Saturday, October 6, 2012

Tari Tari Review: It's Everywhere...

I must admit, Tari Tari was something I probably wouldn't have watched had it not been for P.A. Works providing the animation.  The concept as conveyed through summaries didn't really manage to grab my attention, and even now that I have finished watching the series, it's not something that I'm really excited over.

It's about a Choir Club! (and sometimes badminton)

There are plenty of works out there that suffer from the problem in that "they Get Better".  We've likely all had this problem bite us at some point; Either we drop a show after the first few episodes, only to return years later and realize what we've been missing, or maybe we introduce friends to the work, only for them to drop it before they could know about that thing that makes the work truly awesome.  Tari Tari doesn't have this problem (indeed, I found the quality of the series to be quite consistent from start to finish), but rather the related problem of sounding uninteresting at first.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Figure 17 Review: In what form will your Soul Manifest?

Figure 17 is one of those anime that have been on my to-watch list for quite some time, but that I hadn't yet gotten around to actually checking out.  Having recently picked up a set of the DVDs for the show, I've finally been able to get around to correcting this situation.

I must admit, there was no real particularly grounded reason for why I initially decided that this should be a show that I would eventually watch.  In fact, I'm pretty sure I originally looked into it because the title had a similarity to Ever 17 by way of having the same number in the title.  After reading the description of the series, I figured that it didn't sound uninteresting, and that it was as good a choice as any for when I needed something new to watch.

The verdict?  After three episodes, while I can't picture this becoming one of my favorite shows ever, it's definitely something that could stand to be a little more well-known than it currently is.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Aria the Scarlet Ammo Review: Death of a Genre?

If you've been hanging out in the anime fandom for at least a few years, there's a type of show that you've most definitely heard of (and have likely seen).  As the story begins, a standard-issue male high school student meets a girl.  This girl is short-statured, shorter-tempered, and has light-coloured hair (usually blonde, very light brown, or a gentle shade of pink).  Her chest is flat.  She comes from a rich family, leading her to treat most other people as if they were beneath her; as a result of this, she has few friends, if any.  Her elegant background is betrayed by her attitude towards others and her clumsiness/sloppiness.

Oh, and she's also voiced by Kugimiya Rie

At their first meeting, our Main Character will learn that the Girl is involved in some manner of fantastic occurrence.  Circumstances will reveal that the Main Character is now also tied to the abnormal events, forcing him and the Girl to live in close proximity.  Despite their initial inability to get along, the two will overcome their circumstances and eventually admit love for each other.

As one may have guessed from the title, I am describing Aria the Scarlet Ammo.  I am also describing Shakugan no Shana, Zero no Tsukaima, To aru Majutsu no Index, Lotte no Omocha, and to a lesser extent Hayate the Combat Butler and Toradora!.  There are likely many more anime that utilize this formula, as well as countless light novels and manga who are aiming to be the next smash-hit by using the same successful formula.

Actually, that assessment may not be completely right.  Maybe it would be better to include Aria the Scarlet Ammo in that final category...

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Never 7: The End of Infinity Review

Never 7: The End of Infinity follows Ishihara Makoto, a college student who must attend "Seminar Camp" with three other students from his college.  For the Seminar, Makoto and fellow students Yuka, Haruka, and Okuhiko will take up residence in a lodge on a southern island for one week.
Unfortunately, not all is well.  On April 1st, before the Seminar begins, Makoto has a dream in which he is viewing a the corpse of an unknown female.  While this is initially unsettling but nonthreatening, A series of premonitions during the subsequent days make Makoto begin to wonder if it might be cause to worry: Could it be that his dream is a premonition that will come true on the morning of April 6th?  Can he find a way to prevent this future from occurring?


A few years ago, I was just getting into Visual Novels.  The fourth that I ever played was an rather interesting one, well known in English-speaking Visual Novel circles, "Ever 17: The Out of Infinity".  Made by Kindle Imagine Developers (KID) in 2002 and translated for English-speaking audiences by Hirameki International a few years later, Ever 17 managed to gain a strong western following, helped by the engaging plot, the lack of adult scenes, and the availability of a translation in a fledgeling fanbase where the pool of works that were in a language that the fans could understand was severely limited.

Though Ever 17 gained a good-sized fanbase, none of the other games in the Infinity series were ever translated, likely due to the collapse of both Hirameki and KID.  In summer 2010, however, a fan-produced translation patch was released for the third game in the series, "Remember 11: The Age of Infinity".  Now, in summer 2012, we of the English-language Visual Novel fanbase may once again experience Infinity with the release of GundamAce's translation for the first game in the series: "Never 7: The End of Infinity".

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

RMN Review Drive: A Metric Buttload of Games

For the past two weeks I've been involved in RMN's NaGaDeMo Review Drive.  For those who aren't in the RPGMaker or indie game-development scenes, NaGaDeMo stands for National Game Development Month.  It takes place over the course of the month of June, and is the indie game developer equivalent of NaNoWriMo in November.

This year, RMN held an event encouraging developers to release demos and finished products during June.  The event was quite the success, with 31 Official Submissions, with that number roughly doubling if you include releases during that time that were not submitted to the event.  With such a large number of games released at once combined with the website's long-standing issue that only about half of the games on the site that are eligible for reviews actually receive them, RMN decided to hold a Review Drive as a follow-up event.  The Drive began at the beginning of July, and will continue through mid-August.  Since posting reviews on RMN has been something I've been planning on starting for quite some time now, I've been rather active in the Drive, and I thought I'd echo my thoughts about some of the games I've been playing here.

The Greats:

Maximus Jones: It's Sokoban.  It's a Zelda Trading Sequence.  It's Recettear.  It's Blackjack.  Maximus Jones is a collection of puzzle games all rolled into one.  No excessive plot, no filler scenery where you walk across the world in real time to get to the next puzzle.  A Game that sells itself on pure game.

Vagabond:  This one falls somewhere between the Greats and the Not-So-Greats. With only your trusty monster as a companion, travel the world and defeat monsters to bring peace to the land.

Doppelganger: A Visual Novel Demo by the same person who made RE: Alistair.  Wonderfully atmospheric and attention-grabbing.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Visual Novel Review: Angel Beats! Third View

Since I reviewed Angel Beats! Bonus Chapter two weeks ago, I've been meaning to post this as well.  Angel Beats! Third View is a visual novel by the same people who made the Bonus Chapter visual novel. (Technically, it might be more accurate to phrase it the other way around, since Third View is was their primary project, with the Bonus Chapter adaptation being a side-thing).  While I mentioned in my Bonus Chapter review that the story could be understood well enough by people who weren't already familiar with Angel Beats, the same statement does not carry over to this project: If you haven't seen the anime, don't expect to understand anything that's going on.

Storywise, Third View is basically an adaptation of the first half of the first episode of the Angel Beats anime, told from the perspective of an non-battlefront resident of the afterlife. It doesn't really bring anything new to the story yet, which may be because the project has only covered the very beginning as of right now (or ever, since the project seems to be deader than the characters of the series it's based on).  The authors were fairly careful to never place the Third View's Main Character in a situation where the anime already established that he wasn't in.  Unfortunately, there are still problems with the scenes that the character is put in: Namely, the character is a Sue.

At this point, it will probably be necessary to define the term "Mary Sue" as it will be used here.  This is a term with multiple possible meanings, depending on who you ask.  It could mean "Character who is very powerful", "Character who is an author-insert", "Character with an unrealistic background", "Character who never fails", or "Character the speaker doesn't like".  The common thread of these, however, is that the term is pretty much always a Bad Thing to have applied to ones work.  I do not think most of the above-listed definitions are inherently bad things, so I reject those definitions.  When I say "Mary Sue", I am talking about a character who elicits a reaction that doesn't logically flow from how the character is written.  An undefeatable swordsman is not a Sue, it's just a powerful character (who will likely become a boring character if the author doesn't realize that there are ways to generate conflict that are not physical combat, but still not a Sue).  A Sue would be a character who is an average swordsman in a group of people who will not suffer a severe loss of ability from said character leaving, but who is nonetheless treated as being irreplaceable to the point that the group would drop everything to get this person to rejoin if they left (This is assuming that the characters did not have other reasons for doing so, like the character being a friend/relative/having other irreplaceable skills)

Disgression aside, that last example was pretty much how I felt about Third View's Main Character.  The battlefront members are all crazy over the idea of getting him to join up with them.  Why?  The anime seems to indicate that battlefront has somewhere in the vicinity of 80-100 members, so why give so much attention to a single person who has definitively stated that he doesn't want to join them?  (Recall that they only made two attempts to recruit Otonashi, and the second was because he literally walked up to their base of operations).  One path of choices in Third View has the Main Character fight against Angel using a gun and grenades.  Where did he get such things without access to Guild?  (Alternatively, why does he know how to make such things himself?)

Moving on to technical implementation commentary: While Third View lacks the problems that Bonus Chapter had with the excessive commas and screen shaking, there are frequent fade-out/fade-in effects.  These are probably supposed to indicate a long amount of time passing between scenes, but when said "scenes" are only a few lines of narration long, it feels like they could have been compressed into fewer scenes.
The opening uses a rain effect that looked fairly crappy, which was a shame because the rest of the visuals were pretty good.
The title screen uses the title screen music from Persona 3.  It would be fitting music, but the association with another work is distracting.  Using fitting music from Angel Beats!, composing an original piece would be much better ideas that would eliminate this problem.  Using fitting music from a less-known source would reduce the scope of this problem, although not completely eliminate it.
The author's note at the end was a rather tacky addition.  Such things are much better served by being placed as a separate thing that can be reached via the main menu.  Narcissu and its sequel are an example of this done the right way.

Overall, I don't think I can really recommend Third View.  I realize that this was only the start of the project, but until such a time that the rest of the project is created, this first chapter really has nothing to attract readers.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Visual Novel Review: Angel Beats! Track Zero Bonus Chapter

The Angel Beats! Track Zero Bonus Chapter visual novel is an adaptation of the bonus chapter from the Angel Beats! Track Zero light novel, which is the prequel to the better-known Angel Beats! anime series.  (In other news, people die when they are killed).  The visual novel was a side project made in the Ren'py engine by the Angel Beats! Visual Project, a group currently working on Angel Beats! Third View, a retelling of the anime through the eyes of a character who doesn't belong to the Battlefront.  (I say "currently working on", but as the last update to the development blog was 11 months ago, it may be safe to say that the project has found itself in the afterlife)
The Visual Project isn't an officially endorsed work, but it is a direct adaptation of one.

Pictured: Iwasawa, Hisako, and those two girls whose names you haven't bothered to remember before now

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Dawn of the Third Week: Haiyore! Nyarlko-san (part 1)

As we are now three weeks (or more) into the current season of anime, I plan to start doing more in-depth reviews of the series that I'm watching.  These review will consist of three parts:
  1. A Summary of the episodes that have come out so far
  2. Two bulleted lists, one of the show's "Pros" and another for the "Khan" "Cons"
  3. Actual post-like content where I talk about my reactions to the episodes in more detail.
The first series up for review is Haiyore! Nyarlko-san.

(edit from later: Since these posts have taken longer than I'd initially expected, I'll be most of them as individual episode summaries rather than in the groups of three that I'd planned on earlier.  In later seasons I may start drafting these posts earlier so that I can get them done as intended)

Episode Summary

Episode I: Like a Close Encounter of the Third Kind

Our first episode opens up with boy running through alleyways.  It may be nighttime, but it's rather hard to say for sure, because the sky is full of eerie-looking red clouds.  Possibly related to these red clouds are the ominous chanting music playing in the background, and the monster with the vagina-face that seems intent on eating the boy.  Given these occurrences and the usual conventions of stories that open with monster attacks, one would assume that by the end of the episode, he will either be revealed to be the Main Character, who must deal with the horrors of the supernatural throughout the rest of the story; or, he will be dead, and the paranormal perils will become somebody else's problem.

Fortunately for this boy, rescue arrives in the form of a silver-haired, green-eyed girl who drops out of the sky to karate-chop the monster in two, relieving the boy of his troubles but presumably causing many more for whoever's job it is to clean up bloodstains from public streets.  As the boy stares in amazement, the girl introduces herself: "I'm the chaos that always crawls up to you with a smile, Nyarlarthotep!"

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Weekend Anime Review: OreImo and Index

Strictly speaking, this was something I originally intended to be posted last weekend, when it would have covered Ore no Imouto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai and the first half of To Aru Majutsu no Index, but the delays have expanded it to be a much longer post that will also include more of Index (up to halfway through the second season), as well as To Aru Kagaku no Railgun.

Ore no Imouto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai (My Little Sister can't be this Cute)

I tried reading a bit of the OreImo manga around the time that the announcement for the anime was made, but never really got into it.  Similarly, when the series came out, I watched the first episode but never really pursued it any further.  I was aware that it was one of those series that grabs the attention of enough of the anime fan collective that it seems like everybody is talking about, and knew that I would have to get around to watching it eventually, I managed to put it off for a good period of time.  So, now that I've established how my prior experiences with this series have all resulted in a firm, resounding "meh", I'll go on to talk about how I can't see what managed to catch everybody's attention, right?

 I rather liked it, actually.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Can I run away, now? Thoughts for a d20 Morale System

While re-reading through the archives over at The Alexandrian this afternoon, I stumbled upon two revelations:
  1. I miss Justin's "Creations" page, which had links to many of his house-rules and game-design articles, but which seems to have been lost in his move to a different host.  (This revelation is largely irrelevant to the main topic of this article)
  2. I think that the implementation of Morale Systems could interesting.
To a certain extent, Justin Alexander brings up a good point about Morale Systems: It really brings nothing to the game that a competent DM couldn't roleplay.  At the same time, though, I think it might be a good idea to design such a system, because it might be nice to have consistent mechanics for the point at which roleplaying alone might get a little arbitrary,  For example, It should be very easy for a DM to determine when a single opponent (especially a recurring foe, who has been established as having a certain sort of character through earlier appearances) would decide to flee from the battle.  It would also be easy to say "The orc horde's leader just fell in battle, their forces are now in a panic", but it seems to me that there should be a variety of reactions in such a horde (even if just limited to "X monsters stay and fight, the rest ran), and that a morale system would be a good way of quantifying how many choose each option.

The following are my thoughts on the requirements for a system:
  1. PCs should never be forced to run from a fight against the will of their player.  It should be assumed that the player has a grasp on what their character would do in a given situation.  A possible exception might be fear-inducing magical effects, in the same way that a PC dominated by mind control may act against their player's wishes.
  2. In the same vein, it makes sense that some NPCs (usually major plot important ones) appear frequently enough that they are essentially PCs controlled by the DM.  (I debate about this slightly with myself, because it falls a bit too close to the common RPVG design point of making bosses immune to most (if not all) status effects.  Still, this is mainly for the purpose of plot coherency).
  3. Being on a stronger side means that a monster should be less likely to flee.  Being on the weaker side means it should be more likely to flee.  This should be manifest in the mechanics for the cases of (a) Superior Numbers, (b) Stronger fighters, and (c) Tactical advantages not accounted for by the other two items (ie, better cover, better visibility)
  4. As a corollary to 3b, enemies should not have Level-dar that allows them to know automatically what fights they can win and what fights they can't.
  5. 6 Goblins are probably less likely to flee if there were originally eight of them compared to if there were originally twelve, all other things being equal
  6.  (Brought up in the Alexandrian article's comments): A Red Dragon probably won't care if one (out of a hundred) of its goblin minions is killed.  The Goblins might, though.
To cover these, I think this might be a possible solution:
  1. The base mechanic will be a Will save.  I'm not sure what DC should be used... maybe 10? 15?
  2. Each side receives a number of "Threat points".  The smallest-size participant in the combat is worth 1-point, with each size category larger resulting in the doubling of the points.  For example, it might be Small: 1pts, Medium: 2pts, Large: 4pts, Huge: 8pts.  (If an even smaller participant subsequently joins the battle, assign them a value of 1/2 pts, or 1/4, or whatever.  The important thing is the values of the size categories relative to each other).
  3. Each side gains a +2 bonus for every time their side doubles the other in threat points (+2 for double, +4 for quadruple, +6 for x8), with an additional +1 for a 40% boost above that (the 40% may be simplified to 50% for better ease of use).  Smaller sides receive a corresponding penalty.
  4. For multi-side battles, the threat points of the enemy for the purpose of determining ones own penalty are the sum of all factions that currently seem "threatening", DM's judgement. (for example, If the Orcs, PCs, and the Balrog aren't on the same side, the Orcs fear the PCs and the Balrog if they are sandwiched between the two, but if some kind of informal alliance occurs where they and the PCs only attack the Balrog, they do not count the PCs at that point.  However, they most likely will not count the PCs as on their side, either.
  5. Give Circumstance modifiers of +2 for favorable conditions (such as access to ranged weaponry while the enemy has none, fortifications, low light vision in low-light conditions, an attack that was initiated by surprise), or +4 for very favorable conditions (ranged weaponry when the enemy is extremely unlikely to reach your position, Darkvision in no-light conditions, greater invisibility).  Enemies should receive corresponding penalties
  6. A -2 penalty to checks if seriously wounded (1/3 HP).  Consider Having Seriously Wounded characters provide only half their threat points to their force, although this may be too much bookkeeping (Unless, for example, it's the injury of a Dragon commanding a dozen Goblins)
  7. A member of the force may act as a "Leader", meaning that each member of the force gains the Leader's CHA modifier as a bonus to their checks, as long as the Leader continues to make theirs.
  8. As a fear effect, a Paladin's morale boost applies to these checks (but doesn't give a penalty to the enemy).  Paladins themselves add half of their Paladin level as a bonus to this check (Their class entry says immune to fear, but I think it makes sense for that to just be immunity to Magical fear effects.  Between their usually-high WIS, the CHA bonus they receive to saving throws as a class feature, the +4 morale bonus that they're guaranteed to have, and the addition of half of their class level, Paladins aren't going to be running away very often anyway)
  9. A Raging Barbarian is immune to Morale problems while in his Rage
These will saves should be made in conditions such as the following.  In general, anything that would cause the value of one's bonus to drop or penalty to rise forces a new check
  1. Every other threat point-category reduction relative to the enemy, starting from the second.  In other words, a force made up entirely of the same race will make saves when they are at half strength, quarter strength, eighth strength, etc.  If a bunch of goblins accompanied by a Dragon see their Dragon get killed, this will effect them more than the loss of one of their own.
  2. Death or serious injury (reduced to 1/3 HP or missing a limb) of a Leader, or if that Leader flees from Morale loss (in other words, each minion would probably make two checks that round).  Consider limiting this to once per battle (ie, the death of a leader who was already near death isn't as shocking)
  3. Serious injury of the self (1/3 HP or missing a limb)
  4. The loss of a force-wide advantage, or gain of a force-wide advantage by the enemy (Ie, cover being taken away, a group-buff being dispelled (but not worn off, since the force would expect that to happen), the enemy receiving a group-buff, a castle being breached)
I still need to wok out what spells will be affected, as well as a few other thoughts.  These also have yet to be tested (which I am not likely to do anytime soon without a currently meeting gaming group.  If anybody wants to try these, I'd love feedback)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Letting my mind run: On your Mark(ov)

I was originally going to write a post about how Madoka Magica isn't good like a lot of people, mainly tropers, claim it is (but that instead, it's an entirely different and even better kind of good), or sum up some of my thoughts about the second season of Working!! in a rambling piece about what I like in a slice of life series.  However, I just finished writing my farewell to TV-tropes, which left me (a) much later in the evening than I'd originally banked on, and (b) in a somewhat melancholy mood.  Neither one of those factors are really conductive to my ability to write those posts that I wanted to write.  I also had some thoughts earlier today during work that I want to jot down somewhere...

In other words, fuck those topics.  I'm going to talk about Markov Chains.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Animated Oddity in Dragon Spring: Preliminary thoughs on the Spring 2012 Anime Lineup

I originally meant for this post to happen a few weeks ago, as more of a haven't-seen-it-yet-but-these-are-my-first-impressions post regarding the upcoming anime.  Computer troubles prevented this from happening when I wanted it to, so I decided that it might be better to delay it until I could make it a mass review of the various first and second episodes that I'd seen.  Reviewed in this post will be two series that I wanted to check out (Fate/Zero, Haiyore! Nyarlko-san), and one that I wasn't particularly interested in, but decided to check out anyway because of it's sheer WTF factor (Upotte).  Not included in this review is Hyouka, which didn't really grab me from the description of the premise, but will gain my viewership because of (a):good art quality, and (b)KyoAni.  (Come to think of it, that second point makes the first rather redundant).  Hyouka is airing a few weeks behind everything else this season, and I've decided that there's no real point in putting this post off any more than I already have, so it'll come in a later post (I plan on doing more detailed posts for the shows that I don't drop, anyway).