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.

Review of Cat Quest

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Once again I played a video game were the objective is to save a damsel in distress. Thankfully what Cat Quest lacks in originality it makes up for in funny feline puns and awesome gameplay. Developed by Singapore outfit Gentlebros, Cat Quest is another example of a title making the successful leap from mobile devices to console. Players assume the role of a silent paw-tagonist who travels across an isle, inhabited by humanoid kitties, in search of his abducted sister. Over the course of this eight-hour adventure our hero will have to vanquish an evil knight named Drakoth and a trio of dragons who are terrorizing the land.

OVERVIEW

Drakoth has kidnapped an innocent girl. What a cat-astrophe! Oh well, fear not because the captured maiden has a sibling who won’t rest until his sis is saved. Playing through Cat Quest reminded me of classic Zelda. There aren’t any puzzles to test your brainpower, as a handy marker tells you exactly what to do, but the combat is pure 2D hack n slash. Another similarity the two titles share is that the game features a mute playable character, who is accompanied by a diminutive flying sidekick. Thankfully the fairy in Cat Quest is less annoying than Navi, although you may think otherwise if you dislike characters that spew out puns.

The combat in Cat Quest is fun, but far from purr-fect. Due to a lack of depth the battles get repetitive after a while, so I would recommend playing the game in short bursts. In most cases you’ll deal with foes by evading their initial attack, with a well-timed roll, which you can then follow up with a barrage of sword swipes. A handy red radius indicates exactly where and when an enemy is going to strike. Complimenting the physical damage you inflict are magic spells that can restore health, boost strength and burn anyone in the vicinity. Sorcery costs mana to activate, which you can easily replenish by landing melee hits.

VERDICT

My rating for Cat Quest is a three out of five. The game missed out on four stars by a “whisker.” Although the humour and cute graphics are nice I can’t award it a higher score due to the lack of variety. Both the main campaign and optional missions, which you procure from village bulletin boards, are nothing more than glorified fetch quests. Cat Quest also suffers from a lack of challenge. The hit and run strategy I outlined above works on everyone, be they lowly rodents or mighty bosses. Should you mess up and die it’s no big deal either. The only penalty for death is that you re-spawn at a nearby town.

On the plus side I liked how the loot you procure, from adventuring, can be used to customize the main character. Every piece of gear has its own modifiers that influence health, damage and defence. The way you go about purchasing new equipment feels like opening a loot box. Gold you earn can be spent at the smithy to open chests, which award random gear. Obtaining a duplicate is no biggie, because if you pick up a repeat said weapon/accessory will level up in power. Sweet! Okay, that’s enough typing for today. Thank you for reading the review. Until next time, I am meowt of here!

Review of KonoSuba (Season One)

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Hurrah! I am now a Crunchyroll subscriber. Many moons ago I visited the site and was told that the service was unavailable in my country. That restriction appears to have been lifted now, allowing me to take advantage of a their fourteen day trial. Just as well because watching stuff over there for free is nigh on impossible, unless you have the patience of a saint, due to the constant barrage of adverts. The anime that took my Crunchyroll virginity is KonoSuba – a funny fantasy show about a Japanese shut-in, who is resurrected in a mystical land, after perishing in rather embarrassing circumstances.

OVERVIEW

In the first episode, of this light novel adaptation, teenager Kazuma Sato is given a second lease on life and transported to a magical kingdom. He hopes that his knowledge of MMORPGs will serve him well in this new land, but due to his puny stats he is only able to make a minimum wage via construction jobs. Although a career in adventuring is more lucrative, Kazuma is unable to complete any of the quests posted at the local guild. The one time he attempted to vanquish five giant toads it didn’t go well and culminated in his travelling companion Aqua getting slimed worse than Peter Venkman of Ghostbusters fame.

Aqua, by the way, is the rude goddess who gave the departed Kazuma the option of ascending into heaven or reviving in a world that is presently being hounded by the nefarious Devil King. Due to an afterlife legal loophole, Kazuma was able to drag Aqua with him into a nation where sorcery and medieval weapons are the norm. If Aqua ever hopes to return home she’ll have to aid Kazuma in accomplishing his ultimate goal of defeating the aforementioned demon monarch. Despite being blessed with divine healing magic, Aqua isn’t much help. She is cowardly, useless in a fight and extremely selfish.

CHARACTERS

Thankfully for Kazuma’s sake he is able to band together with more friendly, albeit unusual, allies as the series progresses. Megumin is the first person to answer Kazuma’s call for party members. She is a young caster who commands destructive Explosion magic. The ability to fire off a nuclear blast may sound handy, but the problem is that Explosion is the only spell Megumin knows. Even worse, whenever Megumin activates her signature move she collapses in an exhausted stupor and is unable to do anything else for the rest of the day. What a useless witch. Getting tired after one explosion is “bang” out of order.

Darkness is the next and final person to join Kazuma’s four-man group. Clad in armour, she is a blonde crusader – although the sword she wields is just for show. Due to terrible accuracy, which rivals the aim of a Rambo baddie, Darkness is incapable of striking any assailant… or even stationary targets for that matter. On the plus side Darkness is a courageous protector who willingly soaks up all damage directed at her teammates. The role of tank suits Darkness to a T, as she is a masochist who loves nothing more than being on the receiving end of physical pain and verbal abuse.

VERDICT

My rating for KonoSuba is four stars. As someone who enjoyed Slayers, I really dug the show’s mix of comedy and fantasy. It was fun to see whom Kazuma would face next, in his adventures, as the villains come in all shapes and sizes. The lineup of antagonists includes a slighted Dullahan, a runaway arachnid fortress and even flying cabbages. Natsume Akatsuki, who penned the source material, has created an interesting universe that borrows ideas from MMOs. Just like in a video game, KonoSuba’s characters acquire skills by levelling up. The first talent that Kazuma learns is the steal ability, which he promptly uses to pilfer panties. I’ll have to try that next time I roll a rogue in DnD.

KonoSuba isn’t perfect though. The early episodes could be better and the series doesn’t really click until Kazuma’s team has been fully assembled. I also thought that the artwork was inconsistent. At times the visuals are okay and on other occasions they look rough. Studio Deen continue to live up to their reputation of delivering erratic illustrations. I’ll forgive the scenes where characters go off model though, as no one expects masterpiece drawings from a comedy. Overall I had a grand time with KonoSuba. The first season only spans for ten episodes, but thankfully a new series is already out and available to watch on Crunchyroll (the website… as far as I know bread does not stream cartoons.)

Review of Chaos;Child

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The award for Most Grammatically Challenged visual novel franchise must go to the Science Adventure series. What’s the deal with developer 5pb inappropriately inserting semi colons into all of their game titles? If you aren’t familiar with the company’s library of work, I am sure you at least recognize some of their anime adaptations – the most famous being time travel yarn Steins;Gate. Chaos;Child is the sequel to the lesser-known Chaos;Head. Thankfully you don’t need to be familiar with its predecessor to enjoy Chaos;Child. Probably for the best, as the original visual novel never came out in the west and the animated series based off said VN wasn’t all that great.

OVERVIEW

If you decide to purchase Chaos;Child, either on the PS4 or PlayStation Vita, I would not recommend eating a snack whilst reading it. The game features some grisly murders, starting off with the very first chapter. Chaos;Child’s opener shows how an online soothsayer comes to a premature end, during a live stream, when he decides to chow down on one of his arms. For some unknown reason the celebrity predictor had mistaken his appendage for a slice of cheese. The death is the handiwork of a serial killer who is copycatting the New Generation Madness – a series of murders, made to look like bizarre suicides, which occurred six years prior.

Players take the role of Takuru Miyashiro, a Shibuya student who leads his high school’s newspaper club. Takuru has taken it upon himself to investigate the above-mentioned killings, despite the disapproval of student council president Nono Kurusu. Nono is actually Takuru’s stepsister, but the two no longer cohabitate due to a falling out. A while back Takuru left home and moved into an RV, where he spends his days drinking Mountain Dew and reading magazines that a local hobo delivers to him. Helping out Takuru with the mystery are childhood friend Serika Onoe, club mate Shinji Ito and a twin tailed girl named Hinae Arimura (who is very perceptive at detecting lies.)

VERDICT

My rating for Chaos;Child is four stars. One of the better visual novels available on Sony’s handheld – marred only by a noticeable number of typographical errors that publisher PQube could have eradicated with a quick spellcheck. The game is great value, as it is effectively six stories in one. Which ending you unlock is determined during certain scenes, where the player has to elect whether Takuru should experience a positive or negative delusion. The hallucinations in question are humorous and help offset what is otherwise a grim tale that usually concludes on a bittersweet note. Out of all the finales, the least depressing one was the route that pairs Takuru with MMO junkie Hana Kazuki. She is a quiet girl who survives on a diet exclusively made up of squid and lollipops.

Compared to other visual novels on the market, Chaos;Child has some pretty impressive production values. Spicing up the standard text and still pictures are Japanese voice acting, some minimal animation and a few particle effects. Those little touches really help enhance an excellent script that is rich in quirky characters, supernatural elements and unexpected twists. Okay, that’s it for this review. Time to edit the draft before I post it online. Thank goodness that my articles are concise because I expect the proofreading will take a while. I wonder how many times this document is going to cause Microsoft Word’s grammar checker to pause, due to all those blasted semi colons!

Review of Plastic Memories

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What a coincidence. Last time I reviewed a movie featuring lifeguards who have plastic mammaries. Today I find myself writing about an anime called Plastic Memories. In the near future SAI Corp has developed androids that are indistinguishable from humans. These automatons, dubbed Giftias, are employed by companies and also purchased by civilians who desire companionship. Like an Xbox 360, these machines don’t last long before breaking down. Nine years is the life expectancy of a Giftia. After that the bot’s memory degrades, turning them into superhuman zombies. To prevent the hazard of artificial humanoids running amok, the Terminal Services department are hired to repossess Giftias whose warranty is on the cusp of elapsing.

OVERVIEW

Tsukasa Mizugaki’s college dreams were shattered when appendicitis prevented him from sitting his exams. Luckily for him, Tsukasa’s dad managed to procure a job at Terminal Services for his under qualified son. On his first day Tsukasa is paired up with a Giftia named Isla. Normally in these two man teams the Giftia does all the work and the human merely supervises. Despite her experience however Isla is a bit of a klutz, so it falls upon Tsukasa to do much of the heavy lifting during assignments. Tsukasa soon learns that his profession isn’t for the faint of heart. Giftia owners are usually resistant to losing custody of their mechanical chums… and who can blame them? Imagine buying a puppy, bonding with it and nine years later the pet shop demands that you return said pooch.

Isla’s co-workers are a colourful bunch. The section manager can’t stay within budget and has a strained relationship with his daughter. As a result veteran Kazuki Kuwanomi runs the operation. She reminds me of Evangelion’s Misato. Depending on the situation Kazuki can be a stern or compassionate mentor, and like Misato she is a bit of a drunkard when off the clock. Michiru Kinushima is the teenage rookie who is assigned to show Tsukasa the ropes. She berates Tsukasa when things go awry, but deep down cares for his wellbeing. Her partner Zack loves to expose Michiru’s tsundere tendencies. Yasutaka Hanada on the other hand is a flirt who often ditches work to go on dates. The only time he gets stuff done is when his teammate Sherry literally drags him into the office.

VERDICT

My rating for Plastic Memories is a four out of five. Whether viewers will enjoy or loathe the series will depend on their sense of humour. Some people will feel that the quirky jokes don’t mesh with Plastic Memories’ more dramatic moments. For me however it worked. It’s a bit like Clannad. Make me laugh along with the cast and I will get attached to the characters, which in turn makes the instances when tragedy strikes all the more impactful. Besides, without a little levity the show would be downright depressing. As an example episode one features an elderly lady who doesn’t want to be separated from her Giftia, which she treats like a granddaughter. Without the occasional gag, story lines like that one would leave me longing for amnesia to erase those heart wrenching plastic memories.

Don’t expect the comedy to shield you completely from feels though. After a few successful missions, romance begins to blossom between Tsukasa and Isla. Given that Isla’s existence is finite, you don’t have to be a soothsayer to predict how said love story pans out. First Planetarian and now Plastic Memories. Android waifus have a knack for making audiences weep. The narrative will make you value the importance of making every day count. It also taught me that distancing yourself from others, to avoid pain, is futile. Like they say, it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved. Rest in peace cherished Xbox 360. Our time was cut short by the dreaded red ring of death, but I will forever remember the fun times we had ogling Cortana’s cleavage.