My New Favorite Show: Gundam Build Fighters

Gundam_Build_Fighters_DVD
Ya’ gotta have blue hair!

A show that I haven’t watched in years is the ever-famous Gundam series. People love this show, heck, I used to ADORE THIS SHOW! So, why did I give up on it? Well, I guess to fully detail what happened, I’d trace this bad to the early 2000s. You see, growing up, I loved giant robots. Giant mechanical behemoths that duked it out with each other was a really interesting concept to me.

Eventually, I discovered Mobile Fighter G Gundam, and fell in love with this series! Gundam shows often revolved around young men or teenagers piloting giant robots to save the world, drive back an enemy force, or fight in a gigantic tournament. That last one was more exclusive to G Gundam then any other show, however. I fell in love with G Gundam, which in turn, introduced me to this venerable franchise.

It seemed like a match made in heaven, until… I watched the other shows. You see, G Gundam was a rather unique beast among the franchise. Instead of being a melodramatic soap-opera about the dangers of war and the mental and physical tax it had on humans, it was instead Dragon Ball Z with giant robots. I started watching these other Gundam shows in my teenage years, and I found that I just could not get invested.

That was, until rather recently. I started re-watching some old Gundam 00 DVDs that I got years ago, and now I find that the series to be rather interesting. I now had an attention span that wasn’t lacking, and I could now follow those darker and more serious plot-lines. Still, as much as I loved the darker and grittier Gundam shows, I still craved the energetic and sillier iterations that got me invested in the series to begin with.

That’s where Gundam Build Fighters comes in. Gundam Build Fighters is an anime that premiered a few years back, and focused on the “Gunpla” model kits. The Gunpla are essentially build-able figurines, based off giant robots from the Gundam series. Build Fighters takes place in a universe where the popularity of these model kits hit a resurgence. They became so popular, in fact, that they invented an entire game revolving around them. People can now pilot these models in a small enclosed environment, fighting against other models.

The story itself focuses around a young Gunpla builder named Sei Iori. He wants to be the best Gunpla battler ever, but he sucks at the game. For real, he’s super awful. He can build them very well, but can’t properly control them. Sei meets a mysterious individual named “Reiji”, who pilots Sei’s “Build Strike Gundam” on his behalf. With Reiji’s unnaturally good piloting abilities, and Sei’s skill as a Gunpla mechanic, the two quickly attempt to become the ultimate Gunpla team.

Yeah, this is pretty standard fare for a kids show. Despite its seeminlgy generic concept, the show somehow pitches these ideas very well. It manages to throw in all these references and Easter Eggs to all the old shows, while still bringing enough character and wit to stand as a standalone product. It reminds me a lot of the earlier Yugioh shows, or Little Battles Experience.

The show has a special kind of energy to it, and even though I’ve only watched a couple of episodes, I find myself already hooked on it. Fights are well-animated, which is to be expected of a Sunrise Gundam show. The clash of steel on steel, the epic giant robot confrontations, all of that classic Gundam action is there. It’s all wrapped up in a show that’s a kids anime with like-able and relate-able characters. While I still haven’t watched all that much of this series yet, I find that I’m starting to get really hooked on this show. Once I complete season 1, I’ll be sure to do a full review. For now, these are just my personal thoughts. I just hope that this show can continue to surpass my lofty expectations!

E3 2017: A Really Good Comedy Act

Back in the 90s and early 2000s, I thought E3 was one of the coolest things ever. I mean, you have games that are previewed 1-2 years in advance for all to see! Some games end up cancelled after E3, but those rare few who got to play those beta builds of said cancelled games at E3 were often treated like gods. Over time though, E3 has lost that majesty. Once upon a time, E3 felt like this sacred place where only the chosen could go to witness the newest games before release.

Nowadays, E3 is more of a giant comedy act, full of technical issues, really cringy sketches and catchphrases, and very few newly announced games. I respect that a lot of people still enjoy E3 and hold it in high regard, I’m not trying to change the opinions of those people. What I want is to discuss why I think E3 has devolved from being this legendary event into more of a comedy act.

I think it comes down to the audience shift, mostly. You see, gaming was once upon a time a medium exclusive to mostly nerds and kids. However, as the casual audience grew, so did the demand to cater to said audience. Like I said before, I have nothing against the casual audience. The thing is that developers seem to think people who play games casually want just simple experiences and nothing else, when most casual gamers I know relish the challenge of trying to figure games out. I discussed this before about how RPGs are becoming oversimplified because of such demand, but sadly video-game related shows seem to be hit hard by this even more.

Both the Video Game Award Show and E3 feel more like they want to entertain the audience with bad sketches and crummy memes, rather than show the games. While this is done to cater to the more casual and modern audience, it fails at even doing that. A lot of people just watch these events and roll their eyes. Sure, the casual audience does tend to favor simpler game, but not simpler events.

I know I don’t speak for everyone, since I’m not a casual gamer, but it seems to me that these gaming events are just alienating a lot of people with how they present stuff. Most casual audiences go to these events for the games, not for odd skits and over-acting. Again, I can’t speak for everyone, but that’s the general consensus I seem to get from these events.

It probably doesn’t help that this year presented a rather small influx of new games. Aside from a crossover between Rabbids and Mario, and a new Monster Hunter game, there was nothing that really grabbed me. Sadly, it’s been like this the past couple of years. These shows feel like they are scarce on new games, and more like they just want to advertise stuff they already talked about.

The shows themselves are not too special. Nowadays, a lot of game studios put a giant video advertising new stuff, instead of having people come out to present the new games and content. Couple this with technical issues, like demos not running properly on stage, and you have a show that lacks substance. When you combine that with the terrible sketches and forced jokes, you have something that feels like more of a parody of itself.

E3 definitely makes me laugh, but not in the way it should. I laugh more because of how much I think the expo has fallen, rather than the sketches and comedy its trying to present. Now, you make be thinking that I hate this event. I dislike the event, but I have no real hatred for it. I’m just disappointed by this event, since it has been slipping in quality in the past decade.

I can still watch the show and get some mild entertainment out of it, I just have no urge to spend the 100s of dollars required to get me over to the States to go see it. While I respect that a lot of hard work goes into events such as these, I’m still going to judge an event by the quality of the entertainment. After all, you don’t go to a Metallica concert just to hear a bunch of aged musicians fiddle with a microphone for two hours.

Like I said before, you’re allowed to enjoy E3 and I’m not trying to stop that. I just don’t like that E3 is trying to advertise itself to a specific audience that comes to the event for what it used to be, instead of what it is now. Both the casual and hardcore gamers deserve an event that treats them with respect and intelligence. I mean, there is the Tokyo Game Show and a few game-centric conventions out there, but that’s about it! I can at least say that E3 manages to be more entertaining than most conventions, but that’s more in a bad way than a good one.

My Thoughts On My Hero Academia

It’s hard to describe how much I like certain anime. A lot of time and effort goes into most of the anime I watch, and I tend to usually only watch anime within a specific genre. This genre would be “Shonen” anime, Japanese animated series that are often targeted towards teenagers. One such series that I found myself getting hooked on from episode 1 was “My Hero Academia”.

Anime_Art_Poster
I don’t know what’s more impressive, those muscles or the fact that he managed to style his hair like that!

I make it no secret that I love superheroes, so an anime about superheroes is right up my alley. However, this isn’t just any simple anime that has superheroes in it. The anime and manga series derive a lot of elements from American superheroes. It manages to meld the elements of a typical Japanese anime with the style and flare of a superhero film. It creates this mixture that’s not only delicious, but also had a lot of flare to it.

The show tells the story of a young man with no powers to speak of, in a world where almost everyone has some sort of super-power. The young man known as Izuku Midoriya is one day bestowed by in insanely strong power by his mentor All Might. In time, Izuku trains to get stronger, while at the same time dealing with fellow school rivals and the occasional supervillain attack.

The show sounds pretty basic, but there’s actually quite a lot to it. It has the structure of any other Shonen anime, but manages to boast some top-notch animation and some fun character designs. Couple this with a solid soundtrack and likable characters, and you have a series that’s both familiar and entertaining.

It’s not a perfect show by any stretch of the imagination. Some plots can feel formulaic, and there are times when the show drags its heels. The first episode of season 2 was a good example of this, where a lot of it felt like a pointless recap and not a whole lot happened in the episode. Regardless, the series has overall been very entertaining. Events feel well-paced enough, so the show doesn’t devolve into that classic of formula of “Let’s fight a new guy for 8 episodes, and then another new guy for the next few episodes!” Instead, it focuses on developing its world and characters more.

It doesn’t feel too rushed, and manages to provide enough entertainment with each episode to leave a lasting impact. That’s why I can wholeheartedly recommend this series. It has problems here or there, but if you’re a fan of Shonen anime and superhero comic books, I think you’ll dig this show. I haven’t gotten this addicted to a show in quite some time, it’s really quite a thrill!

Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth: One Year Later

It may be hard to believe, but it’s been a whole year since I first played this game and reviewed it. Since then, I feel my opinions on it have changed considerably. Having logged over 80 hours worth of time with this game, I feel that I’ve grown from just liking it a lot to loving it considerably. Having played this game so much, the flaws have become far more apparent to me. So, I want to go into full detail on my current opinions of this game. Why? Honestly, this is one of the best video-games based off an anime I’ve ever played.

This game definitely had a lot going for it. It had a ton of Digimon from over six different seasons, and even including some that only appeared in manga and other games. It had an interesting plot, which sadly became formulaic halfway through. It also had a cast of memorable and bizarre characters, including Jimiken, who is somehow the best and worst character at the same time.

This game also managed to incorporate a bunch of elements from several of the TV shows. The game had a simplistic turn-based combat system, but with enough varied special moves and flashy attacks that it rarely got boring. The game was fun, albeit grindy. In order to obtain any of the really powerful Digimon, you had to grind for days on end.

While their were ways to circumvent this, grinding was still a tedious affair. This was especially annoying when you couple it with the fact that you need certain stats to get certain Digimon. It turns from grinding into a bizarre maze of stat increases and trips to the farm, making the arduous task of getting the strongest Digimon that more annoying. I know that they are supposed to be difficult to get, but certain Digimon like Omnimon were a pain to obtain. Especially because Omnimon was a lot weaker than the Digimon that I had to fuse together to get him.

One of the shining moments of this game was the designs of all the Digimon. They all looked great, just like how they did in their respective seasons. Some may say that it’s jarring to see all these creatures in one game, especially when a lot of them were originally drawn in different art-styles. Still, having such a various cast of color creatures to collect made the game that more entertaining.

It’s still hard to believe how hooked I got on this game. For a while, it was all I played. I beat it twice and even got a ton of the really hard to get Digimon! Still, after a while I got burned out on it. Fun game with a unique setting and world, but a game that still feels very repetitive.

Another problem with the game was the spotty translation. It’s not as bad as the translation job done for Dragon Ball Fusions, but it leaves a lot to be desired. You know your game has a problem when it starts to referring to its main villains as something completely unrelated to them at all. Regardless, this is still a game that I can back to even after a year and still get some fun out of.

Sure, the difficulties are either too easy or too hard with little middle-ground, and the game may drop its interesting plot halfway through, but I still find it to be one of the better anime-to-game adaptations. This was the first time I ever gave an updated opinion on what I think, and to be honest it hasn’t changed all that much. Still, I thought since the 20th anniversary of Digimon is fast approaching, I’d take time to revisit one of the best Digimon games in my opinion. Now I pose a question to you the reader: What is your favorite Digimon game? Feel free to tell me in the comment section! Keep in mind, you don’t need a WordPress account in order to post comments.

Why Fantasy Life Is Such An Amazing Game

I’ve talked about this game before, but I feel what I said bares repeating: I love Fantasy Life! It’s an action RPG that also doubles a life-sim, putting you into the shoes of a would-be protagonist. You’re given a job and tasked with working at it, while at the same time teaming with a magical talking butterfly to save the world. It’s a game with a premise that is equal parts ridiculous and amazing!

While several jobs play like one another, I can’t deny how awesome it is to see certain jobs operate. You can be a fisherman and catch fish in lakes of lava, or be a blacksmith and make all of your own gear. The game reminds me a lot of Animal Crossing, though I found I had a lot more fun with this game. This game felt like it had boundless enjoyment packed into it.

It possessed a silly story, a wide cast of colorful and like-able characters, and just generally a good atmosphere all around. The game pretty much let you do anything and it was a real hoot to do so! You can be a swordsman, a cook, a miner, whatever you imagine you can do. Want to buy property in different lands in the game? You can even do that. You can deck out your house in all these crazy decorations too!

There is just so much to do in this game. The game’s structure just begs for exploration, which is something I did quite a lot between chapters. There are so many bosses, items, and areas to interact with. If I had any major complains with the game, it would be that the game is too easy. I beat the game and only died on a couple of occasions, making it one of the easiest games I’ve played through in years.

That being said, I still enjoyed my time with the game! Sure, it’s about as easy as Kingdoms of Amalur on any difficulty, but it’s still a blast to play through. I’m honestly not a huge fan of games that simulate life in any capacity. I’m a guy who likes his experience as retro as it can get. However, Fantasy Life manages to portray its world in a way that draws me in every time.

I don’t feel like I’m just a player taking part in this world while playing the game, I feel like I’m just another part of it. Couple this with a game that has a fairly deep character creator, a ton of different missions to undertake, and a world that’s vast enough to explode, and you have something is wholly unique. Sure, this game has problems. It’s fairly repetitive, most jobs blur together, and the main story is far too easy. With that being said, I truly had fun with this game and recommend it to everyone who loves a good action RPG!

What Makes A Truly Great Villain?

When it comes to fictional forms of media, there is nothing I love more than a good villain. A truly memorable antagonist stands in the way or our heroes and acts as an ever-constant threat against our protagonists. That begs the question though, what makes a truly great villain? What makes an antagonist not only a truly evil force, but also into something that we love to hate?

tumblr_mvndk3X7pb1qlsdwvo1_500
I can’t stay mad at that face!

The answer to this may depend on the form of media the villain is associated with, but I’ve decided to give my own thoughts on what makes a truly great villain. I also have to thank Super Eyepatch Wolf on Youtube for giving me inspiration to make this post on my blog. So, for a villain to be something I can truly get behind, it needs a number of things:

Memorable Design

It’s not enough that a villain is intimidating, but he also needs to look intimidating and have a design that makes him appealing (or not so appealing) to look at. A good example of this is the original Green Goblin, who dresses in a truly gaudy green and purple outfit. Even if this original design is somewhat outdated, it’s still memorable enough to let you easily pick him out from a crowd. He’s not some generic pretty-boy with a sword, or some giant monster wielding a hammer. No, he’s this gaudily-dressed imp of destruction, raining pumpkin bombs down onto hapless citizens.

Good Voice-Acting

This next section is highly dependent upon the form of media the villain is depicted in. For things like television, film, and video-games (depending on if the game has voice-acting or not), then how the villain sounds is a great factor in determining the appeal of a character. For example, Mako playing Aku in Samurai Jack is often sited as one of the best portrayals of a villain in cartoons.

Mako knows how to ham it up as Aku, delivering a voice dripping with both comedic value and intimidation. Mako is able to portray Aku, this Japanese demon of death and destruction, as a character that one can enjoy. Greg Baldwin, who is Aku’s new voice actor, also does an amazing job. He isn’t as good as the original, but manages to capture the energy and cheesiness of Mako’s portrayal very well.

It’s not always necessary to cast someone well-known or famous to play a villain. As long as the person playing said villain can inside the head of the character and portray him the way the creator intends, while still keeping the role their own. A voice is everything in a villain. A bad voice actor can truly destroy what makes a great villain great.

Being An Actual Threat

Having a villain who looks and sounds great is one thing, but you need a villain who can actually get the job done. A villain who can’t achieve their goals, or pose much of a threat to our heroes becomes a joke after a while. A good (or rather, bad) example of this is Corypheus from Dragon Age: Inquisition. Corypheus is foiled easily at every turn by your chosen protagonist.

Corypheus very rarely does much to be a thorn in your side, and a lot of his attempts to stop you reach Dick Dastardly levels of pathetic. A good example of a villain who manages to threaten our heroes at every turn is Etemon, from the cult classic anime Digimon. Despite Etemon seeming like an incompetent goofball, he was able to trounce the Digi-Destined most of the time. Not only that, but he also devised a “Dark Network”, that he can use to attack his enemies from afar.

Etemon’s seemingly silly design and behaviors masked his truly power and potential. This mischievous monkey of magnified malice ended up being a true threat to our heroes. A villain who isn’t able to be a challenge to our protagonists in any way ends up feeling lame and hollow. A villain can’t just talk the talk, he/she needs to also be able to walk the walk.

The Villain Needs To Be More Than A Villain

Super Eyepatch Wolf discussed this as well, but it bares repeating. A villain who feels more like a person, is better than one who doesn’t. A villain needs to have weaknesses as well as strengths, needs to have dreams beyond his current goal, and needs to feel like a real part of the world. Most Marvel villains end up just kind of showing up, usually with little development.

Again, a villain needs to be a part of the world. Not just antagonist no. 125 who happens to co-exist in the universe, but hasn’t been mentioned or established until now. Now I know most villains are not like that, but sometimes establishing an antagonist beforehand can really work wonders for your property.

In Conclusion

A villain doesn’t need to have all of these properties to be a great villain, but it certainly helps. Having a strong voice, memorable design, good backstory and development, fantastic characterization, and a threatening persona can actually make for both a great character and an amazing villain. Examples are out there, there’s a ton in fact. Coming with a great and memorable villain isn’t easy, but having one can make or break a series. At least, that’s my opinion on the whole thing.

My Thoughts On The Samurai Jack Finale and Season 5 As A Whole(Spoilers)

So, the final episode of Samurai Jack hit and I gotta say, it was actually pretty good. Like it says in the title, this is a spoiler discussion, you’ve been warned.

<SPOILERS PAST THIS POINT>

 

tumblr_inline_omocv1DfQb1sb29b2_540
The plot THICCens!

 

Sure, it felt a bit rushed, but with only 10 episodes that are only 22 minutes long in length each, it’s difficult for it not to be. For those who haven’t kept up with the series, Jack forms a relationship with a female assassin named Ashi. This relationship forms into a somewhat forced romance, that leads into Ashi being revealed as Aku’s daughter.

This culminates in Jack’s defeat and capture, as he is unable to kill the corrupted Ashi. In the final episode, all those that Jack helped band together and lead an attack on Aku. Sadly, elements of this ending just ended up feeling a bit hashed together. The romantic elements felt a bit forced, and Ashi just gaining Aku’s time-travelling powers after mastering own abilities felt like it came out of nowhere.

Regardless though, it was satisfying. For a 22 minute episode, it felt evenly paced at times, and managed to do a fairly satisfying ending. I liked the final scene the most, after Jack kills Aku in the past (which inadvertently kills Ashi) he goes under a cherry blossom tree and mopes about for a bit. A ladybug lands on his finger, reminding Jack of the bond he had formed with Ashi and that even though she is gone, he can continue forward.

Jack has lost a lot, and this ending gives hope to this character that his new and much more peaceful life will have a higher meaning. I think the ending would’ve been even better if the past version of The Guardian showed up, walked up to Jack, and said “You’re the one”, before walking away and disappearing into nothingness. You gotta consider that The Guardian only existed to guard the portal that was destined for a battle-hardened Jack to use. I wish this was a part of the ending, but sadly it is not.

Regardless, while I felt the ending was rushed at times, I thought it did a lot of things right. It gave us good comedy and character development, and finally gave us that ending we’ve been clamoring for for years now. Is it perfect? Far from it, it’s got a fair bit of problems. It is still a fantastic ending though, just not what a lot of people were hoping for.

Certain things that happened in the episode felt a bit contrived and forced, and Jack’s ultimate defeat of Aku could’ve been a bit longer. Still, I stand beside the creator’s vision and willingness to finally conclude this saga. It’s been 16 years, 62 episodes, 1 animated parody, and several videogames later, but now we have a concrete conclusion to this saga.

Whether it’s a satisfying ending or not will be completely up to the viewer. I loved this ending, and I recommend season 5 as a whole to any fan of Samurai Jack new or old. If this hits DVD, I’m buying as soon as possible! I don’t love season 5 because I’m a fan, or because I’ve been waiting for this ending forever, but because I legitimately enjoy as its own product. While having disappointing elements here or there, I still think its a masterpiece of modern animation. Just… Be wary of episode 8. Having any sort of opinion on this episode is gonna get you a lot of flack on the internet.

Why I Prefer Digimon To Pokemon

Veedramon_b
Would you believe me if I told you that Veedramon was my favorite?

Believe it or not, I haven’t always been a huge fan of the “Mons” franchises. I’m talking Digimon, Pokemon, Monster Rancher, and those various Pokemon “clones” that come out each year. Digimon in particular is a series that I haven’t visited in quite some time. That was until 2015, when I started getting back into the franchise. Digimon Adventure Tri comes out, Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth gets announced and released, and my interest is at this point piqued.

Digimon did something that Pokemon could never do: Aim its content and material towards adults. Pokemon to this day is still mainly for kids. It’s a franchise that hasn’t grown with its audience. I apologize in advance if I offend any by saying this, but Pokemon just hasn’t matured or grown as a series. Newer Pokemon games seem to just be exactly like the old games, just with better graphics and more features.

While it’s true that Digimon games have been mostly hit-or-miss, the rest of the franchise has fared far better. Better manga, better anime, better films, etc. The Digimon series featured all these differing universes with own unique rule-sets. It’s impossible to play a single Digimon game or watch a Digimon anime without discovering a new variation on the pre-established world.

Pokemon almost always takes place in the same universe with the same rules, yet introduces new Pokemon which shake up the formula only a tad bit. You’d think introducing god Pokemon into the franchise would gave the series a touch of uniqueness, but the gods are just legendary Pokemon that you can catch. Sure, they’ll play a part in the story sometimes, but not too often.

The Pokemon world felt a bit too grounded, if you ask me. Sure, crazy and weird stuff can happen in the Pokemon world, but the varied nature of all the Digimon universes felt more diverse. On top of this, I always liked the designs of Digimon better. Digimon actually looked like monsters, at least in my eyes. Pokemon were just more adorable versions of real-life animals, instead of being traditional monsters.

Pokemon is a decent series, but it’s never stuck with me the way Digimon has. I can’t pick out too many moments from the Pokemon anime that were memorable or that interesting. Yet, I can remember every single villain the Digidestined ever fought. To be fair, that culd be just a form of bias or selective memory.

To be fair, Pokemon isn’t a terrible series. The games in Pokemon have always been better than the ones that came from the Digimon series. Sure, Digimon had some good ones like Digimon World 3, Digimon Anode/Cathode Tamer, Digimon World DS, and Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth, but most of these games were critically panned. Pokemon has always had that massive appeal with their games, which always tend to score high and rake in the cash.

At this point, Pokemon just feels a bit too bland to me. I respect that people enjoy and like it, but I just can’t get back into it. There are too many Pokemon games at this point, and I have no idea which new game to play first. I haven’t touched a Pokemon game (unless you count Pokemon Go) since the original Gold and Silver over a decade and a half ago. Is it time I changed that? Perhaps.

For now though, I’m going to stick to Digimon, with a series that I love. It’s also a series that appeals both to my inner-child and to my adult side. It’s something that I feel I can continue to enjoy, even later in life. So… What do you guys think? Which do you prefer, Pokemon or Digimon? Feel free to leave a comment telling me what you think, let’s get a friendly discussion going and talk about two series that were an integral part of many 90s kids’ childhoods.

The Downfall of Modern RPGs

When it comes to RPGs, I’m a connoisseur. Sure, most RPGs are just time-sinks that eat up a lot of your time, but are usually entertaining and engrossing enough for it to be worth your time. Unfortunately, modern RPGs have started following a sickening trend the past few years: Dumbing down for casual gamers. Now, there’s nothing wrong with making a game simpler or trimming down certain aspects of said game. Sometimes, games are in desperate of need of being simplified. A good example of this is the original Baldur’s Gate, a game that will kick you in the nuts over and over again if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Dragon_Age_Inquisition_BoxArt
This is truly one of the few modern hardcore RPGs in existence right now. Let’s just hope the fourth game measures up!

The problem is that most modern RPGs are unfortunately very watered down when compared to the RPGs of the past. They are simpler, with easier to understand controls, and a watered down open-world and story with linear paths to progression. Skyrim is a good example of this. It’s what I consider a great game, but a terrible RPG. The RPG elements were dumbed down to a ludicrous degree, not even the stats system was spared from the oversimplification.

Skyrim felt like a step backwards from its predecessors. It removed the interested side-quests from both Oblivion and Morrowind, and replaced them with a bunch of boring fetch-quests that barely fleshed out the world. You were constantly pestered by dragons with each step, and the game was generally more buggy upon release than any other game in the series.

Like I said, I enjoy Skyrim a lot despite its flaws. However, it can’t be overlooked that this game (along with Mass Effect 2) kind of spearheaded the change in ideals of modern RPGs. Game series that were once known for their complexities, character creation, and tough choices soon became over-glorified action games with slight RPG elements. While it is true that the casual audience makes up a large player base, I feel like making RPGs too simple for them is a bad way to go about it. I mean, if a casual gamer is going and play an RPG for 100 hours, can you even call them casual anymore? Sure, you have that player hooked, but sooner or later that person will realize that there are far more meaty games out there.

Dragon Age: Inquisition is a good example of a modern Western RPG done right. It still contains a ton of RPG elements, and even lets you choose between the two different control schemes of past games. You can play it as an action RPG, or a more strategy centered one. Character customization, detailed world-building, and interesting scenarios gave the world a lot of life.

If we can be real here, a RPG doesn’t need to be for casuals to be good. Dragon Ball Fusions is a more simplistic RPG for the casual audience, but it’s entertaining and fun enough to be played by gamers from all walks of life. It’s easy and simple, sure, but it’s got those complexities and intricacies that most modern games lack. While it is a Japanese RPG, it still carries some of those Western game sensibilities.

So, that begs the question, is it better for an RPG to be simpler so that an overall audience can enjoy it? Or, is it better for an RPG to be complex and intricate and involve player choice and consequences? That’s really up to the people who would buy RPGs, nothing for a single individual to decide. When I want my complex RPG systems, I usually just go for Indie games when I need my fix. However, I’m all for the occasional casual RPG, if it’s well put together.

Whether a person enjoys simplistic RPGs or more complex ones, I think they can all agree on one thing: An RPG is what one makes of it. The whole definition of what an RPG is has changed since the good old days of tabletop games. Nowadays, an RPG is what you make of it. RPG does stand for role-playing game, and the role you play will always be a different one no matter the game. Playing a simpler RPG is just as valid as playing a hardcore one, in my eyes.

Gundam Seed Astray Is The Best Darn Spinoff Ever

Gundam-Seed-Destiny-ASTRAY-R-B
Who needs Power Rangers when you got junk collectors and mercenaries?

If there’s a franchise that I seem to neglect the most, it’s probably the Gundam series. Giant robots are my jam, but I often find it difficult to go back and watch through all the various Gundam series. Considering there are so many different anime that are spread across decades, it’s certainly a daunting task! With so many differing continuities, as well as various adaptations to take into consideration, it becomes a near impossibility to consume every part of the franchise.

I got into Gundam when I was about 11, though the infinitely enjoyable Mobile Fighter G Gundam series. This show was bombastic insanity, and I knew I just needed more of the franchise! While most Gundam shows are different, they almost always focus on some kind of war fought with giant robots. Eventually, Gundam decided to go back to the beginning with Gundam Seed. Gundam Seed was a reboot / re-imagining of the original show, taking a ton of old concepts and characters and changing them up.

Gundam Seed is a series that can be hit-or-miss to a lot of people. I like Gundam Seed, but I’m not a super huge fan of it. The new characters felt too much like the originals and didn’t do enough to deviate or feel unique or stand out. Fight scenes were great and the new Gundams were well-designed, but it just lacked that punch that the original. In all honest, I think I would’ve liked Mobile Suit Gundam Seed more if it was it’s own entity.

Surprisingly enough, my prayers were answered when I discovered the oft-forgot manga known as Gundam Seed Astray. What is it? Well, if Gundam Seed is the story of Luke Skywalker, then Astray would be the tale of Han Solo. Astray focuses on the junk collector known as Lowe Gear (Lowe Guele in the Japanese version) and revolves around his seemingly bottomless luck. Lowe one day stumbles across a giant robot known as an “Astray” unit, a Gundam that was focused on very loosely on the show. Lowe finds two such units, but the other is stolen by a mercenary named Gai Murakumo.

Lowe pilots the Red Frame while Gai pilots the Blue Frame, and the two quickly become friends and rivals. The two also deal with the third Astray frame, known as the “Yellow Frame”, piloted by a dangerous nobleman known as Rondo Sahaku. The three engage in dangerous battles, as Lowe tries his best to collect junk and improve his mech. What makes Lowe interesting is that he’s one of the few pilots in the series to be able to pilot a Gundam without any augmentations. Lowe is an ordinary human, unlike 99% of the pilots in the series. Despite not being a Coordinator, Lowe is able to tangle with the strongest fighters in the series. Utilizing an old outdated computer as an assistant, Lowe braves the dangers of space and does battle with various threats.

Astray’s plot unfolds alongside the series it’s based on, very frequently crossing over and referencing the series. Likewise, Seed acknowledges Astray as well, creating this really good synergy. Astray got a ton of spinoffs and sequels of its own, including one focusing on side stories revolving around Lowe and friends, and even focusing on Gai and the Serpent’s Tail guild. The series continues to spawn various spin-offs and sequels, but I’ll always remember the original series and R the most.

Astray was more focused on plot, while R acted as a supplementary series to it. R filled in some of the gaps and also had an extremely bad-ass art-style. Then there’s X Astray, which was… Okay. I honestly didn’t like how the series started to veer off after a while and took the focus away from Lowe. It’s not that I don’t like the other characters, but Lowe’s bottomless charisma made other characters feel bland by comparison.

While Seed felt like another whiny melodrama during war-times, Astray was an attempt at telling a light story set in the same universe. Silly space adventures focusing on a happy-go-lucky goofball was the name of Astray’s game. Is it perfect? Nah, but it had a lot of heart to it and I enjoyed it greatly. It just sucks it never got a true anime adaptation, outside of a few five-minute shorts that is.

Honestly, if you can find old copies of this series, I recommend picking them up. They aren’t perfect and the series is over-stuffed with filler at times, but it’s something I can wholeheartedly recommend. Awesome action, nicely drawn artwork, like-able characters, silly adventures, what’s not to love? Maybe one day Astray will finally get an anime adaptation, though I doubt it. To be fair, it’s fine as is and doesn’t really need one. After all, why kick it into high gear, when it’s fine enough in Lowe Gear?