Monthly Archives: March 2014

Game Review: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials and Tribulations

So this is the third game in the Ace Attorney series and the final installment of the original trilogy. If you’ve read my previous reviews, you’ll be familiar with the setup by now. You are a lawyer, a crime has been committed, and your job is to investigate and expose the lies in witness testimonies.

This time, however, you’ll be playing as two characters: Phoenix himself, and his mentor, Mia. Other than that, gameplay is pretty much unchanged from the second game. The Psyche-Locks make a return appearance, and serve to break up the investigation portions a bit, and of course you still have to press or object to witness statements, as usual.

The other major difference between Trials and previous games (particularly Justice For All) is that this game is a bit easier. I only found myself completely stuck a few times, and even then, I was on the right track. Still, if you played the previous game and found it a bit too hard, this one eases up on the player a bit (the fourth case in particular was very easy for me).

By now, everyone should be familiar with the quirkiness of the casts of each of the Ace Attorney games. You have your regulars, like Maya, Pearl, and Detective Gumshoe, and new faces (most notably, a new prosecutor, Godot) including a couple that you just have to see to believe. Seriously, Jean Armstrong is an effeminate French chef who wears pink, carries roses, flirts with male characters, and constantly misgenders himself (and is misgendered by) other characters (or is he?). I should note that his name in both the English and Japanese versions is gender neutral, but since he’s French in the English version, I assume his name is meant to be read as the masculine version. Stereotypical? Yes. Something that I’ve pretty much come to expect from Ace Attorney where every single character is stereotyped to some degree and is informed by Japanese culture where gender and sexuality are treated differently than in the West? Yes.

Once again, the series gets very, very “flashy” with it’s graphics (especially when Furio Tigre is introduced with at least 30 seconds of “flashy” text that practically has “epilepsy trigger” written all over it), but my other criticisms, that the games are very short, is not so much an issue here. The game is still pretty short, but the cases are much longer, plus there’s no circus case, i hated that case. Gods that case was annoying. Oh, and I really liked Godot, but he can be a bit sexist at times (also he will make you crave coffee, I don’t even drink coffee and I wanted to try it). The one other thing I didn’t like was the music, not that the music was bad, but I felt the trial music really didn’t inspire the same sense that I had a witness on the ropes, the lack of a good “Cornered” theme (my favourite track from the original) was very disappointing.

Overall, there were some really great twists and turns in this installment (including two “holy shit!” moments for me that happened within a couple seconds of each other) and it’s basically a more refined version of the second game. I can’t wait to play Apollo Justice and Investigations!

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Spring Update!

Before I hit you with moar reviews (three incoming) I thought I’d take a moment to update you on what’s been going on, since I haven’t done more informational posts in quite some time.

  • Next week I go to the doctor’s to check my eyes to see if the cross-linking procedure I had in October has worked
  • I’m still writing, but I’ve started to post stories to my tumblr rather than my blog, I will probably repost a couple here, I haven’t been able to be as productive as I like since my eyes have been giving me trouble
  • I’m (slowly) editing The Eldermaid, not sure when it will be released, and working on other writing projects that should have been finished ages ago, but see above

I’m sick and tired of all this godsdamn snow! I’m at the point where I just want it all to go away and not come back for five years, or never. UGH!

Anyways, this has been your break from the mountain of reviews.

 

Review: Sailor Moon Vol. #6

We’ve finally arrived at the last volume in the first box set, halfway to reading the entire series.

This volume kicks off the Infinity arc. A lot happens in this volume. We’re introduced to a new group of villains, and two mysterious new Sailor Guardians, Neptune and Uranus, appear with their own agenda. Meanwhile, Chibiusa makes a new friend, Hotaru, who seems to have some connection to incidents involving students from an elite school turning into monsters.

So the first couple of arcs were great, but the last arc in particular seemed rushed. The pacing in this volume is great, and other characters besides Usagi and Mamoru actually get a chance to hog the spotlight (particularly Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus, who absolutely steal every scene that they’re in). This volume also contains a Mercury-centric chapter, which makes me happy.

At this point it appears like someone finally got to Kodansha about the translation, because the dialogue seems much more natural now. I’m still scratching my head over the way Haruka’s last name is rendered as “Ten’o” (which is apparently correct but isn’t really how your average Japanese speaker would write it). That doesn’t mean there aren’t awkward moments, but the entire volume is much more readable now, and I’m glad they appear to have made an effort to fix things (or maybe I’m just used to the awkwardness and I didn’t notice). It still sucks that you have to stick around for five volumes of awkwardness, but if so, this one’s a treat to read, trust me.

Also, Haruka and Michiru are definitely not cousins. I just thought I’d make that clear.

Review: Sailor Moon Vol. #5

We’re almost through with the first Sailor Moon box set!

So, to recap, when we last left our heroes, Chibiusa encountered the Wiseman beyond the Door of Space and Time. Mercury, Mars, and Jupiter are still out of action, and we got a lot of backstory about Nemesis and its history with Neo Crystal Tokyo.

Overall I found this volume kind of confusing. On the one hand you have Tuxedo Mask trying to rescue Chibiusa, you have Sailor Moon and Sailor Venus trying to find the scouts (also Prince Demande is really pushy) but then you have the appearance of the Black Lady. Once again, the incredibly awkward translation does not help, at all. It’s easy enough to piece together what’s going on, but there were times when I had to pause and ask myself “Wait, what’s going on?” Since this volume concludes the second story arc, everything eventually gets wrapped up, and you have epic betrayals and drama and a character death or two, but it all seems very rushed as if someone really couldn’t wait to just get on with the next arc. (The preview for the next arc looks very intriguing.)

Overall, I’d say that this arc started off strong, but it just seems like between all the exposition and the confusion at the end it wasn’t as epic as it could have been (again, the translation does not help).

Next stop: the Infinity arc!

Review: Phantom Thief Jeanne #1

It’s a manga review double feature today, apparently.

I picked this up on a whim at Comic Con because it looked cute and AMERICAN COVER PRICES FOR EVERYTHING!

….Or just because it looked cute.

As it turns out, I’d heard of this series before (you may know it as Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne) but I never really looked into it. I watch the occasional anime, but I never really got into buying manga until relatively recently (and not only because I just didn’t have the money for it, which I didn’t, but that’s besides the point). The manga was originally published in Japan in 1998 – 2000 and reprinted in 2013. This English edition is the five volume reprint (originally it was released in seven volumes).

By day, Maron Kusakabe is an ordinary high school student, but by night, she’s Phantom Thief Jeanne, who sneaks into private art collections in order to steal the paintings that hide demons inside them, which feed on the hearts of humans. The hardest part of her job seems to be evading the police, but things get complicated when another thief, Phantom Thief Sinbad, arrives on the scene and he’s trying to steal the demon occupied paintings before she does!

I like Maron as a character. Outwardly, she appears to be a very kindhearted person, but inside she has major trust issues, and God help you if you betray her trust. Her banter with her best friend Miyako is always entertaining. Other major characters include Chiaki, who is a jerk who practically has Obvious Love Interest emblazoned on his forehead, Finn Fish, Jeanne’s angelic companion/mascot character, Access Time, another angel who follows Chiaki around, and Yamato Minazuki, the mild-mannered, somewhat nerdy class president with an unrequited crush on Maron. They all have very distinct personalities, and (unlike Sailor Moon) I don’t really have the sense that one character’s development is being privileged over the others.

Comparisons to Sailor Moon are inevitable because I read this at the same time as that series, but Kodansha could really stand to take some notes on how not to do an awkward translation from manga like this. The dialogue sounds more natural in English, and there aren’t any obvious spelling mistakes. Don’t get me wrong, Sailor Moon is great, but reading this was a real treat after putting up with so much awkward phrasing and honorifics.

The art is pretty good. I’m a fan of more detailed art and there’s enough detail to satisfy me, but as usual your mileage may vary.

For triggery things, there’s a moment where a possessed Minazuki tries to force a kiss on Maron, but she is rescued in the nick of time by Chiaki. Chiaki is a jerk who abuses Maron’s trust, and one major theme is parental abandonment/neglect.

Overall though, I’m not sure if I’ll purchase the next one. The characters are interesting, it’s nice to see a protagonist who has issues with trusting people (and who actually sounds like a teenager) the mascot character isn’t a pain in the ass, but it didn’t really grab me, it just kind of took my hand and held it. There’s definitely a nostalgia factor for me (Jeanne reminds me of a more “mature” Cardcaptor Sakura) but, especially when compared with Sailor Moon (which also has a T rating) it seems a bit juvenile. I know that sounds odd since it’s meant for teenagers and I’m almost 30. I suppose that’s due to the series age and the fact that I’ve seen so many magical girl shows at this point that Jeanne just doesn’t affect me the way it might have a decade ago. I would definitely say this was a strong first volume, but I’m not sure if it’s enough to sell me on the rest of the series. In any case, if you’re a fan of magical girls (particularly Cardcaptor Sakura) then I’d say this one is worth a look, even if it’s just a peek.

Review: Sailor Moon Vol. #4

I actually finished this last week but I’m just getting to it now.

This volume continues the “Nemesis” arc, with the sailor guardians facing off against the Black Moon Clan–or they would if they’d stop getting abducted. There’s a ton of exposition: Chibi-Usa’s identity, what the whole deal is with Nemesis, and new insights into Usagi and Mamoru’s relationship. This volume also introduces Sailor Pluto, the mysterious guardian of the Door of Space and Time.

It might just be me, but so far as I’m reading the series I’m finding that the other characters besides Usagi and Mamoru aren’t getting a whole lot of character development. I feel like the villains are being given a bit more depth, but the other scouts don’t really seem to have the same strong characterization that they had in the anime (to be fair, the anime had to pad things out with more characterization).

As usual, the art is great and the translation is awkward. I swear to gods, if I had a dollar for every time Chibi-Usa is addressed as “Small Lady” I’d be too rich to care about this series. At one point during the translation notes, the translator even says “I have no idea what these chemistry terms mean, you look it up,” and I’m just like “Well….okay then……” For those who are interested, I found a website that goes over the translation mistakes/awkwardness in the manga.

Overall, I found #4 to be one of the more exposition-heavy volumes, and I’d like to see more characters get a little more development.

Gef Fails at Games!

For those of you who would just love to watch me fail at games, I uploaded videos of me playing Dark Souls and The Yawhg and fail miserably at both of them.

Really sorry about the audio quality in them. I’m trying to fix it. For now, make sure to turn the volume on your speakers down low.

Gef Plays Dark Souls

Basically I forget the controls for Dark Souls (I’m using keyboard and mouse with custom settings because lazy port is lazy).

Gef Plays The Yawhg!

IT’S ALL THE GREEN MAN’S FAULT! ALL HIS FAULT!

The Thirteen Houses Project: Orchis

[Once a month for the next twelve months, I will be doing a post on the 13th of each month based on one of the Thirteen Houses of the Court of Night-Blooming Flowers from Kushiel’s Legacy.]

This is a short post because I seem to be out of inspiration for the day.

This month’s House is Orchis House, one of my favourites. The canon of Orchis House is humour and its motto is “Joy in laughter”. Orchis House holds that Naamah lay with the King of Persis “for a lark”.

The lesson of Orchis House is that joy and religiosity need not be (or appear to be) mutually exclusive, that sometimes even goddesses do things “for the lulz” and that too, is sacred. (Even deities need to have a little fun.) That sometimes, you just need to pause in the middle of a ritual and laugh at how silly you sound. Orchis adepts, in my mind, have little use for solemn rituals (such as a Cassiline brother might perform) joy infuses everything that they do, including paying homage to Naamah. I like to think of them as gently teasing their patrons, engaging in a joke or two at their expense, perhaps singing a bawdy song or two.

Some may see this behaviour as irreverent, but for an Orchis adept, it’s as much a part of serving Naamah as healing is for a Balm adept and pleasure is for a Jasmine adept, there’s no separating one from the other. There are many people who are serious about their faith who will still make endless jokes at their deities’ expense, and it doesn’t mean they’re any less serious about what they do.

And I’m sure some deities enjoy jokes at their expense, very much so. I mean, you know what they say about not being able to laugh at yourself, right? Deities aren’t necessarily exempt from that just as they aren’t immune to petty jealousy or taking cheap shots at each other.

I’ve already talked about this in my post on “Faith and Fun” and I feel that that post perfectly captures what Orchis House is about, and I think this sense of fun is something that tends to be looked down upon as lacking in spiritual value.

“Orchis italica” by Lumbar (Via Wikipedia)

Game Review: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice For All

I’m still kicking myself over the fact that I didn’t get into these games when they first came out in North America, but I’ve been slowly making up for it by collecting them all. It took me awhile to pick up the second game in the series, but now it’s here and I’ve beaten it, so all is well.

Once again, you step into the shoes of Phoenix Wright, a defense attorney with a few cases under his belt, and once again, there are crime scenes to investigate, quirky characters to interview, and lies to uncover in court. If you’ve played the first game or you’ve read my review of it, you’ll know what to expect from the second.

The one addition to gameplay is the Psyche-Lock system. Many of the characters you will speak to during your investigations have secrets that they literally keep under lock and key, and the Psyche-Lock system allows you to “unlock” those secrets to give you new pieces of information to aid you in the trial segments–provided you have the evidence to do so. I heard that a common complaint about the first game was that the investigation scenes went on too long, and this system does break up the more “wordy” portions with a bit of gameplay.

Other than that, as I said, it’s more of the same. During the trial portions of the game, you still either press a witness for more information or object to a statement with evidence. The trial segments do throw a couple curve balls your way, such as one witness who can’t be pressed where the game penalizes you for pressing them too many times. A life bar now replaces the exclamation points from the first game, and if it depletes, well, it never depleted all the way for me, but my guess is it’s game over. Unlocking Psyche-Locks refills Phoenix’s life bar, which is very helpful if you screwed up a lot during one of the trial segments. As usual, finding contradictions in testimony requires examining evidence in the Court Record and thinking outside the box. The game does drop hints if you get stuck, but since I haven’t mastered this skill, like, at all, I found myself reaching for a walkthrough more often than not. You’ll see plenty of old faces from the last game, new faces include Prosecutor Franziska von Karma (you’ll recognize that name from the first game) a German (at least in the dub) prosecutor who is very whip-happy and fond of *ahem* administering “punishment” to anyone who acts like a foolish fool who foolishly dreams of foolish things and Pearl Fey, Maya’s young cousin and a powerful spirit medium in her own right.

My criticisms of this game are basically the same as they were for the last game. It’s still short and very linear (although the last case has a couple endings depending on a certain choice you make) but that’s pretty much par for the course for this sort of visual novel/adventure-y experience. The series appears to be very fond of flashing graphics which are possible epilepsy triggers. For potentially triggering content, a suicide and attempted suicide are the backbone of one case (there’s a shot of the victim from behind, but it’s clear that she hung herself), and the prosecution makes a really insensitive remark about one of the witnesses at one point in order to draw out information (they’re called out on it). There’s also one character at a clinic (one of the patients) who disguises himself as the director in order to ogle the female patients which is….yeeeeeeeah……I’m not touching that one.

Basically if you liked the first game, the second is more of the same with an additional gameplay element to keep things interesting.

Review: Saga (Vol. 2)

[Note: The following contains SPOILERS for the first six issues of Saga, and more discussion of NSFW content.]

Yes I finished volume 2 already. I think this series is my new favourite thing.

Volume 2 includes issues 7 to 12 of the series. It begins with the arrival of Marko’s parents, Barr and Klara, who accidentally banish Izabela to the nearest planetoid. While Marko and his mother head to the planetoid to retrieve their ghost babysitter, Alana bonds with Marko’s father. Meanwhile, The Will is still trying to figure out how to rescue Slave Girl from Sextillion, enter Gwendolyn, Marko’s ex, who obviously has her own reasons for wanting to hunt down Marko. The volume ends with a Robot IV-centric issue as he tracks down the author of Alana’s favourite book (volume 12 caused some controversy when a company pulled it for depicting sex between men).

Saga continues to deliver tough female characters with the addition of Klara and Gwendolyn (both women of colour). Interestingly, like with Marko and Alana, Klara is very aggressive while Barr is the cool-headed one (he’s also a weaver, a traditionally “feminine” activity). Gwendolyn hatches a plan to rescue Slave Girl in the space of a few minutes that doesn’t require unnecessary risks or a ton of money. It does seem like the ladies aren’t getting to participate in as many action scenes as the guys (Klara because Marko is a pacifist, Gwendolyn does help The Will rescue Sophie but somehow manages to not kill an enemy with a lightning strike to the stomach, making it necessary to finish the job with a gun). I’m hoping the women will have many more opportunities to be badasses as the series goes on. A small thing that made me happy is the fact that Landfall has a female president

Overall, there’s much less blood and gore and sexual content in this than the last volume, although we do get to witness the first time Alana and Marko had sex, and there’s the aforementioned depiction of oral sex between men on Prince Robot IV’s screen (which could be interpreted in a few different ways). There’s also the really, really, really endowed ogre-like monster that Marko and Klara have to face. Like seriously it’s one of the most grotesque displays of full-frontal male nudity I have ever seen. (I heard the writer actually apologized to the artist for making her draw it.) I don’t blame anyone for wanting the brain bleach after viewing that splash page.

Overall, volume 2 is more of the same, and that’s fantastic. The series has some really great characters and interesting ideas, and I already can’t wait for the next collection!