Lasting Impressions : Shakugan no Shana (Anime)

Shakugan no Shana

(This post contains spoilers for the anime Shakugan no Shana, Shakugan no Shana II (Second), and Shakugan no Shana III (Final). If you have not seen these series and do not wish to spoil the ending(s), then please do not click the link.)

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Spending Money and Time

Too much fun. This game is.

Heyos Everyones!

As I sit here, I realize I’ve not much time before events begin to kick in and I have to actually focus on school and getting into an actual university. I’ve spent quite some time going to GCC, and it’s time I started getting serious about furthering my education. But, before that, I must enjoy this wonderful Steam Sale that’s going on right now. Between that, watching anime, and playing more Tales games, I can say I’ve got quite the schedule ahead of me. Either way, I’ve been enjoying life these past few weeks. I’m about to go see my friend in the coming days, and it’ll be a nice breath of fresh air.

I just purchased Ys Origin for Steam, and holy hell, the game is amazing. I love the battle mechanics and just the overall feel of the game. I’ve never played a Ys game before, although I got the free Japanese copy of Ys 4 on my computer, just never installed. I think I may need to grab the PSP copies and play through those, because this game is FUN! It’ll keep my attention for a good span of time, and I hope I’ll get some rest between this game and Tales of Xillia. Either way, I’m having fun with these games.

As for anime, Sword Art Online is amazing, and it makes VR seem like such a great idea, yet on the other hand, such a terrible one. Having one device prevent you from doing anything else with one minor bug really doesn’t sound appealing, but the possibilities…

Anyways, this was just a quick update post. I have a few things coming this week and the next, so look forward to those!

-Ace

Some Minor Rants

No. There is no excuse.

Heyos Everyones!

Another update in the same month? The Vesperia review actually went up? I’d have to say, I’m more active now that I actually thought I would be. But, what can I say? It feels like the wheels of fate have begun turning again, after a 6 month hiatus. Things have finally perked up for me again, and I’m super excited to see what the rest of the year will bring on. I plan on going to Saboten Con, a convention located in Arizona that is actually pretty close to me, and school will begin next month, resulting in a busy schedule that I am actually looking forward to.

Now, I named this based on what I have to say next. I’ve been hearing talk about what people think of newer consoles and what the future holds for gaming. As an owner of a PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii, I feel like I’ve spent quite some time in this current generation. However, with the changes that have been happening recently, regarding internet censorship, excessive DRM, and other poor selfish measures taken by companies to protect copyright, I can’t say I want newer systems to come out just yet. Don’t get me wrong, when it comes to my consoles, they’re all connected to the internet and I’m generally logged in while I play. However, that doesn’t mean I’ll always be online while playing games. I’m hoping that Microsoft and Sony will actually avoid using measures to prevent people from playing games they have purchased. It’s hard to tell where the line is nowadays, with so many laws changing and people getting screwed out of games they paid money for. For example, on-disc DLC pisses me off to no end, and I can’t advocate paying for content on a disc that I already paid for. I’m fine with adding content to a game via online stores, whether or not that may encourage companies to put less effort toward post game and fun content that players may unlock in game, but don’t charge for content that should have come with the game in the first place, proven by the fact it’s on the disc!

In addition to that, if newer consoles are released, backwards compatibility must be added to the system, along with the transfer of content purchased on the previous system. I don’t want to buy a PlayStation 4 just to find out my previous games won’t work for the system, and my digital content is going to be lost once the PS3 is no longer supported by Sony. This is really a fear due to the lack of physical property in today’s gaming world. Sure, there are still disc-based games, but everything is moving toward digital releases. What’s going to happen when that digital software is no longer supported by the publisher? I fear it may be lost forever.

Of course, that’s not to say physical copies are forever. There’s always downsides to physical copies. However, physical copies give consumers the feeling of owning something. It’s a successful feeling that will probably be lost someday in the digital transition. But, I know I’m not alone in this regard; premium copies of games released nowadays contain physical “gifts” that push consumers to purchase said product, and with the success of many collectors and premium editions, I know there is a calling for physical property.

Well, most of what I said above is probably gibberish, and hard to understand. However, what I wrote above has been formulating in my head for some time, and I really needed to find some way to stop thinking about it. Anyways, I’m working on some other stuff for the site, so look for it in the near future!
-Ace

Review: Tales of Vesperia (X360)

Tales of Vesperia for Xbox 360

How does one start talking about a game such as Tales of Vesperia? The game, released in 2008 for the Xbox 360, proved to be a significant addition to the Tales series, and a giant leap for the series into high definition. This real-time combat driven role playing game gives players two difference gameplay experiences in one game; players may experience the strategy and statistics of a role-playing game, while experiencing battles in a similar fashion to battle action games. This mix, while not for everyone, gives players a unique experience that can only be expected of the established Tales series.

-Story-
Tales of Vesperia follows a young man named Yuri Lowell, who tends to follow his own rules and contains no respect for anyone who breaks the law. The story begins with a mysterious character stealing a valuable core from the lower quarter, a section of the main city which government officials neglect and ostracize. These cores are vital to controlling “Blastia,” which can be viewed as magical and technological devices that aid mankind in the world. Yuri, being the “good man” he is, decides to hunt down the thief and recover the core, ignoring any laws and officials that may get in his way. This hunt soon develops into a quest to save the world, by unraveling the mysteries and secret intentions of the government and its alliances.

Along the way, Yuri meets Estelle, a princess who knows little about the world, Karol, a young boy who can’t make up his mind about what to do in life, Rita, a talented mage who knows more about Blastia than anyone in the world, Raven, an old man who appears to help the party for reasons unknown, and Judith, a skilled spears-women who hides many secrets of her own. In addition to this quirky cast of characters, there’s also Repede, Yuri’s faithful dog companion who joins in battle with his amazing dagger skills, and Flynn, Yuri’s childhood friend who contrasts Yuri’s personality completely. These characters complete each other, and allow themselves to grow and develop, giving character development a prime factor in this story.

The characters of Tales of Vesperia plus one, who doesn’t appear in the Xbox version of the game.

-Gameplay-
The main attraction to the Tales of series usually lies in the gameplay, particularly the battle system. The game utilizes the “Evolved Flex-Range Linear Motion Battle System,” which allows real-time battles as opposed to turn-based gameplay. This feature, an improved version of the “Flex Range Linear Motion Battle System,” which belonged to Abyss, proves to give players a great experience playing every battle, and allows complex strategy to those who wish to build combos and challenge themselves. The battle system allows players to change weapons, skills, and strategies all while in combat, to build the best method of winning the particular fight. In addition, the game introduces linked battles, which allows multiple enemies to join into the fray, resulting in battles that can potentially hold tens of enemies. This game also utilizes the overlimit system, which gives players the ability to attack enemies without being stunned, link Artes (Skills that use Tech Points which can be gained by using normal attacks), and use Burst and Mystic Artes (Special skills that deal more damage and tend to be flashier than basic Artes). With all the options given to the player via the improved battle system, the opportunities are limitless.

Outside of battle, the gameplay generally revolves around traveling from town to town via a world map, purchasing new armor, weapons, and items, completing tasks by talking to various NPCs(Non-Playable Characters), and the various puzzles that lie in every dungeon. Cooking returns as a minor part of the gameplay, allowing players to heal and buff the party by cooking certain dishes after every battle. There are also various mini-games such as poker, warehouse cleaning, and number games. All in all, there are a variety of tasks to complete in the world, all to give players a refreshing experience and avoid dulling the gameplay.

Look at that beautiful Title Screen.

-Sound-
Tales of Vesperia graced players with an exceptional soundtrack, with some memorable battle themes and melodies. With a few exceptions, the music tends to fit the mood and add to the story, rather than detract. The battle themes, while repetitive at times, give the player a feeling of battle and action, while changing every arc of the game, limiting the repetitiveness of the battle theme. The only songs that really fell below the bar would be most of the dungeon themes, but I feel that happens in most games, as the music isn’t made out to be a big part of the dungeon, which gives it more leeway in that regard. However, the music definitely gave the game the mood and setting it was aiming for.

The English voice cast proved to be phenomenal. Troy Baker and Sam Riegel are great as Yuri Lowell and Flynn Scifo, respectively, and the rest of the cast definitely plays their part well. I don’t think there were any scenes where the voice cast seemed out of place or out of character. In particular, I feel Joe J. Thomas played Raven amazingly, but it’s hard to pick these few characters out because everyone did a wonderful job on the dub. If the lack of Japanese voices was ever a reason to not pick up Tales of Vesperia, then priorities should be re-evaluated because the English voice cast doesn’t get much better than this.

A glimpse of the simple, yet complex, battle system.

-Graphics-
Tales of Vesperia was built for high definition consoles in 2008. Released for the Xbox 360 (PlayStation 3 re-release in 2009), the game became the first Tales game to be released for high definition consoles, and it shows. While the game is beautiful and a step up from its predecessors, the game doesn’t fully utilize the capabilities of the console, which later shows in the newer games by Namco Bandai. However, one can’t let this fact defer them from playing this game, as it is beautiful in its own right, and the graphical style allows for detail and wonderful scenery one would expect from a Tales game. The game follows the traditional style of a fixed camera above the character, and doesn’t detract from the gameplay whatsoever.

As for the animation and CG cut scenes, they work for the scenes they represent. The opening animation is beautiful, and Production I.G created some amazing animations to play during the cut scenes. However, the CG in the game looks terribly out of place, and honestly doesn’t belong in a game like Tales of Vesperia. Bandai Namco continued the addition of CG in another game released in 2008, Tales of Hearts, leading me to believe that CG was merely an experiment to see how well it would fit in a game such as Tales of Vesperia.

Don’t mess with Yuri.

-Final Curtain-
Tales of Vesperia proves to be a great RPG that belongs in any jRPG fan’s collection. The game’s age may turn off some people considering this game, but it’s easy to tell that this game hasn’t aged much at all, due to it running on current day consoles. The sheer amount of content packed into one game disk is astounding, and although the game may have some downsides, such as time-limited side quests, the game’s battle system and plot more than make up for the negatives.

Hey, hold up. There’s another version of Vesperia, isn’t there?
Tales of Vesperia was released for the PlayStation 3 in 2009. However, this port has not left Japan, and signs point to the re-release never being localized. This port included an additional character, Patty (Seen in the second picture above), as well as allowing Flynn to become fully playable. These are only a few of the changes, but with the chance of localization slim, there’s little reason to skip out on the Xbox 360 version.

A simple July update.

Colors everywhere. Never ends, never begins.
Heyos Everyones!

I’m back from Anime Expo, and although I can safely say I’m happy to be back, I’ll miss that exciting and lively atmosphere of con. In other news, I’m actually on-track to watch this new season of anime, which will result in some slow updates in regards to the Tales series. On that note, I’m very excited to hear that Tales of Xillia has been announced for release in the western hemisphere, and I’m happy to see Namco Bandai acknowledge the success of Tales of Graces and Tales of the Abyss.

I’ve recently started the new season of anime, and I don’t know if this season just has better anime, or if I’ve just been uninterested in previous seasons, but I actually have quite a bit of new anime on my list. Sword Art Online is among my favorites, and Koichoco is hilarious. I also recently started Hyouka, which actually interests using mystery elements, something not often seen in most anime.

I know I said the Tales of Vesperia review would be up shortly, but I’ve recently been packing and making sure last weekend went smoothly. Now that I’m finally getting back on track with work and rest. The review will be up before next weekend, whether or not that means anyone will actually read it. I also would like to make video reviews, but it’s really all about how much :effort: I want to put towards anything. I guess time will tell how things develop, and if the past is any indication, then nothing will be done other than the basics.

In any means, enjoy the week and take care!
-Ace

Preparations for the coming months.

Lloyd from Symphonia
Dat Lloyd, always doing something troublesome.
Heyos Everyones!

It’s already time for Anime Expo 2012. I can’t believe how fast time has gone this past year, and I’m looking forward to enjoying a week doing nothing but enjoying anime, manga, and other things that you can only experience at an Anime Convention. Honestly, I’m still trying to prepare for the trip, as I don’t leave very often, but I’m really trying to make sure it all comes together before I leave.

I’ve been working on the official website, as some may already know by looking at the link to the right. It’s a simple design that flows with the blog, but it works well enough for my tastes. Of course, I really don’t have too much to add to the site at the moment, but that’ll change soon.

In regards to the content of this blog, I have a rough copy of my Vesperia review (Xbox 360, as I haven’t completed the PS3 Version yet), and I’m currently playing through Symphonia to get my recent opinions on it. Symphonia was the first “Tales of” game I had played, so I hold fond memories of the game, and I now see that some of the features I held in high regard are missing from the older Tales games. Of course, that doesn’t make Symphonia a bad game, but it does feel lacking in certain departments.

As usual, I’m about 1~2 seasons behind on my backlog of anime. The only series I am up to date with at this moment is Nyaruko, but I will certainly finish the other series before I leave for the expo. I can’t let myself get behind again, especially knowing I’m going to an expo full of anime goodness.

That’s about it for what I have to say, so look out for my final copy of the Vesperia review, that should be coming soon.

Next time,
Ace

It’s summer, and the heat just continues to grow.

Raven had a pretty depressing past...
Heyos Everyones!

Not much has been going on, but it has been awhile since I’ve last posted here, and I figure I should make up for it. I’ve been playing way too much Tales of Vesperia, and I’ve been watching less anime as a result, which means I have a ton of anime on my to-watch list now. Of course, it’s not terrible, as some of the anime these past two seasons have been quite tasteless at first glance, and I can’t say I’m all that interested to watch them. But, the time will come when I find myself catching up on those series.

I’ve been watching Namco Bandai’s livestream, and I can’t say I’ve been impressed. This E3 hasn’t been all that exciting, and I’m rather peeved that Namco hinted that something was going to be announced related to Tales, but will *most likely* not deliver on those promises. Ni no Kuni looks splendid though, and I actually might find myself spending money on that along with Persona 4 Golden.

Other than that, I’ve been preparing for AX2012, and getting ready for another year of school. Hopefully I’ve find more to talk about in the near future, with the convention behind me, and perhaps find the time to complete another review on Tales of Vesperia. Until then, seeya!

-Ace

May has arrived at last.

Sometimes I wonder if there's a facination with Chinese Dresses...
Heyos Everyones!

It’s already the end of one month and the beginning of another. It hard to believe that time has moved so quickly, but there’s not much to do other than go with it and hope for the best. In terms of what I’ve been up to, it’s not much, but mainly just playing Tales of Graces, Abyss, and attempting to catch up on the anime that I have let pile up in one little corner.

This season of anime really doesn’t have too much that interests me. I plan on watching Hyouka and some others, and I’ve already started watching Fate/Zero season 2, so I’ve at least got that going for me. I’m still trying to watch all of last season’s anime, and should be catching up shortly. It doesn’t help that I’ve been on an Tales of kick lately, and I plan on completing Symphonia soon to see how it’s changed from what I remember. I plan on writing a proper review for Abyss in the future, along with Vesperia, Symphonia, and I may work my way back to the older titles such as Eternia and Phantasia.

As for working on anime reviews, that’ll have to wait until I get a better idea of how to do so. I want to create video reviews, for either games and anime, but I can’t seem to find a good way to do so. Not to mention, I’d have to purchase a new microphone and capture card to create a video I’m truly proud of. However, I plan on doing something more, and I will write more reviews in the future, even if it’s just written reviews for now.

Anime Expo 2012 is coming up as well, and even though it’s still 2 months away, preparations are now finalizing and I need to get ready to go for the weekend. It’s always a good time, and I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen this year. I want to say I’ll take more pictures this year, but with all the excitement, I usually take few pictures and the ones I do take end up crappy. Maybe I need to invest in a new camera, but that’s just more money I’d rather not spend. Either way, this con is going to be great, and I just need to make sure everything goes smoothly this year, even though I’m used to one or two major incidents happening.

Well, that about wraps it up for now. Look forward to my next review, which should be up in the coming days. Monday will be the ideal day for it, but no guarantees.
-Ace

Review: Tales of Graces f

Tales of Graces f for the PS3

I’ll admit, my first time playing a Tales game was Tales of Symphonia for the Gamecube. However, after my first encounter with the battle system, I was hooked. It’s not surprise people are clamoring for new Tales games to be localized and brought over to the United States, as they have one of the most unique battle systems for a jRPG. The mix between fighting and traditional RPG mechanics blends together to create a new experience that should be experienced at least once. Does Tales of Graces f expand and enhance this series to new heights, or does it merely prove to be a copy and paste of its predecessors?

Yeah, you see that character that looks like the main character? Well, he's the main character.

-Story-
When you first start the game, you begin as a young boy rebelling against his parents and a brother who constantly tells him “You’re going to get in TROUBLE!!1!” If you don’t feel the originality spilling out yet, just wait until they meet a girl who happens to have no memory of her past, the childhood friend who’s “secretly” in love with the main character, the mentor to the main character, and the airhead who somehow has the smarts of a genius. I’ll admit, the story takes as many cliches as it can grasp, and blindly places them into the story hoping it will have some relevance to the plot. I can’t tell you how many times I facepalmed at the sheer stupidity of the characters in the game, yet that same dialogue adds a charm to the game. While I cringed at the dialogues, I couldn’t help but laugh at how silly it was at the same time.

The main theme of the game is friendship, and while it plays on this theme the entire game, the cast makes some stupid decisions because of the underlying theme. I’m sorry, but if one of your friends from 7 years past goes on a rampage and threatens to destroy the entire world, including you, I don’t think your friendship is the only thing at stake here.

Just buildin' some combos.

-Gameplay-
Of course, the gameplay proves to be the turning point in many Tales games and this one is no different. When I first heard of this game, I had assumed it would play similarly to Tales of Vesperia, Symphonia, or Abyss. What I got was something much more fast-paced, challenging, and fun. The battle system takes out many things I disliked in the other games and improved on the aspects I enjoyed. For one, instead of TP (Which are the Magic Points which enable you to use special moves), you have CC, which allows you to use any move in your arsenal. These points regenerate with defending, evading, or side-stepping at the right time to gain more points. You start off with few Chain Capacity in the beginning, limiting your ability to combo, but as you get more weapons and armor, you amass a larger Chain Capacity which allows you to get larger combos. There is also a special bonus called an Eleth Burst, which gives you unlimited Chain Capacity and the ability to use special moves, called Mystic Artes, which should be familiar to those who have played past Tales games. The Eleth Burst only lasts for a short amount of time, and the enemy can also gain this bonus, which calls for some plan on action as you play though the game.

Outside of battle, there are Titles, which enable characters to learn moves, gain stats, and upgrade existing moves. In addition, the game also has dualizing, which allows the player to combine food to cook, combine weapons and “shards” to strengthen the weapon, and crystals to create new weapons that are unable to be purchased from the shops in the game. Overall, there is so much to learn about dualizing that I still have yet to learn everything there is to know about it, which allows for good re playability.

Oh god, the humor in this game.

-Sound-
Unfortunately, I can’t say that much of the music is memorable. Many town themes seem to fade away without any memory, and even the battle music proves to be a little bland. Of course, this isn’t to say the music is terrible, but the music doesn’t quite present itself to be memorable or of earworm quality. In fact, there’s a particular dungeon theme that is a 3 second loop, with minor changes in the loops. I find this inexcusable, and feel that the game could have had an amazing soundtrack, but fell short to be only okay.

As I played the English version of the game, I listened to the english voice cast for this game. I don’t understand the problem with English game dubs, as personally, I find game dubs much more bearable than anime dubs. Of course, this isn’t always the case, but for the Tales series, the English dub has always been at least decent. Tales of Graces f is no exception, and the only problem with the dub would be the terrible lines they have to say, but that’s not the actors fault. One particular English cast member was David Vincent, whom I felt gave a great performance as Richard, but all the others performed well, and yes, that means I also didn’t mind Laura Bailey (I really don’t understand everyone’s problem with her…). This isn’t to say I wouldn’t have enjoyed an option to listen to the Japanese dub, as it had Kana Hanazawa, but hey, the English dub is great and I’m perfectly content with it.

Endgame Quotes. Nothing better than a cheesy saying.

-Graphics-
Tales of Graces powered its way to the Wii back in 2009, which was then ported as Tales of Graces f for the PS3 in 2010. As a result, the game doesn’t have the greatest graphics for the PS3, in fact, the graphics are rather sub par. However, this takes nothing away from the experience, and the graphics work great for this game. Not once was I concerned with how the graphics looked, as the game isn’t meant to look ultra-realistic, and the graphics don’t detract from the great gameplay experience.

The anime cutscenes are also top-notch, which can be expected from Productions I.G. These cutscenes are spread out fair and far between, which means you won’t be bombarded with them all at the beginning or at the end. However, I felt there could have been one or two in the last arc of the game, but there were none, which led to disappointment. But that being said, there are plenty of top-notch anime cutscenes for the player to enjoy, if they so choose.

-Final Curtain-
So, what do I think of Tales of Graces f? I feel the game has earned every bit of praise it receives, and proves to be a great addition to the series. I only hope that the success of Graces will bring more Tales games over to the US, and give us players hours of enjoyment to come. Although Graces had some problems, including dialogue, music, and to an extent, the story, Tales of Graces f proves itself as a worthy game to add to any jRPG fans collection.

Y U No Post?

'Nuff Said.

Sorry Sorry, I’ve been worked up playing Tales of Graces f, and haven’t had much interest in doing anything else. So all I’ve been doing is playing that, working, and sleeping. I would write more, but I don’t have too much to say at this point, and as such, I’ll be ending the post here. Expect more to come after I finish the game!

-Ace

P.S. – That Code Geass DLC better come to the states!