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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Cho Dengeki Stryker Review: Coats Are The New Black

These are just the main characters, mind you. Since we at Oddity Game Seekers are always looking to promote cool, unusual, and noteworthy games, I decided it was up to me to once again spearhead the visual novel and eroge genres (as I’ve written before, they are two different things with  lots of overlap.). I originally decided to review the visual novel Dengeki Stryker ,but I change my mind after hearing that the people at MangaGamer  were putting out the expanded re-release called Cho Dengeki Stryker (essentially, Super Dengeki Stryker). I felt sticking that sticking with the original Dengeki Stryker would have left my review obsolete in the wake of this expansion. Today, I bring to your attention this thrilling tale of heroism.

The original Dengeki Stryker was a visual novel developed and published by Overdrive in 2011 with Cho coming in slightly over a year later in 2012. Overdrive has also produced the game Deardrops, as well as Go! Go! Nippon! ~My First Trip to Japan~ (which I have heard is selling well on Steam).  Both of which are available in English courtesy of MangaGamer. Dengeki Stryker (meaning electric striker minus stylized “y”) is the story of Yuuki Yamato, an ordinary elementary school boy who is a big fan of a certain manga bearing the same title.  Yuuki wants nothing more than to become a hero of justice like his idol, the Imperial All-Terrain Strike Support Ranger Codename: Stryker Zero. A cyborg with a variety of electricity-themed powers, Stryker Zero’s mission is to protect the lands of the Japanese empire from the evil Balbora Empire. Yuuki has one big problem though when it comes to becoming like his hero Stryker Zero. Much like every other elementary school-aged kid, Yamato is a wimp. But hey, he’s got his cute childhood friend Haruna to cheer him on and odds-are-eventually-marry, right? Except Haruna is moving out the day after the story begins.

Orson is here to kickass and chew bubblegum, but mainly chew bubblegum.

Orson is here to kickass and chew bubblegum, but mainly chew bubblegum.

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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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Sweet Home Review: Fresco? Like the drink?

 

As a kid, going to Blockbuster with my older brother was the highlight of the month; since we weren’t rich enough to keep buying new games, we had to recycle our games or rent them. Like most normal people, my mother got paid every two weeks; so every two to three weeks, as a family, we went to our local Blockbuster. My brother and I ended up gravitating towards games that looked interesting based on the cover, description, or if it was multiplayer.

Buying or renting games meant getting ones that were either age appropriate for me, the speculation if it would be good, or ones where my brother and I could co-op. To give a little back story/context my mother was a tad bit over protective when she was raising us. Hell, I wasn’t even allowed to play with toy guns, be it Nerf or water, as my mother’s thinking was it would turn me into a killer. So when the few times I could actually go to an arcade without my mom, I would play games such as Time Crisis and Virtua Cop, but especially House of the Dead. This might explain why I’ve never really had the accessibility to have a sweet love affair with any Horror games besides my occasional House of the Dead. So for 1989’s Sweet Home, this is wish fulfillment on multiple levels.

What is this, Splatterhouse???

Released for Nintendo’s Famicom in 1989, Sweet Home was developed and produced by Capcom (we are all familiar with the love affair these two companies had in the 80’s and 90’s, right?). Often Sweet Home is sighted as being the father of survival horror games; as well as being the main influence for the initial Resident Evil. Sweet Home is based on and was released in tandem with the horror film of the same name  as this old commercial showcasing not only the game play but as well as scenes from the film points out. Kiyoshi Kurosawa, director for the Sweet Home film, also oversaw the game’s development.

Sweet Home sees a small team set out to discover the mystery of the famous painter Ichirō Mamiya, who vanished without a trace, leaving five hidden Fresco paintings behind in his enormous mansion. The team consists of five unique members who enter the mansion and are immediately trapped by a ghost. The ghost tells them that the mansion is slowly but steadily falling apart, thus Sweet Home becomes a race against time as they not only have to document their findings, but more importantly, survive.

SWEET! TOOTHPASTE FIRECRACKERS!!?!

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Malicious Rebirth Review: Save the World, Look Cool While Doing It

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It has been many weeks since I last sat down with my PS Vita,(so long, in fact, that the batteries had run dry while in sleep mode (PSP users will understand what I am talking about) as my 3DS often keeps me busy. Recently, I decided to give my Vita some well-deserved attention. At first I was ecstatic after hearing whispers that the PSN-only Atelier Meruru Plus had come out without my noticing, but I sadly realized later that a 3.2 GB file size and a full 40 dollar price tag would put quite the strain on both my memory card and wallet (Vita owners know storage space it is a precious commodity). Dejected, I decided to peruse the ol’ network for anything else of interest, where in I made a fortunate discovery in Malicious Rebirth: a game that actually made me sit down and enjoy my Vita once more.

Malicious Rebirth is an action game developed and published by Alvion Co., Ltd in 2012, as an enhanced port of their 2010 PS3 title Malicious. Both versions were published by Sony for their English-language release.

Rebirth is an interesting title where the plot of the game consists of a bunch of old men with ridiculously long beards, all dressed in white robes telling you (either as Valeria the male MC or Erica the female MC) that you must defeat the Malicious, bane of mankind. In order to defeat this foul opponent, you must restore the true power of the Mantle of Cinders, a scarf-like weapon capable of changing into various forms in the blink of an eye. The player obtains these deadly powers after defeating the power holders- bosses of incredible might, each specializing in one of your lost weapons, the fist, the blade, the shield, and the wings.

In truth, the real plot behind Malicious Rebirth is told through the background stories in the main menu. if you are willing to read through it, that is. While I am not too keen on having gameplay and a plot line separated like this, I can’t get too angry at a game priced at a mere 15 U.S. dollars.

Ironically enough, the spiffiest costume is quite possibly the most practical.

Ironically enough, the spiffiest costume is quite possibly the most practical.

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Hakuoki-Demon of the Fleeting Blossom Review: All the Pretty Sashes

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I like to test different game genres whenever I can, with the only caveat being most of the genre’s not part of my mainstays: RPGs, Action, FPSs, and Adventure, tend to thrive on ramped up player challenges. For example, dungeon crawlers and especially their masochist off-shoot brother (little sister?) roguelikes; are difficult because of features like permanent death and random enemy wave spikes that; intimidate me far more than the looking at any monster at the end of a cave hallway. Hell, the recent Etrian Odyssey 4 with its rocking soundtrack had a casual mild mode specifically made for people like me. I am also dreadful at strategy games; owning almost every post GBA Advance Wars game but have yet to beat even one. Visual Novels on the other hand, specifically the young women-targeted otome games, focus less on the skill and execution. How about I start with the most recently popular one, 2008’s Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom?

Hakuoki, developed by Idea Factory and released in the U.S. by Aksys Games, is a huge franchise in Japan branching into both manga and anime adaptions from its original Play Station 2 release. Like a big fish in a small pond, Hakuoki’s has a swath of ports, Play Station 3, PSP, DS, 3DS, to its various amounts of cell-phone charms and wall scroll merchandise, painting the series as a samurai-filled media juggernaut. Fitting I guess, since Hakuoki is marketed as the first big example of an American release of an otome game.

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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.