Tag Archives: Video Games

Eroge Review – Zanjibaru 斬死刃留 (NSFW)

Zanjibaru Cover by Akito Tamiya

Anime culture has spread across the globe, with anime, manga, and merchandise available from Moscow to Melbourne. However, one aspect of anime culture that hasn’t had much success in the export market is eroge. There’s various reasons for that, mostly due to legal concerns and the fact that few companies care to expend resources localizing a product into English when it probably isn’t going to sell well. However, many of my favorite character designs come from h-games and I’m certainly a fan of anime pornography so I’ve been interested in trying out eroge for a while. I’ve played a few that were localized by JAST USA, but I wanted to play something a bit more hardcore. I found out about Zanjibaru while reading Mou Yamete!, and as it features cute fighter girls, demons, tentacles, and maggot birthing, I figured I’d give it a shot.
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Record of Agarest War Really Naughty Limited Edition

Agarest War Really Naughty Limited Edition

This news is a couple of days old, but in case anybody hadn’t heard, Aksys Games is releasing the strategy RPG Record of Agarest War in the United States in April. This game’s gotten a lot of flak for being softcore porn, but from what I can tell, its suggestiveness is more along the lines of Ar Tonelico or Super Robot Wars OG Saga than Battle Raper. You wouldn’t be able to infer that from Aksys’s pack-ins for the limited edition of the game, though, since they’re throwing in an oppai mousepad and a pillowcase. The latter item unfortunately isn’t a full-sized dakimakura but it’s still looking pretty good.

Anyway, the Really Naughty Limited Edition is awesome but what caught my eye was something in Aksys’s announcement video. It features a white guy acting goofy with the goods and some porno-style music. Towards the end of the trailer, another white guy comes into the scene and you see this:

Pay no mind to the white guy or his funny face and look over to the left. See that? That’s KOS-MOS! The Aksys guy has a KOS-MOS figure! How awesome is that?

Record of Agarest War is scheduled to come out in late April, so Xbox 360 owners should go put in preorders for the Really Naughty Limited Edition right away. Unfortunately, it appears that PS3 owners are going to left in the cold in this respect, so I guess they’ll have to put in their orders whenever the game is available for download on Sony’s network or something. There’s more information about the game over on Ota desho.

One other Aksys note, they’re bringing over the Cave shmup Deathsmiles on the 360. I don’t know much about the game yet but I’m happy to see it make its way over to the US. I still have to spend some quality time with Mushihime-sama Futari, I bought it back in November but I haven’t played it for more than fifteen minutes yet (which is actually longer than I’ve played Dragon Age).

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Magna Carta 2 Impressions

Magna Carta 2 Box

Firmly entrenched in its role as the anchor of the Japanese console sales charts, the Xbox 360 is an unlikely platform for JRPG development, but for some reason it’s gotten its share of them. Here’s one of the most recent examples; Magna Carta 2 is the sequel to a poorly-received PlayStation 2 game, which itself is a derivative of an older PC game. It came out early this month in the United States, and being curious as to what it’s about, I went and picked it up.

To be pedantic, Magna Carta II is not actually a JRPG, having been developed by the Korean company Softmax. However, after playing it for a few hours it evokes not Final Fantasy or Star Ocean; rather, it feels most like World of Warcraft. Combat takes place on the area map, and you simply move your character into a monster’s aggro radius and press the combat mode button to initiate hostilities. To discourage button mashing, your character’s attacks and spells fill up a stamina gauge; when the gauge is filled, your character cannot attack until a cooldown period elapses. To activate special attacks, you need to connect with a series of regular attacks or cast spells to build up something called a kan gauge. For melee fighters, this gauge functions similarly to a Warcraft warrior’s rage bar (although it does not deplete over time), and for casters, it means you have to remain stationary to cast your stronger spells.

The game is filled with side quests, and at least early on, they do not often deviate from the “Fetch 5 widgets” or “Kill 8 armadillos” motif seen so witheringly often in MMOs. There’s also a gathering minigame where you can pick up flowers and other assorted foliage, as well as a bombing minigame which is very similar to how grenades are thrown in Warcraft.

The main character is named Juto, and if you have any experience playing JRPGs (or watching anime), you’ve almost certainly seen his archetype before. Brash, self-righteous, and afflicted with a curious disability that disengages his brain when he opens his mouth, he is the very epitome of the generic teenaged JRPG hero. He also suffers from amnesia, so his past is conveniently clouded, and he just as conveniently show hints of great power locked within himself. His running mate is Zephie, a princess and military leader who cares deeply for everyone under her command and wishes to make a better world for everybody. You’ve seen this sort of female character type before, too. I am told there are six playable characters in total, but I’ve only gotten five so far.

Despite its unoriginality, Magna Carta 2 is still a pretty fun game. The combat is fairly fast-paced and the statistical character development – which, like Warcraft, lets you customize your characters using talent trees – is interesting. The story is banal but even so, the rebel group trying to fight off usurpers to restore justice and order is a classic plot type. The character designs are very nice, having been done by well-known Korean artist Hyung Tae Kim, and I’ll fully admit that his artwork factored heavily into this purchase. The voice acting is pretty good, although I would’ve liked to have had the Japanese voices with subtitles.

I placed a preorder for this game at my local Gamestop store since I didn’t think they would get many copies and also because they were giving away a free artbook for doing so. When I went to pick up the game, I inquired about the preorder freebie, and the clerks stared back at me, slack-jawed, as if I were speaking Mongolian. I guess the artbooks didn’t ship with the games to this store. I went home and sent an e-mail to Gamestop’s feedback site, and I actually got a response, so hopefully I get my artbook mailed to me. The artbook itself isn’t a big deal to me but I am very much annoyed when Gamestop advertises some preorder freebie and then they say, “Oh, we don’t have them here, sorry,” when you go to get it.

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Sacred 2 Impressions

I’ve been enjoying Sacred 2 on the Xbox 360 for the last couple of weeks. It’s a fast-paced, hack and slash game in the mode of Diablo and Phantasy Star Online. There are six character classes to choose from, and as I prefer to play as balanced, hybrid types, I picked a seraphim to start.

One of the coolest and least intuitive aspects of Sacred 2 is the character progression. Statistical progression is separated into three groups: attributes, skills, and combat arts. Attributes are things like strength, dexterity, and vitality, and aren’t any different than what you have encountered in numerous other RPGs. Skills are passive modifiers that enhance your character’s combat ability – for example, Concentration reduces the cooldown time on your special abilities (among other things). Combat arts are your character’s specific special attacks, spells, and buffs.

This progression system gives a wide latitude to the player with regard to how his or her character is developed. I’m currently playing as a dual-wielding, melee character, but if I wanted to play as a spell-flinging caster seraphim, I could have done that, and if I wanted to be a gat-blasting angel, I could have done that as well. For that matter, I could combine all of those into one sword-swinging, spell-flinging, gat-packing character. It’s up to the player whether he or she wants to roll with a character who is very proficient in a narrow combat speciality or a character who is very versatile but is somewhat weaker due to a lack of specialization.

Unfortunately, this system is very poorly explained in the manual and game, and it’s likely that new players are going to screw up their first character before figuring out how everything works. Admittedly, Sacred 2 isn’t unique in this respect, as I restarted my characters in both Diablo II and Phantasy Star Online several times before I felt comfortable with the stat systems in those games, and the game is forgiving enough that even a suboptimal character can do okay, at least at the lower intermediate difficulty level.

The controls are very comfortable on the console, which is surprising given the game’s PC origins. Combat arts are mapped to the face buttons, and the shoulder triggers are used in conjuction with the buttons to give the player access to twelve combat arts in total. The left bumper picks up all items within a short radius of the player. One aspect where the controller doesn’t work so well is for targetable abilities; you have to move a cursor on the screen to where you want the ability to be used, which is rather awkward, particularly when you’re being pelted by a dozen monsters.

Thus far I really like the game, and I’d encourage fans of hack and slash games to give it a try. The world is huge and beautiful, the action moves quickly, and it’s a lot of fun planning out your character.

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Star Ocean thoughts

Fourteen hours into Star Ocean: The Last Hope, I think I can declare that Edge Maverick is the most pathetically naive main character of any Japanese RPG I’ve played. I’ve played a lot of them, but if there is one that features an idiot of greater magnitude, my memory fails me.

Apart from that, the game is somewhat enjoyable. Edge and his merry band of sycophantic invertebrates have some appealing characteristics and the story and setting remain engaging.

Actually, do you know what Star Ocean reminds me of? It reminds me of the book Angels & Demons. I read all the way through Angels & Demons despite thinking it was the most ludicrously contrived piece of crap I’d ever read, and while I don’t feel nearly that level of antipathy towards Star Ocean (perhaps because the latter has a cute half-naked loli catgirl and the book does not), I still have to suppress myself from rolling my eyes during each cutscene. I will play on and see if any of the characters grow a backbone and some testicles.

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