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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Mahoraba ~Heartful Days~ - Review

Mahoraba (not to be confused with Maburaho) is about a college student named Shiratori Ryushi who wants to become a children's book artist/writer. He moves to an apartment in Tokyo which is managed by his second cousin Kozue Aoba. The apartment he lives in is filled with other residents each having their own unique personality, but the most interesting person of them all is Kozue. Not knowing herself, Kozue has a personality disorder and switches personalities when she receives a shock.

Mahoraba is really interesting. It has a very casual pace that seems to work well throughout the series. I've heard from many people that the manga greatly accentuates each character, but the show alone seems to do a good job. While the manga adds depth, some information seems almost irrelevant or just really close nitpicking. Regardless, they're both quality works and worth a look.

The colors in Mahoraba are very cool yet distinct. One thing about this anime is that it's very color oriented and each color has a distinct meaning. Even in names it's noticeable how Shiratori's name means white bird and Kozue's last name has the word blue. Things like that come up often and help push the story along, or rather keep the viewers from being too confused. I'm not sure if it has any direct effect on the characters inside the story, but it adds a nice touch to the overall work.

Music is very light but has its moments. It's very clean and instruments are very distinct. There are some additional tones for mood changes, but it seems pretty level. It fits with the anime and gives it that airy feel. Each side of Kozue's personality does have their own theme which is interesting though it seems to be a bit lacking in that there isn't really any variations.

It's a surprisingly small cast and even in the school, it's not really noticeable that there are many other students. There's an episode just to buffer the tertiary characters while secondary characters get their own episode. In terms of character development it seems very formulaic and rigid. I don't have any specific qualms but it seems slightly amateurish or too simple to me. It's effective but not really the best choice in my opinion. I do like the crayon side stories before each episode though. They're cute, very light, funny and help open episodes very well.

As I said before the story progression is very rigid and organized. You can literally take an episode and apply a label to it. "This is the episode that you're introduced to Kozue's 3rd personality. You get a thematic joke." "This is the episode that they develop her 3rd personality, it starts off with the pre-developed thematic joke to identify the character..." There's nothing particularly wrong with this kind of approach but it really isn't my favorite. I'm a fan of subtlety and this goes against all of that. The director has no problem being very blunt and I'll respect that. It does however seem to pace itself quite well and never at any point was I thinking "Oh this episode is just filler and negligible." Even such episodes had something that would be referred to later on or developed and so any "brief introductions" always became bigger in some degree.

In my opinion, this is a good way to break the ice in terms of Shounen/Shoujo anime. There are probably better examples, but this is very light, and easily viewable. It doesn't get too heavy which is good for those interested in testing the waters.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Packing for College

I don't have much time, so I'll make this as short as possible. I move off to college tomorrow and I've decided to procrastinate my packing duties (Surprise Surprise). What's ended up happening is that I need to back everything by today and be ready to ship it off tomorrow morning (That includes the computer). What sucks most is that I still don't have a monitor for my new PC meaning that I may be unable to post next week. Regardless, I hope you all have a fun back-to-school period and be sure to check-in next week.

P.S. I'm still using the same e-mail address so don't be afraid to e-mail me for any suggestions or questions about games in general at

P.P.S. I've re-editted the S4 review, I found one extra thing I wasn't too fond of.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

S4 League - Review

Here's a link for my original encounter:

Now that I'm at a point where I've played for a bit, I'll give you the review.

To start this off, I'd like to say that S4 is in NO way related to Gunz. I'll explain some obvious differences.
First off, S4 requires a TEAM. Yes, TEAM. In no way can you go in a room full of enemies and hope to kill them all and live. Not only is your HP at 100 or slightly over if you have extra equipment boosts or have the +30 HP skill but weapons deal a LOT of damage.
And nearly everything in the game was intended, meaning that you can't exploit any glitches and link them to create alternative moves to add to the game (K-style). There ARE glitches but none that change the game, they're exactly what they are...glitches.

Now for the actual game.
S4 League is an alternative third-person shooter in that it doesn't follow the standard "rules" of a "normal" shooter. S4 stands for Stylish eSper Shooting Sports. Save the jokes for later.

So as I said before (in the previous post), S4 is meant to be very stylish and very "cool." The game is supposed to be played in a way that is not only appealing in gameplay but to the eyes, and ears. I'm sure we all love watching and playing gun-fu stuff. Think about Wanted, how cool was it to see Westley (James McAvoy) pull of the stuff he did? I'm not going to say, "now imagine that in a game," because that's not what S4 is.

In the actual game you get 3 weapon slots which you can load up melee, ranged, long range, and support weapons (Mind Charge, a healing weapon, and Sentry Gun would count as a support weapon). In addition you must have a skill equipped to enter a room and play. Skills are what change up the game play and add teamwork into it. There are some skills that create shields, while others create physical walls. Then some skills are passive and add stats while others change the way you move: such as flying, and anchoring (think hookshot from Legend of Zelda).

Obviously the European version has yet to have all the content Korea has such as invisibility and bind, along with miniguns but with what they have now is a very good start.

Your character generally revolves around 1 gauge excluding HP and that would be SP. The gauge that determines how many "points" you have to be able to use skills. Almost everything requires SP even the "normal stuff" such as dashing and wall jumping, meaning that you need to balance your normal skills with your specialized skill well.

There are two game types, Team Deathmatch and Touchdown with a total of 12 player slots. Everyone knows what a deathmatch is so I'll explain Touchdown. Touchdown can be either really fun or really frustrating. There's no in-between. The reason for that being this mode is where utilization of teamwork is extremely important. The main goal for touchdown is to get the "ball," (A mechanical creature named "fumbi") which usually starts in the middle of the map, and score it in the goal post at the other team's base, which is usually close to their spawn. Considering respawn times range from 4-7 seconds teamwork is essential is scoring since you would need the rest of the team to keep the other team busy as the ball holder scores. This is where skills come into play. You could try to block the ball by setting up a temporary wall or protect your teammates from bullets by setting up a shield. Some players could be responsible for healing teammates and some could be responsible for rushing by having the SP boost skill. Then you have some players provide long-range support with sniper rifles (railguns) or long range cannons (cannonade). While the European version has disabled it temporarily, S4 League has voice chat which allows strategies to be planned out as well as a "half time" which gives players 5 seconds to switch characters (have up to 3 characters that all serve a different purpose) and then an additional 15 seconds to plan out the next strategy.

This, I believe, is the heart of S4, not the deathmatch. Touchdown utilizes everything S4 has and what it stands for into what I believe is a very good game. Graphics are surprisingly demanding. First of all the characters are given a certain type of cel-shading that seems popular nowadays (Persona 4, .hack//G.U., Team Fortress 2) and has some really nice blur effects along with modeling. The clothes you can choose from definitely define your character. While there are some characters ripped off from DJMax (it's ok, it's from the same company), a lot of the styles are actually from the current "modern" style in Japan and Korea while others have a futuristic look to them.

In terms of networking, I actually think Neowiz did a good job in mixing Peer-2-Peer (P2P) mechanics with Peer-2-server-2-Peer (P2S2P) mechanics. The P2P aspect allows faster chat and a better sense of where players are while the server helps maintain the overall stats (HP, etc.) and takes over a player's connection if the ping is too high. There are some issues where the ping gauge doesn't reflect that lag I see (meaning the interval between pings is much too far) and some players get over a certain point in delay where it borderlines and the server freaks out in taking over and letting go where then the player is temporarily invincible. I'm fine with this as I can just run away, but this seems to be aggravating some of the community.

Now for the bad parts.
While I'm not usually one to compare versions one major issue that comes to mind is the timed weapons in the European version. The Korean version gave two weapons and a 30+ HP skill that you could keep to help start you off however it's timed for 10 game hours in the European version. What this means is that people CAN'T go off and buy their clothes first. They would have to plan out their weapons and skills before caring about style. What does that mean? You get the first day or so (24 hours of playtime) looking like a generic character because you have to save up for weapons. In addition, prices for weapons are very expensive compared to clothes, so regardless of how tempting it is to buy that set of pants that just looks awesome, you can't. This is a major issue as you can't play if you don't have a skill. While you can stall for "time" by buying license and getting a 5 hour trial version of what you just received a license for it just barely helps. Now to me, this isn't too big of a deal since I'm quite good at it (if I say so myself, I'm almost always in the top 3 of any game, not just my team) so I get a decent amount of PEN (the currency in game) and be able to buy the equipment I need. I'm pretty sure others aren't so gaming inclined and probably wasted a lot of game time for a little PEN or blasted those initial 25,000 PEN on clothes and didn't save up an additional 3k or 4k to get a skill.

Next would be how monotonous and uninformative the tutorial is. It does a good job explaining very basic movement and how to fire a gun, and a demo of what TD is like (actually not really). While it does stop players from asking "how you play this game?" I feel there could be more added to it.

Mission lists are very terse. They simply say the objective and that's it. You have to play a trial and error game with it to see what the conditions are. I don't want to have to guess what I need to do when they tell me an objective. For example. There's a "Playing Deathmatch" Mission. It honestly, just says "Play a DM game." No where does it say that you have to be a DM waiting room and be present for the entire game. Nor does it say that conditions for fulfillment include the game time being 20 minutes and that the room has to have at or over 10 players by the end.

Other missions don't explain the terminology they use. One says to faint 3 times. They never explain fainting in the tutorial so there's a large group of people wanting to know how to beat that. No where does it explain that fainting is when you use a dodge attack immediately after a stun to avoid extra damage.

What annoys me a lot however is the way S4 connects to the server and other players in game. It runs a P2P AND a P2S2P connection for each room so that player movement is recorded P2P while all stats, damage, and points are managed by the server. In theory this looks like a good idea. IN THEORY. What ends up happening is that at any point you or another player is experiencing lag, they are now at an advantage since the time it takes for information to travel from player to server to player is longer. It was fine if it was just P2P because you could aim ahead, but now you can hit the avatar regardless of where they actually are and you will die by a lagger. You see, what happens is you see the movement and data manipulation by the server, so any damage you deal to another player is sent directly to the server and then sent to that player (aka. Client-side really). People consider this to be a double-edged sword meaning that you can also kill those laggers with much more ease since all you have to do is shoot them, but this double edged sword is weighted towards you.... In particularly for the counter-sword. The counter-sword is focused on dealing combo damages (think dealing multi medium hits as opposed to a strong one hit by the plasma). Regardless of how well you dodge if for a split second you stand still, the lag will take over and all a lagger has to do is pummel your standing avatar to kill you. This generally drops any effort required to kill with most melee weapons or weapons in general. Once again, this works on a very small scale and fails on a very large scale.

The general problem here is that despite all parties having broadband connections, the distance lag between nations still affects P2P games. In time intensive games such at this fractions of seconds are too important, and unfortunately, not all players of S4 even have 2Mbit connections...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

S4 League IS HERE

register at

download at:,open-beta-client:download,867679.html

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Kyo Kara Maoh! - Review

Yuuri Shibuya is your typical Japanese guy. A bit heavy in the wussy factor but nothing too un-redeeming about him. So he gets dunked into a toilet trying to save a friend from bullies and somehow ends up gets sucked into an alternate world. As he wanders this new world in an attempt to get back he is suddenly declared the Demon King (many companies have localized to specific term of "Maoh" (lit. Demon King) to Overlord). And so now as the Overlord, Yuuri has to deal with ruling the Demon Country while handling good relations with the Humans, their neighbors, all the while learning all the new customs in the world.

While this may seem like a bishoujo anime, it's not. Intended for everyone it just happens to be that the manga looks that way. Honestly, this was one of those anime where I kept watching until something hit me where I thought... "Why am I still watching this?" It's not bad. Don't get me wrong, but it seems to be one of those stories that just kinda drag on with no real purpose (well there is, but you learn that later). It's spiked with a good amount of humor and the writing is decent. However, I definitely recommend this for those with a lot of time. Running over 78 episodes with a third season already out and running, I need you to understand that it's one of those open-ended anime (or was supposed to be) that take up a lot of time and has a lot of filler/character development.

There are many things memorable about this anime. It has good animation. Done by Studio Deen you can expect quality work for the fight scenes and magic. Yes, corners have been cut quite often but it's not a circle yet. Character designs are very sharp albeit outfits seem to require a bit more work. Watching Yuuri switch to his demon alter-ego almost Yugioh! style and still have that same personality is worth while. The music is good but nothing too memorable pops out.

Characters are very well done. If it's one thing about this anime, it's the characters. So in addition to having a very particular personality, everyone's quirks make this show amusing. Yuuri's mom is by far one of my favorite characters. Knowing full well what's happening to Yuuri, she carries an aloof attitude that hides her motherly side. In addition, she pulls off some quick-witted jokes and has a down-to-earth character that hits you like a Mack truck. The downside is that she isn't featured often, but when she is, you can expect to at least smile.

I like this show. It's amusing but time consuming. It's a shounen anime with a good touch of mature aspects to it. It's not high in my list, but it's a recommend at least. It's also not for everyone and occasionally the pacing gets so slow to the point you need to just stop, take a breather, play some games on your computer and come back to it. I've seen my tolerance level drop like a brick at some points for how slow the show became.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

New Computer

I've finally bought an installed a new computer which should allow me to work more efficiently. Currently, I'm still tweaking parts. I'll get a post up after my company meeting which is very soon.

Random Side note: Disgaea and Odin Sphere have now been added to the "Greatest Hits" list for the PS2. Congrats and about time.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Why Pokemon?

Around the Mid-nineties, there was a crazy addiction among children for virtual pets. For those who were lucky enough to get one before stores sold out, Tamagotchis were extremely popular. Among them were also alternatives such as Digimon, and Dinky Dino.
Tech-wise, this was generally around the time when computers and the internet started to become more main stream. While 56k modems were slowly switching over to DSL and Cable, companies began to realize that children were learning how to use the internet. Examples of which were sites like Neopets (in 1999) or (insert name here) which sprung up like crazy during the "virtual pet era."

So in 1995, company founder [of Game Freak] and concept artist Satoshi Tajiri is in his studio as he draws a set of 150 monsters that would live in a new world. Thus in 1996, Pokemon enters Japan, the same year Tamagotchi are introduced. Interestingly enough, the Digimon virtual pet was released a year before in 1995.

In 1997, The Pokemon TV series came out, with the Digimon animation coming two years later. Other rival shows came up to compete such as Monster Rancher (the game came out in '97 with the show coming out a year later) and Yu-Gi-Oh! (Which originally started in '96 in Shounen jump and turned to TV in 98).

So now you know. Along with Pokemon were many, many other variations and yet somehow Pokemon ended up being Nintendo's second largest franchise (only to be topped by Mario). Why is that? Ignoring the easy answer for a bit, let me dive into the other series technically.

If I remember correctly, Monster Rancher (Farm) had problems gaining popularity. While there was a solid fan base for it, many other games existed preventing it from getting a solid foothold with everyone. For one thing, Dragon Quest Monsters took off in 1998 and probably stole a lot of the popularity due to it having a Dragon Quest title.
It isn't as if Monster Rancher was dead either. There were many sequels and loved by Tecmo fanboys for their "secret" monsters. (My personal favorite was when you got one that looked like Kasumi from DOA). As of now, Monster Rancher Online is in open beta in Japan. Internationally however, I don't think it did so well.

I always found it kind of odd that Digimon did so poorly compared to Pokemon. In the beginning, both franchises were generally neck and neck but then at some point, Pokemon exploded ahead. Help starting the craze for virtual pets, Digimon were one of the coolest things I had ever seen when I was younger. The ability to link up Digimon and fight was even better (I later did more of this with Chao in Sonic Adventure for the Dreamcast). In terms of the animation's story, I often found Digimon trounced Pokemon.

Because a lot of the evolutions were based on emotions of those who were the respective handlers, character development was key to getting the story going (I don't ever remember Satoshi (Ash) punching or getting frustrated at his own Pokemon only to develop a bond with them later. Rather, it's more of the other way around... His pokemon manhandle him...) Not only that, each "chosen one" had one specific focus in terms of their personality.

Maybe the fan base was just too small. Perhaps the characters were still too minute to be considered. I have to say though, each character seemed to represent a different cookie cutter character at the start. Think about it, Mimi had that typical western look. Sora was definitely the tsundere (though, Kasumi (Misty) would probably be a better tsundere...). Izumi was the computer otaku. Jou was weak-willed gopher in your typical office drama. Yamato (Matt) and Takeru (TK) are the brothers with divorced parents, the older being a loner while the younger being the naive one. Taishi's kinda obvious and Hikari (Kari, the original "Light Yagami") is the "silent healer type." Pushing jokes aside, the overall story of Digimon in the first two seasons (and the later seasons as well) are riddled with character development. While the overall plot was very child-like, what happened during the journey was definitely worth noting.

I guess I really can only say that what killed the Digimon franchise were the games. There are a load of Digimon games but their quality seems to be lacking. Failing multiple times for hammering out a good battle system, Digimon has been a turn-based RPG, SRPG, Hack-n-Slash, Racing and Arena fighting style game. The only games that are staring to make an impact are Digimon World DS and Digimon World: Dawn and Dusk both for the DS. Regardless, Digimon had the potential to be much much better, but I guess the franchise management was average, which brought down the overall quality of the series.

And now for the first and final question: So why Pokemon?
If you look at it, Pokemon is an interesting game in that, despite it's expansive map, it's a very linear game until you beat Shigeru and go to credits. To be honest with you, I found Red, Blue and Green to be somewhat lackluster. While pokemon development was quite advanced and VERY fun to work with, it didn't really do much for me until everything entered Season 2 with Johto. I understand that Pokemon is an old game and that it did well for its time, but innovation really kicked off near the end of it's first generation. But to finally say it...

The reason for Pokemon's extreme popularity from the start? It was actually with the TV show in which the first Pokemon Satoshi comes into contact with is the #25 electric type whose name translates to spark[ling] rodent: Pikachu. Yes, as Pikachu being the poster child for the entire franchise. Was it a very original idea? Yes, the original concept and early innovation definitely scores many many points and can be considered very good as a whole. With Pikachu and HER voice actress Ikue Outani leading the way, the pokemon franchise was set as one of the top sellers. Here we have a time-consuming game, a animated TV show that, despite having a very broad plotline, is very linear and easy to follow, and a poster child to rake in everyone. Something many other franchises tend to lack is an element that will be used to appeal to both genders. While in other countries that isn't really hard, there seems to be an issue in the US. For some odd inexplicable reason (besides "heritage" and "tradition") women who don't partake in "female-like" activities are looked down upon either inadvertently, or intentionally. There's something wrong in that. Regardless, with a lot of pokemon scoring high on "cute" factors and the entire concept being "cool" or "awesome", Pokemon is universally accepted for both genders.

One other support of it's success would be Nintendo. With the backing of such a big company, and the ideas for something that would be big, it's hard to say that Pokemon wouldn't be forgotten. Even without the Pikachu factor, Pokemon would be able to leave a decent impression. It's part luck that Pokemon did as well as it has. It's also part effort.

Pokemon and Digimon had been tied until around 2001 simply because the US branches spent so much time localizing. Think of this way. Can you name the japanese versions of any of the 3 starter pokemon from any game (actually Chikorita's evolution tree is not allowed as they are already in Japanese)? The point is, you can't... We know pokemon in our language and so does the rest of the world. The amount of time and money spent in effort pays off as a quality series. Pokemon really just got an extra push.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Just giving a few stats

I'd just like to say that in July alone my google tracker has detected 1236 hits, which is about 30% of all the hits I've received since I first started about 10 months ago.

So to you dedicated readers (or people who just check once in a while) and to those who find this site out of random google searches. Thank you. Thank you very much. Not only is this a boost in my confidence but it inspires me to think that there are those spreading the word or just taking time to look around. As my personal gift, I promise to be more on time. August is "my" month and I'll try to make it even better for this blog.

It's my birthday today!

Actually no. It's on the 11th but festivities will be today meaning, I actually can't post after 12. Yes, I know I should've pre-scheduled a post. I was thinking about discussing the Pokemon phenomenon (as opposed to the lack of Digimon craze. It was serious debate. No joke). I'll get a post up by tomarrow. I promise.