Mid-Week Mid-Boss v2.14

Hey yo. Welcome to another edition of the Mid-Week Mid-Boss. There is nothing really new or special this week, just more of the same stuff that you’ve come to expect from my column.

It seems to me as if the column has been getting longer, or at least that there is more actual content than there was before. I don’t really count all the TV shows as content per se, not as much as an actual review, which is more of what I’m doing with the anime shows I watch. So I guess it’s good that I will be taking a slight step back from reviewing soon.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’ll still review any game I play that hasn’t been called by anyone else, but there will probably just be a little less of me “taking one for the team”, so to speak. I’ve only got two more games to review this year (Call of Duty 2 and Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows), and beyond that, it’s up in the air.

One thing I know for sure is that March will be an evil month for me. Assuming no release dates are changed, the games that come out in the first two weeks that I have on my “Must Buy” list are: Beatmania, Kingdom Hearts 2, Grandia III, Burnout Revenge (for the 360), and Shadow Hearts 3. There is also Chulip, which looks to be a quirky innovative title that I’m sure I’ll get (for $20 you can’t go wrong…see Katamari Damacy). Oh, and Suikoden V and Drakengard 2 come out around there as well. So even if some games get changed, there will still be several games to get in a short amount of time. I hear my wallet weeping as we speak.

So anyway, that’s what’s up. Read on to see what’s happening in this week of gaming and stuffs.

Valkyrie Profile Re-Release and Official Site
To coincide with the release of Valkyrie Profile: Silmeria, Square Enix will be re-releasing Valkyrie Profile. Called Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth, it will apparently be the same game with new movies added to it. Supposedly, the movies will help tie the game to the forthcoming prequel a little better. Nothing else is known, other than that it should be released in March in Japan. Oh yea, one piece of bad news. It’s going to be released on the PSP. So, if you’re still on the fence, here’s another reason (along with Suikoden1+2 in my case) to knock you off. Unfortunately, there isn’t any word if either game will be released in America, but if they aren’t, somebody is gonna die.

Oh, and they have opened up an official site for Valkyrie Profile. Unfortunately, it’s in Japanese, and rather sparse, but you can check it out HERE.
(Credit: Games are Fun, EP)

Working Designs Shuts Down
In a sad bit of news, one of the greatest American game localization studios, Working Designs, is closing its doors. No full reasons were given, other than that they couldn’t release the next game they had on their plate, presumably due to Sony not allowing them to. I’m not here to speculate since I don’t have the whole story, but needless to say, this is a big blow to a lot of gamers such as myself who were fans of their work. Probably best known most recently for their releases of Lunar and Lunar 2 for the Playstation, they have released many a game that we might not have ever seen in America. And on top of that, they gave the games a special treatment with their special edition versions which included nice knick-knacks such as watches, necklaces, hard-bound instruction manuals, and soundtracks. It’s too bad that the company couldn’t stay around longer, but hopefully their staff can find new homes so they can continue doing what they obviously love.
(Credit: Games are Fun)

Xbox 360 Meets Underwhelming Sales in Japan
In what is no real surprise to anyone, the Xbox 360s have not been flying off store shelves in Japan. Anyone could see this coming at launch. Simply look at the games that launched with the 360 here. Almost all of them are sports titles or First Person Shooters. The most anticipated 360 game in Japan (Dead or Alive 4) keeps getting pushed back and now will likely not even be released this year. So Japanese gamers are sitting on their laurels, waiting for some good games to be released, because traditionally, the Japanese couldn’t give two shits about American first person shooters or sports titles. Expect the sales to pick up once some more Japanese games get produced for the system.
(Credit: Games are Fun)

Even More FF Characters in Kingdom Hearts II
Square Enix keeps throwing more and more Final Fantasy Cameos into the next Kingdom Hearts game, and it’s starting to get a bit ridiculous. I mean, some of them aren’t so bad, but when the characters get kiddiefied it really irritates me. It’s bad enough that they totally f*ck with continuity of these characters, but whatever. They’ve already announced that Seifer, and his buddies Fuujin and Raijin will appear. Personally, I hated those three characters, so I could care less. Nomura also has admitted that he’s dipping into Amano’s pot and will start ruining those characters as well. First, VIVI was announced (who is already a kid) and next up is Setzer from FFVI, who will actually be an adult! Oh, but then Nomura decided to throw in Yuna, Rikku and Paine from FFX-2, and make them kids. Ugh.

I know a lot of people liked Kingdom Hearts, and while there were some nice moments (such as getting molested by Sephiroth), the game just didn’t enthrall me. I thought fighting with the Disney characters was stupid (especially Goofy, who is totally f*cking worthless), and it just wasn’t all that fun. I had more fun building the Gummi Ship than anything. Despite that, I got a little bit more interested in Kingdom Hearts 2. It was said to be more grown up, but the more I see about it, the less likely that seems. I don’t have a problem with games for kids, but if the story suffers because of that decision, then I have a problem. And the story of KH was just messed up to begin with. But despite that, I’ll probably be a sucker and buy KH2 anyway.
(Credit: Games are Fun)

This is something that was on my mind, but I couldn’t legitimately put into the review, so I’ll put it here. See, I rented Kameo, for a review that should be out soon. Like every other 360 game, Kameo has its fair share of Xbox Live Achievements you can collect.

Well, at some point while playing, something happened and I was disconnected from Xbox Live. I don’t know if it was on my end or Microsoft’s, but regardless, I was disconnected and forgot to reconnect. So I go on my merry way through the game. And I get to a point and complete a goal, and did something that should have netted me an achievement, but then I realized I wasn’t connected to Xbox Live. THAT was my fault. I understand that.

What pisses me off then is that I can’t figure out how to get those achievements. I’ve finished the game. I beat all the bosses and got all the Elemental Warriors. You can see that if you go to my Gamercard at the bottom. BUT, it does not show that I Freed Yeros or that I Found Snare. You HAVE to do both of these things on your way to completing the game. But it doesn’t show that I did them.

Now, I’m not making a big hoopla over it because it’s not that big a deal. But I still think that they should have some sort of mechanism where if you’ve completed an achievement while not on Xbox Live, it will remember it and upload that information the next time you connect to Xbox Live while playing that game. As you can see on my Gamercard, it recorded all additional achievements, it just skipped over those others. I don’t know if this is something that needs to be done on the programmer’s side or the Xbox Live side, but it shouldn’t be THAT hard to implement. And I know that there is probably a lot of people that take the achievements a lot more seriously than I do.

Oh, and as an update to last week’s DAMMIT, I heard back from Microsoft email support. They basically said “Sorry we got your answer wrong. We have determined that it would be best to call us for resolution.” Which I will probably do sometime this week. Ugh.

In addition to Kameo, I also rented Rumble Roses at the suggestion of a reader. Yea, it’s so totally a DOA rip-off type of game, but it’s pretty fun. It definitely is more of an arcade style game, and really isn’t that complex. That being said, they should have included some sort of in-game tutorial, because having to search on the web for instructions isn’t that great. In the age of massive amounts of video game rentals, a game company has no reason not to include a simple tutorial, or at least a screen showing which buttons to hit. That would have been appreciated.

The graphics are pretty good. It’s exclusive to the PS2, so they aren’t the best graphics, but they work. There was an unfortunate amount of clipping, but it really didn’t detract much. The character designs were pretty cool too, and portray every fetish. My particular favorite was Candy Cane, the schoolgirl. They also have her teacher, a nurse, a dominatrix, and a cowgirl, among others. All of them are pretty good looking.

The voice acting, on the other hand, is awful. I know it’s a wrestling game, but still, they could have done a better job. It’s almost as if they picked random people off the street and said “hey, I’ll give you $20 to read these lines”, because the delivery is that bad. At the very least, the actresses clearly didn’t want to be there and was just doing it to make money. That’s my take on it anyway. I could be wrong.

Still, it’s overall pretty fun, and I’m sure I’ll give Rumble Roses XX a rent when it comes out.

This week, I’m going to discuss two “classic” arcade games available for download on Xbox 360 Live Arcade.

Smash TV
Largely inspired by the gameplay made famous in Robotron, Smash TV places you (and your friend, if playing 2 player) as contestants on an ultraviolent TV show. Basically, you are pitted against an endless supply of mutants, and you simply have to kill them before they kill you. All the while, prizes and money will appear and it’s your job to pick them up and try to collect more money than your opponent.

As I said, the gameplay is pretty much the same as Robotron. You move with the left thumbstick and you fire your weapon with the right thumbstick. Your weapon fires in the direction you point the stick, so you can move in one direction and fire in another.

Combat is fast and furious, and you will be attacked – and die – a lot. It’s all good, you get infinite continues. You can also pick up different types of powerups along the way, such as rocket launchers, grenade launchers, a shield and even a bomb that kills all the enemies on the screen. Don’t worry though, it will fill back up with enemies soon after.

The game is as fun as I remember it, but I personally don’t think it was God’s gift to man like some do. It WAS fun, but it gets mindlessly dull after killing the millionth enemy, and it’s really pretty short (just 3 levels if I remember correctly). But still, it’s fun. And you can also play co-op on Xbox Live, which is pretty sweet. You can download it for 400 Microsoft points ($5).

Another very fond game from my childhood, Gauntlet was the first game I remember playing where you could have 4 people playing as different characters, which became a popular thing to do with games such as Golden Axe, Final Fight, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Essentially, you choose which character you want to play, from the elven archer, the valkyrie, the warrior or the mage. I always preferred the archer or the warrior, but now that I think about it, I don’t seem to remember if there was that much difference between the classes.

Either way, once you choose your class, you have to kill enemies (ghosts, gremlins, orcs, erc) and make it up 100 floors. Some floors have warps though, which speeds up progress, and those warps will become your best friends.

This was also the first game I remember that had Hit Points instead of a standard life bar (or worse, the “one hit, you die” games). As a nice bonus, if you hit Y, it will give you more life, so if you hit Y a lot, you basically become invincible. I believe this is the equivalent of adding more quarters to the game when playing in the arcades. And you’ll need it, because the game is LONG.

Sadly, that is the game’s downfall. Even with warps, the game is simply too long. Killing enemies becomes a mindless chore and is hard to do for 5 floors, much less 100. Still, it’s cool because you can play up to 4 players locally or over Xbox Live. But this game is decidedly less fun than I remember it being. It was worth the purchase though (400 Microsoft points, or $5).

This week, I’m going to write about my favorite anime of all time. For now anyway. Yet, nothing else has come close to dethroning it (with the possible exception of Cowboy Bebop), so this show is pretty happy with its position.

Noir is the story of two females. Our first heroine is Mireille Bouquet, a blonde buxom Corsican beauty living in France. She is quite the fan of tight clothing and short skirts. Hailing from Japan, our other protagonist is a teenager with short, black hair who goes by the name Kirika Yumura. Both are totally different people from totally different worlds, but they both share one thing in common: they’re both VERY good at killing.

After suffering through tragedy at a young age, Mireille grew up strong and trained hard to be the best at what she does. Kirika, on the other hand, woke up one day and had no memory of her past. The name she uses is not her real name, it is just the one that was printed on her fake school ID card. She knows only one thing: NOIR. In her deserted house, Kirika finds a pocket watch and a gun. It’s a Baretta. She realizes all too quickly that she can kill when several armed men storm the house and go after her. She soon flees and contacts Mireille somehow. Long story short, they get together and form a duo of two of the most talented assassins in the world. Code name: NOIR.

I really can’t come close to doing the story justice. It’s simply one of the most wonderful and intriquing stories I’ve ever encountered, be it in anime, video game or film. The depth that it reaches is simply astounding. Basically, every episode (or Act as they like to call them) is episodic. The main story in every episode is different from the next, but typically they all connect in some way. Usually, it has to do with Mireille and Kirika trying to figure out what connects them together, and what Kirika’s past is.

This show has a style that is different from any other show I’ve seen. It’s the most stylistic show I’ve seen, other than Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo. The use of lighting and colors is very nice, and the character designs are excellent as well. The really unique thing about the show is that despite the fact that Mireille is wearing the shortest skirt imaginable, they never show a bit of fan service. On top of that, they never show someone bleeding. They show blood, but usually it’s a blood stain, or a pool of blood. And it’s weird, because I LOVE gore and fan service (keep an eye out for a review of Elfen Lied in this space when they finally send me disc 2!!!), but I like that they were able to keep those out of this show without hurting it at all. It just makes the show stronger.

Just when you think things can’t get any better, there’s the sound. First off, the voices are excellent. This is one of the few shows I’ve watched all the way through in both sub and dub. Back before it was licensed, I watched the fansub, and now I’m able to see the ADV/Industrial Smoke and Mirrors dub. And both are very good. It’s hard for me to say which I like more, because having seen the sub first, I’d probably pick that. But the dub is really good as well. Shelley Callene-Black plays the part of Mireille and the ever-present Monica Rial plays the part of Kirika. Both are pretty hesitant in their roles at the beginning, but as is the case with any role (and yes, this includes Japanese voice actors), once they play the part for several episodes, they know the character more and play it with more passion. And they play their roles with perfection. Likewise, the Japanese voice cast is exquisite as well. Kotono Mitsuishi plays Mireille and Houko Kuwashima plays Kirika. And I like their dubs so well because they ARE the characters. It just doesn’t get any better than that.

Speaking of never getting better, Noir has, in my personal opinion, THE best soundtrack of any anime out there. If there was one thing that Noir beats the pants off Bebop in, it’s the soundtrack. I love Yoko Kanno, but Yuki Kajiura is easily my favorite anime composer. She is the mastermind behind the music of .hack, Madlax, and Aquarian Age (about the only good thing about that show). For Noir, she wrote the most unique and interesting score I’ve ever heard. It also features some of her biggest classics, such as Canta Per Me, Lullabye, and of course, the exquisite Salva Nos. It is what is also referred to as the “ass kicking music” because when Salva Nos starts, you know somebody is gonna die. Save us, God, indeed.

In addition to the great music during the show, the opening and closing are some of the best around as well. Copellia’s Coffin/Casket is a cool and up tempo piece, while Kireina Kanjo is one of the better nice and light closing themes. Both are great bookends to a great show, and while neither is the best of their type, there are few shows with as good openings as closings.

So there you have it. In case you couldn’t tell, I really really love Noir. To me, it is the perfect anime. It will be hard, if not impossible, for another show to top this one in my mind, because literally, it’s flawless. So I recommend that everyone try it out. If you can, rent it from your favorite video store, or buy a disc. I think you can buy a disc for pretty cheap (look for disc 1, because later discs would only confuse you). But if you’re interested in it, you can pick it up from The Right Stuf for about $55, or you can probably get it at your local Best Buy for cheaper. It’s well worth the price.

Overall: A+

My review of Dragon Quest VIII, one of the best RPGs to come out in a relatively light year.

Mark reviewed Perfect Dark Zero, which is a good thing, because I didn’t like it at all, and he enjoyed it more for what it is. So it all turns out for the better.

He also reviewed Ridge Racer 6 for the 360. Me and my 360 compadre have been lighting up the charts!

Widro reviewed Guitar Hero a game that I SOOO want to get for Christmas. If not, I’ll buy it myself. And maybe Konami will FINALLY f*cking bring Guitar Freaks over here. Beatmania finally hits America in March, so mark it on your calendars!

Lucard likes to tip cows. Not the ones that give milk and go mooo though. HAH! Ok, yea, that wasn’t funny.

Well, that’s it for another week. I hope you had a good time. Come back again next week when I review more stuff, and start to get ready for Christmas!