Hump Day Otaku News Report 04.23.03

Hey, it’s me again with my take on the world of video games and anime. Just to kind of correct what Bryan Berg said last week, I will not be moving to another state, fortunately. I’m staying here and moving to a different help desk in the same company. And just for the record, I’d rather be on the same desk I worked at for 2 years, but the company thought otherwise.

This week won’t be special or anything, but I’m going to do a mini-review of an older game that many people haven’t played, and probably didn’t like if they had. I think it’ll be fun and different. But the rest of the content will be basically the same, with anime reviews, the return of the Anime Enquirer, and more. So let’s get it on.

Gaming News

Capcom Drops the Ball
You’ve probably read this just about everywhere, by my 2 cents is worth a lot, dammit! Capcom has stated that they are canceling production on 18 games out of the 100 they are currently working on. They say that this is due to poor sales of such games as Biohazard (Resident Evil) 0 and other games, one of which is Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter. One of the games that has been rumored to be dropped is Tekki Online. Tekki was called Steel Battalion in the states.

Let’s see, they’re producing 100 games, which is A LOT. They’re killing about a fifth of those. This is good because the remaining games will probably be higher quality because of this, but it’s more likely that the games they are canceling ARE THE ONLY GOOD ONES. Capcom just doesn’t get it. The reason that Resident Evil failed is because it’s the same shit they’ve done before. Breath of Fire failed because they changed it TOO much. The reason all of them undersold is because their sales expectations were way too high. Innovation is good, but too much change all at once is bad. I can’t really comment on Steel Battalion because I never played it, but I’d sure as hell love to have a game that had a controller bigger than the Xbox itself!

FFXI Still Sucks
RPGFan is reporting that the Add-On Disc for Final Fantasy XI, called Vision of Jiraat, sold a tad over 80,000 copies on its first day. They say “While not as mind-blowing as FFX-2’s, [the sales] are still anything but bad.” Let’s see, FFX-2 sold 1.2 MILLION on its first day, and like 2 Million total in a week. I’d say for a game with “Final Fantasy” in the title, 80,000 is pretty shitty. Scratch that, it’s really shitty. Honestly, I think they would have sold more if it DIDN’T say Final Fantasy, just because of the large amount of fans they have alienated. I imagine that more information on the American release of FFXI will surface at E3, because I think Sony is finally going to announce the PS2 HD there.

The PS3 Not To Cell?
Several sites are reporting that new Cell chip produced by IBM, Sony and others will not be a part of the Playstation 3 system. Why? Well, simply enough, the PS3 is scheduled for release in 2005 but the Cell won’t be ready for mass consumption by 2007. Frankly, I could care less about the cell being in it, what I want to know is if I shell out $300 for a game console, it is going to break down on me within a year? My PS2 did, and it’s not like I got one of the very first ones, I got one a year or so after, when the price dropped to $200. So, in reality, I’ve spent $400 on PS2s. I won’t go into how many controllers I’ve gone through before I got smart and hid them from the cat.

Wrestlemania XIX Roster
THQ has released the list of wrestlers that are featured in WMXIX. Most of them come as no surprise, except for Scott Steiner, Steve Austin and Bill Goldberg. It’s a surprise because they shouldn’t be IN the WWE now, but you know how Vince has this thing for money, and SPENDING it. I remember when he could make money, but I guess he’s getting old. I haven’t really and truly played a wrestling game in a while, but I was wondering, do any games have injuries? If so, I would pick Goldberg, because then you just injure your way to a title. That would be pretty cool.

New Game Releases
* Ship Date – 04/22/03
Conflict: Desert Storm (GC), Colin McRae Rally 3 (PS2), Patriotic Pinball (PS1), Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Xbox)

Nothing interests me here, really. I’m a Star Wars fan, but most of the Star Wars games of late haven’t interested me in the least. I’m kind of excited about Knights of the Old Republic, since it’s by Bioware, as well as Star Wars Galaxies, but Clone Wars didn’t look that great. The rest of the games here are blah, except for Patriotic Pinball, which may well be the biggest WHAT THE FUCK game to come out in a while.

“Game You Probably Haven’t Played” Review
This is a column I probably won’t do all the time, but I’ll go through every now and then and drag out an “old” game, play it, and review it. Keep in mind that this isn’t a retro review. By old, I mean a few years, but long forgotten.

Originally titled Reiselied in Japan, EF (sorry, not typing out all that shit every time) is the story of a musician named Mouse who is invited to an island to compose and perform a song for the wedding of the ruler of the island. First of all, I like the title Reiselied, because it’s unique. EF sounds like to big words pulled out of a dictionary and thrown together. Yes, the name is appropriate (Ephemeral means lasting a brief amount of time and Fantasia can either mean fantasy or a freeform music piece composed of similar melodies, thank you but I would have preferred Reiselied. In fact, in the opening cinema, EF was the subtitle to Reiselied. Oh well, whatever.

Upon arriving to the island, Mouse meets his guide, the royal guard (and big breasted) Rummy. She later takes him to meet the ruler of the island, Lord Xelpherpolis and his soon to be wife, Princess Loreille. Both act quite odd, but Mouse doesn’t know that because he is entranced by Lorreille’s beauty. As the game continues along, you find several things that are quite odd, but the oddest is the wedding itself. It appears that Lord Xelpherpolis has time magic, and every 5 days, causes time too loop back around on the island. So Mouse has to start all over again.

Now, I’m sure many of you are well aware of my disdain for a game of a similar nature. Majora’s Mask is hands down my least favorite Zelda game, digging a little bit deeper into the pile of shit than Zelda II: Link’s Adventure. And when I originally played this game, I felt the same exact thing. But there were several things that kept me from throwing the game away.

First of all, the graphics are stunning. This game was one of the first RPGs on the system, coming out about 6 or 7 months after the system itself, and it had some of the best graphics available for the system. The characters are well designed and use a vast array of colors. Second, the battle system is pretty interesting. Each character’s attacks are called Arts. You level up your arts just by using them, and when they get to a certain level, you learn new arts. Granted, this isn’t new, but I liked the arts the characters could use. Also, I thought it was cool how Mouse’s guitar, Pattimo (who talks, though Mouse doesn’t), was also his sword’s sheath. But the main reason that I like the game is because of the mini-games. This has some of the coolest mini-games ever. One is a drinking game to see who can get drunker between you and a girl who joins your party. But the best minigame, and the best part of the game for me, is the guitar minigame. Konami, the makers of this game, are very well known in Japan for a series of games known as Bemani, which is short for Beat Mania. All are rhythm games, and it includes the incredibly popular (in America as well as Japan) Dance Dance Revolution. Other games are, of course, Beat Mania (a DJ game), Drummania (Drums), and Keyboard Mania (Keyboard). The guitar minigame in EF is based on Guitar Freaks, another of the Bemani games. All of these games have special controllers to make it more like playing the actual instrument. In fact, the Guitar Freaks controllers work on EF as well. The minigame is very fun, but some songs are very difficult.

Overall, the game is decently fun, but the battles can get very tedious, because although you can build up your arts, that can take a long time, and it’s hard to tell how many times you have to use them to level them up. The game is not a classic, but is fun simply because it is. The humor level is high, and it’s pretty outlandish at times, especially the drinking game and Rummy’s breasts flopping around like it was a DOA game. You can buy it used for $20-30, but I don’t know if you can find it anywhere new. If you’ve got all the newer, really good RPGs for the PS2, you may want to check this one out. It’s definitely not the best game out there, but on the other hand, it’s not the worst.

Props to my Homies! (aka Plugs)

Joseph Stanley takes his new Monday spot in stride with his newly titled The Wipe-up. As usual, he talks about news and makes fun of it.

Ron Yip’s SimColumn News Report is now supposed to be on Tuesday, but it’s not up just yet. If it goes up, check it out.

As per usual, finish out the week with Bryan Berg and Chris Pankonin, because they want you too. Thanks for the medals Bryan!

There’s a review for a baseball game, but I don’t do baseball games so check it out if you want.

Only one link this week? That’s kind of scary.

New Anime Releases
* Release Date – 04/22/03
Ai Yori Aoshi Vol. 2, Arjuna Vol. 4, Inu Yasha Vol. 4, Inu Yasha Vol. 5, The Orphen Collection, Trouble Chocolate Vol. 4

Only two shows on here I collect: Ai Yori Aoshi and Inu Yasha. In the case of AYA, I will definitely need to get this disc. With Inu Yasha, I’m not, because I expect them to release a box set down the line. I want to go on the record as saying that I think Viz is screwing the pooch on the DVD release of Inu Yasha, because it’s behind the show on Cartoon Network, and there are only 3 episodes per disc. Plus the fact that Viz never puts any extras of merit on them. If I didn’t love Ranma and anything that Rumiko Takahashi does, I’d never buy from Viz (well, except for Ceres).

Anime News
I don’t usually do this, but I think I’ll start it up if there’s something big going down. Incidentally, this week there is.

Anime Boston 2003 Newsbits
This comes from currently the best Anime site out there, AnimeonDVD.

It’s been a foregone conclusion for a while now that Witch Hunter Robin was going to be licensed, but the question has been who the lucky studio is. In this case, it’s one of the 3 best out there, BANDAI! Witch Hunter Robin is a great show and it couldn’t have gone to a better studio. And since Bandai hates me with a passion, it’ll be announced soon that WHR is going to be one of their Platinum line of shows (.hack//SIGN, Please Teacher and sCRYed) that gets a limited edition treatment with extras for EVERY DISC. Sigh:

ADV, not to be outdone, had some announcements as well. They will release Final Fantasy Unlimited, as well as Azumanga Daioh, which is a definite fan favorite. With any luck, Azumanga will have the ADVidnotes that were included with Excel Saga, since there is just as much, if not more, Japanese cultural influence on the dialogue.

My current favorite studio, Pioneer, had some good news of their own. First, they officially confirmed that they would be releasing Haibane Renmei, another fan favorite by the same people who did Serial Experiments Lain. They also announced the license of Mahoromatic Season 2 and that they were considering splitting up the expensive Fushigi Yugi box set into multiple discs so you don’t have to get all at once. Hopefully it’ll be cheaper that way too.

Now it’s time for me to hit the street and sell my body to get the cash to buy all this shit that’s coming out.

Mini Anime Reviews
Ok, I’m back. I got arrested, not for prostitution, but because I was such an ugly prostitute. They didn’t charge me though, on the agreement that I’d keep myself off the street from now on.

This is going to be a fun review week, because I’m going to review a show that I feel very strongly for. It’s a fun one. Also, I’ll probably cut the reviews down to one for now, if I have other content to put in (the Enquirer for one). Besides, if these things are chock full of stuff all the time, it’ll make the other guys look bad.

This is currently my favorite anime. It’s got intrigue, action, drama, suspense, you name it. One nice thing about this show is that although there is a lot of violence and death, there is no gore, no graphic shots, and no blood baths. There is no nudity and no foul language. So, in theory, this is a show for the entire family, but it is pretty heavy, so children probably wouldn’t understand.

The story focuses on Mireille Bouquet, a female assassin who is a normal, pretty woman on the outside, and a killer on the inside. A girl who calls herself Kirika contacts her, and her message has a melody from a pocket watch, one that Mireille knows all to well. Mireille meets Kirika, and they are attacked. While Mireille takes out many of the men who attack them, Kirika dispatches many herself, with grace and speed that show that she was born to kill. It turns out that Kirika awoke a few days earlier with no memory. She found a student ID with her name on it, a gun, and a watch, which is the same watch Mireille’s father had when he and his wife were murdered. All Kirika could remember was how to kill, and the word Noir. Mireille takes Kirika under her wing and promises that they will find out what is going on, how they are connected, and then Kirika will die.

While the story itself is pretty complex, it is explained very well as the series goes along. The thing I like so much is that there is so much style in the show. From the clothes they wear to the way they kill, Mireille and Kirika have style down pat. Much of the series involves them killing people who are chasing them, or bad men in general, so it’s not like they are just murderers, but it does make for interesting story when they try to justify killing in such a way.

The animation is spectacular, yet dark. That’s to be expected though, since the title is Noir. The voices are also top notch. The only voice that sticks out to me is Kirika’s, but that’s because it’s so similar to Hyatt from Excel Saga, and I keep expecting Kirika to be coughing up blood. Mireille’s voice is spot on though. There aren’t any other main characters though, other than 2 (which haven’t spoken in the English versions I’ve seen thus far). I originally watched the show subbed, so it may effect how I see the show in English, but still the voices are very good. Also, as an added little bonus, ADV has included a pair of decoder glasses in the first disc that you can use to decode clues on the disc insert to view bonus footage, which is usually of the voice actresses. It’s a very nice added feature. The show is great and it handles mature subject matter in a way so it’s not obscene. Only 2 discs have been released here, and the dialogue may be changed to be more vulgar, but I haven’t seen that happen yet. So I think many people would get a kick out of this since it’s not graphic in any way.

The Anime Enquirer: Dub vs. Sub
A big debate among anime enthusiasts has to do with one simple thing: what language to listen to the show in. Many people argue that anime was originally produced in Japan, and the dialogue is Japanese, so it should be viewed that way, usually requiring subtitles (subs) to understand what is going on, though there are many who either can speak Japanese, or learn through anime, to not need the subs at all. On the other side of the coin are those who argue that to truly enjoy anime, one must hear it and see it, because that’s how it was REALLY meant to be, and listening to the dubbed English track is the way to go. Well, who’s right? Actually, it’s neither and both. We’ll go over the differences in how they are produced and arguments for both sides.

First of all, I’d like to get out of the way. All anime is dubbed, whether it be in English or Japanese. In Japan, they take more pride in the animation than American animators do, and create all the animation before any voices are cast. After the animation is completed, the voice actors do the voices. So, in some ways, the English and the Japanese tracks are done the same way. But here’s where there is a lot of differences.

In Japan, the voice acting is taken very seriously. The seiyu (the Japanese term for Voice Actor/Actress) works very hard compared to the American VA, who often works less hours and is paid more than their Japanese counterparts. Japanese seiyu typically record their scenes together, but in America, it’s more common for the Voice Actors to be by themselves in a booth, and all they have to go off of is the director.

Dubs have gotten a lot better in the past few years. As the actors themselves improve, so does the process. Dubbing an anime has become a work of art because now there is a lot of focus on making the voice match the movement of the lips on the screen (called Lip Flaps), and it’s difficult work making the dialogue fit in such a way. Many ADR Directors take heat because they rewrite the script too much. Steven Foster of ADV has caught a lot of flak because of his liberal rewrites of shows, in many cases to make it more risqué. On the other hand, Wendee Lee, who is not only one of the most prolific voice actresses, also did the ADR Direction for Love Hina, and many people weren’t happy with what was done to the script in that series, because in many cases, the characters were toned down to make the show less perverted, and that completely changes how one should view the characters.

There are definitely some bad dubs out there, but work is vastly improved, and even so, there are sometimes bad subs as well. Many people have complained about the subtitles on Banner of the Stars because there are so many flaws and inconsistencies. Most people won’t know a difference, but people who know the show and have watched it before in fansub form can see that the work that was done on the official version was sub par. Likewise, there is a method of subtitling that very few people like, and it has grown to be called dubtitling, because it’s just a direct copy of the dub.

But which do I prefer? In all honesty, I prefer to watch shows dubbed first, and then subbed later. I don’t have a very large TV, and my eyesight isn’t the best, so it’s a lot easier on me if I can hear the dialogue and devote my eyes to paying attention to the animation rather than words. But I have started to watch some shows over in sub form, just to get the full effect. I am, in fact, re-watching Love Hina and seeing all the differences that I never would have known of before. But there are some shows it’s hard to watch dubbed, and that’s because I got used to the subbed version, and the voice doesn’t meet my expectations. This is especially true for Noir, of which I saw the entire series subbed, and now that it’s out in America and I’m rewatching it, the voice of Kirika (who is done by Monica Rial, who I love as a VA) is good but doesn’t fit my mental image of a voice for her. So for a lot of people, it’s really what you start out on. If you watch as series dubbed, and then subbed, you will probably like the dub better just because it was your first impression, and vice-versa. Likewise with anime overall. I started watching shows dubbed, and that’s what I grew attached to.

To wrap this all up, we are in the golden age of anime in America. So much is being released every month, and the big companies are so nice and include the bilingual tracks on most releases, so we don’t have to be picky on which version to get, like with VHS. The art of dubbing has improved dramatically, and there are shows out there like I My Me Strawberry Eggs, RahXephon, and Excel Saga that prove that dubs can be just as good, and in some cases better than the original Japanese language track. So I suggest to any sub fans out there is to try out the dub track on the next new series you get. And dub fans listen to the sub track. It’s very different, for sure, but as long as the story is the same, it should be just as enjoyable. It’s foolish to say one or the other sucks just because you don’t view it that way. Broaden your horizons some.

It’s the end of another week. I’m so sorry to see the end of the column again. But alas, I don’t have anything more to talk about. As usual, come back next week to see what I have in store. It may be good, or it may be bad, but either way, you’ll still have me spitting out the information I can glean from whatever subject I find interesting, and of course giving my own little commentary. That’s what you’re here for, right? Oh, read all the rest of the guys as usual.