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Visual novels, video games, and what's in between

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Vampirdzhija Vjedogonia

Urobuchi Gen and Nitroplus have proven themselves to be quite an irresistible lethal combination of dark gritty stories and highly quality stylized production values pinpointing straight into the heart of those visual novel gamers who look for something more serious and unusual, especially when compared to what their contemporaries are doing.

Vampirdzhija Vjedonia is Nitroplus’s only the 2nd game but unsurprisingly it keeps the company’s focus on pushing the envelope and trying something fresh and different with their every game but still build upon their recognized stylistic brand. This time Urobuchi (who is also the director) went for a combination cheesy Kaiju, specifically Kamen Raider (bike and mask included), mutated vampire monsters, and the western comic Blade. The premise is very cheesy, in fact so much that you can almost smell the pizza in the oven, it’s sticky and rubbery but sure can be tasty.

Somehow Urobuchi made it all work, even with hot thick layers of cheese the story is very dark and serious with almost no humor but plenty of gore. This all gets even darker and stranger as the plot progresses to a point that things might even feel uncomfortable for some. However this is not to make things darker for the sake of being dark but plays a crucial role in the plot and style of this visual novel. The game does a really great job of pulling your interest and keeps you wanting to know more about what’s going to happen next. It introduces new characters with critical roles to an overarching plot, conspiracies, science experiments, and lots of action. In terms of pacing the story almost never wastes your time. The story is presented as a series of episodes, each episode starts with an opening and an end credits videos which really gives it that Kaiju series feel, even if the tone is a lot more mature.

Speaking of presentation, this is where the game might be a hit or miss for some. In terms of visuals the game looks really good, at least for such an old game from 2001-2003, characters look great and are well designed with a really great color palette and cloth designs. The backgrounds are 3DCG, not surprising since Nitroplus relies a lot on computer graphics for their backgrounds. However the problem with the presentation is, first of all the music is bland and there are NO voices at all. No voices doesn’t mean it’s not a fun vn to play but it takes away from some of the more dramatic moments. Another problem are the monster designs, they aren’t just Ultraman cheesy, they have really bad designs and at times even funny, that is when you aren’t left asking yourself wtf am I even looking at.

An even bigger problem with Vampirdzhija Vjedogonia is that it has gameplay, and it’s a bad gameplay. Since the story plays out like an episodic monster of the week series (with an overarching plot), almost every episode has an action scene where the main character has to fight at least one of these monsters. Before the main character goes on a mission to kill the monster he can choose from a variety of weapons to take with him. As a player you have to pick your weapons carefully, some are better against certain monsters than others. Once you encounter the enemy you enter this really strange rpg style battle with menu selections. The problem is that sometimes whether you hit or miss are just random results. Other times it’s just knowing a patter, select the right choice in response to what the monster is doing. Sometimes the battles can take a long time to finish because you either keep missing or your attacks do very little damage. The end result is that it’s just a waste of time.

With all the praises the game gets it’s also important to know that the game was developed on a quite an old technology. It was only the 2nd game Nitroplus ever released and as far as I know back then they didn’t have their own engine back then and the game looks very primitive on a technological level. Their first game, Phantom of Inferno, was originally developed on Macromedia Director, today known as Adobe Director. For those who aren’t aware, Director was a multimedia content creation editor and was very popular in the 90’s. Think of it sort of like Flash. You can make animations, films, and even interactive games in it, a lot of people used it to make adventure games. The first Phantom of Inferno version looks extremely primitive and Nitro+ probably doesn’t want you to see it, however Vampirdzhija Vjedogonia on the other hand is a little more advanced with a much better, smoother, and more colorful art and better quality sound. So in terms of production values Vampirdzhija Vjedogonia is still playable but don’t expect the sound or the technology to wow you. Also, find a way to cheat through the gameplay parts and you’ll surely enjoy this little known game.

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Dra+Koi

Some years ago Nitro+ released a fandisc under the title Sabato Nabe which included three games. Nitro Wars, a generic Tohou style 2D shu’m’up with a lot of recruitable Nitoplus characters. Kaigen Seito, a shitty addon mini game to the shitty Hanachirasu. And Dra+Koi, a surprising little gem and just might be the only reason to try and track down this rare fandisc. Dra+Koi comes almost out of nowhere as a complete surprise.

Coming straight out of the creative over the top loving and passionate mind of Jin Haganeya as if he watched too much of Schinichi Watanabe’s crazy stomach piercing outrageous and excessive comedic anime, or too much of Hiroyuki Imaishi’s insane over frantic exceptionally outstanding and hot blooded mind bending epic anime, Dra+Koi comes as something in between with its own outrageous breakneck speed at light speed pacing. Everything goes by so quick you barely have time to react but this also what makes this such a great and fun as well as a satisfying visual novel.

The story starts in the mids of a battle between a big ground and air army vs a big flying fire breathing dragon. Shooting it barely scratches it, barraging it with tank shells doesn’t do anything, bombarding it with bombs and missiles from the air has no effect, only entire cities are left in ruins and all the buildings in the area are totaled and leveled to the ground. The dragons appeared in not too distant past of half a century ago and ever since then humanity had a nonstop battle against these unstoppable giant terrible beasts. Dark as it is Dra+Koi is a complete contrast to what you’d expect from such grim and gritty setting, not that the story is very light and completely comedic in nature but the setting itself never gets in the way of what the story was really intended for.

Dra+Koi’s characters are very few but the script does a well enough job so we have no sort of any kind of doubt about who they are and their characteristics and personalities. The protagonist is kind of your typical of the map patterned generic guy, this isn’t a negative and not as bad as it could have been because in a short span of time he changes and the story moves him into certain hard hitting decisions he eventually will have to take responsibility for it as well as how these decisions will change his life in this war turned charred setting. The heroine is there to fall in love in our hero but it’s not worked out as a cliché but more like a twist on the usual fairy tale, only instead the prince on white horse coming to rescue the beautiful princess, we have the princess to be the one who takes action. She’s abrasive, take not shit from no body and will stomp and chomp anyone in her path to her goal, she’s like a just born innocent baby that knows what it wants and doesn’t even consider the possibility of the task.

Romantic fairy tale is what Dra+Koi is at its core but it is also a take on the mysterious or sudden girlfriend genre. If you played Jin Haganeya’s other works such as first Demonbane you’ll know he likes to pay a homage and glorify the typical anime genres in a visual novel medium, it’s a love send off to the years gone by and it’s just as wonderfully awesome but it shouldn’t be, and yet yes it works and it works really well. Many different emotions and themes are covered in such a short span of time, you might have a big fight scene on moment and then a beautifully written slow poetic narration and suddenly some crazy over the top comedy and then some more love and affection scenes. There are even a few h-scenes here which don’t even feel out of place or eye rolling bad boring ones that usually displayed and forced in longer and bigger visual novels. In just its short length you’ll go from insanity to insanity and everything will come to an ending you’ll probably like but not be entirely satisfied. But sometimes the journey is the life and blood of our enjoyment, not the end. And is there but the journey is what takes us there and Dra+Koi is a worthy journey to take.

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Phenomeno

It’s a wonder why people love to be scared so much. Maybe the rush of adrenalin in their brain catches their bodies of guard after of which, a great release when we finally see that there’s nothing there, no real danger, and we are in our usual safe environment. Maybe the after laughter brings hope and restores our belief in the culminations and worries of our mind, secreting a form of powerful alembic of pure neural ecstasy. Or maybe it’s just fun to be scared sometimes. Horror films are undeniably the most profited movies in the business. They are very cheap to make and have great high returns, no wonder in a field where emotional excess is the rule the movie studios keep churning horror films, and their remakes, and their reboots, and reimaginings.

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Visual novels are not strangers to the horror genre and if anything their unique enamoring style, the terrifying bloodcurdling script, the spine chilling ambient sounds, and dark creepy visceral  images, make visual novels one of the best mediums for horror stories and experiences in general. Phenomeno is a very short promotional horror kinetic visual novel and an adaptation of a light novel by Hajime Ninomae who partnered with Nitro+ to promote his book. Nitro+ also hired the famous and talented Yoshitoshi Abe as a character designer. He worked on a few games and anime in the past, most famous and most well known of his works is a highly praised and highly regarded as an all time classic anime series Serial Experiment Lain.

To be more precise, Phenomeno is a kinetic sound novel and the experience feels very close to the classic Chunsoft’s –the inventors of the genre—sound novels such as the chilling horrors Otogirisou and Imabikisou and the mystery Kamaitachi no Yoru series or 07th Expansion’s Umineko or the more appropriate horror mystery Higurashi. It doesn’t have quite the exact same visual appearance as the Chunsoft’s games but at it’s core Phenomeno is as classic sound novel as they come. Contrary to what you might have heard, sound novels are not visual novels with an emphasis on sound, music, effects, and other audio techniques. Sound novels don’t use audio anymore or any differently from any other visual novel. They were called sound novels to promote the so called new genre of games but visual novels already existed before that. So sound novels are just visual novels only with few careful differences. The first main difference is that they use an NVL style text box that fills the entire screen rather than a small text box at the bottom third of the screen. Another difference people might notice is that they have a differently kind of presentation style than a typical visual novel, so if a visual novel has an NVL style textbox it might still not completely be referred as a sound novel. At the end of the day it all comes down to personal preferences, nuances, and technicalities.

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The audio in Phenomeno is very minimal, there are only few music tracks, all are good but as the game progresses there is a much bigger reliance on the natural ambient sounds and sound effects to carry the script and once again Nitro+ did a fantastic job here as well. Phenomeno has great sound but also knows when to scale back and, importantly, not afraid to surround the reader in complete silence. The game was directed by a Nitro+ veteran Keichi Ogami who also directed Guilty Crown Lost Christmas and Tokyo Necro. These games, Phenomeno included, show his ability to change styles as appropriate for the project he’s currently working on. And Phenomeno really shows his skills as an excellent horror director. Phenomeno is also one of the best books to visual novel adaptations, and it’s much harder to do than it sounds.

After moving away from home and getting a surprisingly cheap offer for a new living apartment, Yamada Nagito, a young university student far away from home, suddenly one quiet night as he was falling as sleep, starts hearing strange noises. Could this just be his imagination, maybe it’s a howls of the wind scratching over the surface of the outside walls and roof, or perhaps a tree branch caressing his house. But the noise is too close, too inside the house, too close. Where is this noise coming from anyway?

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The game is an adaptation of the first case of the first light novel. The case is divided into two parts and both tell one complete story so essentially one is a direct continuation of another. There’s also a very short prologue in the very beginning. Each part starts quietly and slowly but in no time the tension builds and the horror begins. It is propagated by the strong narrative with a focus on just as strong progression and pacing by keeping the reader constantly engaged with a perpetually increasing layers of fear, tension, and confusion on top of a compelling mystery really bring the story to life. There are genuine scare moments here but surprisingly there is not much here that could be called a jump scare which is quite incredible considering how too easy it is to rely on jump scares. The nightly dark visuals, the interesting script, the scratching sounds, or just someone walking up the stairs or even a sudden revelation make Phenomeno into a really good page turner.

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There isn’t particularly anything here that will blow your mind on any intellectual or cerebral level. The story doesn’t try to be anything more than what it is and it’s best to take it for what it is and just have fun. Eventually and pretty quickly we discover the strange reason for these ear chilling noises however the source of these noises still alludes us, we’re not even close to discover who or what is making them. What is revealed appears very likely to be a kanji character for the number seven. Yamada admits that in addition he later discovered another number after he heard the very same kind of noise in the night, but that time it was kanji for a number six. If only things were so simple for Yamada but just a week ago he found another number, again it was a kanji for a number five. These numbers appear out of nowhere and always preceded by these strange ghostly scratch noises. What could they really mean, is this some kind of a countdown, is something going to happen when it reaches number one, and will Yamada die.

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This will be the central mystery throughout this game. It will lead Yamada to meet a mysterious girl with beautiful blue gem like deep eyes, and later he’ll meet a few other friends, people in the occult club. His  case will be quite an attractive thing for the club members and they will be on a way to solve this strange and scary mystery. At the conclusion of which, well… You’ll have to play and find out. It won’t blow your mind but for a short length vn, Phenomeno is pretty much phenomenal.

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Hanachirasu

This is going to be a long, +1000 word negative review. It's got profanity and I didn't bother to clean up my language. Sorry, hope you enjoy my rage.

This visual novel is a complete total and utter shit. It’s the most horrible visual novel I have ever read in my visual novel reading career. Never have I read a vn that left me with SO much regret that I wasted time reading this pile of shit. It’s terrible. It’s utter shit. I don’t care what anybody says, this is not a story, this is a waste of time. This is the worst Nitro+ vn ever made. The worst vn ever made, period. No, I don’t care that there are much worse vns out there. I don’t care that there are horrible nukige full of rape and fetishes with no story. These vns don’t count as stories, nobody talks about them for their stories. Hanashirasu was supposed to be a story vn. And the story is shit. Writing is shit. Characters are shit. Everything is utter shit.

The author has absolutely no idea how to write a compelling story. He doesn’t know how to write good characters. He doesn’t know how to pace the story. Holly shit, the pacing. At every opportunity the author stops the story and goes into long unnecessary tangents and exposits about shit nobody cares about, he keeps doing it at the most inappropriate times. There is time for exposition, and there is time to move the story along. And yet, the writer of this vn has no awareness or any sort of clue, it’s like an alien wrote this garbage. He doesn’t know when to fucking shut up, I was bored out of my skull the first time I read this. And this is coming from someone who loves good info dumps and good exposition. I read hard science fiction books and love reading interesting info dumps, I love a good world building and to learn about the wonders of worlds of fantasy. But you have to do it the right way. Hanachirasu gives you entire history lessons that have nothing do to with the plot, it does nothing but stretch the game time of this horrible horrible vn. Why would I want to read it any longer than necessary, why the author wastes his own reader’s time. It’s a shit vn that’s why.

You know what broke me? You really want to know? When one of the main characters kills someone, and then suddenly right in the next scene, it was actually just the NEXT SCREEN, some stranger we don’t even know, never seen until now and will never see again, walks up to our character and exposits about how our character felt and his emotional distress, why he did what he did, his mental and psychological condition that lead to his actions, and recounts what just happened, TO THE SAME PERSON WHO JUST DID IT TWO MINUTES AGO!!!! Do not fucking dare to tell me this is good writing, or that this is a good story. It’s fucking horrible piece of shit, narratively crippled story with an even worse writing. It’s utter shit!

I really can’t see how or why can anyone love this vn. The people who love Hanachirasu also love Muramasa. And Muramasa is one of the longest vns out there, I shudder to think how much worse Muramasa can be. I can’t imagine just how much slower is the pacing with even longer shitty expositions about shit that has nothing to do with the plot. I really can’t see myself reading Muramasa now that I had the displeasure reading Hanashirasu. And is it any wonder that Nitro+ never let this guy write anything anymore. It wouldn’t be surprising to me if they retired him from the company, or maybe keep him as an honorary member, meaning they don’t let him do ANYTHING anymore.

Well, what about the characters? Good characters can make a bad story still bearable, right? Are you surprised that the characters are utter shit. No one is interesting, no one is sympathetic, no one is likeable. Nobody is developed, grows, or changes in ANY way. You might say, this vn is short so it can’t have a good character development, and that I expect too much from a short visual novel. To that I’ll say sit down and shut up, because you don’t know what you’re talking about. Length has nothing to do with how bad Hanachirasu is. A short vn can have just as a good narrative, and tell an emotionally stirring and powerful story as any other super long vn.

First of all, Hanachirasu is NOT that short. It has a hefty enough length to develop characters and have a good plot. Look at Saya no Uta, it’s a perfect example of a short vn that has a beginning, middle, and end. It develops its characters and plot. It perfectly fits into its length, and heck it even has three different endings. The characters in Saya no Uta aren’t likeable either but look how much more we care about them than we do about any of the Hanachirasu’s assholes. You want more examples? Guilty Crown Lost Christmas, an even shorter vn but does an excellent job of telling an interesting story. Sure, the characters aren’t the most developed but at least it tries to do something with them, it makes us care and it has a good paced narrative. And Guilty Crown is even shorter than both Saya no Uta and Hanchirasu.

You want more examples? Dra+Koi, is the shortest vn I ever played, it’s really short. But you know what? It perfectly fits into its length. Very quickly we know and care about the characters, the story has beginning, middle and end. It’s fun, it’s interesting, it’s entertaining, and it’s way more deeper and cool than anything Hanachirasu does. Phenomeno is another great example, short but still tells a compelling and scary story. You want non Nitro+ examples? Sure, look at Dies irae ~Interview with Kaziklu Bey~, this is one hell of an amazing short visual novel. Once again it tells a great story, it has beginning, middle and a freaking end. With few but great characters, the story fits perfectly into its length and it does the job it was supposed to do. I could go on with more examples but I think you get my point. Bottom line, if Hanachirasu didn’t have time to tell a good story and characters then why the the fuck does it waste its already short length on long slow expositions that add nothing to the plot? I’ll tell you why, because Hanachirasu it utter shit.

The art in Hanachirasu is actually pretty good. The sketchy style drawings of the characters adds to their maturity. The pencil drawings are filled with great composition of contrasting darker tones of red and blue colors. The dark overlay lends well to the overall theme and atmosphere and do a great job representing both main characters as two extreme sides of the color spectrum. There are also lots of CGs and they are also drawn really well. This is Nitro+ after all so it is not surprising that Hanachirasu looks good. But all of their visual novels look good so that doesn’t say much about the quality of the work. I mean who cares about that when the story and writing are so bad.

Besides the good visuals the game has good prose. Yeah, the narrative and the story is are bad but I’ll be the first to admit that the prose flows well. It’s descriptive set of words blend great aesthetic to present images in the reader’s mind. The prose is much closer to a book than a visual novel, even the way it writes the dialogue, is all in a style of an actual book. Prose is the only good thing I can say about the writing here. Good prose does not a good story make. And a good prose does not make a bad story. Good storytelling is not a good prose, it’s all about actively pacing the story and keep the reader’s interest. A writer who fails to accurately pace the story and move it along, has essentially doomed his own creation.

I hate Hanachirasu with passion. I hate it so much I almost hate people who love it (I don’t hate you if you love it though, you just don’t have a good taste :P). Because I really can’t understand how can anyone say this is a good vn. It’s not a good visual novel. It’s utter shit.

 

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Battle Heat

The PC-FX was an alluring system full of promise and had a lot of potential to become the next step as a PC-Engine successor. Unfortunately due to PC-Engine’s popularity the PC-FX experienced delay after delay and eventually released in a market already selling advanced systems like the Saturn and the Playstation. The Nintendo 64 (or the Ultra 64 as it was called at the time) was already on the far horizon. Everything seemed to be set against the system that almost could. Whether the system was popular or not, sold well or not, had the most advanced CPU and the most powerful GPU, 15 programmable mathematical units, a bluray, wi-fi, do not say anything about the quality of its games.

Battle Heat was, at least at first, a powerful example of what the PC-FX can do and it was an excellent game to appeal to the fans of the older PC-Engine. It is a fully animated one on one fighting game and it is probably the first in its genre. Yeah there are more games in this genre and perhaps at some later opportunity I’ll talk about those but if you can’t wait there is the Tengai Makyo animated fighting game also for the PC-FX and at least two Yu-Yu Hakusho games for the Super Famicom, not that that’s out of the way let’s get back to business.

The game begins with a long, 3 minute intro animation showing all the characters throwing punches and showing off their superpowers. The animation is not quite perfect and at times you’ll notice small details missing but overall it is silky smooth and even looks as if it’s running at 60fps. That’s a technique that even most Playstation games never did, and there’s nothing to even speak about the Saturn since that system’s videos were really grainy and at times pretty horrible looking (there were very few games that did good and smooth videos on the Saturn but it was very rare. The Saturn did have an MPEG card but were very few games that supported that, mainly the first Lunar and Sakura Taisen fan discs). The opening is also accompanied by a much subtler and subdued song that what would be expected from such a sequence but it works pleasantly well and even has some great beats.

The opening will give you a great idea about the setting and the characters. Mostly that it is almost entirely inspired by Fist of the North Star. From the post apocalyptic world full of sand and destroyed structures buried in the ground to the hot blooded manly characters themselves it is obvious where the inspirations are coming from. For the unfamiliar it must look like a Fist of the North Star licensed game. Hokuto no Ken was such a wide influence over people it’s not suprising to see others copying that exact style. It’s not coming from banking on something popular, instead it probably comes from a strong love and admiration towards something people care so much for.

The opening ends and you’re treated to a title screen with some 16-bit rendition of the opening song and a of a pretty low quality at that, your heart sinks after seeing such a great opening and high quality music. You won’t be blamed if you were expecting to hear something at least good on at the title screen. Alright you start the game and once again like a punch to the gut it breaks your bones to see that even the next screen so low quality and lacks any thing that would remotely try to impress you. Ok, ok, when we get to the actual game things will get better right? Well, yes and no.

This is where the game completely and catastrophically breaks down. It’s not like you should expect an amazing story or superbly innovative gameplay but what you should, probably, expect , is at least a well done presentation because after all presentation is the selling point. It’s a shame to admit that the presentation doesn’t reach the goals it set for itself. First of all there is almost no story, or actually no story at all. You can get the basic premise from the opening and the ending is just some text scroll to give you a conclusion to the plot. There are no story scenes throughout the rest of the game. Why be so picky you might as, this is just a fighting game and since when do fighting games need a story? If this is a cinematic fighter wouldn’t it be natural to expect at least some kind of story?

The music is also pretty awful 90% of the time. At times it sounds like random noise and not the good kind of noise, not something that you’d expect from a PC-FX but more like from an NES, even this comparison is a disservice to the old Nintendo system. Sometimes there isn’t even ANY music at all. The entire atmosphere is lost at every single moment and section of the game it just hurts the ears and I wouldn’t wish it on anybody.

All that could be forgiven if at least the graphics did their job. At the most basic aspect they do their job admirable, you see animation sequences for every move you have from punches to kicks, jumps, defense and special moves, and even when your character is punched or kicked or hurt some other way. But not of these animated sequences connect from one sequence to the next. Rarely you’ll see two characters on the same screen, almost the entire time each attack is animated separately from whoever you attack. You make some sort of attack your chosen character performs that attack (hitting the air) then scene cuts and shows how your enemy is either hit or avoids the said attack. Once again, simple enough they were not going to animate how each and every type of attack from every character on every other character, it’s not a multi-million budget game so of course we shouldn’t expect that from the developers on a shoe string budget. But the problem is that every single move anyone does is cut much too soon from an offense scene to a reaction scene, the animation and the sound are cut at such critical moments it absolutely ruins the impact of the attack. It’s like you watch a Jackie Chan fight scene but just before a punch or a kick lands, just before the critical moment of impact somebody cuts the scene and shows the reaction which leaves you baffled as to what exactly happened. Now imagine that it happens with every single attack from either Jackie Chan or his rivals and you get an idea how annoying it really is and just how ridiculous and annoying things get.

The controls aren’t that great either. At first you’ll be struggling to know what each button on the controller does or whether they even do anything. It takes a long time to experiment with news because the game plays more or less like a random rock-paper-scissors game. For every attack there is another attack that can counter it. This means it’s less about skills and more about luck and luck is not always on your side. This leaves you only one thing to do, either randomly try things and hope to memorize every enemy’s attack and hope to be able to counter them as many of those as possible.

I really wanted to like Battle Heat. It’s got a wonderful art, great idea behind it, well designed characters, and so so much potential. But it just isn’t worth the price of admission. Unless you want to satisfy your morbid curiosity I guess you could try it if only because there aren’t many games like it but don’t expect something great and you might, just might have some fun.

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The stench of crime saps the streets under the cover of dark hollow night like twisting tendrils penetrating everything like a dark putrid stench of death. Like river of rust, crime sheds its dark red skinned coiled innards of a hungry beast shredding the remains of its collapsed prey, unable to scream unable to breath, eyes as empty as kindness and purity of this city. Cold empty breath detaches from freezing blue lips, everything crumbles under its dark cover of terror and not even a wind or stare or reaching hand to pierce the blackness. This is Gotham and I am her shadow. I watch her morph like a shifting smelting iron crying out to me, caressing me, begging me. I am her protector. I am her dark knight. I. Am. B-A-T-M-A-N!

Hopefully you haven’t left after such a melodramatic introduction because we are going to talk about one of the best Batman games ever made. It’s also one of the best Famicom (NES) game ever made. Finding a licensed game, a good licensed game is no easy task. Game developers almost never have the time to flesh out their ideas and tweak the game design beyond the basic mechanics. Once in a while an exception to the rule comes out and shows everyone how to do a licensed game. Such is this Batman game and it’s a masterful example how to take an idea about a movie, then throw it away and make something better. That’s exactly what this game does because very little of the actual move is kept intact, but that’s for the better.

Tight controls are a mandate for almost any action game. Take away tight pinpoint accurate control and instantly the game metamorphoses into a puff of smoke of shallow self. The controls in Batman aren’t as tight as that but they game utilizes that to its advantage unexpectedly well. The main attack action is Batman’s punch with a good range. The detection hit is also pretty fair so even if you hit with your fists you are never forced to come too close to your enemies and can punch them from a safe distance. Killing enemies will leave some invaluable items like hearts to replenish your hit points or additional ammo for your sub-weapons.

There are 3 types of weapons, all available from the very beginning of the game, all weapons use the same pool of ammo. First weapon are the Batarangs, these have a short distance and the weakest weapon but they are also shot fast and can deal multiple damage on an enemy, the Batarang consumes one ammo. The second weapon is a gun that shoots what looks like little rockets, it’s got a long range and a very useful weapon but it takes half a second before it is shot, the gun consumes two ammo. The final weapon is the strongest one, it requires three ammo points. Batman shots a projectile which about halfway through it’s flight splits into three projectiles and keeps flying on its path. This third weapon can be very ineffectual if it’s not used correctly because there is a longer delay before Batman shoots it.

Beyond that Batman can also do a high or low jump depends on how long the player holds the jump button. That’s not very impressive but Batman can also do wall jumping, it’s fast and one of the game’s coolest mechanic.

The game expects you to learn the controls because it was designs shines through how it is designed around these controls. You either master it or you give up on the game altogether. Every single section of every level is carefully thought out how the player will advance with the a very meticulous design.

Similar to most games when Batman is hit he enters an invisibility mode for a few seconds to give the player time to escape from the hazardous environment. But what’s interesting is that when an enemy is hit his collision it turned off for a short time making it possible for Batman to touch the enemy without damaging himself.

Once again, the controls, disabling enemy’s hit box when they are hit, wall jumping, and how high you jump are all combined into a special attention almost as if under a microscope. You’ll be seeing electric walls, floors and ceilings and have to avoid by jumping at just the right time in just the right direction and at the exact height just to prevent losing another life point before you reach your next boss. At times you have to go fast and at times carefully take your time but you still have to be intimately familiar with the controls. There’s just not getting anywhere without that. That’s one of the things that makes the game so impressive. If you’re an aspiring game designer this is a game to play and study. At times the level design feels like a puzzle platformer and not a straight up action game.

Unfortunately there are a few unfair spots where you are required to make some unfair jumps. It’s a shame to see a stain on what is otherwise a perfectly designed game. There are very few spots where the jumping precision required is on the unfair side of things. It’s obvious these sections were not as carefully tested as most other parts of the level. At times weapons feel useless because of how Batman can be at using them which makes some bosses a little frustrating.

The presentation is another area Batman excels. For the 8-bit Nintendo the quality of graphics and sound look and sound as if it comes from the house of Konami. In fact, if you look at the game without being told who made it, I guarantee you’ll think this is another Konami masterpiece. That’s how good the game looks, sounds, and plays. It won’t be surprising if the game was developed by ex Konami people.

Batman for the NES is an excellent game regardless of being licensed or not. It’s a very fun game that is still extremely enjoyable even today. If you miss the old nostalgia games, real old classics not the nostalgia modern indie games try to be then check out Batman.

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A lot of people kept asking me where have I’ve been and why haven’t I updated my blog in the past 4 months. The reason is that I hit a rock bottom, I was in a huge slump from games and vns and any stories in general. It is all because of one single game that I played at the time, Hoshi o Miru Hito also known as Stargazer for the ancient but beloved Nintendo Famicom system. It wasn’t simply a game it was an experience. The knowledge that nothing like this has ever been made before and since the game’s release brought a sense of emptiness and depression on me. These past months I couldn’t get into anything, no book was good enough, no vn was able to grab me, no anime was entertaining, no game was fun anymore. I just couldn’t do anything anymore. This happens very rarely to me and I can count on one hand the stories that made me feel this way but even then it didn’t take me so long to recover. I don’t even know if I can make this game justice by writing about it, everything I write and everything I read looks like shit these days anyway but I also feel like this is something I have to tell people about. It makes me even sadder to know that almost no one knows that this game exists and as time flies the game has less and less chance of being discovered by a new generation of gamers and maybe eventually fade into the ether of empty dark void of obscurity. I don’t know if I’ll ever come back to playing other games or even be able to enjoy any other kind of story in any medium not only video games or jrpgs, visual novels or even books and movies. That is what Hoshi o Miru Hito left me feeling and I don’t see what else could fill this emptiness in me so I might as well just give up on everything right now. Where should I go now and how am I going to move on with my life when there is nothing that comes even close to a game like Hoshi o Miru Hito. I used to think I know what a good story is and there are some that I kept really close to my heart. Stories that moved me, got me thinking, taught me so much, and inspired me to write and use my creativity to create, build, and grow. What am I do? I guess you want to know what brought me to this state so let me tell you all about it. I hope you’ll listen to my story and some day try to play Hoshi o Miru Hito on your own and maybe I’ll have someone else to discuss a game nobody seems to know about. So here we go, let’s begin with my review. Not exactly review, I guess just an opinion piece but whatever. Let’s begin!

Play the game without a walkthrough. This is the first thing I want to tell people who decide to play this masterpiece. It is an old jrpg from the first Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy era and it has some of those gameplay conventions however it mostly avoids it with original take on similar old ideas. I say old ideas but at the time those ideas were still fresh in games so if you think about it even for its time Hoshi o Miru Hito broke new grounds by refusing to do things the traditional way. Having said that you do need to grind but not as much as its contemporaries and usually you’ll know when you need to grind. The game does a great job giving gamers an idea when is a good time to grind and for how long. But don’t get discouraged since there is so much more to the game than grinding. So take your time with the game you won’t be able to rush through anyway because there is a lot of story here get through and you should take your time enjoy the characters and what they are going through. Have fun reading the mental witty dialogue between them and the very profound narration and descriptive sentences. It all flows so naturally you won’t even notice how everything jells into each other from plot to backstory to info dumping and back to plot. The game never puts the player in an unfair unforgiving game braking frustrating situations like most jrpgs of that era and at every point it also maintains an amazing pace between story and gameplay sections so you never get tired of one or the other. It’s as if the game was play tested and polished for over 10 years and if that’s true then the game is even more ahead of its time. No two words about it, the developers should be celebrated every year for making this wonderful game. There should be a Hoshi o Miru Hito holiday or something. Well, maybe not. But it damn sure would have been cool to celebrate every year.

Roughly speaking the story is the biggest attraction of Hoshi o Miru Hito and it is about 90% make up of the entire game. Even right from the very first minute the story hooks you and throws you and the characters on an unbelievable journey of discovery, love, tragedy, loss, comedy, irony, growth, coming of age, despair, mystery, mind screws, life, philosophy and whatnot. It is difficult to categorize the story into a single genre because there is so much happening it is genre transcending in a scope beyond what can be encompassed in a single genre. At its core this is a science fiction story and it’s as hard as they come, I mean there will be long and awesome info dumps about pretty much every relevant topic you can think of, everything from genetics, neural energy, psychological effects of going through therapeutic ecological deformation, different kinds of bacteria, nano technological medicine, self replicating soils capable of separating themselves from earth and form their own planets, historical and futuristic philosophies, the Schrödinger equation (they give the best explanation I have every read), viruses transferred through light, microbiology, ecology and its effects on environmental evolutionary perpetual life igniting systems, financial markets, complex mathematics, quantum entanglement, super symmetry, super position, anti-gravity physics, particle physics, liquid and rigid body physics, astrophysics, skin discoloring light projectors, movie books and newspapers, molecular mutations, and it goes on and on. I could feel an entire encyclopedia with every new technical term the game throws at you and that’s just terms if I was to write down every info dump then we would be here forever until maggots will feed on your raw stinky rotting carcass when your bones turn to ash and we won’t stop until the year 3000 rolls along and maybe not even then. But the game doesn’t have a TIPS system unfortunately so if you want to review some terms you won’t be able to so you better either write things down or remember or you can just do nothing and simply enjoy the story. It is unfathomable how they even fit so much text into so little space because nothing short of some math genius could come up with such a sophisticated fast and powerful algorithm that even Google couldn’t come up with. At a time when games struggled with telling stories developers couldn’t fit much text in a game so much of the story was delegated to the game’s manual but here we have a game with so much text and it’s all in there, in the game and nothing story related is in the manual. The game also never had any extra printed materials like art or fan books. Not even an anime or novel adaptation. It’s probably for the better because an adaptation would butcher the wonderful writing and prose.

If you thought this was all then there is even more. The characters will be having lengthy and profound discussions about deep philosophical and transcendental issues relevant even today. Many questions will be raised (some will be answered) such as what is life, what is a true death, has the universe just came to be or is there a grand design, do we have the right to evolve our biology and technology, should we simply live not concerning ourselves other than procreating, are souls real, does life even has a meaning (the game will give you an answer and it’s not what you expect), evil really exists or just a different perspective. Throughout the game you’ll face many of these topics and trust me when I say this is less than 10% of what is covered in this story. The most surprising thing is how the game handles each theme and topic. By not just giving you long (but fascinating and never boring) info dumps it actually shows you how things play out throughout the story. Why and how ecology can shape life’s existence. How a change in one branch of quantum physics led to a new prophesized philosophy which in turn change some scientific beliefs and led to huge evolutionary jumps so much so that eventually people started developing ESP powers. It goes really deep into how ESP works and the inner workings of the ESP developed brains. I won’t be surprised if one of the writers has 3 PHDs in Neuroscience. Thankfully you don’t need to be a PHD yourself as the game goes to extreme lengths to make things clear and easy to swallow as possible. One wonders if the developers knew they are making a game for adults because it’s all a bit too heavy for children to read and understand. You can turn off the long expositions and info dumping in the options screen but you’ll be missing so much good stuff I don’t recommend you do it. Besides, when you turn it off you loose on the story’s great pacing since the information is very very carefully spoon fed to you almost entirely pre-calculated when, how, and how much stuff is revealed to you at every single moment. It’s not an easy style of writing to master but somehow the game manages to avoid the usual clichés and pacing destroying slowdown dragging in the mud unbearable  game breaking issues with unsatisfying game play to story ratio.

Largely the story is scientifically sound with most of it real existing or theoretical science having been proven and came into existence. But the writers didn’t shy from diving into pseudo science and sometimes even adding fantasy elements as well. Things like ESP are obviously in the realm of pseudo science and not something we can confirm by any scientific theory or do an exact experiment. However the writers put a lot of special attention to give you a plausible explanation how this might possibly work and they do that with a straight and serious face and you as a reader are compelled to believe that yeah this is real science right here. There is no hand waving and suspension of disbelief every tiny idea is backed up by scientific reasoning that supplement real life theories and practices. One of the sub plots (the game is linear so all the topics are tightly waved into a single coherent story) is one of the main characters is captured and the rest of the team has to save her. The story leads into a laboratory where some crazy experiments were being conducted on humans which we later discover that through some incision into the a very tiny part of a brain (the incision is made with a thin, less than .0002 micrometer knife) a tiny machine is inserted into the brain called the GME, or Genetic Memory Extractor, as its name goes the tiny microscopic material extracted from the brain possibly contains the soul of a human and with it the entire genetic memory all the way back to the first ancestor. Yes, you just read it right. When the characters finally find their friend her condition could only be describes as a deep transelucidery state. Eventually to save her life two of the characters extract their own soul and fuse it with her to fill up what she has lost. This causes them to lose some of their own souls too. But no matter what she already lost her soul and will never get it back. This a bare minimum of that plot there is so much more going on and this is one of the least interesting least emotionally charged and least powerful events in the game. I tried to avoid spoilers as much as possible so I plucked one of the lesser parts of the game to give you an idea how much the characters have to go through before the epic finally comes to its conclusion.

Furthermore there is so much more going on I can’t possible describe it in a single blog post. Actually I don’t think even a short summary can be less than 100 pages. And that’s if I avoid all the spoilers. The game’s long scrip unfortunately has led to some graphical and auditory compromises. The graphical tiles are somewhat repetitive at times even more than what you’re used to see in similar games like Dragon Quest. But even here the developers were clever enough make up graphics that are used in service of the story rather than just being there. There is so much detail you won’t even notice it on your first playthrough. But later you’ll notice how things are arranged in a very special way. How at first something looks like a tiled background making up the overworld but suddenly the imagery is a visual representation of the main character’s state of shattered mind. The soul searching journey incubating throughout the story will come into full view once you decide to take your time and really think about what is it the game is trying to show you. The audio took the biggest hit. Obviously they had to compromise here and it is the place where the most compromising was made. There are just too few music tracks for such a long game. Yeah the music is awesome, at least most of it but some tracks are just there. These tracks serve no purpose and it would have been better to use the resources somewhere else. Just a waste of effort in my opinion. The sound effects are a miss as well. They aren’t any better than what you get in any archaic jrpg of the era. The effects do their job so there’s no complain but with a little bit more effort they could have turned it into so much more. None of these problems ruined the experience for me in any way and I was able to get used to these sounds very quickly and with no trouble at all. The developers squeeze every single juice out of the Famicom’s cartridge and every space and memory the system has available. It was an issue of balance of how much memory they dedicate to the presentation and how much to the story and cutscenes. Anymore attention to presentation would force the developers to cut the story and any putting more effort into the story (beyond what’s already there) will probably turn the game into an interactive fiction without any images or graphics and sound. Game development pushes people to their limit but sometimes you got to sacrifice something in order to achieve a better and a more equally balanced end result.

On the subject of actual story, it’s not possible to talk about it without showing why it is so good and what makes it so special among other jrpgs. So beware that I will discuss the story but also beware that the story is so huge and so long that I’ll barely scratch the surface. Our story begins with four young men and women waking up in the middle of what at first seems like a forest but very quickly appears to be an illusion. The only thing they know is that they don’t know who they are and they don’t remember anything. Once they enter their first town they discover a rumor about child kidnapping in the nearby forest. The children come back but they aren’t the same almost as if they are empty and soulless. The group decides to rest at an in. Before they go to sleep they decide to share everything they know or can remember about themselves. One of the female characters starts twitching unnaturally, her eyes roll back and she starts screaming some kind of number sequence. The entire group panics and tries to help her but their efforts were fruitless. Eventually she stopped and came back to her sense. She didn’t remember anything that happened just minutes before. Later than night while one of the characters taking a shower he noticed a very tiny unnatural bump in the back of his knee, he cuts it and reveals something that looks like a stone. He talks about it with the other crew and all of them seem to have the same object in the back of their knee. Next day they are asked by a woman if they saw her child, feeling pity for the woman they decide to try and find her child. This sub plot leads them discovering a strange experimental genocidal weapon. I won’t spoil this part of the game but lets just say that if you stay sane after this you’re simply not human. After the tragic event the group comes back to town only to have it destroyed by a mysterious circumstance. The story continues from there following our characters as they go on their journey of discovery and understanding of life, world, and the universe.

Over the course of your journey with the main cast you’ll meet many other characters and everyone is fleshed out enough to feel real, even the so called bad guys aren’t bad at all and every villain has incredible depth no matter how cruel their tactics may seem to you. It almost feel unnatural how all these people feel like they are living breathing personas as if you knew them your whole life. This is a mastery of writing shining through and through in this game. Some characters you meet only exist during a single sub plot and side quest but they are all unforgettable. One subplot involves a female mechanic who lives a lonely life but later we discover she was the one who developed the Rociter Feractic Ensimenal Propulsion system used by almost every flying craft in the world. She lost her first son when an experiment went wrong and he got caught inside the machine. Her 2nd son turned into liquid when using one of the machines she built started to melt because of the wrong dosage of Hyplicyclisic Estomonigmon (in game term, basically a power liquid used instead of electricity). Her husband left her soon after the death of the second son and only a month after that he died too, when one of her machines explodes and kills him along with other 200 people. In another part of the plot the characters enter the 4th dimension in search of God, it’s quite an amazing journey and it’s the best depiction of the fourth dimension I have ever seen, they way they visualize the world through and it was simply brilliant. The story is not all tragic and horrifying of course. There are plenty of bright and happy moments that will make you feel all fluffy inside. There are also a lot of really hilarious moments as well, like that time when they all go drinking and suddenly discover than one of them is underage. Another hilarious sub plot is one of the main characters is scared of dogs (later we discover why and it will make you cry) and this leads to lots of insanely funny scenes whenever some dog shows up, one time while he is in a shower, lol. Speaking of showers, the game doesn’t shy of naughty moments either and you can peek in a women’s shower though you don’t see anything and one of the characters even gets soup in one of his eyes for a few in game hours.  

Lastly I must talk about the ending. Don’t worry there aren’t any spoilers here but I really feel like I have to say a few things about it if only to prepare you for what’s to come. The ending is… well it is a happy ending but it won’t leave you happy. After all that the characters went through, after all the happy times and mostly dark twisted tragic heartbreaking soul wrenching events you go through, after all the deaths and carnage the happy ending is an irony of circumstances. Could you really feel happy surviving and staying alive when you paid for it with so much bloodshed and loss. Can you call yourself happy when there’s no one to share it with. The writers knew they were taking too much risks so the final scenes of the epilogue (the epilogue is only story and no gameplay and it’s 50 minutes long) try to uplift your spirits. They try to give you hope and to look into the future, to live a better life, to become a better human being. But the question still remains is it all worth it in the end. The many twists and turns the story took, the unexpected deaths, the bloodshed, the slaughter, the warm happy, and the hilarious moments, the pains most of the characters go through and the tragic end to it all will be hard on some of you. Even if the ending tries very hard to be happy the memories leading up to will prevent you from smiling, only tears will be welcomed, only tears.

So I hope this gave you a small idea why I couldn’t recover for months after playing Hoshi o Miru Hito. I’m still not fully recovered. Hoshi o Miru Hito is the most grand and epic story with a huge all encompassing scope and the best story ever told in any jrpg.  No in any video game. No, best story every told in any medium ever invented by a man. As a side note, there is a hack for the game to change up the graphics and balance the gameplay but it completely misses the point of the original meaning. There is also a modern 16-bit style remake made by fans of the game but without spoiling it I just want to say that there is a reason why the game works best in its original form and a remake cannot live up to the original in any way. Why would anyone even want to remake and redo a perfect masterpiece anyway it’s not like people who played it wished for it and the rest don’t even know it exists. It’s like taking a Mona Lisa painting and remaking it to have a better smile and blue eyes and maybe a blond hair and a flower garden in the backgroun and a blimp in the sky. You don’t tinker with classics and not when they are already so much as perfect as Hoshi o Miru Hito.

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King of the Monsters

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Japanese monsters beating the hell out of each other in a fight to the death has been projected in the Japanese theaters all the way back in the early half of the 20th century. Being the 90’s kings of the arcade SNK decided to take their hand at the monster brawl formula and made King of the Monsters.

King of the Monsters is a 2D fighting game but it’s not a true fighting game either, it’s more like a wrestling game with giant monsters punching and kicking each other to the death. There are three gameplay modes to choose from, a Player vs. the CPU, 2Players vs the CPU and Player vs. Player each is self explanatory and don’t need to be explained what they mean or how they play. As far as the monsters go there are 6 sci-fi movie monsters to choose from but except for one or two the rest are really unimaginative and uninteresting to play as. They are just too generic with no defined characteristic to define or make them unique.

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The player moves through 3 or 4 Japanese cities one by one and defeating a monster in that city before moving to the next city and fighting another monster. What makes the game fun is perhaps the destructible urban environments full of buildings of all shapes sizes and heights and some unique buildings as well like a football stadium and a destructible bridge. Destroying small buildings takes no effort at all, the monster can just stomp on it and It will explode but the bigger building require more effort and need to be punched several times before they are destroyed. SNK made exactly what an environment in a game like this should be and completely fills in your expectations. Eventually even military tanks, helicopters, jets, and even some advanced laser weaponry is mobilized by the army but of course their efforts are useless against the enormous devastating monsters.

Once again the details SNK puts in their games also define this game as well with the monsters able to grab flying planes from the sky and thrown them at their opponent. It’s even possible to pick up a passing train right from the rails, an entire train with what can only imagined is full of people and throw that at the enemy. By the time the battle is over you could leave the entire city in a complete state of devastation, panic, fire, and utter destruction. Strangely there aren’t any people walking around the city although there are some, very few, cars driving around.

King of the Monsters is just a glorified wrestling game and it really feels like nothing more and nothing less than what you’d expect from a wrestling game. You don’t have a lot of freedom of movement and the environments are blocked on both sides with some kind of electric field, probably because the military set these fields up to contain the damage but how then can the monster move from one city ot the next if it can’t get through the field. It’s not enough to drain the enemy monster’s life, nope. You have to attack it so it will fall on the ground but even then it’s not enough, now you have to jump on him and pin him down while waiting for the countdown to finish, once again, just like wrestling, and just like in wrestling the defeated monster can escape being pinned down and the fight will continue until you repeat the process. But there is also a time limit  which if it down you lose the fight no matter if you have more life than the enemy.

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Some holds and throws will make the other monster drop power icons you can pick up. If you collect enough of those you’ll level up and become stronger. It’s a nice addition but ultimately doesn’t change much or makes things any more fun and you got to collect a lot of those power ups before you can level up.

The graphics have some pretty nicely detailed environments but most of the game is drawn as if it’s an early 16-bit game and not something you’d expect from an SNK arcade game in the 90’s. The colors are just too bland and too overblown with brightness and have an ugly contrast values and it just doesn’t look pleasing to the eye at all. The monsters suffer from this the most and that’s too bad because that’s what you’ll be looking at most of the time anyway. The game has some good visuals but it also, in a way, just looks ugly to look at.

The game has great ideas and utilizes everything pretty well however the sum parts of the execution leaves a lot to be desires. The game gets tiring very quickly, every environment is almost the same and looks indistigueshible from every other environement. The controls feel stiff and very slow at times which sometimes leaves the player wonder what he did wrong or what he did right. The lack of variety even the developers even force you to fight all the same monsters again once you already defeated them, retrace the same steps visiting the same cities and fighting the same monsters twice. It gets awquard to play eventually and stops being fun.

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King of the Monsters had great ideas and it utilizes everything it has pretty well, however the sum parts of the execution leaves a lot to be disered. The game gets tiring very quickly and gets boring pretty fast. Every environment is almost the same without much variety to make them different from any other environment and the lack of freedom of movement keeps you locked in without any shed of ability to explore and cause more destructive damage on the already panicking city. The controls feel very stiff and slow with every punch or kick takes a short delay before the results are shown on the screen. It’s understandable, these are giant monsters and it should take them a longer time to swing their punches or kicks or tails but this is a game and a game should also be fun to play. The lack of variety pervades into the even to the entire adventure as the developers had nothing else to offer, the game recycles the same 3 or 4 cities with different but same looking environments and when all the opponents are defeated the play has to defeat them again for no reason than just extending the game time. It stops being fun by the 3rd battle and just gets awkward to play.

The ending is very somber which leaves things open but it’s pretty obvious that that there is nobody else to resists the winning monster it’s free to rampage the world leaving nothing but bloody destructions in its wake.

The game does have a very somber ending which leaves things a bit open but it’s pretty obvious what happens next. Now that all the other monsters are defeated the surviving monster starts terrorizing the entire planet, or at least only Japan, leaving a trail of bloody destruction in its wake.

King of the Monsters had a lot of potential but and in some way it delivers but it also lacks something that would make it memorable.

 

King of the Monsters 2

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It is the year 1999, 3 years after the events of the first game, only 3 monsters survived their brutal war. Geon, now called Super Geon, the dragon Godzilla style monster of the roster. Atomic Guy, the amphibian and the most human looking of the monsters possessing great speed. And Cyber Woo, a giant mechanical Triceratops, essentially a giant robot. The citizens of earth believes these monsters will rule the earth and there’s just no escaping their raw strength, the military is obviously no match for them, in the movies the military could never stop a single Godzilla but this time there are 3 scary monsters. However… Earth is invaded by aliens and send their own monsters around the world and now original monsters must defeat the invaders because if there’s anybody’s going to destroy the earth it’s going to be them and no one else. Welcome to King of the Monsters 2.

First thing you notice are the graphics and what an improvement. They are lush and colorful with a much more detailed selection of color palate. There are fewer selectable monsters, only three, but each one is really detailed, has a great design, and has an overall a really good look to them. The alien monsters are all well designs and have their own fitting styles.

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The environments this time have a lot more details and even the really small buildings have their own personality, something that really lacked in the first game. You can still just walk over the small buildings and they will explode like in the first game but unlike that game this time you can actually pick up the big and tall buildings and throw them right at the enemy’s face. As the monster this time goes all over the world the environments have a lot more variety this time around as well and there are plenty of very cool and special structures you can destroy in the game like the shuttle, a football stadium, the golden bridge and so on. The levels include an American City. A French City. Grand Canyon with destructible mountain ridges and plenty of aliens to kill and a bridge and a train to destroy. A Desert with a lot of big quick sands and sand swimming “sharks”, soon into the level a tornado comes and swallows the monster only to spit it out very far into the air as the monster eventually lands in what seems to be Egypt. A Sea Bed level, literally an underwater level. There are even some bonus levels.

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Like in the previous game in King of the Monsters 2 there are plenty of other distractions, like flying military jest which can be grabbed and thrown, submarines, helicopters, even civilian airplanes. The insane destruction the monsters leave behind is even more powerful this time because of all the explosive and burning buildings, bridges, and vehicles possible to destroy.

The environments are also a lot more open this time around and the player is free to move around, within the limits of the level or until he’s allowed to progress further, but at least there is no constriction inside this limited ring where it’s impossible to go beyond the electric force field. The player vs. monster mode is a lot more like an action adventure brawler in the style of Streets of Rage or Final Fight but each level has one main monster that needs to be defeated and the rest is just mindless fun to see how much destruction you can cause to the innocent city.

You can also collect different icons that restore life or level up your monster. It’s similar how it was in the first game but this time you only need to get one power to level up. Leveling up is limited to 2 times at most so you cannot get beyond level 3. Each level up adds one more health bar, adds a new special attack, and changes the monster’s color. But players got to be careful because there is an icon that will lover a monster’s level back by one.

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With redesigned and polished graphics, retooled gameplay, plenty of variety even for a short game, SNK managed to take a mundane boring and forgettable game and turn it into the awesome arcade action brawler full of action and a lot of fun little details and creativity the company is known for. King of the Monsters 2 is every giant monster fan’s dream come true.

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After reading Clephas’ recent blog update I decided to rip him off was inspired to do something similar. My own experience with visual novel is not as vast as his so go read his blog, his list is awesome and is way more interesting, so just give up reading this and go to his blog -__-

Every work should be judged on its own no matter who the writer is but it’s impossible, in my opinion, not to rely on those writers that really speak to us, those that know how to push our buttons and inspire us, touch us deeply, bring us to tears, and blow our minds. When you find a writer that does all that for you then you’ll probably want to read more of his works if only because nobody else does that for you.

Takumi Nakazawa – Best known for his work on the Infinity series, Nakazawa is one of the most incredible writers and story builders of our time. He writes Hard Science Fiction Mysteries and is completely crazy for plot details. Every single scene in his stories have a purpose to be there, every line can have multiple interpretations. Each story he writes explores many philosophical themes and scientific theories. His obsession with details what gives his stories so much depth. His characters is another part where he excels at as each one has a reason and an important part in the overall narrative. Nakazawa is not just a writer but a director and a producer but his plot structure and narrative mastery is in everyone of his major projects.

Notable works:

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Never7

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Ever17

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Remember11

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I/O

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Root Double.

 

Uchikoshi Koutarou – Very famous among the western visual novel community and one of the very few writers recognized outside the community. Uchikoshi worked closely with Takumi Nakazawa on the Infinity series, that is where he found his passion for Science Fiction Mystery stories and what he kept writing since Never7. His ideas are incredible and just as much fascinating as Nakazawa’s ideas with a detailed narrative structure only matched by Nakazawa himself. It’s impossible to talk about either of those writers and not to compare between their individual works. Uchikoshi is an amazing writer but he doesn’t spend as much time into fleshing out his plots as much as Nakazawa does. But his stories are still amazing and highly entertaining.

Notable works:

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                        Never7                                                 Ever17                                                              Remember11

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12Riven

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999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors

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Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward

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Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma .

 

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Eve - New Generation -

 

Masada Takashi – This guy is… the only words floating in my mind is insane and epic. His got the most chuuniest chuuni style of any writer out there. Until you read him you don’t know how good his narrative mastery truly is and just how much research he puts into his stories with everything from the bible to ancient mystical rituals to all kinds of mythologies and philosophies. The guy is a freaking poet and manages to turn a chuuni battle story into the most mind blowing FEELS kind of visual novels. What even more interesting about him is that he’s not just about the chuuni, his stories are very character centric and he is a master at making the reader sympathize with his characters and gives just as much attention to them as he does to everything else in his stories. His stories are like epic poems or German operas with extravagant imagery and presentation. He is the guy that put Light on the map and his Dies Irae built a lot of fan following for the company.

Notable Works:

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Paradise Lost

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Dies Irae

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Kajiri Kamui Kagura

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Soushuu Senshinkan Gakuen Hachimyoujin

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Soushuu Senshinkan Gakuen Bansenjin

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Dies irae ~Interview with Kaziklu Bey~.

 

Kurashiki Tatsuya & Takahama Ryou – Also known as the Light’s non Masada chuuni team. Masada has a very unique instantly recognizable style that is both incredible and difficult to replicate. Kurashiki Tatsuya & Takahama Ryou don't try to copy Masada and instead try different a lot more diverse styles compared to Masada and every visual novel they worked on is a completely fresh and unique work by its own merits with different presentation, visual, and writing style. Their stories are epic chuuni through and through with great prose and narrative structure. Sometimes they will bring another writer as they did with Mugi Ayumu when they worked on Zero Infinity, Electro Arms, and Silverio Vendetta or Monaka Koke for Silverio Trinity. Tatsuya also did some contractual work for Clock-Up on Maggot Baits and both of them worked together on Studio e.go!’s Izumo 4. Masada and this non Masada team defined what a chuuni visual novel should be like, they are the superstars of any chuuni visual novel reader.

Notable Works:

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Vermilion -Bind of Blood-

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Zero Infinity -Devil of Maxwell-

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Electro Arms -Realize Digital Dimension

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Silverio Vendetta

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Maggot Baits

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Izumo 4

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Silverio Trinity(coming soon).

Higashide Yuuichirou – Another one of the best chuuni writers. His style is both varied and distinctly his own. One of the most noticeable things about him is how much he loves to create very unique settings and puts a lot of time into building his worlds. The settings in his stories are as much a character as the main characters themselves, pick any of his works and you’ll be pulled into a place so alive and imaginative you will believe it actually exists. When it comes to characters Yuuichirou is a master, at least when it comes to protagonists and the main cast and his characters really shine. Besides writing cool stylish epic battle scenes Yuuichirou is also the best comedy writer in the chuuni genre and his comedy can get absolutely hilarious. Sometimes he’s so good with characters and humor that you’ll not want those so called ‘slice of life’ scenes to end once the real plot kicks in. Unfortunately he left Propeller the company where he created his most famous works and went to work for Type-Moon.

Notable Works:

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Ayakashibito

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Bullet Butlers

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Chrono Belt

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Evolimit

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Tokyo Babel.

Ryuukishi07 – One of the most prolific visual novel writers of this decade. The guy is like a perpetual machine never running out of oil and never rusting. He is known mostly for Higurashi and Umineko two of the longest visual novels ever made and are well known for being some of the best mystery stories ever written. His prose style is long but never boring, slow, or full of filler. It’s quite amazing to see long works without being full of fillers but Ryuukishi07 somehow does it. His works are very diverse on the one hand and very recognizable as his own style on the other. He also did a lot of work for and with other people like Lucia’s route in Rewrite, Ookamikakushi for Konami, and Iwahime for DMM. He can write anything from horror, a style he is known for, to drama and mysteries. Currently he is working on Rewrite side stories and is writing one of the scenarios for the Kamaitachi no Yoru remake.

Notable Works:

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Higurashi no Naku Koro ni

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Umineko no Naku Koro ni

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Ookamikakushi

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Rose Guns Days

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Iwaihime

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Trianthology ~Sanmenkyou no Kuni no Alice~.

 

Hideo Kojima – Aka the father of Metal Gear series. His Snatcher and Policenauts are a lot more like Japanese adventure games than straight out visual novels but these games are story driven and any visual novel gamer should not miss on either of those games. Kojima fills his stories with a very detailed setting, detailed and interesting characters, and a very detailed well crafted plots. This incredible detailed stories never feel like too much or too overwhelming because every single detail is explained in a clear and understandable manner and it’s a lot of fun to try out every item and every option just to see what new stuff you’ll learn about the world, characters, and plot. Both games are full of futuristic atypical detective stories and have what could only be said as the best moments in gaming history. Even back then Kojima was a master game designer and an excellent storyteller.

Notable Works:

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Snatcher

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Policenauts.

 

Takumi Shuu – The man behind the Gyakuten Saiban aka Ace Attorney series. Similar to Kojima games, these are more of the Japanese adventure genre rather than pure visual novels. Not much else can be said about the awesome Ace Attorney that hasn’t been said before. It’s got one of the most boring premises, you play as a lawyer Yeah, Sure. That sounds like fun. But Takumi Shuu took the idea and turned it on its head with of the wall over the top characters and a lot of very well crafted mystery cases to solve. In a way all the cases are episodic but Takumi is such a smart writer he always has some kind of surprise up his sleeves by changing the formula in some way and brings everything together by the end in clever unexpected ways. Most of his characters are, for lack of a better word, very annoying. But even then the stories are so interesting that even that won’t stop you from having a lot of fun with his games. His Ghost Trick is a very innovative puzzle style game and shouldn’t be missed either.

Notable Works:

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The Entire Ace Attorney series

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Ghost Trick.

 

Kodaka Kazutaka – Worked in the games industry for a long time now and was a secondary director on Clock Tower 3 Kotaka Kazutaka is more famous for a small little series which today has exploded into a huge franchise, the Danganronpa series. Once again, like the previous two writers his games are Japanese adventure games and not what the purest will call a visual novel but really who cares about these small details anyway, Danganronpa is here to tell a story and that’s what’s important. Referred as as the Psychopop genre by Kazutaka himself, who sees himself as the creator of his own genre, Danganronpa can very easily be compared to the Ace Attorney series because of the episodic style of mystery cases the characters must solve. But Danganronpa has an overarching plot and a plot that is very detailed and a cleverly crafted crowning achievement of mystery, horror, despair, dark and bright humor, and plenty of twists and turns. The closer you get to the end of each game the more your head will be spinning and twisting with your jaw dragging on the floor. His characters are really fun, interesting and very likeable, most of them at least and they go through a lot of extreme stuff. Kazutaka loves to leave gamers  in complete despair.

Notable Works:

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Danganronpa

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Super Danganronpa 2

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Danganronpa Another Episode

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Danganronpa 3 (anime)

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the next game in the series New Danganronpa V3

 

Fujisaki Ryuuta – The Grisaia guy. An excellent writer putting a lot of care into his characters and brings them to life. Not everything he writes is gold but with each new story he gets better and better. With a clear and easy prose and a lot of character and hilarious comedy Ryuuta is master at writing fun character exploration scenes almost perfectly avoiding the long boring nothing happens so prevalent in other visual novels. Grisaia is his most famous work and while the first game in the series had some very slow scenes that feel like they shouldn’t have been there, most of the game is a lot of fun and entertaining as well as humorous enough it never gets tiring. However he’s also known for writing in other genres like in Draculius and Hatsuru Koto Naki Mirai Yori both of which are great and highly entertaining. An interesting trivia, Grisaia is not the first work by Fujisaki Ryuuta to have an official English release, he was one of the scenario writers on Tea Society of a Witch released by Hirameki International.

Notable Works:

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Draculius

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Grisaia no Kajitsu

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Grisaia no Meikyuu

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Grisaia no Rakuen

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Hatsuru Koto Naki Mirai Yor

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the upcoming Grisaia: Phantom Trigger.

 

Hiei Murasaki – The Cyberpunk guy heading the Baldr series. But he also worked on a lot of other visual novels with very different genres. He has great with characters when needed and a big idea man when appropriate. The Baldr series is what he’s mostly known for because of the awesome ideas but he also worked on the mecha anime style and highly entertaining Dengeki Stryker visual novel. His prose is very easy to read except when he goes into info dumping in which case it’s doubtful even the Japanese readers can understand him completely. But Murasaki’s awesome and crazy entertaining stories earned a huge place in a lot of visual novel player’s hearts.

Notable Works:

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Cho Dengeki Stryker

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Baldr Force

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Baldr Sky

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Baldr Heart.

 

Watanabe Ryouichi – An almost sinfully unrecognized writer. Watanabe Ryouichi is a very diverse writer adapting different style depending on the needs of the company and projects he works on, ranging from sports stories to science fiction. His prose is simple and very easy but can be highly emotionally charged full of dramatic elements. He is also a big ideas man and his ideas are BIG. Ryouichi also likes to troll his readers by disguising epic science fiction stories with marvelous ideas and wrapping it all in what, at first, appears to be a boring nukige. Nevertheless he is the one writer that needs more recognition and his works need to be translated into English ASAP.

Notable Works:

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Ao no Kanata no Four Rhythm

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Harumade, Kururu

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Natsukumo Yururu

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the upcoming Akiyume Kukuru.

 

Fushichou & Shimantogawa Seiryuu – Another pair of great chuuni writers. Fushichou and Seiryuu work for 3rdEye and wrote all four of their games so far. All chuuni, all have great beautiful and sleek presentation with great writing and good prose. Bloody Rondo was not their best work but with each subsequent game their stories got much better with a better focused plot and great narrative structure techniques. They are one of the best chuuni teams in the industry with a style all their own different from what Light, Propeller, or any other chuuni developers do in writing technique and presentation design. As chuuni stories go this pair’s games are full of action, packed with battles, fighting techniques and a fully developed magic system. Like every good chuuni writer Fushichou and Seiryuu also write great and lovable characters with their own dreams and motivations with personalities easy to care for. Fortunately their latest game Sorcery Jokers is officially coming in English, probably sometime next year.

Notable Works:

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Shinigami no Testament ~menuet of epistula~

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Gensou no Idea ~Oratorio Phantasm Historia~

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Sorcery Jokers

 

There are many more visual novel writers I wanted to talk about but I don’t have enough experience with their works yet to write about them in depth. Writers such as G.O., Sca-Ji, and some other interesting mystery, comedy, chuuni, science fiction, and drama writers. Maybe in a year or two I’ll expand the list. Thanks for reading.

fun2novel

Fatal Fury: King of Fighters

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The fighting and shmup games were the most popular genres among both the hardcore and the mainstream gamers in the 90’s. The fighting game genre can be traced way back to the 80’s but it is Capcom’s Street Fighter 2 where the storm really began. Street Fighter 2 was on a completely different scale and blew everything that came before it. Nobody thought a video game could reach this kind of amazing quality. Many companies where getting on the hype train and started to develop their next big fighter to crush the success of Capcom’s darling, many tried, very few came close. Unfortunately the genre’s popularity has dwindled to microscopic proportions mostly developed by hardcore fans for hardcore fans, it’s a small but a very loyal market and fills the void appropriately.

Takashi Nishiyama was the man who created the very first Street Fighter when he was working at Capcom. The goal according to him was to make a game with really deep characters so they wrote a lot of detail for each character everything from what kind of foods they like to what family structure they belong to. None of that made into the game but Nishiyama wanted to make something cinematic and believed all that work helped to deepen the characters.

At the time Capcom had three development studios with the head of the studio the sole visionary of the entire project. This didn’t sit well with Nishiyama who worked on concepts and ideas but wanted others to have the freedom to flesh out those ideas to give the work a much needed fresh and unique spin. This didn’t sit well with Capcom’s higher ups and soon after the release of Street Fighter Nishiyama’s disagreement with his supervisor led him to leave Capcom and become head of development at SNK where he had a complete freedom to work exactly how he wanted helping SNK to become Capcom’s biggest competitor. Very few made polished fighting games the way SNK did even though Capcom’s giant towering success was impossible to bring down.

The first major project Nishiyama did was working on the Neo-Geo arcade system and was the first person to propose the idea for both the arcade and the home console systems. Arcade machines were very expensive at the time with no guarantee the arcade owners will make a return on their investment. Changing games was also a really painfully delicate process requiring the owners to tinker with the mother boards which could take a few hours of work. Piracy was also a difficult issue to handle and even led some companies to make self destructive machines if they detected something is wrong with the original game, like Capcom’s own CPS-3 machine.

Neo-Geo tackled all these problems in a very efficient way. First it was more like a home console than a bulky arcade machine, it worked with cartridges and was as easy to change games as on an actual home console, some systems even had as many as four cartridge slots saving time on switching games. The Neo-Geo was a really powerful machine and with every year it seemed like it was getting more and more powerful, when Super Nintendo and Genesis games held 24 Megabits at most, the Neo-Geo games started at around 32 megabits and went all the way to the 700-800 megs. This was insanely huge and helped Neo-Geo be an exciting attraction with every year as each game looked, sounded, and played better than previous year enticing returning players to see what awesome new games they can try. The games cost only about $500 which is huge compared to the home consoles but are three times cheaper than most other arcade systems. The high quality of games and the cheap price helped to fight piracy and contributed to SNK’s success. There were two main versions of the system, the MVS which is the arcade system and the AES system and was a home console version. In the following years SNK released a few more consoles but none reached the incredible popularity as the AES system.

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Nishiyama’s desire to make a movie style martial arts fighting game with a story and deep characters led to the creation of some of the most interesting games in the genre. Nishiyama considers Fatal Fury as his Street Fighter 2 and had many ideas he couldn’t make work in the original Street Fighter including the character depth and a story driven game. And that is where things begin to roll in the first game in the series, a story that will span all through the entire series. Released in 1991, Fatal Fury: King of Fighters is known in Japan as Legend of the Hungry Wolf: The Battle of Destiny and will set SNK on a new path.

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In Southtown a city somewhere in America two men studied under the martial arts master Tung Fu Rue. The name of these two men were Jeff Bogard and Geese Howard. Geese had very brutal ambitions and intended to use the skills he learned to gain power over the city’s criminal business for his own gain. A rivalry start to grow between Geese and Jeff but their master continued to impart his knowledge to both. Things fell into disaster when the master chose Jeff to be his successor,  jealousy and resentment ate at Geese’s mind. Shortly after he started to gain power he confronted Jeff and killed him. The incident had a witness, Jeff’s older son Terry Bogard also known as the Hungry Wolf. Tung Fu Rue took him in and started to train him the skills he once imparted on his two students just a few years before. Jeff had another son Andy Bogard who was sent to Japan to train under a different master.  At the same time somewhere in Thailand a Japanese born young man, Joe Higashi, was training in the arts of Muay Thai. Now ten years later the three men heard about the fighting competition sponsored by Geese they decide to sign up in the hopes of defeating all his fighters and taking revenge.

Story was very important to SNK and their early games followed strict narrative rules even if it means limiting what the player could do or which characters can be selected. In the first Art of Fighting a single player game had only one of two characters to choose otherwise the story just didn’t work. Same thing happened in first Fatal Fury, you can only select one out of three characters because story wise it wouldn’t make sense to select the other fighters. SNK pretty quickly stopped doing that with their later games and opened the entire roster of fighters to choose from even in the single player modes.

As you begin the game you get to choose one of three fighters, Terry Bogard, Andy Bogard, and Joe Higashi and then select your first opponent to fight against. And things continue from there. The focus on the story prevails even during the game and between the matches you’re shown what Geese is saying about you as he gets more and more angry as you get closer to winning the tournament.

Characters are one of the most important aspects of any fighting game. The game can be very fun to play but it is the characters and their visual aesthetics  what attracts the gamers. SNK fighting games always had some of the most best character designs of any fighting game, unfortunately Fatal Fury is not one of them. Besides very few personas none of the characters are all that interesting to look at.

Characters and animation is one of the most important aspects of a fighting game second only to gameplay and even if the gameplay is generic the characters and visual aesthetic is what gives the game its real identity and it is also the first thing that attracts gamers into putting more quarters into the arcade machine or run to the store and buy one of the console ports. Unfortunately most of the characters in this first Fatal Fury game in the series lack the visual eye pleasing attractive bright smooth clean-cut designs the kind that made Street Fighter 2 characters favorable among gamers. The three player characters, the final boss, and perhaps one more character had engaging likable designs while the rest felt like an afterthought almost as if they weren’t important enough and cast aside like worthless incompetent and completely pointless.

With later games SNK will change their visual style and will push the limits of 2D graphics in games to the limit. However their games were also full of really unbelievable amount of details and unexpected surprises in their fighting games. Fatal Fury had a lot of these wondrous details in each character’s stages as the morning will turn to dusk and the dusk will turn to night after each round. This might not sound that neat but unlike today’s 3D games where you can just adjust the lighting and change from day to night just by changing the color a light and with today’s physically based shading changing the lighting is a snap, however in older 2D games the artists had to recolor each stage from scratch to fit each time of the day and since each stage has at least three different color schemes it means there are three different color renditions for every stage.

In Tun Fu Rue’s stage the first round starts at an early evening with lightning flashing in the sky way in the distance and in the 2nd and 3rd rounds the characters will be fighting under a heavy rain. The Capoeira master’s Richard Myer stage has light railings on the ceiling where he can hang of and do his special rotating kicks which can be hard to avoid because of Richard’s long legs. In Hwa Jai’s stage when he has less than 75% of health one of the spectators will thrown him a bottle and he will leap up grabbing the bottle then drink it and become berserk, all in the middle of a fight. That spectator, it turns out, under Geese’s employ. Billy Kane fights with a red cane and if you brake it or if he throws it at you but fails to catch it back then after one of the spectators will throw him a new cane. Billy Kane’s stage also has this truck on either side of the stage and if he kicks you in that direction you’ll actually land on the truck and bounce off it as the truck shaking off and tries to straighten itself. It’s these cool details that set the game apart from the rest.

Oh but the fun doesn’t stop here. If another player joins in then instead of interrupting the fight and having a player vs. player battle the 2nd player will actually join you in a 2 against 1 co-op battle. This  evolutionary gameplay idea was unfortunately never used again and even never tried by anyone else. The tag team gameplay might have spawned of off Fatal Fury but with tag team you switch between characters on the fly while in Fatal Fury you two players controller their characters at the same time. It seems that not even Fatal Fury knew what to do with this because once you defeat the enemy the game forces the players to fight against each other and the whoever wins will sadly continue to progress through the game the game alone unless the 2nd player throws in another quarter into the machine. Perhaps that was the real intention.

With only  one button for punching, one button for kicking, and one button for grabbing and throwing your enemies, the gameplay appears to be deceptively simple but this three button setup provide for a lot of complexity and a great volume of attacks and special moves to execute. The characters can also fight on a different depth plane. One character might escape another’s attack by jumping into further back it to the background plane. This is something that was done only in Fatal Fury and if felt like there is a sense of depth to the environment while the characters hop from plane to plane dogging their opponents while at the same time trying to find the best opening to hit that one winning kick and end the round.

There are also bonus stages like in Street Fighter 2, the first Street Fighter had bonus stages too, however in Fatal Fury it is disappointing to see the same stage repeating without any sort of variety. The bonus stages themselves are an arm wrestling game against an a digitized opponent the player just needs to mash the A button repeatedly and hope for the best. It’s fun the first time but some variety would have been good for the player to chill after a long series of fights.

Fatal Fury: King of Fighters could not stand on equal grounds with Street Fighter 2’s visual fidelity, catchy upbeat music, great characters and gameplay, and it is not even one of SNK’s better games but it was a beginning, their first steps on the road to becoming the king of fighting games as each new game would get better on all aspects with polished graphics, sound, controls, gameplay with an unmatched comprehensive experience.

 

Fatal Fury 2

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Released only a year after the first game, Fatal Fury 2 started to show the direction SNK will be going for in production and design quality. The game is much bigger this time around with a bigger and more interesting character roster with improved and additional gameplay elements from the original released only a year before.

This time around SNK dropped the story limiting character choices from the original and decided to have all the fighters available for the choosing right from the start. There are 8 characters to choose from instead of 3, and each one has an appropriate fighting style and a distinct personality. The new characters will turn up to be some of SNKs most popular characters like the Tae-Kwon-Do practitioner Kim Kaphwan and the fan favorite the kunoichi, a female ninja, Mai Shiranui.

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The gorgeous knock out red ninja, Mai Shiranui will become SNKs most memorable and most popular character of all time. Being SNKs first female fighter she was give a very special attention by the designers and made her a conspicuously eye catching seductive full of sex appeal and is one of the most well recognized fictional women in history. People who never even played the games know who Mai Shiranui is and can instantly pinpoint who she is. Her design is a combination of two previously completely different incomplete work in progress characters for Fatal Fury 2, one was a male ninja and the other a female Japanese pop idol.

"the character wears a revealing outfit that accentuates her buttocks and displays large amounts of cleavage” Entertainment Software Rating Board.

The inspiration for her great assets comes from two pop idols Fumie Hosokawa and Ai Iijima, one inspired the breasts the other the ass respectively. Her sexuality and jiggling is  keeping true to the stories and legends of kunoichi, the female ninjas as they used their sexuality to accomplish dangerous life threatening missions.

“One day, Mai's designer asked me if they could add some more animation for Mai's resting pose (aka 'neutral' pose, when the player is not taking any action). I thought we still had a little extra memory left (in fact, we did not) so I quickly said "Go ahead." When the designer came back with that 'swaying bosom', it was so amazing that it left us awestruck, jaws agape. By the way, we had to censor that animation for the overseas console release.” The King of Fighters '94 development staff interview, All About KOF'94.

Dimmed too sexual for her own good she was also a character who will get the most flack and will be censored countless times for the international and some console releases. Nevertheless She remains a strong woman and the leader of an all female team from the King of Fighters crossover games. She one of SNKs most iconic mascots and she is truly one of a kind.

Every fight in the first game took place in single location but in Fatal Fury 2 the player travels around the world to defeat his opponents. It’s a larger game in both scale and technicality as well as a more variant background graphics and cultural designs.

The visuals now are more colorful and vibrant with really a much higher contrast between the lighter and the darker tones of the image. It still has the same art style as the first game but added color depth made the designs really pop up from the screen compared the darker and lacking style of the prequel.  In addition to new characters there are also a lot of moves and actions for each fighter however animation has not improved from the prequel and the lack of frames makes everything look jerky. There is just too much stuff going on and not enough frames to do it.

The time of day changes between the round are still kept but the backgrounds have a lot more detail so much in fact that they some of them even look as if they took precedence over characters. Many stages are fought on a moving platform with a scrolling background images in the back showing off the wonderful drawn detailed art SNKs artists are so well known for. Cheng Sinzan’s stage is in Hong Kong and is full of dazzling nightlights almost like an eastern looking Las Vegas. Mai Shiranui’s level is on a raft floating in a river with some old drowned city and a giant drowned ancient statue scrolls by. Jubei Yamada’s stage has wall screens between the game’s 2d fighting planes and if you jump from plane to plane while the screen is in the way then the screen will shatter in our path. If you get on the plane behind the screens then the characters will be obscured by them. It’s a pretty neat thing and really shows off the creativity SNK puts in their games as well as makes the environment appear like a real place where the characters are battling.

Another fun little thing is when the first round begins Yamada takes of his footwear, kicking one backwards and another towards the screen. Once again, it’s a neat little trick to see as one of his shoes flies towards the screen and gets bigger. He will even take out an apple and eat it in a bite or two in the middle of a fight. In Terry bogard’s level the characters fight on a train with a detailed drawing of the Mt. Rushmore scrolling in the back. Andy Bogard’s stage is in Venice on a boat floating on a river as you see the entire city scrolls by with some buy on a bicycle watching the fight as he rides along. Kim Kaphwan has a someone riding a motorcycle between the two fighting planes and if one of the characters jumps between the planes the driver will fall and crash the bike.

The bonus stages are more exciting but as disappointing as the first game. The first bonus stage has a stone pillar the player has to destroy, once a pillar is destroyed another one is dropped and this continues until the time runs out. The 2nd bonus stage is exactly the same only instead of pillars they drop a pack of stones but it’s exactly the same thing as the other bonus stage.

The characters can now quickly step back of the back direction is quickly tapped twice. The can even crawl forward if the player holds diagonally forward and down, a feature never seen in a fighting game before. There are additional special evasion and desperation attack moves. Evasion moves just like they sound let you evade the other player’s attack if you time it correctly. Then the character’s lifebar is 25% or less it will start flashing red to indicate that a desperation attack can be executed, this is a very strong attack that can devastate the other fighter and drain a lot of his life and tip the balance of the fight.

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There are also a few unelectable boss characters some old like Billy Kane and some new like Axel Hawk, a boxer who looks like one of the characters from Punch Out. On his stage the fighters battle in a boxing ring surrounded by flashy electrified ring side ropes. Laurence is a Spanish bullfighter and the fight against him is in an arena with a lot of raging bulls funning from right to left as they leave dust under their feet. It gives the game a really bombastic design and showed off stuff you cannot do on any other console at the time. Finally there is epic fight against Wolfgang Krauser a tall giant German fighter with purple hair. His level is in a lobby of a giant castle with a live orchestra on both sides of the two spiraling staircases playing Dies Irae from Mozart’s Requiem – Sequentia. Perhaps this is the part that inspired Takashi Masada, or probably not.

Fatal Fury Special

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Almost a year later SNK released Fatal Fury Special as an updated version to Fatal Fury 2. Fatal Fury Special is to Fatal Fury 2 what Street Fighter 2 Turbo is to Street Fighter 2 as the gameplay in Special is a little bit faster. All the characters from Fatal Fury 1 and 2 are available for selection right from the start including the bosses from both games.

In Mai Shiranui’s stage has flag poles this time around. She had them in Fatal Fury 2 but this time the are between the fight planes and she can bounce of them and do an air attack. Duck King has a really cool stage. It begins with an epileptic flash of lights before it reveals that the characters are fighting on a rock concert stage with laser beams, a matrix of tvs playing in the background, smoke machines and dancing fans. It’s one of the most impressive stages in the game, these days it’s nothing amazing but it was really amazing to see back then.

Geese returns from the first game with a vengeance with his own introduction before the player it pit against him. He’s pretty much the same as in the first game just a little more agile and faster but he is not the last boss, this honor is still left to Wolfgang Krauser and his stage is just as impressive as in Fatal Fury 2. Actually it is the same but there wasn’t any need to change it either. If the player fills a special condition the after defeating Krauser he will be challenged by Ryo Sakazaki, one of the protagonists from the Art of Fighting. It’s a cool little surprise but doesn’t add much to the game except maybe a nice looking background with splashing waves against a rock.

The game feels bigger, more refined, and makes Fatal Fury 2 obsolete but it’s an otherwise the same game just with a bigger selection of fighters and some additional great looking backgrounds. Even the endings are the same as in Fatal Fury 2. There’s a lot of skill and fast paced strategy necessary to succeed and it’s still a very fun game to play today but other than a few neat quirks it doesn’t have much life span compared to other fighting games or even the sequels.

 

Fatal Fury 3: Road to the Final Victory

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WARNING: It’s a fighting game so the story has nothing really awesome going for it but if you still prefer to be surprised by playing the game yourself then be aware that I spoil the ending.

After Fatal Fury Special SNK was working hard on the next installment in the series with a longer development time than previous games so far with new gameplay innovation and visual upgrade, once again pushing the Neo-Geo and fighting games to the next generation.

Fighting games are all about two characters beating the hell out of each other in a tournament style brawler till the last man standing. The fights in Fatal Fury 3 feel a lot more brutal than previous games as each punch flies and smashes into the opponent with a bone crushing sound effect as blood, sweat and spit burst into the air. Gameplay is fast and furious and when punches and kicks meet their opponent it opens even more opportunities to inflict even more and faster attacks. Using every move with speed and accuracy are a real key to success in this new game in the series. Coming back as a series staple is the ability to crawl slowly forward while trying to be careful not to be hit is very intense because you never know what the enemy might do and where the next kick is going to hit you if you aren’t quick on your wits and in a hurry to defend yourself.

This time there is only one plane to fight on however the game a new oversway system which allows the characters to jump into the background or the foreground for a limited time and avoid an incoming attack or do a quick punch or kick dash towards the opponent. Jumping has also been refined a bit and it’s possible now to do wither a long or a short jump depending on how long the player holds the up direction, kind of like in most platform games where the longer you hold the jump button the higher you will jump.

Ever since Mortal Kombat started filling the screens with buckets of digitized blood seeing a fighting game with blood is nothing new and in fact is much more appropriate than a lot of other genres. But unlike Mortal Kombat, SNK went a different way to create a more subtle and realistic depiction of blood spills with less focus on the blood and more on the actual gameplay. SNK already tried their hand at drawing blood in Samurai Showdown/Spirits but that game has razor sharp blades and swords, Fatal Fury 3 only has bare knuckles and when a punch makes the other opponent bleed it has a much brutal and shocking impact on the occurring explosive battle displaying on the screen.

The game also ranks the player on how well he fights and gives a score at the end of each round. Fight fast and quick with no health lost and you might get a high ranking for the current match. Come alive out of a fight with barely any life left and no smart tactics and you might get a very low rank. High ranking is a great motive to try harder and learn to fight better and unlock a few additional surprises because the ranking system is closely tied to the game’s central plot.

Like any other video game in the fighting genre defeating one opponent moves the player to the next and repeats until the final boss battle at the conclusion of which the game ends. However in Fatal Fury 3 SNK had a few surprises up its sleeve. As the player defeats his opponents and moving from one stage to the next to fight his next opponent standing in his way to victory the player can be interrupted  and challenged to a one round duel by a new unknown character which is later revealed to be Yamazaki. As it turns out this is the final boss, the real final boss of the game  and he keeps a close eye on the rankings you get for each round because he won’t show up unless you earn a high enough rank from your previous battles. But that’s not all, there are actually more surprises to come. You see, once you defeat Yamazaki the true villain appears, Jin Chonshu, some 2000 year old sorcerer who seeks a scroll that will grant him immortality he only appears if you get an even higher ranking. And if you thought that was the end then if your ranking is even higher the game finds another way to pull the rug right under you and another boss appears, Jin Chonshu’s older brother, Jin Chonrie. After seeing his brother defeated (perhaps even dead) Jin Chonrie gets absolutely enraged and looses his marbles and the real final battle begins after of which the player is treated to the true ending as the long and hard battle is finally over.

The character roster is smaller this time around compared to Fatal Fury Special with only 10 characters to choose from. Some of them are returning characters such as the fan favorite Terry and Mai along with Joe, Andy, Blue Mary, and even Geese is a selectable character which doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for the new fighters. There are a few cool details here too like when the first round starts the game will have some kind of short presentation such as Franco Bash sitting in a chair waiting for the match to start with his trainer massaging his back and then tapping him notifying about the beginning of the round and as Franco stands up his trainer kicks the chair but hurts his own leg. Some of these animations depend if the fighter is the player or not because if Franco is the player then he will just drink something from a small bottle and thrown it away. Blue Mary will have her jacket on and as soon as the round starts takes it off and throws it while he dog catches it and runs away.

The backgrounds are even more impressive than before with some of them having a lot if really detailed drawings. Joe’s stage looks like an Amazonian village (although it says National Park) with a lot of greens and exotic animals like a crocodile and a huge turtle as well as huts and statue heads and there are even some greenery in the foreground as well. Mai’s stage is in some kind of underwater park (it says East Side Park) with a huge glass wall in the background with some old structure and a lot of sea life swimming about with sharks, penguins, whales, and other types of fish. Hon Fu’s stage is very interesting and takes place on a rising platform with at first only some building can be seen but as the fight continues the platform goes higher and the entire city is revealed with some really cool details it makes one of the best stages in any fighting game thus far. When moving between the stages the player is shown moving on a map and the player’s graphic changes depending on which character he chose. If it’s Blue Mary you’ll see traveling on her bike, if it’s Geese you’ll see him driving his car and if it’s Franco then you’ll see him running from stage to stage.

Character designs have been improved too and taken many level ahead with what can be done with 2D games. Animations are a lot more smooth and fluid compared to previous games with every move has all the necessary frames that removes some of the noticeable jerkiness from previous games. The details and the coloring on the characters has also gotten better by using much more lush and vibrant attractive color schemes creating a much more pretty look than how things were done in the older games in the series so far.

Fatal Fury 3 changed the formula from how things previously played but it was a risk SNK felt was important to take to keep the series fresh but still familiar to older games alike. This was one of the games that pushed 2D visual aesthetics further but it’s not where things will stop and in a few years SNK will eventually take a few more steps into an even more impressive graphical fidelity but it will take several games to get there.

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Ghost is the Shell 2 is not a complete continuation of the previous manga. Masamune Shirow planned it be a standalone work but still feel like a semi-sequel. The original story was pretty much complete and it’s welcoming to see a fresh story. It opens the way to explore some new but equality interesting ideas. Shirow even planned to change one of the title kanji to indicate a slight difference between this and the previous work.

“I would also like to thank the people, who have waitd for 10 years. Thank you so much.” Masamune Shirow.

Ghost in the Shell marked Shirows entry into the world of computer artistry and allowed him to experiment with different software, coloring, and composition techniques. Technology however did not make it easy on him with hard disc failures and gigs of lost data, hardware connectivity problems, application upgrades and other countless troubles he had to struggle through the long running production of this work. It is almost a real life meta narrative of technological deficiency and ineffectiveness to liberate human lives and instead forming more problems than solutions it supposedly attempts to provide.

Once again Shirow goes into the most interesting minute details of technology, cyberpunk, human condition and political state of the world. There are corporations that accept specific genes from their customers and grow for them special donor pigs in case a customer needs an emergency organ transplant. The organs harvested from pigs are of no danger of being rejected by the human immune system. The genes are taken while the person is young in an attempt to preserve healthy cells and prevent a programmed cellular death problem which arises from older aged genes. Other methods of human organs manufacturing exist without human-pig gene splicing but they are not as efficient and commercially profitable.

Presentation is even more overwhelming this time around than ever before with so much going on in each panel it is sometimes difficult to catch a breath from one panel to the next. Half the manga is filled with reality augmented holographic graphical user interface displays. The cyber world and the real world switch and blend at will with no clear way to identify which is which and who is who to a point that it leads to some really interesting thought provoking themes as even the reader struggles to see the reality where the action is taking place. There are layer matrix coated material display glasses that can disturb from the light to enter or exit the room. The glass has an internal micro vibration operation to prevent from a leaser beamed eavesdropping devices spying on the occupants of the said room. Even just a simple ride on a boat is the most cyberpunkies thing ever presented in any medium.

The story this time around takes place around a much shorter timeframe and is much more condensed with information, even more than the first manga if that is even possible to do. But like the original Shirow fills the pages with some interesting and funny commentary between the panels and sides of the pages. These commentaries talk about a variety of things like, the reason a cyborg has bubbles underwater if it doesn’t breath air, or why would a remote controlled humanoid terminal wear underwear. It’s all fun and interesting to read and once again shows how much depth and research Shirow put into this work.

The themes and concepts of duality from the original work return and are explored in this work as well. The duality of the mind and soul connected but also disconnected forms of world views as each influences and reacts to the other. Their paths cross at an asymmetrical constantly shifting and changing mirror of reality and non-reality. One cannot exist without the other, perhaps humans cannot exist without technology anymore or technology is unable to exist without humanity. Shirow drew his ideas from various people and even going so far as naming the work after the writings of Gilbert Ryle and Arthur Koestler. The text is dense, the dialogue is long, the writing is convoluted, the narrative suffers from too much stuff going on and yet at the same time it somehow works pulling the reader in and impossible to down.

 

 

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Masamune Shirow’s Ghost in the Shell manga is one of the most intriguing mind captivating compelling and thought provoking stories hiding under a clever camouflage of a humorous tongue in cheek presentation sometimes even subverting itself so as not to overwhelm the reader. However it is so thoroughly confounding how far and broad the profoundly deep ideas Ghost in the Shell comprises under its umbrella so far so that it is astounding why this manga never gets a mention on people’s  top Cyberpunk and Hard Science Fiction lists.

It is absolutely impossible to talk about any one theme or idea the series encompasses. There are questions of personal identity, what if your thoughts and memories are broken and erased will you still be the same person. There are immigrant hiring sweatshops with workers under a constant threat of their brains being wiped out or altogether fried. There are hackers who can hack your mind and implant false memories or even a completely different identity before you even notice that something is wrong. Shirow dedicates entire chapters into showing off the world and immense research he must have done into technology, biology, neuroscience, machinery, dermatology, prosthetics, cybernetics, artificial intelligence, the internet, politics, Cyberbrains, Ghost Hacking,  and pretty much every kind of topic on every scope he could shove into the story.

In a world where everyone can copy their own mind through technology is there a place for an individual and what being individual means if there is no more a body or a single mind to speak of? Some of the themes this work is dealing with are very gut wrenching when you think about it as there is no real conclusive answer, only what you, the society, and time will make of it. Your heart and soul, your mind and body, even your thoughts and feelings, do they exist in you or outside you, how dependent connected are your body, mind, and soul? Ghost dubbing is a term of copying a ghost from one individual into another device and an act that leaves the original dead but is the copy becomes an original or the original’s unique thoughts feelings and sensations are left behind with its passing from this world and what happens to the copy if it’s only build of original’s eyes but not the body.

The Section-9 investigative team uses AI equipped walking tanks, Fuchikomas and Tachikomas, as helpers during battles and infiltration assignments. These almost child like artificial minds of wonder learn about the world and completely are self aware. They are almost human and speak and even ask questions or even have requests of their users. This form of intelligence is no different from a real consciousness with an unlimited potential to expand and grow but the real question is do these machines posses a ghost even if no God breathed soul in to their life.

The real protagonist of this story is Motoko Kusanagi, a Major at the Public Security Intelligence Section 9, or shortly Section 9, or just S-9. She is physically and willfully strong, smart and very intelligent, with high deductive and hacking skills. By the end of the story not a lot of revealed about her as the story itself is more interested in exploring ideas than developing its characters. However Motoko herself is a very compelling character as she struggles to keep her own humanity intact. When she was a little child she had an accident leaving parts of her brain and her entire body crippled with no chance of survival on her own. Therefore her brain was replaced by a cyberbrain and her body is completely prosthetic, she is true combination of human brain and machine, a cyborg of the 21th centry. Not even that past of hers is revealed to reader and requires some guess work. She is almost entirely made of cyborg parts, only her ghost is real, a small flicker of light that can easily be extinguished and snuffed out in a sea of technological homogeneity with no more rare uncommon separate individual identity to call her own. It’s an everyday struggle to keep her same self individuality separate from others as she hacks and infiltrates the web and might be lost forever in the cybernetic world comprised of nothing but AI and other same looking individuality lacking Ghosts.

Sometimes Shirow will even sacrifice the narrative flow and halt the story entirely to explore something new and different from previous chapters. There is an overarching story but it is fragmented into smaller almost as if unrelated stand alone episodic stories with a main plot popping its head once in a while as a form of coherent check up. There are even chapters with almost no obvious connections to the plot only serve to further explore the mind numbing ideas or to expand on the world that the story inhabits. It seems as if showing off all the exhausting research Shirow did was the main objective all along while the characters and the plot are only secondary tools to fleshing out the broad scope of his ideas.

In fact Shirow coldn’t even fit all this information into his own panels and had to fill the manga with side notes between the panels or the sides of the pages sometimes taking an entire 3 or more paragraphs of text. Sometimes the notes will describe something important in addition to what is already said in the panels other times it’s his amusing commentary contradicting what one of the characters just said, or commend about how a robot doesn’t smile and is only programmed with preconditioned reactionary states. Even the anime directors were pushed to their limits when trying to come up with ways to convert all this information into a visual medium without stopping every second just to give another interesting tidbit of Shirow’s musings.

Too many stories are said to be Science Fiction just because they have a futuristic setting and tell a generic story with nothing to hold it in that particular setting so much so that if you were to lift it and set it down in some other setting nothing will change. Ghost in the Shell is a story wrapped up in a police drama narrative that just wouldn’t work in any other genre but Science Fiction.

 

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Golden Axe Warrior

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When Shigeru Miyamoto created the concept for Zelda he probably had no idea the legacy that will follow after that first legendary game. There were many similar games before but never quite like it. Instead of leaving you puzzled not knowing what to do the game’s design focused on exploration and discovery, instead of frustrating enemies it had a slow strategic anticipation of enemies’ movements, instead of mostly unfair puzzles the playr instead was rewarded with new areas to explore. Many tried to copy the Zelda formula but gave up as the design wasn’t as simple as it first appeared. One game that managed to copy the formula with a few tweaks is Golden Axe Warrior.

The game was released in 1991 for the Master System, it is a side story to Sega’s popular Golden Axe series and looks very much like a Zelda with upgraded graphics. Or at least that’s what it appears to be at first glance. Indeed the game was inspired by Zelda with green grassy areas with just as green colored bushes, yellow sand colored beaches, squashed player character, very Zelda like dungeons and Zelda like dungeon maps, the inventory screen, the warping camera from one side of the screen to the other side of the screen. It is definitely a game for the Sega Master System owners who didn’t have a NES to seek their teeth into. At the time of its release almost every magazine pandered it simply for being an exact copy of the favorite and very popular The Legend of Zelda.

A copy doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a worse version of the original. Plenty of really bad Zelda wannabes were released over the years but very few could replace or even improve on the formula as much as Golden Axe Warrior was able to do while still keeping its own identity as a good Zelda clone with a bit of a different spin on the usual gameplay.

Unlike Legend of Zelda’s almost completely barren world except for a few caves somewhere in the overworld with some old man lodging inside giving you incomprehensible advice or selling you items, Golden Axe Warrior has real towns you can visit and houses you can enter with living NPCs that give you clues where to go and what to do. There are even stores where you can buy items, weapons, rest, and save. Yeah, a save system, without the confusing holding the reset button method in Zelda and confused a lot of players who had to restart the entire game from scratch every time they wanted to play.

The gameplay differs from Zelda in one basic design choice, the game moves much faster. The player and the enemies move at a faster than expected speeds. In Zelda everything usually moved at pretty slow speeds giving the player enough time to account for enemy’s movement and judge the next action to take in order to attack or avoid fighting altogether. But while in Zelda the player had to make quick decisions, in Golden Axe Warrior the player has to think even faster as every enemy group can surround you or shoot at you from afar while quickly moving in very fast patterns. It sounds very difficult but in actuality it’s pretty simply once you get used to the speeds especially if you just came from playing Zelda.

This small design tweak carries a Zelda on steroids like tone that lacks in many Zelda clones and even the Zelda games themselves lack that fast movement. Certainly the Zelda games aren’t built to move at such speeds and they are very meticulously designed, almost to perfection, but Golden Axe Warrior shows that a subtle change can change and redefine how a game feels. Golden Axe Warriors doesn’t hide its self as a Zelda clone, it knows it’s a damn good one and proudly shows off what it’s got.

There aren’t too many weapons and items but most have some kind of importance, you begin with a forward stabbing sword but very soon find an axe with a slower but wider attack radius and allows the player to cut down the trees on the overworld. The axe works similarly to how Link slashes his sword in A Link to the Past, which is very interesting, almost as if Nintendo copied the idea back from this game.

Golden Axe Warrior also has a magic system as well, though a very basic one acting as sort of an alternative to sub weapons but the magic has its own meter that you can replenish any time. There are also healing items you can use to prevent unfair deaths when you’re running out of health and the enemies don’t give you any health replenishing items either.

There are of course plenty of hidden underground passages, once again, just like in Zelda, the stairs down underground even look very similar to Zelda. The dungeons are very similar to Zelda too with the player walking from one room to the next looking for keys to open doors all the way to the final room for a boss encounter or some kind of an important item at the very end.

Just like Zelda is a product of its time so is Golden Axe Warrior and carries with itself the same old design decisions as well. It can get pretty tough to know where to go and what exactly you should be doing leading to some really frustrating situations, just like the original Zelda had. It’s great to try this game if you are curious but perhaps it’s better to stick to A Link to the Past or any of the portable Zelda games, they are way better designed and less frustrating.

Just as a side not, interestingly enough Sega also released Ax Battler – A Legend of Golden Axe for the Game Gear around the same time as Gold Axe Warrior, only this time it was a combination of Zelda 2 clone for the overworld and the action levels, with a splash of Dragon Warrior for the similar looking towns (a lot of older jrpgs look similar anyway). The player character in Golden Axe Warrior looks sort of like the playable character in Dragon Warrior too.

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Keio Flying Squadron 2

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The first Keio Flying Squadron was a SegaCD exclusive side scrolling shooter with funny wacky premise about Keio and her family worshiping a big golden key and her journey to bring it back after it was stolen. The game opens up with a grainy almost colorless animated anime opening, beginning with a history lesson and suddenly moves to the main part of the story, the history lesson had nothing to do with the main story. The English dub wasn’t good but strangely they did not dub any of the voice clips playing during the gameplay so you still hear the Japanese voices. Overall it was a short but a very fun game with a very good cartoony style to it.

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Keio Flying Squadron 2 was a different game entirely which came as a shock to those few who played the original. Instead of a side scrolling shooter it was turned into a side scrolling 2D action platform game. It is practically unheard of for the sequel to have such a radical change from the original in so many ways. But it is a change for the better, it allowed the game to keep the same presentation style while making something new and different. Something tells me the developers wanted to start fresh as if the first game doesn’t exist even though there’s a 2 in the title.

First thing first, the game opens with another fully animated anime opening. This time due to Saturn’s higher color palette things look much more bright and colorful however it is also very grainy much like it’s predecessor, the Saturn unfortunately didn’t have a dedicated video decoder and the developers were left on their own to come up with something. The dub voices still aren’t very good but once again, just like its predecessor, it does its job. The story is that once again Keio’s family has another holly object stolen, this time it is some kind of magical orb, and Keio must retrieve it from the bad guys. And thus another wacky adventure ensues.

As the game begins we are treated to some beautiful lush and colorful graphics and smoothly animated sprites with some really cool rotation and scaling effects that shows the 2D capabilities of the Saturn. There are even transparency effects which isn’t easy to achieve on the Saturn. There isn’t much here that would be considered as pushing 2D graphics to their limits as the Saturn is barely breaking a sweat rendering those images on the screen but visual aesthetics and design are much more important than a technical showcase.

One strange or perhaps unique aspect to this game are the controls. In general they are the same as any other platform game but the developers played with the formula a bit. When Keio first starts moving she moves very slowly but after a few steps she gains momentum and starts running faster and jumping farther. But unlike other games, when she stops at a complete standstill still retains some of her momentum so if you stop for a second, or even just climb a ladder, and then start moving again she doesn’t start at a slow speed but instead dashes at a fast speed. This can be a little disorienting because of inaccurate controls and can lead to many frustrating situations and even deaths because you’re not always sure at what speed you’re going to move at. This is one formula that didn’t need fixing.

Thankfully, in the options screen you can change how you want Keio to gain momentum. The default is just holding and moving in either direction but you can change the controls to double tap in the left or to the right directions or hold the L+R buttons while moving. However, once again this is not so useful because Keio’s slow speed is really slow, almost as if she’s pushing something heavy forcing the player to hold another button down almost all the time which kind of defeats the purpose of changing controls. Once again, the controls will take some time to adjust.

Keio can also pick up and throw objects at enemies. There are many objects in the background she can pick up including statues and sign posts. But there are also all kinds of weapons available for her to pick up. There is a hammer to hit enemies with, an umbrella that can be used both as a weapon and as a parachute to glide over obstacles, a bow and arrow to shoot enemies from afar. Keio can only carry one weapon at a time and if she’s hit she loses it but can grab it again before it disappears. The weapons act as a second hit point, kind of like rings in Sonic, and you’ll need to find weapons as soon as you can because one hit kills you instantly, so save yourself the frustrations as quickly as you can. Keio can of course jump on her enemies as well like every other platform game out there.

Depending on how you play and how you kill enemies you gain or lose points. These points unlock some bonuses like images in the extra menu. It’s nothing to fret about but a fun little incentive for those who want to unlock everything the game has.

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Besides the platform levels the game also has some shooting levels similar to the original game. They have a very samey feel to them and those who played the first game will feel right at home. There are power ups to collect and a lot of enemies to shoot. The game’s presentation is unlike that of Konami’s Parodius games with similar wacky humorous images in the background and funny enemies to shoot.

But the real show stealer is the presentation. The localizers didn’t bother to change much except for the menu, the user interface, and the voices which this time even the in game voice clips were dubbed into English, go figure. Call it lazy or not but this helped the game keep it’s distinct wacky Japanese flavor intact, they didn’t change any of the Japanese foods and even left all the Kanji graphics in. Maybe they trusted the idiot gaijins to know that some games come from Japan, who knows. There are lots of very humorous moments going on with some funny bosses thrown in into the mix. One of the bosses is a sumo wrestler who is then replaced by some mascot that spins around on a big pencil and then feels sick and starts barfing giving you an opportunity to hit him. Yeah, you read that right… It really happens. The game feels a bit like something from Konami’s Goemon because of it’s style but unfortunately it’s not as polished as what Konami’s games used to be.

I recommend the game for those who want something fun to burn their weekend with. The game can be a little frustrating at times but it’s definitely a fun experience and has quite a few surprises up its sleeve.

Edit: I said that the localizers left everything intact but this is a mistake on my part. After playing the Japanese version I notice that they did some Japanese into English but none of that removes the developer's real intention as even the things that have been turned into English continue to retain the original Japaneseness of the game. Even better, none of the sexual and religious stuff were censored. Some of the dubbed lines have been changed here and there.

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In a recent research study that was done by the UC San Diego psychology professor Nicholas Christenfeld about spoilers he discovered that spoilers do not ruin the enjoyment of the story but in fact makes it more enjoyable. I want to take a better look at these finding and let you, my dear readers, decide if you agree with this research or not. Spoiler alert, in my opinion Prof. Christenfeld's research still needs work because as it is right now it completely misses the mark. It's as if this research aims at a target it doesn't know even exists, it just aims its guns into a forest without aiming at a particular tree not really caring which tree it hits just as long as it hits something.

One of the examples Prof. Christenfeld uses Romeo and Juliet. Let's take a look at some quotes in a prologue: ..."A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life ... The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love". One of the greatest English writers of all time basically spoils everything before the first act even begins. But Prof. Christenfeld seems to completely miss the point. It was not about spoiling the story but the structure the author decided to go for. Let's look at those lines again, ...A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life ... The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love, so it's not that the story was spoiled here, it is what the author himself concluded what is the best narrative structure his story demands. Every author has his own idea what and how he should structure his narrative and where to put these kinds of important details. Furthermore, a sentence like "A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life" can be as much of a symbolic meaning as it can be a literal. And it could have no literal meaning at all, only a symbolic. In the case of Romeo and Juliet it is literal, but whose to say that it has to be. Who of us watched an anime that had what seemed to spoil the ending right there in the first minute of the first episode but the real ending turned out to be something completely different. That so called spoiler takes a much deeper and more meaningful meaning than it first seemed to present itself. This makes the story seem even more reverent and meaningful on subsequent viewings. Saying that Shakespeare spoiled one of his greatest masterpieces so every writer should spoil his story completely disregards the ability of the art of storytelling craft to exhume meaningful profound themes as well as stimulating the reader on deep emotional and intellectual levels. Every writer strives to elevate the reader's experience by clever movements and subtle construction of the words, sentences, and paragraphs, leading up to the high emotional catharsis.

The main point of the research is that when you are reading something for the first time and have not been spoiled then it's like driving on a road without a sense of directions of where you're going and where you will end up. But if you are spoiled you can see your destination and can enjoy the view along the ride. But the problem is that it entirely misses the point of what is the meaning of reading something for the first time. I do agree that reading something when you know what to expect is much better than going completely blind because when you don't know what to expect from a story you build a perfect image in your mind about how you think the story you're reading should be. In turn you start comparing everything you read and watch to that perfect story you hold onto in your head, the expectations you made up in your mind, but of course nothing is going to be as good as that which only leads to disappointments and makes it difficult to enjoy anything.

This is exactly why this research needs more work. It completely misses the point. Spoilers are not what people need to enjoy what they read, it's that they should set their expectations to the right levels. Spoilers don't add to the enjoyment of first experiencing the story. What this research does show is that rereading a story more than once can be a highly pleasurable experience. After you get your first experience you get a bigger overall picture and now you know where the story is going. Being spoiled before your first reading experience gives you some very similar results but it also prevents you from sense of discovery that the first experience provides.Spoilers ruin the discovery and the surprises the author planned for the reader because there is no more tension anywhere, you already know what's going to happen. You can still enjoy the story if it's well written but you will never have a complete experience, it's already been ruined for you.

If you ever watched the Sixth Sense you know that the story is carefully written in such a way that once you discover the truth it completely changes how you view the story from then on. Nothing can replace that FIRST experience and having been spoiled means you're experiencing the film as if you're watching it for the second time which completely defies the experiences the director intended have. Once you're finished watching it for the first time you'll love to see it again and really get the genius of the narrative. Remember11 is an amazing visual novel but if you're coming from Ever17 you'll probably expect it to have all the answers by the time you reach the true ending. However, the problem here is your expectations and they are bound to disappoint you. This is because Remember11 is an unfinished game, the story never gives you the necessary answers. Knowing that, but still avoiding spoilers, I had my expectations set a the right level, that is not expecting a satisfying ending, allowed me to enjoy the story for what it is and it turned out to be one of my favorite visual novels ever. It's one of those visual novels I can to read over and over anytime. That is how much having expectations at the correct level helps to enjoy a story and avoid any spoilers. What about games like Ace Attorney and Danganronpa? The entire point of these is self discovery, you are the one who needs to solve these mysteries. If you were spoiled on every surprise the writers had in store for you then I don't see the point of playing these games. Oh sure, playing them for a second time is just as fun as the first time, however, if your first playthrough was completely spoiled then it's very doubtful you'll even enjoy playing it for the first time.

Spoilers aren't always a bad thing. If you don't care about a certain show and then get it spoiled this might actually entice your curiosity and get you watch the show or read the book.Some people don't care about spoilers and will even read everything the can before watching a show. Do you think it's a good thing to be spoiled or would you prefer to be surprised? This is choice you'll have to make on your own. But try to set your expectations first before you start reading spoilers because honestly, there are some stories that shouldn't be spoiled no matter what anyone says.

It is not the spoilers that make things more enjoyable, it's the expectations we as readers place on the stories we are reading. Expectations change how we perceive and experience things. Expectations can change what we take from what we are reading and what we are watching. Saying spoilers enhances the experience is, and I'll be absolutely blunt here, a big huge bullshit. The reason you enjoy a story even if you've been spoiled is all due to writer's mastery of the storytelling craft. Not because you were spoiled, and not because spoiler make the story more enjoyable, they just help you to set your expectations to the right levels. If the story is very good in your opinion, you'll probably want to read it again, this time with a completely different perspective, you will see the entire map of the narrative, it will be a completely new journey for you. To read something for a second time is an amazing experience in and of itself, you'll find that the more you read your favorite stories the more you'll love them. But you need to get through that first non-spoiled reading to get there.

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Hearing the words a movie license game send chills down a gamer's spine causing him to run to the ends of earth and hide under a rock for hundreds of years while forcing himself a life of denial and self exile. Undeniably licensed games have a well earned horrible reputation by showing again and again what the true meaning of horror really means. But it's unfair to say that 100% of all licensed games are bad as there are plenty of good licensed games as well, even if 98% of them are bad there are still 2% of very good licensed games. Magic Knight Rayearth is one such game.

Magic Knight Rayearth began as a manga by the popular all women manga writers group CLAMP and very quickly garnered enough popularity to earn a two season anime adaptation and an alternative darker and more serious tone three part OVA series. The series began when CLAMP was asked to make a shoujo manga for one of the popular magazines but instead of following the strict rules of the genre they had a complete freedom to bend those same rules. As a result Rayearth combined magic girl, mecha, shoujo, shounen, jrpg elements, sentai team, everything that blurs the line between the shoujo and the shounen genres and was popular among both girls and boys.

The game starts with a beautiful opening which is the opening from the anime tv series with a great upbeat song and well produced smooth animation. As the game begins proper we are introduced to our first of three heroines, Hikari, on a yearly school trip to Tokyo Tower where she and, we the players, meet the other two heroines, Fuu and Umi. Very quickly we get an idea of each of their personality but then Hikari's puppy suddenly appears to her bewilderment, how the hell did it get there anyway and then a chase ensues to capture the puppy. Just when Umi catches the puppy a bright blinding light shone from outside and a mysterious girl appears and calls out to them. The tower disappears and the girls fall into the a new fantastic world where their adventures begin.

The very first thing you notice is the Zelda style top down action rpg gameplay. But the game does everything different enough to stand itself apart from Zelda and its wannabe clones. Each of the characters has a health and magic bars and each has their own weapons. There is no huge world to explore typical of Zelda but there is an overworld map where you can travel to different destinations, visit towns, talk to NPCs, go into dungeons, solve puzzles, and fight bosses. It's a very engaging gameplay mechanics.

The three heroines are Hikaru Shidou the quirky red colored team leader, her name means Light in Japanese and she controls the fire magic elemental and her weapon is a short sword she can side swipe. Umi Ryuuzaki the mature realistic no-nonsense goal oriented blue colored girl, her name means Sea in Japanese, she controls the water elemental magic and her weapon is a long rapier (she's in a fencing club so it's appropriate) and she attacks with strong straightforward stab, unlike Hikari, her weapon has a longer reach. Fuu Hououji the gentle intelligent green colored but blond haired girl, her name means Wind in Japanese and she controls the the air elemental magic, her weapon is a bow and arrow so she can attack from a distance and probably the most useful of them all. You control all three girls at the same time switching between them as needed defeating enemies, solve puzzles, or just a personal preference of one character of the other.

Many licensed games have problems integrating the original story with demands of the gameplay and end up having neither in the process. Magic Knights Rayearth avoids that by following the story through its gameplay so the characters level up not through experience but through progress in the game as the story keeps moving along at a nice pace. The girls start a bit weak but they grow and gain stronger weapons, their hp and mp bars grow bigger, and learn more powerful magics. Hikari gains more powerful fire magic, Umi gains her powerful water magic, Fuu gets stronger arrows which you can even control mid flight and learns the most ever useful healing magic. You'll be relying on Fuu a lot for her long range weapon and healing magic.

Even more memorable is the game's presentation. The lush colorful hand drawn backgrounds and the large smoothly animated and creative character sprites really shows off what the Saturn is capable doing with 2D graphics. The game is fully voiced with each story scene reuses the dialogue from the anime and it all sounds perfectly. The game has a few very short FMV cutscenes but the story is mostly presented through in game dialogue with a visual novel style textbox and the character's image on top. There is a good variety of character poses and expressions fitting for each line delivery, sometimes the characters will even turn into the chibi versions of themselves for an additional comedic effect.

The English version of the game was released by the now gone fan cult favorite Working Designs. The company's president Victor Ireland had a very bitter relationship with Sony's at the time president Bernie Stolar who believed people in the west aren't interested in rpgs and shut the door to most rpgs (and other unique games) to ever come out leaving most western playstation gamers starving. This strict policy was quickly remedied and the playstation western market opened its arms to welcome many Japnese rpgs. However after Working Designs announced the localization of Magic Knight Rayearth for the Saturn, Bernie Stolar left Sony and was hired by SEGA and this led to WD distancing themselves and turning their backs on SEGA, their once home, and instead their focus moved entirely to the playstation.

Working Designs kept delaying the game again and again with a very slow progress while putting most of their focus on the new Lunar remake for the playstation. Lunar:The Silver Star Story Complete still took WD years to polish and release. It seemed like Rayearth was not what WD wanted to focus on anymore, they wanted to move on. But the reality was more troubling, according to an interview with Victor Ireland, the game's Japanese source code was completely destroyed in a hard drive crash and with it all the original data was lost. Working Designs had to recreate entire sections of the game from scratch. The lip sync time data for the in game dialogue was gone along with the crash and Working Designs had to reprogram everything themselves.

If that's true then Working Designs made a very perfect recreation of the Japanese version of the game. This is a bit suspicious of the facts since recreating everything to the latter will not be possible, how much data was exactly lost might be just an exaggeration. The English lip sync time data cannot simply use the Japanese lip sync data, why then did they need the original Japanese data.

The English version starts fully voiced but then suddenly the story sequences aren't voices anymore, with only a few and far between scenes still having voices intact. The reasoning behind this is, as Victor Ireland said in an interview, in the Japanese version which was fully voiced the player couldn't skip those scenes and was forced to wait for the cutscene to finish before moving on. Once again, this is a very shallow excuse to not give the players a completely voiced game. To compensate for that, each heroine also has a diary accessible through the menu, the diary entries are updated automatically as the player progresses through the game, in the English version the diary entries are voiced. These diaries are a lot of fun to read and give a unique perspective on the plot through each heroine's point of view. However this isn't enough for the lack of voices in the game and the truth of the matter is that Working Designs just didn't want to invest their already limited resources into this game. This is not to say Working Designs didn't love the game, every single game they worked on was done with a lot of love from the team and it always showed in their games (even if some of their decisions were, to put it gently, STUPID and IDIOTIC and DUMB, Lunar:Eternal Blue saving system anyone?). It should be noted that what voices the English version does have are mostly very good with a few exceptions, it's a staple of Working Designs' high level of production values, even if there was plenty of room for improvement , they still did one of the best voice jobs in the industry at the time.

The English dubbed anime series had a very good English rendition of the Japanese original song (which was completely abandoned in the remastered versions, it's baffling the decisions these companies sometimes make), yes they used to redo the songs in English for the dubbed versions of anime. Working Designs made their own rendition of the song in English with different lyrics which was just as good as the dubbed English and the Japanese versions. All three versions of the songs are really good and up beat fun tracks that deserves to be on anyone's top favorite anime songs of all time.

As Working Designs kept their non-stop delaying the game again and again Victor Ireland admitted that they wanted it to be the last game ever released for the Saturn, as sort of goodbye to the system and proof to the fans they stayed loyal to the end. This is not unlike what they did with Lunar: Eternal Blue for the Sega CD a generation back.

But no matter the facts and blurred truths Magic Knight Rayearth is still one of the best licensed games and one of the best Saturn games. Working Designs did everything they could to bring the game for the English fans. Even if you never seen the anime or never read the magna, maybe you never even heard of Magic Knight Rayearth, all that is completely inconsequential, you will enjoy the game regardless what your experience with the franchise is.

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The anime industry used to be dominated by the super robot genre and nowhere is it more prevalent than the 70's when every other show was about a giant robot the protector of all good and keeper of piece while fighting the great evil organization/alien/ lizardmen/ invaders/army. By putting the pilots inside the machine and glorifying it as something mystical or even godly, Go Nagai practically invented the genre. The idea about the cockpit being inside the robot [head] came to him after he worked on Mao Dante, the work that lead into the creation of the hugely successful Devilman and its spinoffs and sequels. Go Nagai himself was trying to do something completely different from Mazinger Z but just couldn't think of a way to make things work so Mazinger turned the way it is known today. Working with his partner, Ken Ishikawa, together they finally made the concept work, combining robots. Thus the Getter Robo was born.

Once again, another mecha sub genre born, the combining super robots. The concept is very simple, have three pilots fly three different machines that can combine into a big robot. The order also dictated what kind of robot they combined into so the order of assembly was important as well. There were basically three combinations, Getter 1, Getter 2, and Getter 3, each with a special tactical advantage like fighting underwater. This brought an interesting team dynamic as well making it as much about the people as it is about the robots and changed the anime genre landscape completely, until Gundam and later Macross and even farther down the line Evangelion will change and revolutionize the genre once again. Even the 90's anime were making affectionate parodies of the genre, like in Nadesico a real robot show with a show within a show, Gekiganger 3, a parody of the combing robot genre suspiciously similar to Getter Robo team. But some anime like GaoGaiGar and Gurren Lagann played it completely straight and glorified the genre and complete redefined what epic really means, but that's a story for another time.

Released for the original playstation Geppy-X is a love letter to this exact sub genre of combining giant super robots. The gameplay is a typical side scrolling shooter. The player can transform the robot into three different combinations with very little different between them besides how the robot looks and which weapons it has. Each of the three combinations has it's own 3 different weapons, lasers, machine gun, wind tornado and so on. Killing enemies builds a power bar and lets the player unleash a powerful attack. The gameplay doesn't have much of anything, that's not to say the game isn't fun but it's also quite generic and you'll find better side scrolling shooters than this one.

Presentation is a real winner and the sole reason for Geppy-X existence. The game has an animated 70's style opening which if you didn't better you would believe it was done in the 70's with lyrics and subtitles to get you sing along, that's how good the imitation is. Every level is like an episode from an actual show and in fact that's how levels are called, episodes. The structure is very formulaic with every episode starts with an opening then a short cutscene, then they show episode title, and then the game begins proper, then you get to a boss fight, and then they shows an eyecatch, and show a fake commercial. The commercials feel like a genuine advertisement with ads for Geppy-X toys, Geppy-X souse, Geppy-X manga, a promotion for Ashita no Joe parody anime and so on. Then back to another eyecatch, back to a cutscene and then back to the 2nd half of the game with an end level boss. After defeating the boss there's an episode ending cutscene, continuing to an animated ending with credits and song and end it with a next episode preview. There are also 3D prerendered cutscenes too but they completely feel out of place, it was just a shortcut for the developers not to make any more 2d animated cutscenes.

The game's audio is very awesome too. It's fully voiced during the cutscenes but what makes it a real winner is the glorious soundtrack. During the gameplay sections Geppy-X has some of the most awesome hotblooded 70's anime songs. Every single level has it's own song playing. Even every single half of each episode has its own different song playing. There are even two or three songs exclusive for the boss fights. It oozes with awesomeness and heroic passion, I just wish there was a soundtrack available somewhere out here.

The story plays straight with its tropes and cliches. If you watch a few classic mecha anime you'll notice quite a few similarities. Including the 3 cliche characters with one of them a generic hero, another the cool cold and mysterious, and a fat guy. The good guys have a base HQ laboratory where they apparently live with some professor and other researchers. Every episode the bad guys come and the good guys have to pilot their combining robot and defeat the anime to live another day. Yeah... it's as if Geppy-X was an unreleased show in the 70's and during the 90's someone found clips of the show and made a game out of it. Not that it's a bad thing, Geppy-X feels like a genuine 70's robot show.

With so much love and passion the developers poured into this project it is a shame they did not put as much love into the story. After a few episodes the initial excitement wears off and the cracks in the scenario become apparent. The cutscenes are so short the story is paper thin and completely fails to engage and connect with the player. it plays the cliche for the sake of cliche with absolutely no build up. In the anime they take time to develop the character to make as understand and care for him, the build up to the heroic sacrifice stirs emotions and becomes meaningful. In Geppy-X when one of the characters dies the game expects the player to feel sad but it just doesn't work, even a few episodes in we know this character for barely 2 minutes and now we're supposed to care and feel sad? The game is very easy so obviously the developers wanted the player to enjoy the story and presentation more than the game itself, however they did not put any effort to write a decent story. Even if the story was to be a one-to-one copy of Getter Robo or any of the other classic shows it would still succeed to elicit some kind of reaction from the player. However the game fails to elevate itself anything above just a fun little cute thing lacking any sort of depth to the source material it tries so hard to imitate.

It's hard to recommend Geppy-X to anyone but the most curious or the most hardcore 70's mecha fans. Check it out just for the curiosity's sake but don't expect to come back to it once the novelty wears off. A shame really because it's a perfect homage to the classics and had so much potential.

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blog-0658818001428006322.jpgWhatever our hobby is there are always these once in a while moments when we get a chance to experience something that makes us glad we have this hobby, it defines and gives reason why we love what we do. Dies Irae is one such visual novel for me.

Written by Takashi Masada, Dies Irae was his most ambitious work at the time. The game was a bit of a mess when it was first released. However it gained enough popularity and allowed Masada to redo the script, add two more routes, and polish up the visuals and turn it into the epic we have today. There were a few more versions of this vn published over the years like the PSP port, a pc port of the PSP port and so on. VNDB is your friend so look it up if you want to know more.

It all begins with a long monologue by some mysterious personality talking about destiny, fatalism, predetermined choices and other stuff. You better get used to it because this story is full of long thought probing self indulgent philosophical poetics.

Then we move on to the prologue, still no clear connection to the main plot and yet still immersive to read. The earth trembles by the sounds of the roaring cannons. A rain of dust and shells and hellfire suffocate every last breath. The screams of the victims are unheard over the screaming gunfire. Unknown to the blood stained history an event is about to occur that will set the course of certain individuals on a path of tragic destiny.

The story begins proper in Japan as we are introduced to our protagonist and slowly the rest of the cast. The story is so dense and has such a sheer amount of layers of depth not a single moment is wasted. So much is going on that sometimes it feels as if the narrative is stretched too thin by trying to cover everything and show every character from every event at the same time. Somehow the insane narrative strategy successfully manages to juggle all that without being a confusing distracting mess of a story.

It's really impressive how Dies Irae manages to stay consistently interesting without slowing down or getting boring for the entire length of the story. Not that there aren't slow moments but these are all part of the perfect pacing Masada fused into every scene so everything feel natural. There is almost always something new and interesting to discover at every corner. I can imagine Masada really putting all he's got into polishing the script into a crisp and shiny diamond the end result eventually turned out to be.

This is an action packed vn full of the most badass cast of characters to ever show up in any visual novel I ever read. I dare you to find another vn with so much badassery and flavor of style. What makes it so good is how Dies Irae develops the characters and almost makes them come alive. Pretty much every character has a strong presence illuminating the entire stage, that's a good thing since you'll be seeing and hearing them a lot throughout this 60+ hours story.

The graphics and sound is another area Dies Irae outdoes most everything out there. The character designs are great and the CGs are beautiful especially if you take into consideration that there are a lot of them and all look spectacular. The voice acting is just perfect, can't say much more except that the protagonist is also voiced and he is awesome. There a lot of music tracks spanning from rock metal to slow emotional music to an all out Mozart opera. Suffice it to say that Dies Irae is a feast for the eye AND the ears.

The sheer scope of this work invites volumes of essays, theories, speculations and arguments. It is the visual novel that defines its own genre. It is the proof that visual novels are serious storytelling medium and they are here to stay. It's rare to see a product that brings every single perfect element into one beautiful whole and Dies Irae is one such rare breed.

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blog-0041713001425939186.jpgThe first pick for my series of epic anime has to be non other than Aim for the Top: Gunbuster! one of the best anime ovas every produced. EVER! This six 30min episode anime is more packed with more awesome than your average 26 episode tv series.

Produced by Gainax and directed by non other then Hideaki Anno himself. The creators put so much love and passion into each and very frame you can't help but keep watching just one more episode and before you know it it's over. But it's over at just the right moment with just the right length and with just the right pacing. Don't be fooled by the girly shoujo style you're presented at the begining either, give it a minute and you'll forget that it's somekind of a shoujo show and be completely cheering for the main character.

The 1st episode indeed starts very differently from what you might expect out of this show but this episode has a goal and it accomplishes it perfectly. Say what you will about Anno but the guy knows how to direct a story. This first episode also makes a lot and I do mean A LOT of homages to Aim for the Top shoujo anime about tennis. It's based on a popular shoujo manga. However what's amazing is how Anno was able to do in one episode what this show tried in 12. If you watched the original 70's Aim for the Ace anime (directed by the well known Osamu Dezaki) you will have a dejavu.

It's not surprising, the Anno and the entire Gianax staff are huge anime fans have alot of love and passion for animation and storytelling and it shows up in their works a lot. Gunbuster is their love letter to the anime fans of that generation but it's just so happens this show transends generations and still relevant even today.

It's not a very deep story, in fact it's not deep at all. What it does have is human characters trying standing up against all odds. There is just enough drama to make you connect with everyone and everything is kept within realism. The sci-fi elements aren't ignored either and are taken very seriously. So much so that they even produced several mini episodes explaining the science to the viewers. Not that it's so complicated that you'll be lost but it's a nice effort.

Visually it looks fantastic. I love that old art style and portrays the awesomeness of the late 80's early 90's anime art long since gone. The art still holds well even today so many years since the first episode was released. The voices as awesome as well, being fans of anime Gainax staff knows how important a voice can be, not just the voice but the tone of the recorded sound. For that they add a bit of trebble filter to the voices to bring them closer to your ears. Speaking of sound, the music is another reason this is a hootblooded anime, there will be moments when the hair on your back will stand erect from awesomeness.

Well then, I guess it's time to finish this. I hope you guys check this show out. Don't look for info on google, don't read the wiki, don't even read reviews. If you want a great epic anime try it out, I guarantee once you get past your initial impression you'll get hooked. Few things you should now before you go, it's a mecha show, it's hotblooded, it's slightly over the top. If that's not your cup of tea then I'm sorry but you probably won't like it.

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Hey everybody who reads this. I'm fun2novel and this is my new blog. Actually it's my first blog ever. Always wanted to have my own blog if only to wine and complain about the state of the industry today. What industry? I have no idea, I guess I needed a place to be heard, lol. But I was too busy or too lazy to make a blog. But here I am, finally taking the right step, at least I hope, it's kind of scary putting yourself out there, lol.

Well, actually the truth is that I wanted to get myself motivated to write more. Writing I believe helps me grow and learn to express myself better in both writing and in real life as well. I plan to write a lot here and hope that at least someone will find it interesting.

So what is this blog going to be about? First and foremost it will be about visual novels and video games. Especially the narrative aspect of those. I'll be talking not just about the plots and stories but also about the overall experience I got while playing. These wil be my thoughts although I will try my best to have both personal opinion and a more unbiased opinion. Some of you will hate me for saying some things, some of you will love me but at the end of the day it all comes down to how much you personally enjoyed it and the opinion of some asshole on the internet really doesn't matter (unless it's me :P )

Well anyway, time to finish this post. Cya soon guys!

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