Review of Tokyo Tattoo Girls

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Screenshots can be deceptive. Back in the day, when I owned an Amstrad CPC 464, I would often be disappointed by the games I bought. The graphics, of the software I had purchased, were much uglier than the images plastered on the box. Gullible me had been duped by sneaky publishers, who would promote their wares by using pictures from the more advanced Amiga version. I guess the practice continues to this day, in trailers that use rendered cut scene footage rather than gameplay visuals. Tokyo Tattoo Girls is another example of a release that misled me with its imagery. At first glance it looks like a strategy game, but in actuality it is a glorified clicker, were you wait around and click the briefcases of cash that sporadically appear.

OVERVIEW

Tokyo Tattoo Girls is set in the city of London. Just kidding! It takes place in Tokyo. Despite what I wrote above, the game isn’t so disingenuous that it doesn’t feature the titular capital. Anyways… a disaster has struck the metropolis, which has led to the government cordoning Tokyo off from the rest of the country. Devoid of state administration the area’s wards have been taken over by twenty-three girlies who are empowered by mystical tattoos. Players take control of a tattoo artist who has joined forces with a cute waifu, who harbours aspirations of ruling the entire city some day. In order to accomplish this goal players will have to build up a syndicate and invest the funds they procure to cover their lady with more ink than Kat Von D.

For the most part the game plays itself. When the campaign begins you select an area to invade and from there your empire gradually spreads across the map. Turf wars occasionally break out, which deplete your clan’s honour meter. If the honour gauge hits zero your conquest of Tokyo ends in a premature game over. Paying bribes can thankfully reduce the likelihood of honour-sapping conflicts erupting. Alternatively income can be spent on tattoos that bestow passive bonuses. Clicking on the briefcases that manifest on the map collects racket money. It’s also possible to generate cash by playing dice at the gambling dens. The buxom croupier who rolls the D6 cubes flaunts her cleavage more than a female Twitch streamer.

VERDICT

My rating for Tokyo Tattoo Girls is two stars. I don’t hate the game, like some other reviewers do, but I can’t award it a higher score due to the lack of interactivity. Despite what the game’s convoluted tutorial suggests, Tokyo Tattoo Girls is far from complex. I would file it under the category of “podcast game.” Something that doesn’t test my concentration skills, but at least serves the purpose of keeping my hands occupied whenever I partake in an audiobook listening session. One thing that puzzles me about Tokyo Tattoo Girls is its high frequency of load screens. If the PlayStation Vita can handle 3D games seamlessly, why does it need to pause so often with Tokyo Tattoo Girls’ less demanding text menus and still pictures?

I am surprised that NIS America localized Tokyo Tattoo Girls, when there are far better Japanese titles still awaiting a Western translation. Tokyo Tattoo Girls would work better as an inexpensive mobile game rather than a twenty-five quid Vita product. On the plus side the character designs are nice. Whoever is responsible for the game’s artwork deserves to work on a JRPG or visual novel. Apart from the anime girls I also thought that the tattoo outlines looked impressive. No wonder that some people endure the discomfort of adorning their skin with skulls, names of loved ones and Final Fantasy characters. Speaking of Final Fantasy, which monster gives the best tattoos from that series? The answer is Cactuar, because he has one thousand needles!

Review of Wonder Momo

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Wonder Momo is an anime I discovered whilst skimming through Crunchyroll’s library the other day. At first glance it looked like something right up my alley. Cute girls and superheroes rank high in my list of favourite things after all. Had I known that the cartoon was based off a Bandai Namco video game I would have given the series a miss and would have saved myself much disappointment. Most anime inspired by games tend to suck and Momo proved to be no exception to that rule. In case you don’t know, the original Wonder Momo was an eighties arcade brawler. One amusing thing about the game is that jumping would cause Momo to flash her panties, which would momentarily cause her to pause in embarrassment.

OVERVIEW

Kanda Momoko is a high school student and aspiring pop idol. One day she bumps into a green skinned man who presents her with a mysterious orb. The sphere gets absorbed into Momoko’s body, allowing her to transform into the titular heroine. Momoko decides to use the power to protect Earth from space invaders. Well, I assume the extra terrestrials are trying to conquer the planet. Most of the time they just seem to commit random acts of vandalism at school gymnasiums and fashion shows. In episode one a photographer named Terashima Natsuhiko spots Momoko transforming into her alien smacking alter ego. He promises to keep Momoko’s identity a secret. Not sure why. It’s not like the transparent visor Momo wears is at all effective at masking her features!

The villains that Momo battles look like mimes, whose pale heads have been replaced with red faces (resembling the YouTube image you sometimes get when attempting to view a removed video.) Said enemies are more useless than a Koopa Trooper or Dynasty Warriors soldier, which is just as well given that Momo is a terrible hero. Often she has to be rescued by her own mother or a blonde rival named Matsuo Akiho. I guess you can’t expect much from someone who uses a hula-hoop as a weapon. There’s not much damage that one can do with a plastic ring after all… although I am sure the destroyed antiques owned by parents who have overzealous children would dispute otherwise. Kids like to wreck expensive things almost as much as cats enjoy assaulting Christmas trees.

VERDICT

My rating for Wonder Momo is one star. Usually I am more generous than your average reviewer when it comes to scores. Distract me with some eye candy or jokes and I am likely to award your show a three out of five at least. Wonder Momo however isn’t funny, just stupid. The writing is poor and it’s clear that little effort was put into the production, as evidenced by the times the studio recycles transformation sequences and fight footage. Adding salt to the wound is the last episode, which ends on a cliffhanger. Momo and chums teleport into the alien mother ship via a portal, confront a bunch of guards and it just ends there. The series aired way back in 2014 so the chances of a sequel ever coming out, to finish the unresolved story, are pretty much zero.

On the plus side Wonder Momo is mercifully short. The series is only five episodes long and each instalment only lasts for seven minutes. Even less if you subtract the opening and ending credits. Although I appreciate that it’s tough to tell a good story with such a concise running time that’s no excuse for Wonder Momo being so weak. Bikini Warriors along with The Comic Artist & His Assistants both managed to entertain me with quick skits, so why couldn’t Wonder Momo do the same? Given how rich anime is in humorous super hero franchises there’s no reason to check out Wonder Momo. One Punch Man, Tiger & Bunny, My Hero Academia and even the first half of Samurai Flamenco are superior to this anime. Wonder Moo Moo is complete and udder rubbish.

Review of ReLIFE

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Would you return to school if given the opportunity? That’s a tough question to answer, as there are numerous pros and cons to consider. My time at comprehensive was plagued with inept teachers and bullies, so I don’t have fond memories of the place. The cushier school hours easily trump my present day nine to six job though. Now that I am older and wiser, I would like to believe that I would fare better if given another chance at education. In ReLIFE, a thirteen-episode anime based on Yayoiso’s manga, twenty-seven year old NEET Arata Kaizaki accepts the challenge of spending one (all expenses paid) year in high school. Blending in with the student body won’t be a problem, as he has been asked to trial a miracle drug that transforms its users into teenagers.

OVERVIEW

Arata didn’t have much to lose when a mysterious lab asked him to test their youth restoring pills. It was either that or work retail (shudder) as a part time convenience store clerk. Arata’s first job, a stressful marketing gig, ended with him quitting after three short months and since then he has been unsuccessful in getting hired elsewhere. He’s so ashamed with his employment status that he even pretends to still work at his old office, whenever his drinking buddies invite him out for a few brews.

Tales of adults masquerading as kids are commonplace in fiction. ReLIFE handles the premise better than other shows though. Even if you strip away the anime’s sci-fi elements, it still holds up as a humorous high school romp that has a likable cast. Thankfully the series is devoid of sleaze, so you won’t see old man Arata inappropriately cavorting with girls. ReLIFE also isn’t one of those insufferable stories were an adult returns to school and becomes the most popular kid in class. Quite the opposite in fact! Despite looking young on the outside, Arata has the stamina of someone pushing thirty – so he sucks at sports. Academically he is also a failure, leading him to flunk all his exams. That’s actually realistic. If I returned to school now I too would struggle with subjects like math and science.

VERDICT

My rating for ReLIFE is three stars. Although technically a drama, the series consistently put a smile on my face thanks to its funny scenes and feel good moments. Arata may struggle with grades, but when it comes to enriching the lives of others he easily scores top marks. You might be wondering why such an outstanding guy cannot find work. Well, the reason is explained in one of the later episodes. It’s tied to a dark event that occurred in his first job. Despite enjoying the series, I wish the storylines were spread out more evenly. ReLIFE is only a single cour long and for some reason ends up dedicating most of its story arcs to a redhead named Kariu Rena, who is only an auxiliary character.

Best girl without a doubt is class representative Chizuru Hishiro. She is one smart cookie, but hasn’t got a clue when it comes to socialising. Chizuru reminds me of Sawako (Kimi ni Todoke) because they both possess awkward smiles that creep people out. There’s some romantic chemistry between Arata and Chizuru, although the former is reluctant to pursue a relationship due to their age gap. I am curious to see what will happen next between the pair; especially given the bombshell that the show ends on. Thankfully more animated ReLIFE is due out in 2018. Crunchyroll also hosts the source material, so fans can follow Arata’s future exploits that way too. Good to know that the story of the youth restoring tablet won’t end on a cliffhanger… that would be a tough “pill” to swallow.

Review of Beautiful Bones

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Beautiful Bones is a light novel adaptation that is presumably titled after its protagonist Sakurako Kujo, who happens to be an attractive osteologist. Either that, or the title is referencing Shotaro Tatewaki’s reaction to her. When the aforementioned teen first spotted the “beautiful” lady he must have gotten a “boner.” Shotaro was so smitten with Sakurako that he started stalking her. Trailing the gorgeous Sakurako eventually culminated in the pair meeting and Shotaro becoming her unofficial assistant. Often, when the duo ventures outside in search of animal carcasses, they stumble across human remains. It then falls on Sakurako to use her expertize to solve the murder they have just uncovered.

OVERVIEW

This 2015 anime, based on Shiori Ota’s books, is worth watching for the eccentric lead alone. Sakurako is a genius in her field, but not much of a people person. Her blunt remarks often cause offence and her skeleton obsession sometimes sees her squabble with the police. She just cannot understand why the authorities won’t allow her to keep the bodies she discovers! Those seeking an action packed series better look elsewhere, as the show is mainly made up of scenes where people chatter. I can’t imagine that the artists at studio Troyca were overly challenged by this project. The cartoon’s most visually impressive moments occur whenever Sakurako dons latex gloves, in anticipation of inspecting a crime scene. Said sequence features CG undead critters.

Sakurako is a captivating character, but the support cast are far less interesting. Her right hand man Shotaro is your typical anime male. A nice guy who is rather plain. For the most part he’s there to diffuse tensions, whenever Sakurako’s barbs cause umbrage. About the only person that Sakurako listens to is her elderly maid Ume Sawa. Just like a strict grandmother, Ume scolds Sakurako on the occasions when she ruins her appetite by overindulging in sweets. The show’s mascot is a pooch named Hector, that Sakurako procures later on in the series. Hector’s past owners had a habit of meeting an untimely demise. Frequent exposure to the dead has given the mutt a sixth sense for sniffing out corpses.

VERDICT

My rating for Beautiful Bones is four stars. It’s a show that I can recommend to viewers who dig a good whodunit. The cases that Sakurako tackles aren’t mysteries you are likely to solve yourself, but they do a good job of highlighting what a powerful tool forensic science is. It would be unrealistic for someone to come across so many murders (although that never stopped Murder She Wrote from becoming popular) so not all of the storylines revolve around killings. Episode three for example has Sakurako investigating an alleged suicide, whilst a two-part tale titled The Entrusted Bones sees the sweet-toothed osteologist track the origin of human bones stored within a school’s science department.

The only issue I have with Beautiful Bones is with its conclusion. Although the series is mainly comprised of standalone adventures, its finale wraps up by setting up a villain named Hanabusa. He is a devious painter who collects skull fragments. Rather than get his hands dirty, Hanabusa preys on the emotionally fragile and convinces them to take their own lives. He can then harvest the remains to claim his trophy. Hanabusa is still at large, when episode twelve closes, and an after credits clip hints that he has set his sights on Sakurako. How things will play out remain up in the air, because a second season is unlikely to ever get made. If you are hoping for an animated resolution I am afraid to say that you are “boned.”

Review of Sonic Forces

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Eggman has “hatched” a diabolical new plan to take over the world, and for once his scheme has succeeded. Aided by a reality-warping ally named Infinite the genius, formerly known as Robotnik, has captured Sonic and conquered the globe. Players must now liberate the Blue Blur by designing their own anthropomorphic hero or heroine. I chose to fashion a bunny girl avatar. Sadly my creation resembled an adult Cream the Rabbit (from the Gameboy Advance trilogy) rather than a Playboy waitress. If you want eye candy in Sonic Forces you’ll have to make do with ogling the batgirl’s cleavage.

OVERVIEW

After completing the game (I defeated Eggman last Fry-Day) I am now in a position to jot down my opinions on Sonic’s latest adventure. For the most part Forces feels a lot like Generations. The levels feature third person stages where you control modern Sonic and a smattering of 2D missions featuring the classic Sonic, who has a spin dash instead of a homing attack. New to Forces are sections where players control their custom made character. Known simply as “the rookie” the player created toon comes equipped with a grappling hook and a projectile weapon. The rookie begins the story with only a flamethrower, but as the plot progresses they gain access to other cool armaments.

When I destroyed Egg-man’s final robot I was “shell” shocked to discover that Sonic Forces had only taken me five hours to complete. I should have known there was a catch, when the game’s retail price was revealed to be cheaper than your average triple A title. Although the campaign is made up of thirty levels, most of the stages can be cleared within a couple of minutes. The missions are short and not especially tough, as the enemies guarding them are ineffective. Most of my deaths were actually caused by me recklessly running off ledges, akin to a hyperactive lemming. Thankfully due to regular checkpoints and infinite lives I was never overly punished for my recklessness.

VERDICT

My rating for Sonic Forces is three stars. I think the game will appeal most to younger Sonic fans, as it isn’t too difficult. The story is also wholesome and kid friendly. Sonic veterans may be less impressed with Forces though. They may argue that this latest Eggman outing isn’t all it’s “cracked” up to be. With Sonic Mania still fresh in everyone’s mind, I couldn’t help but notice that the way Sonic moves/jumps doesn’t feel quite right. His leaps lack height and momentum. On the plus side I liked how the cut scenes feature many familiar faces from the Sonic universe. Best of all, Knuckles looks like his normal self again. Sega have seemingly abandoned his much-derided Sonic Boom makeover.

Overall I think Sonic Forces is a decent game. Not the best, but by no means the worst title Sonic Team has released. The graphics are flashy and aren’t plagued with the camera issues of past 3D titles. I liked the soundtrack too, even if the cheesy rock tunes don’t match the level of Crush 40’s Sonic Adventure efforts. The game is a tad short, but given that I have only unlocked a tiny percentage of the trophies on offer there is plenty of incentive to replay Forces multiple times. Okay, that’s it for this review. Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed the egg puns. If you didn’t, lighten up and learn how to appreciate a good yolk… um joke.

Review of Dead or Alive Xtreme 3

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Play Asia recently gifted me a discount voucher, which I opted to spend on Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 – a game that Koei Tecmo refused to release in the West. In this politically correct climate they must have been concerned that the game would attract bad PR from the social justice brigade. That logic I fail to understand, given that the raunchier Senran Kagura titles get localized over here without much fanfare. Presumably the sight of ladies relaxing at the beach is offensive, but they have no qualms about players assaulting women in the mainline DOA fighting games. Forget about Middle East travel bans. To protect society from the ills of bikinis we should bar all flights to the Costa del Sol and Hawaii!

OVERVIEW

In this Dead or Alive spin-off players pick their favourite female, from Team Ninja’s fighting game franchise, and help her have a fun fortnight at a tropical resort. To raise your waifu’s satisfaction level you can buy her trinkets or participate in various mini-games. Out of the six activities on offer, beach volleyball is by far the most challenging. If you prefer a more casual way of accruing experience points and cash I recommend giving rock climbing a bash. To conquer the cliff face all you need do is clear a few quick time events. Just be sure to keep your eyes on the button prompts and not the babe in a swimsuit that is recklessly ascending the wall, without a safety rope or shoes.

Those of you who prefer competitive pursuits can try Butt Battle instead, which is pretty much a poor man’s Keijo. Alternatively you can race in the Beach Flag event. Pound the X button to run faster, akin to the NES days of Track N Field, and pray that your controller doesn’t break in the process. Another mini-game of note is Tug of War, where you pull on a rope until your opponent is dragged off their platform and into the pool. The victor is rewarded with cash and the loser screams in agony as their eyes get scorched with chlorine. Out of all the games on offer Pool Hopping is my favourite. The aim is to traverse the body of water by bouncing off foam blocks. Bonus points are awarded if you press the face button that matches the colour of the block you are stepping on.

VERDICT

My rating for Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 Venus is three stars. If you desire a fun mini-game collection, which is rich in eye candy, this title is worth an import. Don’t worry about the language barrier, because the Asian version comes complete with English subtitles. Xtreme 3 boasts an impressive number of collectables (mostly bathing attire) and gorgeous visuals. Even on the humble Vita the character models are beautiful. I’m sure that the PlayStation 4 version looks even prettier, but I don’t regret my purchase. Sacrificing graphical fidelity for portability is worth it. I can now play DOA on the commute to work… and get weird looks from the strangers sitting next to me on the bus.

Be aware that Xtreme 3 carries an eighteen-age rating, as it features some casino games. The roulette sucks, as the wheel takes ages to spin, but the Blackjack and Poker are enjoyable. If gambling is your thing Xtreme 3 is more affordable than blowing your life savings at 888.com. Overall I give Xtreme 3 a thumbs up. More mini-games would have been nice though, as playing the same six events continuously gets stale after a while. A larger lineup of characters would have enhanced the game too. Koei could have padded out the roster with some of the DOA guys. Both genders would then have something to drool over and critics wouldn’t be able to brand the game sexist. Oh well, it’s probably best to keep things female exclusive. No one wants to see Ryu Hayabusa in a thong after all.

Review of Erased

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Does anyone else remember Quantum Leap? That’s what Erased reminds me a little of. Aspiring manga artist Satoru Fujinuma doesn’t switch bodies, like Sam Beckett did, but he does possess the ability to prevent tragedies via time travel. In the first episode, whilst out delivering pizzas, Satoru uses his power to save a child from getting run over. Good job Satoru, although I suspect that heroic diversion will cost you a tip. By the time you recover from the injuries sustained, during said roadside rescue, that pizza you were ferrying is bound to have gotten cold. Man, I hate it when Dominos present me with a lukewarm Thin N Crispy.

OVERVIEW

Adapted from Kei Sanbe’s comic, Erased is a twelve-part anime that chronicles Satoru’s biggest time leap ever. In the first episode Satoru is framed for the murder of his mother. Just when the cops are about to apprehend him, his consciousness travels back almost two decades – to the time when he was just ten years old. Based on how his Revival power works, Satoru suspects that the guilty party is a serial killer who hounded his hometown back in the day. In order to prevent his parent’s homicide Satoru will have to uncover the identity of a sick predator, who claimed the lives of three children back in the eighties.

The first step in resolving the abovementioned mystery is to befriend the murderer’s first victim, a reclusive girl named Kayo Hinazuki. As it turns out Satoru’s kindness could potentially save Kayo’s life in more ways than one. His immediate concern is to guard Kayo against the killer. Over the course of the story however Satoru learns that Kayo is being abused by her mother and takes it upon himself to protect her from that cruelty too. The bond that forms between the pair is sweet, almost bordering on romantic. Somehow the relationship doesn’t come across as creepy though, even if it is technically between a minor and a guy in his late twenties (Amos Yee would approve.)

VERDICT

My rating for Erased is five stars. Having watched the series I can finally see why the anime garnered so much praise back in 2016. The time travel elements are right up my alley and I also enjoyed the schoolyard slice of life moments. Aside from the main manhunt plot, the script does a good job of developing its lead. Satoru ironically matures by reliving his childhood. Aiding our hero are present day adult acquaintances and chums from his youth. From the supporting cast Satoru’s mother Sachiko Fujinuma is my favourite. Satoru affectionately calls her a witch, as she possesses an uncanny sense for reading his mind. Witchcraft may explain why she doesn’t seem to age too. Those curries she cooks could well be wrinkle-preventing potions.

I highly recommend Erased, although those seeking a good whodunit may wish to look elsewhere. Mystery is the one area were Erased isn’t exceptional. Viewers catch a glimpse of the killer during the tail end of the first episode. Said scene was enough for me to successfully deduce the antagonist’s identity as early as episode two. The script tries to cast doubt with a few red herrings later on, but it was for naught. For once, the obvious candidate turns out to be the culprit. Do I get a cookie for guessing right? My Sherlock Holmes skills deserve a reward. If biscuits aren’t available I’ll take a free pizza instead. Just make sure it isn’t cold.