Hump Day Otaku News Report 09.17.03

Greetings! Welcome back to another exciting and action packed installment of the best news report out there! No, I can’t substantiate that declaration, but I believe I’m right dammit! Ahem. Like I was saying before I rudely interrupted myself, welcome to another installment blah blah blah. You know the spiel. I talk about RPGs and anime. I gripe about other stuff too, but mainly it’s RPGs and anime, or anime and RPGs. If you haven’t read me before, then you don’t know what you’re missing. “But RPGs are for nerds and anime is just cartoons for little kids and girls and queer-bos!” you exclaim. My reply is that RPGs are for intellectuals and anime is for people who think that the vast majority of movies and television shows produced in America SUCK. And they do. So I’m right, and you’re wrong.

Anyway, by the time you read this, I will have a new set of top teeth. But since I need to have this in for posting on Tuesday, and I’m actually writing on Monday night and Tuesday morning, we’re going to have a little time paradox on our hands. Let’s see, Tuesday just so happens to be the same day that I will be visiting the dentist to get the deed done, and I will likely be doped up for the rest of the day, which means I won’t be able to update you on my experience. If you want to read how my appointment went, read my blog and I’ll update it.

In past weeks, I’ve been slacking off quite a bit, and I’ve already apologized for the first incident, but last week was necessary. There just hadn’t been enough to put in, since I had been playing ESPN Football for a review and didn’t watch any anime, but this week is different. I’ve got not only a game review for you guys, but also an anime review. Holy shit! This week is gonna be good. So let’s get to it.

Gaming News

Tales of What, Dragoonia? Manaia? Arctheladia? Arcadia? Arachniphobia?
Ach, what a lame intro. My cat writes that shit, not me. And he’s a little messed up in the head, if you know why I mean. Anyway, Namco has apparently copyrighted some names for use in future games, which are most likely to be Tales of games. The names they have copyrighted are “Gralia”, “Grania”, and “Legendia”. The past games I can see, but these just sound silly. I can only think of Grandia when I read two-thirds of those names. But it’s Namco, and since they’re tied for first in my list of A-OK companies, I will not complain.

Dream-Mix Goofy Name Fighters
Credit: GamesareFun
Konami and Hudson are working together to make a fighting game in the vein of Super Smash Bros that will feature famous characters from both groups. While only a few characters were announced, none are really that impressive to me. Sure there’s Bomberman and Simon Belmont, but then there’s also Master Higgins from the Adventure Island series. I really don’t wanna play as a guy with a diaper and baseball cap who throws tomahawks around. I don’t know if these two groups have the star power that other groups do. Now, if they include a certain son of Dracula, now then I may go for it.

Hyper Mega Super Duper Didn’t We Already Play This Game 15 Times Already
Credit: The MagicBox
Now, this is news that I am torn on. Capcom has announced that it will be releasing Hyper Street Fighter II X for the PS2, because of the 15th anniversary of the original Street Fighter. I’m torn because on one hand, I loved Street Fighter II. In essence, it is the reason that fighting games are so popular today. Though on the other hand, they have already released 18 billion different versions of SF2, so is this game just more of the same? There isn’t much more information available, so I won’t make anymore judgments until I find out just what the game is going to be.

Why Wasn’t This Posted Anywhere??
Credit: EBGames and The MagicBox
I just found out that Fatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterfly, sequel to one of the greatest survival horror type games, has been delayed. Originally, it was scheduled to be released a month ago, but I now notice that it has been pushed back to November 3 (according to EBGames) in America, and November 27th in Japan. As always, these dates are tentative and may change. This would explain why I never saw it in the stores!

I’ve Got Games!
Don’t be like me and spend money you don’t have. That’s what I’ve done, and sure I’ve got two new games, but now I’m over $100 poorer, and once the interest kicks in, that will be even higher. Anyway, the games I got were Disgaea and Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. My wife is currently playing Disgaea, and my initial impressions are that it looks very complex, yet interesting, the writing is HILARIOUS, and the voice acting is great. Haven’t played FFTA yet. If you’re looking for Disgaea, you may have some difficulty. There are several online places you can get it, but finding it in your area may be difficult. I checked all the Gamestops and the one EBGames in town, and none had it. I was able to procure it at Toys R Us though, which had 2 copies. You may also want to try GameCrazy, if you have one in your area, because Christian says it’s the bomb. He’s a bit biased though, but I’d certainly go there if I had one, but since I live in Tulsa, I’m outta luck.

Oh, and this is to Cory. I don’t have any oil money, unfortunately. I have money from my shitty job and credit, which is piling up. Which is why I said to not be like me. If you don’t gots the monies, don’t spend what you don’t gots.

New Game Releases
* Ship Date — 9/15-16/03
WWE Raw 2 (Xbox), Boktai (GBA), Shining Soul (GBA), Rugby 2004 (PS2), Simpsons Hit and Run (Xbox, GC, PS2), Dino Crisis 3 (Xbox), Nascar Thunder (Xbox, PS2)

Wow, this is a very big week for games, and I even left some off! Though there is no excitement whatsoever on my part about several of these games, I’d be negligent to not mention them. First off we have WWE Raw 2. Don’t expect Raw 3 to be like this one folks, because THQ has canned the entire crew that made Raw 2. They’ll probably give it to Yukes so it sucks as bad as Smackdown. YES, I SAID SMACKDOWN SUCKS BECAUSE IT DOES. Next we have two EA Sports games that are likely to sell big in niche quantities. Rugby and Nascar aren’t that popular as far as games go (from what I’ve seen), but these will sell well enough. I for one can’t wait for the day that they come out with EA Sports Curling 200X. Fuck yea, I’d love me some curling action. Shit, they may as well make it Curling and Shuffleboard in one game. Hell yea! I’m copyrighting that idea, so if you steal it from me EA, you’ll need to pay me big! Next is Dino Crisis 3, and if it’s on a number 3, it must be pretty popular. Then again, being the third in the series doesn’t mean it’s a good game. Just look at Suikoden 3.

Finally, we have 3 titles I actually care about. Simpsons Hit and Run sounds pretty cool, but I’m gonna rent it first. I mean, the whole Simpsons GTA description sounds great, but who knows about execution. Boktai looks cool as well, and it’s by that Kojima guy, so it probably will be pretty nifty. And of course, Shining Soul. Yea, it’s not a REAL part of the series, but if it’ll get us that much closer to getting the real thing here, hell yea, I’m all for it.

Links to the Past

Thank God It’s Thursday News Report – Bryan Berg
Ya know, Bryan’s report was pretty light on the news this week. HAHA, just kidding. For the record, if I say that, it’s not meant to be negative, just a statement. Notice how when it’s a slow news week, Berg reports the news and moves on, but I’m an ass and make shit up. Anyway, Bryan always does a great job, and this week is no different. I miss the commentary though! A great read as always.

Retrograding Mailbag – Alex Lucard
Lucard dips into his sack again for some goodies from his readers. I might consider doing a mailbag section every now and then, if I had more mail. That’s a hint, guys. Seriously though, thanks go to Matt Hardin and Christian who write me on an almost weekly basis. And to everyone else who has written (even the guy that asked if I was the football guy here, and I said no, who thought I was being an ass), I really appreciate it. I’ve had people who have asked me questions, and I always answer to the best of my knowledge. So please, write me!

Gamer’s Hangover News Report – Cory Laflin
You know, nothing in the world sounds cooler than spending $100 to go to a zoo and get drunk and eat food and stuff. I wonder how many people try to hop the fences and play with the tigers. I mean, how many besides me. I’ll do that shit sober. If I were ever sober, that is.

I don’t have a link to Bebito’s column yet, so if it shows up, check it out!

Cheat! – Alex Williams
My Wednesday compadre proves why he not only is the best cheater out there, but also one of the best commentators. This week’s commentary is on the Dreamcast, and he lists some games that should be in any collection. Are they in mine? Some are. Sadly, I didn’t get into the Dreamcast until the price dropped to $50 and got Grandia II, Skies of Arcadia, Shenmue, THPS1, and Evolution 1 and 2. But I plan on getting Jet Grind Radio, Space Channel 5, and perhaps Samba De Amigo, if it can be found for a decent price. Read my commentary to see just why I was a f*ck and waited so long.

The Angry Gamer – Liquidcross
On the whole Dreamcast discussion, LC tell you why you need one. And he’s right too. The funny thing about the whole Dreamcast thing is that you could tell Sega had their shit together hardware-wise. Everything was so well designed, from the console itself to the VMU’s, and it would have easily competed if it weren’t for poor marketing decisions and assholes like me.

The Gamer’s Conscience – Frederick Badlissi
Leave it to Fred to bring up the things that we usually don’t think about. He mentions something that has made the Korean GP32 (mentioned in a previous column by Liquidcross) such a hit to the non-mainstream crowd. I’m referring to homebrew games, or games made by people like you and me who can’t shell out the dough to get an actual license to make games for a console. I know people have good ideas and if they have the means, good games will come. And no, I’m not talking about NES Rom hacks that involve turning Mario into a big cock. And I’m not referring to cock as in a chicken.

A Thumb to the Eye – Chuck Platt
Crazy, crazy Chuck talks about new filters that should be, nay, SHALL BE developed in the future. In an evolution of cel shading (good call on Wild Arms 3, BTW, but you should have mentioned Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter as well), we will see Puppet Shading, Stop Motion Filter, and Watercolor Shading. Chuck is a god, because you see, I would also love to play a remake of FFVI done with the original artwork. Though Nomura is in Square’s good graces, he’s done some pretty bad characters (look at any of the 3 main original characters for Kingdom Hearts for example), but Amano is incredible, and his artwork is fantastic yet eclectic. I want that game.

Review: Soul Calibur 2 (GC) – Chuck Platt
This is an excellent, excellent review by Chuck and definitely worth a read. He’s gotten a lot of hatemail on this (see my commentary) and I agree with a lot of his points (see my review on the game), and if you don’t read it, then Link will SO grab you and throw your ass out of the ring!

Review:F-Zero GX (GC) – Alex Lucard
As I’m sure you’re all aware, I’m not into racing games other than Gran Turismo, but this game sounds kinda fun. I wasn’t much of a fan of the first F-Zero either, but it looks like they’ve been working and have progressively turned it into something that sounds mildly interesting to me.

Otaku New Skool Review
This was originally gonna be a quickie, but I feel that I can’t truly air my opinions about this game without going into detail, so it’s now a full review. So read it already.

Soul Calibur 2 – Gamecube
Chuck already covered this game, but my brother got it for his birthday, so I stole it from him. I’m only kidding, I borrowed it and he borrowed Dark Cloud 2. Anyway, I just felt I needed to give my own two cents on it as well. I’m not gonna have a huge introduction this time because really what else can be said? It’s the third in the series that started with Soul Edge/Blade and then was Soul Calibur. It’s a 3D Weapons fighter. That’s about really all that can be said.

As fighters go, the story is fairly interesting, if confusing. It seems that the boss of the previous Soul Calibur was a guy named Nightmare, and he was defeated, but still had the Soul Edge or something, and the Soul Calibur was a sword that was used to beat him. Ach, I don’t know the story. To get most of it though, you have to win the arcade mode with each character and check out their profiles. Many characters have interesting back-stories, and it helps to flesh them out.

Fighting games are all about fighting, obviously. That being said, controls are really important in fighting games. With THAT being said, this has probably the worst control scheme ever. The Gamecube controller just isn’t made for fighting games. The analog stick will move your character around, of course. There are 3 attack buttons: Horizontal (A), Vertical (Y), and Kick (X). There is also a Guard button (B). The Z button is mapped to A+Y+X, which will automatically give you a Soul Charge. The C-stick is mapped to other combinations as well. But the most important button combo is the Throw, which can be done with A+B or Y+B. You will be using throw a lot.

There are multiple play modes: Arcade, VS Battle, Team Battle, Survival and Time Attack. Arcade is simple: you fight 8 opponents of increasing difficulty, the 7th battle is a “destined” battle and the final battle is vs. Inferno, the boss. Arcade mode is VERY easy to finish. Even with not having played ANY characters before, I was able to clear 90% of arcade mode in about 4 hours, if that. Keep in mind that I am very poor at fighting games. Completing the arcade mode with a character gives you their profile, which shows their back-story.

VS Battle is a one-on-one fight between you and a friend. Team Battle lets you choose a team to fight an opponent’s team. Survival is you taking on enemy after enemy without regaining life and seeing how long you last. Time Attack is similar, except your life will rise and the time will not reset, but you will gain SOME of it back at the end of every battle.

But the primary reason to play the game single player is called the Weapon Master mode. Basically, it is a story mode where you can go and fight battles with different rules and get new characters, weapons and other stuff. It plays like an RPG of sorts because at the end of every battle, your character (that is, YOU, not which fighter you’re using) gains experience and gold. The gold is used to purchase new weapons and costumes and such. Overall, the Weapon Master mode is pretty cool, and makes the game much more interesting. The main complaints I have are that the story is pretty lame in this mode and that some of the battles are very unfair.

This leads me to a gripe with a lot of games. Many games (Metroid is a BIG offender) think that to make something more difficult, all they have to do is make an enemy do more damage to you, and it most cases, take more damage to kill. They usually aren’t more maneuverable or BETTER, they just hit harder. This happens in RPGs, but in those games, you can always level up some and then fight the enemies. Not so in a game like this. Really the only way of improving your fighters is to buy new weapons, because experience apparently has no effect that I can tell.

The single player modes other than Weapon Master are pretty pointless overall, but they do give you cash rewards for how well you do. Winning arcade mode gets you 1000-2000 gold and the profile of who you win with, and the others give you about 100 gold for every enemy you kill. So yea, not much point.

Another point of contention with the game is Link. Yes, I think Link looks awesome and is very true to the original, but I don’t like several things about him. First is that he doesn’t talk. I want Link to have a VOICE. I’ve always been irked by main characters that never talk, and Zelda is one of those games where it bugs me. Anyway, I was hoping that he would talk in this game, but no such luck. Also, Link is very, very cheap. Chuck mentioned it already, but Link has the easiest kills in the game. Get near an edge, wait for enemy to come, then do an A+B throw, and you get a Ring Out. Despite that though, he is a cool character, and I’d rather have him than the other two exclusive characters. It’s a pity that the Dreamcast isn’t around, because then maybe we could have a Sega character, like Ryo from Shenmue or VYSE from motherf*cking Skies of Arcadia. Now THAT would be sweeeeeeet. Moving on.

The other characters are ok, but most can be pretty cheap with the throws if you know how to do them. Basically, you wait until they are ALMOST back up when you knock them down, and then throw them. Repeat and you’re virtually assured victory. How do you think that I, a fighting game novice, could possibly do so well? Well, if they’re going to let me be cheap, then I will be. My favorites are Ivy, Link, Talim and Maxi. I hate Astaroth, because he always whoops on me, but I can’t do dick with him. The rest all range from ok to shit. Keep in mind that I haven’t played all the characters, especially the ones that I haven’t unlocked yet, so my experience may be different from yours.

Another complaint is that several characters are almost identical to others in the way they fight, for no apparent reason. There is Astaroth and Barbarian, which have the same style, as well as Charade and Inferno, both of which mimic the style of other characters. Really, I expected more variety with as many characters as there are. At least the similarities between Sophitia and Cassandra are explained.

And this gets me to my final point in this category. I do not like 3D fighters. Why? Because they always seem like button mashers. Mash random buttons and eventually get combos. Yes, you can master the game and kick ass, but in singleplayer mode, what’s the point? If you can win with button mashing alone (and not guarding at all, in my case) what’s the point of mastering the game? Keep in mind that I don’t do multiplayer games, so the singleplayer experience is the only thing I look for. Like my favorite FPS games (Metroid Prime, Half Life and Unreal 2) are all singleplayer primary. At least the Weapon Master mode balances this out fairly well.

Really, I can’t gripe much about this since the graphics are excellent. I didn’t have the qualms with the hair that Chuck did, but I didn’t see SC on the DC, so I don’t have the same frame of reference. All of the character designs are excellent, even for the characters that suck. Despite that, many of the costumes blow. I haven’t unlocked any of the third costumes, but some of the normal ones make me want to gag. Ivy’s second one, for example, is awful. Sure, the costumes themselves are well designed, but they don’t seem to fit the character. Ivy’s primary costume is that of a badass dominatrix bitch, and the second is a prim and proper British miltiary costume, which looks sooooo wrong. And what’s the deal with the character changing COMPLETELY when a costume changes, like Necrid and Astaroth, who’s color changes and everything.

The environments are beautiful as well, but some are simply boring. There is so much potential in them all, but they just fall flat. I also wouldn’t have minded some breakable objects in the arenas as well. And seeing Link done so well was breathtaking. Why can’t these guys do the next Super Smash Bros?

While the music is decent, it’s not special. The Zelda theme was great, but it’d be great in pretty much any game, especially in a non-Nintendo one. Other than that, the music really all sounds the same to me.

The sound effects, however, were all really pretty good. The voices were all done well, and it was a nice touch to be able to do a taunt at the beginning of every battle. I do think that some characters’ voices didn’t sound right, like Yungsung, who sounds like a girly-boy. He just sucks overall anyway.

Fun Factor
I’ve pretty much covered the Weapon Master mode in detail, but here’s where you find out what you get. First of all, by using money, you can buy new items. The primary things you can buy are new weapons for almost every character, and each one has 11 total weapons. Most can be unlocked the first time through Weapon Master, but the rest you need to go through the harder Weapon Master mode to attain. Each character also has a 3rd outfit that can be purchased, usually for a lot of money, which is why I haven’t gotten any yet.

You can also buy other special items, like a High-Res art gallery, weapon demonstrations, and other useless stuff. I mean useless in a good way. But that’s not all. Just by going through Weapon Master, you can unlock new fighters, get freebie weapons and unlock new extra modes. To be perfectly honest, if it weren’t for Weapon Master mode, I wouldn’t play the game at all.

Story: 5
Gameplay: 6.5
Graphics: 9
Sound: 7
Fun Factor: 8

THE 411
If you like the series and enjoy multiplayer action, you’ll probably like this one, but if you’re not in to 3D fighters at all, you’ll probably be pretty ho-hum like I am. I’d certainly suggest giving it a rent, if anything, but I wouldn’t recommend buying it. If my brother didn’t get it, I may not have ever played it. Would I have been better off? Who knows? There are plenty of games out there, and this is one of them.

Overall: 7

Hump Day Commentary
The subject for today is zealotry. And I’m not talking about the Zealots from Starcraft either. A zealot is a fanatically committed person, or someone that believes in something so much, that they then push everything else aside.

Zealotry is very common in religion, and always has been. People will believe in one thing and will not think or consider anything else as being right, or even being possible. It’s like tunnel vision, where you focus on one thing so much that nothing else matters. Religious zealots are the ones that start wars over religion, because they think theirs is right and everyone else’s is wrong. Ah, but this is a game column, and we’re going to talk about gaming zealotry.

First, I’ll discuss myself. I used to be a gaming zealot on several levels. My first gaming console was the ever-present Atari 2600, but it didn’t count, because it wasn’t MINE. Yes, it was given to me, but it was not purchased exclusively for me, to the best of my knowledge. My first REAL console that was for me was the NES. I knew OF the Sega Master System, because a few of my friends we better off than I and could afford to have both the SMS and the NES, but I didn’t really like many of the games available for it. That made me think that the SMS, and therefore Sega, was vastly inferior to Nintendo and the NES. Those same feelings continued into the 16-bit generation, and I got an SNES rather than a Genesis. I didn’t even have the desire to own one, because I thought it sucked ass. I didn’t have any rational reason for thinking that, except that I didn’t know any better. One odd irony is that one of my best friends at the time was my polar opposite: he was a Sega junkie. My pro-Nintendo sentiments waned a little after the release of the N64, which I did not like and sold off prior to the few good games coming out, like Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Pokemon Snap. But my anti-Sega feelings stayed strong. Sure I had somewhat of an open mind. My college suitemate had a Saturn, and I enjoyed a few games on that, but not enough to own one. Then Final Fantasy VII came out and I got a Playstation, and Sony had replaced Nintendo. The fanboyism continued.

To be perfectly honest, I still held my “Sega Sucks” mentality up until after the Dreamcast was already in its final death throes. Production had stopped, the price had dropped, and I figured, “What the f*ck? It’s only $50. Why not?” So my wife and I got a Dreamcast, a VMU and Grandia II. And I was amazed. We later got Shenmue and Skies of Arcadia. Yes, these games were released near the end, but there were other good games released before that. Since I was a little shit and couldn’t be a tad more open minded, Sega as a hardware company died. It was all my fault. Well, of course it wasn’t just me, but it was people like me. Fortunately, the company remains and is still producing software, but it would be nice if the Dreamcast was alive and it was a 4-way battle, rather than 3-way.

My other point is for my love of RPGs, and Squaresoft in particular. Squaresoft essentially was my first experience with RPGs. I played the original Final Fantasy, and that gave me a taste. I also enjoyed the Dragon Warrior series. And then Final Fantasy 2 came out and I was hooked. Up until Final Fantasy X, I held Squaresoft on this pedestal and didn’t think they could do any wrong. But I was foolish to think such things, because they are like every company, and they do make mistakes. It should have been obvious to me, but they have been progressively caring less and less about the story and the characters, and more and more about the graphics in their games. Once I realized this, I felt enlightened, yet lost. So I still held them on this cracked pedestal until I found solace in two other companies: Namco (through Xenosaga) and Atlus (through Thousand Arms, and with the help from Lucard). So I have broadened my horizons and I am a better person now because of it. Will I buy games just because a company is making them? Not always, but it will definitely depend on the game. All companies put out stinkers, and I expect that Namco and Atlus probably will put some out too, just like Squaresoft (now Square Enix) has done and will do again.

What I’m getting at is this. Zealotry of any sort is foolish. It is perfectly fine to believe in what you believe, but believing in that thing at the expense of everything else doesn’t make any sense. Always keep an open mind, because there may be something else out there that you’ll like more. This goes for games, cars, electronics, as well as religion.

What prompted this? Well, as I’ve said, Chuck got some hatemail about his Soul Calibur 2 review, as well as an entire thread on the official Soul Calibur 2 forum. I’ve seen it happening before, and it sickens me because these are people that never met Chuck, and probably haven’t read anything BUT the review and decide that he should be either fired or physically injured because he had a different opinion than they did. This is retarded, because it’s a f*cking GAME. And that’s the whole point of us being on this website, to share our opinions. Are we professionals? Technically no. Professionals make money. But do we give an air of professionalism? I probably don’t, considering how much I throw around f*ck and shit. But I don’t care if I was paid $100 a column or if I wrote like f*ckin’ Dickens, these are OPINIONS about GAMES. When it boils down to it, is it really important in the grand scheme of things if someone has a different opinion?? No. It’s pointless. Yes, I rant and rave about games that you shouldn’t play (Tomb Raider and Resident Evil are on the top of the list), but do I berate people that play these games? Yes, but I’m an asshole. Do I want these people to die a horrible death? Fuck no. I want them to break their shitty games and go buy good ones, or at least better ones.

I used to be a zealot, so I know what it’s like. You don’t know what you’re missing if you stick to one thing. Free your mind, and the rest will follow. Be colorblind, don’t be so shallow. Yea, my references are much less obscure than Lucard’s are. Anyway, try more stuff guys. I’m not telling you to start hating this or that company, but just try some different ones. Take Atlus for example. Their stuff is hard as hell to find usually, because most stores don’t order much. Everybody needs to get to know Atlus. And don’t hold it against me if my opinion is different than yours. I like my brain, and I want it to stay mine. Besides, if everyone thought exactly the same, the world would be pretty f*cking boring, don’t ya think?

New Anime Releases
* Release Date — 9/16/03
.hack//SIGN Vol. 4 (Regular Edition), Big O Collectors Set, Ceres: Celestial Legend Collectors Edition Vol. 1, GTO Vol. 10, Noir Vol. 6, Ranma 1/2: Random Rhapsody Box Set, Sorcerer Hunters Complete Collection, Super Gals Vol. 1 (also w/ box)

Yeah, I decided to bring this back. The less anime stuff I did in the column, the less love I had for anime, so I’m bringing this back and will hopefully have more stuff to come. Anyway, this is a decently big week. A few collectors sets: Big O, Ceres, Ranma and Sorcerer Hunters. I haven’t seen much of Big O, but I did see one episode on Cartoon Network and it looked good. Ceres is a cool, yet odd supernatural thriller. Ranma is Ranma, and this makes two box sets I need. And Sorcerer Hunters is one of the funniest shows I’ve ever seen, so I’d recommend all these. Noir is awesome, Super Gals is new and has a box, and if you’ve only been getting regular editions of .hack, then this is your week for #4. Last is GTO, which is the last in this series that will hopefully have a nice box sometime.

Mini Anime Reviews
This is a title I’ve wanted to see for a while now, and purchased it from TSRI, only to let it sit there until the wife and I were both in the mood to watch it.

This ain’t your father’s mecha title. From reading the production notes, you will understand that that statement is true, because they mention that there will only be two types of mecha shown. Since it does have mecha, though, it garnered a lot of comparisons to Evangelion. Does it deserve that? No, because they’re different types of shows, even if they have similar concepts (unwitting youngster is thrown into a conflict of untold proportions), they are still very different.
Story: Yushiro Gowa is a pilot with a company of military troops who do test piloting for Tactical Armor mechs, and though he is a civilian, he is essentially forced by his family (the Gowa Company, which produce the mechs) to do this piloting. Though he is the best at what he does, his talents are put to the test when he meets an enemy that is very much like him in abilities, and he wants to help them both get out of their situations. The overall story is much more complex than this, and I can’t do it justice by trying to summarize it more. It contains conspiracy after conspiracy, and the bad guy in one episode may not be the bad guy in the next. This isn’t a story for kids, not because of unsuitable content, but due to the fact that it IS so complex and very thought provoking.
Animation: Though it was produced in 1999-2000, the animation is very crisp and clean, which is a difference from shows of even the same year. The character designs are very well done and the animators use color and lighting to their fullest extent. They do well in showing the gritty nature of warfare, as well as showing the beauty of life. These guys knew what they were doing every step of the way, and it truly shows.
Voices: While the dub work was done by the excellent group at Industrial Smoke and Mirrors, this isn’t one of their finest works. While the main characters are done well, some of the supporting actors don’t seem to fit their roles so well. Chris Patton (Ayato from RahXephon) plays Yushiro, and Monica Rial (Hyatt from Excel Saga) plays Miharu, and both are perfect for their parts. Hillary Haag (Kirinka from Steel Angel Kurumi) also does very well as Misuzu Gowa, Yushiro’s little sister. But many of the other characters are reused and it’s very obvious. Mike Kleinhenz (Kabupu from Excel Saga) for example, plays at least 3 roles, 2 of which are very important, and his voice doesn’t change much for any. But despite that, the job for the rest of the people was adequate, if not good.
Music: I normally don’t include this as a section, but this show deserves it. The overall music for the show is good, but not fantastic. But that’s not what I’m wanting to talk about. What IS fantastic is the opening and closing themes. The opening is arguably the best theme for any series ever, anime or not. It’s called Message #9 by Tomoko Tane, and it could be easily played on the radio because of it’s rock/ambient feel and English lyrics. Both it and the ending theme, Love Song (also by Tomoko Tane) are very sad, but give a hope for a better future, which is really something that shows up later in the show. It’s more about giving a big “f*ck you” to fate and doing what you want to do to be happy. These songs are haunting, and I can say without a doubt that the combination of the opening and closing are my favorite in any anime.
Packaging/Extras: Since this was a box set, I’ll do an overall impression. The box itself was pretty flimsy, which has been common from ADV, and is inexcusable in this day and age! That’s why there’s Paul Champagne (see below). Each disc comes in a standard black keepcase and features a character or mech from the show on the front and screenshots and synopsis on the back. The inserts are pretty simple, but inside have interesting information. The discs themselves have few extras, but what they do have is interesting. There are production notes and behind the scenes stuff which is really cool and fun. So while a little light on the extras, what is there is good.
The Verdict:: A
The show itself is fantastic. While there isn’t much humor, it is great to see the characters progress and grow attached to one another. The story REALLY makes you think, and you’ll have a lot of questions as time goes on, but fear not. They answer all the questions by the end. Well, at the VERY end, you’ll have some questions about the end, but they explain those too, in very vague terms. Speaking of the end, at first, both my wife and I were screaming “EVANGELION ENDING” which filled us with dread, but fortunately it didn’t end like that. Overall, the show is great, beginning to end. The characters are great. The main characters are lovable and the bad guys are nasty. You’ll see what I mean. Get it. I can’t believe I waited until TSRI had it on sale to get it. It is worth the full price.

Ah, we’re done. I have today and tomorrow off from work, which makes me a happy camper. Hopefully my new teeth will be easy to get acclimated to, because if not, Friday is gonna be miserable, because I’ll still have to work. The moral of the story kids? If you have a tooth problem, get it fixed immediately. I don’t know why my teeth rotted from within, so I couldn’t have prevented it (yes, I drank plenty of milk, so calcium isn’t the issue), but I waited too long and now my teeth are really nasty. But soon the top ones will be all nice, and I get to wait until next year (insurance issues) to get the bottom ones done. But it’s all good because I have vacation! Enjoy the rest of the week.

Lee Baxley is THE Bad Guy. When not downing a bottle of some alcoholic beverage, he can be found taunting people by either throwing his toothpick in their face or feigning fright, or sometimes even both. Despite these pastimes, he still enjoys playing RPGs and watching anime. You can read about his further exploits on his blog.