Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Project X Zone U.S. Release

Project "Cross" Zone

Do you like Capcom? Maybe you love Namco...? How about Sega? Well, if you're not a fan of these companies then you're out of luck. Project X Zone, is a 3DS game featuring a collaboration between the mentioned gaming companies. While not only featuring decent gameplay, the game combines characters from multiple series. Units work together in paired groups, containing one support  only character.

No, it's nothing like Smash Brothers. Well, sure it does feature fighting elements, but it's more of a turn based strategy game merged with one combo fighter.

So how do the controls work? While on the field units each have a turn to move, attack, use and collect items. Unlike Fire Emblem, you're not allowed to move each unit when you feel like it. It seemed that the turn order is already decided. Don't worry, the game differing from Fire Emblem is still a good thing. Using and collecting items, opening treasure chests, and other actions do not take up a turn, so feel free to do as much as you want while you can.

Starting the battle phase is a bit different. 2D sprites of your selected unit(s) are on screen, waiting for your command. Depending on the direction pressed during button mashing, combos and actions can be changed. By tapping the L or R button you're able to call in a support or supports at will. Attacking an enemy unit with supports and units combined initiates the Cross Hit, which keeps the enemy from moving during combos.

While gameplay looks complicated, winning is pretty simple. Just keep your units alive and attack enemies until their HP falls to 0. Sadly, during battles you are limited to only a certain amount of attacks, but certain actions allow you to gain an extra attack chance. It also helps to save up meter during battle, using special attacks will easily finish off a normal enemy, or take a big chunk out of their health.It's important to take note that using items, picking up items, and healing allies takes up meter.

If you're curious to find out if a certain character is included you can find the full character list here. The game features many fan favorites, including Ryu and Chun-Li, (Street Fighter) Jin Kazama, (Tekken) Dante, (Devil May Cry) and more. The characters will retain their Japanese voices in the English release.

The demo is up and available on the 3DS Nintendo Shop, so if you're not sure whether to skip or get this, check it out.

So what is the real attraction you ask? I'd have to say the vast amount of characters and the easy to jump into battle system. At first it seemed really confusing and complex, but after replaying the demo a couple of times I understood most of the gameplay just by experimentation. There addition of a few custom characters is also pretty nice especially if you're bored of the same cast. Also, the story isn't that bad either.

The game is definitely on my "must buy" list.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Japanese Music Spotlight #5



Title ~ Vanguard!
Artist ~ JAM Project
Lyrics ~ Hironobu Kageyama
Composed by ~ Hironobu Kageyama
Music by ~ Anze Hijiri


English Version (Short)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Few Things I Picked Up While Learning Japanese

Learning Japanese

Hello everyone! I've been learning Japanese for a good amount of time now and have made little progress. Before I thought learning focused on memorization of certain words and phrases, but I realized that's not the case.

I've been doing some reading, looking up a lot of Japanese learning sites, and it's hard to get much guidance on where to start. So many places to learn, but are they really teaching you the right thing?

I just took Japanese wherever I could get it. The site might be shady or fan made, but I desperately wanted to learn.

Yeah, that obviously wasn't a good idea. I didn't learn much, and the few things I did learn were either rough phrases or incorrect.

If you're stuck in an area like mine, there aren't many opportunities to study Japanese under an instructor. Most of the things I learned have been through anime or my own teaching. Visiting the local Barnes and Noble was also pretty useful.

Yet with all of these resources, I still wasn't learning. What was stopping me? Was I too old to learn or was my memory too bad?

My studies were soon put off due to busy schedule, laziness, and other excuses.

You might be thinking that I just gave up, and figured that English would be my only language. Sadly, I was on the verge of throwing my hands up, but I regained my drive.

Now I've been learning faster and more efficiently than ever. It's like a miracle, or some sort of blessing. However, everything doesn't come naturally. I still need to put in a lot of hard work and I'm only a novice at the language, but that's not going to stop me. For my fellow learners I want to let you in on a few tips that helped me out.

Don't Just Learn, Experience

While expecting to hear a new language and learn it immediately is great, it's near impossible. I'm sure a select few are that gifted, but for the rest you'll need to work hard. I found it was easier to learn when I read into the culture, and studied the history behind the language. Okay, it may sound a bit boring, but test it out. If you decide to move to or visit Japan someday, you should probably learn about their culture. It's not all anime and video games.

There's actually a specific book that I found immensely helpful. It's known as The Japanese Mind. Not only do you gain an insight of culture, it offers a few vocab lessons. It's a very good read.

Ah yes, there's more to experiencing than reading. Get outside! Even if you are Otaku, go to anime conventions, Japanese restaurants, and other hotspots of the culture. Try using your Japanese by speaking to others, it's one of the best ways to improve.

Focus on Recalling, Not Memorization

Don't give up Tenma!
Yes, schools may teach you to read down a list of Kanji until the characters are burned into your mind, but is that really helpful? Whenever, I tried to memorize Kanji, Hiragna, or Katakana I ended up forgetting the next day.

The secret is to recall, not memorize.

Basically, whenever you try to recall something you've heard or seen your brain works harder to remember it. The more you recall, the more the thing you're trying to remember is ingrained into your mind. 

Picture yourself digging for a treasure chest. You keep digging deeper in the sand, yet you can't find it, but you know it's there. By the time you hit the chest you remember where it is, and if you were to bury it again you'd be able to find it with ease.

One of my favorite ways learning with recalling is through quizzes that randomize questions. Even if you start knowing nothing, eventually you'll be able to recall all the answers. I learned basic Hiragana using this test in a hour or two.
Have Fun While Learning

Who said school was boring?
I think this also goes in hand with recalling. Anime is one of those methods. Have you ever tried watching anime raw? (No English Subs.) Were you able to point out a few words you heard? If so, that means you're learning. 

Aside from anime, you can also learn through music. There's specific songs that teach you different parts of Japanese, and they're extremely catchy. (No seriously, they'll get stuck in your head forever.)

Ending Notes

That's pretty much it. I've been using all these techniques, and I feel myself learning and having fun! There's also a few interesting things I'd like to try such as:
  • Teaching a native Japanese speaker English, and vice versa.
  • Setting my computer to Japanese and trying to navigate.
  • Typing with a Japanese keyboard.

Good luck future Japanese experts!

What Makes the Main Character?

Whats Makes The Main Character?

Aichi Sendou ~ Cardfight!! Vanguard

The main character or protagonist, is usually the center of attention. They're known for being somewhat different than others, like an underdog, or master of a trade. We know of many leading characters, but what makes main characters so attractive; what makes them so worthwhile that the story naturally unfolds around them?

A Special Trait

Yugi Muto~ Yugioh

Instead of being some top ranked champion fighter, or a high class warrior, the protagonist is a normal person. They go about their business until something happens. Before we know it, our average guy is the possessor of some psychic ability. The orphan is the heir to an ancient clan. The silent genius is secretly psychotic. Each one is a normal character, with a twist.

It's the twist that ends up making the character. Who wants to watch a regular human being, when we are already living that life? It's almost the same as watching an anime about ourselves. We know what we're going to do, we have a daily routine or schedule, and nothing really changes. Sounds boring.

That's why uniqueness is so intriguing; it's different from the norm. Not only does the special attribute make the character more interesting, it separates them from the others. However, when taken to extreme levels, the main character may became either too strong, or too different from everyone else. The protagonist then overshadows all the others as they become merely stock characters. An example is Dragon Ball Z's main character, Goku. By the end of the series, Goku and the other saiyans became so much stronger than the others, anyone outside of the race was overshadowed. 

The Persistent Underdog

Naruto Uzumaki ~ Naruto/Naruto Shippuden

Okay, what if they have no psychic ability or sixth sense? There's nothing magical about them, they're just human. Then what sets them apart from others? 

Usually this falls down to their personality. Something about the way they act makes them stand out. When everyone else is afraid to speak out, who is the one to bark first? The main character. Chaos breaks out and all are in panic, yet someone stays calm and takes charge. Again, the protagonist to the rescue. 

Either they're a natural leader, or someone who never gives up, their personality is different from the rest. The other characters usually realize it, and it's repeated more times than needed. The writers make sure to burn that fact into your mind until you think "This character has a unique personality, they are not like the others." 

While I only used one example, the persistent underdog, there's quite a few that fall under this category.

Generic and Cliche, Yet Still Popular

Ragna the Bloodedge ~ BlazBlue

No, the man above  is not Dante, sadly he is a walking cliche. Why, you ask? Let's check the list here... 

Red eyes, red jacket, dark powers? Check. Really spiky hair that's also white? Another check for him. Not only does he have the appearance, he has the personality. He's an angry delinquent using excess amounts of profanity, bearing hatred for authority, while still maintaining a soft side. 

Poor Ragna is full of these traits, yet he's one of the most popular characters in the BlazBlue series. How do they do it? Think about the following saying: "If it isn't broken, don't fix it."

The saying completely describes Ragna. While he is completely lacking originality it doesn't make him any less of a character. His traits appeal to a wide audience, and yet still make him an interesting character. He is definitely fitting of his role. Being one of the easiest characters to play in BlazBlue is just an added bonus.

It may sound somewhat trashy, but if you're lacking creativity, just combine what you see. A few main characters follow this pattern and are almost instantly popular with the masses. Who cares if they aren't original, they're still great characters.


Suzuka Asahina ~ Suzuka

Not all main characters fall into these categories, but they all have their own special ways of becoming the center of attention. They may be taken as a joke or they might annoy you, but they always find ways to get under your skin. 

While no two characters are the same, it's obvious that the leading roles share similarities.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Moonlit Walks

Moonlit Walks

Another Visual Novel. This one's not as long as Phantom Seeds, but it's pretty good. I love the ominous mood of the story and the ending. It reminds me of  life's mysteries.  A myth that no one has proven. Pretty cool huh? You can try it yourself. Enjoy!

"Thanks for watching!"

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Japanese Music Spotlight #4

Memories of You

Song ~ Kimi no Kioku (Memories of You)
Game ~ Persona 3
Artist ~ Shoji Meguro 
Vocals ~ Kawamura Yumi
Lyrics ~ Komori Shigeo
Music ~ Meguro Shouji

Monday, June 10, 2013

Is Moe Really Ruining Anime?

Moe, Moe, More to Share! Moe, Moe, Everywhere!
"Moe is a Japanese term used in connection with manga or anime to describe something precious, usually (but not always) the ideal of youthful and innocent femininity. Written with the kanji for "to bud or sprout" (萌), the concept covers a range of ideal behaviour for youthful female characters in manga or anime. To be moe, a character can be eager or perky, not overly independent, and call forth a desire in the viewer to protect them and nurture them. The term is also used to describe any preciously cute item; there is an animal mascot character store in Tokyo called Moe." ~Anime News Network

To some the whole Moe Genre is what defines anime. To others, it's the bane of the anime world. While Moe has changed the outlook of anime, is that necessarily a bad thing? I'm sure you all have heard different things regarding animation. "All anime is for kids!" "Why are you still watching cartoons?" However, the viewers know that those statements are untrue. It wasn't always seen like this before. Back in the day we had quality anime that didn't require little bright balls of sunshine running around. Look at Dragon Ball/Z, Sailor Moon, and Pokemon. Look what it's done to our pride and joy! Let's toss all of our hateful comments and insults towards these characters and series!

That's what I would say, if I wanted to be a blind fanboy. I do feel that thanks to these characters, anime is being seen as childlike and playful. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it's not a good thing either.

People seem to write off anime due to these assumptions. They even demand that such types do not even exist. Sorry that not everyone likes to make older characters or ones with unrealistically long bodies. Apparently to these people there's no such thing as freedom or expression in the form of writing.

People seem to hold the past in high regard. We judge everything with our nostalgia glasses on. "This game is pretty good, but not as great as the old ones." "I would try this series out again, but it won't ever be as good as it used to be." They need to take them off, as time is still ticking. We can't go back in time, and we won't be able to anytime soon. 

Now yes, there are  series that are extremely moe. The ones where everything is so cute and cuddly that it feels like your eyes are burning. Here's the blind fan speaking again, "Get rid of all of them, they're horrible!" Hate to break it to you, but Moe is acceptable by most fandoms.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that the genre is better than everything, but no it's not all that bad. There are many good anime considered to be moe. An example of one would be, Puella Magi Madoka Magica. At first it looks like your typical magical girl anime, but by delving into the plot, the truth is revealed. There are darker themes held within the series, something not usually related to Moe. The point was made that you can also be cute and serious.

Now an opposite example would be To Love Ru. The series isn't all that bad, but it sets a bad name for Moe. The female characters are basically eye-candy for the viewer, and the plot isn't all that great. There's a lot of ecchi and fanservice involved. The characters do not have much of a personality, and are mainly static.

So to answer the question, Moe is not ruining anime. No, I don't feel it's a fad either. I just feel like it's a transformation anime is going through, and will eventually leave behind. Mecha was a popular genre until Moe took it over. Who knows what's next, maybe horror or shonen. People who say Moe is leading to the downfall of anime, are taking things too seriously. Either that, or they haven't experienced enough anime to get a good grasp of the situation. So take off those nostalgia glasses, and look forward, not backwards.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Phantom Seeds Visual Novel Playthrough

Hello! Aside from the anime editorials and Naruto reviews, I'd like to try something new. It's called Phantom Seeds, a visual novel. A visual novel is basically a story, except you have a say in what happens. It is available here, and is also downloadable at the Google Chrome Store. The novel/game is completely free, so feel free to try it out.

My Playthrough

Phantom Seeds

Written & Illustrated by:
Zeiva Inc
Music by:
Kevin MacLeod

"Thanks for watching!"

Friday, June 7, 2013

Writer's Block? Look Here...

Each day we write or tell stories in some way. Maybe you're lost writing an epic novel. The hero comes to the end of road to find what? Could you be writing an intergalactic exploration? Is that black hole staring you  right in the face? Perhaps you're a fanfic pro, but you've seem to lost your luster. You could just be the average guy or girl, telling a story of your day. Whatever you are, writer's block happens to everyone. Sure, you can throw your hands up and give in, but what good will that do?

I think how we deal with writer's block relates to our lives. I feel as if we live our lives on autopilot. We feel the same things and maintain the same schedule. We fiddle with our smartphones, laptops, and desktops. We peruse the internet, mindlessly visiting the same sites awaiting a new update. Even when it comes to anime, we see the same things. The tsunderes, the silent protagonist, the villain that no one likes. Aside from the programmed responses we have for situations, we've become emotionally numb.

Have you ever focused intently on what you're doing? Have you lived in the present? Before you pick up that game, are you thinking about what you're going to do in the future, or what's about to happen? When watching anime, should we predict the plot and potentially ruin the series?

Being a writer and staying involved with Japanese Pop Culture, I began to think about these things. Before I grabbed my controller today I thought about what was going on. I stared at my status which mockingly read "story ideas a bit hard to come by." That rock in the road wasn't going to move anytime soon... or so I thought. Then it hit me, an epiphany.

With haste I quickly opened up the game Phantasy Star Online 2. I jotted down a few mental notes, and began to make my character. It took quite a while, a few hours even, but when I was finished I was satisfied. The model standing before me was not going to be my avatar. She was not in my control, nor was I watching her. I had to become her.

The game continued on after I named her, appropriately fitting the character traits in my head. When the story sequence started, everything was from her point of view. Why was the sky so bright. Why is this character looking like this. Where am I? What's going on? What does this mean?

The story of the game itself wasn't great, but what excited me was the tale I was creating from my experiences. The people I met, they were real. They became a piece of my story. The scenery and the actions I took in the game became another part. Bit by bit, everything I did became my story. Yet, I did not have to write any notes down, because I had my own notes located in my mind. They were not just there for reference; they were memories.

When I was done for the day, I logged off and began typing like mad. Everything came to me like instinct. Thus my story was born. The puzzle pieces were scattered about, and I was slowly assembling the big picture. Every time I play, I'm not just trying to level up. I'm not trying to just find something to kill time. I'm writing, I'm dreaming, I'm learning.

I wanted more; that one experience was not enough. After all, what story is good with only one character?

I decided to make another character; two more in fact. These two differed greatly from the first. I had a sharp picture of what their personalities were, their likes, their fears...everything. I took their point of view and played throughout the game as them. They were now a part of this story. Another puzzle piece was thrown into the heap.

Not only did I forget that I was actually playing to write, I started to realize something. While playing, I was learning. Not just in the field writing, but learning more about people. Finding out what makes them tick, what bugs them, what drives them crazy. It was not just a new novel, it was an adventure.

I looked over my characters, and they seemed more real than before. Of course, if one is creating their own work, anime or not, knowledge of people is a must. While a character that's picture perfect in every way is grand, a character that has flaws is just as interesting. If you find yourself lacking in story, character design, plot, I recommend turning on a game; preferably one that has a character customization; and let the game set the stage.Of course that doesn't mean you should steal the entire concept; it should just serve as a starting point.

While video games, anime, manga, light novels, visual novels, or whatever they may be, are seen to some as a waste of time, they're actually art. They allow us to live and experience life we may never see. We're able to fantasize and create stories beyond our world. It is a rebirth, a new part of life, by interacting with that life we learn to create our own fictional worlds. So take a hold of your life, switch off autopilot, and dream.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Japanese Music Spotlight #3

Hello! I'm back from a week off! Here's a taste of new music; Vocaloid Style. 

Title ~ Just Be Friends
Artist ~ Dixie Flatline
Vocal ~ Luka Megurine
Visual ~ Yunomi

English Lyrics

Just be friends All we gotta do
Just be friends It's time to say goodbye
Just be friends All we gotta do
Just be friends Just be friends...

It came to mind in the early morning yesterday
As if I gathered broken pieces of glass

What the heck is this? Drips from my cut finger
Is this what we really hoped for?

I knew it at the bottom of my heart, the hardest choice would be the best
My self-love refuses it and repeats self-contradiction
When can I tell it to you?

In the slowly decaying world, I'm struggling but it's the only way
Carving your faded smiles, I pulled out the plug

I screamed with my hoarse voice, rebound and resonance echo in vain
Nothing is left at the end of the unchained me
Coincidences that sticked us degenerates into the dark and are broken in pieces
"No matter what we do, life is just like that" I mumbled
Somebody's tears flow down the dried cheeks

All we gotta do Just be friends
It's time to say goodbye Just be friends
All we gotta do Just be friends
Just be friends Just be friends...

Yesterday a tranquil night made me realize
It'd be useless to pick up fallen petals

Because it'd never bloom again
It's tiny but already dead on my palms
Our time stopped long ago

I remember the season we met first and your grace smile
Bringing up old issues, we hurt each other as badly as possible
Our minds are full of thorns

With this continuous dull relationship
Grievously I can't change my mind
I still love you, I don't wanna be apart from you, but I have to tell you

It's raining heavily in my mind, I'm stunned, I'm standing dead, my vision is blurry
Despite my determination, the pain is still penetrating
The bond between us has come apart and is dying away in everyday
Goodbye, my sweetheart, it's over
We have to leave without turning back

Just once, just once, if I could have my wish to come true
I'd be born again and again and go see you on those days

I screamed with my hoarse voice, rebound and resonance echo in vain
Nothing is left at the end of the unchained me
The bond between us has come apart and is dying away in everyday
Goodbye, my sweetheart, it's over
We have to leave without turning back

It's all over

"The song is nice, but the lyrics are so sad..."