Saturday, November 22, 2003

.hack//outbreak


Genre: Role Playing Game
Platform: Playstation 2
Credits: 2001-2003 Bandai, Project Hack, CyberConnect2. Screenshots courtesy of Amazon.Com




SHOPPING:
.hack Game Shop
.hack DVDs
.hack Strategy Guides
.hack Toys
.hack Music
.hack Item Shop
Skysenshi Description:
You are Kite, a newbie who starts playing the bestselling game The World. You enter a portal that brings you to different worlds-from grasslands, to deserts, to volcanic plains. Sometime during your exploration, however, you discover a glitch in the system that puts a friend in danger and your existence at stake. You investigate to get to the bottom of the mystery and new friends come along to help you in your quest. Time is of the essence, because you come to the realization that The World is not just an ordinary game. It is something else. And that something else is affecting the real lives of its players.

Stale bread. >>> by skysenshi

As a whole, the dotHack series is one very good game. It had an innovative battle system, a story that piques the mind, and an atmosphere that is so real, you'd feel like you're playing an actual MMORPG. I do not really need to expound on the qualities of dotHack because I've already described it twice. First in .hack//INFECTION, then on .hack//MUTATION. You will notice upon reading my last two reviews, I have given each installment a 9. Now I am giving the third of the series a 5. So what's different this time around?

…NOTHING.

All the good things in the previous games have remained. All the bad things in the previous games have remained. There are no improvements, and no earth-shattering developments. The story continues to be as cryptic as ever, except for occasional bumps that let you meet the familiar ghosts of .hack//SIGN (the anime).

Well, the good news is, the players you might have always wanted to party up with in the previous installations will be available now. Other than that, it's a tedious and repetitive game of leveling up and trying to whack that final boss to death, while still not getting any progress in your investigation. Ironically, this third .hack is also the shortest, which makes me think that maybe, they should've just released three chapters instead of four.

Painful as it is to say, I didn't get to finish this one. It's been a little over a month since I've last touched this. I reached the final dungeon by the third day of playing, but I stopped. Here's one little mistake the distributors made: they've taken their sweet time releasing every chapter that in-between release dates come other RPGs worth checking out. By the time you've reached OUTBREAK, your attention span would've been swept off its feet by improvements in real MMORPGs like Ragnarok Online and Final Fantasy XI, or other RPGs like Arc The Lad: Twilight of the Spirits, Final Fantasy X-2 and Castlevania: Lament of Innocence have already been released and I still procrastinate over OUTBREAK.

One other aspect I disapprove of is the obvious money-making scheme behind this. With four very short chapters, you'd be paying a total of approximately $180-200. Sure, INFECTION and MUTATION now only cost about $30 each, but think about those people who have bought these as soon as they got released. Their original price was give or take $45. Project Hack could've just combined all four into one big 80-hour game and you could've just paid $45 for the entire thing, which is actually what it should be worth. Granted, the scheme could have worked, but judging from my very own experience, I'm sure the number of .hack gamers have dwindled.

PLAYER STATUS:
DIFFICULTY: Easy - Moderate
COMPLETION TIME: 20-30 hours
HIGHEST LEVEL ACHIEVED: 34
RATINGS: Gameplay 7; Battle 7; Story 5; Visuals 8; Characters 9; Sounds 8; Replay Value 1

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Gensomaden Saiyuki: Requiem The Movie


Genre: Action / Fantasy / Shounen
Parental Guidance Recommended
2001 The Saiyuki Movie Project, Minekura Kazuya




SHOPPING:
Saiyuki DVDs
Saiyuki Art Books & Manga
Saiyuki Music
Saiyuki Video Games
Saiyuki Apparel
Saiyuki Toys, Accessories
Saiyuki Posters Etc.
Everything Saiyuki

Skysenshi's Description:
The journey to the west continues. Genjo Sanzo, Son Goku, Sha Gojyo and Cho Hakkai meet the distressed dame Houran while the latter is being violently pursued by a huge demonic bird. Sanzo and company, caught in the middle of the bird's attacks, battles with the demon and unintentionally rescues the girl. Grateful for their intervention, Houran leads them to the house that she shares with her master and prepares them a feast fit for a king.

In the background, far beyond our heroes' hearing, a strange young man lovingly calls out Sanzo's name.

This is just 45-minute episode. >>> by skysenshi
One would expect that after 50 episodes, Gensomaden Saiyuki's motion picture might have clarified a lot of issues that were vague and unexplained in the TV series. But no. What we actually have here is another episode that features a villain that is as regular as a $1 bill. The difference? Yes, this is longer. It is supposed to be a movie, after all. Yes, the animation has become digitized and rendered with 3D CG effects, which should have made everything look crisp, clear and impressive. Sadly, I'm not too keen with Saiyuki going digital, or how the creators went about it. The effects looked cheap and lazily done. I'm not too sure about the art, either, but I think I prefer the TV series to Requiem when it comes to that aspect. The characters, especially Gojyo, just look too old and hagard in this movie.

As for the story, like I've stated earlier, it didn't transcend the TV series' level. The villain is a new character who seems to have an obsession with, as you guessed it, Genjo Sanzo. When you go back and relive Sanzo's and this character's past, you'd realize that this is a comical version of Fatal Attraction. All the silly, idiotic, self-damaging things that the villain does, he does it out of love and jealousy. In the end, we learn that he has been an absolute dolt who could have saved himself a lot of tears had he simply inquired about Sanzo's mission. Then again, if he did that, then I wouldn't have had my comic relief. On a side note, I would just like to make clear that Requiem isn't supposed to be a comedy.

The other new figure that's introduced, Houran, is much like the main villain; they both fail to elicit any form of sympathy from me. Her appearance is too brief, and her interaction with the Saiyuki gang borders on passing pity at best. In fact, I believe that her only purpose in the movie is probably to add a little sexual tension that Sha Gojyo fans have been longing for. The side effects? While we poor viewers fidget in our seats, as we remain stuck with the sexual tension, the rest of Saiyuki seem more than eager to move on. Oh well, at least we get to finally see Gojyo in a shower scene.

The main bad guys of the TV series-Kougaiji, Yaone, Dokugakuji, and Ririn-make their brief appearance here as well. They don't really do much, except provide a bit of action and demonstrate the creators' use of those darn expensive-but easily deployed-3D CG effects. They're good eye candy, though, especially the females, so I guess our male viewers wouldn't really mind that they didn't get to know this group too well in this movie.

If there's one thing I could commend Requiem for, it has to be the sounds. The instrumentals, observably inspired by traditional Chinese themes, are consistent with that of the TV series. Another plus for Tetsu (L'arc~En~Ciel's ultra cute bassist) fans out there: Requiem's theme, Tightrope, is performed by Tetsu69, the aforementioned bassist's other band. This really goes to show that music has always been one of Saiyuki's finer points.

Individual Rating: Art/Animation 7; Story 6; Characters 8; Sounds 9

Wednesday, November 5, 2003

Marmalade Boy Manga


Genre: Shoujo / Romance
General Audience
1994 Ayumi Yoshizumi




SHOPPING:
Marmalade Boy DVDs
Marmalade Boy Art and Manga
Marmalade Boy Games
Marmalade Boy Toys
Marmalade Boy Music
Marmalade Boy Fashion
Marmalade Boy Merchandise
Thundersenshi's Description:
Koshikawa Miki's life takes a sudden turn when her parents announce that they are going to switch partners with a couple they met in Hawaii. Though the fact remains that both of her parents still love each other as friends, Miki is freaked out. What's more, her parents have decided not to live separately. Instead, for the sake of Miki's upbringing, they've chosen to all live in the same house with the Matsuura couple...and their handsome son, Yuu. When Miki learns of this boy who is just about her age, she thought she has found herself an ally. But to her dismay, Yuu takes the current situation with calm and acceptance. And to make matters worse than it already is, she even seems to be falling for Matsuura Yuu...

(8 tankubon)

Sorta Balanced Shoujo. >>> by skysenshi
Okay, it's mush. It's a high school dramedy, after all. The last parts, especially, made me think that maybe the lead characters' romance could use a little more development and a little less saccharine. Miki and Yuu are just suddenly in love and there's very little explanation as to how this phenomenon happened-almost overnight. Despite this, however, Marmalade Boy is one of the most sort of balanced shoujo I've ever read. It isn't as narcissistic as the rest of 'em. I mean, come on, has anyone ever noticed that everyone seems to fall in love with leads like SailorMoon, Miaka (Fushigi Yuugi), Makino Tsukushi (Hana Yori Dango) to that point that you find it disgusting that the supporting characters don't ever get their own lives at all? Sure, there's still the Yuu-Miki-Ginta triangle but this one has so many love polygons that you wouldn't have to worry about supporting characters being merely wall attachments.

Not to say that Marmalade Boy is perfect. Far from it. Though the beginning volumes are the most fun to read-I played ping-pong with my preferences: Yuu, Ginta, Yuu Ginta, Yuu, Ginta-the last few volumes slipped a few notches off the scale. Like the typical shoujo, it has a lot of clich├ęs, most of them concentrating on the personalities of protagonists Miki and Yuu. Also, how some of the love pairings got resolved, particularly Ginta's case, seemed a little too convenient. Thank goodness for weird circumstances like their messed-up families-not that I'm saying everyone should divorce so they could get happy lives (ick)-and buddies that have less-than-typical attitudes.

The most interesting characters to note here are best friends Meiko (to Miki) and Miwa Satoshi (to Yuu). In fact, they could easily have been the leads, the ones who put balance into Marmalade Boy amidst the army of love squares. Meiko has an unusual relationship; what that is, I won't spoil. Satoshi, on the other hand, is someone who is funny as he is cute.and he doesn't have a typical shoujo ending.

I would recommend this for the WAFF* lovers and tennis enthusiasts. Oops, I forgot to mention that the author is a tennis fanatic, which is why her characters are, too. But if you're not, I advise to touch this only with a ten-foot pole.



*WAFF = warm and fuzzy feeling

Individual Rating: Art 7; Story 7; Characters 8

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