Tag Archives: action

JRPG review – Tales of Berseria

To prove that this blog is not yet dead, here I am with a review on one of the games that I recently had the chance to play. This time, it is a bit of a different flavor as it is a JRPG (Role-playing game made by Japanese producers) that came out quite recently, on Jan 2017 on steam (a popular gaming platform). Here is the link: http://store.steampowered.com/app/429660/. It is rather expensive right now sitting at $49.99 US, but if you are willing to wait long enough, games usually have sales on big holidays such as Christmas or Black Friday.

berseria_featured-678x381

By only watching the promotional video, it is very easy to believe that this is gonna be a great game with fantastic story entrenched in grim-dark mood and great anti-heroine centered plot. And why not? When one reads a good story, there is always the desire to “interact” with the world depicted by it. While a story-rich game allows exactly for one to do that, game makers typically focus on the gameplay aspect (as that is what gamer usually cares about), leaving the story part to disrepair. For someone who desire a little bit of both like I, Tales of Berseria (ToB) seems like a perfect blend of both elements.

Well, let’s talk about the gameplay first. I know the screen shot looks cartoonish, and perhaps a little bit silly. A player not as familiar with RPG games might be put off by his first impression. I had the same doubt. However, it turned out to be great! Unlike Action RPG games (or ARPG) such as Skyrim or Dark Soul, which put emphasis on the timing of combat moves, ToB essentially plays like a turn-based strategy game despite having a 3D, non-turn-based combat system.

Let me explain. Out of the four characters in combat at any time, the player only gets to control one of them. While the character that one controls do fight in hack n’ slash style, the controls are quite easy to execute even for beginners. It is much more important to strategize in the menu options. The brilliant design in this game is that there is something for players of all levels in this game. If one likes challenge and world exploration, one can play on the hardest level, not missing any conversations with NPCs, and crawls the dungeon often in order to beat the next boss. If one just want to read the story with minimal gameplay interactions, one can play on the easiest level, disregard all the side quests, and try to avoid encounters with NPCs while following the main plotline.

tales-of-berseria-screen-08-ps4-us-30jun16

Even if one hates the combat system, there is a robust equipment collection and character leveling up system, going beyond a few categories of equipment and character levels, to make up for it. For example, the concept of leveling up would apply to not just characters, but also equipment, spells (called Artes in the game), cooking, navy exploration, and even vendor.

To be honest, I haven’t played many RPGs. Going by what I read online, ToB might just set the new industry standard in terms of RPG gameplay.

A word of warning at this point. Not everything is great with this game. The other side of the coin, story-telling, would likely disappoint people who are expecting a lot from it. Yes, an anti-heroine protagonist with sole purpose of revenge is a break from industry cliches of a young, male adventurer protagonist who eventually saves the world and gets the girl. It would have done well, had this concept actually be executed well.

The reality is that while main characters are not exactly flat, they are not as compelling as one would have liked. There are a few heart-wrenching scenes involving our protagonist coupled with great animation, but they are few and far between a myriad of soulless daily conversations that fills out the script. The overarching story line starts off decently, but disintegrate into the RPG industry’s most commonly used story recipe pretty soon, making the whole thing cliched. While these problems can be forgiven, the real problem surfaces. The antagonists are just, bad. There is no other way to put it. As a result, the opposition to protagonist’s side is quite lackluster. There is no real satisfaction to be gained by defeating these opponents, dragging the quality of the entire story down by a huge margin.

tales-of-berseria

All in all, no matter what I say, I’ve spent $50 and 35 hours on this game, and it wasn’t a horrible experience. This might just speaks a larger truth. The core customers for RPGs don’t care that much about the story. They just want a game with great gameplay values. In the future, more and more RPGs with good gameplay and bad story will continue to come out, and certain people will happily pay for them. ToB is probably even above average in terms of story compared to its competitors, if my experience in other products in ACG is anything to judge by. It is a game with great gameplay value for players looking for different difficulty and gameplay styles, but one that would surely disappoint in terms of its story telling if one expects too much.

Final Score: 7.5/10


High School of the Dead

Time to talk about everyone’s second favorite ecchi show!

HotD

A mysterious, lethal disease is on the loose worldwide, resulting in a catastrophic death rate of humanity, and the increasing rise of attacks, caused by the living dead. In Japan, several high school students and a school nurse have banded together to escape Fujimi High School shortly after it was attacked by zombies. The group now attempts to figure who or what was responsible for this plague, and in the meantime, attempt to survive the present apocalypse.
The story is initially narrated through the eyes of Takashi Komuro, one of the students who had survived in the initial outbreak. (MAL)

If I am forced to only use two words to sum up this anime, it would be … boobs and zombies. I have to say, what a glorious combination!

If you are watching this show with your brain turned on, you are doing it wrong, because this is not an intelligent show, neither does it try to be one. The only reason that plot exists is so that characters can move around the city swarmed by zombies, showing off exhilarating zombie-smashing action as well as their jelly-filled boobs that modestly hide behind very suggestive clothes. Seriously, that’s all there is to it.

There are totally 6 main characters, consisting of 4 pairs of tits and 2 boys who seek to protect those pairs of tits.  Among the 4 walking pairs of tits, 2 pairs do nothing but annoy the audience, and the other 2 pairs gratify the male audience with some of the most ridiculously hilarious sword-panties-boobs or gun-panties-boobs action, ever. Oh yeah, before I forget, all except for one pair of tits have crush on the male lead, Takashi.

Fortunately, the main male characters in this show is much better done. The male lead Takashi of course is the epitome of manliness. A shout out to his voice actor, who just made his voice that much more manly. Also deserving of mention is the fat gun-geek Hirano, a person who knows the ins-and-outs of fire-arms and go psycho with guns whenever he gets his hands on one. Between the two of them and the sword-wielding pair of tits, there were plenty of entertaining zombie-exterminating action.

saeko busujima

expect this in the entire show

The art is, if you haven’t figure out yet, amazing. The backgrounds are colorful and vivid. The animation is often exaggerated, thereby maximizing the entertainment value. The character designs follow faithfully in those of its manga. The only character design that I didn’t like is the pink-haired girl’s (doesn’t her hairstyle just annoys you?). In terms of fan-service, the art is great!

This show could have been better had the producers done better in the music department. The opening has an awesome first 30 seconds instrumentals, but loses all intensity as soon as the singer opens her mouth. There are 12 endings, one ending each for each episode. I don’t see the point of this except for promoting the singer’s album (indeed all 12 ending songs are from the same artist). In general, this anime could have added more sound tracks in the action part, but the ones that are there are not too shabby.

All in all, High School of the Dead is an anime that is not to be taken seriously. Once you forget paying attention to the story as well as screening out the failures in characters, this show becomes very enjoyable. It has some of the best down-right outrageous boobs-swords-guns action as well as its own fill of love triangle drama, amidst the zombie apocalypse might I add. I award this show with a gracious 6.2/10.

RECOMMENDATION

Again, recommended if you especially enjoy fan-service or sword/guns action.

Not recommended if you are looking for something intelligent in anime. Nevertheless, you are welcome to try this show.


Anime Graveyard: Blue Exorcist

You read the title right. This is the “Graveyard Division” of Anime Reviews, dedicated to popular and “well-liked” anime that just fails, to an infinitely more drastic extent compared to how Sword Art Online doesn’t live up to its hype.

Before anything else, I would like to say that my opinion of an adaptation in one medium is not the same as my opinion of that work in adaptations of other mediums. Or simply, the anime for something could be crap but the manga might be very good, and vice versa. Certainly, this happens quite often.

blue exorcist

This world consists of two dimensions joined as one, like a mirror. The first is the world in which the humans live, Assiah. The other is the world of demons, Gehenna. Ordinarily, travel between the two, and indeed any kind of contact between the two, is impossible. However the demons can pass over into this world by possessing anything that exist within it. Satan the god of demons, but there’s one thing that he doesn’t have, and that’s a substance in the human world that is powerful enough to contain him!! For that purpose he created Rin, his son from a human woman, but will his son agree to his plans? Or will he become something else…? An exorcist?(Source: MU)

The premise sounds interesting? you bet! And you know what, the first half of this anime is fine. It mainly follows a monster of the week formula that is either episodic or bi-episodic. The main characters are slowly introduced to us in these adventures. There were some forced drama or stories that does not feel very mature. However, coupled with the stunning action sequence and some resemblances of mystery, it is at least decent. Well, then the anime crashed and burned, with the end result being an irreversible train wreck.

The main problem that was in the second half of the anime is that it tries to bring in the “main plot”. While I am usually an viewer who is more happy with something that is not episodic, I prefer episodic nature over bad plot. It may be the case that this anime should actually be made longer, so the producer wouldn’t have to tweak a forced plot and bring it to a haste finish. I won’t actually pinpoint what’s wrong with the plot in second half, but I suspect most critics would agree with me in this matter.

And guess what, there is one aspect that failed even more spectacularly than the plot department; that is character. The main character, Okumura, fails spectacularly as a shounen MC in an incredibly shounen show. The problem doesn’t stop here. While in most other shows with similar problems side characters are sidelined, in Blue Exorcist side characters completely disappear in the latter half. This defeats the purpose of the long-winded character introductions earlier in the story. Furthermore, after finishing the show, I couldn’t decide who the antagonist(s) was, in a shounen show!

I suppose I should praise this anime at least for its visuals, and sound to a lesser degree. As usual, A-1 Pictures does a great job in animation and designs, although even this drops in quality in later episodes.

Honestly, after seeing Blue Exorcist and Tsuritama (and obviously, Sword Art Online), I categorized A-1 Pictures as a production company that couldn’t adapt good stories if their lives depended on it. This opinion is only changed after watching Shinsekai Yori. Though, this still put them in the “can’t create good characters” category.

Overall, Blue Exorcist fails at everything except for the animation and sound. I give it somewhere around 4.8/10.

RECOMMENDATION

Recommended to fans of Ao no Exorcist manga, though be prepared for the disappointment. Also to critics who like to flame popular and well-liked anime.

Not recommended to anyone else.


No. 1: Rave Master

By Hiro Mashima

Rave Master 1

Genres: Adventure, Action, Comedy, Fantasy, Shounen, (Romance), (Mystery)

Status: Completed!

The Continent of Song is in chaos. The sinister secret society known as Demon Card is using the power of Dark Bring to destroy everything in their path. The only things capable of stopping Dark Bring are the Rave stones. Unfortunately, the Rave Stones were scattered around the globe in an explosion 50 years ago, so now they must be collected by the Rave Master in order to stop Dark Bring once and for all. This new task has been given to Haru Glory; a sixteen-year-old boy from Garage Island. The World’s fate now rests on the new, young Rave Master. (Source: Tokyopop)

Thus begins the epic adventure of our favorite rave master, Haru Glory!

So, what factors compel me to pick this one above all other Action Shounen manga (ie. Naruto, Bleach, One Piece, Psyren, Fairy Tail, Black Cat, Soul Eater)? Indeed, after thousands upon thousands pages of manga experience, the best I can do is to pick a Shounen manga? Allow me to enlighten you.

Exemplary Shounen-ness

First of all, Rave Master is Shounen. There is no dispute about it. It is also a good Shounen, and that means that every once in a while, readers starts to feel blood rushing into their heads. Or, as I would like to put it, it is epic. In this regard, it is on par with Naruto, Bleach, One Piece, etc. As we will soon see, though, Shounen is definitely not the only strength it possesses.

Amalgam of Genres

Another noteworthy trait about Rave Master is that expands its territories to encompass more elements than what a standard Shounen would include. Of course, all topnotch (popular) Shounen has shown this characteristic to some extent, but rave master has done this especially well. Other than action, fantasy, and comedy, RM puts a heavy emphasis on adventure (much like One Piece), drama, and even romance. Granted, the romance aspect is nowhere as explored as it is in romance-oriented manga. It is still a respectable amount of other elements added to this epic Shounen saga without ruining the Shounen aspect of it.

Moreover, while RM has more in variety, it cuts down on fan-service. This is a fantastic news to most of the readers who are tired of freakishly common occurrence of boobs on manga pages, but maybe bad news for those of you who find an excessive fan-service enjoyable. Nevertheless, the romance in RM makes up for a lack of fan-service.

World Construction

It is among some of the best world construction pieces ever found in fantasy manga, probably because the mangaka is a huge fan of Eiichiro Oda, creator of One Piece. Readers who appreciate a frequent change of setting throughout the narration of a story will surely love this.

Art

Depending on how much the readers like the art in One Piece, or a more direct comparison, Fairy Tail, there will be different opinions on the quality of art. Personally, I found this kind of a style quite different from a majority of other manga, in a refreshing and enjoyable way.

Rave Master 2

Character

Instead of talking about all the characters, I will only talk about the male lead, Haru Glory, which is, again, what sets this manga apart from all other Shounen.

Typically, male lead (in Shounen) is a bold, determined, adventurous, righteous individual in the manliest way. Obviously, there is an underlying flaw to this setup. It requires the male lead to be also a bit slow in the head and sometimes an EQ way below that of an average person. If I have to state one reason that a lot of people hate Shounen, this is why.

Fortunately, Haru Glory defies this rule. Sure, he has the typical boldness, an adventurous spirit, and determination, but in moderation. On the other hand, he is thoughtful, sensitive, and knows when to give up. Somehow, he seems like more like a person one can relate to instead of just an icon of justice (like Naruto).

Story

Where this manga truly shines. I said in previous posts that Psyren is a case of good brain-storming. Then, RM must be an incidence of phenomenal overall planning.

Let me remind you of another illness that befall most popular Shounen, the story will slow down between different arcs, and will almost come to a halt before the grand finale. For the most parts, this doesn’t apply to RM.

I will give you a succinct summary of my experience reading this manga:

Slow Start –> Gradual intensifying plot –> Epicness –> building up intensity –> Epicness

… … [repeats cycle]

(A few slowdown in between)

… … [repeats cycle]

FLASHBACK -> MIND-F*CKED in an amazing way -> Grand Finale Battle -> Epic Ending!

And this, readers, is why Rave Master is number one on my list. 
 
Rave Master 3
 
 
Much thanks. It’s been a ride writing this countdown/recommendation/review series.

No. 1(.5): Tower of God

By SIU (Slave. In. utero)

Tower of God 1

Genres: Fantasy, Adventure, Mystery, Action, Webtoon

Status: On-going

Summary:

What do you desire? Fortune? Glory? Power? Revenge? Or something that surpasses all others? Whatever you desire, ‘that’ is here, at Tower of God. Join Twenty-Fifth Baam as he climbs each level of the Tower to find his beloved friend, Lahel. Not daunted by anything, he is determined to reach the top.

Sounds epic? Hell yes. This webtoon is every bit as epic as its introduction. In fact, it had only taken four chapters to have me completely captivated, and only thirty-two chapters (at that time it was the newest update) to have me fallen in love with webtoon in general. Indeed, after that, Tower of God only becomes better and better.

What’s more amazing is the writer/artist of this webtoon. He is actually a college student in Korea. Yet, he manages to release a new chapter almost every week, always fraught with twists, turns, and refreshing yet familiar ToG-styled art. Here is a person who knows how to do great brainstorming before drawing. The result? A mixture of remarkable story design, colored-panel pages, awesome characters, and many Sundays spent waiting for the new update of ToG to come out.

So, with all those praise about Tower of God, exactly why is it so good?

 

ART

If you have read some of my previous reviews on manga/manhwa so far, you might have noticed that I don’t usually factor in art quality as a large part of my evaluation. In the case of Tower of God, I must make an exception. For full quality whole-strip webtoon of ToG, please go to www.batoto.net to read The Company’s translation of Tower of God. Not only is the background beautifully and vibrantly designed, but the characters designs also are effective and never adhering only to any one type of character models. Tower of God is a prime example of how the panels of webtoon can be supremely elegant and entertaining if the coloring scheme and perspectives’ angles are chosen thoughtfully.

Having said all that, it is not surprising that I give a score of 10/10 for art.

tog art

a snap shot from chapter 1

 

PLOT

I am not claiming that Tower of God is perfect in terms of plot by any means, since it is a little bit long (150 chaps) and would probably be on-going for quite a while yet. However, if you are looking for a plot that …

A)     Takes place in a purely imaginative and immensely creative world

B)      Shows outstanding consistency in that every arc moves the story closer to the next step (so far)

C)      Twists and turns and coils and bends and unwinds, and still manages to proceed smoothly like it was all planned beforehand

D)     Starts out from one of the most used tropes in any medium, that of a powerless guy who is “somehow special”, and create an original story out of it

E)      Has hot-blooded, awe-inspiring fight in an epic proportion that rivals even major Shounen manga

Give the story section a solid 10/10.

CHARACTER

Tower of God has a large and well-made character cast. It is hard to not like the main characters. One little problem stands out, though, that the webtoon introduces too large of a cast in such a small period of time. A lot of characters have preciously little “screen time”. Still, many characters made a large impression on me, always a good mark of well-built characters.

9/10 (so far)

Tower of God 2

Overall

An amazing piece of work! It’s a relief seeing the artist and his work being more recognized now than when I just started reading.

Would recommend this to most everybody, except for people who absolutely hate anything having to do with fantasy.

Note:

Here is a link to Tower of God Wikia: http://towerofgod.wikia.com/wiki/Tower_of_God_Wiki

I used to be involved with writing articles on this Wikia. It has great information on Tower of God, and would help answering any questions that you still have about this webtoon.


No. 3: Naruto

By Masashi Kishimoto

naruto

Genres: Action, Adventure, Martial Arts, Shounen, Super Power, Military

Status: On-going

Synopsis:

Before Naruto’s birth, a great demon fox had attacked the Hidden Leaf Village. A man known as the 4th Hokage sealed the demon inside the newly born Naruto, causing him to unknowingly grow up detested by his fellow villagers. Despite his lack of talent in many areas of ninjutsu, Naruto strives for only one goal: to gain the title of Hokage, the strongest ninja in his village. Desiring the respect he never received, Naruto works towards his dream with fellow friends Sasuke and Sakura and mentor Kakashi as they go through many trials and battles that come with being a ninja.

Ah, finally, Naruto, the most controversial manga in this day and age. Along with Bleach and One Piece, Naruto has become the very definition of Shounen: action-adventure mixed with hot-blooded fights with occasional slap-stick comic relief. Also, as I mentioned before in my Fairy Tail review, the theme of friendship and good versus evil is illustrated again and again to draw out all kinds of emotions from the readers. Now, most people who have read this manga have a love-or-hate relationship with it. They either hate it to the core, or love it as the most avid fan boy or fan girl would.

As you might have guessed from its rank in my favorite manga list, Naruto is one of my favorite manga, for various reasons. Granted, it does not have the best plot, nor do the characters exhibit many traits other than that of determination, loyalty, sense of justice, or fool-hardiness. However, it does define the Shounen genre, the single most popular manga genre, for two decades. And, looking at it in an objective light (as a whole manga), it does have a pretty good overall story progression, a great and likable character cast, an art-style that  is suitable for the manga, and most importantly (also arguably), a story that makes sense*.

A story that makes sense is important, and despite Naruto-haters’ constant rebukes, I think Naruto makes sense as a whole. Again, the same argument applies. If one actually read Naruto from chapter one all the way to the most recent, one probably would not give Naruto a ten out of ten, but definitely not a low score either.

naruto 2

My first contact with Naruto was when I was in grade four of elementary school, which is ten years ago. Since then, I have continued to follow Naruto. There were definitely chapters or arcs when Naruto is not as good, but I have endured, and still manage to find enjoyment in it even today.

My hope for Naruto right now is that it end soon and in a manner that does not make the story fell apart. Then, I can still with good conscience give it a fairly high score, even without my personal attachment factor.


No. 4: Bleach

By Tite Kubo

bleach 1

Genres: Action, Adventure, Shounen, Super Power, Supernatural

Status: Ongoing

Synopsis:

Ichigo Kurosaki has always been able to see ghosts, but this ability doesn’t change his life nearly as much as his close encounter with Rukia Kuchiki, a Soul Reaper and member of the mysterious Soul Society. While fighting a Hollow, an evil spirit that preys on humans who display psychic energy, Rukia attempts to lend Ichigo some of her powers so that he can save his family; but much to her surprise, Ichigo absorbs every last drop of her energy. Now a full-fledged Soul Reaper himself, Ichigo quickly learns that the world he inhabits is one full of dangerous spirits and, along with Rukia—who is slowly regaining her powers—it’s Ichigo’s job to protect the innocent from Hollows and help the spirits themselves find peace.

(Source: ANN)

Honestly, do you guys really need me to review this manga? Published since 2001, Bleach has acquired so much popularity that even people who never read a single page of manga in their life might know of the title. While some love it with strong passion, others hate it just as strongly. Undeniably, though, Bleach earned itself the title of being one of the “Shounen Big Three”, with thousands of fans who eagerly read Bleach updates every Wednesday.

bleach 2

Personally (and obviously, or else it wouldn’t be listed here), I love Bleach, but with some qualifications. As a whole, Bleach is a manga with amazing quality. Its art is dazzling. Its characters, though somewhat flat, serve the purpose of a Shounen manga. Its fighting scenes are beyond epic. The overall progression of story, though not impeccable, is quite ingenious. Then, something must have happened in the plot somewhere that made the manga drastically decline in quality, or else there wouldn’t be that many Bleach haters, right?

In fact, I have graphed (arbitrarily, using my own personal judgment) a Bleach quality of story vs. chapters chart. I hope this will clearly illustrate why some people would hate Bleach.

bleach quality chart

Conclusion from graph? Bleach haters either didn’t like Bleach from the beginning (theseries start off somewhat slow), or started to hate Bleach ever since 3-4 years ago (when the quality of series, undoubtedly, declined by a huge margin). However, if we take out the anomaly, which is, for the main part but not limited to, an arc that just randomly popped up from nowhere and is not really related to the story, we would find that the overall quality of Bleach for 550 chapters is extremely high. Besides, currently, it is going strong, and likely to finish as a solid manga worthy of being called “The Big Three”.

Bleach is a mainstream Shounen manga that one have a love-or-hate relationship with. Even though I currently belong to the lover category, I completely understand the haters. It is frustrating to see a manga that one has been following for years to temporarily turn into a shadow of its former glory, especially since updates come only once per week. It is easy to turn over to the hater group.

However, were a person who never seen Bleach before to marathon it right now, I bet he will love it, as he sees the big picture much more than blunders made in some arcs. So hopefully, Bleach will stay strong for another 50 episodes, and end in a manner that connects the story as a whole (which is quite possible, I think) and with an ending that readers find satisfactory.

And certainly, I never figured out as to why the English translation of Bleach is a synonym for detergent!

Note: I am quite sorry that what could have been a review turned into a stream of argument of “why people hate bleach” and “why it is overall a good story”. I frankly think that this mini-thesis paper would be a more appropriate blog than another generic, boring Bleach review.


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