Review of Persona 5 (PS4)

persona5

Huzzah! After seventy hours of play I have finally beaten Persona 5. These days I try to avoid lengthy titles, as my leisure time is at a premium, but when a game of this quality comes out you have to make an effort to experience it. Sleep was sacrificed and I opted to play on easy to reduce the amount of grinding. Screw challenge. I am a filthy casual who is only concerned about the story. Let the masochist crowd, who can beat Dark Souls with a guitar controller, tackle hard mode in my stead.

YOU HAVE MAID A BIG MISTAKE

In this Shin Megami spin-off players assume the role of a hapless teenager who has been framed for assault. As punishment our semi-silent protagonist is whisked away to Tokyo and ordered to behave until the scandal subsides back home. Hopes of an uneventful yearlong probation in the capital are however dashed when he procures a mysterious app that teleports him into an alternate dimension infested with shadow creatures. Wow, these days there really is an app for everything.

Just like in Persona 4 the key to success is efficient time management. Dungeon crawling in the Metaverse is only a small part of the game. Aside from saving the world players have more mundane tasks to fulfil such as passing mid-term exams and fraternizing with a cast of twenty confidants. Boosting social stats is also important. There are numerous ways of enhancing your attributes. Some examples include bathing with naked men, stuffing your mouth with burgers and forgiving the maid cafe waitresses whenever they fumble your order.

PHALLIC CREATURES CAN BE DICKS

One of the best features about this latest Persona is that Atlus’ lazy level designers actually took the time to craft proper dungeons. Gone are the days of procedurally generated mazes were you stroll about searching for an exit. Every palace you explore has a distinct theme and is packed with puzzles/traps, which is a vast improvement over past titles. Navigating the stages was a joy, although I could have done without the stealth mechanics. Sneaking behind enemies is not a play style I enjoy. No tears were shed in my household when it was recently revealed that Hitman’s future is in jeopardy.

Combat for the most part remains unchanged. Encounters are resolved via turn-based battles, which are both tactical and snappy. Strategy boils down to exploiting a foe’s magical vulnerabilities. Hitting enemies with an element they are weak against rewards the player with an extra action. The types of spell that can be cast are determined by the demons under your command. In a sense, Persona feels like an edgier version of Pokémon. There are almost two hundred minions you can catch, ranging from cute snowmen to giant penis monsters.

VERDICT

Presentation wise Persona 5 oozes style. In fact it was initially too vibrant for my palate, as I prefer cleaner looking UIs. After a few hours I did however become accustomed to the slick visuals and appreciated how they meshed well with the jazzy soundtrack. Apart from the graphics I also liked the cut scenes, which are animated by Production I.G. On the audio side I have no complaints about the English language dub. Even the feline mascot’s voice is tolerable, although I wish he wouldn’t nag me so much about going to bed. Cats love naps almost as much as they enjoy vandalizing Christmas trees.

My rating for Persona 5 is five stars. JRPGs rarely get attention in the west, but Persona 5’s excellence has managed to buck that trend. The game has received universal acclaim from reviewers everywhere and it even managed to top the sales charts over here in Europe. We haven’t even hit June yet and I already suspect that 2017’s game of the year has been discovered. Huh, what’s that? Breath of the Wild is a contender for that honour too? Nah, I disagree. Zelda sucks. Okay, it’s time for me to leave. I suspect livid Nintendo fans are about to descend upon my blog with the ferocity of a miffed Cucco flock.

Review of Gatchaman Crowds Insight

gatchainsight

Brexit, Trump’s presidency and the recent elections in France. Right now it is impossible to turn on the TV without getting swamped by politics, and not even Japanese animation can provide respite from the horrors of government. Take the second season of Gatchaman Crowds for example. Subtitled “Insight” this thirteen-episode follow-up to Tatsunoko Production’s 2013 hit deals with the Japanese electorate picking a red-faced alien to be their leader. Wow, talk about a bizarre plot. Gatchaman sure has changed a lot from the days were science ninjas beat up transgendered mutants in the seventies. Um… okay never mind. This franchise has always been weird.

OVERVIEW

Gatchaman Crowds Insight commences in the aftermath of the last series, which saw Japan’s populace adopt the use of Crowds. By tapping on an app people can now summon digital avatars to do their bidding. Crowds are employed to lend humanitarian aid during disasters and to help out with less important tasks such as scrubbing away graffiti. Not everyone is so benevolent though. A terrorist group called VAPE is using Crowds to commit acts of vandalism that would make an ANTIFA mob blush. Rizumu Suzuki, who leads VAPE, believes that the civil disobedience he orchestrates is making a point. It’s dangerous to give the masses control of advanced technology, because only twenty percent of the country is smart enough to use it responsibly.

The heroic Gatchaman eventually defeat VAPE, but the collateral damage caused by their battle is enough to convince Japan’s citizens that Crowds are a menace. A snap election is promptly held resulting in the abolition of Crowds and the crowning of a new prime minister. Gelsadra, an extra-terrestrial who recently landed on Earth, ends up securing the post of PM thanks to his charm and mind reading powers. By absorbing a person’s thought bubbles Gelsadra can instantly determine what the majority desire. More doctors, lower taxes and the sacking of corrupt senators are all approved in answer to Gelsadra’s daily referendums. Less tax? Sounds like my type of candidate… even if his bright skin and suspect hair remind me a little of Trump.

Despite his high approval rating Gelsadra laments how he is unable to make everyone happy. No matter how popular his policies are there is always a minority that vote against the proposed new laws. Human beings are individuals who each have their own set of values. With that in mind how can someone get an entire nation to agree on an idea? One solution is to eliminate the few dissenters who disagree with mainstream public opinion. Enter the Kuu – a race of entities who appear to be affiliated with Gelsadra. These carnivorous beasties patrol the streets on the lookout for contrarians. If you voice a viewpoint that goes against the grain watch out or else they will gobble you up. Gulp! I better think twice next time I argue that Makoto isn’t the best waifu in Persona 5.

VERDICT

My rating for Gatchaman Crowds Insight is a four out of five. Whether you end up enjoying the show or not should be pretty obvious. Anyone who liked the first season will lap up Insight, as it is more of the same. If you loathed Crowds, because it is radically different to seventies Gatchaman, you should probably give this series a miss. Based on my score you can ascertain that I am in the former camp. The story is clever and the aesthetics appeal to me. Insight’s visuals are vibrant, the use of cardboard cut outs in the opening is stylish and I dig the CG designs of the characters when they transform. The computer generated robotic armour looks way more badass than the campy bird suits worn by Ken Washio’s team back in the day.

One gripe I have with Insight is that heroine Hajime Ichinose continues to be a Mary Sue that can do no wrong. Her cheerful personality can be annoying at times, but on the plus side she has great knockers (which the camera zooms in on whenever she bickers with the evil alien trapped inside her body.) Thankfully Hajime doesn’t detract from the storyline’s message, which warns that mindlessly going with the flow is unwise. People should think for themselves and resist the influence of social media. One thing Insight taught me is that online voting is a terrible idea for general elections. Then again that much should be obvious based on Internet polls of the past. Anyone else remember when “Hitler Did Nothing Wrong” won the ballot to decide Mountain Dew’s new flavour?

Review of Busou Shinki

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Konami has received a lot of flack lately due to their poor treatment of Hideo Kojima and the company’s decision to focus more on non-gaming projects. The criticism is unfair when you consider that businesses are out to make money. Metal Gear Solid V cost an astonishing $80 million to make and if perfectionist Kojima had gotten his way he would have spent even more cash on extra content, so he had to go. Video game development is pricey and a huge financial risk if your triple A title flops. With that in mind Konami have sensibly decided to pursue other ventures. Gamblers who like playing with balls can try Konami’s pachinko machines. Meanwhile geeks who lust over plastic waifus can play with their balls whilst ogling Konami’s Busou Shinki line of female action figures. Said toys were popular enough to spawn an anime spin-off, which I am reviewing today.

OVERVIEW

In the Busou Shinki animated universe humanity has cracked the secret of artificial intelligence. Age of Ultron has taught us that bestowing machines with sentience can be perilous, so just to be safe the Japanese decided to make their androids a paltry six inches tall. That’s tiny enough to render them harmless. High school student Rihito, who has recently migrated back to Japan, happens to be the proud owner of four Busou Shinki bots. He’s not a morning person and is inept at housework so it falls upon his diminutive ladies to clean the apartment and wake Rihito up during school days. Once their master has set off to school the pint-sized quartet go on various adventures. The series is basically Toy Story with form fitting plug-suits. Over the course of thirteen episodes the Shinkis battle thieves, compete in a grand prix and even prevent airline terrorism.

Rihito’s four Shinki are named Ann, Ines, Lene and Hina. Ann is the sensible one and arguably Rihito’s favourite (due to the fact that he has owned her for the longest time.) Just like parents with their kids, the first one always gets the most affection. I can attest to that because I am an eldest child. On the off chance that she is reading this… in your face sis! Moving on, Ines is the tomboy who loves drinking oil. Her fondness for robotic beverages may be a crutch for coping with the realization that she has a small bust. Lene is the clumsy blonde who has a passion for tailoring. The latest addition to Rihito’s collection is a no nonsense swordfighter named Hina. Due to Rihito’s disinterest in the Shinki battle circuit Hina frustratingly has no outlet to show off her fighting skills. I suspect she would be a happier gal if someone from Angelic Layer owned her instead.

VERDICT

My rating for Busou Shinki: Armoured War Goddess is a three out of five. I liked the series for the most part, but wouldn’t recommend buying it on DVD at the current RRP of twenty-four quid. The series is ultimately one of those disposable shows that you watch just once, negating the need for a physical copy. It’s a pity that you can’t legally stream the anime because the standalone episodes are ideal for when you have thirty-minutes to kill and are in the mood for a good chuckle. The comedy is decent and doesn’t resort to the harem trope of having the female heavy cast feuding over the show’s lone guy. Rihito’s relationship with the Shinki is platonic, as one would expect given that it’s physically impossible to romance anime merchandise… even if some zealous body pillow collectors would have you believing otherwise.

Compared to other shows Busou Shinki’s fan service is rather tame and more the side effect of replicating the toy designs rather than a conscious effort by the studio to titillate. Although the storylines skew more towards humour than action there are occasional scenes were the heroines battle against rival Shinki. The duels in question have each character donning power armour and taking to the skies in CG sequences. If that sounds familiar it should because the aerial dogfights resemble Infinite Stratos, which the folks at 8-Bit are also responsible for animating. For a series created to shamelessly peddle figurines Busou Shinki is more entertaining than it deserves to be. Is it enough to make people forgive Konami for their past transgressions? Nah. They’ll have to revive Silent Hills and Castlevania if they ever hope to restore their tattered reputation.

Review of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid

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We’ve all had nights were one too many drinks get consumed and before you know it you attract an obese whale who follows you back home for some um “coffee.” In the case of Miss Kobayashi however an evening of overindulgence resulted in the bespectacled programmer cohabitating with a dragon, rather than a marine mammal. After a strenuous day at the office Kobayashi unwinds with a few brews leaving her completely plastered. Due to her drunken stupor she misses her stop and ends up taking the train all the way up to the nearby mountains. There she finds an injured dragon named Tohru who she saves from death by extracting the holy blade protruding from her scaly torso. Smitten by her saviour, Tohru decides to permanently migrate over to the human realm and become Kobayashi’s servant.

OVERVIEW

Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is a thirteen-episode anime based on the manga created by Coolkyoushinja (whose previous works include the amusingly titled I Can’t Understand What My Husband Is Saying.) This charming slice of life comedy follows the reserved Miss Kobayashi as she settles into the routine of living with a reptilian maid. As one may expect Tohru’s housekeeping is unconventional to say the least. She cleans Kobayashi’s unmentionables by shoving them down her gullet, dusts the apartment by using sorcery rather than a broom and when mealtime rolls along she serves dishes of roasted dragon tail (I’m guessing it tastes like chicken.) Kobayashi’s once quiet life is turned upside down by Tohru’s antics and things only get livelier when other magical lizards relocate from their fantasy world to Japan as well.

The first visitor is a petite dragon named Kanna Kamui, who Kobayashi later adopts. Kanna resembles a cute kindergartener and is for all intends and purposes this show’s Renge Miyauchi (Non Non Biyori.) After a while Tohru’s pals Fafnir and Lucoa show up to pay their friend a visit. Fafnir initially dislikes humans, but that gradually changes when he boards with Kobayashi’s geeky co-worker Makoto Takiya. Under his roof the wicked dragon is seduced by the allure of MMOs and manga. Lucoa also ends up finding a human roommate in the form of underage mage Shōta Magatsuchi. The bashful wizard mistakes Lucoa for a succubus, as she appeared before him during a demon summoning ritual. Lucoa’s skimpy attire and tendency to motorboat the youngster, with her ginormous breasts, does little to quash Shōta’s assumptions.

VERDICT

I am awarding Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid a score of four and a half stars. Usually when I watch anime I limit myself to a couple of episodes per sitting, but with this series I couldn’t resist marathoning the first ten. Early on I was hooked, as each instalment would introduce an interesting new character to the mix. Once the full cast was established the series retained my undivided attention thanks to the consistently funny humour and heart-warming moments that revolve around the Kobayashi/Tohru/Kanna family unit. The last two episodes don’t quite match the quality of the previous eleven, but they aren’t terrible by any means. For me the twelfth episode was a bit slow, as it dealt with Tohru’s backstory. Episode thirteen on the other hand suffered from fewer gags due to the necessity of concluding the season with some domestic drama.

One creative choice that elevates Dragon Maid over other anime would have to be the gender of Miss Kobayashi. Had the series been titled Mr Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid we may well have gotten a less appealing harem show were the sexy dragons bicker for the protagonist’s affections. That’s not to say that Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is devoid of fan service though. Miss Kobayashi may be sensibly dressed and realistically proportioned, but the same cannot be said of the other girls. Tohru’s rival Elma for example is stacked (no guessing where the fat from her calorie rich snacks ends up.) Lucoa as previously mentioned is blessed with massive mammaries and Tohru herself is no slouch in the chest department. I had to chuckle when Kobayashi asked what Tohru’s bra size is. “D” she replies, “It stands for Dragon.”

Guardians of the Galaxy Review

guardians of the galaxy

Welcome to The Otaku Judge, your best source for reviews on the latest movies. Today I am critiquing Guardians of the Galaxy, which um… came out almost three years ago! Yeah I am a little behind on the Marvel cinematic universe, but what better time to watch this film than now when Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has just hit cinemas? Featuring a group of lesser-known superheroes, the titular Guardians of the Galaxy comprise of five intergalactic misfits led by Peter Quill aka Star-Lord. Quill (played by Chris Pratt) is the team’s sole human. He grew up amongst the cosmos and became a rogue after being abducted by space pirates at a young age. Yarr.

OVERVIEW

Guardians of the Galaxy begins with Star-Lord pilfering a mysterious orb right under the noses of some unfriendly aliens. Unbeknownst to him the sphere houses a powerful Infinity Stone, which Kree fanatic Ronin the Accuser desires. When Star-Lord attempts to sell off the orb he is intercepted by Ronin’s underling Gamora and a pair of bounty hunters named Rocket and Groot, who are after the price on outlaw Quill’s head. The ensuing battle royale that follows is eventually quelled by the Nova Corps police force, culminating in the rowdy foursome getting incarcerated. Whilst serving time at the Kyln penitentiary Star-Lord, Gamora, Rocket and Groot encounter an inmate named Drax whose sole purpose in life is to kill Ronin, as payback for the murder of his family.

The above mentioned quintet patch up their differences and agree to team up in order to escape prison, cash in on the lucrative Infinity Stone and give Ronin a good kicking. Thus the Guardians of the Galaxy are born. Star-Lord shuns modern technology in favour of listening to music on a Walkman. Zoe Saldana plays Gamora. After being Uhura in Star Trek she now assumes the role of a green skinned beauty (the kind that Kirk likes to bang.) Drax is the humourless strongman who takes everything too literally. Rocket is a crotchety racoon that uses his gift for tinkering to construct weaponry. His best pal is the humanoid tree named Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel.) Out of the entire cast Diesel had the easiest time memorizing lines because his character’s vocabulary is limited to the phrase “I am Groot.”

VERDICT

My rating for Guardians of the Galaxy is a four out of five. The movie wasn’t the tour de force that word of mouth had led me to believe, but overall it was above average when compared to other mindless popcorn flicks. I appreciated seeing Marvel expand their horizons outside of Earth for a change and even if the plot is nothing special there’s never a dull moment thanks to the brawls, spaceship dogfights and moments of hilarity. My favourite Guardians were Rocket and Groot, which probably doesn’t say a lot for the live action acting given that they are both CG characters… and one of them can barely speak! That said I think Dave Bautista acquitted himself well in the role of Drax. Compared to other wrestlers turned actor, he may lack Dwayne Johnson’s charisma but he still made me chuckle by playing the straight man very well.

Tradition decrees that I close off a Marvel Studios movie review by lambasting the villain, so here goes. Just like Malekith in the Thor sequel, Ronin is nothing more than a generic baddie coated in makeup. The motivation for his evil acts is barely explored, so it feels like he is only there to give the heroes someone to beat up. In one brief cameo appearance upcoming Avengers antagonist Thanos exuded more personality than Ronin did in two hours. Thanos gives the air of someone not to be trifled with, even if he has trouble keeping his lackeys under control. Over the course of Guardians of the Galaxy’s story Ronin double crosses him and the same goes for his two adoptive daughters. Man, it’s so difficult to find reliable henchmen these days!