Conception II – Children of the Seven Stars Review: Indecision is Best Girl

When I initially reviewed Acquire’s Class of Heroes 2, I did a personal check of the high school dungeon crawler to see if it marked every check box on a special list. That list is called the “Francisco Fuentes Big Three”, otherwise known as a set of perimeters or elements a game is to contain to be a considered a Francisco Fuentes game. First is the setting, which has to be set in an anime high school. I’m not talking about your Project A-ko style anime high school with their gangs and mech unit fights, but one with dates and class representative meetings. Second is a usually fantasy (but science fiction can also work) world where everyone name drops specific proper-nouns and terminology and expects the player to keep up. Third is the biggest deal breaker, which is a heavy injection of boys’ romance perversion (think panty flashes and jiggling breasts). Thankfully Class of Heroes 2 well short on the third check box, but unfortunately Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars strikes that final square with gleeful abandon.

Developed by Spike Chunsoft, Conception II   has you playing in a fictional-fantasy world,  as the gray-haired male youth Wake Archus (you get to pick his name, but Wake seems to be the canon name), a recent transfer to an island combat academy. Each student at the academy is called a disciple, as they all share a uniform symbol on their hands called the Brand of the Star God, a mark said to have been bestowed by their god as a means to fight alien creatures that appeared decades ago. Wake learns that he is the fictional religion’s God’s Gift (a title who’s subtlety will quickly appear more Gallagher’s sledgehammer then soft messiah), a forespoken figure whose huge magical energy count allows them to successfully travel through the otherwise hazardous home of the monsters, called labyrinths.

The red-head is named Clotz, the game’s constant reminder that his life sucks simply because you are the cherished protagonist and not him.

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The Sky Crawlers – Innocent Aces Review: Happy Hunting!

I personally have little experience when it comes to the hundreds of hard-core-as-hell plane combat games. I grew up during a time many years after the era where vertical shooters and shmups like Gun Nac and The Guardian Legend were as common to video games as platformers. I’ve had my rare outings: be they a quick run through an Area 88 arcade cabinet at a local con, to the semi-realistic pilot simulators once showcased at the East Dallas Science Place (imagine a science museum, but bigger), to early memories of either Star Wars X-Wing or Tie Fighter my dad once owned, with a full-motion pilot joystick and everything, that we could never seem to run on our family desktop.

But what about any of the Star Fox games you may ask? Let the record state that the only Star Fox games I like are the ones where flight combat is shared with either the puzzles and adventuring of Star Fox Adventures or the time Nintendo tried to make a Halo-esk console multiplayer FPS of Star Fox Assault. Thankfully, my odd pedigree with dog-fitting didn’t stop me from checking out The Sky Crawlers: Innocent Aces on the Wii.

The Sky Crawlers: Innocent Aces was made by Access Games, the same developer who credits include the equally odd-ball pair Deadly Premonitions and this year’s Drakengard 3. I have some familiarity with the Skycrawlers’ name from being a fan of director Mamoru Oshii’s film adaption of Hiroshi Mori’s novels. I immediately put Innocent Aces in the same tie-in boat as the two Eureka Seven PS2 games, The New Wave and The New Vision. A nice form of reassurance that Innocent Aces’ might have been trying to shoot  higher than the average Anime tie-in game came when I read that Oshii and Mori were personally involved in Innocent Aces’ production. This way, Innocent Aces can be seen as a hybrid of Mori’s source material and Oshii’s experience adapting Mori’s source material.

Looking at the reverse cover like this makes me wonder. Does being a Veteran pilot just make you tan or am I missing something?

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Interior decorating in video games never looked so compulsive.

I want to start this article by doing something out of the ordinary for me, which is discussing current video game news. When news of the 3DS remake of the 3rd Generation Pokemon games Ruby and Sapphire dropped, the first thing my friends and I got excited about was what the secret bases would look like running off  Pokemon X and Y’s visuals. A refresher for those of you reading who skipped those Hoenn adventures of which I feel are the second weakest of the Pokemon Gens (after Gen Four if we are only counting non-remakes, because Heart Gold and Soul Silver were fantastic). Hoenn’s secret bases were located in trees, bushes, and sides of mountains where a player with a Pokémon who knew the move Secret Power could access large hidden rooms.

The only real draw the secret bases had were that they could be decorated with various furnishing like cushions and desks made of leaves to trinkets like Pokémon plush and ornaments like breakable doors, tents, and slides. This has me thinking about how, in general, getting a house or base to interior decorate is one of my favorite added parts in video games (up there with character customization like outfits and hair styles).

You can tell that this is a fan mod image because it was impossible to walk across those ditches. Let alone transport all that plush.

Some games make the player’s base or house an integral part of game progression and the Lost In Blue games on the DS are the first to come to mind.

The Lost In Blue games were spiritual successors to the Game Boy Color series Survival Kids, where the player controls a young kid who ends up as a castaway on a deserted tropical island. The first Lost In Blue was an early DS game for me back around 2006, a bygone time where you could actually find a reasonable copy of Trace Memory. While the original first Survival Kids fostered you with late 90’s card-battle anime protagonists Ken and Mery and their mascot ready pet monkey, the first Lost In Blue assigns you the serious young man Keith and the near-sighted quiet young woman Skye. The goal, learn to live off the land and build a way off the island. Every day has you controlling Keith in finding food and water for the pair, as Skye stays in the cave and preps food.

The cave base as a core concept is great, as building new beds and better fireplaces not only spiffs up the joint, but also either makes the daily progress easier or helps restore Keith and Skye’s stamina and overall well-being. You even get to decorate the place with a nifty barrel so that you can keep water inside so these two young youth don’t die of thirst.

I know I rap poetic about Harvest Moon a little too much on this site (less than the average super fans of the series, but more than the average sane person), but no Harvest Moon game ties game progression as heavily to how big your farm house is as much as Harvest Moon: Back to Nature on the Play Station.

Ah the life of a bachelor. A time where you don't care about the random liquor bottles by the entrance or if you have enough shelves for your miscellaneous boxes.

Ah the life of a bachelor. A time where you don’t care about the random liquor bottles by the entrance or if you have enough shelves for your miscellaneous boxes.

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Franklin Raines’ FPS Tour of the Arts

A common aspect of playing shooters is how you often visit a locale only once. No returning to the burned out house set-piece from two hours ago to revisit an NPC, as most shooters like to make every area a sequestered bubble. My experience with most shooters is that you are expected to only run down that hallway or back alley once, unless you happen to get shot dead before you hit the next checkpoint. Certain games like Resident Evil 4 (whose action hybrid approach to gun fights make it an odd duck in this example) would sometimes have you backtrack for puzzles, but once you crossed that bridge to Ramon Salazar‘s castle, there was no returning to those lovely Spanish households.

First Person Shooters specifically are a great example of a quick type of game where you are rarely expected to sit and smell the flowers. Some FPS developers do try to get their players to appreciate the atmosphere though.  A way that developers utilize in order to get the player to slow down their gun reloading is by simply placing detailed things on the wall. They know players like to speed through their campaigns, as FPSs lead themselves to quick gameplay. I decided that with all the late 90’s and early 2000’s FPSs I have been playing lately that I owed it to you readers to give you a tour of some of the better (or at least odder) art I’ve found at the end of my gun barrel. Let’s call it “Franklin Raines’ FPS Tour of the Arts”, at least until I can think of/patent something better.
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Class of Heroes 2 Review: A School Where Everyday Is A Field Trip

As a long-time listener of the ANNCast podcast, I remember host Zac Bertschy once invited X Button writer Todd Ciolek on to help interview both Victor Ireland and John Greiner, head of publisher Gaijinworks and president of publisher Monkey Paws, respectively. Outside of a general discussion about Victor Ireland’s and John Greiner’s lengthy involvement in the games industry, they also talked about the then-current (as of April 2012) Kickstarter for a grandiose deluxe edition of the PSP dungeon-crawler Class of Heroes 2. The limited edition would include treasures like character standees, a soundtrack, a watch, an inflatable sword, and most crazy of all, a pen/pencil set. As most Kickstarter’s go though, they weren’t successful, falling back on an originally intended digital only release.

Fellow Oddity Game Seekers writer Francisco Garcia Fuentes, whom I remember sending a link to the then active Kickstarter as it looked right up his alley, pledged right away. What ended up happening was that backers were given priority to a limited number of Class of Heroes 2 physical releases with digital download codes, to which Francisco gave me my own copy.

Developed by Tenchu creators Acquire, Class of Heroes 2 takes place in the fictional Crostini Academy, a school system involved in training the land’s strongest adventurers. Defined with no irony by your hard-ass home-room teacher Mr. Dante as a “serious school for serious adventurers”, Crostini Academy works with students from all races and good-to-evil affinities. Instead of playing one specific student, you the player seem to embody the essence of a student group, as you actively create (or by CH2’s jargon, “enroll”) different students until you make a party of six. You can choose between ten races and pair them with different jobs. In addition, you can craft individual identities by allocating stat points, based off a randomized set of bonus points akin to dice rolling for stats in a table-top RPG.

Why yes, most of the towns and schools are named after food like they took all their inspiration from Kirby’s Adventure. Granted,I would kill to attend a establishment called Panini Academy.

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Can Gender Selected Characters Ever Be Growing Characters?

Sometime back around 2000 or 2001, my mom bought me the Game Boy Color remake edition of Dragon Quest 3. This was a big event for me: it was my first exposure to Dragon Quest, one of my favorite RPG series, and it was my first “T” rated game, were I was first exposed to saucy subject matter like Akira Toriyama’s love of girls in bunny suits (which DQ3 practically had as an entire job class devoted to, called a Gadabout) and the fan revered “puff puff” service. Yet the biggest aspect of DQ3 on the GBC for me was unintentionally picking a female lead. See, the probably seven year old me thought that I was picking my weight class, misinterpreting “M” as medium instead of male and “F” as fat instead of female.  So here I was, at party with a beefy warrior, a stocky fighter, a pretty thief, all male, who dwarfed their female hero leader by a foot.

It wasn’t until years later that I learned my character was female, a concept I found cool as I was playing this small woman who commanded orders to these three big male adventures; empowering if you think about it.

Anyone could see my confusion when pretty men like Yuri from Tales of Vesperia are such common RPG protagonists.

Let’s talk about gender selection in videogames, as I’ve got something on my mind.

Character gender selection to me has its strongest ties to RPGs, with simulation games coming in second. Since the main character is usual meant to represent the player’s avatar, a player’s gender is an important means of visual distinction. Often, gender selection is simply aesthetic, like my earlier example with DQ3, its sequel DQ4, and most of the Pokémon games. A pre-construct male or female choice where your silent-protagonist self-insert has little bearing on the story but to play along (well, unless you are like me where playing DQ4 as a girl changed the narrative to “How High Fantasy Lunch from Dragon Ball Saved the World from Evil”).

Further character customization, even going far enough to choose different species, still often only speaks to the aesthetics. I don’t remember Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic ever hinting at the beginning of character creation that making Revan a foxy lady meant getting a stat boost to force lightening and toxic resistance. For a solely fighting game example, the character customization in the later Soul Calibur games did let me make a short and skinny lady who fought with Nightmare’s behemoth Soul Edge. Awesome yes, but it was at the expense of the series’ historically minded 16th-17th realistic setting… a setting that thought it necessary to let that alien thing Necrid exist. In fact, since character creation works on its own plane of wish-fulfillment, it’s hard for it to have any real bearing on the world around it.

Wait a second. This Saint Seiya character was alive in the 80’s. How am I suppose to take her in Soul Calibur seriously when the only thing I can think of is 80’s leg warmers?

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