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Zombies of Mars

Movie roasting: 2005’s Doom

Despite what Geoff Keighley might have told the world, I don’t think video-game-turned-movies had improved at all since the aughts. For one thing, they kept going back to the zombie subgenre of horror. Just look at the release schedule between 2002’s Resident Evil and 2023’s Last of Us on HBO. Also, like how the video games kept getting away from copying James Cameron’s Aliens, the movies based on those did the same in those “pre-historical” days. So, when it came to adapting the first archetypical first-person shooter, a stone-cold classic titled DOOM, they made a zombie movie in which no one shoots back at the “good guys”.

The late Ryan Davis had roasted this piece of shit on the site before. But there are certainly new reasons to condemn the movie after that TANG episode came out. Let’s start with how they wasted two actors suitable to play Doomguy for the price of one.

Between a Rock and an Urban zone

Dwayne Johnson, who still only went by “the Rock” in the early aughts, was heavily centered in marketing Doom. Yet in the movie, Mr. Johnson was credited in the last as “And the Rock”. Karl Urban of New Zealand is the top billing talent here playing John “Reaper” Grim. As the expression “doom and grim” goes, guess Mr. Urban’s character is at least closer to the Doomguy.

One review I read back in 2005 considered this as miscast. Urban’s involvement in Hollywood up to that up were Eomer in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings flicks and 2004’s Bourne Supremacy. Neither role gives out the impression of ass-kicking male lead archetype, especially in the latter with Urban’s role being the last one the titular Bourne iced in the flick. The writer of that review was baffled how this nobody Kiwi was kicking a rising action star’s ass. I wonder if said writer would feel ashamed about their words after 2012’s Dredd, a movie provides so much fun out of a helmeted Karl Urban shooting up and throwing down fuckers who would shoot back. It’s almost like that cult favorite is a much better Doom movie than this zombie schlock.

What is admirable about the movie involves the faces Mr. Johnson made as his character Sarge had a steady Heel turn. Without one for “Hey, not too rough” of yesteryear, here are the 4 faces he made that match the 4 difficulties in 2016’s soft reboot and 2020’s Eternal.

I’m too young to die
I’m too young to die

About 4 minutes into the movie, a fresh-faced Rock between receiving order that kicked off the plot and dropping the line “We got us a game.”

Hurt me plenty
Hurt me plenty

After seeing the first causality in his squad, Sarge started to lose his cool.

Ultra-violence
Ultra-violence

After 4 squad members were dead, Sarge started a “taking no prisoner” policy. “We kill them all” as he said to the kid on the squad before a fatal “friendly fire” incident took place. Here is when my paranoia kicked in and started to think that this movie was made by people who bought into the negative press surrounding Doom games. Sarge started to shoot unarmed civilians, women and children off screen. No such non-player characters are present in 1993’s Doom and its sequel Hell On Earth, almost everyone there shoot back.

Nightmare
Nightmare

Pretty self-explanatory, wouldn’t you say? Well, the final action scene being a wire heavy pro wrestle like fist fight was certainly what they cast Dwyane Johnson for. Still, I would take helmeted Karl Urban shooting scar-face Lena Headey before throwing her out of a window in Dredd over this horseshit any day of the week.

Can’t tell them apart

Those who read Masters of Doom would know that James Cameron’s Aliens and Sam Rami’s Evil Dead flicks were major inspiration for 1993s’ Doom. To me an idealized Doom movie should lay on the Evil Dead side, with an actor like either Dwayne “Mr. Video Game” Johnson or Karl Urban just throw down with one type of demon after another, then it might become action movie of the year whenever it comes out. Revenants can have very cool action designed around them. Sadly, the 2005 flick we got laid into Aliens’ land and fouled up some key factors.

For one thing the squad barely contains any character. They spread that macho bullshit in their barracks and there is a sense that this Mars job is the first time they get together. The whole movie feels like a mission in XCOM games goes FUBAR from the start.

For another, the creature design is underwhelming, not only by the “is it faithful to the game” standard, but also by movie monster standard. While the IMDB page would give Doom fans the pronouns they know such as Imp and Baron, all one can see in the movies are zombie of different sizes and degrees of rotten. There is a Pinky straight out the game titled Doom 3, but let’s face it, that is the weakest design said monster ever had.

Poorly lit corridor, choppy editing and a script going through the motions all contributed to a movie that should have not been made in the first place. The action scene in point-of-view shot is quite ill-advised with its turkey-shoot approach. The so-called Imps do not have to throw fire balls for John Grim to dodge, but they can throw something else at him just to turn up the tension. Id Software’s first-person shooters are about shooting, but they are about moving more. The scene is nothing like it, instead it feels more like Resident Evil, which is ironic given the same year this movie came out, there started to be enemy types who shoot back in Resident Evil 4.

Last grains of salt

“Please stop!” is something one wants to say to Hollywood for many endeavors. Making movies or shows out of video games is currently something I would love to say to that lot. Granted I did find enjoyment in things like Arcane and Twisted Metal, but then I’ve never played League of Legends or any of the once Playstation flagship vehicle battler. Still with the critically acclaimed Last of Us feeling more like one long ass cut scene, the desire to sacrifice interaction for some bucks just reads as greed to me. And greed only leads to more foul-ups.

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Persona 3 Reload Review In Progress Chapter 4: Night Herself

(The following is based a save file of 62 hours and 52 minutes, up to December, twenty-first, 2009, in game date. A early virtual Me-ri-Ku-ri, which is short for “Merry Christmas” in Japanese, to all.)

As someone who is very interested in Greek Mythology, I shamefully didn’t know about Nyx until 2020’s Hades. Dubbed “Night Incarnate” in the game, she was the second friendly NPC I encountered only after the more famous Achilles. Hypnos would be there to laugh at the game’s player character. The titular final boss might not be on his chair if someone is good enough to face him during the first run. Orpheus the bloody bard was useless that early into the game. Only Nyx, who raised the son of Hades and Persephone, would offer the game’s player character a “Be careful out there” before another run. As I am near Persona 3 Reload’s endgame, I am increasingly convinced that people at Supergiant took a look at how Nyx and Persephone being positioned as final bosses in PS2’s Persona 3 and PSP’s God of War: Chain of Olympus respectively, and turned the closer to myth version of those deities into the friendliest NPC probably: the player character’s loving mothers.

Persona 3’s Nyx, spelled in Japanese as “nyu-ku-su”, is still a motherly figure or “maternal being” as “haha-na-ru-sun-zai” was oh poetically translated into English. They, since one cannot assign gender to darkness, just give birth to the Shadows one gets to fight in the game. They will come back and end all according to NPC Ryuji or Death (“de-su” with katakana in Japanese) as he announced the endgame in a cold December night, 2009. But I am getting ahead of myself for there is a truly eventful autumn before all the grim and doom.

The three “Anakin Skywalkers”

“Shinji, get into the fucking robot!” is a joke people tell regarding Neon Gensis Evangelion. Funny enough, this line is practically in Persona 3 when Akihiro asks Shinjiro, a mutual friend of his and Mitsuru’s plus S.E.E.S burnout, to come back to dorm and fight again. Where is “the fucking robot” in Persona 3, you ask? Why, the titular Personas of course. The Personas in Persona 3 animated movies behave more in line with human shaped war machines in mechs show than the JoJo stands that inspired them. Not to mention how everyone’s get upgrade respectively at certain plot points. Well, they are not called armor for one’s soul for nothing.

Anyway, Shinjiro just looks so like Hayden Christensen in the opening to yours truly that he can be considered as the Anakin Skywalker look like. When he came into the fray in early September, I thought “Get out of here, Mitsuru’s dad. Now this is the coolest motherfucker in the game.” “Cool motherfucker” is just my vulgar way to describe one of Atlus’s narrative strength: idealized masculinity. Shinjiro has the thug look and kind nature. Yukari saw that when Shinjiro saved her along with her Junior peers from bullies. When Akihiro said that someone used to cook a lot in the dorm, I thought “That got to that manly looking (Given the game’s two human shit heels, Takaya and Ikutsuki are both men with long hair, I don’t think artists of this game would put long hair against masculinity.) one wandering that town.”

Though it’s not to say that masculinity here is completely without toxic. Shinjiro’s video in the war room shows him shaming away from the fact that he studied cooking when 2 girls came into the dorm by pretending to sleep. Koromaru the dog, Aigis the robot and Fukka (Or one can assume that he is trying not to embarrass her too much. Reason will be discussed under.) my player character’s girlfriend are also in the footage. The dog barked that he was not asleep and the robot translated that into Japanese. The player character then still future had to push the robot away so the man can resume his study of cooking. The dog expressed his apology when the ladies left and here came the non-toxic cool bit of masculinity: Shinjiro said that it’s not the dog’s fault and offered to cook for the hound.

This anime Hayden Christensen and Ken, the anime Jake Loyd are connected in the narrative as the latter became an orphan due to the death of his mother caused by the former lost control of his Persona. Little Kenny pretty much aimed to have his revenge against Shinjiro with his newly found Persona power while Shinjiro was actually not long for this word due to the Persona damaging him from the inside. While I did buy into this tragic melodrama, but I am rather aware that this is pretty typical anime bullshit. Nothing is more effective than cliché when one can invest in the characters involved.

Shinjiro is only with the party for a month, between the full moon days of September and October. During this short period of time, the player character can engage in the back and forth regarding whether Shinjiro goes back to school or not. During the quest line, Mitsuru would open up about the origin of S.E.E.S, how her, Akihiko and Shinjiro started out in their Junior High years. This feels like the previous generation story typical in action comics for boys this game took inspiration from. What feels odd here is that “previous generation” members are only one year senior to the player character and they were younger in the flashback.

Shinjiro would die protecting the boy he orphaned from the gunfire of enemy Persona user Takaya in October. Of course, Ken didn’t lack courage in this situation. The enemy wanted to find and kill S.E.E.S’ navigator and Ken pretended that he was instead of spilling the bean. The main cast of this game is shown as a bunch of heroic cops so I guess it’s fair that the youngest among them would not hesitate to sacrifice himself. My player character certainly owns the kid one since he would go on to date said navigator in November.

That’s 2 Anakin Skywalker look like out, how about the third you ask? Well, first a brief history regarding yours truly and the brand “A Hideo Kojima Game”. I dived head first into Metal Gear Solid about one year after I saw Revenge of the Sith, starting with the worst one possible to be introduction, Sons of Liberty. I would not say why I think it’s so overrated here. Anyway, I went through the series up to 2015’s Phantom Pain, realized that spy commandoes code named Snake and the dory men named Emmerich can be seen as the 2 sides of Kojima becoming 2 separate characters. Combined that with Star War prequel in my subconscious, my mind can sometimes doubt cast Hayden Christensen as a Snake like killer and an Emmerich like dork.

Ikutsuki in Persona 3 is an Emmerich like dork but turns out he is a Huey rather than Hal. Under all those dorky puns is a man who sold the world. Up to November, the game’s rouge galley is composed of 12 giant Shadows, though Strega would seem to be destroyed under the November full moon as well. Ikutsuki told everyone that the research of Yukari’s father’s shows that killing all 12 would end Dark Hour and the Shadow threat (False final battle is a mainstay of Persona I guess. Though the Fool Arcana Social Link being at 6 should be a dead giveaway).

But in fact, killing all 12 is to turn on the doomsday machine. Ikutsuki took control of Aigis and captured all S.E.E.S members to sacrifice his new master (The image of those kid crucified is uncanny to this Ultraman episode. In Persona 5, when Codename Jack releases a Phantom Thief from a prison, the suit up sound effect sound a bit like Ultraman appearing. Perona games have it fake Power Ranger, implying there is Toku show focusing on bikes like Kaimen Rider. Then there are Ultraman homage in all are lost scene.). Mitsuru’s father sold his life dearly to save them and kill the shit heel, led to her long absence in November and eventually dateable status. Aigis overridden due to their priority to save the player character. Everyone just lost their purpose, the future is bleak.

The myth of one Kaoru Nagisa

With this being my fourth Atlus game, I think my brain is adjust to their style enough to regard the lack of female player avatar in their games as a good thing. Would you trust them to handle a lass codenamed Joker or Harlequin in Perona 5 well? She would be probably a victim of Shishido’s sexual misconduct and that’s a can of worm none of us would like to open. As for Persona 3, its demake dubbed Portable does have a female player avatar and she is received very well. Though given the triple casting with the male player avatar, it’s not hard to argue why Atlus consider the game with only him as definitive.

Akira Ishida had been in the game of voice acting long enough that he inspired some usual suspects nowadays to get such jobs, Yoshikatsu “Japanese Nolan North to yours truly” Matsuoka included. One surprise hit in Mr. Ishida’s career is Kaoru Nagisa in the final real tv episode of Neon Gensis Evangelion. Kaoru and Shinji were basically acting out the fabricating with the enemy doomed romance arcs (Well, this bloody game got one for party member Junpei and of course the girl who was an enemy died.) that Mobile Suit Gundam started in 1980, with the queer twist of course. While Hideaki Anno and crew retold the story in movie form, they devoted one whole feature length thing just to please fans.

Persona 3 on PS2 were sold in Japanese on its star-studded voice cast. With the player character speak so little, I do suspect the triple casting was to asssure consumers that Ishida would whisper sweet nothing to them in the game by hook or crook. In fact, Ishida’s first line in the game was out of the player character, but mysterious little boy in prisoner stripes named Pharos. This ghostly kid would appear one week before full moon to remind us that shit is about to go down and he would stop after all 12 giant Shadows slain. Then a dashing highschooler with the same mole as Pharos named Ryoji would appear in November. He would accompany the gang on a journey to Kyoto, a week of work rather than study and played a tune for player character before disappeared into thin air. All girl liked him but Aigis hated hits guts.

Ryoji turns out to be Death, who would appear after his 12 brethren Shadows were dead. He has a child-like curiosity regarding the world he is born to kill and enough pity to spill out everything for our heroes. Which led to the things I opened this chapter with. “God killing endgame” is not new in JRPG, though I guess the “The throne of Supreme Being is empty, now every Tom, Dick and Harry who consider themselves divine are having a go” bullshit is limited to Persona 5 Tactica. Nyx does not have their finger on a big red Reset button, they are summoned by one. Ryoji offered the heroes a choice, kill him on December, thirty-first so they can face the end without pain or face the end with painful foreknowledge. I say it’s a false choice for the former does not lead to the final boss and I am determined to see credits roll only after I beat the final boss. With the release added to the game’s page, I am ready to writhe a product review as the final chapter. But before that, allow me to end this one on a slightly lighter tune.

Blue over pink and red

Many still see Persona games as half dating sims. So how can my player character not have a girlfriend. I missed the better side of Ryuji in Persona 5 due to my skirt chasing there. I counted 6 Romance options, including one in the faculty that I would not touch with a ten-foot pole. The Jocky and the Booky both have nice designs, but as someone always dates party members in Mass Effect games, I was just building up my character for ladies I locked shield with.

All 3 dateable party members would not open the Social Link until after the player character maxed out a quality in the Social Stats: Courage, Charm or Intelligence (No I would not use that A word). Courage for Fukka with blue hair and blue shirt, since it’s about trying out her terrible cooking (Yep, I guess once think that the late Shinji is considerate towards her when he pretended not learning cooking.). Charm for Yukari in Pink. Intelligence for the fiery redhead Mitsuru since she can be quite the sugar mummy when the player character does well in tests, giving him resource for dungeon raiding I mean.

Courage was the first quality I maxed out during summer vacation which is fitting for this whole mid-night warrior thing. So, I dived into Fukka’s Priestess Social Link immediately in early September. Maybe it’s the white pantyhose plus mini-skirt design or the ghostly soft talk, when her Social Link reached 9 on November, thirteenth, Friday, (53 hours and 57 minutes into the game.) I selected yes to her advancement. Mamiko Noto, the voice behind Fukka was regarded by a corner of the internet as perfect dubbing voice for Dr. Liara T’soni of Mass Effect fame and the writing here is on par with “I got admit my interest is beyond professional, Commander”. How could have I said no.

Yukari is the one with “just friends” vibe, though things did get spicey on December, twenty-first when player character triumphed in street fight to get her purse back. The option of being a sexist 70s movie man is on the table but I think it’s too painful to say to a friend.

There is a mean-spirited way to describe Mitsuru, the orphan collector who became an orphan herself. And it’s after her becoming an orphan that her Social Link of Empress Arcana opened up. It was already 2 hours after (56 hours and 2 minutes on November, twenty-first, Saturday. Granted I took her to Tartarus for a Monad hunt first during the 2 hours.) I made commitment to Fukka. I only play the skirt chaser, not the fuckboy. But Persona Harlin of Empress Arcana is a back-up healing option I got so I dived in. What I got is another reason to roast Persona 5’s handling of characters.

Mitsuru Kirijo is a fancy queen cop. The storyline of her social link is about player character taking her to places where a fancy lass like her is not often seen: noodle shop, fake McDonald, snack stand, the movies along with a couple of visits to the library given the quality she values. She reveals that she might be married off to some older asshat to secure a future for her family company.

Then said asshat showed up when Empress Social Link reached 8, appeared as a coward classist. Mitsuru gave him a firm talk-to while expressed her affection for the player character. Choice to accept or decline appeared at Social Link 9 along with the reminder that I was in a committed relationship so I declined. She took it with a smile and asked me to buy her dinner just to make up for it. At Social Link 10 she showed me her bike and promised a road trip. It does feel more romantic than Fukka giving a pair of better earphones I got to say.

The thing with her asshat ex-fiancé was resolved off screen as his company would assist Kirijo Group without a marriage proposal. I guess after she told the Group employees, who fit under this “peasant” umbrella the rich man used, what a classist he was, the deal was off. To think how Persona 5’s fancy lass Haru does not have a chance to say “Fuck you” to her fiancé just because no party member’s Social Link involves manhunt in Mementos, this feels good.

Culture shock finite

Velvet Room’s Elizabeth asked my player character to hold her hand when she visited his room in the dorm. The lady in blue is voiced by Miyuki Sawashiro, who voiced a very different Elizabeth in Bioshock Infinite’s Japanese dub. The twin Velvet Room attendants of Persona 5 have a Social Link but I failed to pursue that one for how it would take time from my more skirt chasing approach (Reasons include not limited to the fact that they wear shorts).

However, showing Elizabeth around town does not require passage of time so I maxed out. Of course, she does not leave her post at the player character’s invitation. One got to do her bidding before she follows: reach certain level of Tartarus and recover certain item; fusion a particular Persona; get something from some corner of the town. The showing her around the town is packed with physical comedies so I highly recommend.

This Elizabeth is also key to dungeon crawling. Once hard roadblocks reached, her phone calls would tell player when hard roadblocks lifted. She also calls in for missing person cases, including 2 cases regarding people with Social Links. It certainly adding stake in ways Persona 5’s optional manhunts do not.

Close out on movies

“It’s like the movies” is said under more than one occasion in the game. First Fukka would call Tartarus’ fourth ancient ruin looking area something out of treasure hunting movies. Then people dancing in a night club would say the same about the conspiracy theories surrounding the city.

The wee lad in the dorm Ken would usually do 2 things in the nights, making coffee (Skill point potion) and rent a movie to share with the player character. Given that I had taken him to the movies to watch Tokusatsu, I thought he rented something similar. Turns out it’s dad cinema about cool detectives, which to a degree is similar to Tokusatsu for kids. Tsubagaya tried to merger those 2 in their 2023 Ultraman show. Yours truly was certainly introduced to dad cinema while watch Tokusatsu as a six-year-old.

And I guess it’s the charm of Persona games: when they are spot-on, they are more spot-on than lots of photo real fantasy out there despite the cartoon appearance. Attorney of law seeing court -house as casino is in Persona 5 not that 2016 Naughty Dog game. Bar of game being a reflective artform of life is still very low, and here is to it can be raised a bit.

(To be concluded as a user review)

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Persona 3 Reload Review In Progress Chapter 3: Nights of hunters and rescuers

(The following is based on a save file of 33 hours and 21 minutes, up to August, the thirty-first, 2009 in-game date. Still on the Deck. Still in Japanese.)

There is a pre-gendered cut scene more than a dozen of hours into Persona 3 Reload during one of its early June days. It shows off the newly designed costumes for the then 6 members of S.E.E.S. and feels so ritualistic that I was excepting a late title card at the end of it. The title card did not come, but the game did show one way to interpret the titular Reload. Theurgr is the newly added personal ultimate skill along with this remake’s new costume. While it’s not shown in actual use with right trigger, the tutorial for those shows Yukari sliding a magazine (Or “cartridge”, the unfired bullet with shell casing and gun powder, as it’s called in Japanese) into her Evoker, firing and unleashing a powerful attack in spite of elemental consideration. Only time will tell if Reload would become another Eureka or Phoenix Down.

This is the stories of a summer, early June to the last day of August to be precise. Heat is up in more than a way. The plot finally reveals itself in term of asking why and throws out some cop show bullshit yours truly would eat up. Friends and foes alike came out to play. Summer 2009 certainly offers no rest for the wicked.

Messy legacy

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 on PS2 is undeniably a stone-cold classic even if you look at its influence alone. Coming out in the mid aughts, it would be easy to deduce that decision makers at miHoYo were young and easy to influence back then when they played the game, so much so that Genshin Impact’s start-up party shares 2 cast member with Persona 3. All in all, this Atlus RPG can be seen as one of the several midwives that help modern gacha whale baits to crawl into this world. Guess it’s fitting that the game’s plot is about people dealing with their own messy legacy.

Mitsuru’s family the Kirijoes conducted an experiment in 1999. It went pear shaped and brought all the problems: Dark Hour, Tartarus dungeon and 12 big boy Shadows the player’s party has to hunt. Yukari’s father is quite literally the chief engineer of this fiasco though she was denial until seeing his remorseful confession on video. It’s entertaining to see the cold cat fight between Yukari and Mitsuru being more in line with the hostility between McNulty an Daniels in the Wire. Grandpa Kirijo is responsible so the granddaughter feels remorseful about things. Papa Kirijo is so far the coolest motherfucker yours truly saw in this game: eye patch and a straight laced attitude. He roasted his daughter for not play it straight with her hunt party in a stoic way. Who says beach episode can only be filler when Persona 3 used it as prelude to lore dives.

Part of the messy Kirijo legacy is the rouge galley of hostile Persona users called Strega. Their leader Takaya just screams hippy leader of a doomsday cult with no shirt, long hair, thin beard, arm tattoos and a Dirty Harry gun. Jin the seemingly brain speaks with the western Japan accent and the token girl Chidori starts a probably doomed “romance” with party member Junpei.

Strega crawl into the main plot on the July Full Moon Night, when S.E.E.S. operates in a hotel. Then the 2 parties made contact on August, and Atlus says “Subtlety is for cowards” yet again. The guns of August to be decommissioned are hidden in an Army underground base, and of course Army in the Japanese context means the infamous Imperial Army of World War II. S.E.E.S sets out to put an end to the Shadow threat along with Personas while Strega embraces those as part a new reality. Direct conflict is yet to come, but the fall promises some bitter harvests.

Doors, doormen and cats, real or otherwise

Tartarus during summer is proper Alien, as in the 1979 movie. Giger land is still on the menu during June nights while July and August give out an industry zone, just like the 2 flavors in Ridley Scott’s second feature. The dungeon is mainly segmented by hard and soft road blocks: the former come after some document about history of the man-made island and can only be lifted as the story progress; the latter come after permeant exists and contain imaginary doors and more than real doormen. “Mini boss” can be used to describe those doormen. Those are not optional though there are optional red doors and the monsters behind. As if to make up for party member not so active to be on par with the more active ones, there are clocks as chances to allow them to level up without taking too much risk.

Like the manhunt in Persona 5’s Mementos, there are missing person cases in Persona 3. While Persona 5 designed those as mini bosses, I am glad that Persona 3 Reload does things rather differently. The party arrives at the level the missing person is located then has the option to get them out immediately or after the level is picked clean. No boss fights. I guess believing those people would survive the imprisonment of some monsters is to suspense too much disbelief. Ah, yes, “save the cat” is well and alive in this game. Elizabeth of Velvet Room told me that some small creature had entered Tartarus twice, both were cats. At least those pusses gave me fragments of twilight, the fantasy lockpick of this game. Also I love how too low level Shadows run, those rent-a-cops in Persona 5’s palaces take their jobs way too seriously.

Sweet summer children

Slipping anime from cartoons is truly slipping hair. But there are points to be made regarding their differences. For example, modern anime’s ensemble casts are usually composed of plucky highschoolers, which can describe both Persona 4 and 5. But not 3, the earlier game’s intention to mimic older days of Japanimation can be seen in its non-highschooler party members, namely the kids, the robot and the dog. Strangely they all come into the play during summer. Apology in advance for some Mass Effect bullshit.

Not quite a kid

Kid number one or the fake kid is Fukka, the girl in supporting role who would free Mitsuru for filed duty. She is a Junior highschooler like the player character, Yukari and Junpei, but her short statue and mild manner do make her seem younger. Also, stop menacing her, Junpei, for crying out loud. Fukka can be ordered to analyze enemies for elemental consideration and give those in field some buff. Code name Joker in Persona 5 might take a look at her and ask Futaba on his crew “Why cannot I ask you for anything like that?”

As someone who were just young enough when Star Wars prequel came out, I would call one character “the Anakin Skywalker looking motherfucker” and another “Coulda been played by Natalie Portman” in a JRPG starting with Law and Rinwell in Tales of Arise. Fukka can certainly be played the young Portman in Leon the Professional or Heat. But of course she is played by Mamiko Noto. During the last Lunar New Year of Dragon, when hype train arrived at station Mass Effect 3, Ms. Noto was seen as the only proper Japanese dubbing voice for Dr. Liara T’soni by one small corner of the internet. Now I saw Fukka’s light blue presence and distress in her damsel in distress arc being stock somewhere, I agree.

The mindful weapon

Lore dive is not the only thing this game’s beach episode offers, new party member is also introduced. Aigis (or Aegis) is the last active anti-Shadow weapon and an android girl, whose introduction is said to include something trans folks disliked. Personally, I just think the scene did the women dirty. It takes place the second day the party comes to the beach for R&R and briefing. Junpei being extremely aggressive when it comes to playing with water and Fukka around. The girls decide to do island roaming the next day while the sausage party of three is dicking around on the beach quite literally. The girls are told to retrieve an anti-shadow “tank” while the boys have their phones in lockers somewhere.

The sausage party of 3 have 3 failed talks to women, with the first 2 time being looked down on by older women. The third time in the original was said to be the sausage party not ready to add another type of transphobia while here the chick is mad as a hatter and wants lots of their money. I got to say this is already a nicer kind of rubbing trans folks the wrong way, given that the 2 trans women in Persona 5 are genuine menace. Then enters Aigis. The other 2 boys cannot approach them (I am going to use “they/them” as that’s my preferred way to address machine intelligence’ personhood), and they run off on the player character before giving him a hug when they think they are alone. And the “date” with Mitsuru during a summer festivity turns out to be keeping one eye on this piece of property for her company.

Aigis is voiced by Maaya Sakamoto. Ms. Sakamoto is a very talented voice actor for pulling the perfect they/them voice to my ears. Despite being through thick (Aerith from Kingdom Heart to FFVII Rebirth) and thin (Lightning in FFXIII trilogy) with Final Fantasy, she is decidedly not a gamer. She dubbed Margaret Qualley in Death Stranding but according to her gaming or more-friendly-with-Kojima co-stars during Tokyo Game Show 2019, Sakamoto is definitely on the “Hideo Kojima? Never heard of him” side.

Archetype for archetype, Ms. Sakamoto could have voiced EDI in Mass Effect 2 and 3, but the thing about her perfect they/them voice is that her performance usually lacks the “it girl” factor for the sexy robot lady archetype. Speak of EDI though, their English voice Tracia Helfer could have been cast as Aigis in some commercial for Persona 3’s English release. But why bother a regular on Battlestar Galactica for a PS2 game in 2007, when hardware showcases launching one year after console outings were considered “slow”.

The watchdog turned hound

S.E.E.S is a hunting party put together by a fancy lass, so it does feel incomplete without a hound. And what a hound they have in Koromaru. With his Persona called Cerberus, Hades’ son Zagreus would look at his own red pet dog and think “Why do you only pounce once in a blue moon? Why can you listen like this white puppy and his soul?” Among the animal companions of Second Persona Trilogy, Koro certainly takes Gold while the other 2 can have bum fight for Sliver. Actually it would be much of a fight, I spent less than 5 hours with Persona 4’s Teddy and I already want to kill it with fire while I grew to like Morgana the way I grew to like the long-winded game the little shit is in. But the short time with Koro the Shiba Inu is more than enough to make him the best boy.

Oh, poor Junpei! Even in the bonding event tagged as with him, the show can be stolen from him. He wants to show the kid living at the dorm some fun time by letting him smash a melon, with the intention to show the girls how well he is with kids of course. But it becomes another sausage party with the player character, Koro and later Akihiko. The story about him giving up baseball is told, for he gives the kid his old bat to smash the melon and says he would not need it anymore. The dog, who had lived through the death of his caretaker, is sad in a “Junpei not needing the bat is the saddest thing he heard in his life” kind of way. Damn I love this dog and it’s like he can say something nasty to undermine that.

The new kid at the dorm

Persona 3 is pretty abundant on the Anakin Skywalker looking motherfucker front. Persona 5 got 2 by Royal: first there is Adachi, murderous bastard completed with a suit of black armor and holding a door before he dies as redemption; then Royal gives us a dorky shrink as the key to the definitive edition’s third semester. Persona 3 has a killer and a pun dropping dork skulking in the background, despite how the latter gives the S.E.E.S kids their new kits, neither warrant serious mention yet. Then comes Ken, aka anime Jake Loyd voiced by Megumi Okata. Ms. Okata is good at the young and anxious, probably most famous for Shinji Ikari in EVA. The kid was only supposed to shar the dorm for the summer, but by late August he joins to hunt the killer Anakin Skywalker look like, for he might be responsible for some death in the kid’s life. With Ken’s spear, I realize that the gear icon of the third whacking type is actually Stab instead of Projectile.

Movie marathon

Persona 3’s summer ends with a film festival and the day time can be spent with one party member or peer at the school in the movies. Got to hand it to the writers, they do know their genres and subgenres of cinema. Yours truly went to the movies with 2 peers and all party members up to that point. There is a sports er, marathon with the manager of the track and field club. Then French movies with Pepe, the French student whose use of Japanese can come out as queer in more than one sense of the word. Yukari shared some fiction about youth while Junpei likes Hollywood super hero flicks.

Akihiro and Aigis both goes for material arts cinema, but the former saw the unarmed variety while the latter jokes about ninja after viewing. Fukka watches hard science fiction with near future setting while Mitsuru tries out Romance, the result of those 2 is unexcepted. Appreciating foreseeable future with the girl in chair increases Charm while hearing the fencing ice queen criticizing tropes of cinematic love stories is actually good for one’s Intelligence. Taking Ken to see some Tokusatsu would add to my Courage but I maxed out before that, due to failed burger challenges maybe.

I tried to sneak the dog into the movies, but reasonably failed. Now I owed the best boy a movie date on the last day of summer, so excuse me I am going to make up to him before shit hits the fan in fall.

(To be continued)

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Persona 3 Reload review in progress Chapter 2: Night Shifts

(The following is based on a save file of 12 hours and 57 minutes, up to June, the Ninth, 2009, in game date. Language option unchanged from previous chapter, of course.)

Jitte was standard issue for police officers (If we can call them that) in seventeenth century Japan. The metal baton can be seen in Stan Sakai’s graphic novel Usagi Yojimbo, usually used to disarm some sword wielding assailants. In those books, Usagi’s cop friend Ishida also wields it like a badge whenever he is denied the answer he seeks. So if Sakai would ever do the “cop turning their gun and badge in” plot point (Which might be likely with the cop being a Hidden Christian.), all Ishida has to do is drop that baton.

Why was I thinking about cops of late feudal Japan? Well, Evokers sure make S.E.E.S members in Persona 3 look like cops in this late capitalism era that might outlast us all. Your truly once had the wrong impression that Persona 3’s player character is a highschooler who got recruited into a special police unit by actual cops. I mean Mitsuru is jackbooted while Akihiko wears a detective style vest. Combined with Junpei’s chin beard, they all seem like adult ass adults. But S.E.E.S by June is still composed of highschoolers entirely, they just wear Evokers like badges, around their waists on a belt, except Yukari. While plain clothes female police detectives in fiction can be seen wearing miniskirts as their usual workplace outfits, yours truly certainly never saw one wrapping her badge or service weapon on her thigh (Unless it’s covert packing for undercover job where skirts are usually longer and the weapon would be on the inner side not outer). Anyway, this is a story about those cops and their first 2 night shifts.

Found a pattern

Hard road blocks in Tartarus is not the suitable place to pause while the nights of full moon in this game might be. Lunar calendar month has 30 days that can be neatly separated into the beginning, middle and end, with 10 days each other. Full moon appears at the ends of beginnings in April, May and June. The April one serves as tutorial for the game’s turn and command based combat while May and June are time for work and serve as chapter cappers so far.

Those first full moon nights do feel like safe harbors under attack. April sees Shadow coming to the dorm player character stays in. May takes place on monorail, the way to get around. June is about saving a student from getting trapped in Tartarus at school.

So far Tartarus offers 2 kinds of decoration: the school but larger-than-life and the Giger Land. And yes, the rescue mission in June takes place in Giger Land. Both full moon night sortie so far feel like capital A Assignment for the parties are locked. Fair enough for the Mayday since there is problem of being understaffed. But June forces one to take a sausage party of 3 with excuse of Junpei wants a chance and Akihiko wants a piece of the action. Gender is not my problem there, elemental variety is. Yukari’s suite of Projectile, Wind and more healing option is much more preferable to Junpei’s combination of Cut and Fire, which is identical to player character with Orpheus active.

Turns out I do not hate real time countdown as much as I thought. I found the only one in Persona 5 frustrating not because of the clock but how the corporate fat cat in chair rolls: if those robots are not taken out within 2 turns, they will be replaced by fresh enemies player needs to damage all over again. Persona 3 Reload’s May set-piece has a 30 minutes countdown for the boss Prestress, fail state being a clash between 2 carts. A third of her hit points down the countdown would shorten to 13 and 4 minutes respectively. This does provide nail biting thrill and I find it dreadful to imagine how no direct commanding party members in the PS2 original goes.

The Good, the Bad and the Queen

Almost 13 hours in, while the plot has yet to get going, the character arches seem to take shapes. Well, except the regular Joe player character and Yukari the plain Joe. Though the game does acknowledge the fact Atlus drew the player character pretty on one occasion. During a Community (“Social Link” in the English version I believe.) event with the old couple at the second hand book store, the old man would call his wife “men-ku-i”, usually women who like men with good looks, and the player character showing his fresh face does light up her day. A whole happy wife happy life routine. I am going to be off topic here, the old man called his wife “wa-i-fu” in Hira kana during the scene they were formally introduced. This is in line with how “waifu” is used in Japanese media, not what weebs calling anime ladies, but how older men introducing their actual spouses usually to someone young enough to be their child if not grandchild. “Yo-me” meaning “bride” was how otakus called their objects of affection at least the last time I checked back in 2009. No, I don’t know the counterpart to “husbando”, I just think English speakers should drop it along with “waifu”.

Back on topic, 3 party members still manage to feel developed in the relatively short time I spent with them. The 2 boys here because I chose to engage their bonding events marked with double exclamation marks. As for Mitsuru, well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. Though I got to say Persona 3 did a much better job laying the ground for party members before they join. Persona 5 might have Makoto and Haru in the background, but other than making one think “why do those 2 have character portraits while others do not”, not much story before they join. While in Persona 3, seeing that Anakin Skywalker looking dude head-butting someone is all I need. Could just be Atlus doing girls in their fiction dirty.

The Good is the latest to the party, Akihiro. The bonding event starts as player character and him go to grab a bit, leading into weird situation of him almost getting a fight because he wants to sit up to bullies. Atlus knew what they were doing when they cast Midorikawa almost 2 decades ago and the actor still does not miss a bit in the remake. Stoic is cool in this case.

The Bad is of course Junpei. The bonding event with him is more or less a dick measuring contest in the arcade. Again, I found it dreadful to imagine how a female player character fit in here, I can find out when I become deranged enough to pick up Portable again. This boy seems to be the one winking at the audiences, since he did throw out the possibility of their exploit being made into a video game. When Akihiro joined, he went “Now a four people RPG party can be formed”. “Just like in the movies” was said by him after the stopping monorail in time situation of full moon night in May, but I guess people of his great grandparents’ age would link exciting swashbuckling adventures to cinema.

And Mitsuru is a motherfucking queen. Makoto in Perona 5 might have the codename Queen, but that lousy undercover cop was just having a bum fight with the lousier Phantom Thieves while the spring chicken Michell Yeoh looking lady in Persona 3 runs a tight ship. Everyone sits down and study before tests under her eyes after all. During the cut scene before full moon night in June, she roasting a student and a teacher in equal measure to get information is impressive that only rich confident girls in fiction like this can be. I do look forward seeing her in the field now someone more suitable is going to sit in the support role chair.

At summer’s doorstep

New uniforms mean new season, as the virtual heat turning up in the game. I do hope when I sit down and write the next chapter of my impression, plot will heat up as well. As the weather is still freezing my ass off here the city housing miHoYo global headquarters., summer time in a game sounds like the best escape one can have.

(To be continued)

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Persona 3 Reload Review in Progress Chapter 1: Night School

(The following is based a save file of 5 hours when Tartarus throws out its first hard roadblock at Level 22 by April, twenty-fourth, 2009, in-game date. Played with both Japanese text and voice on Steam Deck.)

The fine members of this community are yet to add release date for the Persona 3 remake. Yours truly is taking it as a sign to finally do the longer form of reviewing a rather long game. I don’t know the timeframe or frequency. But I am going to try by hook or crook. Partially because I got so much bullshit cooking up in my mind, let’s see how some of those would be committed to ink in a manner of speaking.

Introduction for the madness to come…

The more things change the more they stay the same. While PS2’s very own Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 and its remake dubbed Reload were released into 2 rather different worlds nearly 18 years apart, some of the things surrounding those 2 just stick out as uncannily. The original was out in Japan around the time when Big Boy E3 1.0 was put down behind some shed somewhere while the remake came out shortly after life support was finally turned off on Big Boy E3 2.0 (Will there be a Big Boy E3 3.0 is anyone’s guess.) Both games also came out between Greek Myth action games in English and their sequels respectively. The PS2 game came out in Japan between 2005’s God of War and its numbered sequel released in 2007 while the er, PC game was released after 2020’s Hades and before Hades the Second’s early access.

Why was I thinking about Greek Myth? Well, regardless of the version you pick up, Persona 3’s main dungeon is dubbed Tartarus for starter, one simply does not name something after the torture chambers of underworld in Greek Myth lightly. Then the 3 starting party members have their Personas named Orpheus, Hermes and Io, all different figures from that collective myth. It would be hard to accuse Atlus of chasing the tail of IGN’s GOTY 2005 since Io and the bloody bard way before Bill Shakespeare or even Homer were not in the God of War Greek trilogy as far as I can remember. Tartarus was not a level there until 2008’s Chain of Olympic on PSP and Hermes was not a boss until 2010’s God of War the Third on PS3. One cannot help but wonder if Orpheus and Hermes were in Hades at least in part due to Persona 3’s influence on people working over at Supergiant though.

All right, time to get on with it. Yours truly had tried Persona 3 Portable on the Switch. After 93 hours of playing Persona 5 Royal, a number had indeed been done on my head and I bought the demake along with Persona 4 Golden on Switch, the latter was on sale at the time of purchase. After one hour spent as the female player character, I thought I like the game enough to wait for the remake. So here I am, 4 hours into Reload as the writing of this chapter and those hours sure gave a much better first impression than Persona 5.

Bite size enjoyment against license to dick around

The Wikipedia page of Persona 3 called Portable the “An abridged Playstation Portable version”. It is a very fitting description since Reload took me 2 hours to get to the same point where I “paused” my Portable playthrough at, where the 3 people party of mine cleared out one single level of Tartarus and was ordered by a senior student to pull out for the night. Hub areas and animated (polygonal or otherwise) cut scenes are all absent in Portable. Both iterations of Persona 3 can be seen as anti-thesis to how things would be done in Persona 5 down the road though.

The Reload save file after its combat tutorial says 1 hour and 1 minute. Before that, there are a couple of days in school and some hub area introduction. Persona 5 showed its players a seemingly failed daring escape from a casino as tutorial for both combat and dungeon crawling then allowed them to save within 15 to 20 minutes after New Game was hit. Then Persona 5, vanilla or Royal (Got to say, the new girl of Royal showing up here to buckle some swash never ceases to feel shoehorned in.), would take that as a license to dick players around for the same amount of time to clear some Call of Duty campaigns before they allowed player to raid a dungeon to their heart’s content. I cannot remember preciously what was before my 4-hour mark into Persona 5 Royal, probably with Morgana being excited about the work bench they set up while I was thinking when can I get that asshat Kamoshida. What I am sure of is that Persona 3 Reload had provided more enjoyment within the same time frame.

The player character in Persona 3 is far from the center of universe the way Codename Joker in Persona 5 seemingly is. He is just the new kid here, while the rest of his future party members had their own things going on. His classmates Yukari and Junpei are rude to each other in ways only childhood friends can be. His seniors Mitsuru and Akihiko got their shit to sort through. The player character is mere the catalyst since with him here now the assault on Tartarus is finally not understaffed. Ah, yes, Velvet Room and the ability to sum…Sorry, I meant “evoke” more than one Persona help as well.

In many ways, Persona 3’s combat is built on “You better run, cuz we got guns!” thinking more than Persona 5. The gun-shaped Evokers (The original Japanese is closer to “Summoner” or “the summoning device” to be more precious, but I guess Atlus preferred not to risk the wrath and greed of Square Enix’s legal department.) are more powerful, useful and require more care than the literal toy guns in Persona 5. For starters, the users of Evokers point those things real near to their eyes. Here in miHoYo’s country of origin, air soft guns powerful enough to permanently damage human eyeballs with one single discharge are illegal to hold without a license, so the risks can be felt by yours truly.

Then there is ammo counting and preparing, Persona Skills triggered by the Evokers take hit points or skill points to cast, so pile up the potions for the new design is bit closer to injector with trigger. It’s also fun to see that “whack” is separated into 2 elements: one with shape edges and another with blunt ends. Projection is also present with starting party member Yukari wielding bow and arrows, “pull your bow on” is a way to say “kill” in Japanese, or at least that’s how someone working for Square Enix chose to translate it in the opening monologue of NieR Automata, Laconic but lacks certain poetic flair.

Tartarus is a dungeon appears in player character’s new school during Dark Hour (Or “Shadow Time” if you want to slip hair about the translation. Well, “time” and “hour” do share the same 2 kanjis with the same order in modern Japanese.), the time between days as the game states. Here in the city where miHoYo global headquarters is housed, we have an insult that can be roughly translated into “13 O’clock”. No, it’s not another way to say 1 p.m. but rather a way to call someone an SOB without dragging one or both of their parents into the conversation. Legend has it, the insult originated because a clock tower stroke 13 times instead of 12 at 12 a.m. some day and messed up many’s lives. As someone born and raised in that city, yours truly cannot help but wonder about origin of similar urban myth.

Despite the dungeon layout being randomly generated, one should not call Persona 3 a rouge-like or even rogue-lite. The dungeon levels have permanent or otherwise teleportation points for player to back to the entrance and save progress. Yours truly would call it a day after finding a permanent tele-pad and continue from there the next day.

Regarding the post-Persona 5 quality of life improvement, I rather love the save almost anywhere feature. I mean if a book cannot hold a bookmark where you leave it then that book is mechanically faulty. Funny how long the console gaming crowd put up with the more obscure approach. While I love the combat commands are all mapped in face buttons, bumpers and triggers now, the visual change of it into just a circle is bit disappointing, perhaps have something to do with the new Evokers design not like a revolver. Still I rather miss the short time I spent with Portable’s revolver wheel and commands with cylinders. Well, at least I can look the one with that arms-dealing cop, huh?

Something, something, Mass Effect

Okay time to really get up my bullshit, for translating Japanese, law in China and Shanghainese swear are merely things bled through in this looser form of blogging. Japanese voice actors and Mass Effect trilogy are where my passion lays. While I had my say on the fantasy bookings, seeing that Persona 3’s English version on PS2 and Mass Effect on Xbox 360 sharing the year 2007 of their year of release does re-ignite something in me.

Like many “things” in life, the decline of Japanese er, “full-pirced” games in the mid to late aughts was a process, something people can spill tales out of. One of those tales is 2007 Keighley’s or Spike Video Game Awards 2007’s Best RPG category. Looking at the nominees, one can barely feel the decline of JRPG: Eternal Sonata on Xbox 360, Final Fantasy Tactics’ remake for PSP, Persona 3 on PS2 and Xbox 360’s very own Mass Effect, the token western one made in Canada. But the last one won, starting a trend of its whole trilogy plus the first Dragon Age to bring monkey shaped trophies to Bioware and spilt the tale of how it single-handedly defeated counterparts from across a continent plus an ocean. It’s not like Persona series fell back in its niche since then, Giant Bomb’s Persona 4 Endurance Run certainly contributed to the sea change in video game media, but the lack of some fancy trophy did paint a bleak picture.

As a once proud owner of Xbox 360, yours truly do lament the fact that Microsoft not paying attention to how Persona 3 digging its series out of a narrower niche led to their failure after failure in Japan. They wrongly thought that Hironobu “the Final Fantasy ‘creator’” Sakaguchi is a bigger brand than his creation, invested in his venture and did not get much in return. While what they could have done is hiring an usual suspect fitted dubbing cast for titles like Mass Effect to lure the so-called anime otakus in. But with Bioware being sold to EA, they did not give a shit.

Yours truly would call Persona 3’s road to mainstream as Tales Up. By which I mean following the footstep of Namco’s Tales series of JRPGs: animated adaption friendly art style and voices the target audience knew from their cartoons. With the former, the developers were also ready to outsource their pre-rendered cut scenes to animation studio way before they can receive loyalty for some anime. As for the latter, well, Persona 3 has the infamy of casting people who were in Tales game back from mid-1990s, the whole joint seemed obviously deliberate. It still beats the other road to mainstream I dubbed “photo real hellhole”, the resource intense approach Square Enix struggles with and not even Atlus nowadays can afford.

Anyway, yours truly prefer to think about the coulda when self-indulging. While Altus USA proudly presented to English speakers an all-new dub cast, the game is very much sold in Japan on most of the original cast being back. And how would they have raised the appeal of Mass Effect.

Akira Ishida as Commander Shepard(male)

Mr. Ishida played the player character in Persona 3, so it’s just a straight from player character to player character. Or maybe when I watched Mobile Suit Gundam Seed and its sequel with Destiny at the end, I thought Arthlan Zala, Mr. Ishida’s character, could have been a much meaner space commando. On the topic of Persona 3 Reload’s lacking female player avatar, I think it’s fair not only because of the relatively high resource intensity, but also how it might demolish Ishida getting triple cast (With the twist of “It’s actually just double cast”) in this game. There is also the following to consider.

Kohsuke Umitori as Jeff “the Joker” Moreau

Mr. Umitori played Junpei with a bright comedic voice in Persona 3. While I am open to like this kid in the future, for now he is a just bearded asshole wearing a cap and I don’t rely on him to be my getaway driver like I rely on that similarly bearded asshole wearing a cap in Mass Effect. In the little time I spent with Portable, this little shit doubted my character’s authority on the ground of gender alone, so I am quite glad not to see that whole ordeal with polygonal models in Reload. Well, high school Junior with chin beard does rub me the wrong way.

Hikaru Midorikawa as Kaiden Alenko

Mr. Midorikawa played Akihiro in Persona 3, one of tall, stoic and handsome girl magnets he played in his career. “Stoic” here pointing to him being very reasonable, like how he defended the female player character in Portable by saying “Well, she took out 2 Shadows, so follow her lead, Junpei”. Both the aforementioned Ishida and Midorikawa had been in different Tales games in the 1990s, and the latter happened to be the inspiration for Nobunaga Shimasaki, the one I picked for Kaiden in my fantasy booking piece, to enter the field. I am sure even the Commander Shepard might be attracted to a Kaiden voiced by this man. And speak of the commander.

Miyuki Sawashiro as Commander Shepard(female)

Ms. Sawashiro played Elizabeth, the attendant of Velvet Room in Persona 3. This is a complete retrack from my fantasy booking piece. If I am to do a recasting from Persona, Rina Sahto, the voice behind Makoto in Persona 5 would be picked. But that’s another game entirely. Ms. Sawashiro is a cast member shared by Persona 3 Reload and Granblue Fantasy Relink. Her character Katarina there sounding like Jennifer Hale talk tough in Japanese is why I cook up this bullshit in first place. Sawashiro also got double cast in Persona 3, I am yet to meet the rouge galley member she played. There might be some joke to be made regarding the Elizabeth in this game is Elizabeth the First since years after those 2 role partly got her through college, she would voice the player companion with a similar if not the same name in Bioshock Infinite.

Rie Tanaka as Ashley Williams

Ms. Tanaka played Mitsuru in Persona 3. The high school senior is still a support role in chair when I got to in Persona 3. Quite like the aforementioned Mr. Midorikawa (Who along with his wife were known to be unstoppable against their peer in an arcade game), Ms. Tanaka’s career is partially built on being one of the audiences. Cosplay is one of her hobbies (Though it’s hard to tell with actors) and gaming her vice. She claimed to having fun pursuing Mitsuru when she played Persona 3 on PS2. One had to assure partially to see how fragments from a cast member’s perspective were put together.

My earlies memories of hearing Ms. Tanaka were the ghostly soft talk of Lacus Clyne in Gundam Seed plus Destiny and Chi in Chobits. But it seems Mitsuru’s semi-masculine mid pitch is actually her A voice, since she pulled it for almost all her whale bait roles. There is Rosetta in Granblue Fantasy (Both the gacha and Relink, not a big role in fighting game Versusu.), Lisa in Genshin Impact and Himeko in both Hokai titles (Ah, yes, decision makers over at miHoYo sure love to cast her.) My favorite role of hers is Akira in Spaceship Yamato remake series, a dark skin fighter pilot from Mars who got the John McLane part in the Die Hard like mutiny episode. So maybe she can direct some of my affection towards the er, Xenophobic Alliance Marine in Mass Effect.

Megumi Toyoguchi as Tali

Ms. Toyoguchi played Yukari, the “plain Jane” party member of Persona 3. You know, the kind of “plain Jane” that writer wanted to write a certain way while the artist just went “Oh, this girl is going to put butts in seats for our animated features”. When I wrote my Mass Effect fantasy booking I planned to write her up for the role of Avina, the Citadel guidance Virtual Intelligence. Ms. Toyoguchi and Nao Toyama were both in Nisekoi’s Christmas episodes (Something I would watch along with Die Hard on Christmas every year.) as a mother and daughter duo. I want to hear young Toyama as EDI, the first friendly Artificial Intelligence in Mass Effect trilogy, so it would have been fun to hear a voice behind her on-screen mum as a VI. But, since Avina was not on Wikipedia’s listing of Mass Effect character, I scrapped that. Some of you might have heard her as Josuke’s mum in Jojo Part 4 already, recast later for reason unknown to me.

Toyoguchi was having a Gundam Seed reunion with aforementioned Ishida and Tanaka while she might be denied that in the recent for the time of writing Freedom movie (Or she might dodge a bullet there.). Toyoguchi played bridge operator Emila in Gundam Seed with a voice that can still sound seething over radio. Perfect for Tali, wouldn’t you agree.

Numbers and pauses

The different first impressions I have between Persona 3 and 5 made me wonder if the games take the numbers in their titles bit too seriously. 3 let me raid its dungeon to my heart’s content (and the bottom of my resource) within hour three while 5 did not until the save file said 5 hours and 54 minutes. 3 got a triangle when it comes to character building while 5 asked me to develop five different qualities.

Many, my future myself included, might read what was written above and go “You haven’t seen shit!” Which is fair, the piece is regarding very early stage of the game. How much can the first several hours get into in a 70 hours long game. This is certainly a pause with “to be continued” instead of a conclusion. I still have no idea how much each chapter would cover and with Lunar New Year vocation coming I just might see the whole thing through and write one single verdict piece to make this one look like a preview. We will see. But right now, I am loving it.

(To be continued? Or to be concluded? Not likely the end.)

EDIT: To be continued, “live” on the 13 o’clock news.

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Comparing Bonds

Double feature: GoldenEye and From Russia With Love

With an episode of Abnormal Mapping proper basically became Jame Bond podcast, it’s high time for me to dig up this idea I had back when the film franchise celebrated its sixtieth anniversary. After all, not only had yours truly watched all 25 films of said franchise but also read everything Ian Fleming wrote regarding the fictional British imperial agent while one of the AM duo had not read Fleming at all. Or they would not have made the mistake of thinking Fleming are into “old man SPA” here. Apology in advance for the C-bombs below. Some time, “appropriate” language just does not cut it. Or maybe thinking about an Irishman made one swear like an Irishman.

2024 contains more than one anniversary for the James Bond franchise. One being the death of character creator Ian Fleming on August the twelfth. Happy sixtieth year being dead, you old c***. Another being Goldfinger’s UK opening in September, and fuck that overrated piece of shit for fouling up the formula. To celebrate those, allow me to write about 2 Bond flicks that I do like.

I don’t suppose anyone excepts the line “The name is Bond, James Bond.” to be heard in cinemas for almost six decades. Though whether the franchise would really outlive the regime of Queen Elizabeth the Second is still unknown now in early 2024. But the marks the franchise made in its unbelievable 59 years run are undeniable, so in the order of me watching the two, let’s start with the relatively recent one.

A gold mine for interactive media

No Caption Provided

A screenshot of 1995’s GoldenEye, featuring Pierce Brosnan as James Bond firing a machine gun into a crowd of enemy combatants.

Like how James Bond is usually ordered to chase down someone in the films, the film franchise itself finds success in chasing cinematic trends throughout the decades. The Connery era would not have that many installments if the people behind them had not nailed mimicking North By Northwest. For the same reason, the franchise did struggle in the 1980s, after Cobra and Commando turned body-count of action cinema to sky high, Moore and Dalton simply looked like pussycats in comparison.

So, when it comes to a hard but not that hard reboot for the post-Cold War world, GoldenEye did make some changes. If actual love interest Bond Girl cannot shake the archetype of damsel in distress, the least that move did is turning her first on-screen distress into a legit stun she has to get through on her own. Then of course there is the blood in Bond’s hand. “Bad ass spy commando” just does not look so badass if he does not kill by dozen since the 1980s no matter how much swash he buckles. So, pick up a machine gun and mold down some fools, Mr. Bond. No, no, the girl can get out on her own, you weren’t there when she was first in trouble after all.

The ironic thing is, this successful imitator actually inspired things in a younger and dumber media form known as “video game” by first being adapted into a beloved classic on Nintendo 64. I haven’t played this one myself, nor that “Call of Duty clone” starring Daniel Craig. But I did play Perfect Dark when it was re-released on Xbox 360 and the Bond DNA is obvious there.

I wanted to focus on 2 series starting with the letter M. Seeing No Time to Die’s Metal Gear Solid and Mass Effect references made me cry “Oh, how the mighty had fallen”, for those 2 series started by ripping off GoldenEye with absolutely no shame. Guess M decided to pull out the stick up his or her arse and go to town on Bond by 2021 for such “theft”. I would try to limit the talk to 1998’s Metal Gear Solid, 2001’s Metal Gear Solid 2 Sons of Liberty, 2007’s Mass Effect and Mass Effect tie-in novel subtitled Revelations also of 2007. But reference to other installments of those 2 series might bleed through.

The big picture of “cop” versus “robber”

“Take one to catch one” is an old plot trope. In cinema, there was Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch A Thief by 1955. (Don’t ask me why I kept think about Hitchcock flick starring Cary Grant. You might as well dig up Al Hitchcock and ask him why he kept giving the late Grant swashbuckling gigs.). So, authorized agent versus rouge agent was not that new when GoldenEye came out. Quite an example to point to regarding video game’s immaturity, heh?

Still, Solid versus Liquid in 1998’s MGS and Shepard versus Saren in the original Mass Effect would both remind yours truly of GoldenEye, with a single flaw: Neither Liquid Snake nor Saren Arterius talks as smooth as Sean Bean playing Alec “006” Trevelyan. While Bean is famous for on-screen death in almost everything he is in, this movie killed him twice for the price of one by turning down the fall damage. Regarding the game titled GoldenEye Reloaded, Craig as Bond was already a replacement of a placement while that bloke replacing. Bean got the real short end of the stick.

Or maybe it’s the different ways those 3 handled the “cop versus robber” set-up: GoldenEye is a global trotting adventure; MGS mimicked Die Hard; Mass Effect is a spacefaring role-playing game where such set-up can be ignored for the most part. The 2 games also took different cues from the film.

MGS, the series as a whole not just its 1998 installment, has the habit of concealing the identity of the final bosses, much like how Bean steps out of the shadow twice in the film. Even in Snake Eater and Guns of Patriots where player knows who the final bosses are, the “what’s their deal?” mystery is pure GoldenEye.

Bioware RPG certainly cannot do the Bond film like escort mission, so the whole damsel in distress thing had to be cut out of the game and given to the tie-in prequel novel. And boy didn’t Revelations have a field day mimicking Aliens with that top-secret base getting raided bit. I am looking at you c****s, Blizzard and Bungie. Why did you start the trend of modeling science fictional military adventure after James Camreon’s gambit.

Details matter

It was bit fucking rich for the Konami Digital Entertainment employees worked on MGS 2 patting themselves on the back regarding making Solid Snake and Raiden keep the muzzles down when their firearms are in stand-by. Yes, their fearless leader Hideo Kojima brought in a consonant to correct that wrong impression of muzzle up the Brosnan Bond flick gave to the public. But this same fearless leader cut a lot of corners when it came to stunt pulling. There is the argument of making the stunt puller Solid Snake more mythic to be made, still Kojima is not the detail focused genius you all think he is.

The stunts in MGS2 I referred to is the bungie jump from George Washinton Bridge into the tanker during the opening credits and the dive after Metal Gear Ray just before the “No, for me” answering to “For the Patriots, Jack?” final boss fight. In typical Kojima fashion, he took something that were only 10 minutes apart from each other in something else and put a whole game between them. In GoldenEye, Bond bungie jumps into the Soviet facility and dive after the runaway plane, both before that Tina Turner song kicks in. While we never see how Solid Snake ties his cord, we can see Bond rushing in with the cord, securing it then dive. Bond even has a grappling hook to stick the landing while Snake’s acrobatic insanity has making into Terminator territory since focus is not Kojima’s strong suit. When Brosnan certainly showed his acting chop pretending to pull that plane up, Kojima did not show us jack shit regarding Solid Snake putting a tracker on the Liquid piloting Metal Gear Ray.

But I got to hand it to the man when it comes to Japanese voice casting. Probably realized that Akio Otsuka, the Japanese voice of Solid Snake, is the closest he got to a Sean Bean sound-like, while the actual Sean Bean sound-like such as Joji Nakata and Sho Hayami are likely on the side of “Hideo Kojima? Never heard of him.”, Kojima got cooking in MGS2 by double casted Otsuka as the unplayable for the most part Solid Snake and the game’s final boss Solidus Snake. A stunt unfortunately was not pulled in the English dub, for Solidus has a generic cartoon villain voice that one hears and simply goes “That’s not David Hayter doing Clint Eastwood.” English voice-over casting in video game simply did not appreciate a smooth talking villain maybe until Martin Sheen as Illusive Man in Mass Effect 2 and 3.

Into the world of espionage and assassination

From a film inspired a couple as far as I know to something inspired just one, I present to you all, From Russia with Love. No, not the PSP game, but the movie that would celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of its US release in May, 2024.

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A screenshot of 1963’s From Russia With Love, featuring Sean Connery as James Bond in the front and Robert Shaw as SPECTRE assassin Donald Grant skulking in the back. Grant is tailing Bond here to learn the face-to-face passcode of MI6 agents in that neck of the woods, so he can er, intercept the MI6 agent in the next train station, impose as said MI6 agent and make contact with Bond. Surely, Opportunities in 2016’s Hitman soft reboot and Story Missions in its 2 sequels took cue from this.

Buckle up, this “history lesson” might take a while

As someone was born in the year of 1990, my younger self, between the age of 6 and 8 to be precious, would consider everything shot in Technicolor as “contempeorary”. Both my parents were into Bond films in mid to late 1990s, so I watched with them. The first one I saw through does star Sean Connery. Ah, You Only Live Twice, how you had cursed me with a fascination with Japan. Though I did not watch From Russia With Love until a much later date. I first saw GoldenEye when I was 9 by the way, still much earlier than when I saw the second Bond flick.

It was the autumn of 2012 when the hyper-train arrived at station Skyfall. And how the title of that film foreshadowed my overall thought of it: hyper was sky high and the reality fell short. With Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy starring Gary Oldman pushing for sad spy blues while Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol pursuing high tech high adventure in the year before, Skyfall well, falling firmly in the middle just did not do it for me. It’s the same stand I would take comparing 24 to Person of Interest and Strike Back on TV. And speak of Strike Back, it’s very fucking cute that Skyfall ends with an outgunned Bond playing deadly Home Alone while that British action drama had done the same twice before, in board day light rather than Roger Deakin’s night scene lighting experiment no less.

But I did not find out until later. For here in miHoYo’s country of origin, Skyfall could be seen clearly until early 2013, so I started to watch all the Bond films that were available, starting with From Russia With Love without knowing at the time that I started with a showstopper. This second Bond film starring Connery is a boiler-plate but ultimately very effective spy thriller before Goldfinger made the whole thing into silly cartoons.

Based on the novel with same title by Ian Fleming, From Russia With Love followed the book relatively closely except for one major factor: Russians are behind the plot in the book while SPECTRE is in the film. Legend has it, Fleming thought Cold War against Russians would lose its appeal in late 1950s and early 1960s, not to mention eyeing the growing Russian film market, thus he went with the idea of a third faction playing both side off. Funny the old liberal c*** would think that, given Russians, if you can the hivemind there that, were very much into the idea of film industry being a Theatre of Cold War back then. They started to make the Academy Award winning War and Peace (The ambition of which was only matched by Hollywood once with a bloody Kiwi in charge in late 1990s) after all.

Back on topic

While From Russia With Love is cinematically normal compared to later installments of the series, the villain’s plot is no less elaborate. SPECTRE intends to both character assassinate and actually assassinate James Bond while make some bucks out of it, so they find a low ranking Russian female intelligence officer (The titular From Russia With Love if you may) and the decoding device she operates with as bait then stage a murder-suicide and sell said decoding device back to Russians.

Much like Fleming’s novel, Bond talking to his fellow men is more interesting than his filtering with so-called Bond Girls. Pedro Armendariz as Ali Kerim Bey, the head of MI6’s Turkey Station, is the MVP of this movie and the book it’s based on. His death at Grant’s hands qualifies as gone too soon. While I agree with the homo-romantic statement made here, I just don’t think anything fruity is taking place, the man considers sex as “salt mine” even though he crusades for large family for crying out loud. Men simply have more topics to talk about to each other. Their lousy job with mere potential of excitement for starter. Food, though that topic is exclusive to the book. And God forbids women hearing the nasty things they say about women.

Then there is Robert Shaw as Donald Grant, a character clearly inspired the chrome domed Agent 47 rather than Bond. This one always wears gloves for wet work after all. In fact, if you cut the blond top off Shaw, he would just look like the titular Hitman in those games. Grant is interesting in another way in this film, he does not have a line until more than 80 minutes into this about 2 hours long movie. Yet his skulking and killing do not make him into silent gimmicks like Oddjob, Jaws or whoever Dave Batista played in 2015’s SPECTRE. In fact, I don’t think Bond had ever met a match like this one. The parallel seen between 2 in the screenshot above is something this series of “silly cartoon” would never achieve. Craig era flicks came close, but even then they never framed the shots like this.

Why didn’t I talk about the action you ask? Well, I watched North By Northwest as well. While the stunts are impressive in From Russia With Love, it did nothing new compared to 1959 Hitchcock picture. But it does have professional spies instead, and how those talk to each other is where things differ.

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The one merely reached out

Reviewing Jack Reacher “A Tom Cruise Production”

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The poster of 2012’s Jack Reacher featuring its starring producer Tom Cruise as the titular character It’s funny to see Cruise carrying the pistol Reacher only uses once in the film. It would be like Vanquish having a poster of its player character Sam Gideon carrying that transforming Russian rifle he uses only in that game’s final Quick Time Event. It just seems funnier to me than character carrying a gun on the poster yet never fires once in the film like in the case of Sound of Freedom.

Full disclosure: I’ve not read one single book written by Lee Child as the time of writing. When it came to thriller novelists, the late Tom Clancy and Ian Fleming were the only 2 rabbit holes you truly went down a long, long time ago. I have not taken notice of Child’s creation, Jack Reacher until early 2022 when this Polygon review led me to watch Reacher on Amazon. “Schwarzenegger movie sure is back with a vengeance” was all I thought after that 8-episode binge.

Now the Amazon series had its season 2 aired and season 3’s production started, I think it’s high time for me to check out the previous attempt to bring Jack Reacher live on the screens: a 2012 movie made by basically the Mission Impossible people. Or maybe it’s a throwaway reference in Reacher season 2 that made me curious. I meant that Amazon show crew was basically saying “No, we are not touching One Shot by Lee Child. Not until after at least one Amazon cancelation, anyway.”

Written and directed by frequent Tom Cruise collaborator Christopher McQuarrie, the 2012 action thriller shares both strengths and weaknesses with all the director’s Mission Impossible movies. Well, not really, since Cruise’ Reacher does not come near any aircraft on screen. Still if you want a film screams “Tom Cruise is awesome, starring and produced by Tom Cruise”, this one might be more up your alley than any Mission Possible flick. Since those are legit ensemble pieces while Jack Reacher walks “tall” alone in this one.

Compared to the Amazon show, the 2012 film opens familiarly enough, with “murder most foul” like so many pieces of crime fiction would. We see a thug played by Jai Courtney sniped five random people in a parking lot and across a wide river. Then the police locks on a suspect named James Barr and picked him up. Strangely, this Barr character is not played by Courtney and McQuarrie keep the façade up for about one minute by obscuring his face while the cops start their interrogation. Barr does not talk, only writes down “Get Jack Reacher” and it’s cue for starring producer Tom Cruise to enter this picture.

From here the movie and the Amazon show differ, since Reacher would appear as a gentle giant in the latter while Cruise plays him ice cold in the former. Colder than that rather charming fellow who turns out to be a cold-blooded killer in Micheal Mann’s Collateral in fact. While both seasons on Amazon would have Reacher sharing his insight with people who show crime scene photo to him in the first episodes, Cruise’s Reacher plays it closer to his chest. That would lead to pacing issue. Cruise looking cool in the crime scene with flashback of foul plays from different angles. Audience has no idea what Cruise’ Reacher was thinking until he shares those with Barr’s defense attorney by the way of more flashback. The decision to do so certainly makes this 130 minutes long movie go down much less smooth than Amazon’s 8 episodes runs where Alan Ritchson would not skimp on sharing his insights. This film is really in a pickle with that run time, while the show on Amazon would let the mystery of who and why breath a bit, the feature length just seems too laser focused on Cruise looking cool and mystery taking the back seat.

To hide Cruise being short is almost like a farce in this movie. Cruise talks to 2 women in this movie and both would sit down when he talks. It’s easy to guess that military had drilled the idea of going to opponents’ knees into both on-screen Reachers from the fight choregraph, Alan Ritchson would seemingly aim for the knee but destroy the leg in the Amazon show while Cruise just punches down. When Cruise’ Reacher is framed for murderer in the film, he is described as “One-punch Man”. Really? Did they just take the line from the book without checking the look of their starring producer?

Action is of course the saving grace of this film, but then again when you work with a feature length movie schedule, that is not saying much. Reacher on Amazon is in every way “Schwarzenegger movie slightly better plotted”, that includes the rapid but not that rapid cuts in action. The 2012 film is determined to show its starring producer as the baddest motherfucker in town in profile shot and relative long takes.

Director McQuarrie might get fame for shooting the fights raw with the restroom fight early in Mission Impossible Fallout, but one can see he practicing with a bathroom fight in Jack Reacher, where Cruise fights a couple of comedically incompetent amateurs. The final set-piece set in a quarry does keep one on the edge of their seat, though there is certainly a sense of too little too late. McQuarrie’s style is bit too meandering here especially compared to the “hivemind” behind the Amazon show, but I guess it’s in line with Mission Impossible Dead Reckoning being the longest and thinnest in the series.

All in all, Jack Reacher is the polar opposite to Edge of Tomorrow when it comes to Tom Cruise’ career in the 2010s. It’s critically panned but apparently enough of a commercial success to warrant a sequel while the mere cult favorite also known as Live Die Repeat has no sequel now a decade past. It’s a good reminder that one starring producer’s ego is so not the winning formula for good movie, while if the committee is good enough then “designed by committee” should not be something critics automatically reach for criticizing. When it comes to being up one’s own ass, individuals have the potential to do it a lot worse…

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Standing tall between big brands

Reviewing Suzume while gamer brained

Introduction: WU-TANG over TANG

It was a quite shame that I started to visit Giantbomb only shortly after Ryan Davis’ untimely passing back in 2013. I do wonder had he been alive in 2023, A would he be with Nextlander or still co-hosting with Gerstmann and B would This Ain’t No Game return in some form given the year’s video game adaption “volcano”. More importantly, would “Giantbomb’s anime editor before Patty Klepek” have been bold enough to cover Makoto Shinkai’s Suzume on the Wonderful Universe of This Ain’t No Game.

In markets outside Japan, or at least here in miHoYo’s country of origin, Suzume no Tojimari came out between Dungeon & Dragon Honor Among Thieves and the Super Mario Bros Movie. Your truly dare to say that Suzume is a better video game movie than those 2 with big brands combined. Don’t get me wrong, Honor Among Thieves is a still a surprisingly fun fantasy swashbuckler and Mario is entertaining in its own rights. But neither can hold a candle to Suzume in term of feeling like a video game design from the bottom up.

But first, my thoughts on Shinkai flicks

Matoko Shinkai is an animation director breaking into the scene in very early aughts. He crashed into the scene as a one-man animation studio with Voice of a Distant Star, something endorsed by Yoshiyoki “Creator of Gundam” Tomino himself. For better and worse, that 25 minutes long short showed the animation director’s strength and weakness in equal measure. It’s visually stunning, well thought out to a degree and lacking originality to an audience as “well-read” as its creator. It is Gunbuster with the revenge plot cut out after all. And I remembered enjoying 5 Centimeters Per Second only once when I watched it during a hours-long wait for the dentist.

Even as someone who think Your Name is just fine, I found Weathering with You to be a big disappointment, “what the fuck is this piece of shit?” provoking kind of disappointment. So, I consider Suzume a big bounce back for this man’s body of works.

Closing doors, heh? Sounds easy enough.

The movie’s late title card at 12 minutes and 56 seconds mark. Sorry about the Bilibili water mark and simplified Chinese subtitle, I like this movie but do not like it enough to pay for a copy of blu-ray.
The movie’s late title card at 12 minutes and 56 seconds mark. Sorry about the Bilibili water mark and simplified Chinese subtitle, I like this movie but do not like it enough to pay for a copy of blu-ray.

As it’s called in Japanese, Suzume no Tojimari (Turns out, it’s the working title from the very beginning) can be literally translated into “Suzume closing doors”. The late title card of the movie certainly plays into that, as it would appear after Suzume closed the first of five doors. I took the screenshot above deliberately with the white line in the middle because the title does not come in full until a door closing visual and sound effect hits. “Suzume’s Journey” as it’s released in miHoYo’s country of origin is too generic of a title if you ask me.

Closing doors, or pretty much gates to hell in abandoned places is all the action this come-of-age story provides. It’s almost like a video game mechanic that can be built on. 5 doors in this movie do get harder to close. First door being one out of nowhere in an abandoned hot spring. Second being a slide door of an abandoned school. If you think so far so easy, the third one would throw a curve ball for it’s on a moving Ferris Whell cart in an, you guess it, abandoned theme park. The fourth one only shows hell and damnation pulling out of a working railway tunnel without way to pinpoint the origin. And the fifth and final can only be closed on the other side, aka the underworld where hell and damnation lurks. This is where I think this movie pulls “gamey” off better than Honor Among Thieves and Mario.

It’s slipping hair to debt whether D&D is a tabletop game franchise or a video game franchise, but with the frequency of “Baldur’s Gate” being referenced in that movie, I would call it a video game movie. BG the third was a king many hailed to in 2023 after all. Still its tabletop root would determine that its mechanic would not feel as rigorous as those in video games, friends fantasizing about swashbuckling together require something bit more loosey goosey.

Then there is the polygonal animated action flick with the Mario brand slapped on it. The plumper gets to work fast in a world real to him? 2D platforming. The plumper goes to a fantastical world and cannot handle the regular traffic there? 3D platforming. The plumper goes into a Thunderdome situation? Smash Bros got his back. High speed car chase? Time for Mario Kart. And even as someone who still swear by Japanese action comic for boys from time to time nowadays as I am, that final showdown against Bowser made me go “What’s this anime bullshit!” Or maybe they just suddenly threw in a turned-based JRPG battle? What a weird mixture! Why couldn't it stick to a core mechanic and build on it like Suzume did?

This “core mechanics” is not the only thing this movie has in common with video games. Suzume’s journey is from the west corner of Japan to the east corner, much like 2D platform’s from left to right routine. Then there are shots like those even before the late title card.

Suzume leisurely walking on a bridge at 5 minutes and 30 seconds mark, saying “You there?” to a Mr. “Damn, he is hot”.
Suzume leisurely walking on a bridge at 5 minutes and 30 seconds mark, saying “You there?” to a Mr. “Damn, he is hot”.
Suzume running on the same bridge at 10 minutes and 4 seconds mark, going “Oh, no!” after seeing the hell and damnation out of the first door.
Suzume running on the same bridge at 10 minutes and 4 seconds mark, going “Oh, no!” after seeing the hell and damnation out of the first door.

The shots do feel like same character moving through the same graphic adventure screen under different circumstances. Shinkai is credited for “Created, written and story-boarded by” minutes before the “Directed by” one, so I can only imagine the sense of “video game” is intentional.

Of course, Shinkai’s “lack of originality” can still be felt in this flick. For one thing, there is the “love saves the world” trope. Mr. “Damn, he is hot”, being a talking chair with only 3 legs for most of the movie, would tell Suzume to feel the memory people share with their loved one around the first 3 doors to make the locks appear.

And no, I am not going to talk about the cat they cast an actual child to voice and made plush out of. A comparably subtle Ghibli reference later into the movie almost made me stand up and yell “Oh, fuck you, Shinkai!” when I first saw the movie in theatre. This little shit being a social network sensation with one blink-and-you-will-miss-it post directly referencing a Ghibli movie just block this annoying fur ball out of my mind completely. Until the plot mentioned it again that is.

Still, it’s nice to see a gamey come of age story does not lay into role-playing games’ leveling territory. I celebrate my 34th birthday in the week of writing this. I know enough to think that life would challenging me more yet not offer me better solutions going forward. I had better learn to ask for help more effectively. Strangely how much people can learn from those half of their age at times

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Scavengers Regin presents Desolation “Dozen“

Mapping 14 voices from 13 Sentinels onto the characters in Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.

(Full spoiler for 13 Sentinels Aegis Rim obviously. So, if you are one of them sensitive spoiler culture type, get out now.)

You all can blame this one on Scavengers Reign: a bande dessinee looking animated science fiction series on Max about a starship crew’s struggle to survive after they got stranded on an alien planet. Critics connected the show to Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind by Hayao Miyazaki. After all, both have harshly beautiful natural landscapes and “tree hugging” messiah figures.

“A starship crew’s struggle to survive after they got stranded on an alien planet” is basically what 13 Sentinels Aegis Rim all about after its cook-sink sci-fi façade is lifted. Well, the Sentinel pilots’ struggle is not exactly against an alien environment but a Matrix style virtual world allowing Vanillaware to do the “kitchen sink” approach of science fiction. The game’s selling point in Japan is of course an all-star voice cast. And after mapping two late teens video games’ voice cast on Nausicaa, why not a third one? Yours truly had triple dipped (First on PS4, then on Switch, and read the whole thing in chronological order on Switch again.) on 13 Sentinels yet struggled to review the bloody thing. This way I might be able to dive into the character archetypes more easily.

1. Doll-faced stoic

Atsumi Tanezaki as Naussica

Ms. Tanezaki is credited to play “Iori Fuyusaka / Chihiro Morimura / Chihiro Morimura (Child) / Chihiro Morimura (Adult) / Chihiro Morimura (AD 2188)” at third billing in 13 Sentinels Aegis Rim

Atsumi Tanezaki is a NieR Automata cast member. Well, she was not in the well received 2017 video game since she would certainly not be usual suspect enough for the snubs at Platinum back then. But she is in the 2023 animated adaption and A-1 Pictures just dropped Nausicaa into the world of NieR Automata with her character named Lily. As the replacement of a happy go lucky do plain Jane named Anemone in the game, this stoic doll-face just screams merchandising opportunity. After good old uncle Pascal being made into butts of more jokes, this android lady is almost made into the symbol of peaceful co-existence in the show. Until Mr. YOKO finds a way to fuck her over in the next season of course.

As you can see from her 13 Sentinels credits, this woman can play someone from cradle to the grave. Nausicaa is such an icon that every female usual suspect in the business can voice her being a young girl. So, the key is also can the actor also voice the Matron in the Valley of the Wind, a character sitting on the threshold between the graphic novel’s plot and the er, shall we say, beheading for that motion picture. The Matron appears when the movie plot ends and explain the merely centuries long cycle that drives the plot for the graphic novel. “Chihiro Morimura (AD 2188)” in 13 Sentinels is a similarly elderly woman and Ms. Tanezaki played the part convincingly, she should have this one in her bag.

2. Point, click and swash-buckle

Daisuke Namikawa as Yupa

Mr. Namikawa is credited to play “Ei Sekigahara / Ei Sekigahara (AD 2188)” at fourth billing in 13 Sentinels Aegis Rim

Okay, here is someone who were in both Automata the game and the show. Daisuke Namikawa voiced Machine Life-form named Adam in Automata and the character got a promotion from merely the harbinger of the endgame to the final boss of Route A plus B in the show. Yours truly once imagined Mr. Namikawa as a villain in Naussica for his part in Automata, but Ei Sekigahara in 13 Sentinels is closer to a heroic figure. The graphic adventure game even gave him a “shoot the baddie and save the girl” swashbuckling scene within its very basic point and click adventure mechanics. Plus, Namikawa does gravitas well, so he can certainly play the man, the myth, the legend named Yupa. Only the best swordsman across the wasteland.

3. Warrior Princess

M.A.O (Mao Ichimichi) as Kushana

Ms. Ichimichi is credited to play “Tomi Kisaragi / Tomi Kisaragi (AD 2188) / Miyuki Inaba” at eighth billing in 13 Sentinels Aegis Rim

Even in Japanese text, Ms. Mao Ichimichi is usually credited with the letters M, A and O, all caps with period in between. If you look up a picture of hers (Type in “M.A.O voice actress” I would suggest), you might think “Is she bit too pretty to just do voice-over works?” Indeed, she is one of them pop idols who found out that they can speak well enough into a microphone with more than one kind of voice.

Back to 13 Sentinels, Tomi Kisaragi is like that little boy in Pacific Rim. You know the one, following his scavenging father and found the broken Gipsy Danger stranded on a beach with a traumatized pilot crawling out. Except that little Miss Kisaragi was with a taller friend of hers. Miyuki Inaba is a former version of hers who pose as a pop idol. Shame Vanillaware did not let the voice actor sing in this one.

Anyway, yours truly actually have no idea what Ms. Ichimichi’s “radio voice” sounds like. In 2019, the same year I went through Nausicaa graphic novel twice, her filmography was filled with mature female warriors dipped in gravitas, So, voice Kushana she shall.

4. The Mustache Twirling Goof

Jun Fukuyama as Kurozawa

Mr. Fukuyama is credited to play “Renya Gouto” at fifth billing in 13 Sentinels Aegis Rim

First impression is important, there is no 2 ways about it. Even after spending more than 100 hours (36 hours with Persona 5 Tatica and 88 hours with Royal) imagining Jun Fukuyama’s voice coming out of a swashbuckling phantom thief code named Joker, Mr. Fukuyama would always sound like Johnny shit pants in Guns of Patriots to me. It does not help that the man’s radio voice is much closer to the ones he pulled for butts of jokes.

Renya Gouto in 13 Sentinels is not comedy relief per se since the game is pretty serious from top to bottom, but he is barely a character. His story would not really begin until one read through eighty percent of all 12 other points of view, and then he would come out, pull his notes out and go “We are all in the Matrix, baby!” He is a total goof with a façade of being formidable just like Kurozawa in Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.

5. Cooler Queen

Sario Hayami as Rastel

Ms. Hayami is credited to play “Ryoko Shinome / Ryoko Shinome (AD 2188)”at sixth billing in 13 Sentinels Aegis Rim

This one is more about someone going back to her old ways in new genre rather than first impression. In her early 20s, Sario Hayami’s voice acting career is littered with Fridged ones in science fiction flicks, namely Gundam Age and that one guild chick in the very early stage of Sword Art Online. A decade later, it just so happened that Ms. Hayami voiced 2 Fridged ones in fantasy. First there is trope extravaganza Butareba: The Story of a Man Who Turned into a Pig, implied horrible violent death, part of her still powers her avenger’s weapon and not only there is younger woman who looks like her, there is also a girl almost sounds like her, this piece of shit has it all. Then there is slightly less offensive Delicious In Dungeon, a successful rescue mission where Ms. Hayami’s character is kept alive on ice for the most part. Guess no more doubt for this one to play a Fridged one in a classic.

Rastel in Nausicaa and Ryoko Shinome (AD 2188) have just one thing in common: both pulled people into the plots. Rastel spent her dying breath telling Naucicaa things to set up a plot both the graphic novel and motion picture use. Ryoko Shinome (AD 2188) is the reason why 13 Sentinels’ Matrix world has any stakes, she started a malice cycle for loathing a man, and by the game’s current day, that cycle would damage life support forever so everyone got to fight their way out. Oh well, I already had typed way more words than this character would say in the whole graphic novel (Only 85 words in the Viz translation, 2 of which are repeats to show how weakened she is.), moving on.

6. May Hayao Miyazaki be proud of him

Kaito Ishikawa as Asbel

Mr. Ishikawa is credited to play “Keitaro Miura / BJ / Keitaro Miura (AD 2188)” at eleventh billing in 13 Sentinels Aegis Rim

Ah, Keitaro Miura, how might Hayao Miyazaki himself be proud of you! Had Ghibli made an ET knockoff with Mr. Miyazaki in the director chair, it might not look too different from 13 Sentinels’ Miura and Minami storylines. Minami being the kid made first contact with the alien, just gender bent from Elliot to Ellie or Ellen, and Miura would be a typical well meaning Miyazaki boy who offered help. It might not have the plot twist of alien known as BJ somehow being future Miura, but just the double casting would already be a Miyazaki touch.

In Kaito Ishikawa, yours truly got a lap with Fire Emblem Three Houses. Mr. Ishikawa played the edge lord dark fantasy hero named Dimitri there, so he can play an edge lord dark fantasy villain according to that performance, He played a Miyazaki boy in 13 Sentinels, so no pressure playing the very first Miyazaki boy in cinema history.

7. May Hayao Miyazaki be proud of her

Kaoru Sakura as Ceraine

Ms. Sakura is credited to play “Natsuno Minami / Natsuno Minami (AD 2188)” at seventh billing in 13 Sentinels Aegis Rim

There is “tree hugging” messiah figure, then there are just tree huggers. Ceraine is one among the latter called People of the Forest in Nausicaa graphic novel who offered a helping hand to the titular “tree hugging” messiah figure after the latter almost gave up. I know nothing about Ms. Sakura’s voice acting beyond her “Ellie or Ellen” role in 13 Sentinels, but the role is more than ready to offer helping hand, so she should be fitting for Ceraine’s very small part.

8. Henchman

Hiro Shimono as Miralupa

Mr. Shimono is credited to play “Juro Kurabe / Juro Izumi” at top billing in 13 Sentinels Aegis Rim

Mr. Hiro Shimono getting top billing in this game is injustice! He did not even voice the older selves of his character. As someone who got tired of hearing queer folks complaining about hereto-normalcy in media, the poster boy and girl who did not express their talent to full extents in this game getting top billings certainly feels like hereto-normalcy horseshit to me: man being man, woman being woman, always in front of our minds.

While Juro is your typical goody two shoe protagonist on the more vanilla side, the voice behind him is quite cable of voicing villains, who in the usual suspect club cannot? But it’s hard to find a mastermind kind in Mr. Shimono’s filmography, so the powerful henchman who really raised the stake in Nausicaa he shall voice.

9. “Mastermind”

Tatushisa Suzuki as Namulith

Mr. Suzuki is credited to play “Shu Amiguchi / Tetsuya Ida / Tetsuya Ida (Youth) / Tetsuya Ida (AD 2188)” at tenth billing in 13 Sentinels Aegis Rim

For our final NieR Automata cast member, I present to you Tastushisa Suzuki, who voiced Eve there. Woe to Eve for he got demoted from the final boss as far as the show is considered to the Fridged harbinger of endgame in the animated adaption. Either way, that’s a performance fitting for the henchman Miralupa. But Tetsuya Ida is depictable mastermind type in 13 Sentinels much like Namulith, Miralupa’s brother who always wanted to kill each other.

The pov character Shu Amiguchi being a dashing womanizer is archetype modern media struggle with, so it’s easier to assume Mr. Suzuki had more fun playing the mustache Twirling Ida. So why not let him play the role that Miyazaki killed off just before a movie about pig headed men flying planes went into full production.

10. Destined to have a man

Maaya Uchida as Ketcha

Ms. Uchida is credited to play “Megumi Yakushiji” at second billing in 13 Sentinels Aegis Rim

Ah, the “dad” to her friend Tomi and the “mom” to her future hubby Juro, Megumi Yakushiji is quite the Yamato Nateshiko, a model of femininity in Japanese culture. Of course the role got second top billing in this game.

Back to the cast, Ms. Uchida is quite a talent who flourished in both voice acting and J-pop. Megumi Yakushiji is definitely not her most memorable role in her filmography, but she was the one introduced player or reader to the real world in the game. Bit like Ketcha’s final panel in Nausicaa where she embraced a boy, Megumi’s happy ending in 13 Sentinel is about fully embracing the gender role. Quite a match.

11. A life-keeper’s way or the highway

Takayuki Ishiii as Selm

Mr. Ishii is credited to play “Takatoshi Hijiyama / Takatoshi Hijiyama (AD 2188)” at twelfth billing in 13 Sentinels Aegis Rim

Takatoshi Hijiyama in 13 Sentinels is a cop. Well-meaning maybe, but a cop nonetheless. I know nothing about the voice behind this one beyond 13 Sentinels, but the seemingly well -meaning one with firm belief seem fitting for Selm, the man who leads the People of the Forest. After all, it takes a well-meaning cop to shout down the penultimate evil and fend off the ultimate evil of a story.

12. Boy!

Mutsumi Tamura as Chikuku

Ms. Tamura is credited to play “Tsukasa Okino / Kiriko Douji / Tsukasa Okino (AD 2188)” at fourteenth billing in 13 Sentinels Aegis Rim

This blog piece had been floating in my mind since March, 2023 yet the time of writing is much later. I am glad, for the delay actually gives me a better way to frame the whole thing and this one in particular. Mutusmi Tamura voiced the “white haired adult who looks like a child” archetype in Fate/Samurai Remnant just like NieR cast member Mai Katowaki did in Fate/Stay Night. Ms. Tamura has the advantage of gravitas, given that Chikuku is a prince of a fallen dynasty in Nausicaa graphic novel, would not hurt if the performer behind him can bring out the quality of august.

13. Gender flair, like water

Ami Koshimizu as Master of the Garden

Ms. Koshimizu is credited to play “Yuki Takamiya / Yuki Takamiya (AD 2188)” at ninth billing in 13 Sentinels Aegis Rim

Yuki Takamiya is an homage to Ryoko in Kill La Kill obviously, or they would not have designed this one just with longer skirt and cast the same voice actor. Strangely, in a game that does not shame away from up-skirt shots, this one is quite preserved, for the character’s masculine mannerism I would presume.

Well, Ms. Koshimizu does have “water” in her name and her voice does have a gender flair quality. A quality fitting for the man-made Master of the Garden, who does have a gender in Nausicaa graphic novel.

14. The self-proclaimed Champion of Light

Tomokazu Seki as Master of the Tomb

Mr. Seki is credited to play “Nenji Ogata / Nenji Ogata (AD 2188)” at thirteenth billing in 13 Sentinels Aegis Rim

Or “the sole light that remains in the darkness” who calls the titular heroic figure of that book “child of darkness” according to the Viz translation. Okay, I’m getting ahead of myself. Listening to Herald of Darkness can make one think about the light being evil while the darkness being good bit in Nausicaa.

Anyway, Mr. Seki getting bottom billing among the point-of-view characters is rather justified. Nenji is an idiot, the kind one can put into a time loops if one wants that loop to go for more than a couple of times. For the facade of mystery box of course. Even his 2188 counterpart is only about “You lot promised my dad eternal life, now where is it?” I think he is drawn up simply as a visual homage to Jusuke Higashikata, the JoJo in Part 4 JeffJeff podcast would soon meet as the time of writing.

Speak of JoJo, Mr. Seki played the villain in Part 6 of this new and intended-to-be-complete animated adaption, a self-righteous asshat called Father Pooch. Aforementioned Ms. Atsumi Tanesaki played the heroic figure (Not the titular JoJo of Part 6 though) who told him to go to hell before sent him there with a recently acquired powerful weapon, just like Nausicaa did to the Master of the Tomb. Thus, bringing this horseshit in full circle in a better way than I excepted.

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Merrily her life is but a dream

Yohane the Parhelion: Blaze in the Deep Blue review

(9 hours 10 minutes and 2 seconds to “100%” according to my save file. Played on Switch with Japanese text.)

To describe Yohane the Parhelion: Blaze in the Deep Blue by Inti Creates is to keep the impulse of using “sequel” and “spin-off” in check. First there was Love Live! phone game. Then it got an animated adaption which became a new horizon for a couple of anime critics I trust. Then that show got a sequel subtitled Sunshine. Or was it adapting the phone game’s upgrades?

Just as Aquor, Sunshine’s idol group, seemed to be disbanded like Muse before them, a fantasy spin-off called Yohane the Parhelion came out in 2023 featuring the 9 girls who didn’t manage to save their school with winning Love Live. Here they are leading mounding lives in a fantasy world. Tie-in video games did not fall far behind in this case.

There are 2 Yohane the Parhelion video games planned: one being a deck builder set for early 2024; the other is Blaze in the Deep Blue I am writing about here. (I ordered those 2 as such because I typed “Yohane” into Steam search bar and the deck builder came up first. Guess Valve’s algorism has its audience figured out.) This “Super Metroid like” made by “more Castlevania people” is a 2023 game through and through since it fits into the following 3 “trends”.

First there is the mega corporations bleed into the so-called “indie” game development scene started with people looking into Dave the Diver. This franchise started with dependence on whales now it has a decent enough pixel side-scroller, what are the odds? Speak of whales of phone game, the second point is that very much like Fate/Samurai Remanent, Blaze in the Deep Blue dares to ask those same whales to pay just for playing the game this game. Last but not least, an anime tie-in game not being a polygonal affair in 2023 certainly screams cutting spend on contents generation…

My fellow Love Live! Sunshine fans…

As the title points out, Aquors’ resident day dreamer Yohane is the player character. No, she is not called Yoshiko Tsushima ever once in the 13 animated episodes aired between July and September 2023. In fact, nobody has a family name in the show. Yohane’s day dreaming is almost the reverse of Sunshine’s Yoshiko. While Yoshiko is fantasizing about being a fallen angel in a relatively realistic world where her follow school girls pursue music, Yohane is pursuing a music career in a fantasy word where her peers start to have “real jobs”: baker, inn-keeper, postal worker, mayor, so on and so forth. After yet another failed audition, Yohane went to her hometown, started to take on odd jobs to make ends meet and put the band “back” together if you may.

How the game Blaze in the Deep Blue fits into the anime’ continuity is tricky and ultimately not important. By the start of the game Yohane already knew all 8 other Aquor members and got to rescue them as the usual upgrades in “Super Metroid likes”. Always after a boss fight.

The game’s humor lays heavily on puns just like the Sunshine animated series. For starters, the Japanese counterpart to “the Parhelion” part of the title reads as “gen jitsu” with 2 kanjis mean either “fantasy days” or “day dreaming”. Yet, the kanjis associated with “gen jitsu” the most actually mean “reality”. So, the game does throw those know Japanese a curve ball once booted up. At least 3 of the Aquor members got punny catchphrases that would make one go “Cut it out, sister!” Along with all the winks and nods regarding Sunshine’s more comedic plot points and the returning voice cast, I say the appeal to fans is obvious. Though this being a Inti Creates joint, one cannot help but feel that the 2D character portraits in the cut scenes had been Gal-gunned up…

…and the rest of us

Now the rose-tinted glasses can come off. Blaze in the Deep Blue is a “Super Metroid like”, certainly more Metroid than Vania if you ask me. The progress is linear like Metroid games despite all the back tracking required in the Deep Blue undersea dungeon with no chance of sequence breaking. Yahane does not level-up like those player characters in the Vania side of things, instead there is the crafting system. Get the right material and craft armor to increase health and the mana pool called Darkness Point. Weapons are crafted rather than found and they take up DP.

Inti Creates being the side-scrolling Mega Man people does bleed in. There are 8 bosses blocking 8 attack upgrades and you got to fight them all over again in the end game boss rush. The game starts you with Yohane’s wolf nanny Lailaps, who does a weak beat that does not take up any resource then other 8 Aquor members would provide attacks consuming DP. One can still use most of those attack when DP run out, they just take up health at that point. Of course, weak bite is not the only thing the wolf nanny has to offer. In true "baby's first Metroid" fashion, she would carry Yohane to her home base once her life runs out. And the map will keep track how far the player goes.

Aquor members and wolf mum’s attacks are mapped to left face button while weapon is mapped to right trigger. Left trigger is for Aquor members’ more powerful attacks and those upgrades are gated in a more Metroid like fashion. Aquor members’ attacks are mostly mapped after their appearance in the anime, like inn-keeper Chika and de-facto mayor Dia both have vigilante alter-egoes in the show, so their attacks are modeled after those. Postal worker Yo’s human cannon and diving scavenger Kanan’s drop-stomping frag-shaped robot are just tools for their trades in this fantasy world. But some can feel out of left filed even for those who watched the show. Such as the baker Hanamaru, who would roll spikes into flat ground while her explosive left-trigger thing is a nod to the original Sunshine.

Another RPG element is the debuffs. There are the usual poisoned, frozen, attack down, defend down and so on. This game got one called Lonely meaning disabling the left face button and left trigger attacks, kind of an anti-thesis to the power of friendship this type of story likes to preach.

The game’s sense of “being rushed” is in the details. Like how the shop only sells but does not buy. After one failed attempt at a Boss with all portion spent, the player is forced to either try without portions or grind a bit for portion money. Then there is the logic of one type of puzzles near the end. It involves Aquor’s token white girl Mari’s time stopping power, the left trigger one. In one of those one got to step on one single weight trigger, stop time and get through the door. In other, one got step on one of 2 triggers, stop time, step on the second one and door opens. It’s by no mean deal breaker but somewhat implies that something was not thought through.

Verdict

30 US dollars for a under 10 hours long game is not exactly a bargain. Yours truly somehow felt this year of gaming is not complete without one 2D side-scroller and this one just came to the shelf. It helps that I like Sunshine and it also helps that I got a mechanic itch. However, I cannot in good conscience give Blaze in the Deep Blue my full inducement. But if you are fan enough, you can do a lot worse than this one.

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