City of Heroes RETURNS!

 

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The character creator in this game is just pure insanity… AND I LOVE IT!

You ever wonder what happens after a piece of fiction dies? What happens after a story concludes? What do the characters do next? How does this world live on? For popular franchises, the chance for a full-on revival is usually there. This stands true for video-games, movies, anime, cartoons, and comics. However, what about Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games?

MMORPGs are something that very rarely get revivals. At most, they may get a spinoff here or there. When an MMO dies it usually stays dead, but there are some exceptions to this rule. There’s this thing called “Private Servers”, which are emulations of dead servers done by fans. This allows people to play a long dead game and enjoy it, while also giving the game a new lease on life.

One such game that is getting resurrected is “City of Heroes”, which is one of the best MMOs I’ve ever played! City of Heroes was a special game, due in large part to it being the first superhero MMORPG ever made. Long before DC Universe Online and Champions Online; City of Heroes was the game that introduced PC players to a superhero world like no other.

This world was filled with interesting lore and likable characters. Missions that seemed generic at first would open into large grandiose adventures. For example, a simple meeting with a business-man could turn into a tournament against several powerful super-villains.

Not only were the missions fun, but the game allowed you to tailor your superhero/supervillain to your own preferences. Want to use electrical powers and invulnerability? You can do that! How about having the ability to fly and punch people with fists made of stone? You could also do that! Couple this with the amazingly extensive character creation system, and you have a game with unlimited customization options.

There was so much content and improvements made to the game over the years, to the point where it became something completely different from what it was when it launched. The game enjoyed a large community of fans throughout its life-cycle, but it was sadly not meant to last. NCSoft pulled the plug on the game back in 2012, while not giving any reasons as to why they discontinued it. Being the publishers of the game, they could do whatever they want with the license.

This meant screwing over both the developers and the fans, while not telling them why. Fans believe it was because the game bombed in NCSoft’s home country of Korea, which prompted them to write it off as a complete failure. We will never know if that was the main reason, but it seems the most likely.

NCSoft’s shutdown of the game forever tainted their name and drove fans away from their future products. The game’s shutdown also meant the loss of not only the game, but all of the user created content as well. Custom characters, costumes, and missions were all lost in the great purge. If you didn’t back up your character’s costume on your hard-drive, it was lost forever. I will always miss my original heroes and villains: Rom The Death Knight, Earthwolf, and Dr. Kickandsmack.

All of this amazing work and the game it spawned from were gone forever… Until two weeks ago. The existence of a private server that’s been operating in secret for six years was revealed to the world. This private server was created using City of Heroes’ data files, which were given to the team by an anonymous developer. With the framework for the game back in the hands of the fans, they reconstructed the game for all to play.

The team called “SCORE” were able to bring this game back from the brink of extinction, so that the players could one again partake in it. Will it be up forever? It’s doubtful, but one can hope that they’re able to keep the servers running for quite a while. Here’s hoping they can find a way to curb the large server costs, such as giving the fans a way to donate to them to help keep it running. Regardless, I’m just glad to have this amazing game back at all! It’s great finally being able to return to the greatest game of my teenage years.

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The Return of Dragon’s Dogma

There’s nothing I love more than a good medieval fantasy setting! I’m a huge fan of swords and sorcery, so pretty much anything involving the two always gets me interested. I love a good fantasy adventure, especially when it’s in video-game form! My favorite fantasy games include Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Risen 1, and Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning.

However, there’s one game that stands above them all as my favorite fantasy game of all time: Dragon’s Dogma. The game was similar to a lot of other fantasy RPGs at the time. It had you leveling up, defeating giant monsters, and slaying a dragon. However, Dragon’s Dogma sets itself apart from its competition┬áin a number of interesting ways.

For one thing, the story revolves around your heart literally getting ripped out by a dragon! Your custom hero doesn’t die, but rather becomes an undead warrior known as an “Arisen”. You are then given a “Pawn”, which is a secondary custom character that acts as your sidekick. You can then recruit Pawns made by other players, who will help you in combat and exploration.

Your Pawn can also be recruited by other players, which will often result in her/him coming back with a ton of awesome items! Another unique feature of Dragon’s Dogma was its epic boss fights, which usually revolved you jumping onto a monster and grappling them. Once you’ve clung onto a monster, you can then slash at their vulnerable areas.

Taking down monsters in this game felt both epic and gratifying at the same time! Toppling the fowl beasts over and taking them out was one of the most satisfying aspects of the game. Couple that with the massive open-world, great character designs, and fun combat, and you’ve got a recipe for a fantastic game!

Dragon’s Dogma was one of those fantasy games that just felt right and worked well. Despite this, the game initially sold poorly in America. However, it was saved by its sales in Japan and the “Cult Classic” status it accrued over time. Despite low initial sales, the game eventually gained the attention it deserved.

As a result, the game evolved into a franchise. It received an MMO spinoff called “Dragon’s Dogma Online”, a standalone expansion, and several ports to many other consoles. Not only this, but an anime and sequel were also announced. With Dragon’s Dogma making a comeback, it was only natural that it would make its way to the hottest console available right now: The Nintendo Switch.

Yes, the extremely popular fantasy game is finally going handheld! To me, this is a great thing for the series. Having a handheld version of Dragon’s Dogma is going to bring in so many new fans, which would be a fantastic achievement for the franchise. Having a larger playerbase would definitely help for when they churn out the sequel.

I’m glad Dragon’s Dogma is coming back. The series definitely needs more love and attention, which it has slowly been garnering for over half a decade now. I’ve been looking for a reason to get back into the series, and I think Dragon’s Dogma for Switch is going to be that reason. Here’s hoping it’s a fantastic port like the PC version is!

The Surprising Popularity of Dragon Ball Heroes

 

 

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If you can name all of the characters on this cover, then you are officially the alpha-nerd.

Dragon Ball is one of those shows that will never go away, due to its massive worldwide popularity. This epic action series about a goofy alien dad and his constant need to get stronger and fight gods has captured the hearts of millions of people. The story of Goku, his sons, his friends, and the adventures he goes on have entertained the masses for over three decades at this point.

With a franchise that has had so many iterations, continuities, and characters, one may wonder: What if there was a single series that combined all these iterations? Well, that’s Dragon Ball Heroes! This Japanese exclusive game was Japan’s attempt at selling trading cards based off popular Dragon Ball characters. How the game would work is that you would buy booster packs of cards, take them to an Dragon Ball Heroes arcade machine, scan them, and then use them in the actual game.

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Three Goku’s?! That’s a lot!

What made Dragon Ball Heroes interesting was that everything was canon to it, and I mean EVERYTHING! The movies, games, spin-offs, and even that obscure arcade game from the 90s are all canon to this one sub-series of the franchise. Of course, Heroes isn’t canon to anything in particular. This hasn’t stopped characters and elements from the game making it into other series, such as Xenoverse and Dokkan Battle.

Heroes revolves around a young human boy named “Beat”, who is pulled into the Dragon Ball Heroes game in-universe. He ends up in an amalgamated version of the Dragon Ball universe, and has to ally himself with various characters from a multitude of different realities and continuities. All the while, he seeks to improve both himself and his newfound Saiyan abilities.

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A badass nerd in a trench-coat, that’s new!

Heroes isn’t solely focused on Beat, as the game boasts thousands of different playable characters. Unfortunately, having this many characters in one game comes with a catch: You have to buy them all separately. You see, the game works by scanning in Dragon Ball Heroes trading cards. You buy packs of them at the store, scan them, and are then allowed to use them in-game.

While Heroes is popular in Japan, the game never left its home country. A lot of this comes down to the fact that most people won’t buy dozens of individual trading cards just for one game. Another part of it could do with the machines themselves, which are pretty pricey to make and ship. Games with characters from Heroes in them have been removed from the US releases of recent Dragon Ball games, due to Bandai-Namco not wanting to advertise the game out of Japan.

Despite this, Heroes was still able to be enjoyed by people outside of Japan. Due to the widespread nature of the internet, hardcore Dragon Ball fans were able to get their hands on various pieces of Heroes material. This included the trading cards themselves, the 3DS ports of the arcade games, and the animated shorts made to advertise the game.

On top of this, fans were able to watch the Dragon Ball Heroes anime on Youtube, and enjoy a show that was only meant to be seen in Japan. Due to Dragon Ball’s overwhelming popularity, fans clamor for anything related to Dragon Ball. As a result, Heroes has caught the eyes of many American fans.

Despite Bandai-Namco’s decision to not bring the game over here, it still hasn’t stopped fans from trying to get their hands on it. Pretty much any YouTube video on the game usually has at least 50 messages that read like this: “PLEASE bring Dragon Ball Heroes over to America!”

It’s ironic that in Namco’s attempt to not sell/advertise the game over, they ended up making the game semi-popular in America in spite of it. I think a lot of that comes down to it being the “Forbidden Fruit”, a game that will never officially be released here. People want what they cannot obtain, and one such thing is Heroes.

Still, that doesn’t mean that a release will never happen. For example, most people weren’t expecting Metal Wolf Chaos to get a US release, but it’s finally getting one after all these years! So, maybe there is hope for Dragon Ball Heroes to be released in the West. After all, if a game about the president piloting a giant robot can get released here, pretty much anything can!

Log Horizon: An MMO Anime Done Right

In the past couple years, I’ve found myself getting a lot more invested in MMORPGs and games with MMO elements. I’m talking games like Elder Scrolls Online, Dragon Ball Online, Dragon Ball Xenoverse, Wild Star, VRChat, and Toontown Online Rewritten. Ever since I started playing these games, I’ve been craving a TV show about said MMO experiences.

I tried Sword Art Online just last year, but could not get into it. I felt the characters were a bit too bland, the stakes weren’t high enough, and the mechanics of the show’s fictional game weren’t well-defined at all. As a result, I gave up after episode 5. Afterwards, I tried my hand at the Phantasy Star Online 2 anime. Much like with SAO, I didn’t like it one bit.

The PSO2 anime felt like a bland tie-in, and I found that I couldn’t get fully invested in the characters and world. As a result, I started neglecting anime that revolved around MMOs, missing out on shows that I’m told were actually quite awesome. One such show is “Log Horizon”, which I only recently started getting into.

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Log Horizon 2: Rabbit’s Revenge

What is Log Horizon? Well, it’s yet another anime about people getting stuck in a MMO. Unlike other shows, the characters don’t really know how they got stuck in the game. They just end up inside the game world itself, unsure of what occurred or what threw them in there. Inside this game, they can’t truly die and they have access to superhuman abilities and powers.

One may think it’d be like a utopia, but sadly this is not the case. Corrupt users find ways to break the system, while exploiting both the game itself and the lower-level users who play it. In this wayward word, it’s up to Shiroe and his band of his misfits to try to survive and bring some needed balance to this chaotic land. They do this by trying to work around the politics imposed by other users, while also doing battle with renegade guilds.

While all of this may sound formulaic, Log Horizon manages to bring a lot of charm and originality to a somewhat generic premise. This comes down to its memorable and likable main cast. You have the rather nerdy leader Shiroe, the dashing and heroic cat-man Nyanta, the stalwart tough-guy Naotsugu, and the deadly assassin known as Akatsuki.

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Nerds in medieval times = Best thing ever!

These are just some of the characters that make up the back-bone of the show’s principal cast. The show is host to a multitude of interested and entertaining side-characters, along with a gaggle of badass and intense villains. The show’s biggest selling point isn’t the characters themselves however, but how they interact with each other and the world around them.

I said in my last post on VRChat that “A MMO lives and dies by its player-base”, which is doubly true for the “Elder Tale” game our heroes find themselves stuck in. For you see, the biggest threat to our heroes isn’t the monsters roaming land. The real enemy they have to deal with is themselves, other players, and their own self-doubt.

Despite this show technically being an action show, it doesn’t shy away from showing us the deeper politics associated with the various guilds and factions. Despite the show making it clear that the world inside the game is more prosperous than our own, it bares some of the same problems. For example, the more powerful guilds will often kidnap players of lower levels, because said players are given EXP potions for free.

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Such a colorful cast of crazy anime characters!

By keeping weaker players captive, they are able to extort them for an unlimited supply of these stat-boosting potions. That’s one of the things that makes Log Horizon so interesting, in that it manages to make the interactions between these players feel real. It answers the age old question of “What would you do if you were trapped in a game?” Log Horizon’s is focused entirely on explaining how its game-world works, and then showing you how the players can use these systems to their advantages.

On top of this, the anime does it in a way that’s easy to understand for everyone, even for people who don’t play these kinds of games. The characters solve the problems plaguing their world in interesting and unique ways, which is something I can appreciate. It’s definitely one of the most refreshing anime I’ve seen in a while, which is saying a lot.

As of writing this, I’m still in the very early portion of this series. I fully intend to watch through both seasons of this show, before moving on to the similar-in-concept show known as “Overlord”. I really appreciate that Log Horizon managed to rekindle my love for MMO-based anime. I haven’t felt this invested in a virtual reality show since “.Hack//Sign” from way back in the day. Here’s hoping the rest of Log Horizon can live up to the greatness of its early episodes!

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Not sure why there are snowman in the back there…

The Awesome Absurdity That Is Space Ghost: Coast To Coast

90s animated television was truly a bizarre thing to behold, due entirely to its experimental nature. The mid-to-late 90s became a breeding ground for some of the oddest and most entertaining shows you could ever imagine. I’m talking shows like Daria, King of The Hill, Dr. Katz, Samurai Pizza Cats, Spider-Man Unlimited, Batman Beyond, The Maxx, Cybersix, and Gargoyles.

The 90s was a barrage of all these weird and memorable shows, but one show really set the mood for the absurdist cartoons that would follow in its wake. I’m talking about the hilarious and bizarre 1994 TV series, Space Ghost: Coast To Coast. Heralded as a cult classic of sorts, Coast To Coast was a successful attempt to bring a relatively obscure Hanna-Barbera character into the mainstream.

The series began airing in the mid-90s, and was one of Cartoon Network’s first “original” programs. I say that in quotations, as Coast To Coast re-purposed almost all of its animation from older Space Ghost cartoons. Since those shows already had severely limited animation, this meant there wasn’t a whole lot work with.

Despite the limited animation frames, Coast To Coast surprisingly worked. It was an absurdist animated talk show, featuring the titular Space Ghost character. Working alongside his two arch-enemies, Moltar and Zorak, Space Ghost would interview a cavalcade of famous celebrities and musicians.

Even though the series had very little in terms of original animation, it made up for that with some solid humor and entertaining characters. The show was a unique take on the “late night talk show” concept. I could never get into most talk-shows, since they had a tendency to just not that be entertaining. It doesn’t matter how many funny celebrities you get, it’s just hard to make a show where people sit down and talk for 30 minutes entertaining.

I get why people like the genre, but it’s never been my thing. Oddly enough though, Space Ghost: Coast To Coast managed to make late night talk shows into something truly entertaining! The show’s interviews were never straightforward, mainly because the questions the celebrities are asked aren’t the ones the characters are asking.

When recording the live-action segments, completely different and often time random questions were asked to each guest star. These answers would then be used for entirely different questions in the show itself, often times leading to random or hilarious results. Because of this, there were often times where the answers didn’t match the questions being asked.

This really adds to the charm of the show, and helps create that “surreal” feeling that the show is known for. Despite being billed as a “talk show”, the interview segments are only a fraction of each episode’s running time. Usually, most of the episodes are spent watching Space Ghost and his crew dealing with silly cartoon shenanigans.

These include following a random ant around the planet, being chased by evil alien pods, or even selling out to a fictional fast food chain. These scenarios were often more entertaining than the interview portions, which were already pretty fun in their own right. Coast To Coast was a series that proved to be popular, mostly due to how different it was compared to other cartoons airing at the time.

The series picked up steam pretty quickly, soon becoming a mainstay on Cartoon Network. Since then, it’s become one of the channel’s hallmarks. It ran for many seasons, got several specials, and even received two different revivals. It also got a ton of spin-offs including The Brak Show, Cartoon Planet, Harvey Birdman, and even the popular Toonami block of programming!

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One wonders how Moltar can drink coffee with no actual mouth…

Space Ghost: Coast To Coast also popularized the style of re-using limited animation, which would become a staple of the Adult Swim block. Coast To Coast is one of those rare shows that not only surpassed its source material, but managed to be something wholly unique on its own. It’s not a perfect show, that’s for sure.

The limited animation, bizarre scenarios, and the rather abrasive soundtrack may be a turnoff for some people. I’ll be honest, it’s hard to get through those first couple seasons of Space Ghost for me, since those are the ones that haven’t aged all that well. Still, if you stick with the show and watch past season 3, you’re definitely in for one of the most entertaining experiences in Cartoon Network history.

Vanillaware: A Truly Fantastic Game Company

What makes a game company good? Is it the quality of the games they put out? Is it how they treat their customers? Is it how frequent they can release solid entertaining video-games? I think it’s a mixture of all of these things, which is what makes Vanillaware a truly great company. Vanillaware is one of the few companies that manages to consistently put out good quality games at amazing prices.

Vanillaware’s catalog consists mostly of RPGs, action RPGs, and the occasional turn-based strategy game. While they haven’t put out as many games as Bioware, Bethesda, or Obsidian have, they’ve still managed to release a fair amount of solid and entertaining games. The first game of theirs I’ve played was Muramasa Rebirth. At that time, I was pumped about the upcoming release of Dragon’s Crown for Vita and PS3.

I was fairly impatient and wanted into indulge in this amazing game right away! Dragon’s Crown was billed as this spiritual sequel to the Dungeons & Dragons arcade games, albeit with far better graphics and more in-depth RPG elements. While impatiently waiting for the game to come out, I bought the remake of Vanillaware’s previous game: Muramasa Rebirth.

Muramasa Rebirth was a game that I would always pass by in the game store. To me, it looked like some generic Japanese game, one that was probably released to cash in on the anime craze that was still going strong at the time. Once I had the game on Vita, I realized how wrong I had been all this time! Muramasa was a beautifully crafted side-scrolling action RPG, one with a heavy emphasis on Japanese folklore.

The visuals were stunning, the world was gorgeous, the voice acting was amazing, and the combat was slick! The ability to choose from over 100 swords was astounding, especially since most of the swords had their own unique special attacks! Couple this with two separate story modes, each with their own series of alternate endings, and you have a game that’ll take you many hours to complete.

Muramasa did more than just whet my appetite, it made me even more hungry for Dragon’s Crown! A few months later, this game hits store shelves and I am pumped. Dragon’s Crown is one of the few games I’ve ever pre-ordered, and I’m glad I did! It not only came with the game, but also an art-book with some amazing hand-drawn pictures inside it.

The game’s developer, George Kamitami, put an amazing amount of work into how the game looked. It was gorgeous 2D graphics, which made both the game and the art-book look visually stunning. Heck, the cover of the art-book was even designed to resemble a Dungeons & Dragons rule-book! Everything about the presentation was stunning, more so than any other game released at the time.

Despite the rather provocative designs of certain characters within the game (such as The Sorceress), the game managed to be a really good action RPG game. Dragon’s Crown was a side-scrolling dungeon crawler, one that was put together really well. No joke, I’ve probably played Dragon’s Crown more than most of the games in my collection! I can’t even begin to tell you how many hours I’ve sunk into this amazing game, it ranks as one of my favorites.

Despite all the hours I’ve put into Dragon’s Crown, I still haven’t beaten everything in the game yet! There is also an updated re-release for this game coming out exclusively for PS4, which may lead to the game getting some more updates! Oh god, imagine if they extended the level cap above 255…

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One of the few games out there where the in-game graphics look just as good as the box-art does!

So yeah, Dragon’s Crown lived up to the hype, in my opinion. I played the game on and off over the course of a few years, patiently waiting for the next Vanillaware masterpiece to be released! Come 2016 and Vanillaware decides to remake another one of their games: Odin Sphere. Released almost a decade after the original game, Odin Sphere Leifthrasir proved to be a stunning remake of its source material!

Unlike Muramasa: Rebirth, the new Odin Sphere managed to be a remake that updated more than just visuals and sounds. New moves were added to the characters, as well as adding a modified leveling system, complete with up-gradable skills. That’s not including all the other features added, such as sub-bosses and the ability to dodge. The game had essentially been remade from the ground up into something wholly unique!

The remake also let you play the original version with updated visuals, which was a nice bonus. Vanillaware made a legitimate remake of a game, instead of just simply making the textures high-resolution. This is something that is rare in the current games market, where games are remade to look and sound slightly better, while adding nothing new to the experience.

After play through all of Odin Sphere for the very first time, the waiting game once again began for the next title. So far, I had played through three Vanillaware games, all of which were extremely well-made! I feel that I got what I paid for with all of these games, which isn’t something I can say about major game releases nowadays.

Vanillaware eventually announced their next title, which was titled “13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim”. The game is set to launch next year, and will feature gameplay centered around mecha combat. That’s right, this Vanillaware game will let you pilot a giant robot! Not much is known of this game yet, but it looks pretty badass!

While waiting for 13 Sentinels, I came across another game made by former Vanillaware employees. Despite this not technically being made by Vanillaware, it feels like the kind of game they would make! I’m talking about “Grand Kingdom”, which bares an almost identical art-style to most Vanillaware games.

The game was directed by the same guy behind “Grand Knights History”, a Japanese exclusive Vanillaware game. In Grand Kingdom, you make an army of soldiers out of your own custom created characters. You then send them out on missions, or explore the world in a boardgame-styled isometric view.

Grand Kingdom was something I recently discovered, and I’ve been playing it quite a bit lately. I’ve definitely enjoyed what little I’ve played of the game thus far! So, that’s my history with Vanillaware and its games thus far. With 13 Sentinels just around the horizon, I feel it’s time to go back and play through my entire Vanillaware library. I want to be prepared for when 13 Sentinels rocks my socks off, and the best way to do that is by going back and experience this company’s amazing games once more!

My First Anime DVD: Dragon Drive

You always remember your first, well at least I tend to. When I was younger, anime was all over television. I grew up on stuff like Dragon Ball, Digimon, and Pokemon. However, when those anime were brought over to America, they are usually heavily edited for content. That means that I was usually getting a watered down experience on television, compared to the kind of anime one could see on home video.

That brings me to the first uncensored anime I had ever seen on DVD: Dragon Drive. For those of you who don’t know what this series is, allow me to explain. Dragon Drive was based off a manga of the same name that revolved around a young man named Reiji Oozara. Reiji is a humongous slacker, who barely tries at all in anything he attempts.

Reiji is one day tricked into playing this new game called “Dragon Drive” by his childhood friend, Meiko Yukino. Dragon Drive is a fighting game, in which players are given dragons and proceed to battle it out. Reiji enters the game and is gifted with a seemingly weak dragon named “Chibisuke”, who soon turns out to be more than he appears.

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A game based off a show based off a manga about playing a game? That’s just silly!

With Reiji and his new dragon, he makes a vow to climb up the ladder and become the champion of Dragon Drive. All the while, Reiji promises to make himself into a better perseon and turn his life around. That’s something I dug about the show, the idea of a slacker becoming more reliable and dependable. Seeing a character go through a terrible situation, only to turn it around and become a better person is one of my favorite cliches.

Of course, it’s not that easy for Reiji. He soon discovers himself being pulled into an ancient prophecy, while being transported to an entirely new universe. It’s up to Reiji and his friends to defeat an evil organization, fight against a strangely dressed villain, and return to their home-world.

It’s your pretty standard stuff for a Shonen action anime. Fight scenes are usually pretty good, though CGI animation is insanely dated. Certain action sequences can look like the animated equivalent of two action figures bashing against each other, mostly due to the lackluster CGI.

The 2D art and animation is pretty solid, though nothing too spectacular. This was made on a TV budget, after all. Still, the designs and the way the characters are drawn tended to stick with me the most. Character designs are extremely varied, which is always something I appreciate in any form of medium.

Going back to this show nearly a decade later helped me realize that it has really not aged well. Still, the show does hold a special place in my heart! I remember buying the first season DVD box-set and watching through it all at once in a weekend. The show was the first anime I ever saw completely uncut, and it was truly a treat to behold.

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“We having Dragon-Yak tonight!”

Despite the show’s formulaic nature, the English dub is what really sold me on the series. It was actually fairly well done, albeit flawed in certain areas. You see, this dub was done in the early 2000s. This was a time when anime dubbing wasn’t really a fine art, so you have some awkward voices here or there. Sometimes, characters will awkwardly pause in the middle of a sentence, or begin to talk over someone else at random.

That’s not even mentioning the amount of awkward line reads that happens over the course of the series. A lot of that is forgivable though, due to the solid voice-cast the show uses. You have industry professionals like Tabitha St. Germain, Brad Swaile, Scott McNeil, and Brian Drummond lending their voices to this series.

Despite the fact that some of their deliveries fall flat, they do put their all into what they are saying most of the time. As previously stated, the series was uncensored when released on DVD. This was a much welcome change, when compared to most anime I had seen previously. Dragon Drive also contained the Japanese version’s soundtrack, which was… Decent.

Dragon Drive had a pretty basic soundtrack as far as Shonen anime go, but at least it had a badass theme song. The show ran for 38 episodes and covered the “First Season” of the manga, though stopped before it could adapt the second one. I’ve never been able to find a reason behind this, though it’s probably due to budget.

Dragon Drive ended up as a fairly obscure anime, kept alive by its small and devoted fan-base. Despite season 2 never getting adapted, people still go back and watch the series. Heck, I re-watched the second half of the show just the other week! Dragon Drive isn’t a perfect show, but for my anime on DVD, it was everything I wanted.

It’s been almost a decade and a half since this series ended, but it’s still something I find myself coming back to here and there. It’s definitely something I can recommend, for those who are interested. Just be wary of that early 2000s anime cheese, it can make the show a bit difficult to watch at times. Still, if you can stick with it for a few episodes, I think it’s something that a lot of anime fans can come to enjoy. Just be warned that this show isn’t exactly easy to find. Heck, the DVD box-set alone runs for over 300 bucks on Amazon!

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EPIC POINTING!

Remembering X-Play: Gaming Journalism Gone Wrong

Believe it or not, there was a time when there was a ton of video-game shows littering the airwaves. I don’t just mean cartoons either, I’m talking about shows that did nothing but discuss games. Video & Arcade Top 10 and Electronic Playground are just a few examples, but probably the biggest source for gaming television came with a single network: G4.

G4 was unique in that most of its starting programs were game-related. After Tech TV bought the network, gaming shows slowly dropped in numbers over the years. The two shows that remained with G4 the longest were Attack of The Show, and X-Play. While Attack slowly phased out its gaming-based content, X-Play continued to pump out review after review.

X-Play started out as a semi-entertaining review show. Sure, it’s previews and reviews weren’t anything revolutionary, but you could tell that they cared somewhat about what they reviewed. However, sometime around the early-to-mid 2000s, the series took a turn for the worse. The two hosts of the show, Adam Sessler, and Morgan Webb began to adopt a “Holier-Than-Thou” attitude.

A lot of their reviews came off as pessimistic, as if they knew better than the audience. The worst thing you could do as a reviewer is act as though you are better than the person watching. A good example of this was during their “Phantasy Star Online Episode III” review, where Morgan began with a rather unfunny rant about how there’s “too many card games” out there. This culminated in a rather unfunny and fairly annoying sketch where Morgan “called up” Japan to complain about the amount of card games out there.

Never-mind the fact that card-based games were only a sub-genre. Despite all the complaints lobbied against the game by Morgan, she still somehow managed to give the game a “3 out of 5”. Back when I did score reviews, I gave more of a reason as to why I scored episode II as a “6.5/10”. A lot of this X-Play review was just a bunch of complaining, followed by a score that didn’t feel justified. Still, that wasn’t the worst review X-Play put out. A good example of how bad the writing for these reviews got was during the Dungeon Siege II review.

Much of the review was spent jokingly comparing it to Lord of The Rings. It could have been a funny gag, but a lot of the review was spent doing this. Which is a shame, because I feel that Dungeon Siege II was given a fair review. Halfway through said review, Morgan randomly started talking about a Dungeon Siege comic she received with the game.

This included some more unfunny sketches, further padding out an already fairly short review. Of course, these aren’t the worst reviews X-Play has made. Who could forget their review of “Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core” for the PSP? The internet couldn’t, that’s for sure! For those who don’t know, Adam Sessler reviewed Crisis Core upon release. He gave the game an immensely low score of 2/5, which people didn’t like all that much.

In said review, Adam would go on to insult the writing quality of Japan overall, complain about how easy the game is, complain about how difficult the game is in the same breath, and generally come off as know-it-all. The worst part comes when Adam insults the writing, saying how only the Japanese would find it entertaining. Despite the fact that a lot of people from North America (myself included) dig cheesy Japanese game writing.

The thing is that I can respect and get behind some of the points X-Play made, but I can’t stand the amount of annoying sketches, cynicism, and bad attempts at comedy. There’s nothing wrong with speaking negatively about a game you know a lot of people will like, as long as you back up your claims with some solid points and arguments.

Sadly, a lot of X-Play’s later reviews devolved into bad sketches and nitpicking. It’s okay to give Crisis Core a low score, but you need better points than “It was too easy” and “The writing was bad”. It’s especially sad, since they started off as a fairly entertaining game review and news source. Heck, I still dig their preview of the Gamecube version of “Phantasy Star Online Episodes 1 & 2”.

Sadly, X-Play stopped producing quality content like this in their later years. Come January of next year, X-Play would’ve been off the air for five years. The show’s former hosts have since retired from gaming journalism, despite occasional appearances at live game events.

The thing about X-Play’s later years was not on the fault of the reviewers themselves, but their constant need to try to appeal to the modern gamer. What a person wanted from a review changed over the years, and sadly the writers of X-Play did not know how to cope with said changes. As a result, the reviews became overstuffed with superfluous fluff and pointless filler.

Nearly five years after this show ended, five years since an episode aired, and nobody wants to see it return. It had a solid 15 year run, gaining a ton of fans, but also a lot of scrutiny as well. Almost every X-Play review and episode remains online for people to watch whenever the want, since we’ll never see a DVD release due to copyright reasons.

X-Play went from a show that struggled to appease its gaming audience, to a forgotten artifact that anyone who uses Youtube can have access to. With G4 dead, gaming journalism being done mostly online nowadays, and Youtube becoming the hub for all game reviews, X-Play will most likely never see a return.

Maybe that’s for the best, in a way. X-Play ran for 15 years, from 1998 to 2013. People nowadays tend to remember X-Play for the good content they put out in their early years, rather than their mediocre later content. Whether you love or hate X-Play, you have to admit that they were something different from most shows that were airing on television at the time. Whether that is a good thing or bad thing depends entirely on the individual watching it.

Prisoner Zero: The Australian Star Wars

Something I don’t watch a lot of is Australian cartoons. I never grew up in Australia and the channels that I tended to watch never showed cartoons from that country. The only cartoon from Australia I ever watched in my younger years was Fairy Tale Police Department. I was never a huge fan of that show, to be completely honest. A show I have been getting into as of late is some random cartoon I found on Netflix, one that happened to be made in the “Great Down Under”.

I’m talking about Prisoner Zero, which has to be one of the most obscure modern cartoons I’ve come across in a while. You see, the network that airs it (ABC 3) wanted to a replacement for the cancelled Star Wars: Clone Wars cartoon. As such, they commissioned a new sci-fi series to be aired on their network. This led to the creation of Prisoner Zero, a rather entertaining space adventure.

So, what makes PZ so interesting? For one thing, this is an Australian cartoon with an anime art-style. This is rare for shows in Australia, at least to my knowledge. While the show isn’t animated in Japan, it’s definitely similar in design. Unfortunately, this anime style can sometimes make character designs look awkward and clash horribly with each other.

All the guys have realistic faces, while all the females possess stylized cartoon-y faces. A good example of this is the character Gem, who has this strange pointy chin. The animation itself can be a bit off. It’s got that “Adult Swim” feel to it, if that makes any sense. Old Adult Swim shows used to have a fair bit of limited animation to them, kind of like this show.

Character movements can sometimes look stilted, though action scenes can still be very fierce at times. Unlike Star Wars, characters like to shoot energy blasts, instead of fighting using lightsabers. In a way, it kind of reminds me of Dragon Ball Z. Now, while some of those elements can be hit or miss, Prisoner Zero still manages to be rather engaging. This comes down to the solid voice-acting, good characters, and somewhat interesting plot.

In this show, the evil General Vikar and his “Imperium” have conquered most of the galaxy. A prisoner with amnesia named “Prisoner Zero” works with a group of ragtag rebels aboard a stolen ship, their goal being to stop Vikar and his Imperium. Vikar uses a system called the “Bioweve” to mind-control people, and essentially erase their minds. This concept gets a lot of use in the second episode, where Vikar mind-wipes EVERYONE on an entire planet.

Vikar then proceeds to blow said planet up, all in an attempt to get Zero to give back the stolen ship. Yeah, Vikar is one of those no-nonsense villains, complete with a deep voice and British accent. Vikar comes off as your typical all-powerful villain, but at least he manages to be a solid and consistent threat for our heroes.

Something I dug that this show did, is that it somehow manages to get every single main character involved in its stories. When you have a show like Prisoner Zero, which has an ever-growing cast, it’s always good to involve as many characters as you can. I hate it when shows introduce a cast of 20+ characters, then spend a ton of episodes ignoring most of them. Prisoner Zero manages to split focus just enough so that most scenes aren’t just Vikar and Zero going at it.

Prisoner-Zero
Apparently, purple hair dye is a commonality in space.

Speaking of Zero, he is probably one of my favorite aspects of this show! Zero is an amnesiac hero, but one who is rather jovial, goofy, and fun-loving. A lot of franchises love to give their main characters amnesia, and proceed to use it as an excuse to not make them interesting. I can’t tell you how many shows and movies I’ve seen where the amnesiac hero is brooding, dark, or emotionless.

It’s nice to see a main character who has amnesia, but doesn’t let it get him down too much. One thing that I dug about the show was the ship our heroes use to sail the galaxy. The ship known as “The Rogue” isn’t any ordinary vessel, as it houses life inside its many floors. Within the deepest sections of the ship are a treasure trove of bizarre creatures and beings.

The show likes to have episodes where our heroes just to explore the ship itself, instead of beaming down to some random planet. I honestly prefer the ship exploration, as The Rogue comes off as a rather unique location. It feels like a living breathing place at times, with a bizarre assortment of odd aliens dwelling in its depths.

To summarize my feelings on this show, I think it has potential. Sure, it comes off as the kind of sci-fi story we’ve been told so many times before, but there’s just something enjoyable about it. This comes down to its lovable cast, solid voice acting, and the uniqueness and implementation of some of its concepts. The show isn’t perfect, but if you’re looking for something to satiate your thirst for sci-fi, then I think this series will do. Plus, you can watch it for free on Netflix right now! That’s what I call a good deal.

Bethesda Softwork’s Greatest Mistake

I’d like to tell you all a story: Back in 2008, I had moved to a new city. I didn’t really have any friends, nor was I part of any clubs at the time. I eventually did make some new friends, who formally introduced me to a game that I’ve only heard mentions of before: Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. This was a game unlike any other I had played! It was an open world RPG that let me do whatever I want, while at the same time being an interesting universe with diverse side-quests.

There was so much meaningful side-content and fun things to do that I found myself losing many hours to the game. Oblivion was a game that had issues, but did so many things right that it made up for them. It had a colorful and beautiful open-world, with a ton of fun and engaging side-quests, a decent variety of enemies, and a massive amount of things to do.

Oblivion certainly had its problems, there’s no doubt about that. There were bugs, terrible facial designs, a somewhat bland combat system, and a terrible interface. Despite this, the game is still a lot of fun to play today, even without mods. As much as I dug Oblivion, it started a horrible trend that still plagues Bethesda to this very day: Oversimplifying the RPG concepts and and gameplay.

With each open-world RPG game after Oblivion, Bethesda began to make each game simpler and simpler. This got worse once Bethesda got the license to the “Fallout” game series. Bethesda then churned out Fallout 3, a game that simplified many elements of the core Fallout franchise. While Fallout 3 is hailed as a cult classic, many classic Fallout fans downright despise the game.

Still, the game was a fairly fun solid experience and had a ton of well-priced DLC. After Fallout 3, Bethesda allowed Obsidian to develope the next game, which was titled “Fallout: New Vegas”. This allowed some of the people who originally made the series to create a new game for the franchise, while Bethesda was busy finishing Skyrim. What resulted was a Fallout game that managed to please both old fans and new.

New Vegas was released as a spinoff to the main series, but had much more in common with the first two games. In fact, NV was more of a sequel to Fallout 2 than Fallout 3 was! New Vegas introduced more roleplaying elements, features that previous open-world games by Bethesda was lacking. As great as New Vegas was, it was really just a filler game for the series. It’s plot didn’t factor in to Bethesda’s Fallout games, so Bethesda mostly pretended it didn’t happen.

This lead Bethesda to one of their biggest mistakes ever: Fallout 4. Now, recently I’ve been playing Fallout 4. I just got into the game for the first time and I can say that it’s actually a pretty entertaining game. Sure, certain quests are broken beyond belief, there’s a ton of bugs, the story is kind of lame, and the role-playing elements have been dumbed down considerably, but it’s still pretty fun.

The problem isn’t with Fallout 4 itself, but with how Bethesda handled it. You see, Fallout 4 became one of the best-selling games for Bethesda ever. This is great for the company, but it was also too big of a success for a company like Bethesda to handle. Due to the game being such a huge success, Bethesda became sloppy. They jacked up the price of the season pass for the game, and overcharged on the downloadable content.

Worse still, they start banning people on Steam. Why? This comes down to the fact that people were changing to servers from different countries, just so they could play the game a few hours before everyone else. Despite this being more of a minor thing, Bethesda was not happy in the least. Things only got worse from there, however.

Soon, Bethesda made an announcement that they would only give out review copies to the popular Youtubers. This normally wouldn’t be a problem, but most of the big name Youtubers will say nothing but positives things about Bethesda’s games. This means that they will also ignore, or choose not to mention the big flaws the games have.

Some may argue that most of the bad choices came down to Zenimax, which is most likely true. Zenimax owns Bethesda Softworks, so it’s only natural they’d handle the business end of things. Still, Bethesda themselves aren’t completely innocent either. Keep in mind that the spokes of Bethesda, Todd Howard lied during an E3 conference. He said that settlement building was optional, and that it also wasn’t needed to beat the game. Both of these things are false, it’s necessary and you have to do it to complete the main story.

Now, a lot of these things are fairly forgivable. They are dumb choices, but they don’t come off as openly antagonist or anti-consumer. You know what does? Bethesda’s Creation Club. I’ve talked about this system before it’s release, but I think it’s not time to talk about the huge debacle that came from this system. The Creation Club was Bethesda’s second attempt at paid mods, by having modders create “new” content exclusively for the platform.

I say “new” with quotations, since a lot of the supposedly new content is based off pre-existing content from past games. Heck, some of the things you can purchase from the CC are just taken from pre-existing mods! Not only that, but the CC breaks most mods. This includes the “Fallout 4 Script Extender”, which allows for more of the creative and more expansive mods to be used.

If that wasn’t bad enough, a giant text advertisement for the CC was shoved into the corner of the title screen. Constantly there, cluttering up the main menu, and always nagging you to try out this system that encourages poorly implemented paid mods. I’m not against modders being paid for their hard work, but they deserved a better system for this.

In short: Fallout 4 may have been a great game, but the things that spun out of it are slowly killing Bethesda. Sure, they will still make a ton of cash with the inevitable Elder Scrolls VI, but they are still going to have to deal with the controversies currently plaguing them. Bethesda used to be a company that I could turn to for a good game, for something solid and something entertaining.

Nowadays, their great games tend to get overshadowed by their shady business practices. I like to support game studios when I can, however Bethesda has proven themselves to be rather untrustworthy as of late. Once you tarnish your reputation enough, it can be hard to repair it. Will I support Bethesda any time in the future? If they get their act together, then I definitely will. Unfortunately, I highly doubt they will. If a company scams it’s audience and gets away with it, they’ll most likely continue to do so.