Friday, March 28, 2014

Allie WInters and the News

So,it's been a few months since we've talked heart to heart like this.If all of my frequent readers want to gather around(all 3 of you) we'll talk about the goings on and by talk I mean tell you.

First of and the biggest part of this update is some news I have been sitting on since last month. I've been contacted and offered a position with Haywire Magazine as a columnist.I'd explain what that is and who they are but I'm I can't do it justice so I'll let it speak for itself.I'll be taking over for the extremely talented Zachary Brictson and his column Off the Grid. There I'll be talking about newer games that strike my fancy. My first column for them will be up in the coming weeks so in the meantime check out the other excellent writers,so you can actually see good writing in action.

What does this mean to you besides my pointless bragging,nothing really.This blog has never been one that is known a consistent schedule and actually having deadlines will not effect this blogs schedule more so than my own issues usually due.While I will try to get back onto a more stable release schedule,I make no promises.Speaking of broken promises, lets move on to a little bit of what is coming up in the next few weeks.

I''ll admit I haven't really kept up with the latest anime season mostly due to laziness and doing other activities besides watching anime.One of the few shows I have kept up with is Golden Time which like most shows of this season are just now finishing up,so be looking for a post on that sometime next week.Back in the ancient past of last November, I did an unofficial Slayers month. I did not nor am I really still calling it that just due to the goofy failure of Jojo month last June. However I did have a point to it in that I wanted to you to see how the Slayers movie line progressed,so we all know where they stood when the final movie,Premium, was released.Since I finally talked about Gorgeous after Great just drained me completely with its' mediocrity,I figured it is a good a time as any to dive in to the train wreak that is Premium.Again look for that in the next couple of weeks

As for the random post on Conception 2,that was a short entry for an Atlus USA Contest hence it not being labeled like most of my other entries are. Not much else to say about that but I will probably review the full game when it comes out either here or at Haywire next month.

-I'm going to be writing for Haywire Magazine
-Golden Time next week
-Slayers Premium the following week
-I wrote a contest piece and did not win
-Huey Lewis please don't sue 

Till next time Stay Positive

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Thnigs No One Cares About:Slayers Gorgeous

I guess it's been a while since we've talked about Slayers...or really anything for that matter. I'd make an excuse but eh I got nothing. Lets change that and talk about Slayers Return 2 or as the kids call it,Slayers Gorgeous. It was released in 1998 almost a year to the day after the forgettable Slayers Great and the first one that wasn't released alongside an anime season but was the last part of the prequel series to the main series. I'm going to get the bad out of the way first so I can actually say nice things about this movie.

The movie is a really a point for point retread of Return,right down to the the plot being hijacked by a monster that the villain can't control. It attempts the same twist that Return had,with it's darker opening The editing and color palate being very similar with their attempts to mislead you into thinking this might be a bit serious. Hell it throws in a callback to the bizarre golem scene from Return as well. However you know what the film is still funny.

Upon my last re watch I really did start noticing the above mentioned gripes but it does not matter because again it is still hilarious and actually does add a few new things in to the mix. As I have said numerous times Slayers plots tend to be average and more a medium for the comedy. Thus they tend to fall into a sort of template that works for them. See the anime having clearly defined arcs where Lina and co have build up to one villain. There is nothing wrong with that,it's a solid foundation that the comedy builds the house on. When the story tries to get more serious the harder we have to look at the foundation and realized that it is made of sand, I.e Hourglass of Falces. So Returns had a stable plot and structure that worked. Gorgeous realizes this and use that structure to tell a fun story with a breezy pace.

The only real problem I do have with it borrowing Return's structure is that final part of the movie with the aforementioned hijacking. The villain seems to be there because I guess the director had some scenes to foreshadow him and it would look awful silly if they didn't do anything with them. There are no really good jokes in the big battle and the guy is just not that unlikable that I want to see him defeated. You really could have cut these scenes and lost nothing outside of showing how well Naga and Lina can work together. Even then that could have been demonstrated better without those scenes

Through out the series Naga and Lina have had a volatile yet trusting relationship and while Return played with it a little it was tame compared to here. Their own relationships is almost central to the plot as they go from fire forged comrades to bitter enemies at the drop of a coin. They are both greedy as all get out and this fact does lead to them choosing sides for no other reason than to fatten their own purse. However as much as they are constantly trying to one up the other they can pull their act together to fell a mutual enemy. If only to have go right back to quibbling a moment later.

Admittedly they did try something like this in Great as well but there their own conflicts took a back seat to the abysmal main conflict and their big showdown was one of the most boring thing ever animated. Here the main conflict is more of a free standing joke on dragons while Lina and Naga are just trying to one up each other and get paid to do so. It's honestly pretty funny that Naga joins the bratty princess just to teach her how to laugh more arrogantly.

The comedy does borrow slightly from Return with it's misleading seriousness but goes on to rely on smaller twists with pratfalls and some great continuity jokes. It has great comedic timing and I was laughing quite often. It does lack the big comedic set-pieces the Return had but makes up for it with it's mythology gags and pratfalls that you never really notice the lack of the former

Overall this is not a bad movie by any means it is very entertaining and well paced. This is probably the best portrayal of the Naga/Lina relationship and I'd place it up there with Return. Yes,maybe I will marry Return,what's it to you. Definitely worth checking out if you need a laugh.

Till next time: Stay Positive.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Conception 2:Children of the Seven Stars Entry

I got to sit down with the demo to Conception 2:Children of the Seven Stars that was recently released because I've being seeing the posts on Atlus' Facebook and decided might as well see if it's worth it. I loved Persona and the way Conception has been described defiantly gave it a Persona vibe. The demo did keep that vibe going so at least they are giving off a good vibration,make sure to tip your waitress. Since this is a demo and I can't do my usual routine of picking apart everything,so I'll keep it short.

The demo gave the basic outline for the story involving these labyrinths that have sprung up and you being literally a gift from God that can help vanquish the monsters within the mazes and get rid of the mazes themselves. That's really about it,I guess there is no point in really having spoilers in your demo which is fine. The end of the demo promises a deep storyline which seems plausible given the relative vagueness of the scenario. There are are plenty of places for the story to go,and the characters are fun.

The game play is split into dating sim and dugeon crawling/combat ala Persona. The dating sim aspect is just that,you talk to the ladies,say something that is hopefully smooth and then profit. Profit being defined here as stat boosts for the Star Child System which is how you create parties for the dungeons. The Star children are like Personas for the Final Fantasy crowd. You choose a girl to make a child with choose a vessel for that child to inhabit and preform the ritual. Yes the whole thing has a sexual undertone but not in a way that is pandering but more as a emotional side effect of making these children. It is something I hope the game explores more as it could be interesting. Either way once your child is conceived you give it a job and a name and you go on your merry way. It seems to have a reasonable amount of depth for those who want to play with the system and makes you feel like the dating sim parts aren't just there for lonely people who need a date. The children appear as little cute warriors with tiny job costumes and they are really adorable.

You form the children into three parties of three and equip them with weapons while you and one of the heroines form a fourth party before heading into the Labyrinths. There the combat sections begin and this is honestly the best part that the demo had to offer. This is a dungeon crawler with onscreen encounters as you explore the dungeons. It even does that Mother thing where enemies that are considered too weak are defeated on touch. The whole party moves around with you but thankfully can not activate encounters themselves. The children run around you and your heroine and have little chats and give encouragements. It really helped endear the little ones to me and gave them a little bit of personality.

The combat itself involves circling the various enemies and exploiting there weak spots either through elemental weakness or attacking their undefended sides. It is a turn based game but the abilty to move around to attack the enemies keeps the pace up. Each party can move independently of the group as a whole but attack as a team with their various skills. There is also the ether level which effects the speed of the entire group and helps set up the chain gauge. The chain gauge is something I was not quite sure on but form what I gathered it helped you build up combos and immobilize enemies. It felt underutilized in the demo but hopefully it'll have more use in the full game. Combat as a whole is fun and easy to pick up but does of a level of strategy that will keep you interested.

The game looks very nice with lovely character portraits in the Dating sim aspects and nice 3-d models in the dungeons with some cool looking  enemies. They look very alien and odd which I guess was the point of them. As the labyrinth you do explore has a very sterile and alien feel as well,so the enemies fit right in.It is a very nice aesthetic.The music is nice from what I've heard of it though the event music was a little grating at first it grew on me.

This demo did exactly what it set out to do and give you a feel for Conception 2. It left a really good impression and I'm looking forward to this one. If your an RPG fan,Persona fan or both then you'll probably really like this. Plus like the Bravely Default demo it does promise some bonus for transferring the completed demo save to your main game.

Till Next Time: Stay Positive

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Things No One Cares About:Princess Knight

Osamu Tezuka is a name in manga that I love yet hate. On one hand he is the godfather of manga,responsible for classics like Astroboy and Blackjack. On the other hand I have a really hard time spelling his name. Joking aside I really do enjoy the man's work and acknowledge their influence on manga as an art form. Determined to be known as the Japanese Walt Disney,he wrote a multitude of different series and stories that spoke to all demographics. He also wrote what can be considered one of the first shojo manga:Princess Knight.

Princess Knight ran in Shojo club from 1953-1956.It 's a classic tale of fantasy adventure with a heavy undertone of romance that is prevalent in stories written for girls. Taking the time to address gender politics,what it truly means to love and that angels can sometimes be really stupid. So lets see if this classic holds up to the test of time or have I just been using ind words to soften the blow.

The story follows Sapphire as she starts the fine tradition of Shojo heroines being menaced by ugly people. Seriously the story starts out fairly happy with some light antics then takes a turn right into horrid town as tragedy upon tragedy is heaped on Sapphire. Just when something finally does go right,there is another villain or event that just comes back to smack her down. It'd be comical if it wasn't handled so well. The awful things are always within in the realm of possibility and there is an undercurrent of hope that kept me going.

Before I go on and discuss the plot in more detail,we need to get a core concept out of the way. The idea is that at birth God(who may or may not be Zeus,more on the later) assigns every child a boy or girl heart that defines their gender. This is where most of my real gripes are found in the book. Disbarring the vastness of the gender spectrum and various gender issues that arise from this idea. I can't really be pissed about that as it was early the fifties when these concepts were not exactly at the forefront of the public mind. It's just not a well explained concept,Sapphire is born with both due to a trickster angel and goes to either extreme of the spectrum when she loses one of them. Yet it seems that everyone else's heart does not cause that affect in them that way. King Plastic is an annoying brat who doesn't truly mature till he swallows Sapphire's male heart. Maybe Sapphire's hearts are special but this is never really established.

This could be a statement on the fact that regardless of what gender we are born as,we all have traits of what would be consider the gender norm for the opposite gender. The book constantly criticizes the idea that only men can rule and women should be in supporting roles exclusively. It's fairly progressive for it's time and does help it avoid the embarrassment that plague some older works. That being said,I believe I get what Tezuka is trying to get at but the heart concept is poorly explained and leads to some possibly unintentional sexist moments.

Princess Knight also has a weird concept of religion. It tends to stick to a general outline of Christian beliefs in that there is a God who watch over us and Satan(who is fabulous by the way). However Venus the goddess of beauty shows up and also controls life and death. She refers to God as father,which would make him either Uranus' private parts,which is unlikely as he is drawn like Sunday school God. More likely this makes him Zeus which explains his pulling a major jerk move during a pivotal fight scene. Either way she's more than perfect to serve as an antagonist to Sapphire and her prince's love. Calling back to Circe the with also from the same mythology. It's not really a mark against it as the whole story never really establish it one way or another, I just though it was worth mentioning.

The villains in the story are all fairly one note and simplistic however it's that simplicity that makes them enjoyable. They all mostly desire power(excluding Venus) and will be as evil as humanly possible to reach that goal. It's entertaining in the same way Dio form the Jojo series is. They are all easy to hate and make Sapphire much more likable.

Not that Sapphire has to try that hard to be likable,as she is a kind heart ed person who truly believes in love and doing good. We could call that mary-sue and to some extent it really is but her purity and goodness comes back to bite her in the rear. Her own naivete and inability to explain herself cause many of her problems.You think she sits back and lets her love interest solve things?Hell no,she's out thwarting schemes and proving herself capable and heroic. You want her to see her triumph over evil and finally ascend to her rightful place in life.

Her love interest Franz is no less likable but could stand to learn to pay attention as all it takes is a wig to fool the poor guy. A noble man who truly does love Sapphire once he wraps his head around the various conspiracies going on. Her secondary love interest is a pirate named Blood who gets what is honestly one of the weirdest adventures (I can't really do it justice)in the plot all to himself. The rest of the supporting cast is nothing special though Sapphire's nurse gets points for being utterly entertaining. Tink,the angel who started this whole mess is one of the more complex side characters. His trickster nature developing into something outside of being a jerk and helping get Sapphire out of many late story binds.

The plot itself is complex enough to be interesting without getting overly dense. It can be broken down into three intertwining plots all involving various factions needing Sapphire dead. The antagonists of each plot tend to come and go as the plot demands. The witch,Hell, leaves the main plot halfway through to pursue her own slightly related plot. It sort of helps the story feel slightly grander as there are these various plots going on while Sapphire is pursuing her own agenda. I'll admit that the third act feels slightly tacked on but includes enough awesome scenes that this hardly becomes an issue.

The art work her is either love it or hate it. It's very reminiscent of older Disney style shorts,with exaggerated features and funny background events going on constantly. Special note should go to the animals,as they are wholly awesome. This series is the gold standard for horse drawing,there is a horse early who is just plain great. I'd put his picture here just for everyone to bask in his glory but the internet lacks his picture and that's a damn shame.

Wrapping up Princess Knight has earned it's place as a classic that has stood the test of time. Being a fairly progressive work that highlights that women can be just as strong as men while still telling an exciting story. It is a fairly simple story but it has enough twists and turns to keep you wanting to read just to see how Sapphire will emerge victorious. Also I know I just mentioned it but that horse is worth buying the first book alone for.