Sunday, 29 September 2013

Forced dating (Oreshura review)

Opening songs
OP 1 - Girlish lover (Chinatsu Akasaki, Yukari Tamura, Hisako Kanemoto, Ai Kayano)

Ending songs
ED 1 - Wonder Tale (Yukari Tamura)

Genre: Comedy, Romance, Slice Of Life

Episodes: 13

Harems harems harems everywhere. Need your fix of highschool romance anime? You can find tons of them scattered around, and more often than not we see different types of anime that focus on these themes. We get the typical harem ending where the guy never chooses any of the girls and the entire anime ends in a still. Then we have the types where our hero actually chooses a girl and LOVES her back. Honestly I prefer the later, a little bit of real romance here and there is pretty nice to watch sometimes. The real romance types tend to be a bit more serious, but "Oreshura" manages to be funny as well (with a little help from Jojo). And yes, "Oreshura" is another one of those harem animes, with a nice touch of romance in there. Despite its cutesy animation style, there's quite a lot more to "Oreshura" than it meets the eye.

The girls!

I didn't expect to find anything I'd really like for the songs in "Oreshura" (considering its one of THOSE animes). The opening song "Girlish Lover" by all the seiyuus of the 4 main heroines, is one of those incredibly cutesy and catchy songs. Its enough to make a bop out of me once in awhile, but its not really to my tastes, it sounds a little more on the generic side. The ending song "Wonder Tale" by Yukari Tamura is another one of those slow, super high pitched, snooze inducing tunes. Not my kind of tune, but it feels right for an ending song.

Rating: 8.0/10

Honestly, its one of the best comedy/romance harem animes I've seen this year. If you need your love fix, "Oreshura" has got you covered. Despite its generally "cute" animation style (which would fit for a full comedy harem), it has a surprisingly good amount of emotion packed behind everything to make you feel the feels. While I do dislike the main character for being hardheadedly stupid for the majority of the anime (come on, most harem related main characters are stupid and dense beyond hell), the heroines have a lot of personality to them, especially the main character's childhood friend Chiwa. Packing heavy on the lovey dovey stuff is one thing, "Oreshura" does a great job on being funny as well (once again, with some help from Jojo). Its sure to easily crack more than a few chuckles from you, unless you are generally an un-funny person.

The face of a lucky guy.

Kido Eita is one of those very regular high school kids living a fairly normal life. He lives alone with his aunt in an apartment next to his childhood friend, Chiwa. Eita is aiming to become a doctor, so he has to focus on his studies like no other. Because of this, he has decided to shut off all interaction with potential love interests, as he believes love is nothing but an unwanted hindrance. Life goes on as per usual, until a very beautiful young woman by the name of Masuzu transfers back to school. She sits next to Eita, but due to Eita's personality, she gives her zero cares, while every other guy in school is jealous of him. Masuzu, seeing that Eita is different from other guys in that he doesn't want anything to do with love, approaches him, and uses him as a fake boyfriend to drive off the guys around her. How Eita, no matter how much he doesn't like it, is forced to play boyfriend.

What starts off as a seemingly harmless and mischievous act soon snowballs into a 5 way love battlefield, and things get really tricky for Eita. "Oreshura" is cool like that. While it has a very regular harem like exterior, things get sticky eventually, and it becomes an emotional storm as the episodes proceed. It may not be one of the best romance animes, but its pretty high up there IMO.


Thursday, 26 September 2013

Black Rock Shooter: The Game

Gamespot Score: n/a

My Score: 7.8

(+) Pros: - Bleak world and setting, - Innovative on rails shooter esque RPG gameplay, -Tons of visual flair during battles, - Great environmental variety and fun boss fights, - Apostles are very interesting villains, - Customization item and skill sets, - Tons of challenges and post game content.

(-) Cons: - Needs more mini-games to switch up the pace of the game, - Not a lot of interesting MAIN characters, and Nana is annoying, - Little enemy variety.

Gameplay time: About 10 hours, 20 including post game content

I was looking forward to this game, I'm quite sure many were. Upon the decline of the release of PSP games, there were 2 games that I were looking forward to more than anyone else, this game, and "Final Fantasy Type-0". So NISA said they would bring this over in English, so I waited, waited, and I waited some more. About 2 years later, when my interest for the game died down, English screenshots were posted, and the game was coming out in a few months time. I already forgotten about the game at this point, but I still went to play it. Honestly, it didn't live up to the hype. But is it a bad game? Absolutely not, in fact, its quite like nothing I've ever played. It sure is a unique experience, that's for sure.

So, its humanity's last hour. The human race is in the danger of being extinct. Out of the entire world, there are only 12 humans left, and they are being cornered into a tight spot. The alien invasion has wiped out all resistance, and it was only a matter of time until the final 12 met their end. However, they had one hope, and it all rested on the shoulders of a single girl, the "secret weapon" that they had been saving up. In the depths of despair, the final humans were being surrounded by aliens, and they managed to wake up this girl,the "Sleeping Beauty". The "Princess". The "Secret Weapon". She was The Black Rock Shooter, and she awoke in stunning fashion to fight off the alien invasion, to preserve what's left and help the human race take their revenge on the aliens.

A weapon isn't exactly the smartest of things.

There's one thing that puts me on full tilt the moment I start the game, the state of the game world. I'm a fan of post apocalyptic settings, especially with something like "12 humans left", it makes my heart race, especially when a couple of them die immediately when the game starts (its not a spoiler, it happens right at the very first cut-scene...). The helplessness of the humans when they are assaulted by a ton of aliens, and then, the heroine shows up, bursting out from a trailer and making quick work of all enemies. It sets up for nice situations such as this, and the state of the humans only sets as a reminder to how grave the entire situation is.

You play as The Black Rock Shooter of course (I'll just call her BRS), as the final weapon of humanity, you destroy all the aliens. However, she doesn't appear to be really smart, and she's what you'd expect, a weapon. As the human weapons are almost useless and ineffective against the alien invaders, you have what it takes to fight back and eventually save whatever's left of humanity. It's a nice catch, but we can't really go too in depth without talking about how you're going to shoot up the aliens.

A shooter with RPG mechanics? Yes please.

The entire game runs like a regular RPG. You run around maps, looking for treasure chests and spoils, with enemy units roaming around. Touching these enemies will transfer you into a battle, where you will fight a group of enemies. Defeating all enemies will end the battle, netting you EXP and items. After that you'll be brought back to the field, with the enemy unit defeated. Save points heal your HP on the field...sounds an awful lot like an RPG, but the battles themselves function a lot like an on rails shooter. BRS is mostly stationary in the battlefield, and enemies will either approach you from afar, or shoot at you from a distance, or both.

You have a pre-auto aimed cursor that automatically locks on the enemies, which you can shoot at them with the cost of energy, dealing damage. You can also use skills on the locked on enemies for bigger damage. Skills have no cost as well, but have cooldowns depending on the power of the skill. For enemy attacks, you can either block them or dodge them. Blocking costs nothing, and dodging costs energy. Using too much energy will reflect on the overheat meter below your health bar, and if you dodge or attack too much without cooling down, you'll enter overheat, where you will be unable to take action until the bar cools down back to 0%.

Step up your game.

As the overheat bar fills, your regular attacks are less effective, so its important to manage the expenditure of your energy. Of course, you can use items to immediately get you out of overheat status, though items can also heal you in a pinch. Some skills allow for defensive play as well, not all are for attacking. There are skills that increase your ATK, DEF, or sometimes regenerate your health over time. Managing cooldowns, items and your energy can be a daunting task in a battle against a huge group of enemies, or just against an overwhelming boss. 

Battles are full of visual flair, not only from the BRS herself, but enemies too. The bolts BRS shoots out explode upon impact to the enemy, with flashy colors everywhere. Dodges cause a swift gust of wind, and some abilities cause her to blow up huge portions of the screen with mighty pillars of blue flame. Enemies are no different, they shoot beams, missiles, and much more that explode when they connect. If you like explosions and cool skills, there's a lot to look at.

Watch out for that boss!

Throughout the game you'll be traversing many different areas, ranging from cities, forests, frozen areas and alien mother ships. The change of environment is nice, and how you traverse these areas are different. Map layouts differ from one another depending on the map, and terrain changes from time to time. Boss fights are also a fantastic change of pace. The apostles are cool guys, they provide great challenge compared to regular enemies, and its always exciting to see the next apostle, to discover what kind of person they are or see what kind of unique fighting style they will bring.

Speaking of the apostles, they are some of the most interesting villains around. How they interact with one another is just so delightful to watch, and with each of them having different takes on humanity, it sure brightens up the mood when the world is in such peril. Its always a thrill to see how they'll treat BRS when they meet her, as most of them have pretty cool intro cut scenes to describe their personality. 

Besides that there's tons of challenges for each area, like defeating a certain amount of enemies, not taking damage, etc etc. Most of these are done post game, but some can be done during the regular playthrough. The unlockables are sweet, you'll get stuff like weapons, new outfits, new skills or even an extra ending during post game challenges. You can customize BRS, with these clothing and skills, each giving different stats or effects. Since you can only equip up to 4 skills, you can really ponder how bringing the perfect item set to fight, whether it be against regular enemies or bosses.

Needs more mini games like this one.

There'll be a part of the game where you're given a bike for some awesomeness. It's a mini-game, its pointless, but its fun. The game really needed more parts like this, like maybe a mini-game segment per area, that couldn't hurt. These really switched up the pace, and the lack of more of these made the game a little dragged out at times. The main characters of the game aren't very interesting as well. The soldiers are pretty much stereotypes, BRS is like a machine, and Nana is annoying as all hell. The apostles are way more interesting than any of the main cast. Finally, the enemy variety is lacking. There are full of color pallet swaps, but the actual variety is a little saddening.

BRS is a good game when everything is said and done. Its something new, but all things considered, it isn't revolutionary enough to make a dent in the gaming industry. Its a fun play for JRPG fans (its more of an RPG than a shooter game), and there's tons of challenges to keep those hardcore players going. There's a swimsuit, school uniform and bunny suit outfit  for you otakus to dress up your BRS, but that's that. If you've been waiting for this for a long time to get localized, now's the time.

Happy gaming!

Monday, 23 September 2013

Seiyuus - They're everywhere

Well not much of a common theme today for a seiyuu post. To me it feels that the seiyuus I'm going to talk about today are in every freaking anime that I watch. Once again the guys are mostly into main character roles, while the girls are kind of here and there.

Aki Toyosaki

You gotta love Aki Toyosaki. She has a very cute, cheerful and generally happy voice, which adds a great touch to all of her characters. She fits the moe theme a lot more than many other voice actresses, though she can work well too when she doesn't need to be too cute. Her most standout voice is definitely Yui (K-on), which is a tad bit fluffier and cuter than the rest of her voices (the reason why we all love Yui). Then we have the very happy go lucky girls in Yoshino (Minami-Ke series) and Azuki Azusa's mom (Henneko). Her "regular" girl voices lie generally in Jun (The World God Only Knows), Iori (Kokoro Connect) and Uiharu (To Aru Kagaku No Railgun). Kanetsugu (Hyakka Ryouran series) sounds cocky more than anything else, and Momo (To Love Ru series) is probably her only seductive sounding character.

Characters from left to right

1st row: Yoshino (Minami-Ke Series), Azuki Azusa's mom (Henneko), Jun (The World God Only Knows), Iori (Kokoro Connect)

2nd row: Kanetsugu (Hyakka Ryouran Samurai Girls), Yui (K-on!), Momo (To Love Ru Series), Uiharu (To Aru Kagaku No Railgun)

Kanae Ito

When you want to talk about Aki Toyosaki, you can't miss out Kanae Ito. These two work together on quite a few occasions and appear simultaneously on many different anime. While she can do a little bit of the moe voice like Aki as well, Kanae Ito fits a little more to the tsundere category. Some of her happier roles include Elis (Asobi Ni Ikuyo), Saten (To Aru Kagaku No Railgun) and Elsie (The World God Only Knows). Nana (To Love Ru) and Sena (Boku Wa Tomodachi Ga Sukunai) are just tsunderes. Yui (Sword Art Online) is her take on a cute little girl, and Suzuno (Hataraku Maou Sama) is her take on a kuudere character. Kanono (Tales Of The World:Radiant Mythology 2) is a mix of happy and serious sides.

Characters from left to right

1st row: Eris (Asobi Ni Ikuyo!), Kanono (Tales Of The World:Radiant Mythology 2), Yui (Sword Art Online), Suzuno (Hatarku Maou Sama)

2nd row: Nana (To Love Ru Series), Saten (To Aru Kagaku No Railgun), Sena (Boku Wa Tomodachi Ga Sukunai), Elsie (The World God Only Knows)

Yuichi Nakamura

This guy, holy damn. Yuiichi Nakamura is the evil counterpart of Tomokazu Sugita, that's what I can tell, but Nakamura has some of the more "bishonen" characters in his bag.  His main character esque "High school" voices can go to many things, Kyouske (Oreimo), Gray (Fairy Tail), Yuki (Koi to Senkyo to Chocolate), Kishinuma (Corpse Party) and Oreki (Hyouka) fit that theme nicely, though there are different variations here and here. He plays a fantastic N (Pokemon BW) as well. Kurt (Valkyria Chronicles 3) is a seasoned soldier and Gai (Guilty Crown) is sort of one as well. Hazama (Blazblue) is just pure evil, and a massive troll at that, easily my favorite out of all his roles.

Characters from left to right

1st row: Hazama (Blazblue), Kyouske (Oreimo), Gai (Guilty Crown), Yuki (Koi To Senkyo To Chocolate)

2nd row: Kurt (Valkyria Chronicles 3), Kishinuma (Corpse Party), N (Pokemon BW), Gray (Fairy Tail), Oreki (Hyouka)

Hiro Shimono

Meet Mr. main character. This guy has so many main character roles, its not even funny. To top it off, his voice is super distinct (you can only find it in this guy), so you'll recognize him everywhere he goes. He fits into so many types of main characters, because "that voice" he has can be used in so many ways. Lets start with the normal ones, Jin (Kannagi), Ryuuji (Dragon Crisis), Kyolo (Gj-Bu) and Kenshi (Tenchi Muyo! War On Geminar) all have this voice. Then there's the full on pervert mode with Ryouske (So, I can't Play H?), and the funny dudes with Keima (The World God Only Knows) and Akisa (Baka Test). He can go with a fairly serious tune as well, with Connie (Shingeki No Kyojin) and Emil (Tales Of Symphonia: Dawn Of A New World), though Emil can sound super badass during fights. Urushihara (Hataraku Maou Sama) is my personal favorite, as he's a mix of funny, badass-ery, and just pure laziness.

Characters from left to right

1st row: Keima (The World God Only Knows), Akisa (Baka To Test To Shokanju), Kyolo (Gj-Bu)

2nd row: Connie (Shingeki No Kyojin), Emil (Tales Of Symphonia: Dawn Of A New World), Jin (Kannagi), Ryuuji (Dragon Crisis)

3rd row: Ryouske (So I Can't Play H?), Kenshi (Tenchi Muyo! War On Geminar), Urushihara (Hataraku Maou Sama)

Yukari Tamura

You just can't count her out. Yes, Yukari Tamura is close to 40 now, but she doesn't look to be at first glance. LOOK AT HER, HOW IS THAT 40. She has a magnificent voice to prove that she can still be young, just look at her roles. Tenten (Naruto) is a happy go lucky ninja, Clover (Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward) is a whiny damsel in distress, and Mii (Project X Zone) is just a super cheerful fighter, kind of like Amane (Steins;Gate). Masuzu (Oreshura) is her take on a kuudere, which works extremely well. Miss Kotetsu (Henneko) is just a quirky high school girl on many levels, and she has a couple of roles that go "I'm old, but I'm still cute and sexy as f**k". These are Midori (Mai-Hime) and Tabane Shinono (Infinite Stratos). And my two favorites from her, Rika (Higurashi) and Bernkastel (Umineko). These are practically the same person, and it's f**ked up how Rika can have a super cute side (NI-PAN) and a stupidly creepy side.

Characters from left to right

1st row: Tenten (Naruto), Midori (Mai-Hime), Mii (Project X Zone)

2nd row: Rika (Higurashi), Bernkastal (Umineko), Masuzu (Oreshura), Kotetsu (Henneko)

3rd row: Amane (Steins;Gate), Clover (Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward), Tabane (Infinite Stratos)

Ami Koshimizu

She voices very sexy characters: fact. Look at that lineup of sexy bitches, you just can't resist. I wouldn't say she's my favorite seiyuu, but she definitely voices some of my favorite characters. Sexy all around, is what I'd say. She starts off with young, bad girls in her early debut days, these girls are Anemone (Eureka Seven) and Nina (Mai Otome). Then we get the sexy, mission driven girls like Kallen (Code Geass), Tomo (Kyoukai Senjou Horizon) and Charles (Hyakka Ryouran). Cute, school girl alter egos like Kasuga (The World God Only Knows) and Yukiko (Persona 4) also work well for her. Maou (Maoyu Maou Yuusha) is kind of just a genius woman with a ditsy personality. Charlotte (Strike Witches), Himari (Omamori Himari) and Hinako (Devil Survivor 2) are pretty much competitive, seductive girls. My new favorite voice from her is Mugino (To Aru Kagaku No Railgun S), because holy crap, how can you not like someone who looks like that and sounds so freakishly awesome!?

Characters from left to right

1st row: Anemone (Eureka Seven), Himari (Omamori Himari), Kasuga (The World God Only Knows), Hinako (Devil Survivor 2)

2nd row: Nina (Mai-Otome), Charles (Hyakka Ryouran), Tomo (Kyoukai Senjou Horizon), Mugino (To Aru Kagaku No Railgun S)

3rd row: Charlotte (Strike Witches), Kallen (Code Geass), Maou (Maoyu), Yukiko (Persona 4)

Peace for now, probably more to come.

Opening songs
OP 1 - Mukaikaze (YOHKO)

Ending songs
ED 1 - Unknown Vision (Akino Arai)

Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, Romance

Episodes: 12

Having your daily dose of anime is a must if you're an otaku, and more times than not you'll be running into some shit that's different once in awhile. "Maoyu Maou Yusha", or just "Maoyu" is one of those anime. Well actually my statement may be just a state in opinion, because I've never really watched much medieval themed anime. It brings a surprisingly good amount of politics into play, as well as some other themes that are common in medieval themed stuff, like war and trade. Overall it mixes well with the mini harem that's going on with our hero, and while I do find the character naming to be ridiculous, it doesn't really hold the anime back in any way. "Maoyu" is an interesting anime, and it also shows that medieval themed anime have some really cool stuff going for them. Just brace yourselves for more of those half assed romance moments.

This is the demon king. Yes, the DEMON KING.

The opening song is "Mukaikaze" by YOHKO. It sounds all whimsical and cool, honestly, not something very fitting, considering the themes of the anime. It still works to some extent though. I really like the song, with its uplifting tune and country-like feel...its something I can dig, no problem. The ending song though, I don't really like. "Unknown vision" by Akino Arai is another one of those super slow and soft songs...those that make me fall asleep. Not that its a bad song by any means, its just a song that I don't really dig. I don't dig songs of this genre anyway.

Rating: 8.0/10

I enjoyed myself with "Maoyu", quite a fair bit in fact. Once again, this may be my inexperienced side playing a huge role here, as I don't see many animes with themes as unique as this. Having the anime take place in a medieval setting plays a big part I believe, as most of the time, many settings in mainstream anime wouldn't allows such unique themes to take place. While having a harem is one of the selling points, its many of the other things that really make "Maoyu" stand out. The relationships between humans and demons, and how one wants to halt everything using politics and complete welfare. It sounds boring, but its actually not only immensely interesting, things get really intense at times. To top it off, we have a really powerful and likable hero, though he doesn't get to do much most of the time. But when he does, things get real, and its a pleasure to watch.

And that's all she wrote!

The anime stars the hero as the main character. He has no name, everyone just calls him hero, and in Japanese, that's Yusha. As with all heroes, their job is to defeat the demon king, and that's what he did. he went to the heart of the demon world, looking to end the reign of the demon king, only to find a beautiful woman starting back at him, saying "Hello!". This woman introduces herself as the demon king, and that's what they call her as well. In Japanese, the demon king is called Maou. Maou eventually calms Yusha into a cease fire, and explains to him about her intentions to end the war without fighting. Yusha doesn't buy it at first, but after tons of explanations and talk about possibilities, he decides to aid her in her goal to end the war without conflict. With the hero and demon king working together, they aim for a rather ironic, but peaceful resolve.

And that's that folks. "Maoyu" is different in a good way, and definitely something worth watching if you haven't already. Its one of those animes where story plays a huge part in everything, so it feels just right for all audiences. I'm still not too sold on the whole romance thing going on...Well there is SOME romance, but it doesn't feel full fledged when you put it next to other real romance anime ("Clannad" and "Mashiro Iro Symphony", just to name 2). Still a great watch overall.


Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Dark souls boss profiles: The Four Kings

The Four Kings
HP: 2354 each

Skills: Sword swing combo*, Sword thrust, Grab*, Homing missile*, Soul explosion*
Souls: 60000

Difficulty: 4.5/5 
Times died on 1st playthrough: Countless

With only 2 soul lords left, there's not much left to go for. Head for the New Londo Ruins and begin traversing your way through the ghost ridden passages. Its a treacherous level, but not the worst you've seen. Raising the flood gate opens your way to the dark wraith enemies, and into a whole new area of the level. Make your way to the end and into the fog gate to enter the stairway for the abyss. If you've already defeated a previous boss, Sif, you should have the covenant of Artorias. Equipping the ring allows you to traverse the abyss, and without the ring, you cannot fight The Four Kings as you will die the moment you fall into the abyss. Equip the ring, fall down, and meet your maker.

Behold the awesomeness that kills you

The Four Kings is one of the shittiest boss battles in the game, simply because how stupid it is to fight them alone. As the name describes, you have to battle against 4 boss level enemies. That's right, Ornstein and Smough isn't bad enough, you have to fight 4 now. However, The Four Kings are fought differently, while you are indeed fighting 4 bosses, they appear 1 by 1, and if you kill 1 before the next one spawns, you can maintain this steady 1 on 1 combat until you defeat all 4. However, if you kill 1 too slowly and the next one appears, it will quickly become a shit fest, as a single king is more than enough to screw you 10 times over.

Sword swing combo* - Can pretty much instagib you if you are hit by the blade. The length and range of this attack is pretty huge, but if you're standing right in front of him, you will be hit by the sword's handle and take reduced damage. If you are hit by the blade, its pretty much 2 hits and you're gone. Can be dodged or blocked, but the timing is tricky for dodging.

Sword thrust - Just a simple forward poke. He follows this up with a combo after the hit connects most of the time.

Grab* - He spins around and flies towards you, grabbing you and dealing massive damage. As far as I know it is impossible to dodge or block this. I've only successfully gotten away by running away once the animation for his spin starts. Dodging away won't help unless you do it immediately when he starts to spin and you're a moderate distance away.

Homing missile* - He charges his arm back, then conjures a magical missile and tosses it at you. This stupid missile homes at you, and still comes at you even when you've dodged it. You can block it, but you'll still take some good damage upon shield impact. It lasts for quite awhile, 15 seconds according to Dark Souls Wiki.

Soul explosion* - He spins around, draws in some magical energy towards him, and sends out an explosion that does massive damage in a huge AOE. Like the grab, dodging is only possible if you start running away immediately after he does his spin, as the AOE is immensely huge. Blocking is possible, though you'll still take some good damage upon shield impact.

As you can see, he's pretty much dangerous as hell when he's alone, fighting more than 2 at once is bonkers. With only slightly above 2000 HP per King, its important that you equip a powerful rush down full DPS weapon and start wearing the first King down the moment he spawns. Its ideal to kill a single King before the next one spawns, as having to fight 2 of them is already crazy enough for you to pull your hair out. However, if that one Kings decides to go cheap mode, you're still pretty screwed anyway.

A grab attack.

His sword swing combo is his basic bread and butter skill. Because of the range of the sword, this is a major problem. Throughout the entire fight, you'll want to stay at a medium distance away from the King, because 2 of his most dangerous attacks, soul explosion and grab, cannot be avoided at close range. However, because of the structure of his sword, staying at medium range is deadly. If you are hit by his sword combo, the damage you take differs from where you are hit. At medium range you are hit by the blade, and you'll suffer major damage. At close range you are hit by the hilt, and you take minor damage.

Of course everything is fine if you know how to avoid these slashes (the timing is awkward as hell), but if you are willing to take a risk and fight the King at close range, his sword swings pose little to no threat to you. However if you do this, you are sure to be a victim of his grab and soul explosion, so there's huge risk involved. If he spams sword swings all the day long, you've got this. If he starts using any of his other moves, you're in trouble. He'll throw in a thrust that has longer range than normal occasionally, but those usually just lets him follow up with another combo.

Time for his cheap moves. All that I've said matters if you fight him at close to mid range, what if you take it from far? Not only will he charge towards you at great speed, he may use his homing missile ability, which is a complete bitch to deal with. It homes in on you continuously, and you still take good damage when you block it. Worst comes to worst, you have to dodge all his other moves with a stupid missile still following you around, and if he connects his moves in rapid succession, you will die.

His spin related moves are grab and soul explosion. When you see him spin, its time to book it. If you're at medium range, you can escape if you're fast enough, if you opted for close range combat, you'll definitely get hit by these moves. Grab homes on you at insane speed, and once grabbed, you'll take massive damage. What's worse is that - 1: you'll be left in a knockdown state after the attack (you cannot heal immediately) and 2: he can follow up with another powerful attack to finish you off.

1 vs 3? GG

Soul explosion's AOE is so huge that you'll probably not get away no matter what. Blocking is your best option, but you still take good damage upon impact. If he follows his up after a grab, you're most likely a goner. Combining all these moves together makes him one cheap bastard. And if you're fighting multiple Kings at once and all of them go cheap mode.....its needless to say that you definitely will not stand a chance whatsoever.

So that's The Four Kings! If you beat them, give yourself a pat in the back for one of the shittiest boss fights in the game! There are multiple strategies to beat him, but rush down is the best in my opinion. Bring tons of estus flasks, and just rush down the kings at they appear one by one. 60000 souls is the reward, though I think we deserve more after beating these bastards.

Next time we go deep into the Demon ruins.


Sunday, 15 September 2013

Atelier Meruru:The Apprentice Of Arland

Gamespot Score: 5.0 (Mediocre....WHAT F**KING GIVES!?)  

My Score: 8.5

(+) Pros: - Everything is further improved from "Atelier Totori", - Some great story bits towards the end, - Even more characters, both old and new, more than any of the other games before it, -Time is way less of an issue this time round,  - Best battle system among the 3 games in the series, - UI design has been VASTLY improved, - Less endings but character events have been generalized for convenience, - Best soundtrack in the series, especially the ones used for boss battles.

(-) Cons: - You need to play more than once to have the FULL experience (unlike previous games), - Stupidly easy for the first year or so.

Gameplay time: About 30 hours

The reason why I looked up the "Atelier Arland" series was for "Atelier Totori", so much that I went to get "Atelier Rorona". About the time I got Totori, "Atelier Meruru" was announced, and well, since its a sequel, I got it too. I didn't let the Gamespot score persuade me (what was with that anyway?), and honestly, I'm glad that was the case. I enjoyed the living shit out of "Atelier Meruru", way more than the previous 2 games, yes, even more than "Atelier Totori". I played the game twice (two very THOROUGH playthroughs mind you, not just regular ones), and I never looked back. "Atelier Meruru" is the best game of the "Atelier Arland", and considering that it was the final game in the series, they really went all out.

You play as Merurulince Rede Arls, also known as Meruru, the princess of a kingdom known as Arls. Meruru recently just picked up alchemy, being taught by none other than Totoria Helmond, protagonist of the previous game. Arls is going through a merger stage, where it needs to undergo constant development, so Meruru becoming an alchemist was not part of her father, lord Dessier's plans. He was against her becoming an alchemist, and sketched up a plan for her to follow. If she were to use alchemy to develop Arls into a successful kingdom, she would be allowed to study under Totori as an apprentice. Being the steadfast reckless princess she is, she immediately agrees to it. By playing a part in alchemy, she has to has to develop her kingdom into a strong independent country that can stand to the metropolis that is Arland.

Yes! Banzai!

Like when "Atelier Rorona" transitioned to "Atelier Totori", you can feel a sense of improvement when you transition to "Atelier Meruru". The graphics remain mostly the same however but many other things seem different right off that bat. No more Alanya, no more Arland, Meruru's game takes place in a brand new area known as Arls, the very kingdom she resides in. Arls is a under-developed kingdom, so its different from the busy Arland or the quiet Alanya. The atmosphere is different, and in my opinion, its the best among the three games yet. Battle is further improved, friendship among friends is easier to maintain, there are less restrictions.... everything just seems to be better this time around.

Game flow is surprisingly similar, but priority of things have taken a turn. You still perform quests for popularity, you synthesize stuff for your friends to improve friendship, you move out of town to defeat monsters. However, as you play Meruru, a princess of Arls, and not a regular adventurer (Totori) or an alchemist trying to save her Atelier (Rorona), your primary role of developing a kingdom, feels a lot more different than anything you would have done in previous games. To develop areas, you move to undeveloped land and focus on delivering items that can help out in development. Such include items to cultivate the land, drive away monsters or to clear obstacles. You then use development points earned to build facilities in the mainland for more benefits. In a way, it becomes a little bit like "Sim City", as you have to keep track of population and popularity....

Alchemy 101: How to make a healing salve.

Alchemy still plays as the catalyst that brings everything together, and thus its one of the core gameplay elements that you have to master. Thankfully it remains mostly similar to that of previous games, not much has changed. You mix different ingredients together to create something brand new. Better ingredients spawn better quality of the end products, and you can carry over traits from your ingredients to the end products as well. Its a pretty deep system, but since I have already explained it before in my review for "Atelier Totori", lets just leave it at that. Your items can be registered at Pamela's store for replication, so it takes away some of the repetition of creating essential alchemy items over and over.

As the 3rd and final game in the series, "Atelier Meruru" has more characters that you can interact with than any of the previous games. New characters take the stage, but old characters from both "Atelier Rorona" and "Atelier Totori" also make a comeback, making this current cast of characters quite an interesting mash-up. Everyone getting together always makes for some crazy shenanigans, and these guys stay true to their character, so watching some scenes between them can be rather interesting. More character interaction equals more cut scenes, more friendship events, and overall just more fun! 

Here's Mimi and Gino again, both looking older, but they still haven't matured one bit....

Another piece of good news is that the time management system gets WAY more lenient this time around. In "Atelier Meruru", time is least concerning here when in comparison to the past 2 games. Why? Quests no longer have a time limit, and your time milestones are set within YEARS. What's more, after the first half of the game, time is no longer an issue at all during the second half, so you get to enjoy the game at your own pace, without the bullshit restrictions of the past! However, managing everything between friend requests and reaching the population limit within the entire game's time-span can still be a challenge.

Battle has also been further improved, making it the best out of the 3 games when it comes to combat with our heroines. While you leave Arls to different locations to search for materials or develop areas, Meruru is given the choice to take 2 escorts out of town. These escorts are your party members, and like in previous games, you can't have more than 2 with you at once. Considering who to bring with you can be a daunting task, since each and every party members has their strengths and weaknesses. A cool new add-on is that with the proper developed facilities, you can have all your benched party members gain exp when they aren't in battle.

All hail the Sterk man!

Like in before, Meruru acts as an item user, while your escorts do the fighting. With characters like Totori and Rorona in your party, you get 3 item users, so there's that, but the core concept remains the same. Characters gain skills and super moves as they level up, and they can use these in battle to crush enemies. HP is your health, MP is mana, and LP acts as stamina for your characters to fight. You can follow up with Meruru's attack items for some dynamic combos, so there's that. Also, with more bosses and strong enemies than in previous games, "Atelier Meruru" is the game for battle (at least in the series)! Throw in some epic boss battle tunes and you get some truly epic fights!

Lets talk about something simple for now, the UI. The UI in previous games have been rather...lacking, and to be honest, it still isn't godlike, but its a lot better, ESPECIALLY for battles. Menus are easily more navigate-able, and tool tips are everywhere. It easily makes the game more informative than it needs to be, but it works, and it works well. They've also slightly toned down the number of endings available, for good purpose. In previous games, each character had a specific ending, now they just included these so called character "endings" into their core events. This is easily more convenient as one, we can see all character endings in a single go, and two, its less endings to sit through the credits for.

Behold the gigantic tree monster....
Admittedly, the game is too easy, especially for the first year or so. For veterans, this game will be a breeze. There are times where you realize that there is nothing for you to do, that means that you've progressed too quickly for the game. I've run into this many times into the game UNTIL after the halfway point before things get busy again. Another thing that bugs me is that I have to play the game through twice to see everything. In previous games I've been trying to get full complete single playthroughs (succeeded on those), but in this game, your first playthrough is technically for naught as you can't get a few of the endings (the true ending included). 

As the final game of the series, I think "Atelier Meruru" does a fantastic job closing the book. I'm not even going to rant about the Gamespot score (because its obviously ridiculous on how they arrived to that conclusion), but I'd say that the "Atelier Arland" series was an amazing one for me. I enjoyed myself through every single bit of it, and watching these characters grow was really a great experience. I was fortunate enough to experience the full journey of alchemy with Rorona, Totori and Meruru, something I never did before with the franchise (I never player "Atelier Iris", but played "Atelier Iris 2 & 3". I played "Mana Khemia", but not "Mana Khemia 2"). Well, I'm glad that I did.

Happy gaming!

Opening songs
OP 1 - Break your world (Sayaka Sasaki)

Ending songs
ED 1 - Fighting dreamer (Hitomi Harada, Asami Imai, Yu Koboyashi, Kaori Mizuhashi, Yuka Iguchi)
ED 2 - Yamiya wa otomo wo Hana ni Suru (Eri Kitamura, Ai Kayano, Megumi Toyoguchi, Ryoko Shiraishi, Saori Goto)

Genre: Action, Drama

Episodes: 12 

Every fanservice maniac's dream.....or so it would seem at first sight. "Senran Kagura" started off as a game that featured some erotic elements with simple side scrolling beat'em up. Most of the characters in the game have freaking D-E sized boobs and they get stripped as they do battle. Doesn't sound exaggerated enough? How about the fact that 95% of the characters are female, and they transform to their shinobi forms which somehow makes them even more revealing. Its just blatant fanservice, and its definitely only gearing towards a certain audience. Obviously, that's to guys, and guys ONLY (unless you're a lesbian or something). If you're a guy and want to watch something like this, don't feel too bad, as its not the levels of "Queen's Blade" for you to feel sorry about yourself. Just think of it as "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles", but instead of turtles you get sexy school girls with huge boobs.

See how they all cross their arms to showcase their "assets"

For a fanservice anime, the songs used as the opening and ending themes aren't too bad overall. The opening song, "Break Your World" by Sayaka Sasaki sounds like something Faylan would sing. In other words, its a great song fitting for a shinobi anime, with the little "ancient Japan" feel added to it. Though we all know that its a fanservice anime, so the epicness is for naught...just like in "Hyakka Ryouran". There are 2 ending songs that are alternated from time to time, "Fighting dreamer", sang by the seiyuus of the good ninja, and "Yamiya wa otomo wo Hana ni Suru", sang by the seiyuus of the bad ninja. I like the bad girls' version more, just because it sounds catchier.

Rating: 7/10

I don't hate "Senran Kagura", no I don't, but there's not much to it, other than tits. Now don't get all flustered on me, I love tits as much as the next guy does (tits over ass bro), but if you're looking for a good story, some comedy, or endearing characters, "Senran Kagura" doesn't really excel at those areas. Its a big fanservice bomb in my opinion, and that may or may not be good in the eyes of others. I like fanservice, but I do feel that an anime with just fanservice alone and nothing else doesn't really do well. At least the fanservice is in good taste here, that's what I think. We've got tons of characters, but most of them don't come off as anything but stereotypes, and some even borderline annoying (looking at you Hibari). Animation is sub par, and the action isn't the best, though if you want to see girls getting stripped for some fanservice, there you have it!

What happens for the entire anime.

Asuka is a ditsy ninja girl who got enrolled into Hanzo academy for the shinobi. She just passed her test to keep her status as a shinobi, and is ready to take on some real missions with her schoolmates, Ikaruga, Katsuragi, Yagyuu and Hibari. The 5 are closely knit, and make a good team of shinobi who help each other out when needed. However, things quickly go haywire when opposing shinobi from the Dark Snake academy work together to attack our ninja heroines. Finding themselves overwhelmed and lacking in terms of skill, our 5 heroines begin working harder than ever to reach a power level high enough to battle against the evil ninjas. With the shinobi instructor Kiriya and Asuka's grandfather Hanzo, they aim for the skies.

"Senran Kagura" works for you if you need your daily fix of anime tits. There's lots of fanservice here and the fact that they almost all have big boobs is already a sign saying "TITS LOVERS COME HERE".  There are good moments sprinkled here and there, its not a total snooze fest. In fact, its actually not too bad of an anime overall if you actually don't mind the over-exaggerated fanservice at times. It may not be as great as other anime, but its not bad either.


We all need some flatness sometimes.

Name: Totooria Helmond (Totori)
Traits: Use items, Duplicate
Rating: 8/10

I kind of gave Rorona a hard time when I reviewed the cast in her game, so I'll treat Totori with proper care. Back then in Rorona's game I underestimated the ability to use items, and without Totori (or any of the main heroines), the party would be dead in seconds. Totori scores even higher than Rorona because I think she's the best out of the three heroines (in battle of course, yes, she's better than Meruru). Using items is a must, and Totori does it best.

Duplicate is easily one of the most spammable, exploitable spells in the game. Its great here (even better in Meruru's game), and it'll really save a lot of asses, especially since battle is a bigger factor here than in "Atelier Rorona". Against long, drawn out battles against bosses (Flauschtraut and Evil Face say hi), Totori's duplicate will really make life a lot easier if you have great quality items.

All main characters need a childhood friend.

Name: Gino Knab
Traits: Physical damage
Rating: 4/10

Man Gino is so F**KING BAD in this game. Same with the case with Cordelia from "Atelier Rorona", I never really gave him a good chance, because he's so damn weak and everyone's so much better. Even with decent equipment, he does NO damage. He's basically there as a stepping stone to help you out for the first few parts of the game, after you get the likes of Marc, Mimi and Rorona, say goodbye to him for good! Because nothing good comes out of putting effort into Gino, not in this game at least.

He does single target damage, and for a good portion of the game, he doesn't learn jack squat until you do his friendship events. Even then, the skills he get are pretty damn mediocre. Having no AOE hurts him, but the lack of massive damage hurts him even more. Get his friendship to 60 ASAP, then just leave him for good, seriously. At least he is MUCH better in "Atelier Meruru"....

Miss greatness!

Name: Melvia Siebel
Traits: Physical damage, AOE damage
Rating: 8/10

She's like Sterk from the first game, just less versatile. She does tons of damage, can tank a ton of it in return, and she joins really early in the game. She's the early spike in power that makes the game really easy all of a sudden. She packs a bigger punch some of the characters than join later on (if you train her), and she's actually a good fit to your final late game team if you need the damages. She's a pretty masculine woman, with a pretty feminine body.

Melvia hits hard, especially for an early game character. Keeping her in your party makes the game very easy for quite awhile, as she'll roll over most enemies. To make things even better, her starting ability lowers the defense of enemies, making her great against bosses. She eventually learns an AOE ability that clears normal monsters very quickly, making her good for normal encounters as well (if you so desire to waste your mana). A good fit for late game if you so desire her strength.

Every game needs a tsundere,

Name: Mimi Houllier Von Schwarzlang
Traits: Physical damage, Speed, High evasion
Rating: 8/10

Mimi is a late bloomer. She joins very early on, but she's no Melvia, she doesn't hit that hard early on, but her damage is good enough for you to keep her in (she at least does equal to or more than the likes of Marc and Rorona). She'll serve as a medium damage dealer for most of the game, and later on, while her damage doesn't immediately spike up to godly levels, she becomes a great pick against bosses because of her high speed and evasion.

Mimi is probably the speedster of "Atelier Totori" (she looses that title to Esty in Meruru's game), she probably will go faster and get more turns than anyone else that's on par with her. She does decent damage with Himmel Waltz spam against bosses, and sometimes I find her lasting longer than Sterk because of her evasion. Stick with her, and you'll be rewarded.

He's no mad scientist, but at least he doesn't make himself look stupid.

Name: Marc Brine
Traits: Physical  damage, Inflict sleep, High Evasion
Rating: 7/10

Marc isn't bad really, but I just don't find need for him in my team. He's got decent damage, though not the levels of Melvia or Sterk, which doesn't make him stand out too much. He's got tricks up his sleeve, and his attacks look funky, however, if you intend on using him, you'd have to make full use of what he can do. He's decent at what he does, but you need a good team to back up what he does best.

He doesn't shine too much in the damage department, he is however, the only character in the game who is able to inflict a status effect on the enemy. More specifically, sleep. Its good to have that ability, but honestly its not too effective in most situations. You'd need to have some good plan to have Marc work, and when you do, he's going to be pretty good.

Hooray for our favorite ditsy alchemist!

Name: Rorolina Frixell (Rorona)
Traits: Magic damage, Use items, AOE damage
Rating: 8/10

Marking the first game that we can have 2 alchemists in the party, Rorona makes herself more useful than she was before. Having the privilege to use items means that Totori can focus on using attack items for massive damage while Rorona focuses on healing items, that or vice versa. Other than using items she still brings some damage to the table, though its not much compared to some others. Having her in the party allows you a lot more room to make mistakes, that's for sure.

Angel fullheart hits all enemies, and her normal attack is a bomb by itself....this means she's great against low level, grouped up monsters. Her AOE makes her a good pick to clear out easy, packed enemies. She is also good against bosses, as the liberty to have 2 item users usually means that you can dish out more damage than any other team combination, as long as you have the proper quality items.

He looks more fabulous with each game....

Name: Sterkenberg Cranach
Traits: Physical damage, Magic damage, AOE damage
Rating: 9/10

Sterk is just Sterk. Remember him from the first game? Yeap, same deal here. He does a boat load of damage, can soak a lot of it in return, and is just an overall power house. He brings all sorts of hurt to the enemy team, and it would be silly to not take him along. He's probably got everything that you want in a character, and that makes him good at killing normal enemies and bosses alike.

Lightning blitz kills enemy mobs in a second, and judgement melts the sorry faces of bosses way to quickly. In all honesty, Sterk plus Mimi is the best boss killing team in "Atelier Totori", and his damage will carry you to victory. His super move hurts more than everyone else's, that means that in long, drawn out battles, he is going to wreck face. He retains the title of the king of all the party members in the game.

My Party
Rorona (Swapped out with Mimi at times)

The rest in order

Peace, more to come!

Friday, 6 September 2013

Sound Voltex II:Infinite Infection

Gamespot Score: n/a

My Score: 8.0

(+)Pros: - Innovative style of gameplay which separates itself from most generic rhythm games, - Badass suite of (mostly remixed) tracks, - Remix sound effects during gameplay really get you going, - Higher difficulty songs prove to be a real challenge, - Tons of rewards and unlockables, encouraging players to keep coming back for more, - Online matching makes you the savior of others or can have other players saving you from a pinch.

(-)Cons: - Gameplay requires significant micromanagement and is hard to master, - Most songs have remix tunes to them, and players who are turned off by synth-based music will not like a majority of the given tracks.

Gameplay cost: High (At the time of this review)

Its been a long time since my previous arcade game review (I'm not one to hit the arcades that often), but here's a game that I have been hooked to recently. Ever since my attachment as an intern at a distant office from home (I'm exaggerating), I've been going to the nearby arcade to hit up this interesting new game which was released at that time. Ever since then, I've been going multiple times a week just to play the said game, "Sound Voltex II:Infinite Infection".

Time for a short history lesson, what happened to the first one? Well, Singapore didn't get the "Sound Voltex" arcade machine until this year, and the first one was out in Japan early 2012....which meant that Singapore is a good year and a half late. Well, we got "Sound Voltex II", and that's what I was hooked to. What can I say, the things that draw me to arcades most are the badass japanese rhythm games (especially Konami ones).

The machines.

This is how the "Sound Voltex" booths look like, pretty cool, don't you think? THIS was what caught my attention the first time around. As you can see, the design of the arcade machine itself is exaggerated to no end, and in arcades, its even better. The borders glow and flash with blinding, colorful lights, and the side speakers boom with synth music so good that it makes my ears other words, the machine itself already craves attention, how can one not walk over to it?

Insert coin. Yes please!

"Sound Voltex II" at the time of release in Singapore, was pretty overpriced, even for a rhythm game (most of these are overpriced, compared to fighting games and racing games). Its $2.50 per pop, which is 5 credits at most outlets. This discouraged me at first, but I just sucked it up and played it, because I was so hooked to the gameplay. Honestly though, for the amount we're paying, its a decent exchange, as its easy to tell that there's easily more content (or at least on par), with the other Konami bemani style games. As with most of those, "Sound Voltex II" rewards you if you have an E-amusement card, so if you're intending to go far with the game (like me), having one will definitely make your time with the game more worth it.

The funky and cool ass button layout.

"Sound Voltex II"'s gameplay is different from most other rhythm games available in arcades currently, or from most rhythm games in general. Instead of having a singular button type in its complete layout, it has 2 other unique button types, making it a game with 3 button types that you need to interact with. The four regular buttons (BT-A, BT-B, BT-C and BT-D) represent the buttons that you have to press like in every other rhythm game. The notes come down, you press the corresponding buttons in return, its as simple as that. In contrast with those regular buttons, the FX bars will come down, and those are mostly holds. As the name suggests, FX notes usually mess with the tune and grant some cool sound effects to the music. Te FX buttons are FX-L and FX-R, located below the regular buttons.

Now for the reason why you're playing the game, the sound knobs. These are the VOL-L and VOL-R knobs, located above the regular buttons. In game, these come down as long blue and red bars, you have to turn the knob to correct corresponding colors of the knobs. These bars usually come and lean to a certain direction, you have to turn the knob at the appropriate speed to match that of the bar on screen. Sounds easy, but when you're micromanaging  the other buttons, it quickly becomes a fast paced game that is difficult to follow, at least on the higher levels.

Select your death chart!

As mentioned earlier, "Sound Voltex II" is a game based off remixing, the gameplay itself tells us that, with all the FX sounds and synth based tunes. With that in mind, you can easily tell if the game is for you. If you're into the whole remix thing, the game has an entire library of badass remixed tunes for you to play. Almost the entire song library is filled with remixed tunes, and you may find some of these songs familiar if you're into J-pop (exit trance and vocaloid songs are here, in addition to the amazing Konami originals).

After selecting your song and one of its three difficulty levels (novice, advanced, exhaust), the game begins after matching you with an online individual or your friend (if you're playing locally together at the same arcade). The songs in the game are spread across levels in terms of difficulty, ranging from the ridiculously easy Level 01 songs to the insane Level 15 songs. Gameplay is as mentioned earlier, and as you play through the song and get the mixing sounds going, you can really feel the awesomeness as the screen speeds up and slants itself while you keep your combo streak going. Not many games can match up to the sensation that you experience as you play "Sound voltex II". Beginners should also feel at ease, as the online play system matches you with other players. If you fail a song and your match-made player clears it, you are saved and can proceed on. It works the other way round too, you can be someone else's savior.

Feel the speed!

You get to play 3 songs for each playthrough, and while its pricey, you'll get your kick out of it. The game's higher difficulty songs prove to be a real challenge, and while learning the game is easy, mastering it is not, and songs above level 13 will quickly teach you that. To proceed to the next song, you have to survive through one, and to do so, you have to get your speed gauge above 70%. Its simple, the speed gauge rises as you hit notes and rack up the combo, it falls when you miss notes in rapid succession.  By keeping that in mind, the game is not easy, not by a long shot (though it doesn't compare to Beatmania IIDX, that is bullshit).

As you finish songs, you are graded on your performance, and these scores are saved onto your e-amusement card, so you can access them in later plays (its important to challenge yourself yo get higher scores, both for self improvement and bragging rights). You also receive BLC, based on your score. BLC is the game's currency, and at the end of each playthrough, you can use the BLC you've accumulated to purchase songs at the "Sound Voltex II Station". These songs then become unlocked for future play. There are a crap ton of unlockable songs, and when you combine that with the events that take place from time to time, you've got a nice system of encouraging players to come back. 

Seem confusing? Yes it is.

Cons? Well, people who cannot handle micromanagement will be severely turned off. Seriously, I've known a good deal of friend that gave up after a few plays, just because the micromanagement of the 3 types of buttons was a little bit too extreme.  It seems easy at first, but quickly becomes overwhelming. If you aren't a micro person, practice makes perfect. The game's music library can also be a quick turnoff to players who dislike the synth based music, because unfortunately, the game is FULL of it. Want something that's not so "remix-y"? Other Konami music games can provide that, but "Sound Voltex II" is full of synth.

"Sound Voltex II" is a great experience for me. I'm not too much of an avid player of the game at the time of this review, but I haven't considered myself out just yet. My past 4 months or so with the game have been an absolute blast, and I'd recommend the game to all arcade rhythm game fans, at least give it a try. The controls seem daunting at first, but when you get used to it you'll find a unique rhythm game that'll challenge your micro skills to the max.

Happy gaming!