Garr and Yasha in “When You Doubt Your Seemingly Corrupt Leader”

I originally planned on writing this article on the many ways Japanese games represent different world religions, and while I might try again in the future, the only thing that came to mind was how the Catholic church was either a great place to save your game, like in the Dragon Quest games, or a headquarters for the cartoony evil initial villains, like in the Tales of games (Tales of the Abyss even made their Catholic church music themed with evil maestros and everything). I then decided to write about video games that go through religious doubt, but that’s far too complicated. Finally I decided “why not write about two different video game characters that followed similar character arcs to that of Final Fantasy IV’s Cecil Harvey?” In other words, characters whose doubt eventually caused them to refute their leaders’ plans when they decided that they no longer morally agreed.

Warning: Serious plot spoilers for both Breath of Fire 3 (BF3) and Asura’s Wrath (well, statutes of limitation on BF3, as I reserve the right to spoil a PS1 game that is old enough to drive in all 50 U.S. states). 

Garr is one of the four Holy Guardians created by the head goddess of the Urukian tribe (similar to Mayan people) who revere Garr with respect, demonstrated by how they act completely unfazed by his large demonic appearance. Originally created centuries ago to start the Brood War, a conflict against a perceived world threating group of half dragon humans named Broods; Garr spends his semi-immortal life as the reigning champion of an underground fighting competition called the Contest of Champions. I see Garr’s role in Breath of Fire 3 as a world-worn guide for the main character, the once centuries dormant and perceived last living Brood descendent Ryu. Garr’s a perpetually crossed-armed reminder that he’s been around Breath of Fire 3’s post-apocalyptic fantasy block.

Garr, found in his natural habitat.

During the first half, when Garr brought Ryu to Angel’s Tower, a Brood graveyard, Garr secretly planned on killing Ryu. Conflicted about his role in life, Garr often struggled with what was more important: fulfilling his duty to enact his God’s wishes by destroying the Brood; or letting Ryu live. Garr felt doubtful of the Brood after they intentionally didn’t resist Garr and the other Guardians.  Leaving Garr to doubt his actions, but at this point still goes through with his God’s plan.

Continue reading

Advertisements

A Guide To Visual Novels: Or, Just Teaching What Many Of You Already Know

Let’s say you like an anime, and feel like looking it up. What’s this? It was originally a visual novel? Whatever could that be? And what are these “eroge”? Forgive me if I am insulting anyone’s intelligence; rather, I am trying to empathize with the lowest common denominator, which is a tall order for me.  I shall try my best to explain what visual novels are and what is their relationship to eroge and dating sims.

Whether Visual Novels are real video games or not is a debate I am not going to get into here. But for the most part, Visual Novels are text scrolling games that tell a narrative while paper cutouts of characters talk and interact with the main character or other characters, usually with accompanying voice acting. A common approach is to have you, the player, look at things from the eyes of the protagonist in an attempt to have you become the protagonist.  This sometimes extends to leaving the protagonist’s face blank on images they show up in. The faceless protagonist is so pervasive in visual novels that it often becomes a good thing to check whether the protagonist even has a face or voice acting. It shows the protagonist is important enough to the narrative to warrant the efforts of fleshing them out as actual characters. Outside of the faceless protagonist constancy, visual novels are too busy trying different character archetypes, plot twists, art styles, etc. so the only constant in visual novels is that you will be doing a lot of clicking and reading.

Maybe Japanese women like their men faceless…?

Continue reading

What Happened When I Stopped Playing Dead Rising, And Never Got Back To It

To start with an overly broad statement, “How often have you put a game down for a large amount of time because of X reason?”. I personally am talking on whenever say, I buy a cheap copy of an Advance Wars game because I wanted to take another stab at a strategy-game, even though I know I am terrible at the genre. Or the time I bought a port of fighting games like the PSP version of Street Fighter Alpha Three or the Wii version of Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus (which I equate now as a twenty dollar soundtrack + a game), to then learn I am not hardcore enough a fighting game player to warrant such purchases. Or even the time I kept forgetting to get the No More Heroes’ save data from my friend’s Wii because I played the game with them at their house, and was later hesitant to restart. Yet the perfect example I can recall is none-other than that bastion of George Romero-no relation, 2006’s Dead Rising from Capcom.

Detroit Lions linebacker, I mean photojournalist Frank West is following a news scoop that has him traveling by helicopter over the Colorado town of Williamette. At first believing his attempt at Gonzo journalism will have him simply facing a town riot, he learns that the city violence is caused by not by civil uprising, but zombies. Getting off at the top of Williamette’s large shopping mall, Frank is set to get him that scoop, making him famous in the field of “make sure you get the shot, even when the subject is about to kill you”. Mysteries are afoot though when trained Department of Homeland Security agents Brad Garrison and Jessie McCarthy try and hide from Frank that there is more going on in the Wiliamette mall then zombies and marauding psychopaths. From there, Frank has to make his way from scoop to scoop, solving his own mystery in an open-world game with shops to explore and misc. objects to defend himself.

I ended up relying on this map as much as the average metroidvania.

I ended up relying on this map as much as the average metroidvania.

Continue reading

7th Dragon 2020-II Import Impression: Slaughtering Dragons In Tokyo Was Never This Flashy

91P17tNuzML._SL1500_Unlike their undead co-workers the zombies, dragons rarely get to start their own apocalypse. Because the fantasy genre usually portrays dragons as mighty, but rare, creatures they are usually left as strong bosses, if not the final boss itself (whether we talk about video games or not, it rarely makes a difference). But sometimes, some form of media comes along, and shows us the terror of what it would be like if the flying, fire breathing lizards were about as common as say, rats? Rob Bowman’s 2002 Reign of Fire, was one such movie, if you were one of the few to apparently enjoy it. Another such attempt, though this is no B-List movie, has arisen from Japan in the form of the 7th Dragon series, and its latest installment, 2013’s 7th Dragon 2020-II.

7th dragon 2020-II is the third game in the 7th Dragon series and the second game in the 7th Dragon 2020 spin-offs (kind of confusing, I know.) It was developed by Imageepoch, a game developer that deals primarily in JRPG’s like Fate/Extra, and Sands Destruction, and published by Sega. Yuzo Koshiro, who has worked on the Y’s series as well as every Etrian Odyssey title to date was the composer for the game, illustrator Shirow Miwa, best known for his Dogs manga series, was the character designer.

Is this was not inspired by God Eater's Hannibals, then I must be French.

Is this was not inspired by God Eater’s Hannibals, then I must be French.

Now, I will warn you, this is an import game, as the title implies, this is not a full review, so much as a general impression. The reason for that is quite simple: I can read squat of Japanese; as such, a true review of the game would be incomplete without at least some story analysis.

While I did say that I cannot provide a story analysis, I can provide you with the general premise of the games as a whole. In the year 2020, dragons from space invade Tokyo, warping the city and covering it with mysterious flowers. The dragons quickly overwhelm the military and complete chaos ensues, which is when Murakumo, a government agency made up of people with superhuman abilities dispatch their 13th squad to deal with the draconic menace. One year later, after the events of the first game, the dragons come back for a rematch and seem to be more powerful than ever.

Moving on to the gameplay, you control a trio of characters whose appearance, voice actor, and class are yours to pick (and later on, fully exchangeable, except for class, which follows slightly different rules). You can assign one of them the fairly arbitrary position of leader, though you can change it at any time when in your room. All it really does is assign someone to interact directly with the cast during the story sequences. The game mixes elements of dungeon crawlers with those of more traditional RPG’s while battles are fought in a first person perspective, much like Dragon Quest, mixes things up by showing us our characters as they perform actions. A regular attack, for instance, will simply show the fighters coming in from the sides and swinging their weapons at enemies. Skills, on the other hand, will change camera angles and have the player characters performing much more elaborate attacks; this video showcases some of the flashier ones.

Roppongi has let itself go.

Roppongi has let itself go.

Among the usable classes, we have the samurai, who is strong, has good endurance, and speed, but is only above average. There is the destroyer, who has excellent strength and endurance, but afflicted with low speed and magical defense. The psychic, powerful offensive and healing magic, but has low physical prowess, low endurance, and middling speed. The hacker, which has a great deal of supporting skills, but lacks very many offensive skills, and has the same general weaknesses as the psychic. The trickster, possessed of decent attack, high speed, and two sets of skills depending on whether it is using knives or guns, unfortunately it also has low defenses, and it’s gun skills consume a lot MP, so they have to be used carefully; the knife skills have low MP consumption, inflict status effects and often gain a critical hits, but tend to lack in power. Finally, the idol which is a support class much like the hacker, but has more offensive skills, and the support it provides is slightly different from those of the hacker, it also has better offense, but it is still kind of frail.

One of the main gimmicks concerning 7th Dragon 2020-II is presence of the vocaloid Hatsune Miku, you know, the virtual voice who lends her talent to any Japanese composer who cannot afford to hire an actual singer. She (and her merry band of companions) are quite popular among the Japanese, and certain sections of the English speaking internet community. While her in-story presence is fairly insignificant (at least as far as I was able to tell), helping her in a certain side-quest allows you to change the entire soundtrack to “Diva Mode” which is a remake of the original soundtrack using vocals, courtesy of Miku herself. To my surprise, the songs sound vastly different, and often were improved by the switch to Diva Mode. Take this and this as an example.

Our diva.

Our diva.

And I suppose I have been glossing over the language issue haven’t I? All of the story, all the skill names, and all the items are in Japanese, however, the menus themselves are completely in English, so at the very least you will not be getting lost there. And voila, these spreadsheets contain very useful information and translations (but no walkthrough) of the 7th Dragon 2020 and 7th Dragon 2020-II  games (the second one is still in progress, but it is still fairly complete).

As a whole, 7th Dragon 2020-II and its predecessor seem to be more about style than substance (or at least for those who cannot follow the story) but they are nonetheless enjoyable, challenging games. If you like the Etrian Odyssey series, you might want to give this one a look-see. 7th Dragon 2020-II is not as old fashioned, but it does make up for it in terms of flair and I certainly did enjoy myself.

What a Fist of the North Star Fighting Game Taught Me About Importing and My Love of Anime Tie-in Fighting Games

On staff, Francisco Garcia Fuentes is known as the heavy Japanese import gamer. A neat aspect, in my favor, is currently Francisco has everything he orders shipped to my house, so I get to open boxes filled with titles like Demon’s Gaze, Seventh Dragon 2020 II, and the Queen’s Blade strategy-RPG that came out a few years ago. For me, import gaming is another step one takes to become hardcore, akin to buying and collecting Gen 2 video games like Atari 2600s, translating and crafting foreign language patches, and buying an arcade cabinet. Looking for my own affordable (you know, because importing games is an expensive endeavor) venue into import gaming, I went with a safe bet; a dirt cheap copy of a PSP fighting game based on the Fist of the North Star spin off  Hokuto No Ken: Raoh Gaiden – Ten no Haōh.

I chose Ten no Haōh thinking a fighting game would ease the biggest barrier when playing import games, text, usually, this is a bigger problem with rpgs and strategy games, learning how to even play the game. Deciding I could finger my way around the familiar opening menu, (oddly in English, which I have noticed in the other titles Francisco has played where random text for stats and menus will be in English), with the usual Story Mode, VS CPU, Practice, and Options choices readily available, I went forward, thinking button recognition could be easily learned from a round in practice mode.

I then learned Japan uses the “O” button as the “yes” command, with the “X” button as the “No” command on the PSP. After my entire way of life came crashing down around me, I thought back to how in anime, when exams are handed back, circles mean that the answer is right, where an “x” means the answer is wrong. Makes sense. Even now, I will forget this fact and hammer the “X”, becoming frustrated at how I am now back at the title screen. THIS IS A BIG DEAL FOR ME PEOPLE!

Varied character selection, the one true weakness for a dork like myself.

Varied character selection, the one true weakness for a dork like myself.

Continue reading

Once I Left Wario’s Castle

Picture a younger smaller version of me, Franklin Raines, not but single digits, sitting with my mom on an airplane ride going from one side of the country to the other. I remembered specifically that it was the last time I rode a plane at night, making the event stand out more than past or future rides. I found myself bored, which for a kid at that age, felt like a lifetime. I was getting close, but have yet not achieved the necessary skill to read the fiction I would soon like, so books are out of the question. This only left me with my trusted teal green Game Boy Color found in my possession. I used the excuse to go walk to the bathroom at the end of the rows of passenger seats, where I notice another young boy. Just like myself he was traveling with his Game Boy Color and his mom (thinking back, of course I noticed the Game Boy far faster than the mom), so I talk with him until I decided to loan him a game until the plane touches down. I forgot what I loaned him, but remember that what I got in return was Wario Land II.

Having played hours worth of the sequel, Wario Land III, I instantly started to look for similarities between the two. Wario Land II still had me playing as the money-grubbing anti-hero Wario, where III dropped Wario into an alternate universe by way of crashed plane (coincidence to my present environment not noticed), II found Wario asleep in his castle as three shadowed creatures steal his treasure and flood his home. The thieves even left Wario a living alarm clock just to spite him. Wario wakes up and I, now the player, decided to work with what I knew from my experience in III; otherwise known as find walls to shoulder charge and floors to ground stomp through to find coins, to which my younger self found oddly comforting in its familiarity. A younger me found just enough time to finish the first stage of five levels before he had to stop at the second stages’ forest when the plane landed. Figures one would have to leave right when they started exploring the area outside of Wario’s castle.

Continue reading