Friday, December 19, 2014

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3: Full Burst Review

For a blog called the Shonen Otaku Corner, I haven’t written very much about anime or manga.  It’s been almost entirely focused on games instead of what the term “shonen” is usually applied to.  This is because, at heart, I’m a gamer first and as much as I love the action-packed stories of shonen, I find the way they can translate into kickass action games (and vice-versa) captivating.  Sometimes the games can be better than their source material, as is the case with the rock-crushingly popular shonen franchise Naruto.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

A Look at the Jojo's Bizarre Adventure Capcom Fighting Game

The most recent anime adaptation of Hirohiko Araki’s multi-part manga epic Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure has been making the rounds, quickly gaining popularity in the anime-loving crowd, particularly once it reached part 3.


For all the years the series has been around, through all of its 8 parts and generations of different heroes and villains, part 3 is considered the major turning point and the most famous.  It’s so influential, the hero and villain of part 3 are the only playable characters from the series in Jump Ultimate Stars, while the heroes from the other parts are only support characters.  It’s a story almost as iconic as other Shonen Jump classics like Fist of the North Star and One Piece.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Design Brilliance of I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream

Halloween is approaching.  Everyone is getting out their costumes, setting up the spooky decorations and watching classic horror movies.  It’s also the time some gamers take to play their favorite scary games, as well as October-themed specials going on for games like Killing Floor and Team Fortress 2.


But for a lot of us, the scares are what we’re looking for.  Now’s the time to play the classics like Eternal Darkness, Resident Evil, Silent Hill 2, System Shock 2 or Amnesia.


This year I have a recommendation on another horror game.  I’ve already gone over how Clock Tower is the scariest game ever made, but this year I’m taking a moment to appreciate the aspects of a classic horror game that don’t contribute to the horror.

Friday, October 10, 2014

The 100-Post Milestone

2 years ago I created the Shonen Otaku Corner as a way to share my writing and love of fictional media.  Starting with my very first post ever on the second season of Yu Yu Hakusho I've written many game and anime (mostly game) feature stories that have given me excellent practice, strong examples of my skills and at least some recognition.  With over 50,000 page views and some posts shared on official and fan Facebook pages, I'm modestly proud at how this blog has turned out.

I wasn't sure what I could do for something as special as my 100th post.  Different online personalities have done them in different ways (Linkara's rant on Spider Man: One More Day for his 200th comes to mind).  But my reviews and articles come on a case-by-case basis, and I didn't have anything planned for my 100th post.

So instead of a new review or the second part of the Mortal Kombat post, I thought I'd make this 100th post special by making it about the thoughts and processes that go into my writing instead of the end result.  Specifically, the three big projects you can see in the tabs at the top of the page and how they came into being.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Day the Fun Ended: The End of Saturday Morning Broadcasting

It is with an extremely heavy heart that I write this.

At noon today, The Vortexx, the very last Saturday Morning children's broadcasted programming block, will air its very last show ever with Yu-Gi-Oh Zexal, and the very last Saturday morning kid's block will be gone.

Ever since I was a kid up to this day I watched Saturday morning shows religiously.  I've seen every incarnation of the two channels over the years: Kids WB, Fox Kids, the Fox Box, 4KidsTV, the CW4Kids, Toonzai and the Vortexx were all some of the biggest things I looked forward to for the weekend.  I even watched the Vortexx from my apartment complex every morning when I went to college.  Said complex even held an event where everyone got together to eat breakfast and watch the Vortexx.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Fighting Game Camps: Mortal Kombat: Part 1

You may have noticed that the fighting games I’ve looked over thus far have all been from Japan.  The truth is, Japan has the heaviest focus in making fighting games nowadays.  There have been a few more western-made fighting games in recent years, like the new Killer Instinct and Skullgirls, but the only western fighting game franchise that has managed to stick around consistently is one of the first: Mortal Kombat.


Friday, September 5, 2014

The King of Fighters-i 2012 Review

Back in my retrospective of The King of Fighters 13 I briefly touched on The King of Fighters-i 2012. At the time I only knew some of the details about it from associates who owned it, but having gotten an iPhone of my own I’ve gotten much deeper into it to allow for a full review.

[Note that The King of Fighters-i is the name of the iPhone version of the game.  The Android version is titled The King of Fighters Android, and as far as I can tell it is the same exact game.]

An update from their previous app game simply titled The King of Fighters-i, KOFi 2012 is a portable app version of the core of KOF 13, the installment tied with 11 as my favorite in the series.  Even though I was looking forward to playing a portable KOF 13, I set my expectations a little low.  I had difficulty playing KOF ‘97 back when I played it on my sister’s iPhone, and porting a multi-gigabyte HD game to an app without cutting a good amount of content seemed like wishful thinking.

To my surprise, even though compromises were indeed made, KOFi 2012 is an extremely impressive replication of the KOF 13 experience that’s fun regardless of whether or not you’ve played the console edition.


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Daidouji: The Ultimate Female Game Character

In discussions of feminism and the portrayal of females, I often find people citing their favorite female character from the media and why they are so effective for reasons other than sex appeal or for the story to have at least one token female.

When it comes to games, the most commonly cited examples in my experience have been the likes of Samus Aran and Alyx Vance.  With the possible exception of the controversial Metroid: Other M, the both of them have been portrayed as tough, but still human, treated with just as much respect as you would expect of a male hero, but not denying their gender.  I'm no feminist, but that's the way I see it.


I have a different icon.  Over the last year I've vehemently clung to a relatively new female character from an unlikely source.
Recall in my Senran Kagura Burst review when I stated that the unlockable character for the Hanzo side of the game is my favorite.  I didn't go into any more detail than that out of fear of spoiling an unlockable, but now that she's all over the marketing for the subsequent Senran Kagura games, I think the time for spoiling it has long since passed.

I was of course referring to the eldest playable character in the Hanzo side of Senran Kagura: Daidouji, my favorite female character in gaming!


Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Undefendable, Reprehensible, Unbelievable Psyguy

For all my readers, I would like to inform you in advance that this is a serious post.  This is not a positive one about a game I like or anything of the sort.  This is an editorial of something that needs addressing, and it is quite dark.  If you're looking for the silliness, you may want to go read the Diary of Frank West.

Not long ago, Bryon Beaubien, also known as Psyguy, the webmaster of the rather-known website Fireball20xl.com, had a great many "allegations" pile up on him in a short amount of time, and boy what allegations they are.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Rhythm of Fighters Review

When SNK Playmore announced that their next game would be a rhythm-based smartphone app, fans got a little agitated that they were spending time on something not related to The King of Fighters 14.  I meanwhile was excitedly imitating Hibari’s victory pose.  Recall in my review of Theatrhythm Final Fantasy when I said that there should be a rhythm game like it, but with KOF music.  With The Rhythm of Fighters, SNK Playmore gives us just that.  It’s like making a Rock Band game all about the Beatles; it's a good idea from the start.  Up until The Rhythm of Fighter’s sudden release onto the app store (with little fanfare, I might add), all I asked for was for them not to screw this brilliant concept up.
My prayers were answered.  For the most part, it’s just what I wanted.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Fighting Game Camps: Skullgirls, Part 2

Music

Skullgirls keeps its music simple, but catchy.  One of the key composers is Michiru Yamane, who’s best known for her work on the long-running Castlevania series, so the catchiness is to be expected.

To fit with the 40s motif of the game, the music is largely comprised of jazz-like scores and softer melodies, with lots of saxophones, pianos, and soft drum beats.  Skullgirls uses stage themes instead of character themes, and many of them feel like something you’d hear in a game while exploring a world in an adventure game instead of all the guitar-rocking of Guilty Gear and King of Fighters.  This works nicely and makes the different, well-imagined locations around the Canopy Kingdom more memorable.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Fighting Game Camps: Skullgirls, Part 1

I don’t pay much mind to a lot of indie games.  It’s true that creative ideas can come of them, but too often they end up being 8-bit, pixilated, platformers lacking in sufficient polish or all three, unlike the big-budget super games I usually play.

I want my tax dollars to go into that thing!


That’s not to say I just brush indies off entirely.  Indie games have allowed for some great titles reminiscent of an earlier age without going as far back as the archaic age of 8-bit graphics.  I had a lot of fun with Shank 2 and Castle Crashers, and even with its pixilated presentation Retro City Rampage’s clever humor and gameplay flow kept me in the experience.  However, as fun as indie games have been, none of them have absolutely wowed me.  They’ve always been at least good, but not great.  7s out of 10, but not 8s.  Recommended, but not must-buys.

I got this for Christmas.  That Phil always knows what to get.
I say this because there may be points in this article that come off as complaints or condescension by comparing it to the other much bigger-budget games.
Part of the reason for this may be because Skullgirls is not exactly a big franchise yet.  Not counting its update, Skullgirls Encore, there has only been one game.  With the other franchises, all the many games that have come out have had their ups and downs that can be glanced over in the grand scheme of things, but with Skullgirls, we have only one game to go over, so in a manner of speaking, what I say about it applies to every Skullgirls game there is.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Street Fighter X Tekken Minimate Fun

Some time ago the Toys R Us I work at had some Street Fighter X Tekken Minimates on clearance.  Being the fighting game fanatic I am, I bought some of the little posable dudes for about $2 a pack (quite a bargain considering what they go for online).  Some of them were even Toys R Us Exclusive.

Tragically, we didn't have Rufus.

Their little size and posability gave me an idea.  I could have them interact with Nintendo's own cutesy little creations, the Miis!  With the Nintendo 3DS' Augmented Reality, I did just that and started posting pictures of Miis of various people I follow on Twitter with the Minimates.  For those of you who don't follow me on Twitter or don't even have a Twitter account, I'm making this post to put them all in one place.  I hope you like them.

Monday, June 2, 2014

A Look at Kanji de Manga Special Edition: Yojijukugo

This last weekend there was a local clearance blowout sale for used media.  An entire convention center was rented out to pack wall-to-wall DVDs, games, music, and books.  Naturally I was drawn to the manga section, where I got a volume of Yu-Gi-Oh R and an old issue of Shonen Jump in addition to a collection of The Far Side.

But as I looked further there was one more book that caught my eye: an educational manga called Kanji de Manga Special Edition: Yojijukugo.  When it comes to kanji, I need as much help as I can get, so I picked it up and after giving it a good look, I thought it was worth sharing.



Monday, May 26, 2014

Surgeon Simulator 2013 Review

Surgeon Simulator 2013 is a very interesting game to review because by all accounts it should be horrible.  Normally I recommend a game for having fast-paced action with tight controls, flipping, kicking, a strong story and characters monologuing at each other like professional wrestlers, but Surgeon Simulator is the complete opposite in every way.

It doesn’t have much of a story for context, but in a very rare occurrence (for me), it doesn’t need one.  The basic jist of it is that you play as a left hand controlled by a brain-dead moron who clearly doesn’t know how surgery works.  Using five keys on the keyboard to bend the arm’s fingers, the left mouse button to lower it and the right mouse button to rotate it, you must perform a number of surgical transplants through rather… Unorthodox methods.

And by unorthodox methods, I mean you pull everything out and plop the replacement in the empty cavity.  The sloppy surgery combined with the awkward crane controls and physics is the core of the game's cathartic appeal.  It is one of the only games I have ever played that purposefully and successfully nails being so bad it’s good.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

I love you Nintendo Wi-Fi

I've been a Nintendo gamer for over a decade.  Though I've definitely invested in other consoles like the PS2 and Xbox 360, Nintendo's systems have always taken my priority.  After they established Nintendo Wi-Fi for online play, they soon also became my go-to company for multiplayer, since I don't have a PS3, my computer isn't very strong, and there's no way in hell I'm paying Microsoft's ransom just to play online.

I played online Nintendo games of all kinds and have always loved the sense of community and competition online play allowed as all my friends moved away.  When I got Modern Warfare 3 for the 360, I traded it in for the Wii version (and used the extra money to get Okamiden), I played Yu-Gi-Oh World Championship 2010 and Jump Ultimate Stars religiously, and whenever I wanted a little multiplayer fun in my lonely house/apartment, my Wii and DS always suited it.  Even without free communication, there was a special connection you could feel between how you and the other players played.  It was wonderful.

And now... We fight.
Almost all of that came to an end yesterday.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Shonen Otaku: Ayes Aturnee

My previous post griping about Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies put a thought into my head.  If I'm figuring things out long before the lawyers are, does that make me a better lawyer?  After all, I can be a master of debates when it comes to actual arguments, and I can spout pop culture references with the best of them.  What if I were to be the Ace Attorney instead of Phoenix Wright?  I'd be one of the most famous people in the world.  I can just picture the headlines now...

The Somewhere Herald-May 2014

Since entering the courtroom in 2007, the Shonen Otaku (better known as SO) gained a strong reputation in the legal world.  SO often got the job done, but only through his own strange means did he prove the innocence of his clients.

He has been held in contempt of court a great many times and many people have died getting in his way, but he was always in pursuit of doing the right thing.
In his memory, I, Spark Brushel, have composed this list of SO’s most infamous quirks and acts of unorthodox behavior.  May he forever live on in our hearts.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

10 Problems I have with Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies *spoiler post*

Warning!  This article is one giant spoiler for every Ace Attorney game out!  It is practically a discussion of nothing but spoilers.  If you have not played through every Ace Attorney game released, do not read this!  I repeat!  Do not read this!

I’m a big fan of the Ace Attorney games.  It and the Monkey Island franchise are the two I consider to have the best writing in gaming.  I’ve played every Ace Attorney game out and I’m proud to be a part of its rabid fanbase.

However, I seem to be the only one who was disappointed by the latest game, Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies.  I really truly wanted to like it as much as the other games, but I couldn’t.  To get straight to the point and put it as simply as possible: the writing wasn’t as strong, and for a game franchise that focuses as heavily on writing as the Ace Attorney games, that’s like trying to walk without a skeleton.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Fighting Game Camps: Blazblue: Part 3

Music

Daisuke Ishiwatari comes back to compose again, so the battle music consists largely of lots and lots of guitar riffs.  However, the music isn’t always as “metal” as in Guilty Gear.  Instruments like the piano and violin are used almost as often as the guitar is for a more sweeping soundtrack that combines orchestral music you’d expect from a fantasy JRPG with the guitar rocking you’d expect from Guilty Gear, which is a brilliant combination.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Fighting Game Camps: Blazblue: Part 2

Villains

Not a whole lot of people in Blazblue are absolutely in the right, with the exception of Bang.  Ragna hates the NOL, but they’re not all evil.  Hakumen wanted to destroy Ragna, but only because there was a possibility Ragna might destroy the world.  Everyone has their own goals and ideals, and that is a driving force of many fights.  However, the following characters are quite clearly not in the right at all.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Fighting Game Camps: Blazblue: Part 1

Covering Blazblue, Arc System Works’ second fighting game megahit, is a challenge.  Not because of the way the game plays; that’s easy enough to describe.  The hardest part about explaining Blazblue is the story.  Anyone who says fighting games lack story can officially go to hell because they have not played the story mode of the Blazblue series (or read my previous posts).

The home console versions of the games have extensive story modes with far more text and story than the minimal amount presented in the arcade versions.  In story mode, it’s a visual novel with fighting game gameplay, and I love well-told stories with epic shonen fighting.  However, even though I do like it, there's no dancing around the fact that Blazblue has one of the most complicated, convoluted stories I have ever read, and I have played all but one Kingdom Hearts game and Virtue’s Last Reward.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Limbo of the Lost Review

I am no stranger to point and click adventure games.  I played a lot of King’s Quest 5 back in the day, I became a huge fan of The Curse of Monkey Island after getting it from my local library many years later, and in recent years I’ve played the fantastic episodic adventure games from Telltale Games.

Max 4 Prez!

As fun and humorous (intentionally or not) as they are, every adventure game I have ever played has now been put to shame by what is easily the greatest point and click masterpiece ever created: Limbo of the Lost.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Senran Kagura Burst Review

Beat-em-up and hack and slash games are usually a hit or miss affair with gamers.  For some, massacring hundreds of enemies as a one-person army using stylish attacks and being an overall show-off never gets old, while for others, it gets old fast.  As a fan of Sengoku Basara and Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2, I fall into the side that loves them, and alongside all the action-packed greats, Senran Kagura Burst fits right in.



Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The things I learned from Sleeping Dogs

After it was released as one of Xbox Live’s Games for Gold, and after I shelled out a few bucks for a Gold subscription, I played Sleeping Dogs.  Without going into too much detail, it’s a very fun game, especially for someone like me who prefers hand to hand combat over gunplay.

But I also like that it is a game portrayed with a very strong grasp on reality.  In fact, there are a lot of things Sleeping Dogs has taught me about Hong Kong and indeed the world I would have never known without playing it.  The following are just a few of such interesting facts:

  • No one will call the cops on you, even if you block traffic, steal a car and beat down citizens with your bare hands.
  • Killing criminals is okay.  Hong Kong is like Texas when it comes to the death penalty.
Justified, I'm sure.
  • Cops will only notice you break the law if you’re within 55 feet of them, as that’s how long their spider sense-like superpowers reach.
  • The police have ultrasonic hearing very sensitive to gunshots.  If you fire one enough, they’ll know precisely where you are and whip out their own!
  • It’s okay if you drive off the side of the road, but if the police see you hit someone, only then will they give a damn.
  •  People in Hong Kong are very chivalric in the protection of their turf.  So much so they’ll come at you with their knives and fists while you gun them down with an assault rifle.
  • I look like I could use a pork bun.
  • Wei Shen’s harmonious singing voice is seconded only by William Hung.
  • Wei Shen is not related to Hong Kong street brawler Shen Woo. 
  • Wei Shen has eyes in the back of his head.
  • Wei Shen never had his rabies shots.
  • Wei Shen will sacrifice 10 people to save 3. 
  • Wei Shen can block a water geyser from a broken fire hydrant with only his foot. 
  • A man who never eats a pork bun is never a whole man.


  • Hong Kong automobiles are so ungodly strong they can still drive after flying 30 feet into the air, hitting a neon sign, and falling like a rock.  Yay for wheel suspensions!
  • If people keep smoking in front of your apartment every day when you beat them to death every time, they’re clearly enjoying it. 
  • Police brutality is the best kind.

  • Randy Savage never told us that Slim Jims can help break into cars, so snap into a Slim Jim to snap into an SUV!
  • Jumping from one moving vehicle to another is about as easy as jumping across a 16-inch gap.  Try it at home, kids!
"Don't worry!  I saw this on Jackass!"
  • Beware of newspaper stands.  They’ll flip your car over like a flapjack.
  • Pork buns give you Wolverine’s healing powers!


  • Everyone in Hong Kong keeps some nitroglycerin in their cars.  You never know when you might need some… For traffic jams, I guess.
  • Wei Shen casually walks away after a double decker bus runs over his legs.
  • Wei Shen has yet to meet thief that can outrun boolit.
  • Smokers are so stupid they don’t even flinch when their buddy is shot in the head by a gunman right before their eyes. 
  • When Wei Shen needs a car, all he has to do is flash his badge to passers by.  Yoink!
  • Hong Kong prices are inflated as hell.  A single can of soda costs $25!
  • Broken legs are like a slap in the arm.  You won’t even hobble.
  • Wei Shen can outrun a cross country gold medalist without breaking a sweat.
  • When someone angers Wei Shen, their car mysteriously explodes in a firey cataclysm of shrapnel some time after.
Source: Siliconera
  • Seat belts are for people who are not Wei Shen.
  • Wei Shen was initially arrested for association with the worst game-to-movie adaption ever made.  Even after taking out the triad, his criminal record has not been amended due to the Hong Kong Police Department’s insistence on showing Wei how the real Iori acts: He never forgives and never forgets.
  • Note that Wei Shen fights very much like Batman does.  Also notice that Wei Shen and Batman have never been seen at the same time.  Therefore...
Wei Shen is Batman!

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Eternal Pimp

In 1992, a fur-coat wearing black dude with sunglasses named Mr. Big conspired with Geese Howard in the kidnapping of Yuri Sakazaki in order to get her ass-kicking father to beat people up for them.  But after a beating by Yuri’s older brother Ryo, Mr. Big later went on to participate in the King of Fighters tournament in 1996.

"Taste my vengance!"
Years later, in the early 2000s, an up and coming music producer named Tyrone King made a name for himself finding star talent and writing some popular songs of his own.  Before long, the fur-coat wearing black dude with sunglasses was contracted to serve as the host of the ultra-violent game show Terror is Reality, in which zombies were bloodily slaughtered in different made-up sports for entertainment.


Many years after that, far into the future, the even more violent and prestige reality show Death Watch was held in the isolated Varrigan City after years of hiatus.  This Death Watch was hosted by the fur-coat wearing black dude with sunglasses The Black Baron.


At first glance these seem to be three completely different characters from completely different game franchises made by completely different companies.  I, however, do not buy this for one second.  I believe that every one of these fur coat-wearing black dudes with sunglasses are in fact one and the same.  They are all an immortal fur coat-wearing black dude with sunglasses whose true name is unknown, but I call The Eternal Pimp.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Shonen Otaku's Diary of Frank West: Overtime, Final

It’s over.  Truly, finally over, except this time I mean that in a relieved way instead of a panicked way.  Our government is ready to implode in on itself, all the zombies are being taken care of, and I scored a pimpin’ new ride with a hot chick in it.  However, I was not able to save what I truly loved.  All I can do for my beloved now is write this so that their memory lives on.

I got the stuff on Isabella’s shopping list like she asked.  The entire time I had to deal with both armed guards and little armed remote control helicopters with guns built into them.  I don’t even know how they store all the bullets those things fire, let alone keep them afloat while the recoil is hammering back at them.  I was shot up so much it got boring, so I made a little game and tried to catch bullets with my teeth.  I was only able to pull it off once.

Source

Monday, February 17, 2014

Defending Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage 2

Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2 has gotten quite a lot of negative criticism from game critics, to the point that former Destructoid critic Jim Sterling placed it on his list as one of the worst games of the year.  This is unsurprising, seeing as how he seemed to have hated it more than anyone else even though he loved the first game, but I feel that a second opinion is in order.

I’m sure everyone who has had interest in Ken’s Rage 2 has all heard the complaints: the graphics are weak, the story presentation is bad, and almost everything is recycled from the first game.
I don’t want people who may actually like Ken’s Rage 2 to just brush the game off though, because it’s one of my favorite games of 2013.

Get down from there Kaioh, you're not that important.
You don't need to necessarily be a fan of Fist of the North Star in order to enjoy Ken’s Rage 2, even though many other critics may tell you otherwise.  The game’s story retells the manga very well.  One of my biggest problems with the first Ken’s Rage, other than the uncomfortable combat, was the extremely downsized story.  I had seen a good 38 episodes of the anime and had the first volume of the manga when I first saw Ken’s Rage, and from what I did see, they took out everything but the absolute bare minimum.  It wasn’t even a cliffnotes retelling.  It was like cliffnotes of cliffnotes!  Entire characters, story arcs, and motivations were all gone, and the result was hardly the true Fist of the North Star story.  I would even go as far as to call it downright insulting.

Ken’s Rage 2 fixes that, as implied by its Japanese title, Shin Hokuto Musou (shin meaning “true”).  Its story mode essentially tells the entire story, including one of my favorite fights not seen in the first game: Devil Rebirth!

Damn.  If only Leon Kennedy hadn't died when the bombs dropped.

I say “essentially” because there are very minor points cut or changed here and there from the source material.  For example, in the first major manga story arc there are four elite warriors named after card suits.  In Ken’s Rage 2, you only fight Spade and Heart.  The other two, Club and Diamond, have their roles replaced with common elite soldiers, since in the source material they just come and go with no impact.  There are a few other minor adjustments like that in the game, but you’re never missing much.

Think of it this way: you could spend several hours watching the anime online and trying to discern what’s filler and what’s not, you could spend hundreds of dollars finding very rare prints of the manga, or you could just play the game.  Since it tells the whole story this time, including the rather inferior final arcs, it’s a little over 20 hours long.  Granted, the story of the source material itself is still something of a niche considering it's pretty much the big granddaddy of shonen alongside Dragon Ball, but those who like badass action stories should enjoy it, and if you're reading this blog, I'm pretty sure you do.

Taizan Tenroken Ougi!
The gameplay too is fun for action fans.  Like Sengoku Basara and Dynasty Warriors, it’s a game all about beating the fudge out of hundreds of weaker enemies alongside other one-man armies with their own awesome techniques taken straight from the series.  Kenshiro is used most often in the main story mode, but when the story calls for it, you get to play as other characters for some variety.
You can play as the other unlocked characters any time in the game’s dream mode, which gives you even more hours of gameplay trying everyone out, unlocking their signature attacks, and playing through their own story modes and challenge missions.  Ken’s Rage 2 has over a dozen characters, including the two DLC ones from the first game, so there’s a lot to work with.

Naturally I’ve chosen Shin as my fighter of choice.  The master of Nanto Koshuuken who would do anything for the people he loves!

I have a stronger spear.  It's called my hand!
You’d think the combat would get repetitive, but it’s just too satisfying.  It's tight and moves at a faster pace (without any of that unnecessary jumping from the first game), certain signature moves from the first game were removed for redundancy or repurposed for practicality, and the blood and physics are satisfying enough to make you want to cross your arms and laugh in triumph.
Few things are more fun than pulling off moves like flying high in the air, raining down a burst of razor sharp fists, landing, then waiting a moment as the dozens of enemies hit slide apart like chopped baloney before exploding into blood clouds.
It can be kind of brainless at times, but also like Sengoku Basara and Dynasty Warriors, there's still a level of challenge thanks to the enemy's numbers and variety.


As fun as it is to pick on the little guys, Ken’s Rage 2 has boss battles that can be just as fun, especially in the story mode, where the story progresses as the fights move along.  Super-powerful men beating each other to death with flashy moves while monologuing is a shonen tradition.


And the music is great too.  Most of it is taken from the first game (which already had a rocking soundtrack), but there are some new tracks added for the second.


As much as I love Ken’s Rage 2, and as much as I think people should try it, I can’t say I disagree with the critics who call the game mediocre.  I agree that Ken’s Rage 2 doesn’t have enough polish to be worth its original $50 asking price.  Corners were cut.

I don’t have a problem with how the story mode is told like a freeze frame motion comic like some critics did (though the constant re-use of character models for the villagers and punks is distracting).  The main story mode makes them dynamic enough to keep them interesting, and it has fully animated cutscenes for the most memorable parts of the story (character introductions and deaths in particular).



There are noticeable shadow gaffes and texture pop-in in some areas of the comic cutscenes though.  They’re few and far between, but it's baffling nobody caught them before the game was released.

My real problem is in the legend mode stories, where the “show don’t tell” rule is not in effect and cutscenes look like little more than statues of the characters facing each other being dubbed over.  That’s just half-assed.  It would have been more effective to just use still images of characters conversing like in Blazblue.

The in-game graphics aren’t that impressive either, but as with the main story cutscenes, I don’t think it looks bad.  It doesn’t look as good as the first game technically speaking, but personally I found the excess of lighting and bloom effects in Ken’s Rage to be distracting.  Ken’s Rage 2 isn’t going to win the best graphics of the year award from anyone, but I can safely say it couldn’t be done on the Wii.

Hai.


The lack of map variety in legend mode doesn't help either.  The missions will often have minor differences in the objectives, but you'll find yourself playing the same handful of maps several times, though playing them with such varying characters alleviates that a bit.

Those shortcomings and the lack of an English language track are all valid points of contention.  Having no English voices is not that big of an issue to me, as I didn’t like the English voice acting in the first Ken’s Rage and the Japanese acting is great, but not having one at all instead of doing it right is lazy.  Usually when a game doesn’t have an English dub, it’s sold at a discounted price to make up for it.  This one was, but not at one low enough.

If it were released at $40, Ken’s Rage 2 may have gotten slightly more favorable critical response, but I agree that $50 was too much to ask for a game lacking polish in so many areas.  Ken’s Rage 2 isn’t a triple-A title so much as it is a single-A title, but now that you can find it for $20, it shouldn’t feel like a rip-off.  If you can look past the cut corners and want a classic shonen story in game form, I recommend giving Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2 a try.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Shonen Otaku's Diary of Frank West: Overtime, Part 1

I thought I could get away from this mess, but it was all for nothing.  All my struggles and all my violence have amounted to absolutely nothing, and for all I know, Otis changed his name and fled the country.

It’s all because of that stupid asshole Kakashi!  He came back at exactly the right time, and at first I appreciated his uncanny punctuality.  We were waving at each other giving our best cheers of joy that we succeeded and were making it out alive.  But Kakashi didn’t follow rule 31 of Zombieland!  Did he think this was just a brony riot or something?!

"What?  Something behind me?  Just the media oppression of the modern-day government dude!"


And how the hell did that thing sneak into the back seat without Kakashi knowing?  That zombie is a better ninja than he is!

With my ride a firey pile of scrap, I was ready to just sit down and die.  After all, with no helicopter, how was I going to get back my Twinkies?  The mall didn’t sell them, and the UBCS probably already shot them up for funsies.  I sat there on the helipad and contemplated my life.  The zombies (finally) found their way up and I could practically feel their rank halitosis.  I was ready and had no regrets other than never being able to enjoy the sweet cream filling of my Twinkies.


But then Isabella came in and ruined everything!  She came out of nowhere and shot all the zombies that were about to relieve me of my suffering!  That stupid bitch!  I was ready to cap her right between the eyes, but before I could whip out my liberated pistol, everything went black.  I must’ve caught that disease that makes you fall asleep at random.  Necrophilia, I believe it’s called.  I had no idea that was infectious!

Nothing!  F*$%# off!
When I woke up, we were both back in Carlito’s base.  She must've dragged me all the way back there.  She may also have violated me, but I was more concerned with how she was able to drag me all the way across the damn mall when I had to escort and carry her for the last two days!  She seriously meant to tell me that she could have just given me a piggyback all this time!  And the icing on the cake is she took everything I had in my pockets!

I backhanded her for wasting my time earlier, but for her pocket emptying I got creative and just gave her a scolding  It’s a good thing Isabela’s so submissive or she may not be helping me right now.

Apparently I’ve been infected.  After three days of practically showering myself in undead blood, I have now caught the zombie flu.




But there is hope, however small.  There is an itty bitty chance I can make it out of here and save my Twinkies.
At the risk of being eaten like her brother, Isabella has offered to make me a drug to make the flu retarded, or something like that.  With the flu too stupid to know what to do, I won’t turn into a zombie for a while and she will stay out of my stomach.

We’re going to need some really weird stuff from around the mall to make this thing work:
  • A first aid kit for the bullet wounds I’ll get from the UBCS while getting everything else.
  • A magnifying glass to burn a hole in my rock-hard muscles for the needle to enter.
  • A perfume bottle to get rid of that zombie smell.
  • Developing solution to inject the power of cameras into my bloodstream to make me a better photographer.
  • A camp stove to cauterize the injection hole.
  • Cold spray to put out any fires the stove makes.
  • Coffee filters because I don’t like my coffee raw.
  • A blender to recycle everything when we’re done using them to make a delicious shake.

And several of those wasps I’ve seen flying around the mall.  They should be easy enough to catch if I just slather myself in honey and get them to stick to me like fly paper, and that’s conspicuous enough to sneak past the UBCS.

I have 24 surprisingly specific hours to get all this stuff and bring it back.  The mall’s full of armed forces, and I’m going to be making trips up and down the whole place.  I guess I should just get to it instead of spending precious time writing this.

Cue montage music!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Shonen Otaku's Diary of Frank West: Final Day

It’s almost kind of fascinating how badly everything has gone to shit here.  People and zombies alike are being gunned down and all my friends are dead.  The UBCS is going to hide everything like at Santa Cabeza and the public will probably never know.  Sucks to be them.  I, on the other hand, am almost out of here.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

After getting fatass chunks all over my coat and eating Carlito, I drove around the maintenance tunnels looking for Brad.  I found him, but not in top condition.


His guts were spilling out of his stomach and blood was coming out of his mouth.  Pretty nasty injuries, but he’d be fine if I took him back to the safe house for some magic milk.  I drank all the gallons I had.



Too bad Brad didn’t let me.  He told me to keep away.  Being a badass, he said it didn’t hurt.  I thought he was just being tough, so I poked him a few times and asked if it that hurt, but every time Brad said he didn’t feel a thing.

"I'm already dead."



And then he exploded.


I don’t know how that happened, but it was an awesome way to go.  To carry on his legacy, I liberated his gun.

Yoink.
I went back to show Isabella my cool new locket, just to rub it in her face, but when she saw it, it made her think of something else.  Before I knew it, she had already typed in the password!  All this time it was “patch a mama”, which in her strange language (pretty sure it’s Gaelic) means “mother earth.”  If this is what mom does to their earth, she is one harsh bitch.

Apparently Carlito put some sort of memory seal on Isabella that made her unable to remember the password until it was unlocked by the key that was his locket!  Who knows what other kinds of mystical properties (and extra value) I can get out of this!

I was expecting to find a computer consisting of 90% porn and 10% secret terrorist stuff, but there was no porn.  We were able to clear up the phone lines though, and we didn’t even have to use pickle relish to do it.

Not five seconds after that, Jessie called me on the walkie to tell me she was contacting DHS headquarters.  I screamed into it, telling her not to.  If she called for rescue, that bitch would get out of here alive!  I couldn’t let that happen!  Not after what she’d done!

At first I hurried over to the safe house to kill the bitch before she got away, but a few minutes later she called back and said HQ ignored her.  Instead, the government was coming in to kill everyone in the mall.  At first I felt relieved that she wasn’t getting away, but I quickly realized two even bigger problems: that the feds might steal my kill and that they might take my Twinkies outside!!

Well, they didn’t steal my kill, at least.  In fact, the military didn’t seem to be doing the work at all.  They hired the UBCS!  I knew Umbrella was in on this!



In minutes, the UBCS overran the mall and killed most of the zombies.  They were all heavily armed, but their machine guns and heavy armor didn’t stand a chance against my pistol and manly physique!  I got more shot up than Swiss cheese, but the food court was on the way to the safe house, so I just filled my belly up with even more messiah juice and was on my way.  I even managed to liberate a few of their guns off their lifeless corpses.


I’m sure some of these guys have families to go back to, but the needs of the people named Frank outweigh the needs of the many.

Luckily Jesse was still in the safe house, along with a couple of dead soldiers and a note from Otis.  Apparently Otis hijacked a military chopper and escaped with the survivors, meaning he must’ve killed those two soldiers in the process!  That son of a bitch!  They were innocent human beings just doing their job!  And now that Otis has his own helicopter, he could be anywhere in the world by now!

Why is evil slipping through my fingers?!

As I cursed the heavens in a dramatic monologue, Jessie caught me by surprise.  I managed to take a nice picture, but soon she was all over me, giving me one of the most vicious make-out sessions of my life.



Her eyes were practically red with excitement and I swear she bit me once or twice too.  I came in ready to kill her, but I made a judgment call and decided to let her embrace me one last time.



Then I remembered what she did.  What she had said: “Can’t blame her for running from a guy with your looks.”  That was when I blew her brains out.  If anyone asks, it was self-defense.

With only a couple hours to go until Kakashi arrived to pick me up, I was willing to wait out the rest of my time here on the helipad, as the UBCS has yet to find it.  No wonder they had to nuke Raccoon city.  These guys aren’t thorough.



I changed into some fresh clothes and was just about ready to get some camping supplies, but I heard a voice in my head, the same one that lied to me and said I can’t speak Japanese!  It told me to go back to Isabella!  Through all the heavily armed resistance and zombies!  Again I refused, but I was swayed when the voice started playing “Whip My Hair” on a loop.

It was, of course, a stupid idea to go out there while the military was taking over because they caught me by surprise and took me away!  Apparently one of the agents set their machine gun to stun and knocked me out while I was on the verge of death.  I have yet to figure out how to set mine to stun, but then again, I don’t care.

When I awoke, I found myself bound to a helicopter in my undies.  Could it be that the UBCS are in league with the cult?  And more importantly, did they violate me while I was unconscious again?!  My bunghole must be red as a tomato!



Thankfully the helicopter had yet to take off and the guards outside moved backwards and forward in a predictable fashion.  As a wise man once said, “I can break these cuffs!”


And I did.  By putting my cuffs under my butt and agonizing in self-taught constipation, I was able to force out an incredible turd with the density of steel that broke my bindings and allowed me to escape.   I don’t know where the patrolling guards went when I left.

Hnnnnggggg!


I didn’t find any clothes on the way, so I had to meet Isabella in my undies.  She didn’t mind.

She told me that what the military is doing is just like what they did at Santa Cabeza and that I should’ve gone without her.  That’s it.

That's the plan.  It always has been.
I busted my ass getting there and was raped in the process just so she could tell me something I already knew and to do something I was going to do anyway.  I gave her a good backhand before leaving, the time-eating whore!

And I got kidnapped again on the way back to the heliport, so I had to make another cuff-breaking poop and run all the way back still in my undies.  I’ll have to remember to give her a second backhand for that.

I guess it was at least partially my fault for going back to the entrance plaza for camping equipment and stopping by the music store for a guitar, but any man would do the same if they were going to have to wait for hours.  Now I have my camp set up until Kakashi comes to get me out of this hellhole.  In the meantime, I guess I’ll practice my guitar playing.


I hope the UBCS doesn’t hear this.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Bobobo-bo-bo-bobo Review

No anime fan is a stranger to the bizarre.  Sometimes it’s cultural differences, but anime has some of the most wacked-out, creative, and sometimes supposedly drug-induced images and concepts none of us could come up with ourselves.  You need only look at Panty & Stocking, Lucky Star, or even the aptly titled Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure to see why anime has such a strong presence and fandom.


That’s not to say America doesn’t have its own weirdness.


But when I watch a strange anime, I catch myself thinking the same thing every time: “That was weird as hell, but it wasn’t Bobobo.”  No matter how weird an anime may get, I have yet to see anything more outlandish and mind-warping than Yoshio Sawai’s Bobobo-bo-bo-bobo.

The title alone should tell you it’s a weird one, but it goes far deeper than that.  Bobobo isn’t just weird and it wasn’t made on narcotics.  Bobobo-bo-bo-bobo is itself a narcotic; one you take just by watching it instead of snorting or injecting.  It is considered one of the most dangerous known to man, so much so that most drug dealers don’t dare stock it.  Watching it for too long at one time turns even the most intelligent human being into a babbling, head-banging psychopath.

That is the power of Bobobo.  And I love it.


Please do not click out of this page before you finish reading the show’s presmise.
Bobobo-bo-bo-bobo tells the story of a group of rebels led by the titular hero, who is one of the last remaining people of the Hair Kingdom, which was wiped out by the evil Chrome Dome Empire.  The Chrome Dome Empire, led by Czar Baldy Bald the Fourth, seeks to take over the world and shave everyone in it bald.

Being a parody of shonen, the overall structure is simple and straightforward.  Bobobo and his ever-increasing posse of allies fight villain after villain using their ridiculous abilities (super fists) and reality-warping randomness.  On the heroes side, there are characters like Hatenko, who uses the Super Fist of the Key, Gasser, with his Super Fist of the Backwind, and Service Man, whose only method of attack is flashing the enemy.


Bobobo himself, being of the Hair Kingdom, uses the Super Fist of the Nose Hair along with his “Wiggin’” fighting style, which basically lets him do anything he wants when he calls for it… Anything!  As the name of the technique implies, many of Bobobo’s attacks use his nose hair as well as his giant blonde afro.


Don’t close out of this!  This is serious!

Then there’s Beauty.  Beauty tags along with Bobobo for protection and questions things.  Silly girl.  There are no answers, and there are no rules.  There is only Bobobo.

But Don Patch is a good guy!


There are even more villains in the show than heroes, most of whom have fighting styles that are just as mad, such as Halekulani, who weaponizes money, Nunchuck Nick, who weaponizes tape, and Lambada, who turns objects into, and manipulates, polygons.

The insanity of when these superpowers clash is the main appeal of the show.  Every fight contains many puns, parodies, tons of nonsense, and more than enough mindfuckery to make you clutch your head.  You can choose any random episode and enjoy it.


That video is what your brain feels like when you’re watching Bobobo.  There’s no deep message to discuss or even characters to describe a whole lot other than “everyone is completely out of their minds (except Beauty and most villains)!”  It is the epitome of the surreal action comedy.

Much of the entertainment value can be attributed to the nigh-perfect English version, written by some of the best writers in anime, including Jeff Nimoy and Bob Buchholz, best known for their work on Digimon and the greatest anime ever made, Viewtiful Joe.  Like Digimon and Viewtiful Joe though, the English version was aired on TV and had to be censored (more than the anime was toned down from the manga), but I think that works in the show’s favor by giving it a much more innocent feel to it.

It’s a good thing they had control of this one, because I don’t think anyone less could pull off this kind of translation.  While the original manga and anime are enjoyably weird, there are a lot of Japanese cultural references and especially puns that could never be translated into the English language directly.

The heroes are playing an evil board game, and Bobobo first rolled a rhinoceros, so now he's rolling an elephant.


They remained faithful to the plot, but Japanese puns were replaced with English ones, the copious Japanese text was referenced as illegible, and the narrator was given a humongous role upgrade.

Even when not technically necessary, the English version makes something even funnier than it already was.



The English version of Bobobo has the chattiest narrator in any work, and with the hammy voice of Michael McConnohie pointing out stupidity, complaining about production and talking about his own life in the middle of the show, he’s one of the best parts.

The rest of the voice actors are also perfectly cast.  Fans of Digimon and the Viewtiful Joe anime will no doubt recognize many of the English version’s voice talent.  Bobobo is voiced by Richard Epcar (Myotismon, Ansem, after Billy Zane), second main character Don Patch is voiced by Kirk Thorton (Rotten Jack, Saix), Jelly Jiggler has the voice of Jameson Price (Commander Samson in Data Squad & Iron Tager in Blazblue), and Beauty is voiced by Philece Sampler (Mimi, Silvia).  Several other great actors include Jeff Nimoy (Viewtiful Joe) himself as Hatenko and the ever-underrated David Lodge (Jiraiya) as Giga and Czar Baldy Bald the Third, two of the best villains in the series.  All of them deliver their lines with as much enthusiasm as they can muster.  They have to speak, scream, change tones in an instant, and do everything in between.  They’re perfect for a series all about ridiculous and overblown fighting.


You’d think a series that’s just nothing but idiots battling evil by being as random as possible would get stale.  Truth be told, it can get repetitive on long viewing sessions, but like so many shonen series, there are enough set pieces and ideas to keep it interesting.  In one episode, Bobobo’s gang fights a group of villains on the rim of a giant toilet bowl, and anyone who falls in swells up like a balloon.  In another, they must fight a group of villains on bungee cords.  The fun never stops until the rather disappointing ending.

The Bobobo anime was cut short and wasn’t able to finish the entire run of the manga it’s based on.   In fact, in the final episode, the narrator outright says “we’ve run out of episodes.”  They make a joke out of it in their usual self-referential way, but it still comes out of nowhere and leaves you wanting more.

But I’m content with the 79 episodes we got, because they are outrageous works of surrealist humor, and not in that stupid Gainax way, where they resort to sexuality and make token attempts to take themselves seriously.  Bobobobo is like one good long joke.


It’s an anime that needs to be seen to be believed, so I highly recommend getting it on DVD.  The entire series is available in two box sets by S’more Entertainment.  These DVD versions keep the edited English version, but add small commercial interludes, the second Japanese opening, and the Japanese closing songs, none of which were in the version broadcasted on TV.


The DVD also seems to have added unaired bits later on in the show, in which the episode is given another recap and a second title in the middle.  I assume these were recorded, but cut from the original broadcast, likely due to its redundancy, but it does give the narrator more lines, which is always a good thing.

Disappointingly, the Japanese version doesn’t come with subtitles in the DVD release, not that it matters.  The English version is the best version, but it would have been great to see how the puns played out in Japanese (you can still make some of such puns and the original names out if you can read the Japanese text present in the English version, however).

They call it lightning ball, but the text says "psycho ball" (Athena?).


Because of its surreal nature and very shonen roots, Bobobo-bo-bo-bobo isn’t for anyone looking for a grounded experience (even by anime standards), but considering its popularity, there are a lot of people who can love it.  I am one of those people, and I give Bobobo an 8 out of 10.

I would like to end this review with a note from Mr. Nimoy himself:

“It’s an easy show to write.  All you have to do is take three hits of acid and then you just [zoom].”