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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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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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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Why We Need Okage: Shadow King To Keep Us Humble

okage A few months ago I was amusing myself with an early PS2 game called Okage: Shadow King, a delightfully goofy game that doesn’t bother to take itself seriously for eighty-five percent of the story. Okage is the kind of game that at first sight, seems purely crafted for goofy entertainment, a fair bit of foreshadowing and clues that let you get  the deeper nature of the game’s world. But ultimately, you will remember Okage because it makes you laugh, snicker and chuckle.It is the kind of game that makes talking in Pig Latin a terrible curse, our protagonist the prize winner for “most overshadowed character”, and includes such bosses as the Sewer Evil King, the Company President Evil King, and the Idol Evil King. I feel comedy focused games are missing nowadays, leaving only games that take themselves too seriously.

As much as I enjoy a poignant narrative, such as: that of Radiant Historia, a story of loss and how time travel will not necessarily solve everything; and Xenoblade, a tale of revenge and how easy it makes it for others to use you as their pawn, great stories, but they have a fill of plot devices we have all seen before. I know that anyone with a true love for games and their favorite genre knows that they all have trappings, traditions, and weird habits that deserve the occasional mocking.

I present to you, the Sewer Evil King.

I present to you, the Sewer Evil King.

I appreciate games such as Disgaea and other titles that NIS publishes that love to use goofy characters ( with outrageous level caps) that make fun of anime and game clichés, to say nothing of obliterating the fourth wall. But even these goofy characters have their share of drama and heavy themes that become more pronounced as the game progresses. I mean, two plots about demon children wanting to overthrow their overlord fathers is enough, okay? I feel like they stand in more as buffers (chemistry humor, yes?). But I feel they do not go far enough into the comedy to get anywhere near Okage. Continue reading