Men who look at goat simulators?

SSB vs. Yakuza 4

Men who look at goat simulators?

Men who stare at goat simulators?

It’s been a good, long while since I’ve been throughly addicted to a game.  I first caught a glimpse of Yakuza 4 during a youtube browsing session, when I stumbled onto the madness of the Two Best Friends, and they were starting a playthrough of Yakuza 4.  I started the first episode and before I knew it I ran through the entire playthrough.  I was so impressed with the game that I later sought it out and bought it.  For 12 bucks at the GameStop by my house.

yakuza4bestselling

The Ryu Ga Gotoku series (Yakuza’s original name) is a best-seller in Japan, and it’s not difficult to see why.  The game takes pride in its presentation and storytelling.  The series revolves around sometimes-Yakuza patriarch, sometimes-orphanage caretaker, sometimes-host, sometimes-taxi driver Kazuma Kiryu and his wacky adventures with his friends and foster daughter through the red light district of Kamuro-cho, Tokyo.  Kamurocho is based on the real life district of Kabuki-cho, which from all accounts is pretty damn seedy.  For longevity’s sake I’m not gonna run down the entire series lore, you can go to Wikipedia for it.

You kick people in the head.

You kick people in the head.

In Yakuza 4, you control Kiryu, loan shark Shun Akiyama, death row inmate Taiga Saejima, and dirty cop Masayoshi Tanimura.  The story is told through their perspectives at different times, and it all comes together in an explosive finale that’ll leave you breathless.  Each character has their own fighting style and is an expression of the character’s personality.  Kiryu’s fighting style is a mix of karate and street fighting, so he’s good at most situations (and since he’s the series protagonist, he starts pretty damn strong from the get-go). Akiyama’s fighting style is reminiscent of taekwondo, so he relies on good footwork and speed to string together attack combos.  Saejima’s got strength for days, so he relies on a lot of grappling and throws to do damage.  Tanimura uses a lot of parrying and counters to get the job done.  The game’s combat seems to be a homage to Shenmue and Streets of Rage, and many people consider it to be the spiritual successor of the former.

What the game truly excels in is the presentation.  When you play the game, you’re sucked into Kamurocho, and there’s no end to the things you can do.  You can:

  • eat ramen
  • play pachinko
  • play arcade games
  • eat ice cream
  • go on dates with hostesses
  • get a massage
  • fight in tournaments for money
  • shoot pool
  • throw darts
  • sing Karaoke
  • …..and lots lots more.

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The game somehow blends this all together into a single, cohesive experience that just seems totally immersive.  Everything you do has a purpose, and doesn’t seem like a waste of time, though you could seriously just ditch the main plot and just dick around all day with the side quests (JUST LIKE SHENMUE).

Tanimura with some kids.

Tanimura with some kids.

The story, which is told through a mix of in-game cutscenes and FMV’s, is chock full of twists and turns that it’ll keep you guessing to the bitter end.  And like I said, the finale is explosive.  Almost reminds me of Sleeping Dogs, but for some reason, I really like Yakuza 4 a helluva lot more.  Sleeping dogs did let you do stuff….just not to the extent that Yakuza 4 did.  The presentation’s better.

Soooo, is it worth the buy?  HELL YES.  The game’s pretty old now though, so you’ll probably have to get it used.  And as if to rub salt in the wound, Yakuza 5′s been out in Japan already, and there’s no sign of a localized release ever.

Maybe it’s for the best.

Happy birthday, Tales! The quintessential JRPG franchise.

Happy 15th!

Happy 15th!

I know this is rather late in coming, but I’d like to wish a happy 15th birthday to the Tales franchise.  For 15 years, Namco Bandai’s JRPG franchise has produced some solid hits that I’ve taken a shine to.  To me, they’re the proper, quintessential JRPG.  What makes this franchise stand out, and makes them so successful?

Story

In every Tales game, the story unfolds as you play, and relies heavily on a solid narrative.  While some people may dismiss this as repetitive, I enjoy getting into all the stories.  A particular favorite of mine was Vesperia’s, which covered morality and the duality of laws.  They weren’t afraid to comment on the duality of society and the laws that govern the masses.  Symphonia’s story covered discrimination.  Every tales game has a story to tell, and the pacing is proper, well thought out, and meaningful.  You grow with the characters.  Also, the pace is broken with light-hearted fun moments, which make the games that much more memorable.

Characters

I mentioned the characters in my previous paragraph.  They’re all likable, and the character interaction is one of the strongest points of the franchise.  Through the skits and the story, you get to really know the characters, and learn about their likes and dislikes.  You often times share some hilarious moments.  Like this one.

I love the character designs as well.

SHEENA <3

SHEENA <3

Music

It’s wonderful.  From the anime opening sequences, to random battles, the music in EVERY Tales game is brilliant.  The openings are a treat, and they’re usually performed by top-tier artists in Japan.  Like…

BoA

Bonnie Pink

Bump of Chicken

Ayumi Hamazaki

 

Battles

Unlike Final Fantasy, the battles in Tales games unfold in real time, and you’re allowed free movement of your character.  Magic is implemented as well, and does take time to cast, adding a sense of strategy to battles.  No two battles are alike, and the awesome music makes things that much more enjoyable.  I’ve been known to grind things out fighting, so having a fun battle system is a must for me.

So what’s my favorite Tales game…?

Man, if I had to choose?  I’d probably go with Vesperia.  I played the hell out of that game on my XBOX 360, and it was the only game I actually put in there.  I think it’s still in there, even now.  Now if only they’d give us the Ps3 version I’d be a happy camper.  Symphonia is a close second, followed by Graces in 3rd.  Abyss comes in 4th.  That shit got me deep.  Especially this song.

SSB’s “Crazy moms of the otaku world!”

It’s Mother’s Day, and since I don’t think we honor our mommies enough, I’m going to dedicate this entire week to moms.  Especially geeks in the anime/manga/videogames that we all love.  I’m going to start with…

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Day #1 – Final Fantasy VII’s “JENOVA”

JENOVA.  An alien lifeform that killed off a bunch of native people, attempted to hijack an entire planet, and whose DNA served as the blueprint of one of gaming’s most hated villains.  Her children attempted to complete her work, despite being headless for the events of Final Fantasy VII.

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What did Sephy do with her head, anyway?

When you have this dude calling JENOVA “Mother”, you know you’re in for some real shit.

Lil B X Final Fantasy VI…Thank You Based God

I’m going to assume a lot you are familiar with Lil’ B and his new peculiar approach to the rap game. If not, prepare to laugh, abhor, or tilt your hat in regard to thy Based God.

Lil+B+BASED+GOD+STILL+NOT+PROUD+OF+M
I’m going to save most of this harangue in hopes of a more in-depth feature. You may or may not remember him from the bay area group, “The Pack”. He’s come along way from rapping about slip-ons. Nowadays, the Berkeley rapper feeds listeners with this based-induced rap. Going against the norm seems to bring all the attention to the 23-year-old artist. I like Lil’ B’s music because it always makes me laugh. Remember when music was just about having fun?……..Me neither.


Thank You Based God

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Chrono Jigga

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So if you’re a music head/gamer you probably stay up a night and wonder when someone will do a mash up of one of the GREATEST RPG’s of ALL TIME and Jay-Z…no? is that just me then?
I don’t know what it is about Jay-Z songs that mash up so well with other instrumentals. Any of you heard Jay-Z and Danger Mouse’s ‘Grey Album’? that sh*t was PERFECT.

Click HERE to listen to the mixtape.

(credit: Francis for the find)

My Top Ten JRPG Battle Themes #6 – Grandia II – FIGHT!!

One of the most hilariously awkward love triangles of all history.

One of the most hilariously awkward love triangles of all history.

Ah, Grandia II.  Your battle system is one of the best in the JRPG world, and your coming-of-age stories and themes of exploration are as timeless as the genre itself.  Your battle music is among the finest in the world, and this theme is my particular favorite.  It’s one of the reasons why I was so insanely overpowered at the end of the game.  I would keep fighting just to hear the song.

Composed by industry veteran Noriyuki Iwadare, FIGHT!! has that unique combination of urgency and energy that gets people motivated to kill spiders for money.  The combination of that awesome theme, fun gameplay, and engrossing story made Grandia II an absolute blast to play, even if I was on the PS2.  The DreamCast version is better, or so I hear.

I’ll be honest.  Grandia as a series has some of the best JRPG battle themes, ever.  This just happens to be my favorite out of the entire franchise.

Favorite JRPG Battle Theme #7 – Parasite Eve – Arise Within You

y'know, Aya Brea really looks like a female Cloud Strife.

y’know, Aya Brea really looks like a female Cloud Strife.

1998.  Fresh off the success of Final Fantasy VII, Squaresoft partners with Electronic Arts to become Square Electronic Arts LLC, and that means MORE GLORIOUS NIPPON ROLE PLAYING GAMES!  One of the first titles to drop during this partnership was Parasite Eve.  It combined guns, free movement, and the Square ATB system!  Fun!  And the story…was a sequel to the freaky sci-fi horror book Parasite Eve.  ’nuff said.

The battle theme “Arise Within You” and the rest of the game’s soundtrack was composed by none other than Yoko Shimomura, famous for her work on Street Fighter II and countless other games.  The song begins on an energetic note, with a nice percussion line, at which point the melody takes over and BAM.  FIGHTING TIME.   It doesn’t have a rock or orchestrated feel, it sounds like dance music!

The song did a nice job of getting you hyped.  Especially in the later parts of the game where you’re grinding through the Chrysler Building…

My Top Ten JRPG Battle Themes: #9 and #8

Numbers 9 and 8 on my JRPG battle theme countdown both come from Namco’s “Tales” franchise.  The franchise doesn’t have a big fanbase as Final Fantasy, but I bet you that the fanbase is just as fervent, if not more so than their counterparts from Square, Capcom….maybe not Atlus.

#9 is “Drawing! Grind!” from Tales of Graces.

#8 is “Full Force” from Tales of Symphonia.

What do these tracks have in common?  Motoi Sakuraba.  He composed both of these awesome tracks.  I can’t even begin to tell you how many enemies fell to my blades because of those songs.  Ahhhh, memories.

Tales of Symphonia's cast hangin' out.

Tales of Symphonia’s cast hangin’ out.

Aw, aren't they cute?  The cast of Tales of Graces.

Aw, aren’t they cute? The cast of Tales of Graces.

My top ten JRPG battle themes. #10.

A geek-centric post.  Haven’t done one of those in a while.  I can’t abandon our geek audience, right?  That would majorly suck.  Anywhoo, I’ve decided to count down my favorite Japanese RPG battle themes.  These were the conditions of my selections:

1. The game had to developed in Japan.
2. The game had to play during a battle/random encounter.

I sorted out my selections based on personal preference, so I’ll begin with #10.

http://ignicaeli.deviantart.com/ - sauce.

http://ignicaeli.deviantart.com/ – sauce.

10. Closed Road (B)
Composed by : Motoi Sakuraba
Featured in: Resonance of Fate (US/EU) /End of Eternity (JP)
Notes about Sakuraba-sensei from Wiki:

Motoi Sakuraba takes the baroque and melodic Japanese progressive rock of the 1980s and expands it with his own trademark complex rhythms, emotional flutes, use of male choir and heavy reverb. The lighter side of his style is a crossover between symphonic progressive rock, cinematic orchestra and new age. Sakuraba is also known for introducing many jazz-like improvisations to his music style. In recent years he has made a serious effort toward expanding his style even further.

This song features a more “rock ‘n roll” vibe, which fits really well with the frenetic gun battles of RoF. Catchy, fun, and easy to listen to, which are three necessary things for a JRPG battle song to have.  I mean, you’re gonna be hearing that song a lot.

What made #9?  Stay tuned, folks.