of them use a sword, knife, projectiles etc. while others will just bite or lunge at you. In the later stages, some enemies even use magic against you. Some of the more agressive enemies are just palette swapped versions of their weaker versions. That aside, there's a good assortment of enemy sprites to fight. There are bosses every few stages, which means that the background for the next stage will change once you defeat them.

The controls are slightly unorthodox. There's a jump button, and two attack buttons which perform the same function. Pressing fighting game staples like qcf+attack makes her pull off some fighting game moves, while pressing down makes her block. She also has a fighting game style lifebar that depletes every time you take damage. Underneath the lifebar is the special bar which builds up by hitting enemies and depletes every time you use that one chi blast move. There's also a combo counter that counts the number of consecutive hits you've made and a time limit for each stage.

The graphics are ok and very colorful for a 2D game made in 1998, and the sprites move smoothly throughout the stages. The collision detection is excellent, and it's good to see that you don't take damage when you bump into an enemy. I've always found that feature of platformers kinda stupid, especially when the character can use melee attacks; why would they take damage just from bumping into an enemy? There's not much in the way of special effects, except for the screen shakes when you deal or receive some heavy damage.

The downside is that there's only one character to control and this game is kinda short even with the challenge of being given only 6 continues. There are a total of 16 short stages, so it shouldn't take the average gamer more than one afternoon to complete. It also has a stage-select option.

Over-all, Mystic Arts is fun little time-waster that combines 2D fighting with platforming action. It would be nice to see a combination rpg-platformer like the Castlevania games for the Playstation and GBA utilize the Mystic Arts fighting system.

I'm not sure if this game is a commercial title or freeware, but I'll assume in good faith that it's been abandoned by its creators since it was released way back in 1998 and I really can't find any other info for it online except on my blog. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong and I'll take down the link right away. You'll most likely experience screen corruption if you try to run the game directly on Windows 7 and higher, so read the instructions on how to run it after the download links.

Download Mystic Arts 2.7 MB

Link removed (apparently, some french person owns the rights to the game now?) I don't believe it one bit, so leave me a message here or email me at lordcloudx_at_gmail_dot_com if you want a copy of the game.)

How to run it
  1. Download D3DWindower here.
  2. Unzip both Mystic Arts and D3DWindower into separate folders
  3. Go to your D3DWindower folder and run D3DWindower-English.exe
  4. Click on the blue "+" sign in Directx Windower.
  5. Use the dialog box that pops up to navigate to your Mystic Arts folder and go to mystic.exe and click "open" in the dialog box.
  6. Double-click the "Mystic" icon in Directx Windower and enjoy!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Game Review: Eternal Fighter Zero

Eternal Fighter Zero was a fairly popular all-female doujin fighter featuring characters from One, Kanon, AIR, and every other Japanese visual novel you've never heard of.

In fact, I'd never have heard of this game if it wasn't for my obsession with the first Kanon anime which turned my attention to visual novels in general and somehow led me to this game. You can find more info on it from the wikipedia article.

Now on to the review. For the average gamer, Eternal Fighter Zero is seriously the best 2D fighting game you've never heard of. It has an easy learning curve which conceals an incredible depth that you can only experience by actually playing the game.

Anyone familiar with 2D fighters can easily pick up and play it right away. The specials and supers are simple and easy to pull off with only some variations for each unique character. The combo system is extremely flexible, but it takes a lot of skill to pull off more than 8 hits without using a super move. The beginner can get away with using two light poking attacks plus one medium, plus one heavy and adding in a special at the end, but don't think this will work with advanced players. This is where the game truly shines, thanks to the recoil guard system. If you time your block just right, you'll be able to counter with your own attack, however, unlike most other fighters, the enemy can actually recoil guard you back and initiate his own counter.

The AI is also fairly competent on the hardest difficulty level (though nowhere near the level of an advanced human player) and doesn't usually use cheap uber-reflex counters that most fighting game AI have. (think getting kicked out of terra firma by Guile every time you jump in SVC:
Chaos) Thanks to the somewhat unpredictable but fair AI, this game is
infinitely replayable even without any human competition and doesn't get tiring even after hours of play.

The graphics, while slightly pixelly are nothing to complain about with 3D effects and the level of animation you'd expect to see from commercial arcade fighters. The 2D sprites are also really cute especially if you're somewhat familiar with the characters.

Another bonus is the image gallery that comes with the game, which is used for the "now loading" screens featuring professional to amateur quality fanart of the characters and the games that they came from. Speaking of characters, EFZ also features a good selection of characters with 23 unique playable characters in the latest version. Ayu is a bit of an all-arounder, Shiori is more adept at hurling projectiles, Misuzu is for technical players, Kanna is a super-cheap character (nuff said), Mayu is basically balrog/vega in one character, etc.

While lacking a story-mode like Melty Blood, I prefer EFZ because of the simple controls and less combo-friendly system that allows for a variety of different playing styles, such as counter-punching, poking, or even missile spamming thus, allowing even players like myself who don't like stringing long-combos together to mix-it-up with the repeated-pattern-attack combo spammers.

One thing though: Don't even think of playing this game on hard without a gamepad. (although, I've tried it myself. It's possible but difficult)

Playing this game on a Windows 7 PC (and possibly VISTA) sometimes causes screen corruption. Try using a program such as DXWND or D3Dwindower to run it in a window. This fixes the problem on my part.

Official Website:
*This is an old review reposted from my previous blog 

Nakoruru: The Gift She Gave Me (Dreamcast): A VIsual Novel Review by Mid-Tier Guard

To Derek Pascarella, Marshal Wong, Duralumin, Lewis Cox, Piggy, Nico, Danthrax4, Lacquerware, EsperKnight, SnowyAria, VincentNL, cyo, and Ha...