Friday, 30 June 2017

Blazblue: Central Fiction

Gamespot Score: N/A

My Score: 8.5

(+) Pros: - Largest character roster yet, new characters are all great additions, - Plenty of modes to bleed you dry for a single player experience, - Deepest and longest story mode yet, most characters in the roster have 3 arcade mode endings, - New Exceed Accel and Active Flow mechanics make the game much more fast paced and aggressive, - Extensive tutorial mode and individual character challenges help you get good at the game quick, - Great online modes similar to that of "Guilty Gear Xrd: Revelator", - The OST.

(-) Cons: - Still re-uses the same HD sprites from old games (still look great, but they've been using these sprites for f**king 8 years now), - The story mode is long and comprehensive, but at this point, VN story-telling is getting outpaced by other fighting games.

Gameplay Time: N/A

Here it is. The final installment of "Blazblue", and easily the most anticipated expansion of the franchise. We've seriously come a very, very long way from the meager 12 characters we've had since "Calamity Trigger" back in 2008/2009 (man I feel old as f**k). Just look at the roster now, it makes many other fighting games look tiny (ahem, SF5) in comparison. Still, it IS technically the same game that it has always been, just polished and updated to a godlike state over the past years. After so many releases, we've come to expect more from "Arc System Works", and in more ways than one, they've delivered beautifully. "Blazblue: Central Fiction", as the final installment of the franchise (for now at least), is easily the most content rich and fun fighter when compared to other "Blazblue" games, making it stand tall in today's standards, competing nicely against many modern fighting games. Though its age is starting to show, "Blazblue: Central Fiction" still shows that its got some fight left in it, and is willing to go out guns blazing with its final game. 

Following the adventures of Ragna The Bloodedge from the previous game, "Central Fiction" is a sequel to "Chrono Phantasma". For some reason, every single character in the BB universe gets sucked into an alternate reality known as the Embryo, which is actually a world created by Nine The Phantom after she was revealed at the end of the CP story. Everyone in the Embryo has had their memories altered, and the relationships that they forged over the past 3 games were mostly null and void. Only a few individuals possessed the power to retain their memories within the Embryo, but Ragna was not one of them. He awakes in a forest nearby Kagutsuchi, with no memory of anything whatsoever, and begins his journey to crush the library anew once again...

*Sniff* Oh how the Blazblue roster has grown
since it started so long ago...

As a fighting game, there's one very important thing to look at when you jump into "BB:CF". That's right, the roster. For a long time coming now, the roster for "Blazblue" has been growing with every new expansion, and now with its final installment, "Central Fiction" has a grand total of 35 characters (2 DLC). As with most of the games in the franchise, "Central Fiction"'s characters play quite differently from one another, but don't expect the insane variety that you did from earlier games, as with this many characters, there would bound to be characters who play somewhat similarly to one another. Newcomer characters are all pretty fun to use and feel incredibly unique, especially boss characters like Nine (who fights by combining spells) or Saya (who has a flight mode that's incredibly fun to play around with).  For the most part though, the newer additions to the roster are very easy to pick up and have fun with, except maybe Saya, who has quite an amount of technical depth.

A fighting game with the most amount of fighters total up to nothing if the game doesn't have the content to support it. Luckily, "Central Fiction" takes notes from its previous franchise installments, providing us with plenty of single player content to sink our teeth into. Not counting the story mode and regular arcades, we have the insane Grim Of The Abyss, Score Attack and Speed Star modes, which allow us to test the limits of our characters and just let loose to have fun. There's also the glossary that brings you up to speed with previous BB story and terms in case you are unfamiliar with the game's extremely confusing and convoluted lore. Of course, there' also the great gallery mode that lets you listen to BB tunes while looking at artwork and game CG, while also allowing you purchase alternate colors for your characters. In terms of unlockables, this game has plenty, PLENTY to keep you occupied for a long time.

Story mode is the same old deal.

Now let's talk the meat of the game for most of the casual audience: the story mode. "BB:CF"'s story is easily the longest out of all the games in the franchise. Despite streamlining it to a point where its very easy to unlock all the side stories and see all the gag reels, the amount of content here is ridiculous. However, most of it is the same deal as with previous games, mostly still images with moving mouths and blinking eyes while reading and listening to tons and tons dialogue. Sure, this game is without an English dub at launch (while I usually use the japanese dub, it REALLY sucks to see it absent, I already miss Patrick Seitz and Cristina Vee as Ragna and Noel), but the Japanese dub is great and the story can be fun. If you read fast, you can probably get through the entire thing in about 15-20 hours, which is a F**K load of text and dialogue, even for a VN. Of course, there are fights scattered in between, but those last only seconds compared to how much reading you have to do.

The way Nine fights is pretty flashy, to say the least.

Alright, let's get down to the mechanics of the game. If you're still unfamiliar with "Blazblue", its a simple 2D fighting game that borrows lots of mechanics from other fighting games from Arc System Works. Complete with push blocks, barrier usage, air dashing and roman cancels, "Blazblue" is a very flashy fighting game that's quite easy to learn, but very hard to master. While most of the roster is fairly simple, some characters are extremely complex and are very difficult to use. As for changes in "Central Fiction"...things are certainly a lot more aggressive this time around. Gone are the days of saving double bursts for the final match to have 2 "get out of jail free" cards. Instead of bursting, Overdrives are now highly recommended for how rewarding they are, especially with the new Exceed Accel and Active Flow mechanics.

Exceed Accel is a brand new distortion drive attack that can only be used in Overdrive mode. Simply pressing all 4 attack buttons in Overdrive mode will activate it, and holding all 4 attack buttons while in default mode will have your character immediately enter Overdrive mode and use their Exceed Accel. Exceed Accel immediately ends your character's Overdrive mode, but the simplicity and its sudden burst damage can really make or break a match. Then there's Active Flow, a hidden counter that builds up as your character moves around towards your opponent or when your character attacks your opponent. When maxed out, your Overdrive mode lasts longer and your Exceed Accel does significantly more damage. This allows for a more aggressive playing field between both players, which makes for faster, tighter and more intense fights.

Yes, get that Azrael!

Of course, many of these things can be very intimidating to a new player, which is why not just "Central Fiction", but most of the "Blazblue" games have a very intensive tutorial to teach you the ropes. The tutorial teaches you the very basics from landing basic attacks, your button inputs and teaching you the fundamentals of chaining your moves with one another. Everything from wave dashing, roman cancels, rapid cancels, advance name it, the game throws it at you and makes sure you do it well. Then beyond that, the game throws you tons of individual character challenges, teaching you everything you need to know about that character, from basic combos to advanced combos that require the most precise of muscle memory.

Most characters have three arcade mode endings.

Once you've learnt the basics its time to take your skills elsewhere. The game's arcade mode has tons of replayability. Not only do you have 35 characters to go crazy on, most characters have 3 arcade mode endings, split into different acts, each taking place at a different time of the "BB:CF" story mode. There is A WHOLE LOT of story here to lose yourself in, on top of the regular story mode that the game already packs. Of course, there are also the other modes mentioned above to lose yourself in....or you can take your chances online. The game re-uses the lobby system similar to the one in "BBCP" and to some extent, "Guilty Gear Xrd: Revelator". Its a really cool way to interact with players as you run around with your little avatar and challenge other players to matches in a variety of ways, ranging from solo 1v1 matches to team battles and tournament formats. Netcode seems to be stable enough, but then again, a lot depends on your connection.

And of course, it won't be a "Blazblue" review without mentioning our lord and savior Daisuke Ishiwatari. Once again, Daisuke kills it with the OST. While a lot of the work is re-used from "BBCP", the new songs in "BBCF" are absolutely wonderful and are some of my favorites in the entire franchise. The new material is really good, and it goes without saying that songs from Daisuke are probably some of my favorites in all of fighting games.

Run around and look like an idiot in the lobbies.

And here we go with the game's few problems, they're quite obvious actually. For one, the game looks really dated at this point. While the 2D sprites were absolutely beautiful when they first introduced it back then....its been nearly 8 years since they've used it, and compared to many other fighters out there, "Blazblue"'s 2D sprites really can't compare to the amazing graphics from other fighters like "Tekken", "MK" or even Arc System Work's other fighter, "GG Xrd". The story mode as well, its a lot of reading and very little interaction. We're staring at stills most of the time, which is getting a little stale at this point. Once again, other fighting game stories do it a lot better, once again, taking a nod at "GG Xrd", which pretty much has us watch a badass anime movie.

At the end of the day, "BBCF" closes out the "Blazblue" franchise nicely. This is the last "Blazblue" game we're going to be getting in awhile, and while its not confirmed that the franchise is finished for sure, this is what we're going to have to be satisfied with for a long time, and I can safely say that its a nice sendoff to an otherwise great fighting game franchise. Arc System Works have a lot of weight to carry, especially with updating "GG Xrd" and working on that new "Dragonball" fighting game that looks sick as hell. I only hope that when "Blazblue" does eventually make a return, it'll be with the 3D engine for much sicker experience.

Happy Gaming!

Opening Songs
OP 1 - Your Voice Becomes A Map (Saori Hayami)

Ending Songs
ED 1 - Page~The Story I Weave with You (eyelis)

Genre: Adventure, Drama, Fantasy, Romance

Episodes: 12

Another day another round of fairy tales and out fair share of snow whites. "Akagami No Shirayuki-Hime" is a romance show that I probably would have no business watching, but here I am anyway. The romance, medieval feel and pretty boys make their triumph return, in a second season that furthers the relationship between Shirayuki and Zen....except this time around, the focus isn't really there from the get go. Instead of building up the relationship between our two main characters, season 2 brings in more interesting and unique characters that get their fair share of relevance, making it a much more diverse experience this time around. Fans of the series should expect more of what we got in season 1, though if you're looking for a more conclusive act to the buildup between Zen and Shirayuki, you might be slightly disappointed. So fasten your seat belts and get ready for some anime romance tropes!

Honestly, Kiki needs more screen time.

The opening and ending theme of season 2 are relatively similar to those in season 1. The opening theme is "Your Voice Becomes A Map" by Saori Hayami, the seiyuu of the main character, Shirayuki. Its a simple and soothing opening theme that surely fits the show. The ending theme is "Page~The Story I Weave with You" by eyelis, which is a slow ballad that is quite easy to lose yourself into.

Rating: 7.5/10

The first half of season 2 is honestly pretty good compared to its second half. The story picks off after that of season 1, where our main heroine is forced to go into her old kingdom to mingle with the Prince Raji. The style and story progression here is very similar to that of season 1, much to the point where its almost easy to see what's coming. The characters here are yet again, a strong point of the series, with newcomers and old characters both having great dialogue paired with great character development (especially Raji). The story also takes a more serious turn for the season's 1st half which I enjoy a whole lot. The show takes a lot of bold step forward without taking too much risks, which is why the 2nd half of the season pales a bit in comparison to that of the stronger first half. Still, its fun to see these characters grow, though the show never really takes that extra step to solidifying the relationship between Shirayuki and Zen (if you're looking for that here, then I apologize).

Things get real snappy in the first half.

Following the events of season 1, Shirayuki continues to stay in the castle as an apprentice herbal biologist whilst seeing prince Zen and his closest confidents daily. The 2 still hold their feelings for one another strongly, but because of Prince Izana's presence and the fact that Zen has lots of work piled up, the time they spend with one another has decreased greatly. While the 2 still obviously love each other, a rift has started to form. This is further amplified when Shirayuki is to return to her old kingdom to seek an audience with prince Raji, and that she can only bring one attendant to accompany her. Instead of Zen going, he sends Obi, since he can't leave the kingdom of Wistaria at the moment. And thus Shirayuki returns to her own kingdom to meet the very man that sent her out of it in the first place...

While the show concludes nicely, it still lacks a firm relationship confirmation between Shirayuki and Zen, which is honestly slightly disheartening. Its still a fine follow-up to the second season. I doubt we will be seeing a 3rd season of "Akagami no Shirayuki-Hime", even if we do, if won't be anytime soon, which is a shame.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Going Back In Time (Erased review)

Opening Songs
OP 1 - Re:re (Asian Kung-Fu Generation)

Ending Songs
ED 1 - That Was Like A Small Light (Sayuri)

Genre: Drama, Mystery

Episodes: 12

Widely regarded as one of the best shows of 2016, "Erased" certainly had a lot of hype to live up to when I was about to give it a go. While I'm mostly the type of guy that prefers action themed shows, "Erased" was one of the fewer shows that I watched despite it being...fairly slow to get going. It's surely a show that starts off strong and goes on a slower pace for the rest of its run time, its not something that you can take on in a single viewing. Still, for a show that centralizes itself around character development and character building, its certainly a very well done experience that few other shows can compete with. For that purpose alone, if you're looking for a show that's more about someone fixing their past mistakes and trying to make everything was wrong, right again, "Erased" is a perfect show for that feel. Just make sure to get comfortable, and prepare yourself for a slower paced experience (that not everyone might take a liking to).

Poor, precious little Hinazuki...

The opening theme is "Re:re" by Asian Kung Fu Generation, a band that seriously takes me back to my early anime days. Considering that I really liked themes that they sang for the likes of "Bleach", "Naruto" and "FMA" back in the day, I'm really glad to see them here performing for "Erased". The song itself is pretty good, its rocking enough to stand alongside the band's older songs from their shounen anime days. The ending theme is "That Was  A Small Light" by Sayuri, which is a simple, quiet ending theme. Its pretty fitting for a show like "Erased", but at the end of the day, its really not my cup of tea, its too slow for my liking.

Rating: 8.0/10

There are a lot of people praising this show, and I can see why. For me, it surely sits up there as one of the better few animes that I have watched, solely for its story and character building. However, I could really see this one doing a lot better as a movie, no? Stretching it out to be 12 episodes is a little much, especially if there isn't a lot exciting going on for a good portion of the show. Progression and pacing are really the only things that drag "Erased" down in my opinion, because the show feels kind of slow at times. The concept of having our adult protagonist go through his younger days as a kid again is pretty endearing and captivating, especially having to see a mere child think like an adult to really change things up. It's little moments where our hero tries to accomplish things that no child could do that make the show fun to watch. Seeing how the relationship between Satoru and Hinazuki deepen is so enriching and satisfying, so much so that everything else does seem trivial. Most importantly though: the show does have a proper conclusion, which I can appreciate wholeheartedly. 

Oh man, I wish my mom looked like THAT when she's over 50.

Fujinuma Satoru is a 29 year old man who's working as a part timer at a fast food restaurant while also drawing manga during his spare time. In other words, he's pretty much a failure of a man without a full time job ever since his manga didn't properly take off as he intended. He settled for his life of simplicity while having a very special power: one which allows his non-conscious inner self to turn back time for a short amount of time to solve something that he just couldn't sit with. Usually, this power only triggered for very small, meager occurrences, until one fateful day when his mother comes to visit him. The mother and son combo go shopping together until the mother spots something that seems like a child getting taken away by a kidnapper. While she takes note of the man, she also seemed to be noticed by him. Later that day, she is killed in Satoru's apartment with Satoru being deemed as the suspect. It is then his power to turn back time kicks in, only this time, instead of being sent back a few measly minutes, he is sent back to when he was a kid, 18 years ago....

"Erased" is a pretty great anime if you're looking for a very story driven one with great character development. It provides a very satisfying start, middle and ending, as a complete package, I'd recommend this one for sure. Despite what people may say about this one (good or bad), its probably still one that's worth your time as long as you have ANY interest in anime stories.

Name: Protagonist
Class: Highlander
Traits: Very high burst damage, Elemental damage follow-up, Some support abilities
Rating: 9/10

For the most part of EOU's story run, you are really going to be relying quite hard on your protagonist to do the brunt of the damage. While the main story has 3 potentially powerful main damage dealers, the Highlander is easily your hardest hitter, and can be considered the main carry of the team for most of the game. Being a newly introduced class, the Highlander is capable of many things, but there's only one thing bringing him down: most of his abilities eat away at his HP. Much like the Dark Knight from "Final Fantasy" games, this guy sacrifices some HP to do some nasty damage. Luckily, that isn't enough to wear him down, the Highlander is easily my favorite class among the story party.

The Highlander's kit stands out quite a fair bit. He does have some support abilities going on for him in the form of Black Sabbath to heal the party, or Battle Instinct to prevent ailments, which is a godsend. He can also increase the team's elemental defense and their ailment success rate, but these are only icing on the cake: if you really want to maximize the Highlander, you'll be solely focusing on his offensive abilities. His most devastating and high damaging combination would be the Delayed Charge+Cross Charge duo, which does an epic amount of damage, especially when charged with Limitless and buffed with Bloody Offense, both of which are abilities that he can learn. Repeated casts of these 2 abilities as Simon tops you up with heals can very quickly ensue a boss's doom. There's also Spear Assist, which has the Highlander follow-up a powerful elemental attack with a team mate's elemental attack, much like a Land's chasing skills. Considering Frederica and Arthur, this is also a very reliable form of damage.

Name: Frederica Irving
Class: Gunner
Traits: Elemental damage, Binds, Minor Heals, Action Boost
Rating: 7/10

While the Gunner isn't as OP in EOU, Frederica is still a decent damage dealer for the team. While being a very squishy character that dies a lot even in the back line, she pulls her weight quite well with proper set-up. While her damage is fairly pitiful in the early segments of the game, with points into the proper abilities, you'll start to see her damage take off, especially with Arthur's Dilution doing work. Frederica specializes in doing elemental damage...mostly. She can do some physical damage, but in all honesty, she's quite pathetic in that regard with the Gunner's poor physical offensive move set. However, being a gunner, she does have a couple of things going for her which makes her shine.

She won't be hitting as hard as Arthur, but her Charged elemental shots can put in some work. Realistically, those will be your best chances to do some decent damage with Frederica, but since her defense is reduced and she will always go last before she fires, she definitely needs protection from Raquna while putting in work. By right, that isn't enough, so to cover for it, she can assist with binds when needed, and while its quite pitiful, she can heal on the field (though it's too poor to be used in a fight). Her shining star ability is going to be Action Boost, which is a bread and butter ability to pass on to other classes, since its THAT good. Being able to move multiple times is a godsend, and if this does proc, she is going to be hitting for insane amounts. Then again, its all RNG, so she only really works if she wants to. Still, she's going to be a source of damage either way.

Name: Simon Yorke
Class: Medic
Traits: Heals, Defensive Support
Rating: 9/10

Yeah, you're going to NEED Simon in this game. While his stats may not be perfect for being a Medic, you will still need his antics to survive. While the medic has remain mostly unchanged throughout the EO games, its still fairly apparent that you're going to need them to survive. Since he is pretty much our only source of healing in this game, Simon is a godsend. His role is pretty simple, he's here to keep the team on their feet. Healing, removing binds, status name it. Sure, he can do some crazy stuff like poisoning or paralyzing enemies with low success rate, but most of the time, Simon will be too busy with making sure the team survives to even bother.

With the suicidal Highlander and 2 squishy characters in the back line, Simon's job as the healer in this game isn't an easy one. On expert (which is the only difficulty in this game IMO), most bosses can one shot Frederica and Arthur through Raquna's protection even at full HP, so Simon really has got to step up his game as the healer here. As usual, he's got the single target and full team heals. He can revive with...Revive, and remove status ailments with Refresh. Unbind removes binds, and Immunize increases elemental defense just in case Raquna can't use any of her Anti abilities. If you still need more, he's got CPR to ensure that the team has another chance of revival through RNG.

Name: Raquna Sheldon
Class: Protector
Traits: Team Defender, Elemental Defense, Minor Heals, Bravery's Gift
Rating: 8/10

Shoot, they really gimped up the protector for EOU. I never was a fan of Protectors since they did absolutely no damage, but with high DPS on your team, you can afford to take them along. I felt that the team in EOU was SLIGHTLY underwhelming, but Raquna will really save the team multiple times. If you look at it properly, the lineup in EOU other than Raquna is REALLY lacking in the tankiness department, which spells doom against bosses on expert. Being the Protector, her job is well, to protect the team, and as usual, she's got the tools for the job.

As usual, the Protector has basic defensive abilities to cover for the team like the all-important Front and Rear guard. The damage reduction is a must to sustain against most things on expert, and its what she will be doing most of the time against powerful enemies. Defender increases defense for 3 turns, further increasing survivability, and her elemental walls are an absolute godsend against elemental AOE killers, which many enemies pack, especially against the 3 dragons. She can heal, albeit its going to be meager compared to Simon, but hey, she can use it on the field. Honestly, that's all she's going to be doing in a boss fight, but then against the big boys, she can bust out Bravery's Gift, which has her increase her max HP and take hits for the whole team. This. Is. Broken. Considering how high her defenses are, she can easily tank hits for the entire team when you place her in the back line, which has GOT to be a design flaw. When you reach the late game, having Raquna on the back line spamming Bravery's Gift is honestly a little broken. Of course, make sure her hands aren't bound.

Name: Arthur Charles
Class: Alchemist
Traits: Elemental damage
Rating: 7/10

Arthur and Frederica fill up the secondary DPS slot in the team. If I had to choose one over the other, I'd say Arthur does more damage....consistently, anyway. When Frederica procs Action Boost, she obviously hits harder, but when we're taking the RNG factor out of the way, Arthur has it down. The Alchemist has always been the primary elemental damage dealer in the early EO games, and Arthur does just that. Whether you need to take out a singular enemy of a group of them, Arthur's formulas have got you covered. 

Don't expect much from Arthur in the early game, especially against regular mobs where his TP burns out WAY too fast. It's a little better against bosses where he can go all out, but there are many times in a normal expedition where you feel Arthur is dead weight because you don't want him wasting TP on small fry. Anyway, most bosses have elemental weaknesses, making Arthur worthwhile to have along. Especially against bosses with multiple parts, his AOE formulas tear through the enemies where the Highlander and Frederica are more of single target damage dealers. Especially when paired together with Analysis and Dilution, he is going to do some massive damage. Hell, Dilution even works great along with Frederica, seeing as she's primarily elemental damage.