Opening Songs
OP 1 - Anicca (Hitomi Harada)

Ending Songs
ED 1 - Maware! Setsugetsuka (Ai Kayano, Hitomi Harada, Yui Ogura)

Genre: Action, Comedy, Drama, Romance, Fantasy, Sci-fi

Episodes: 12



"Unbreakable Machine Doll" is easily one of the sleeper hits of the year. It hit late in 2013, and apparently it wasn't all too popular. However, deep within is a great fan service/harem/action hybrid with tons of other great themes thrown in. Fan service is but the cherry on top of the cake, since the anime provides excellent fight scenes, a great concept about dolls, masters, and a school which holds a tournament to determine the strongest puppeteer. The standard plot is solid as hell, though its very obvious that this season is just a minor showing of the series' true potential. There is a lot that can be improved upon, and that's the best part, because "Unbreakable Machine Doll" already has a solid foreground built before it with the incredibly interesting lore of its universe. Also, if you're a sucker for school life animes that feature fantasy settings, this one is definitely another one you'll love.



Frey and Charles are sexy as hell :)

The opening theme is "Anicca" by Hitomi Harada, and since Hitomi Harada is known for singing many anime related theme songs, her expertise in this area is undeniable. "Anicca" is one of her better songs, since it goes so well with the anime and has a nice tune to boot. It's not hardy like her opening theme for "Arcana Famiglia", and has a more fantasy feel to it...which fits nicely. The ending theme is "Maware! Setsugetsuka" by Ai Kayano, Hitomi Harada and Yui Ogura, the seiyuus of Shoko's three sister dolls. It's a nice catchy ending theme, and it has this "Hyakka Ryouran" feel to it that fits surprisingly well...



Rating: 8.0/10



"Unbreakable Machine Doll" is just awesome to watch. As I mentioned earlier, if you like high school esque animes with a fantasy theme ("Tenchi Muyo: War On Geminar", "Zero No Tsukaima", "Hagure Yusha"), then "Unbreakable Machine Doll " will feel right at home. It's not so much as a harem than the titles that I listed up above, but many other factors more than make up for it. Despite the sexy image above, the fan service isn't exactly on the heavy side, the most we'll get to see is Yaya desperately trying to strip but failing. The action scenes are presented well with the interesting puppet battles, the overall story and lore is just fantastic (though there's a lot left to be explained). The characters are fine, though the girls are pretty much eye candy for the most part (Charles is annoying as hell 75% of the time, and Frey is just Frey...nothing too special about her, Yaya is great comical relief and is always energetic as hell).



That seems forced, no?

The story stars Raishin Akabane as the protagonist, a Japanese puppeteer that came over to the Walpurgis Royal Academy to participate in its carnivals and festives. The academy works in a way such that the best 100 students will face off against one another in a carnival, and that the winner of the battle royale gets to become the "Wiseman", a title given to those who will have supreme knowledge, authority and power given to them. Raishin and his puppet, Yaya, both get enrolled to the academy, only to be placed at the rank 1235, which in theory marks him as the 2nd weakest student in the academy upon his transfer. Of course, Raishin is here on a mission, to avenge his fallen family, so he won't take that for an answer...he needs to become the "Wiseman". On his very first day, he challenges Charlotte Belew, the 6th ranked student of the academy, into a battle to steal her ranking so that he can participate in the carnival, and from there, things go south...


"Unbreakable Machine Doll" shows a lot of potential with just these 12 episodes alone. I was so engrossed in the world of puppets and their masters, the characters played some part in these, but it was mostly because of how well the lore was presented. This is easily one of my favorites of the year, and hopefully we get another season of this, because there were many things left unexplained that I would REALLY love to find out.


Peace.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Darksiders 2

Gamespot Score: 8.5 (Great)

My Score: 8.3


(+) Pros: - New equipment stats system makes gathering loot more satisfying, - Death has a larger array of moves, weapons and armor than War has, - Brilliant variety of dungeons and landscapes, - Great puzzle solving and fun platforming segments, - Open world freedom and lots of optional content.

(-) Cons: - Incredibly disappointing boss battles, - Pacing issues.


Gameplay time: 20 hours +






I kind of liked the first "Darksiders". The ending was pretty much nothing but sequel bait. Besides that, I never really did expect "Darksiders" to get a sequel...but it did. "Darksiders II" may be a sequel in terms of the franchise, but instead, you play as Death, one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, and War's brother. This enough should be a selling point. I for one, didn't like War too much as a protagonist, so having someone else as the star works for me just fine.  So how is "Darksiders II" as a sequel. Is it the same game but just different dungeons and stages with a different character? Or is it an overhaul overall. I'd go with the latter, because "Darksiders II" feels like very different game, and rest assured, its for the better. "Darksiders II" is a great improvement over the first.


The story stars you as Death, War's brother and one of the horsemen of the apocalypse. Taking during the events at the beginning of the original "Darksiders", War was accused of breaking the seal which caused the destruction of humanity, and is about to be held guilty by the charred council. While pleading his innocence, his brother, Death, was on a journey on his own to save his brother....using his methods. He traveled to the icy lands to seek out the keeper of secrets, the Crow Father, hoping that he knows something that can free his brother. After a defiant act from the keeper of secrets, Death slays the old man for not revealing the information that he wants, and is transported into a portal, which leads him to another world...where his journey begins.



That's right, Death is badass.

"Darksiders II" is a third person action game with a little bit of a sandbox experience thrown in, same as its predecessor. Combat remains unchanged, Death has a pair of scythes as his primary weapons, and he has a secondary weapon which can be combo-ed into primary attack chains. You also have wrath ability which function as spells that you can map to 4 shortcut keys. However, in "Darksiders II", developers decided to throw in some RPG elements to make it a different experience overall. In this, they've done a grand job, that's for sure. As Death traverses the many different lands, dungeons and locations, he will defeat many enemies and uncover many treasure chests, getting himself coin and loot. Loot usually differ from equipment, be it weapons or armor, potions or accessories, and coin can be used to purchase all of the above from vendors or wandering merchants....a very nice touch, I might add.


Equipment bought from NPCs have fixed stats to them, and the ones you pick up while exploring have stats that may vary. You may equip Death as you see fit throughout the game, armor pieces range from upper body armor, lower body armor, boots and gloves. He actually changes his appearance in accordance to the equipment you put on him, weapons included, so you'll want to fit him with the best armor and weapons around. Different armors and weapons are split into different grades, the better the grades, the better the stats on these equipment...just like in MMORPGs, this is an addicting system, and you're ALWAYS looking for the best stuff for Death to equip. The high grade equipment go on Death, while the rest are sold for coin. Later in the game there are even possessed equipment, which can be fed other equipment to become stronger...giving them superb special effects, like elemental damage or lifesteal, just to make Death all the more badass.



Kill all the zombies!

Armor aside, Death has a lot more in his arsenal than War did, making fighting enemies as Death feel more refreshing. A pair of scythes are his main weapons, instead of War's huge sword, and using them in battle grant you multiple hits that do little damage. Death feels a lot more agile, and performing combos with him feels a lot more satisfying, as the hits from your scythes pile up in the combo meter. However, Death has many more in his arsenal. If you prefer the traditional play style of attacking with big, slow weapons, Death can arm himself with those as well, performing slow, but powerful hits that deal massive damage. These range from glaives, spears and hammers...though they all attack the same way. Death also has a pistol, just as War did, but like in the first game, this doesn't do much damage and is mostly used to attract opponents or to shoot explosives.


Death also has a pair of gauntlets that he uses as claws. With these equipped, he attacks even faster than he does with his scythes, but he does even less damage with his. Abilities consume wrath, Death's "mana resource" which he will build up in battle. This can be used to perform many various abilities which YOU get to decide. Death has a skill tree which splits into two paths, one with a more direct set of skills which involve melee attacks, and one where he summons ghouls and creatures of the feral to fight for him. Having the option to choose how you want to shape Death as a fighter is great, and if you ever want to switch paths, you can buy an item from Vulgrim to reset your skill points.


Choose how you want to fight your enemies.

While combat is a mainstay of the the "Darksiders" series, you can argue that the game values its puzzles, environments and platforming even more than the combat. Throughout the game you'll be travelling through 3 major locations, all of which look vastly different from one another. Inside these 3 locations are filled with their own dungeons and open areas which you get to traverse. Like a good RPG, monsters are scattered on the open areas, and there are more in dungeons.  You'll be seeing many different kinds on your journey, and each dungeon will be greeting you with its own sets of enemies and puzzles.


Puzzle and problem solving still remain as one of the game's strong points (even though at times I think that there are TOO MANY of these segments). Throughout the game Death will get a few new powers which serve as new puzzle solving mechanics, be it the death grip or the portal shooter thingy. Most of these require you to have a good scan throughout the surroundings...and while they are certainly doable, most of the puzzles late game can be quite draining on the mind. Platforming segments feel wonderful as Death glides and jumps over from ledge to ledge, making him feel more agile than War ever was. You'll be pressed for time during some of these parts, as you're forced to make many quick jumps in succession as your are pressured by an incoming threat.



Skill trees!

"Darksiders" has had pacing issues in the past, and that's not much different here in the sequel. While I can see that the game tries to mix in combat, puzzles and platforming...it eventually becomes obvious that the 3 elements aren't in balance. I don't want to sound like a simpleton, but out of the 3, combat seems to be the element that receives the least love, and more of it goes to puzzles and platforming. If I were to measure these 3, I'd say 30% combat, 35% puzzles and 35% platforming. In a 3rd person action game, there's needs to be more "action". The segments on Earth were rather nice, how about more of those? Another disappointing thing is the lack of interesting boss battles, most boil down to just simple brawl fests. While some of the bosses to inquire some sort of problem solving to beat, its simply not enough. I felt that the bosses in the first "Darksiders" were done a lot better. The final boss is a god damn joke.


"Darksiders II" is definitely an improvement over its predecessor. The newly added RPG elements and the loot system are definitely sweet additions. It makes hunting for loot addicting and actually worthwhile. The game is also noticeably longer with a more open world feel to it, and there are tons of optional dungeons and/or quests for you to fufill, which can easily shoot your playtime through the roof. However, with the pacing issues still intact, and the downgrade of quality in boss fights, the franchise still has room for improvement. I really enjoyed my time with "Darksiders II", and I cannot wait to see what's in store next. More love for western games!







Happy gaming!

Friday, 24 January 2014

Top 10 Anime Of 2013: The Fool's Picks




Opening Songs
OP 1 - Kakumei Dualism (Nana Mizuki X TM Revolution)


Ending Songs
ED 1 - Realism (Elisa)
ED 2 - Give These Red Memories to You (Momoko Kanade)

Genre: Action, Drama, Romance, Science Fiction

Episodes: 12



Alright, so season 2 for "Valvrave" just up and over recently. "Valvrave" was definitely NOT ending on season 1, with the way it ended. So does season 2 wrap everything up? Does it explain everything? Does it conclude the series in a good way? Yes and no actually. "Valvrave The Liberator S2" wraps everything up in the most probable way that the series ever could wish for, though it still leaves something to be desired. It ended well, the ending was pretty good actually, though they could have went a little more in depth with it. 
"Valvrave The Liberator" could have been much more, it could have been something amazing. But as it stands, its just a good mecha anime that fans of the genre will find enjoyable. I guess 24 episodes is just not enough for a series as big as this.


Yes, this still looks extremely badass.

If you thought "Preserved Roses" was good, wait till you hear "Kakumei Dualism", because its easily just as good or even better. Once agian, its Nana Mizuki and TM Revolution collaborating together, but "Preserved Roses" was more of a TM Revolution song, and "Kakumei Dualism" is more of a Nana Mizuki song. It's badass as f**k, there's not much more that I need to say. There are two ending themes, the first one is "Realism" by Elisa and the second one is "Give These Red Memories To You" by Momoko Kanade. "Realism" is great, its more fast paced then "Soba Ni Iru Yo", which is Elisa's ending theme in the first season. "Give These Red Memories To You" is also a great ending theme, reminiscent to that of old "Gundam" ending themes...it gives off a great feel of nostalgia.



Rating: 7.5/10



Season 2 cleaned up a lot of what the first season left behind, but they didn't do it well. Season 2 does what the first season did just as well. Great mecha fight scenes that'll make you hard if you're a fan of mecha animes...nothing beats seeing the Valvraves going up against heaps and heaps of enemies with their awesome diverse weapons. However, the plot was just...too convinient. How do we explain everything weird and mysterious in season 1? Just throw in the space Illuminati and aliens, problem solved, now everything doesn't seem so far fetched anymore...because if aliens are in it, everything is fine. The newly introduced Magius race is just an incredibly convenient way to clean up the plot in my opinion, and that they are the "ultimate bad guys that are behind everything". Character deaths are mostly well done with some emotional impact behind them, but I feel like there was too little character development for everyone who died...we had not much of an attachment to those that died, which was just saddening.


H-Neun is pretty badass!

The story takes place after the events of season 1, where Cain took control of a broken valvave and got to materialize it. The students are on the way to the moon, a neutral ground where they could be recognized as the students as they are and receive protection. Haruto has holed himself up as a lab rat to find out more about the "holy spirit" within himself, and the other students are making preparations for settling down on the moon. Things start to look better for the students of module 87, but a group of individuals will be heading down to Earth to look for more JIOR individuals. However, things quickly go south as the ship that are carrying all these students land in Dorssian territory...


"Valvrave The Liberator" is a good anime overall, though its very obvious that it was supposed to be something much bigger. The character cast is too huge, filled with characters that nobody gives a damn about, and the few that we ARE supposed to care for have VERY little character development or sympathetic back stories. 24 episodes is too little for a character cast THIS huge ("Code Geass" had 48 episodes and had less characters). All in all though, its still a nice mecha themed anime for mecha fans to sink their fangs into.


Peace.



Opening Songs
OP 1 - True Blue Traveller (Minami Kuriyabashi)

Ending Songs
ED 1 - Beautiful Sky (Yoko Hikasa, Yukana, Asami Shimoda, Kana Hanazawa, Marina Inoue, Chiwa Saito, Suzuko Mimori)

Genre: Action, Romance, Science Fiction

Episodes: 12



I really liked "Infinite Stratos". It's safe to say that it was one of my favorite fan service harems back in 2011, with its awesome premise of a piloting academy where everyone could hold their own in an arena with their awesome mech suits. Fan service was thrown in here and there, but it made sure not to go overboard. Throw in 5 decently attractive girls in both looks and personality...you get yourself a great harem. I wanted "Infinite Stratos 2" because I wanted to see more of these 5 girls, and it was the only reason why I was hyped beyond hell when the 2nd season was announced. However though, we didn't get much of the original 5 girls in this second season. Sure they were there, but their presence was overshadowed, and it's safe to say that they prioritized fan service this time around, because there was a lot of unneeded silliness going on. Otherwise, it's still the "Infinite Stratos" that we know and love, just expect less of a plot this time around.



N-n-n-nyaaaa~

I liked both songs in "Infinite Stratos", and I liked both songs in "Infinite Stratos 2" as well...because they are practically more of the same. "True Blue Traveler" is the opening song and its by Minami Kuriyabashi. It has a very similar vibe to that of "Straight Jet", which was season 1's opening, also by Minami Kuriyabashi. If you liked "Straight Jet", you'll like "True Blue Traveler". "Beautiful Sky" is the ending theme and its sung by all of the seiyuus of the girls, including the new ones. This one I didn't like as much, "Super Stream" was way catchier, though this isn't too bad on its own.



Rating: 7.5/10



Its still good, yes it is, but it's downgraded into more of a fan service fest with less of the actual content. The plot has taken a slight dip as it goes on about this organization called "Phantom Tusk" that nobody gives a f**k about. The 5 main girls are still the main meat of the show, but they decided to throw in a couple of new characters. Tatenashi and Kanzashi, two blue haired sisters, are added into Ichika's harem, and I've got mixed opinions about them. Tatenashi is a seductive, sexy beast with a carefree personality....something that "IS" needs, so I won't complain. Kanzashi however...is just a quiet and shy megane girl, a god damn stereotype that's not the best. A good deal of the screen time is dedicated to these 2 sisters, and whether or not we like them, the show doesn't care, it keeps on focusing on these 2. Our 5 original girls have less screen time because of this, pretty much the only ones that matter are Houki, Charlotte, and Laura. Cecillia and Ling are like backdrop characters...they need just that little bit more of screen time IMO.



Tatenashi is SEXY~~!

"Infinite Stratos 2" once again focuses on our main man, Orimura Ichika, the sole male student in the IS academy, surrounded by girls far and wide. A small recap, only girls may pilot the IS, but Ichika, for whatever reason, is able to drive one, and is forced to attend the IS academy, which is FILLED with girls. Having the entire school's girls to himself is too much however...Anyways, one day, a girl called Tatenashi comes to him and declares him as weak. Being the man that he is, Ichika refuses to let her step all over him, he challenges her to a duel, and loses. From then on, Tatenashi became Ichika's personal mentor, and he is to train with her instead of any of the other 5 girls. Of course, everything goes to shit when Phantom Tusk, an evil organization attacks, and Tatenashi explains that she was assigned to protect him from Phantom Tusk...So begins a new life with Ichika and Tatenashi...


That's all for "Infinite Stratos 2". Its not known whether or not we'll see a third season...though it seems somewhat likely with the very wishy washy ending. I wouldn't mind a third season, nor do I feel like it's really needed, because this second season didn't really do the franchise as much justice as it would. Its a step down overall, but it doesn't mean much and will still please fans of the franchise.


Peace.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Tales Of Xillia

Gamespot Score: 7.0 (Good)

My Score: 8.0



(+) Pros: - Great battle system that introduces the cross link feature, - Graphics are the best in the franchise so far, - Character cast is excellent (better than Graces' cast), - Excellent English dub, - Decently lengthy and challenging at the right times.


(-) Cons: - Requires two playthroughs to see and know EVERYTHING, which should not be the case in ANY game, - Post game content is lacking compared to previous games in the franchise.



Gameplay time: 30-40 hours







The "Tales Of" franchise is one of the best JRPG franchises ever made. Running for almost as long as the "Final Fanatasy" franchise,  it certainly grows and pulls in fans as the franchise itself gets older. I myself have been a fan of the series since "Tales Of Eternia" (or as I played the US release, "Tales Of Destiny 2"), though I haven't played every single "Tales" game since then, because you know, Namco is kind of stingy when it comes to bringing the games to the English speaking audiences. Luckily for us, they've been rather attentive lately, listening to all the fans, since they've been bringing most of the recent "Tales" games over, which makes me a happy man. "Tales Of Xillia" is the 15th anniversary game for the franchise, and it has received HUGE amounts of praise in Japan. So how does it really do?



Like most other games in the franchise, "Tales Of Xillia" focuses on telling a generic JRPG tale that involves around saving the world of some sort...no big deal right? Though it twists the storytelling and switches up the way the plot works...it'll end up like this one way or another...no big deal, since the storytelling for the games have always been excellent anyway, and the end product has always been satisfactory ("Tales Of Eternia" hit me HARD as a kid). 



Anyway the story this time centers on Jude, a young med student, and Milla, the vessel for the lord of spirits Maxwell, that watches of Rieze Maxia. Jude wanders into a military facility after learning about his professor's death to investigate, and runs into Milla, who somehow broke into the facility to destroy a weapon of mass destruction. Both of them become victims of the weapon itself, and barely escape with their lives. They become national, wanted criminals, condemned by the government. They run into Alvin, a mercenary, and the 3 of them are on the run....




The game looks great, as you'd expect.

The "Tales" games have always had great battle systems that undergo change every time they enter a new game in the franchise. It happens too in "Tales Of Xillia". Combat is mostly similar to that in previous games. You get to free run around the arena, target onto enemies and attack away. Either you hack at your opponents at the cost of AC, which regenerate quickly after depleted or attack them with artes. Artes are the mainstay of the "Tales" games, and they are the terminology for the skills that you use in battle. Artes will vary depending on the user, be it artes that involve your character hitting an opponent with a flair of physical strikes, or a charged spell that inflicts damage on your enemies from afar.


Of course, the artes vary depending on the user. Jude uses mostly artes that rely physically striking his opponents with his gauntlet, and having a small variety of healing abilities (he is a med student after all). Milla is all about flaying her sword around with quick elemental strikes and casting spells based on the elements. Other characters use different artes, but the beauty of "Tales Of Xillia"'s system doesn't come from this alone, as its mostly present in the previous games. Enter linking, a new mechanic that allows you to dynamically partner up with another character during battle.



Cutscenes look good too.

Via linking, two characters will partner up, and they'll work with one another using their character specific battle traits. When attacking as a paired link, both characters will flank the target, allowing for a more sophisticated attack pattern. Characters will assist different during a link, which allows for many possible combinations. Jude will heal and recover you when you fall down, Leia steals from her target when you knock them down, Alvin breaks the enemy's guard, and Elize recovers your mana with Teepo. Also available during linking is link skills.


Certain artes between both characters that are linked can be combined into a link arte, a special combination attack that does major damage. This requires the link gauge at the side of the screen during battle to fill up...when its full, you get to enter cross mode, which basically allows you to spam link artes....or use a mystic arte, which is an ultimate move of sorts...it has always been in ever "Tales" game and will continue to be I guess. Though the mystic artes are as powerful as ever, I found the spamming of link artes to be more efficient in battle, because mystic artes are unlocked quite late in the game. Everything is centered around the lithium orb, which allows you to progress though nodes for stat boosts, skills and artes (similar to FF 10's sphere grid, FF 13's crystarium, "Unchained Blades"'s leveling system...and many more).



Don't just stand there! Help me you jackasses!


Probably the biggest improvement coming out of "Tales Of Xillia" however, isn't the gameplay. It's the f**king graphics. Everything looks gorgeous as hell, even more so than the previous games. The transition to the PS3 for the "Tales" series was truly made when "Tales Of Xillia" hit the market. "Tales Of Graces F" was merely a port over from the Wii, so that didn't really count...we can safely say that "Xillia" was the franchise's true debut on the system. The character models for the characters are the best that they've ever been (Milla is SO f**king sexy), the environments are more detailed than in previous games (though I'd say that variety in environments is somewhat lacking), and the monsters look fabulous.


They completely changed how cutscenes work. No more of the floating text boxes during major cutscenes and simple voice overs during them. Now we have fully rendered cutscenes, characters talking at their own pace, action going on at the same time...its a nice improvement that makes cutscenes a lot more relevant. The skits are the same as always though, just character images talking to one another. But skits are skits, I love them for what they are, and they shouldn't change. It's something exclusive to the "Tales Of" franchise that I really like and I hope that they never go away.


Sexy lady walking down a path...nothing to see here.

The character cast for "Tales" games have always been strong, and "Xillia"'s cast sure pulls its own weight in the story. To avoid spoilers, I won't go too deep into it, but the character personalities sure are...a lot more varied this time around, rather than having 6 stereotypes. The girls are kind of just there, and may not be the powerhouse heroines you expected...except for Milla though, she's one of the protagonists, of course they'd put considerable character development into her. The guys are the stars. Jude is a VERY typical shounen hero, though Alvin and Rowen are very badass in their own ways.


I'd also like to comment on the English dub of the game...its excellent, one of the best dub over jobs for a JRPG since the likes of "Persona 4". I expected everyone to say way worse than they should, but the English VAs did a solid job...especially Sam Riegal on Jude, because Japanese Jude was just....not to my liking. You know me, I'm a f**king sucker for Japanese voices, but I didn't quite like Tsubasa Yonaga on Jude at all. The rest of the Japanese cast was decent...but for now, I'll take the English cast any day (though I still love Miyuki Sawashiro as Milla and Tomokazu Sugita as Alvin).



You technically have to play this game twice, one with each protagonist.

The biggest flaw of the game is the fact that it introduces two protagonists, you can choose to either play as Jude or Milla, and have a different view of the story. However, many times in the game, Milla and Jude will split up. When they meet up again, they very briefly explain to each other what happened while they were gone...its sad. If you play as Jude, you don't know what happen when Milla splits up from you, and vice versia as you play as Milla. These events are GROUND BREAKING! Character deaths, character recruitment...imagine all of those being skipped in an RPG just because you were playing as the other character. Also, the post game content is saddening. Compared to the likes of "Tales Of Graces F" or "Tales Of The Abyss", "Xillia" has a pathetic amount of post game content.


"Tales Of Xillia" is a great JRPG with a lot to like. Being the most beautiful "Tales" game in years, and having in incredibly fun link system in battle, the game gives you one of the more extensive experiences that you could ever ask for in the franchise. There are issues here and there, but the game is still great for what it is. The sequel is already announced for an English release, and let's just hope that it's better.







Happy gaming!




Opening Songs
OP 1 - Yukitoki (Nagi Yanagi)

Ending Songs
ED 1 - Hello Alone (Saori Hayami, Nao Toyama)

Genre: Comedy, Romance, Slice Of Life

Episodes: 13



Honestly, high school comedy romance animes that take place in a modern setting without any interesting twists have already bored me to no end....and I'm not as interested in them as I used to be. However, in comes "My Teen Romantic Comedy Snafu", an anime that takes things to the extreme with an awfully relatable and unique protagonist. You don't see these kind of characters anywhere (the closest being Tomoko from "Watamote"), and with a guy like him, it makes the entire anime very interesting. Where in most other cases, the scenarios would be predictable and/or stereotypical, "My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU" makes it troubling, disturbing and sometimes downright detestable...that's how the protagonist here works. Scratch out all the friendly or caring protagonists, because someone new is going to steal the show. Enter Hikigaya Hachiman...one of the most screwed up main characters I have ever seen in an anime (which is a good thing).



Yeah we have swimsuits over here, so you won't feel left out.

"Yukitoki" by Nagi Yanagi is the opening song, and all I can say is well, looks like she's made it back to the slow-medium paced songs. "Yukitoki" is another generic piece by Nagi Yanagi, it's similar to most of her other songs, and I won't say that it's a bad thing....it's actually a very fitting song to the anime, while sounding rather decent at the same time. "Hello Alone" is the ending theme and its by Saori Hayami along with Nao Toyama, the seiyuus for Yukino and Yui. It's along the lines of cutesy and catchy, which is really good considering how its layed out. At least they got the catchy part right, Nao Toyama's lines sound really good in this.



Rating: 8.5/10



"My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU" is really one of a kind. It's really different compared to other animes with the similar genres...all because its being seen through the eyes of one very screwed up main character. Hachiman alone earns much of the points that this anime deserves, because he makes the entire anime so god damn interesting and screwed. To top it off, even WITHOUT Hachiman, the anime's cast of characters can be quite varied. Yukino is your typical kuudere boring girl, Yui is the cheerful big breasted, clumsy ditz of a girl, then we have others along with it (Zaimokuza is f**king hiliarious, and say yes to Totsuka). Everyone ties in to make quite an interesting and otherwise perfect set of characters...then Hachiman steps in. The plot is great, as all it involves is letting us see the perfect high school life through the screwed up eyes of Hachiman...our detestable star main character. Interactions between characters can get pretty intense too, and if it wants to, the anime can be decently funny (it goes off the charts when Zaimokuza arrives though).



Of course you won't.

Hikigaya Hachiman is the loner of the loners. To other high school students...life in high school is the very definition of youth, and must be enjoyed to the fullest. Make friends, find your own circle and hang out....just like every high school students do. Hachiman chooses the life of the loner. He screws youth, and to him, the very concept of youth is being seen through the clouded eyes of humanity. He has accepted that loner's lifestyle, and from the shadows he discriminates others through his clouded mind. One day however, his teacher had caught hold of his ridiculous mindset and throws him into service club, a club which helps others through the forms of requests. In the club is the school's most beautiful girl..Yukino, whom sees the world through clouded eyes as well. The two glance at one another, and so begins the anime's weirdest and most awkward conversations....


Because " My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU" dares to do things differently, it easily becomes one of the most endearing experiences this year. It takes the very generic high school romance comedy genre and twists it into different experience through the eyes of a VERY different protagonist. You may not like the genre itself, but this one...you have to try for yourself. If your tired of the generic fanservice and the moe everywhere...this one is a great change of pace (there's none here).


Peace.



Gwyn, The Lord Of Cinder
HP: 4186

Skills: Sword swings, Leap strike, Grab*, Kick
Souls: 70000

Difficulty: 1.5/5
Times died on 1st playthrough: 10+ (Ironic, right?)



And here we are after years of posts about bosses in "Dark Souls". After you beat the Bed Of Chaos, you legitimately have everything you need to challenge the final boss of the game, Gwyn, the lord of sunlight, or as they call him now, the lord of cinder. He resides in the Kiln of the first flame, guarding the fire that keeps the current world in check. So...now that you've come to your journey's end, what does the game throw at you? Apparently, not much, as Gwyn is probably a complete joke if you play this right.



Big old man with a big flaming sword...scary~~~


The entire area itself is a f**king breeze, filled with black knights that charge at you one by one, and Gwyn himself? If you don't know the trick to beating him, he can be the hardest boss in the game, no joke. He will cut you down relentlessly without mercy, swinging his blade time and time again....and you will have NO answer to it but just blocking until you run out of stamina...eventually falling to his blade. Your stamina regen will NOT out-sustain Gwyn as he will just repeatedly slash you over and over without any form of resting. HOWEVER, take that to mind and think. How do you deal with regular enemies with mindless and relentless attack patterns? That's right, you parry them.


Sword Swings - Probably his only answer to you the moment you stand in range of his giant sword. He swings at you over and over like a mad man without stopping, eventually overwhelming you since you don't have the stamina to continuously take hits from him, even with a decent shield with fire resistance. Blocking is your only answer, but you won't be able to withstand him for long. Dodge and he'll come after you with his blade swinging once again, he runs crazy fast.

Leap Strike - He only does this if you're far away from him. He'll leap at you from a distance and perform a slash of decent coverage, dealing massive damage. Blockable if you have a good fire resistant shield, otherwise, it's easily dodged by rolling in front at the right time.

Grab* - Probably his only noteworthy move that can destroy you if you play this right.  He'll stop for a VERY SHORT moment, doing nothing, then he raises his hand and lunges forward, grabbing you. If it connects, you'll explode, taking massive damage and causing knockdown. You can't block this, dodge.

Kick - He kicks at you, simple as that. The range is pathetic, and it does almost no damage. This will, however, completely deplete your stamina and put you in a defenseless state if you are blocking, making you open for more sword swings. Just...move back or roll away.



The moment you walk into the boss area your life is in immediate danger...as you see an old man with a flaming sword running at you FULL SPEED. Then he leaps at you with all his might and performs a leap strike, a move that you'll probably only see once the entire fight. Roll towards him for an easy dodge, then the fight begins for real. If you intend to beat him man to man...look elsewhere, because I'm going to just cover the parry strategy. To fight him WITHOUT parry you'll need equipment that has been prepared SPECIFICALLY just to fight him...I won't be going into that.


Anyway, once the battle starts, stay in melee range of Gwyn, you'll never see leap strike again. Keep your shield up, he is going to begin his mindless slashing. If you know how to parry...you know what to do. If you don't, here is the gist. Gwyn will swing at you like mad, notice the way he swings his sword...he has a rhythm. Time the swings nicely so that before the blade touches your character's hitbox, you hit L2 (or LT if you're on XBOX), you'll parry him and put him in a parry state. Now just proceed to hit the normal attack button to massively hurt him. On my 1st run (he has only 4k HP here), a parry with my Demon Great Axe on my Strength character easily did 1/3 of his health.


You know how it goes from here. After getting parried once, Gwyn's AI will not change at all. The moment he gets up, stay in melee range, and he'll start swinging again. Parry him again, he falls, he wakes up, stand in front of him when he does, he swings again...rinse and repeat. This will be the fastest boss in the game other than the pinwheel, if all goes well. However, Gwyn might switch things up abit, so look out for his animations. A grab can instantly screw up your attempt, as you'll either die instantly, or the moment you wake up, he tries to grab you again...OR he instantly slashes you without the time for you to react and you die. A kick will also ruin your day, especially if you're holding your shield up. Otherwise, just keep parrying and you'll be done in no time, Gwyn is quite fragile compared to the soul lord bosses.


You won't die with that health bar...

For a last boss, he's quite the wimp. The parry strat is the easiest, least complicated way to defeat him IMO. This works as long as you have a melee weapon...even if you're an INT, FAITH or DEX based character, you'll have melee weapons that scale, just equip those and parry away. Hell I even did it with a lightning spear without upgrades...it just took awhile to kill him. 70000 souls is a steal for a loser like him. He has quite the badass back story though.


And with that, you've beat the game. I may be doing the DLC bosses...but if I don't then it ends here. Thanks for sticking around.



Congratulations on beating Dark Souls!


I'll probably be doing another series when "Dark Souls 2" drops, stay tuned till then.

Friday, 10 January 2014

Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends Of The Titan

Gamespot Score: 8.0 (Great)

My Score: 9.0


(+) Pros: - An overall HUGE leap from NDS to 3DS with tons of improvements, - Revamped classes are as fun to build teams around as in previous games, - Improved interface allows for better character customization, managing and drawing maps in dungeons, - Overworld airship travelling better than the sailing of EO 3, - More potential floors to explore with side dungeons, - Insane amount of content overall, - A lot more forgiving in training new characters and retraining old ones, - Casual mode (bleh).

(-) Cons: - A tad bit easier than previous games.


Gameplay time: 50 hours+






I know I haven't played many games on the 3DS, but I may have found a top contender already. I loved the "Etrian Odyssey" series on the NDS, LOVED it to no end...even though as a guilty pleasure, I've only managed to finish the first game (would have finished the 3rd one too...f**king Progenitor was OP). "Etrian Odyssey IV" is the series's first entry on the 3DS, and it goes without saying that the transition to the 3DS has made the game a f**king masterpiece. SIGNIFICANTLY improved visuals (even though the 3D in this game is shit...3D for all the games I've played so far on the 3DS has been shit), updated UI, a new overworld, a lengthy new journey overall...everything is just as an "Etrian Odyssey" game should be, and more! Even if first person dungeon crawlers aren't your thing, "Etrian Odyssey IV" is one of those games that YEARNS for your attention, because for heaven's sake, who knows how many dozens of hours have I dumped into this game (more than "Pokemon X", yes, I'm serious).


"Etrian Odyssey" has always been about one thing...exploring the Yggdrasil labyrinth. Even though the beginning of ever game in the franchise is somewhat similar, the end product and overall plot differ from one another. "Etrian Odyssey IV" is not different. You start off as a greenhorn explorer, new to the city of Tharsis, where explorers all around the world gather for one sole purpose: to reach the great tree Yggdrasil that beckons far off into the horizon. As in all of the previous games, many explorers tried, but none have successfully accomplished it....will you the one to break the ice? Or will your guild be just another band of corpses for the f**king turtles in the Golden Lair?



That's a pretty over-leveled party for a baboon....

The game flow in "Etrian Odyssey IV" is mostly similar to that of previous games...and you should know what to expect. The game is a first person dungeon crawler, with turn based combat featuring your team, which you will build from head to toe by yourself. As the game starts you are thrown into the guild house, where you will create a guild and the explorers who will form it. You will name each and every one of these explorers, and you will choose from many different professions available to you...all to form a team of 5 whom will march bravely into the labyrinth to discover the many dangers and wonders that await. When you set foot into the dungeons or the overworld, one thing becomes certain, the game has come a long way in terms of visuals.


Gone are the days of stale 2D portraits of monsters and bosses (though I do miss those now and then)...say hello to the newly developed 3D models of monsters. Environments look as detailed as always, though the inhabitants of these environments are the things that have changed. FOEs are no longer lingering red orbs that follow you around, and bosses are also no longer the black orbs that they are. Instead, now you have fully visible bears and furyhorns right behind your ass, making you feel the tension of fear even better than before (though in a way, red orbs of death were also rather scary back in the day).



You'll have to draw maps as usual, not surprising, right?

When we talk about "Etrian Odyssey", we have to talk about the meat of the game, the combat. Combat is turn based as usual, but what's so fun and intriguing about the series is that you create and craft your entire team by YOURSELF. Their skill tree, skill order, and how you want to shape them...it's all up to you. You get 5 members in a party, and the game has 10 classes that you can choose from. 7 at the start, 3 more as the game progresses. Most of the classes in "Etrian Odyssey IV" have made an appearance in previous games before, unlike the completely new selection of classes in "Etrian Odyssey III". However, these classes in the fourth installment have either gone through name changes and/or received massive tweaks so that they all feel considerably different from before (except medic, you can never change the medic). As usual, as is the case with all of the previous games, it's an absolute blast to build teams around different combinations of characters, and that is a charm of the franchise that will never go away.


Mapping out the various different levels of the labyrinth have also been one of the series's mainstays, and will never be going away. As you traverse through the different levels of the different labyrinths, you will be marking your own steps, drawing walls, noting shortcuts...all in the bottom screen. This shouldn't come as a surprise, as this was how it was always done, though I must say that the UI has taken an improvement. Not just in the map drawing department, but as an overall in menus. It is now WAY easier to customize character skills in the game since everything is laid out in a skill tree format...instead of just a plain list of skills. Its also easier to fit characters in the Berund Atelier as you buy weapons or armor. 



This is now how a FOE chases you around...a real, scary ass bear instead of a red orb.

Overworld travel was introduced in "Etrian Odyssey III" via sailing the waters. It was a fine addition, and luckily for us, Atlus implemented it into "Etrian Odyssey IV" as well. Though instead of sailing in the waters, we go sailing in the skies. Sky travel is a common means of transport for the explorers in Tharsis, and yes, a sky ship is how you'll be getting around the different places you need to be. In the overworld, there are no random encounters, though your ship will still be vulnerable to FOEs that wander around the overworld...these are stronger than the ones in labyrinths most of the time. As you'll be getting requests going into labyrinths, you'll also get requests concerning the overworld, making it a prime destination source, be it discovering new locations to explore or to gather the local foodstuff.  


Speaking of discovering new locations to explore...the new gameplay mechanic to completely discover a brand new dungeon during overworld exploration is a threat to those hungering for more floors to traverse. These are completely optional, which is the beauty of it. You may find monsters that you've never seen, items you've never discovered, or FOEs that can not possibly be vanquished elsewhere. While the main meat of each stratum is only 3 floors (it went from 5 in the first two games, 4 in the third game, and now only 3...wtf), these new side dungeons can serve as "extra floors" that serve to add to your playtime and to relinquish your hunger for exploring new places.


The available classes and their character designs in each of them...

As with previous "Etrian Odyssey" games, the amount of content in this fourth installment is pretty formidable, even more so than in the previous ones. Cruising through the game, mapping every floor to its finest, uncovering everything in all of the lands and beating the main story should net you about an easy 30-40 hours...standard for an RPG game. But going to the extreme, going for the game's 2nd ending, getting every material in the game, beating all the monsters, bosses and even uncovering the scary as hell 6th stratum can net you about 60 hours, tops. That's not counting the time you'll spend experimenting with different classes for different team compositions...


"Etrian Odyssey IV", while being the most improved game in its franchise, is also the friendliest and most forgiving of the series....which can be good in some situations. For one, you won't have to retrain an entire character from scratch if you want to reset their skill point allocations (or reduce their levels by half), in this game, you only need your characters to lose 2 levels to get all your potential skill points back. This makes retraining A LOT easier, and since the game now provides you with training scrolls throughout the story, you can instantly level a character up to as high as level 45, eliminating ALL previous frustrations of having to train a new class from level 1 when your other characters are much stronger. Also, we have casual mode...which I assume is an easy mode? I've never used the damn thing, but I guess it's a welcome addition to those who've always been pissed about the game's difficulty issues.


Yeap, the dragons are back. Someone prepare "Scatter about" please.

I have almost no gripe with "Etrian Odyssey IV", it is by far the best game in the series...and if it improves any further than this, we might have a serious case of perfection coming in. However though, I got to say that if one thing bugs me about this fourth installment, is that the game is more predictable and a lot less punishing than it used to be. I used to die to randomly examining a corpse, but now all you get is a puny spider bite that takes off a small bit of your HP...Monsters and FOEs can still prove to be quite difficult, however there is no longer a "killer combination" of monsters that almost spelled instant death when you encountered them (f**king ants from EO 1 man). The unpredictability and killer enemy combinations still exist! Though the game saves it all for the final stratum...which is a little bit too long to be keeping the guns for.


"Etrian Odyssey IV" provides the best first person dungeon crawling RPG experience up to date. I say first person because there are other amazing dungeon crawlers out there which are on par with this game (Persona games say hi). Brilliant visuals, breathtaking explorations and the intensity of FOEs lurking around the corner have never been better. I've yet to play "Untold" since it is a remake, but because of "Etrian Odyssey IV", I feel like I need to....I need my EO fix! If there is an "Etrian Odyssey V" in developement (it'll come, we just have to wait for it)...please let it be harder. 






Happy Gaming!


Opening Songs
OP 1 (Season 1) - First Kiss (Ichiko)
OP 2 (Season 2) - I Say Yes! (Ichiko)
OP 3 (Season 3) - You're The One (Ichiko)
OP 4 (Season 4) - I'll be There For You (Ichiko)

Ending Songs
ED 1 (Season 1) - The Real Feeling (Rie Kugimiya)
ED 2 (Season 2) - Suki!? Kirai!? Suki!!! (Rie Kugimiya)
ED 3 (Season 3) - Gomen ne (Rie Kugimiya)
ED 4 (Season 4) - Kiss Shite Agenai (Rie Kugimiya)

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance, Fantasy

Episodes: 50 (13 episodes each in Season 1 & 3, 12 episodes each in Season 2 & 4)



I have been sitting on this for a LONG time. I knew that "Zero No Tsukaima" was aired a long long time ago, and I knew that it would be just my kind of anime....but I just didn't find the effort to go and watch it. Well, just recently I did, and I finished everything, all 50 episodes. When an anime drags for 4 seasons its gotta be pretty damn good right? It's all subjective really, like how all things get old, "Zero No Tsukaima" suffers the same fate. An anime like "Shakugan No Shana" managed to stay fresh because it took a DRASTIC change in season 3 that turned out to be for the better. "Zero No Tsukaima" never really changes its formula for all 4 seasons, which isn't exactly a very good thing. The first 2 seasons were fantastic, but then came seasons 3 and 4 which never introduced anything new and were kind of just more of the same...which god old pretty fast. Fortunately, I'll say that it all ended on a good note, at least (considering that the author the light novel series passed away, this was the best that we got).



Henrietta please. HENRIETTA!!!

Every opening song in each of the seasons is sung by Ichiko, and every ending song in each of the seasons is sung by Rie Kugimiya, so you can immediately tell that you'll be expecting the same kind of songs in every season, whether or not that's a good thing, I'll leave it to you. All of the songs feel kind of same-ish, so if you like one, you'll probably like the rest. The way Ichiko sings her songs sounds a little bit like Kotoko's loud and energetic voice...so there's a similarity. I liked "First Kiss" the most, season 1's opening. All of the ending themes are VERY cutesy (as expected of Rie Kugimiya), so you know what to expect.



Rating 8.0 (for the first 2 seasons), 7.5 (for the last 2)



"Zero No Tsukaima" is a great anime, don't get me wrong. For the most part, it serves as a harem in a medieval setting, with some...fairly endearing characters (Lousie is annoying as F**K, but can be nice at times). The standard harem setting in a fantasy setting plays out great here, and there's much to be had, be it cheesy awkward interaction between characters or small fan service segments. There are even minor scenes of action that can be fairly satisfying when Saito bests his foe, or someone  you'd never expect unleashes great amounts of magic to defeat a terrifying opponent. All of these are nice, but the meat of the show is the interaction between Saito and Lousie, which can be fairly wishy washy. While it all ends up nicely during the conclusion of the entire series, the "hardships" they go through are the same damn thing over and over. The constant bickering of Lousie when Saito so much as STARES at another woman gets REALLY F**KING old by season 3 and then Saito acting immaturely as self defense also comes off as a poor excuse. While these segments (there are plenty) can be a little bit stupid, the rest of the anime holds up well and the overall backstory of the world is pretty damn good.



No Saito, this is good!

The story stars one of the most on and off couples in all of anime history, Saito and Louise. Louise belongs to a magical academy in a medieval fantasy world, and Saito belongs in Japan in modern time. Louise is known as zero Louise in her academy, because she can't cast spells worth a crap. Her whole class makes fun of her, and being a member of a noble family, she wants that all to change. During the day of the familiar summoning, everyone in the class is required to summon a familiar, a beast that will follow their mage master for life. While everyone summoned grand beasts and creatures, Louise summons Saito, a regular high school student from the modern world. Now Saito is forced to live in this magical world, bound to Louise as his familiar. His job as a familiar? To serve Louise for as long as he lives. Will he build a proper relationship with her? Well, other girls in the academy have a lot to say for that.


"Zero No Tsukaima" is a great anime at its early stages that degrades into a tired and old formula. Everything else is great, but the constant "hardships" that Saito and Louise go through together get tired as these situations are pretty much the same as the ones before it. As an entire package though, the entire anthology of a series ends on a rather good note, so there's that. I'm glad they they ended it the way that they did.


Peace.


Opening Songs
OP 1 - Realization (Faylan)


Ending Songs
ED 1 - Ai no Sei de Nemurena (Aki Misato)

Genre: Action, Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Romance

Episodes: 12



Just by looking at the above picture, you'll KNOW that I'm going to love this anime...just from that picture alone. I am a huge sucker for high school themed animes that combine school life, harem/romance and action together into one huge package. I've already seen plenty of those, and "Hagure Yusha" is another one that fits very nicely in that category. What's more, if you're into fan service, "Hagure Yusha" excels in that category too...boobies, panty shots...scantily clad women....you ask for it, you get it. While it's easy to pass by this anime right here, the action, world and plot are ALSO part of the show's strong points. It does a good job drawing us into the world of school life which is babel. How powers are brought to light and how different worlds are intertwined serve as a great fantasy setting, which further adds to the intrigue that this anime provides.


Yes, you know where this is going.

These are surprisingly good songs from pretty well renowned singers, if you ask me. The opening song is "Realization" from Faylan, and as we all know by now, Faylan is bloody awesome. "Realization" however, is a tad step down from most of Faylan's songs. It's still a good song, but it doesn't pack the usual intensity that she puts into most of her other songs. The ending theme is "Ai no Sei de Nemurena" by Aki Misato. I haven't heard any songs from her in awhile, and while "Ai no Sei de Nemurena" belongs to genre that I don't really like (the semi cute-sy songs), it's still a decent song. I just wish she'd go back to songs like "Scarlet bomb".



Rating: 8.0/10



Every man's dream yo, anyone would die to be in Akatsuki's shoes. The dude's a god, a legend. How do you sell out on an anime? You make an awesome protagonist. "Hagure Yusha"'s protagonist is a pretty damn likable one, similar to Izayoi from "Problem Children Are Coming From Another World"...they are both pervertic,powerful as heck, and have the personalities that just spell "IDGAF".  Other than him though, the other characters are...unique, so to speak. Miu and Haruka is stereotypical, but the rest of the cast are different from your everyday super powered high school kids (Kaido is just awesome). The plot is pretty average, but the lore and backstory of the series really stands out. Action scenes alright, but could have been better (because Akatsuki keeps stomping his opponents), and the fan service is a little on the heavy side, which can either be good or bad, depending on how you look at it (for me, I like it, some people hate it, some just don't care).



Oh yeah, he's a pimp alright.

Ousawa Akatsuki is a young man that traveled to another world and earned the title of hero over there. He defeated the demon king of that world and took her daughter with him back to Earth, his own world. While in Japan, a school organization known as Babel decided to take Akatsuki in. Babel is a school which specializes in training kids that traveled to other worlds and back, and have special powers. The demon queen's daughter, Miu, enrolled as Akatsuki's sister, and together, they get admitted in class B, the second best class during their very first year. There, as his hero nature goes, he is strong as hell, and he earns many friends and enemies. How will Akatsuki and Miu fare together at Babel? Akatsuki accepts his school life quietly while trying to conceal the fact that Miu is the demon king's daughter of his world.


"Hagure Yusha" is as fun as they come. If you enjoy stuff like "High School DxD", I'd say "Hagure Yusha" is fairly similar, the amount of lore and depth is actually quite amusing. There's a lot to like about "Hagure Yusha", a likable protagonist? Sexy ladies and fan service? Amusing powers? Pick your poison, because these are good.


Peace.