Ratchet and Clank

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Ratchet is a young Lombax that has always dreamed of joining the Galactic Rangers, but is rejected personally by Captain Qwark himself. When a robot he names Clank crash lands near his garage with crucial information, he gets a second chance. It turns out that the Blarg are working with Doctor Nefarious on an evil plan including the destruction of a number of planets. Ratchet ends up getting sucked into things and becoming a part of the rangers, where he along with Clank, travel across the galaxy to stop such a disaster from occurring.

***

This is very much a tried and true Ratchet and Clank game. In terms of game play its a solid blend of action shooting and platforming, wherein the sequences where both are required are it’s highlights. There are a pretty large number of diverse weapons that assists with combat, many of them being quite strange, such as the sheepinator. While a tremendous amount of thought isn’t required, because while using the right weapon in the right situation does work better the other weapons can essentially be forced into working quite right as well, it’s still fun to play around with them in different combinations. This combined with situations that change the combat tremendously, such as the jetpack, end up making the combat feel pretty fresh. So in regards to combat the only complaint I have is that there weren’t many boss battles, though the final boss I thought was pretty good. In terms of platforming, it’s solid as well, with lots of gadgets that slowly add to it. Furthermore, they also allow reaching new places a lot of the time, which incentives coming back and exploring old locations, which adds a lot to the various planets. There are also other side games, such as ship combat and board racing that help with pacing, though all in all it still felt like there needed to be more, because the core game play felt like it dragged on a bit too long while overall the game still felt a bit short.

In terms of plot, it was decent  and enough to hold up the game, though there wasn’t much to it. An area it felt lacking however is in the relationship being built up between Ratchet and Clank, which happened way too quickly and felt like there could have been, or rather needed to have been, a lot more to reach that point. Because of that, in a way it felt like a key part of the story was missing. The worlds and atmosphere were all still on point being very exciting, cheerful, and comedic.

The graphics and art style were incredibly good, though the scenes taken from the movie were still quite obvious, and to be honest it felt unneeded because the in game graphics were good enough and the transitions were somewhat awkward. The soundtrack was pretty good and very much fitting the series.

A very solid entry in the Ratchet and Clank franchise that stays very close to the core formula.

8/10

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GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka

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Eikichi Onizuka when in high school was part of a motorcycle gang and a major fighter to boot. Many years later at the age of 22, he’s out in the world, but has no idea what to do with himself. While wandering through life aimlessly, he ultimately comes to the conclusion that he’s going to be a teacher. And hence, he begins his path towards becoming one. However, while he’s certainly grown in years, he still acts exactly the same as he did when he was in high school, brashly and crudely. However, he manages to luck out in managing to get an interview, where the chairwoman takes a liking to him, and despite the protests of all the other administrators, hires him as a temporary teacher. However, things are far from smooth sailing for Onizuka, for he’s been assigned to the infamous class 4, who have already forced out a long string of previous teachers. Everyone carries a burden, and the students in this class especially carry a number of large scars, leading to quite a bit of resentment against teachers and the education system. Furthermore, they have a number of geniuses and talented individuals on their side that can put a lot of pressure on teachers, so its no surprise that any normal teacher would be sent running for the hills. But Onizuka is no ordinary teacher. He may be dumb with most of his students being quite a bit smarter than him in academics, but he’s wise where it counts and his heart is truly in the right place when it comes to what truly being a teacher means, and with that on his side, he slowly wins over the class, often in completely ridiculous ways, and becomes the greatest teacher in all of Japan.

***

This is a manga that has some of the best developed characters I’ve ever seen in a manga. Now that’s certainly true for Onizuka himself, but it’s also true for the entire class as well. It has arcs with characters facing problems that Onizuka resolves, changing their outlook quite a bit, and ultimately putting them on the road to major growth. However, there story doesn’t end there. They’re still a part of the class, and as time keeps moving forward, they continue to grow. Sometimes this comes as a result of further problems they have coming to the forefront and being dealt with by Onizuka. However, more interestingly is that this also comes as a result of them getting involved with their classmates, because the relationships between the various students in the class are also quite well developed. This keeps all the character important to the story and keeps them all connected. Sometimes this results in arcs where numerous things festering below the surface due to interactions between classmates come to the forefront at once, resulting in things climaxing in amazing ways that leave you at the edge of your seat. And furthermore the students are all great. I was especially fond of the incredibly loyal genius Urami, but really that’s just preference, as almost every character is developed as likable to at least some degree. And that’s not to mention Onizuka, who is ridiculously amazing. He brings his own brand of wisdom to things despite being an idiot and with that combined with him being ridiculously overpowered, he never acts how you expect him to, pulling off a stream of unexpected miracles. Sure, he’s a Gary Stu, but with the way the story is told and how well he pulls it off it still works tremendously well to the point that you just have to smile. His character and how he deals with things is incredibly refreshing.

The story as noted is also told very well. There is a lot of variety in terms of stories, with chapters focusing on more laid back smaller stories and chapters focusing on more fleshed out intense longer stories all intermingled in such a way that it feels paced perfectly. It should be noted though, that even the smaller stories contribute heavily to the character development, and hence still feel incredibly worthwhile. And all of this comes to a conclusion that while in plot not feeling any different from the end of any other arc, is told tremendously well and feels like a great way to wrap up the story. However, I really want to know what happens in the future for the student of class 4. Do the various hook ups work? Does anyone hook up with Onizuka? What does Urami do in the future? Do Tomoko’s and Mayu’s careers in showbiz go well? Hell, what does everyone do in the future? It doesn’t even have to be exciting. I just really want to know because I love these characters so much. And that this work made me feel so strongly about this I think is quite impressive. Is this what teachers feel like at the end of every year?

I should also note that the comedy is spot on and great throughout. The action doesn’t have much depth beyond Onizuka being awesome, but it was pretty awesome for what it was. The art is a bit rough, but it has a lot of character for a lack of a better word, and by the end I really liked it.

An amazing manga about a strange teacher and an amazing class of students.

10/10

So  there’s a side story and a sequel. Will definitely be looking into both of those, though unfortunately we don’t get to see what happens to the class in the future it seems.

Fairy Fencer F Advent Dark Force

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Fang is an incredibly lazy guy simply wandering around when he comes upon a sword in the ground. He hears that the sword is called a Fury, blessed by the Goddess, and that if he pulls it out, he’ll be granted a wish. Fang thus pulls it out, causing a Fairy named Eryn to appear, who tries to explain who she is and what’s going on, but is interrupted by Fang immediately demanding food from her. Due to Fang’s strange personality, things get a bit awkward, and he even ends up in jail, but in the end Fang come to understand that getting just one Fury isn’t enough, rather he needs to get all the Furies in order to fully release the Goddess and be granted a wish. To help with that, obtaining a Fury has made Fang a Fencer, who can wield the powers of Fairies to assist in battle. However, Eryn seems to have lost all her memories, so she doesn’t entirely know how to go about finding the other Furies, but believes that if they continue on with this quest that she’ll get her memories back. Hence, Fang decides to help Eryn and go around obtaining Furies.

However, he’s not the only Fencer looking for Furies, and they meet a number of friends and foes as they go about their quest. There’s Tiara, an arrogant girl, stubborn, and somewhat masochistic girl that wants to use the wish to create world peace, who’s Fairy is the adorable pet Cui. There’s Harley, who’s a scientist that often goes too far for the sake of her research and doesn’t seem to care about anything else at all, leaving all housework and suck to her reliable fairy partner Bahus. There’s Galdo, a pretty childish guy that gets caught up in going with the flow too easily, and hence relies on his mother like Fairy Marissa to take care of him quite a bit. There’s Sherman, a guy obsessed with purifying the world of evil in the memory of his long lost sister, who has the robotic Ryushin as a Fairy. There’s the incredibly strange Pippin, who’s goal is social reform, who works with his butler like Fairy Soji. There’s Ethel, a girl who was raised in a harsh environment, and hence only knows how to say the words “Kill”, but has a kind fairy named Karin that wants her to experience living life as a normal girl. There’s Apollonius, a man who strictly follows the ways of the blade and cares of nothing else, who fights along side his dragon Fairy Seguro. There’s Lola, a seemingly too young information dealer who is completely obsessed with money. There’s the witty and high class lady Marianna, who wants to take over and rule the world for the sake of improving it for all who live in it, who is partnered to the bat like Fairy Khalara. And there’s Noie, a man with the sole goal of working hard in this life in order to be reincarnated as an insect in the next one.

Fang and Eryn along with their various allies and enemies push forward towards obtaining the Furies to awaken the goddess, though things may proceed in more complicated directions.

***

This is a game with a lot of good aspects, but in many ways there are elements that cheapen that in a way. For example, the overall plot line featuring Dorfa trying to take over the world along with the Goddess and Vile God background is pretty interesting, as was the time loop mechanic. However, there’s a system where the story can branch down three different routes, and while I felt that this was good in concept, the end result felt incredibly forced, with the plots going in random directions arbitrarily, and with the entire Vile Goddess route feeling incredibly random with some aspects such as Glados torture feeling incredibly out of place. They were all interesting routes on their own, but placed alongside each other, it felt like they were arbitrary, and hence that reduced their impact. The cast of characters were incredibly great, Tiara and Ethel I especially liked. They are a pretty diverse set of characters that mix well together both when getting along and not. There’s a lot of great skits that develop their characters. And furthermore, the time loop mechanic and different routes allows each of them to be developed in different ways, which further helps develop their characters. However, the time loop and multiple route mechanic also brings up the issue in that it also seems that a lot about characters is completely arbitrary, in that their personality and which side they’re on changes at a drop of a hat. Furthermore, the new characters introduced in only the Vile Goddess route felt tremendously underdeveloped. And lastly, it felt like all the ending were a bit weak, in that they seemed to be based on single choices with not much build up. So overall, the cast of characters themselves is fantastic, but everything else surrounding them felt a bit weak.

The battle system wasn’t especially innovative but was still solid. The various aspects of it, each character with a unique ability, abilities in Fairize form that utilize HP instead of MP, guard breaks, combos, etc. worked pretty well together to form a pretty good and enjoyable system. It wasn’t perfect, rather it was somewhat rough with having too many abilities that were useless or entirely similar to others as well as a lot of bosses being incredibly cheap, but it was still decent and never felt cumbersome. The growth system was also very solid. It had something pretty unique in that there was a card system with collecting Fairies that could be equipped to provide stat boosts and abilities. However, ultimately that simply came down to being equipment that can grow in stats and abilities as it is used, which while not that interesting, I still definitely enjoyed and felt this was a really cool implementation of such. The rest was standard leveling up and allocating points to stats and abilities along with equipping armor found in the field, bought, or synthesized, etc. Ultimately a system that was incredibly standard and a bit rough but enjoyable.

In terms of exploration, there was a A LOT OF reused dungeons, enemies, and bosses. To complete all of the story in the game, you will go through most dungeons six times, not to mention there are duplicates of dungeons that look very similar. In part it makes sense due to the time looping and separate route structure, but there were moments that felt like it was clearly cutting corners, like the final dungeons for the Vile God and Vile Goddess route being the exact same despite story wise being different locations. Still, this was much less of an issue than other RPGs facing the same problem, because dungeons in this game are incredibly short. Like it’s possible to complete many of them within 5 minutes if you really try. Part of that involves using boost to dodge around enemies, which is cool. Hence, because it’ll almost never feel like you’re underleveled except during a couple points that you can easily grind in, it’s a perfectly acceptable strategy to try to go through entire dungeons without fighting any mobs, using boost to dodge around them, which is a lot more enjoyable than I expected, and while that’s clearly not what they intended most likely, I found it quite entertaining and hence despite the other issues with dungeons, made dungeon exploring quite enjoyable for me.

At a technical level, I have a complaint in that the museum with CG, songs, etc. was tied to a singular save. It would be a lot better to be more like normal VNs where it gets tied to the global save. The reason for that, is that I would like to have been able to see more than one ending per play through, not for completely different routes, but different characters in the same route. As it seemed to come down to a single choice anyway it feels like that should be fair, as having to play through the game many more times I think is taking things a bit too far. Alternatively, at the end throwing it back to before the final boss or choosing to do a NG+ should have been the option after winning so you could keep going doing the other options until you wanted to cycle through again. This or the gallery I think would have been a major improvement.

In terms of art, the designs were great, especially the character and fairy designs, both in CG, and sprites. The sprites I should note were also incredibly well animated. The graphics were lacking, but there were only a few cutscenes using the in game graphics, so this mostly wasn’t an issue as during game play the game looked nice enough. The music was decent and the OP/EDs were pretty good, with the ED of the Vile God route being something I especially liked.

Kind of rough and cheap feeling at times, but for what it is it’s still an incredibly solid JRPG.

8/10

Gekkoh

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Kyoutarou despite being the son of the Hi family Yakuza boss, wants absolutely nothing to do with being in the Yakuza. However, his dad just went and got sent to prison for a year, so he’s been having to deal with all his father’s nonsense in his place. In such circumstances, a cool beauty named Kumiko appears before him. She says that she’s his half sister, the secret biological daughter of his father, but because of him being in prison and hence not paying her living fees, she’s come to live with him instead. And bound by family responsibility, despite being annoyed, considering it is his only sister, Kyoutarou agrees. However, Kumiko isn’t like him, in that she very much is what a Yakuza type woman should be like. Furthermore, she’s strongly motivated by revenge. Holding on to the last memento of the man who raised and who she considers her father, the katana Gekkoh, she has vowed to hunt down her parents killer, the man with the centipede tattoo, and kill him. This ends up taking Kumiko into various dangerous situations, which of course Kyoutarou follows her into. On top of that there seem to be political matters going on within the clan, with other families trying to take over the Hi family. And while Kyoutariou and Kumiko don’t have trouble getting along, their relationship develops quite a bit different from a normal brother and sister.

***

This manga has an interesting setting being set around Yakuza matters. It’s certainly not for everyone, with a lot of scenes being too much for me as well and feeling quite awful reading it, but it is certainly interesting. However, beyond that, it doesn’t have much value. The characters are quite shallow and unlikable, and while there is some character development and their relationship development does reach an appropriate end, it feels sort of random and hence doesn’t have much impact. In terms of plot there are two main plot lines that somewhat intersect, one revolving around Kumiko’s revenge, and the other revolving around Yakuza power struggles. The plot line relating to Kumiko’s revenge reaches it’s conclusion, though it feels like a bit of a weak ending. The plot line revolving around the Yakuza power struggle doesn’t reach its end at all, and just sort of fizzles out. The entire plot line revolves around building up a powerful villain that the reader hates tremendously, and then at a point where they’re quite powerful, it just ends without them having been dealt with at all. That is tremendously unsatisfying and a terrible point to end the series on. And lets not even get into the subplots, because with one exception of the subplot featuring Miho, none of the subplots are close to resolved. The art was also rough. The author has a good sense of framing and style, so there were quite a few beautiful shots when he was really trying such as on covers, but as a whole I wouldn’t even consider the art decent.

A manga completely lacking substance with its only redeeming feature being a good amount of nice looking panels.

6/10

Carnivorous Princess Yegrinna

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Shiknam is a student entirely dedicated to studying. He has no care for those around him, rather he finds almost everyone else a pain, with the sole exception being his sister Yeonhee. Hence, he spends most of his time alone in his room, studying. Once, while studying, a very strange naked woman with dog ears suddenly appears, after which an eagle suddenly does. He discovers that the woman is Yegrinna, dog princess of the animal kingdom, and the eagle is her body guard Shroob. They have come to Earth through a portal linked directly to his room. They have been watching humans for a long time, and have come to the conclusion they are a terrible species, and hence need to be dealt with. Hence, they have come to Earth to enact their animalization project, where they will turn all of the humanity the find no value in into animals, unless they can be convinced otherwise. Meanwhile, a political mess rooting in the exiled cat kingdom also appears to be coming to fruition.

***

This manga doesn’t have anything specific about it that is exceptional, but it has several things that are pretty good or decent, and hence comes off pretty well. The main cast of characters are quite interesting, in that they all have very strange personalities. The side characters all felt a bit shallow however. The plot and premise in general work very well for pushing the story forward and coming to a solid conclusion, but though there weren’t any issues with it, it wasn’t all that exceptional either. The themes relating to interacting with others as well as how humans treat other people as well as animals were interesting and felt like they were explored somewhat well, but ultimately didn’t really make much of a point. The character and relationship development overall is quite good for the main characters, however it felt like it ended without developing as far as it needed to. The action is decent enough, though there isn’t much of it and it isn’t very developed. The comedy is pretty solid throughout. And the art is also pretty good. There’s  nothing about this manga that is singly enough to hold it up, just a lot of things that are pretty good, and not really anything that was downright bad, ultimately resulting in a solid read.

Good all around in terms of characters, plot, art, comedy, etc. but without anything that really stood out.

8/10

Half and Half

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Yuuki falls off of a building on top of Shinichi, killing them both. They both awaken in the place between life and death, where god gives them a choice, only one of them can live, and they have one week to decide, before sending them back to the real world. They both awaken, and quickly discover that they’re linked. They can not move too far from each other, or they feel intense pain. Furthermore, their feelings are linked, not just in terms of physical sensations, but also emotions, thus preventing them from killing each other. Thus under such circumstances, they must live with each other and come to some sort of understanding, with the death of at least one of them looming in the distance.

***

This manga had a very interesting premise, one that allowed the personalities of the two main characters shine through and also resulted in very quick but very strong development of the relationship between the two in a way that felt very natural, ultimately leading to an ending that felt very touching and cute. However, the plot beyond that felt very messy. There were a lot of plot elements that essentially felt like they were retconned, which results in some plot threads feeling very random. Furthermore, towards the ending, the plot went all over the place without really committing and then ended in such a way that it greatly lacked the impact you would expect from something being built up for the entire manga. Hence, while where things stand after the end feels right, because of the way it was handled getting there, the ending wasn’t all that satisfying. The art was also very good.

A manga with a great pair of characters with very good relationship development but a plot and ending that is all over the place.

8/10

Magi: Sinbad no Bouken (Magi: Adventure of Sinbad)

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A large tower, known as a dungeon, mysteriously appears between the two warring nations of Reim and Parthevia. The tower is supposed to have a mysterious power deep inside, a power great enough to give it’s holder an advantage in the war. Hence, Pathevia throws thousands of soldiers into it. However, none of them make it out. However, Pathevia continues to pursue this power despite the cost in life, implementing a draft for more soldiers to take on the dungeon. One such draftee is Sinbad. And enter the dungeon he does. However, not with the goal of obtaining the power to give to Pathevia. He’d become disillusioned with Parthevia and it’s constant pursuit of war at the expense of its citizens long ago. Instead, his goal is to change the world to one without war, which requires obtaining an ability powerful enough to create a country.

***

This is a spin-off prequel of Magi focusing on Sinbad’s journey to establish Sindria. This primarily involves him growing in strength as he captures dungeons, and also involves him establishing relationships with various other nations, consequently obtaining his generals. Sinbad is one of the most amazing characters in the Magi series, so seeing a spin off featuring him is pretty amazing. He’s an incredibly smooth character with an incredibly powerful will and the ability to carry it through. Hence, him establishing relations with others is also quite interesting. However, the structure of this series is kind of strange, having sudden time skips and such, which combined with its short length, results in there not being much time for actually showing relationship or character development between Sinbad and his allies on screen, especially as compared to the trio in Magi. Now the rushed pace wasn’t completely a bad thing though, as it helped keep things moving relatively fast. Also, while there was an overarching goal, it wasn’t entirely omnipresent, with most of the stories only feeling semi-related to it. Hence, while the ending did wrap up the current plot threads, it felt like there wasn’t that much progress, though the ending did do a tremendously good job of setting up another season.

Though there was also the issue in that overall as a series it felt lower budget compared to the main series, with lots of repeated footage and though animation quality was about the same, the designs weren’t as good. It also felt like the balance between the serious moments and the laid back comedic moments wasn’t as good. The action was pretty good, though it escalated tremendously quickly and wasn’t explained that well, so I feel like it expected viewing Magi as a pre-requisite. The soundtrack was pretty good. The OP/ED were decent, but not as good as Magi.

A spin-off of Magi featuring Sinbad, which while pretty good and focused on an amazing character, ultimately doesn’t rise above being a simple spin off.

8/10