Wednesday, January 30, 2002

Slam Dunk The Movie 4

Genre: Sports / Comedy
General Audience
1993-1996 Takehiko Inoue / Toei Animation / TV Asahi

Slam Dunk DVDs
Slam Dunk Manga and Art Books
Everything Else

Skysenshi's Description:
Roar Basket-man's Soul! Hanamichi and Rukawa's Burning Summer!

Ichiro Mizusawa has always looked up to his Rukawa-senpai. He dreams of entering Shohoku, of joining its fast-rising basketball team, of winning the nationals along with the one man he has envisioned himself to be playing with. Alas, dreams have a way of shattering themselves with incidents beyond one's control. When Mizusawa is diagnosed of having articular tuberculosis, he quickly realizes that his life is over.

No one else could put him back to rights. No one, but three people: Haruko, Hanamichi. and Rukawa himself.

Ah, Rukawa shows that he's not a complete asshole! >>> by skysenshi Have I ever written how much I love Slam Dunk movies? Ah yes, I said it in Slam Dunk Movies 1, 2 and 3. It's just that the pacing is so fast; there isn't any time for those long dialogues where everybody else says the same thing Dragon Ball style. That aside, I would like to give a round of applause to the creators of Slam Dunk Movie 4 for showing us that Rukawa, as irritating as his showy attitude could be, is not the complete asshole that we all love to think he is.

Of course, you start off thinking that he's so cruel. Actually he is, because he wasn't the one with a damaged knee and he had the gall to talk as if getting over a permanent injury could be so easy. Then again, Rukawa had never been a subtle character. Sleepy, yes, but subtle he is not-which is just one of the good things that I can say about Takehiko Inoue's characters.

One noticeable aspect of this movie is that it has shown maturity, depicting the painful travails of reality and how a person should be able to bounce back from a mishap that's beyond anyone's control. It talks about resiliency against the storm, without the various evil honchos and magically intertwined twists and turns. It also spells goodbye for Slam Dunk the series, with undertones that spoke volumes about growing up, graduating, moving on and being replaced by a younger generation. Let's just say that Slam Dunk finished with a feel-good ending, and that makes the series all the more memorable in my eyes.

OMAKE: Mitsui Hisashi shoots and scores - a lot! Sorry, can't help adding that last bit.

Individual Rating: Art/Animation 8; Story 9; Characters 10; Sounds 9

Sunday, January 27, 2002

Maison Ikkoku Manga

Genre: Comedy / Romance
Parental Guidance Recommended, contains nudity and delicate language
Rumiko Takahashi.

Maison Ikkoku DVDs
Maison Ikkoku Art and Manga
Maison Ikkoku Toys
Maison Ikkoku Music
Maison Ikkoku Fashion
Maison Ikkoku Merchandise
Skysenshi's Description:
Meet Godai, the unfortunate cram school student who has difficulty getting into college. He lives in Maison Ikkoku with the worst possible neighbors that make his life almost like a living nightmare. Studying and trying to get into a good college is just not going to happen-not in Maison Ikkoku. One day, just when he decides that he's had enough, an "angel" named Kyoko appeared to make everything all right... well... almost.

(14 tankubon)

Words fail me! >>> by skysenshi (01.27.2002)
Have you any idea how hard it is to write an opinion for the manga version of an anime that you've previously written an opinion for? Well to give you a little peek at what I've thought of this title since watching the anime, I implore you to take a gander up what I wrote about Maison Ikkoku the TV series. What I said there is basically the same as what I should be writing here. So in lieu of being redundant, I might as well just spout a few differences between the anime and the manga.

My opinion hasn't changed. Maison Ikkoku is still one of the best Rumic works that I've seen despite it being an old title (released in the mid 1980s). Ms. Takahashi is best known for her character-driven works, and Maison Ikkoku showcases her imaginative story-telling in this realistic comedy of sorts.

I am a bit amazed that a short 14-volume manga could actually be 96 episodes long when converted into anime. What's even more astonishing is the fact that there are even MORE to Maison Ikkoku than what is shown in the TV series! Being the hentai webmistress that I am, of course the very thing I would complain about are the... ahem, spoilers ahead ...panels where Godai and Kyoko, our two main characters, make love. This was such a gentle moment, and I believe this was a very important part of the story that shouldn't have been deleted from the TV series -- especially after making me wait for 90+ episodes and all I got were closed curtains with closed lights. Grumble. Grumble. But then again, I guess people were still being conservative at that time, so much so that if they were to put the lovey-dovey parts in the anime, Maison Ikkoku would have been classified as "hentai".

The chronology of events aren't exactly the same as what was shown in the anime, but this is just a trivial matter. What's more important is that everyone can enjoy the humor and the irony of the characters' situations. It's also interesting to note that not only does our genius Ms. Takahashi grow in terms of story-telling, her artwork also improves as she goes along. This much is obvious in this manga. Every volume you peruse is a notch better (in terms of artwork) than the last.

Individual Rating: Art: 9; Story: 9; Characters: 9

Wish I lived there... >>> by MarkPoa (01.22.2004)

Ah, Maison Ikkoku, I've heard so much about you: Rumiko Takahashi's famous romance manga; a story with a beginning, middle, and end; and nutty as a fruitcake.

You didn't disappoint.

Maison Ikkoku follows the love story between Yusaku Godai and his landlady Kyoko Otonashi. The series starts off with Yusaku still cramming for college entrance exams and Kyoko just arriving in Maison Ikkoku to be the manager. The story continues for a few year's worth where we eventually see the characters grow, move on, have fun, and enter into more goofy situations than a geek in a teen movie.

Unlike Rumiko's other works, such as Ranma 1/2, Urusei Yatsura, and Inuyasha, Maison Ikkoku's story remains grounded in reality. Despite the apparent zaniness of the situations, the conflicts and misunderstandings that arise in the series are realistic enough that we could see them happening to people we know. They arise from miscommunication, wrong timing, wishy-washy attitudes...

...which basically leads us to the characters. In the series, you'll meet a crowd of eccentrics ranging from Mrs. Ichinose, the nosy neighbor who's surprisingly reliable at times, to Mr. Yotsuya, the peeping tom whom nobody knows anything about--even his first name. Like in any good romantic comedy, Kyoko and Yusaku are not without their requisite other angles. For Kyoko, it's the dashing tennis coach Shun Mitaka of the Blinding White Teeth, who is chronically afraid of dogs. For Yusaku, it's the ever-present not-girlfriend Nanao, the lone reason why I have a love-hate relationship with Yusaku. I mean, how could he lead the girl on like that? But I digress.

The characters are the best part of the series. Most of Maison Ikkoku's humor and conflicts arise because of the eccentricities of the cast. Once you get to know something about the characters, you come to understand how they could get stuck in those types of situations and perpetual conflicts. Because of this, few things felt forced in the series. On the other hand, nor are the situations predictable either. Takahashi throws enough clever surprises along the way... keeping you laughing and reading.

Regarding the art, those used to Takahashi's recent art style would have to tone down their expectations a bit. This is one of Takahashi's earlier works and the art here is not as detailed as say Ranma 1/2 and Inuyasha. This looks a bit dated. However, even in her early days, Takahashi's art is still clean and expressive.

Viz Comics translation of the story is a good one. You might get a weird feeling of missing something in the first few comic volumes, though. That's because Viz decided to skip a few episodes when they were making the comic. Nevertheless, I think the Lost Episodes are available now. They were last released as part of the Animerica Extra anthology book.

I haven't seen the animated series yet, though. But if it's as good as this manga, I don't think it'd disappoint.

Individual Rating: Art: 8; Story: 8; Characters: 9

Friday, January 25, 2002

Wild ARMs 2 (2nd Ignition)

Genre: Role Playing Game
Platform: Playstation
Credits: Sony Computer Entertainment, Contrail

Wild ARMs Anime DVDs
Wild ARMs Books & Guides
Wild ARMs Games
Wild ARMs Accessories
Wild ARMs Music (OST)
Cover Description:
It's about one world hanging in the balance. Where one hero must sacrifice his heart for peace. Where courage and fear, love and malice, heroes and villains go hand in hand. It's power that exceeds human knowledge. It's neither dream nor reality. It's what legends are made of.

Can't help but compare... >>> by skysenshi
Wild ARMs 2 has no relation whatsoever to the storyline of the original one. You'll even hear this fact from one of the bystanders in one of those hard-to-remember villages in this godforsaken game. The only thing this has in common with Wild ARMs 1 is that there are tools (too many of them to be considered useful, in fact) and there are sadly not much improvement in terms of graphics and battle system. As a matter of opinion, this feels too much like the first one—trapped in 1997. Wild ARMs 1 was quite an excellent game for its time, but come on! Surely Wild ARMs 2 could have come up with better innovations, considering it was released at around the same time that Final Fantasy VIII made its presence known. What I found were remnants of 1997 with one big difference: the word "tedious."

Before I go on with my rant, I would like to stress out that WILD ARMs 2 is not without positive qualities. For one, there is one unusual female bounty hunter whom I've grown attached to. Her name is Kanon, and she can easily become the most powerful party member even without much work for development on your part. Another is the vampire Marivel, whose funny antiques can remove any traces of ennui from your countenance. Third is Brad, the war hero turned criminal, who probably has one of the most interesting life stories—not to mention skills—in this game. Needless to say, WILD ARMs 2's secret weapons are its characters and its plot twists. Although you get to start off with three main paths (as with the first Wild ARMs), there are actually 6 party-members to choose from. The best thing about it is that you don't really leave any party member behind during battles. They are all with you whenever you need them, and you can even make useless members act as shields to absorb powerful attacks from nigh impossible bosses. So you see, there aren't any "useless" party members at all. It's just a matter of how you deploy your people. Unfortunately, due to the exhausting nature of this game, many players have not reached the point where they get introduced to the more interesting characters.

(NOTE: Notice the multitude of Wild ARMs 2 reviews in GameFAQs, and you'll see they only talk about the first three characters. These reviewers probably did not endure the torture long enough to get to meet the remaining three party members.)

Now I begin my rant. What made Wild ARMs 1 such a hit was it's numerous puzzles. I think this is what made Wild ARMs 2 a flop. No longer were we served brainteasers for the duration of the game. These little sources of enjoyment were replaced by long-winded mazes with "puzzles" that do not require any hint of gray matter—just patience.

Running. Now this is the absolute bother. It's still the same as with the original, where you press dash and woe to you if you do not know when to stop because bumping into a wall will throw you a few paces back. I wish they could have improved this. While this feature did not bother me back when I was playing its predecessor, it just isn't acceptable for a newer game to still retain bad habits.

Hidden Bosses. Newer RPGs seemed to have begun putting hidden bosses in their games. But dear gawd! At least you can use your brains if you lack resources in defeating them. Here? Well, one piece of advice I can give is to invest in HP early in the game, because no matter how high your levels raise, you are going to depend a lot on luck in destroying some of the most annoying hidden bosses here. There were two that I couldn't defeat (I nearly kissed Final Fantasy's "wussy" bosses because of those two).

As for the sounds, they weren't nearly as remarkable as with the first Wild ARMs'. Well, at least there are lyrics now, and there is another opening animation with a different theme for the second disc. But... I still miss Wild ARMs 1. If you ask me, I would gladly play the old 1997 game. This one? I'd rather kiss a lizard than go through this hell again.

DIFFICULTY: Moderate - Difficult
HIGHEST LEVEL ACHIEVED: 99 (for all party members)
RATINGS: Gameplay 6; Battle 9; Story 9; Visuals 6; Characters 7; Sounds 9; Replay Value 3

Wild ARMs

Genre: Role Playing Game
Platform: Playstation
Credits: 1997 Sony Computer Entertainment, Contrail

Wild ARMs Anime DVDs
Wild ARMs Books & Guides
Wild ARMs Games
Wild ARMs Accessories
Wild ARMs Music (OST)
Cover Description:
The Metal Demons, legendary destroyers of Filgaia, are returning. Powerless, the Ancient Guardians call upon three to save their once green world—a warrior, who has the gunner's gift that many fear; a princess, empowered by magic and an enchanted teardrop; and a rogue, who claims his sword is his word... but are his motives pure?

Ah, my very first electronic RPG... >>> by skysenshi
1997 were the good ol' days when I was extremely easy to please when it comes to role-playing games. After all, I remember I had only played 2 RPGs during that year: Final Fantasy VII and Wild ARMs. Being a fighting game fan for most of my console-playing life, I never realized how fun it could be when you get introduced to puzzles, deep plots, battle systems, and astonishingly inspirational characters. I only have to thank Wild ARMs for introducing me into the console world of RPGs.

I wouldn't really talk about graphics when it comes to this particular game. It was my first console RPG and I had nothing else to compare it to. All I knew was that it looked cute. Little pixies drawing swords and learning skills certainly made me happy enough to go through 40 to 60 hours of gameplay. Despite their cutesy image, I was still able to feel sadness at the loss that many of the characters have felt at several points in time. There were basically three protagonists: Rudy the outcast, Cecilia the princess, and Jack the rogue. What I loved most about the character design and storyline is that the focus isn't concentrated on Rudy alone, even though he seems to be the one holding the title Wild ARMs. There is equal opportunity to get to know each and everyone of your party members. Not only that, even the supporting cast and villains (like Lady Harken, Zed, and the Earth Golem) have their own tragedies that could actually break somebody's heart. Oh...did I forget mention Jack's little rodent Han Pan, who is one of the most useful tools in treasure-hunting and puzzle-solving?

Speaking of tools, these little gadgets that your characters use outside battles are part of Wild Arms' charm. Imagine being able to use radars, bombs, roller skates, grappling hooks, guitars cum enemy lures, clocks, and even little rodents for whatever needs you have in mind. No only that, during battle you can also change weapons and armors. I never really appreciated this feature until I've played other RPGs where the wrong weapon can get you killed, especially when that weapon happens to heal your adversaries.

The puzzles are what actually define Wild ARMs. The kind of challenge and sense of accomplishment I get after solving one really is the most incomparable feeling I've ever had in any game. Imagine, we had no access to the internet back then, so walkthroughs and FAQs are totally unheard of. What I do remember is that I had pulled a lot of hair trying to figure out why I kept running around in circles, but at least I had something to laugh about afterwards. The only bad memories I ever had of Wild ARMs were those times when palace guards kept chasing me, and when I had to chase orbs around mazes while using my skates. I just hate chase sequences. They make my heart feel like it wants to run out of my chest. But those moments aren't even enough to quell my extreme like.

Music anyone? Of course, this is also one thing that makes for a memorable game. I don't think I could ever forget that opening song with the beautiful guitar solo (I can actually hear two guitars before the track transforms into a full-blown orchestral piece, but what the heck) and that whistle that makes me think of a lone cowboy riding an old horse on a deserted road. This song compliments the touching anime opening. Be careful, though. For those who haven't seen or heard it, I guarantee it could bring about goose bumps!

DIFFICULTY: Moderate - Difficult
HIGHEST LEVEL ACHIEVED: 42 (for all party members)
RATINGS: Gameplay 9; Battle 10; Story 9; Visuals 7; Characters 10; Sounds 10; Replay Value 8

Wednesday, January 23, 2002

Sakura Wars (Sakura Taisen) OAV 2

Genre: Shoujo / Action / Mecha
General Audience
Original Japanese © 1999 Sega / Bandai Visual / Animate Film © Red 1996 1999
English Version © 2002 A.D. Vision, Inc.

Sakura Taisen DVDs
Sakura Taisen Books & Manga
Sakura Taisen Music
Sakura Taisen Video Games
Sakura Taisen Apparel
Sakura Taisen Toys, Accessories
Everything Sakura Taisen

ADV Website Description:
Flower Division Captain Ichiro Ohgami is preparing to depart the Imperial Capital on his journey to study abroad in France. As the young Lieutenant collects his belongings, Ohgami reflects upon the many wonderful adventures he has had with the girls of the Flower Division over the past couple of years.

(6 episodes)

Where's the mecha? >>> by Kyubi Kitsune (01.23.2002)
This particular anime I picked up on a whim when the previously viewed copy of the first volume was on sale at Blockbuster. I had seen ADV's trailer for it on another DVD, and seeing short and stubby, almost super deformed, mecha doing battle just seemed to have some redeeming value to it. Unfortunately I absent mindedly forget that ADV tends to make their trailers from editing the opening of a particular anime. Sadly the mecha does not make an appearance outside the opening, but this proves to be irrelevant as this OAV itself is a solid anime.

The six episodes in this OAV play out to be a character study of the girls who make up the Imperial Flower Combat Troop; a dual purpose group that not only defends Japan from demons, but is also a renowned theater company. seriously. Each episode tends to focus on pair of the girls as they encounter a situation which highlights particular attributes that define who they are. The plots for most of the episodes are not that original, but each episode is written well enough to prove interesting and enjoyable, even if you are not that familiar with the series.

Characters tend to fit into the usual stereotypes you will find in this type of anime, yet they are written well enough to prove interesting and, when put together, they create a nice dynamic group.

For a recent OAV the animation is very good, but some rather obvious and misused CG shots do kind of detract from the overall quality. Character designs and the mechanical designs, that center around steam power, are nice but are kind of on the plain side of things.

The music in this OAV is actually one of its strongest points. For each episode a different seiyuu of one the girls will sing the rather catchy opening theme, and for each ending there is song sung by one or both of the seiyuu of the featured characters. The ending songs will relate to the episode in some way, and most of them are pretty good. Background music is good but neither stands out nor is memorable

If there is one weakness to Sakura Wars it would be the dub. Considering that the Japanese seiyuu actually do live performances of the songs found in the various games and series, and have a strong following in both Japan and with American fans, the American voice actors have tough act to follow. While ADV has done some very good dubs recently of show like Excel Saga and Princess Nine, the dub for Sakura Wars turns out to be pretty bad. Some performances are wooden and uninspired, but some the worst aspects of the dub come from the ADR director's idea that some of the characters need some thick, exaggerated, and badly done accents. The worst offenders of this are the voice actresses for Maria (Russian), Kohran (Chinese), and Iris (French). Some may find a certain camp value in this, and others may not even be bothered by this at all, but most will quickly switch to the sub. Yet it should be noted that there is one good performance in the dub as Kelly Huston does a nice job voicing Reni.

For a person like me who has not seen or played anything Sakura Wars/Taisen, this OAV proved to be rather enjoyable experience, and I am sure it is worth the money for any Sakura Taisen fan.

Individual Rating:Art: 8; Story & Plot: 8; Characters: 9; Sounds: 9

omething to top off your ST collection with... >>> by Xellos-sama (02.15.2002)

If you're looking for a sequel to the TV series or the first OAV, this ain't it. The story continues with Sakura Taisen 3 (the Dreamcast game). OAV 2 is merely a bit of additional material to satiate fans of the series.

The series' plot centers on Ohgami as he is about to leave the Hanagumi (Team Flower) for Paris to join up with the Hoshigumi (Team Star). As he packs his bags, he comes across mementos that remind him of specific experiences with the individual Hanagumi members. Each episode is based around one or two Hanagumi members.

If you're a fan of the series then you definitely need this in your collection. While it lacks in action, it provides an even deeper look into the lives and personalities of each team member. Think of it as a great supplement to a great series. As always for the Sakura Taisen series, the seiyuu are all top-class and perfect. The opening and ending tracks are performed by the seiyuu of whichever girl is being featured in the episode. It's nice hearing all the new, different versions of the opening track (though I STILL think Chisa Yokoyama has the best voice among them). Also, I especially liked the seiyuu of the new girl. Orihime, this is the first time I've heard Japanese spoken with an accent (thumbs up), yet more proof that the seiyuu involved with this series are in a class of their own.

Individual Rating: Art: 8; Story & Plot: 7; Characters: 8; Sounds: 10

Sunday, January 20, 2002

Laputa: Castle in the Sky

Genre: Fantasy
General Audience
1986. Hayao Miyazaki. Studio Ghibli.

Laputa DVDs (and some accessories)
Laputa Manga & Art Books
Laputa Original Soundtrack
Everything Laputa

Kenryoku Maxis' Description:
Muska and Sheeta, owner of the blue levitation stone, soon fell after her spaceship was being attacked. A young man named Pazu took her into his home. Going into the Tedis Fortress, Sheeta sees a robot and finds the marks on the robot and her stone are the same. Its markings only tell one thing--the existence of a legendary floating kingdom Laputa. It is said that the stone could be activated and would show the way to Laputa. Because the true heir to Laputa is found, they must go to the legendary kingdom with its fate in their hands. Can Sheeta and Pazu find Laputa? What then will happen once the legendary floating kingdom is found?

A flight in the clouds never looked so good. >>> by Kenryoku Maxis
Miyazaki is by far one of my favorite creators of anime ever. His first movie, Nausicaa: Valley of the Wind won him fame and established him and his company. His second movie, Laputa: Castle in the Sky took a step further than Nausicaa by centering the story around two children running from pirates, the government and the rest of the world. Using by far the best graphics at that time and his standard of great characters, wonderful comedy and in-depth plot, Laputa was a powerful and fun sequel to Nausicaa.

The characters are just great. Sheeta is a mysterious girl who floats out of the sky to meet the Main male star, Pazu. Pazu is a character powerful in spirit and will do anything to keep Sheeta safe. This really shows in Sheeta towards the end of the movie where her latent power is released and she must stand up for Pazu. The pirates are amazingly funny, much like the pirates in Miyazaki's later movie Porco Rosso. Their lust for riches take them to the floating island of Laputa along with Pazu and Sheeta. The government however has a different purpose. Legends tell of a floating island above the ocean where great power is held. The major villain, whose name is not given till the end of the movie seeks this power to rule over the world as king of Laputa. But it's the end of the movie that is the most amazing. A powerful ending in which you realize just what the floating island of Laputa really is and why it was lost to the world. The music is one of those soundtracks that works quite well with the movie, but not much to listen to alone. Part of this is because the voices are used so well that the music is not noticed and therefore not emphasized. But the voices are just outstanding. Virtually all of the voice actors are not that famous but are quite good. The pirates couldn't have been better and Pazu has one of my favorite voices ever. As for sheeta and the main villain, there voices are quite dramatic and in the case of sheeta, one that I wish could be in more shows and movies. I think this movie is spectacular and!well worth the almost 2 hours of running time. Between the comedy, drama and great characters, the movie is great all the way through.

(Skysenshi's Note: The writer is talking about the Japanese voice actors. )

Individual Rating: Art/Animation 9; Story 9; Characters 10; Sounds 8

Porco Rosso (Crimson Pig)

Genre: Action
General Audience
1992 Hayao Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli

Porco Rosso DVD with lots of extras
Porco Rosso Art Books & Manga
Porco Rosso Music
Porco Rosso Posters Etc.
Everything Porco Rosso

Kenryoku Maxis' Description:
Porco Rosso is a fun 'swash-buckling' pig living alone in an island somewhere near Italy during the time of Benito Mussolini's Fascist regime. His adventures include saving kindergarten kids from kidnapping and does so with his airplane. He is a good aviator. But as a good swash-buckling hero, Porco has himself a love interest, Gina, whose main rival is his love for flying. With this plus a new adventure to pursue fighting pirates, can Porco win?

Miyazaki pulls his favorite things together into one Movie. >>> by Kenryoku Maxis
What can I say, I have never seen a Miyazaki movie I didn't like. But this one is a lot different than his others. More comedic, more personal and also a new turn to the classical war picture where the guy gets the girl and wins over all. No, if there's anyone in this movie who has bad luck it's Porco himself. Porco is one of those characters who will joke about his personal problems and use his personality to do what has to be done. Now, as I can't call him a man since he was turned into a pig, I can say that the entire story is like your classical story of someone wanting to change who (or in this case what) he is, but very original in it's way of doing it. All the characters in this movie are very funny but also have sides to them which display their intentions. The American who is portrayed as Porco's rival is your typical dashing 1940's Movie star who feels he can win the girl with his charm and skill. The main female role of which their are two main women has many of the same traits as Porco, but feels that she can't let them be known because of something that happened in the past. And as for the other characters, well, the Pirates are hilarious as they are meant to be. The other main leading female is a young and very smart American girl who is in awe by Porco and...! You'll have to see the movie to enjoy it yourself. The graphics are beautiful like all of Miyazaki's movies but resemble those of Laputa the most. The planes and various action scenes are amazing, even for a movie made in the late 90's although this was made in 1988. All I have to say is this is a very fun movie that will appeal to kids for the humor and to adults for the beautiful themes and pure beauty in art.

Miyazaki scores another hit in my book.

Individual Rating: Art/Animation 9; Story 9; Characters 10; Sounds 10

Monday, January 14, 2002

Ranma 1/2

Genre: Martial Arts / Comedy
Parental Guidance Recommended
Rumiko Takahashi.

Ranma DVDs
Ranma Art and Manga
Ranma Games
Ranma Toys
Ranma Original Soundtrack
Ranma Fashion
Ranma Shop
Thundersenshi's Description:
Life for Ranma Saotome is quite difficult, but never boring. A curse brought to him by his own carelessness turns him into a voluptuous young girl whenever he is splashed by cold water. Ranma is engaged to tomboyish Akane Tendo, not only because she was the only Tendo daughter who is young enough to be paired with Ranma, but also because she hates boys and Ranma is only half a boy.

Ranma and Akane, however, are not keen on the idea of getting married because for one, Akane hates Ranma for besting her in martial arts, and Ranma thinks Akane is too violent and "un-cute". Follow Ranma's exciting daily adventures as he comes face to face with weird women and perverted men, plus a string of fiancées that his father had neglected to mention!

The magical girl disease >>> by thundersenshi
Ranma 1/2 is easily one of the most beloved romantic comedies of all time. It's widely recognized as a classic, and rightly so.

For me, it was this title that led me to more anime. Sure, technically, my first anime shows were Voltes V, Daimos, Astroboy (all reruns, I assure you, for I am NOT that old) and Candy Candy--but Ranma 1/2 gave the perfect introduction to more of the same. It was the one which opened the gateways of obsession for me. And there couldn't have been a better "gate keeper", so to speak. Because Ranma 1/2 is simply one of THE titles that should be watched/read by all devoted animanga fans.

Anyway, as is the usual case for me, I loved Ranma 1/2 the anime. This is why I started reading the manga. And I was not disappointed! In fact, as the usual case again goes, Ranma 1/2 the series as a whole even became more lively, animated and fun with the manga experience! I got to know several characters that weren't introduced in the tv series, and some episodes that weren't included in the anime--they were all worth it.

This is THE classic Rumic title. That alone should give you enough reason as to why you should have this. Many people consider this as "Rumiko at her best", in fact. To date, it is her most successful installment, surpassing even the tremendous hits that were her past works. It displays her character wit, refreshing charm, eccentric yet lovable characters and of course, her unique humour. Sometimes I even wonder how she keeps it up--with her style, there's almost always something new. You never get tired of the stories she writes, because even though she's written a whole lot of them (her most popular series are VERY long), there's bound to be something different.

This is certainly what you get with Ranma 1/2. It deals not only with the hilarious day-to-day life of a 16 year-old boy with his "unwanted" fiancée (who's supposed to bear the same sentiments), but also the (mis)adventures of everyone else around him. There's a bit of action, as well, and sometimes even drama...when everything's not geared towards comedy, that is. Well, that's Rumiko Takahashi's forte, after all. You will discover--in this work of hers, especially--that she creates characters like no other. And you will realize that this is what
keeps her in the lead, ahead of the rest of them.

Everyone's Rating Averaged: Art 8; Story 10; Characters 10

Saturday, January 12, 2002

Castlevania: Circle of the Moon

Genre: Action / Side-Scroller
Platform: Gameboy Advance
2001 Konami. Screenshots and images courtesy of Amazon.Com.

Castlevania Games
Castlevania Guides and Books
Castlevania Toys
Castlevania DVDs
Castlevania Videos
Castlevania Music
Everything Castlevania
Cover Description:
Count Dracula has been resurrected and evil will reign supreme unless he is stopped. As Nathan Graves, you'll hunt down the Count and use your whip and a variety of special items to destroy his minions. Battle your way through Dracula's castle and rid the world of evil once and for all!

A good Game Boy Castlevania game! And like Symphony of the Night no less. >>> by Kenryoku Maxis
Wow, imagine a condensed version of Symphony of the Night with good sprite graphics and a very innovative and fun use of the cards. This is what Circle of the Moon is. It's not very long in RPG standards but for a Game Boy game and in comparison to some games in the Castlevania series, it is still very long. What I just love about this game is all the exploration and freedom of movement involved, much like in it's highly praised predecessor, Symphony of the Night. With the same director and many from the same staff, this game will remind you much of SOTN and in many ways adds to the few parts that SOTN lacked.

The biggest change is the use of magic being centered around a system of combining cards found on many enemies to create spells. The best spell for me was when you combined the Jupiter card with any of the attribute cards to transform your whip into a wide variety of swords. Yes, that's right, once again you carry a whip but this time not as a Belmont. Your name is Nathan Graves and your father and mother, along with another family related to the Belmonts put Dracula to rest ten years earlier. The only trouble is that he has once again come back to life. You, along with your life time friend Hugh and his father run to meet Dracula after he has risen only to be dropped though the floor to the bottom floor of the castle and your friends father, Morris Baldwin is kidnapped by Dracula. This is where the game begins.

The game is great, resembling a kind of combination of Symphony of the Night and Castlevania 3: Dracula's Curse (Castlevania fans might remember this one from the later days of the original NES). This was fabulous to me since those two games are my personal favorites in the Castlevania series. But not only do the graphics remind you of both these games, but the music as well. I have recognized themes from SOTN, Castlevania 3 and even one from Castlevania 4. Yes, once again the excellent music is back, not quite as grand as SOTN but still very well done. The battle system is like a smaller version of SOTN and not much was changed aside from the use of cards for magic, but it was a great change. The use of the cards is fun and really do help you if you know which to use at bosses or certain areas. Let me just say that if you don't use the cards at times that they are needed, you are going to be playing the bosses many times over or running around losing a lot of life. Another great thing is the fact that certain moves like the double jump, super jump and slide are back from SOTN. That's good news to those of you who are like me and really got use to these great items.

Yes, to any Castlevania fan, this is a must buy. I would also suggest it to anyone who likes side scrolling action games or games like Metroid and the older versions of Mario. Believe me, it's great.

COMPLETION TIME: 12-15 hours
RATINGS: Gameplay 9; Battle 9; Story 7; Visuals 9; Characters 9; Sounds 9; Replay Value 9

Friday, January 11, 2002

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (Dracula X: Nocturne in the Moonlight)

Genre: Action RPG
Platform: Playstation 2
1997 Konami. Screenshots and images courtesy of RPGFan.

Castlevania Games
Castlevania Guides and Books
Castlevania Toys
Castlevania DVDs
Castlevania Videos
Castlevania Music
Everything Castlevania
Cover Description:
As a descendant of Dracula, you must end the vampire bloodline. Can you rid the world of this unspeakable terror? Uncover the mystery of Castlevania and challenge an adventure as legendary as its name.

Skysenshi's description:
Since the early Nintendo Family Computer days (I think that was Nintendo Entertainment System in America, which came a little later after the release of NFC in Asia), there has been a struggle to vanquish the evil forces invoked by the powerful Dracula. Enter his castle and you will be swept by unimagineable terror. Only those who have the ability to tame the supernatural can survive...

NOTE: This series been one of my favorites of all time, even though we've only played the Castlevania games in Japanese.

One of the best series ever get's even better! >>> by Kenryoku Maxis
Oh, talk about the memories. Castlevania has been a series I have played ever since I owned my original Nintendo Entertainment System. But within this awesome series, one game rises to become to many people the best of them all. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (or Dracula X: Nocturne of the Moonlight as it is called in Japan) is by far one of the best 2D games ever made, putting it right up there with Metroid, Mega Man and Mario. But not to compare them to these series at all, Castlevania is one series that has been around almost as long as Zelda and aside from a small diversion to the 64, has stayed completely 2D for over 15 years.

But as for Symphony of the Night, it is an amazing game. Anyone who has played it can tell you it has great graphics and gameplay. Now, my score of 10 for graphics is based on comparing it to other 2D games from that time. But even without it being 3D, the graphics are very well done and actually give you the feel of a giant Victorian castle with long hallways, huge staircases and a great evil feel. Definitely a castle fit for none other than Dracula himself. But the castle is just the beginning. Filled with many different areas, the castle houses a wide selection of enemies. From skeletons to bats and all that's in between, all the usual enemies from the past Castlevania games are here. Then when you add the new enemies and the many bosses you must face, you can see how 2D can still be used as an accurate and very fun gaming platform.

The battle system is not much different in look from any of the other Castlevania games, but in fact it incorporates a heavy mixture of RPG elements with a unique on screen Hit Point display and various magic abilities. But then there's my favorite part, the items you find along the way. There are a wide variety of swords, shields, suits, armors and even helms one can find, much like any RPG, but used in the trademark free movement Castlevania environment that Castlevania fans have grown to love. The star of the game this time is not a Belmont and does not use the normal whip. Instead he relies on swords and special abilities he finds on the way to aid him in his search for Dracula himself. Then there are the many items you pick up that help you overcome obstacles in Dracula's Castle. There are many of these from items that help you open secret passages to become stronger but by far the coolest one to me was the double jump. How often have you played a game where while you are falling you find you are about to land on an enemy and can't do anything about it? Well, with the double jump, you can simply jump in mid-air to avoid him. What a great idea that looks so cool even when you're not trying to avoid anything. And of course there are the various summoning cards you obtain through out the game to call different helpers to your side like a Fiery, Bat, Ghost and even a floating Sword.

The game, powerful and dark with all its extremely cool powers and great characters is nothing without the music. One of the best parts of the Castlevania series has been its extremely powerful and even at times beautiful music. This game takes it to the next level with much of the games music being Orchestrated and deeply powerful. Adding to this with chorus songs and a few very well done gothic rock tunes, it well overcomes the horrible dub given to it in America. Even with its bad voices, I gave it a 9 because the sound, both in the music and the voices of the characters as you use them are extremely good.

If you have an original Playstation and have not yet played this game, you are missing out on one of the best Playstation games ever made, as well as in my opinion one of the best games made period. I love this game and will play it forever.

COMPLETION TIME: 20-30 hours
RATINGS: Gameplay 10; Battle 9; Story 7; Visuals 10; Characters 9; Sounds 9; Replay Value 9

Chrono Trigger

Genre: Role Playing Game
Platform: SNES, Sony Playstation
(Remake as part of the FF Chronicles in US and FF Anthology in Japan)
Credits: 1999-2001 Square Electronic Arts L.L.C. Screenshots and images courtesy of RPGFan.

Chrono Trigger DVDs
Chrono Trigger Manga & Books
Chrono Trigger Games
Chrono Trigger Music
Chrono Trigger Item Shop
Skysenshi's Description:
No, it's not Dragon Ball Z. It's Chrono Trigger, the classic RPG played on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Trust Squaresoft to release something that would be deemed a legend someday. Here you are Chrono, the time-warrior. You bring along different party members with you from various points in time to save history. Explore the pre-historic ages and the far off future to solve the puzzle that fate has assigned you to unravel.

NOTE: Above screenshots are from the remake of Chrono Trigger, released on the PlayStation in 2001.

Innovative, long and fun like no other>>> by Kenryoku Maxis
First off, my ratings are based from other SNES games so don't go comparing them to any PS2 or Gamecube game and complain that I gave it too good of a score compared to these later more powerful systems. That aside, here's the review.

Hey, it's the SNES. You remember, the old system that brought you Yoshi, F-Zero, and most importantly, opened the American market to RPG's. To many, Chrono Trigger has been called the best RPG on the SNES. Now, I won't say that is my personal opinion, but this game definitely is one of the best RPG's and one of the best games the SNES had to offer. Great characters, great graphics and great gameplay were all put into this game. But it didn't just come out of the blue.

Many workers from different parts of the Squaresoft company came to work, both experienced and not, on this new and innovative new RPG. A whole new group was formed to head this project, many who would continue to stay in the group to later make such games as Xenogears and Chrono Cross, the sequel to Chrono Trigger. But along with this new group came some famous people in Square as well. I don't quite remember all who came to help, but one of the Key players was the creator of Final Fantasy himself who oversaw the project and became a producer of the game.

But how was the game itself? To sum it up, it was one of the best RPG's ever made. Yes, this was a game where everything was noticed and details were made. A long game full of interaction and of course lots of fighting was melded with a powerful in depth story and some very good characters. But how can I describe it without praising it too much.

The plot was extremely character centered and still managed to fill its role. Of course, with a name like Chrono Trigger, it had to do with time, but just how much of the game was centered on time and how well was the use of this concept done. I would say beyond what I would have thought possible in a SNES game.

The characters were very fun to use and between the fighting had some great dialogue. This added with the wide variety of different characters in the story and the extreme fun that came from using any of the seven playable characters gave this game fun that didn't stop once the battles were over.

But as much as the characters were original, the technical design of not just the battle system but also the whole game was innovation at it's best. From the way you interacted with enemies to the entire system of the world through 6 different periods of time gave the impression that the game designers and creators spent a long time on this game. And then there's the battle system. I don't know if I have had so much fun with any other RPG's battle system as I have with Chrono Trigger. Your use of environment determining which moves can be done and the ability to attack multiple enemies due to where they stand was amazing to me. And when you add the moves that I must say are just spectacular from execution to graphics, the battle system is one of the best ever made.

But of course, Chrono Trigger has some of the best graphics on the SNES. And not only are they beautiful in appearance compared to other games but so true to anime that I would say it is one of the best anime looking type games out there. The reason for the anime look? It's very simple really since the person who designed these characters also did the design for other RPG's like Dragon Warrior and even had entire anime based on his manga such as Dragonball and DragonballZ.

But of course, it was a SNES game so having the characters talk was out of the question. So what was the sound like? Very very good. Some amazing music came from this game, music that I still listen to today. The same music writer who did the music for not only Chrono Cross but also Xenogears and its sequel Xenosaga did the music for Chrono Trigger.

This game is amazing and definitely a must play for anyone who says they are a major RPG fan. In my opinion, this game is by far on the top 5 for best Squaresoft game ever and one of my favorite RPG's.

COMPLETION TIME: 30-50 hours
RATINGS: Gameplay 10; Battle 10; Story 8; Visuals 9; Characters 10; Sounds 9; Replay Value 8

Thursday, January 10, 2002

Chrono Cross

Genre: Role Playing Game
Platform: Playstation
Credits: 2000 Squaresoft. Screenshots and images courtesy of Amazon.Com.

Chrono Cross Art & Guides
Chrono Cross Games
Chrono Cross Music

Cover Description:
Twenty years after the events in Chrono Trigger, a new set of adventures are preparing for a battle that will surpass even space and time...

The long awaited sequel to one of history's favorite adventures. A multitude of playable characters and intertwining game scenarios. Unique design eliminates random battles and experience points. A new visual and audio experience from the original creators.

PREVIEW >>> by firesenshi (mid 2000)
Serge attacks with his Elements!

Left Image 1: Serge attacks with his Elements!
Left Image 2: The Dragon Ruins meet you for a nice opening.

Of course I wasn't expecting anything collosal from any non-FF Square project. But of course, ChronoCross being a Square project--and I being a Square fan, had to try it out. So here's a sneak peak especially for all you other Square fans.

The gameplay makes you forge weapons with its materials taken from enemies (like in FFVIII).

No MP system in this game and no levelling up. No random encounters so you can skip the chore of levelling up and meeting unnecessary enemies before a boss fight.

A new direction here is that you can recruit a huge cast of party members. Much like in Square's Legend of Mana, except that they're part of your team permanently.

You'll also be engaged in a story where two worlds are involved. Now that should be enough of a hint lest I give anymore spoilers.

You will be intrigued by arranging your Elements (the ones that give you the best magic attacks). However halfway through the game, I am still at a loss at "catching" my Summons. I find it a little confusing on how I should go about it, and I think I need them right now before fighting that Big Dragon!

Is it worth trying out? Aside from the facts above that I told you, anything Square is worth trying out!

Having its own value>>> by skysenshi (01.08-09.2002)
It's been a while since I have played Chrono Cross, and yet, true to Squaresoft's history of quality video games, this isn't one of the titles that would easily slip off your memory. One would also expect too high from a sequel of yet another legendary RPG like Chrono Trigger, but Chrono Cross makes comparisons a little…strange. For one thing, Chrono Cross and Chrono Trigger do not have the same look and feel. There are a few similarities in the background music and general theme, which is time and space manipulation, but the similarities stop there.
In Chrono Cross, it is not actually your choice that you travel between a "Home" world and an alternate world. The plot is also quite heavy with drama and systematically woven twists and turns. There are about 11 different endings, and when you do decide to start again, character stats are carried over. This makes the replay value very high. Ah yes, one other reason why I could not forget this game is because one of my most memorable gaming experiences occurred here. As it happens, the "real" ending is a bit too complicated to get. Without any FAQs or walkthroughs, I accidentally got this ending. I only realized on my second round—when I could not get the same ending—that what happened with the first round was just a stroke of luck and that I could never get that ending again without actually looking at a walkthrough to find out what I did right the first time.
Chrono Cross' gameplay and battle system are an innovation. You get to "store" elements in limited number of slots, so it's up to you to gauge when it's best to use them. You also have to crack your brain deciding which party members you should bring with you when there are around 40 different characters, each with their own elemental affinity, to choose from. It also has the same features that Final Fantasy VIII has when it comes to weapons—you can forge them from various scrap items received from enemies! I enjoyed battles here immensely and the simple reason for this is because I don't have to worry about unnecessary random encounters when trying to solve a puzzle. You can actually avoid enemies and battle them only when you approach them head-on. Best of all, there is no MP system to worry about! The only traumatic experience I had with battling was when I had to kill endangered species because of a certain girl's capriciousness. Other than that, I don't have any complaints.
Sounds and graphics are nothing short of being masterpieces. I love the music, especially anything that involves Marbule Island. Beautiful FMV sequences also heighten your experience of the story, but that's only something usual from recent Square games.
RATINGS: Gameplay 9; Battle 9; Story 10; Visuals 9; Characters 9; Sounds 9; Replay Value 8

Wednesday, January 9, 2002

Genso Suikoden II

Genre: Role Playing Game
Platform: Playstation
Credits: 1998 Konami Ltd.

Suikoden Game Shop
Suikoden Strategy & Art
Suikoden DVDs
Suikoden Toys
Suikoden Music
Suikoden Item Shop
All by Skysenshi
108 Stars of Destiny List
Multiple Endings Guide
Skysenshi's Description:
One True Rune...Two Friends...

One is destined to lead the 108 Stars of Destiny. The other, destined to restore the glory of a nation besmirched by a corrupt royalty.

The holders of the Black Sword Rune and the Bright Shield Rune must come face to face in order to unite the splintered pieces of the single powerful Beginning Rune...the legacy of the Great Genkaku of the City-State.

This is how a legend's sequel should be made!>>> by skysenshi
Konami did it again! If you have read my opinion for Genso Suikoden I, then I think you might have a good idea of what I could say about this sequel. Basically, I have the same comments regarding the plot, gameplay, battle system, the perfection of the sounds and I could go on and on and on. There are slight differences, of course. For one thing, there are more anime sequences, as well as improved graphics. There isn't much by way of transition, but they still maintained Suikoden's 2D charm.

They also added more fun activities to do inside your castle, such as the cooking contest that would seem like something quite trivial to other people. Finish it and you'll realize that there's something deeper going on—something that weaves more depth into your storyline, not to mention one of your characters' pasts. But this is just one of the games you can play inside your turf. There are others that would involve farming, as well as hitting some fluffy stuff inside mole holes. Gambling still exists, but it might get a little difficult for some players who had gotten used to how the original game was run, when stakes were a little bit higher and easier to win.

The characters are great, especially as different sorts of animals—a dog, a unicorn, a giant eagle, talking octopi, squirrels etc.—participate in your cause. Gotta love those squirrels! Muku Muku! And Shu! Aside from that, you also get to meet some of the heroes that made the Liberation Army of Suikoden I a legendary name. I'll let you in on a secret bonus in locating all 108 stars (characters) because Suikodeon II makes it so easy compared to the first game. There is one character named Richmond, a private investigator for hire who can give you valuable clues as to how you can get each and every star. But if you're really too lazy to do things on your own, you can always take a peek at my FAQ up there (my other alias is Skysenshi).

The battle system is almost the same, save for the army versus army face-offs. In the original Suikoden, you have to depend on luck 90% of the time. In this case, you will have to depend on your tactical skills. It is similar to playing chess, only better. This becomes the ultimate test of how well you can deploy your forces—how well you can make use of the skills of the people who fight under your name. Brainpower becomes an essential element of this new exciting feature.

There is just one little detail that made this game more enjoyable for me. While Suikoden II can stand alone and be appreciated for its own merits, I would have missed half my life if I had not played Suikoden I. If I had not played Suikoden I, there would have been no Gremio in Suikoden II. No Gremio, no McDohl, no Hero-McDohl combo (very useful). Many of the characters like Flik, Viktor, and Kasumi would be just normal people to me—people with pasts that were just told me, instead of being experienced for my own… People I might not have had previous attachments to. Fortunately, this is not my case.

When I entered Gregminster, home of McDohl (hero of the first Suikoden), I was awashed with so much nostalgia that I had to search every nook and cranny for a familiar face. The continuity of the two games is utterly amazing! They retained the same background music for Gregminster, as well as the same layout for McDohl's house. I almost felt tears as I met up with the stars that had played significant roles in the victory of the Liberation Army.

Having McDohl in my party is one heck of an experience. Even though I had to travel through a thick, bandit-ridden forest to fetch him every time I embark on a quest, I find his presence in my team to be well worth the effort. The hit-all combo that you can do with him makes him an indispensable member of your party. It also doesn't hurt that he looks so mature now and even more gorgeous compared to the dumpling-looking Hero of Suikoden II.

So what makes this game a worthy sequel? My reply is this: I was able to love the game more because I have experienced its past. But more than that, it's because Suikoden II made me relive the past—made me love it, cherish it. Made it more memorable for me. How many games can say the same thing about their sequels?

COMPLETION TIME: ?? (It's been a long time since I played)
RATINGS: Gameplay 9; Battle 10; Story 9; Visuals 8; Characters 10; Sounds 10; Replay Value 9

Genso Suikoden

Genre: Role Playing Game
Platform: Playstation
Credits: 1996 Konami Ltd.

Suikoden Game Shop
Suikoden Strategy & Art
Suikoden DVDs
Suikoden Toys
Suikoden Music
Suikoden Item Shop
108 Stars of Destiny List by Thundersenshi
Skysenshi's Description:
Darkness hovers upon Scarlet Moon, the legendary Empire built by Barbarossa—the Golden Emperor himself and hero of his time. So the land filled with resentment awakens, and cries desperately for rebirth and freedom.

The day is silently drawing near. The 108 Stars of Destiny are gathering to overthrow the evil—and you, born under the Tenkai star, are the destined leader...

It ain't SQUARE...>>> by skysenshi
Yes, it's not from Squaresoft, but that doesn't mean Genso Suikoden will be a flop or not measure up to the standards of a typical Squaresoft RPG. Truth be told, I was one of the few people who played this game right after its sequel was released. In fact, I bought the sequel first but delayed touching it simply because I found out that your gameplay in the first one will affect its second installation. I could not find Suikoden anywhere offline anymore and I got so desperate that I paid a lot of moolah to get it off an online auction at Amazon.

Any regrets? None. Every penny I spent was worth it. From the Chinese legend where its story is based, the gameplay, the battle system, down to the last supporting character, I found everything to be perfect. I didn't really expect much in terms of graphics because I knew it to be an old game, but the fun had in Suikoden is not something I'm likely to forget for a long long time.

108 characters. Yes, I hear you. You're thinking, "Wow!" How the heck are you supposed to choose 5 other party members from 108 people? The decision-making here was quite difficult, considering there were so many characters that a gamer will definitely get attached to. There's Gremio (the one with the "Kenshin Himura" scar), Pahn, Viktor, Flik and many other unlikely souls whom you think may be unimportant at first, but they do have their uses when you start building your army. If you know how to deploy your people and not making them just ornaments to your fortress, then it proves how well your managing abilities are—a skill that not a lot of folks have.

Even some enemy bosses can also be quite entertaining, like the effeminate Milich, who adds grace and style, not to mention color, to the entire game. Ah, but the most important party member for me was Kai, the sensei, because the combo of the main character McDohl and this scrawny old man is what made me survive hundreds of vicious battles that would've been difficult if you can only attack individually. Well, ahem, of course I can survive, but then I'm a lazy person and the Kai-McDohl combo just makes things easier.

The gameplay and battle system are certainly something different. Your "loot" after every battle would have to depend on your party's level, so you can just let go of the weaker enemies so as not to waste time. There's another form of battle that makes Suikoden all the more interesting. It's the one-on-one dueling mode. I positively love this one! Be very very careful with your choices, though, because the outcome of one of the duels might seem like a part of the natural flow of the game, but might actually mean a very fatal path for your community's future.

I haven't even begun talking about the army face-offs. This is happens when your entire group march into the battlefield to go up against enemy soldiers. You get to decide whether to use magic, arrows, or brutally force your way into their circle. This one requires a lot of luck so better cross your fingers and be ready to save so you can restart in case your numbers diminish.

Speaking of luck, money and weapons/equipment upgrade are definitely not going to be a headache here. You can always gamble, which is a pretty addicting pastime. This is also one of the reasons why it is almost imperative that you cherish each and every one of the 108 stars—you CAN make use of a couple of gamblers. Remember, there are no useless members here.

Sounds? Ah, who could ever forget the beautiful songs of Suikoden? I feel nostalgic just listening to its opening theme "Into a World of Illusions". Mental note: Must compose a ringtone for it. The collection isn't your typical cutesy sounds, but they're not heavy on the ears either.

Overall, I'd say Suikoden is one underrated game. It isn't easily appreciated by people who do not have leadership abilities (I'm quite sure of it) and who have too much problems trying to handle 108 team members all at once. If the game is so bad, then I must be really really abnormal to have played this game TWICE! So for those who do nothing but complain about this game, quit playing and just sell it (on my last check, they lowest bid for this at eBay is about $100). Otherwise, just sit back and enjoy!

COMPLETION TIME: ?? (It's been a long time since I played)
RATINGS: Gameplay 10; Battle 10; Story 9; Visuals 7; Characters 10; Sounds 10; Replay Value 10

Tuesday, January 8, 2002

Jet Grind Radio

Genre: Action / Miscellaneous
Platform: Dreamcast
2000 SEGA.

Jet Grind Radio Games
Jet Grind Radio Strategy Guides/Art
Original Soundtrack
Toys and Accessories
Everything Jet Grind Radio
Cover Description:
Join a graffiti crew; stamp your territory and protect it from rival taggers, but watch out for the angry cops!

Carton-dimension art style in visually-compelling 3D environments... Over 10 funky and hip characters... 5 fully interactive cities with 16 challenging missions... In-game graffiti design screen... Trade custom logos and graffiti online... Cutting-edge hip-hop and industrial soundtracks, including tunes from Rob Zombie, Jurassit -5, and Mix Master Mike.

So cool it hurts. >>> by Status
Over the past few years, genre-bending games have become more and more the norm. Blending two games together to create a completely new genre is all the rage, and the most popular element to draw from is the RPG. The 'Action-RPG', the 'Fighter-RPG', so forth. Jet Grind radio has to be about the first 'Futuristic skate punk hardcore music blasting underground-RPG', though.

Jet Grind Radio is easy to dismiss as an action game. You skate around the lovely town of Tokyoto avoiding rival gangs, police, and eventually corporate killers, much like an action/platformer. You combine rail grinds and some limited tricks to create extended combos worth a ton of points, like a skateboarding game. You make graffiti tags in a Dance & Rhythm style series of controller movements. And all this is tied together with a progressive story, exploration, and assembling a party, pulling in RPG and Adventure elements. Heck, you can even design your own graffiti, giving the game a Creative/Maker element. If you can think of a genre, it's in here somewhere.

While it blends countless gameplay elements in to one very tidy gameplay package, JGR is probably best known for it's visual style. It was the first mainstream game to make use of 'Cel-Shading', a graphics technique that gives the game a totally unique look. While the character designs are unique, they only scratch the surface of the game's style. From the menu elements to the grins on the attack choppers (You'll see...), this game SCREAMS cool. The only thing hurting the visual package is the weak level graphics. Texture quality can be remarkably poor at times, regressing to visuals that remind me of the N64 in terms of overall quality. While this is only noticeable in a couple levels, it's a pain.

Hmm... characters. What can be said about the characters? Very few are developed in any kind of detail (only the main GG's have backstories), but they almost don't need to be. Their attitude, style and graffiti are enough to express their personalities. Development of both the characters and the story is a nagging weak point, with a story little deeper than "p*ss off the other gangs and dodge the cops" until about halfway through the game.

Now, visuals, gameplay, story. What's left, Audio? In ninety percent of games - especially in the 'punk' genre, this is little more than an afterthought. Call a couple of hardcore groups, get 'em licensed, done. JGR totally shatters the expectations for what a soundtrack should be. Rock and punk are represented, but the techno tracks steal the show. There's a blend of both American and Japanese artists, and all of the music stands on it's own feet. While mostly underground, a few mainstream acts like Cold, Jurassic 5 and Mixmaster Mike of Beastie Boys fame. Rob Zombie also 'contributes' Dragula. I'd complain about it, but I swear, this stupid song is in virtually every game that's been released since 1999. I've reached the point that I don't even care. Considering every single other song in the game is great, I can live with it.

A word on replay value, this is a gamer's game. If you play through a game for the sake of finishing the game, you'll get 15 hours out of this. There are plenty of hidden tags, a few hidden characters, and some extra modes. If you play a game for the sake of the game, you'll log an easy 50 hours. Perfecting your runs, opening ALL the hidden characters, and creating your own graffiti can make this game last for days. Don't play it to beat it, play it to master it. It'll be one of the most rewarding games you'll ever play.

It's amazing that more people haven't picked JGR up. Last time I checked, it's going for $9.95 U.S. dollars. C'mon, you can't even rent two games for that. You can barely even get a pizza for $10 anymore. You owe it to yourself to get this game.

RATINGS: Gameplay 9; Battle 8; Story 7; Visuals 8; Characters 7; Sounds 10; Replay Value 9

Monday, January 7, 2002


Genre: Bishoujo Game
Platform: PC
1997 Mixx Entertainment.

No longer available.
Michael Thomas' Description:
Intertwined with the review.

Game with a lot of replay value >>> by Michael Thomas
Ever wonder how difficult it is for a High School teacher to teach? Especially to a group of seniors, who are counting down the days to their graduation? Well, here's your chance.

Graduation is a bishoujo (cute girl) raising sim game by MIXX where you are a high-school teacher. As an aside, if this game were a movie, it would get a PG - 13 rating, so it's good for pretty much any audience. You are given a class of five girls in their senior year, and it's your goal to try to get all five to graduate high school, and accomplish their dreams.

Now, Graduation is not an easy game. It is very challenging. You have to balance such aspects as how you're going to teach, how to discipline rowdy students, seating arrangements, classes, after-school activities, and the like. Throw into the mix five very different girls, and you get a game with endless potential.

Graduation has a very detailed story. It is the 2nd in the Graduation series. Technically, the Graduation available in English is "Graduation 2: New Generation"; however, MIXX choose to just name it Graduation. As an aside, the anime OAVs Sailor Victory and Marriage are about the girls in the Graduation games. Anyway, the story is pretty detailed, and all five of the girls have well fleshed out characters that are up to you to find out about. On the downside, since this is the 2nd game in the series, it does assume that the player has played the first.

The instructions and gameplay aren't completely straight forward either. It took a bit of searching for me to find out how to set up classes, arrange seats, see how the girls were learning, check on the girl's personalities, and plan for future sessions. So there is a bit of a learning curve for the game, which might detract some players.

The graphics would have been good for the time they were released (mid-80s if memory serves), but they do look dated now. Still, crisp colors, good use of lines, and a variety of settings and costumes keeps the graphics fresh and enjoyable.

Enjoyable music with a good amount of variety, but the voice acting is very poor. It was dubbed into English during the very beginnings of the VA industry here, and it shows. Some of the characters are more tolerable than others, but they should have just gone with the Japanese seiyuu for it. Worse, the game, as extras, has all the comments you hear from your students in Japanese on the CD taunting you with the Japanese seiyuu. MIXX did a pretty good job with the translation, but a few cultural-context comments would have helped players understand some of the differences between Japanese elementary education, and American elementary education. Anyway, due to MIXX's choice of using American VA's, I gave Graduation a lower Voice Acting Score

Graduation has a ton of gameplay and replayability. Each of the girls has 3 or 4 endings, plus a bad ending, plus an ending where they confess their love to you. (Mind you this confession is just an "I Love You, lets get married", and not anything past a PG - 13 rating.) And, your ending teacher rating also affects the game ending. So, you can try to get the absolute best ending (where you are a perfect teacher, and all the girls get their best endings).

For extras, the CD is packed with sound files and gifs. However, the game itself has no memory room, so you have to use MS Photoshop or such if you want to capture shots of the game.

Overall, a very different type of game. If you want a game with a lot of replay, and a lot of challenge, visit TSRI, and pick this up. You won't be disappointed. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to email me.

RATINGS: Gameplay 9; Battle 8; Story 7; Visuals 8; Characters 7; Sounds 10; Replay Value 9

Wednesday, January 2, 2002

Martian Successor Nadesico

Genre: Sci-Fi / Comedy / Mecha
Parental Guidance Recommended
1996-1997. Kia Asamiya (creator). Satoh Tatsuo (director). Xebec. Screenshots courtesy of DVD Emporium.

Nadesico DVDs
Nadesico Art Books & Manga
Nadesico Music
Nadesico Video Games
Nadesico Toys, Accessories
Everything Nadesico

Cover Description:
The aliens have destroyed our base on Mars, wiped out our space fleets, and now, only one ship stands between Earth and total annihilation! Disgusted by the incompetence of Earth's military, the independent arms manufacturer Nergal has built its own space battle cruiser. But due to the shortage of trained soldiers, they've had to assemble the most unorthodox crew to ever launch into orbit. With a cook who's also a pilot and an Admirals's daughter in command, the new starship is the most formidable fighting vehicle ever conceived. But before it can see action against the Jovian invaders the crew must win their first victory against their own species as they fight off a ruthless attempt by Earth's military to seize the Nadesico! Get ready for the wildest space adventure ever in the amazing new series that was voted the 'Best Anime Show Of All Time' by Japanese animation fans, MARTIAN SUCCESSOR NADESICO!

(26 episodes)

The Anime Industry Comes Together At Mars. >>> by Kenryoku Maxis
If you want to talk about good writing, this is one of them. One of the hardest things to think of when writing a story is comedy. It's even harder to somehow add that to a well developed plot. Some shows do it right and some just slave along, but Nadesico was one of those rare times when comedy writers and major drama writers came together.

More like a large group of OAV's joined together, the one season show of Nadesico had many writers and sub-directors. Some of the biggest names in Anime came to take their turn at the script, writing 2-3 episodes each and giving their own feel to the concept that was Nadesico. One that comes to mind is the writer for Saber Marionette. Now, I'm not a huge fan of the guy, he's a tad perverted to me, but he does have good concepts and this was one of his best, even if he only wrote 3 episodes (note: I do like Saber Marionette and Sorcerer Hunters, but the manga is pretty dojin-like if you catch my drift). Anyway, with all the joining of writers and people working on specific parts of the show, it's amazing to me how it all came together so well. From their melding of Space/Ground Mecha and Babylon 5/Star Wars fighters, they did a great job of displaying action with plenty of character involvement. This, added with the fact that they took a hilarious turn at making fun of mecha in certain ways and many times took you away from predictable plot devices and situations, the story both in the way of characters and concepts are topnotch. Just what I would expect from so many of
Animes best.

But when you try and mix comedy with mecha, one thing ultimately happens, very strange sounds. No, there not like transformers or an all space episode of G-Force, but they don't strike me as too realistic either. But these sounds are few and far between. The voice actors and great mixing of sound well outdid them (Just think how long it would have taken to edit the voices onto the finished product....they talk so fast...). I love this show and think that anyone who has the amount of money to shell out to ADV should buy it.

Individual Rating: Art/Animation 9; Story 10; Characters 9; Sounds 8


Genre: Fantasy / Adventure
General Audience
Rumiko Takahashi.

Inuyasha DVDs
Inuyasha Art and Manga
Inuyasha Games
Inuyasha Toys
Inuyasha Original Soundtrack
Inuyasha Fashion
Inuyasha Shop
Thundersenshi's Description:
Kagome lives in a temple that has been kept alive for thousands of years. As told by her grandfather, the sacred grounds have kept its share of secrets and legends along with the passage of time. But Kagome had never really believed any of it, until an accident draws her deep into the well, and sends her to feudal Japan where myths come alive and evil strikes at every corner.

Her arrival at this point in time is divine intervention. The village she chanced upon is being attacked by a demon hunting a magical jewel called Shikon no Tama. Coincidentally, Kagome is the descendant of the powerful priestess who once guarded this jewel! But what does a modern-day girl know about fighting demons, anyhow? Desperate to end a life-threatening encounter, she unknowingly awakens the hanyou Inu-Yasha...and releases him from an enchanted imprisonment her own ancestor had placed. But if she was expecting a knight-in-shining-armour, she had better think again.

Oops, she did it again! >>> by thundersenshi (01.02.2002)
I'm quite sorry for the lack of a better title. Anyways...

Inu-Yasha has to be Takahashi's finest series ever produced. If you have been a Rumic fan for a long time, you will definitely have noticed Takahashi's mangaka style and skill have matured.

First off, there are the adorable characters. Perhaps she has never made a series with such an adorable cast of [main] characters, with the exception of Ranma 1/2 (Takahashi's longest and most famous work as of yet, which ended in a short time before Inu-Yasha came to be published). Lead characters Inu-Yasha, Kagome, Sango, Miroku and Shippou consist the oddly formed group. Each are delightfully eccentric and sweet...and absolutely hilarious, of course! This is Takahashi's characters we are talking about, after all.

Then there is the story. In every little detail, panel and dialogue that unfolds, one will realize that Rumiko Takahashi has indeed imrpoved as a storyteller. Her utter fondness for legends is still there, but there is something different. For IY is not simply a mix of comedy and romance--there is a great deal of adventure, action and magic involved, more so than any of her series to date. Her plots have gotten more complex as well, involving intricacies in relationships and circumstances.

Artwork has improved as well. Takahashi's style of drawing has never been as detailed as, let's say, Naoko Takeuchi's (of Bishoujo Senshi Sailormoon fame). However, this does not mean she is lacking in effectiveness of delivery. IY's art is still cute, and suits the story (and its characters) well enough.

Very, very impressive all in all, to say in the least. Did you expect anything less from Rumiko Takahashi herself?

Note: As it is with anime adaptations, there are a few differences from the manga. The latter, being the original version, has those special moments between Inu-Yasha and Kagome that weren't included in the former. And I'm pretty sure fans wouldn't want to miss them, so be sure to get ahold of IY manga now!

Individual Rating: Art 8; Story 10; Characters 10

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