Friday, October 10, 2008

Gundam 00

Alright, my first anime entry.  I chose Gundam 00 because its second season just began last Sunday (my time, I think).  But I'll only be talking about the first one.

To start, Gundam 00 throws a lot of common design elements of previous Gundam series out the window.  The mechs are thinner and more streamlined, and perhaps also a bit more fleetfooted as a result.  It may be worth mentioning that 00 is the first Gundam series to be shown in High Definition.  And with those sharp designs, it looks absolutely beautiful.

Typical of a Gundam series, the plot revolves largely around philosophy, international problems with the government, intertwined with lots of mecha smashing action.  The universe of 00 is a little bit more small scale however, as the characters are still anchored to Earth.  Living in space is still a really new thing, and relatively few people actually stay up there for long periods of time.  00 is also the first Gundam series to take place in an actual timeline: Anno Domini (A.D.) 2307.  So just under 300 years from now, we could be flying around in 50 foot tall mechs and be able to live in space.

Taking a leaf from GundamW's book, Gundam 00 revolves largely around four main characters, who are introduced as Gundam Meisters.  They each pilot a unique Gundam.  In this instance, the Gundams are a technological marvel, at least a decade ahead of the current mechs in use.  The Gundams and their pilots are employed by a mysterious organization known as Celestial Being, whose stated purpose is to stop and prevent war.  To this end, they deploy the Gundams wherever large scale battle is taking place.  In a nutshell, the Gundam's decimate both sides, forcing them to band together to defeat this sudden and new threat.  It is Celestial Being's theory that by gathering all the hatred of the world onto themselves, they can create peace.

Technologically, the most impressive aspect of the Gundams is their power source, known as a "solar furnace".  These things supposedly take at least a decade to create, but the results are quite rewarding.  Gundams are operated by an engine called the GN Drive, which, with the power of the solar furnace, glow a green ambient light and produce particles known simply as GN particles.  These particles serve a number of uses.  They can be used for propulsion (eliminating the need for thrusters), shield the Gundams from the intense heat of atmospheric reentry, form around them to create near impenetrable GN fields or cloak them, or even be coated onto solid blades to increase their durability and cutting power.  In addition, the particles disrupt most form of airborne communications, so all radio and satellite communications around whatever area the Gundams are present in tend to short out immediately.  The GN Drive recharges itself constantly, so the Gundams can basically run indefinitely, without running out of power.

The first of the Gundams to introduced is GN-001 Exia, which is the topmost mech in the above picture.  Exia is a close combat mech if I ever saw one.  Exia's arsenal consists mostly of knives and blades.  In fact, it carries seven of them.  The largest one is a huge solid blade cleaver mounted on the left arm.  Despite its size, its fairly flexible, being capable of swiveling backwards to reveal Exia's only proper ranged weapon, a portable beam rifle.  The whole ensemble is held together by a small shield.  The blade can be detached and handled as a broadsword.  Next up, Exia has two more solid blades, known as GN Swords.  The blades are razor sharp, are coated with GN Particles, and possess sonic functionality (so they can act as vibro blades).  One is very short, like a dagger, and the other is very long (Longer than the cleaver blade, though much thinner).  They are mounted on Exia's hips.  Inserted onto Exia's back are four beam sabers;  Two beam daggers that are probably better off thrown, and two regular sized beam sabers.  Exia's shield may also be worth mentioning.  Mounted on the arm opposite of the cleaver blade, this large shield is capable of fending off most forms of attacks with ease.  Its bottom is also extremely sharp, making an effective last resort stabbing weapon.  Exia is piloted by Setsuna F. Seiei, a very quiet, taciturn young man (the youngest on the team, actually).  He is from the Middle East, and had a troubled childhood.  Setsuna was inspired to join Celestial Being when he saw Exia's predecessor, Gundam O intervene in a battle taking place in his homeland as a child.

Next up is Dynames, piloted by a cheerful Irish guy codenamed Lockon Stratos.  A fitting name, as Lockon's aim with a rifle is top notch.  Typically, his Gundam's primary weapon is a large sniper rifle capable of firing from extremely long distances.  Lockon's aim almost never wavers;  By hooking his rifle up to a power booster so the shot wouldnt short out before it met his target, Lockon was even able to attack and pick off enemies fighting in space...from the ground on Earth!
In Lockon's hands, Dynames is a force to be reckoned with.  From a distance, Lockon can pick off even the most agile of targets with his rifle.  If they get too close, he has two beam sabers, two mid range beam pistols and revolving blast shields to protect him from harm.  In addition to this, lots of missiles .  Most of the time, Lockon doesn't actually pilot Dynames.  He uses a Haro ball, which pilots for him and operates the shields while Lockon himself handles the weapons.  Dynames is the mech on the lower left side of the above picture.

Piloting the most versatile of the four Gundams is Allelujah Haptism, a fairly calm, gentle guy who pilots Kyrios, the orange mech in the bottom center of the above picture.  Kyrios is a transformable Gundam, capable of switching between a mobile armor (Gundam lingo for jet fighter) and a mobile suit (Gundam lingo for mech).  In fighter mode, Kyrios is quite fast, making a very effective unit for getting places faster than the other three, perhaps to intercept incoming enemies.  It can also be equipped with a large container of Air-to-ground missiles for bombing raids.  Kinda like Exia, Kyrios's shield is also an effective weapon, capable of splitting apart up the middle to reveal an incredibly sharp stabbing weapon.  Though Allelujah is gentle, before he was part of Celestial Being, he was a test subject of genetic testing.  This caused him to have a split personality.  His other side, Hallelujah, is extremely violent, and often takes over whenever Allelujah is having trouble doing something that is a little too mean for him.

Last, and often considered least (Kidding, mostly), is Tieria Erde, piloting the large Gundam on the lower left of the picture.  Almost everything about Tieria is somewhat of a mystery, but we do know that he's a real straight laced guy.  He's not above reprimanding and threatening to discpline his own teammates (and his superiors) if he sees fault in their actions.   Tieria pilots Virtue, which is a heavily armored mech packing some serious weaponry.  Though its extremely slow compared to the other three, Virtue is equpped with shoulder mounted heavy beam cannons and a huge GN Bazooka.  In Full Burst Mode, this thing could cripple a colony.  In addition, Virtue is equipped with two beam sabers, though I doubt its fast enough to wield them with much efficiency.  Virtue also has another very special ability, but that comes later in the series.

Really, this show is pretty darn great, I'd say.  The premise is simple enough:  Celestial Being is a mysterious military organization whose only aim is to stop war.  Ironically, it does this by deploying its Gundams to wage war wherever war is fought.  So how does this work out?  Watch the series and find out.

The World Ends With You

My first few blog posts are actually on Myspace.  I might post those later.  For now, here's a game I've been playing for awhile now.

This game is just overflowing with the word "unique".  It just does so many things differently or perhaps unusually that many might just be at a loss for words at how to describe it.  I know I was, for a time.  To start, the name itself is rather interesting, don't you think?  "The World Ends With You."  It's got a dramatic feel to it.  The title itself was a minor hook for me, because I wanted to know what kind of plot would inspire such a name.  Though those of you with sharper, more informed eyes should notice this without my mentioning it, the game's character design was handled by Tetsuya Nomura, the same guy who designed the characters for Kingdom Hearts and quite a few Final Fantasy games, including FF7.

The first thing I should immediately warn newcomers about is that this game has an EXTREMELY high learning curve, which is atypical of a DS game.  From what I've seen, its a common thing for developers to strive for their games to be as simplistic as possible gameplay wise, so as to follow the trend of making the DS more accessible to a wide variety of people.  With this game, you'll STILL be learning new things and probably getting used to the battle and clothing system even 1/3 of the way into the plot.  This is because there's a lot to understand in The World Ends With You.

I'll start with the battle system.  Just about anyone will probably be overwhelmed by it at first glance, and it takes a lot of getting used to.  Battles in TWEWY are started by the player.  Besides plot specific battles, there are never any "random encounters".  Instead, a small "pin" will be present in the lower right corner of the bottom screen, which, when tapped, allows Neku (one the main characters, who is foremost in the above picture) to tap into the pin's psyche and scan the area around him.  Besides reading the thoughts of others, you'll be able to tap onto monster icons floating around the screen to initiate a battle.  Later, you'll unlock the ability to chain battles by tapping multiple icons before Neku and his partner warp to the dimension where it will take place.  Each consecutive battle will get harder, but the chance of rarer drops will skyrocket.

Once you're in battle, you'll be fighting on both screens simultaneously.  Yes, at the same time.
Of course you're not expected to be able to do this from the get go.  In fact, you won't really need to pay much attention to the top screen at all until maybe 1/3 of the way into the game, after which the enemies start to become a bit of a handful for your partner's AI to handle.  Though the game has a learning curve long enough to put many console RPGs to shame, Square-Enix obviously realized that stuffing all of this into a tutorial would not have been too player friendly.  The only downside of this is that, as mentioned earlier, you'll still be learning new things pretty far into the game.

So, battle on two screens.  On the bottom screen is Neku, whom you will likely devote the most attention to.  On the top screen is your partner.  Initially, your partner will be a cute girl named Shiki.  Though she's poor at psyches, she has the ability to manipulate her stuffed animal, which will fight for her.  And quite ferociously, I might add.  On the top screen, you'll control Shiki using the D-pad.  "Fighting" as Shiki consists of navigating your way across a map of cards as you play a classic game of "memorize the cards."  Each step forward equates to one slash from Shiki.  So, you could just ignore the card game and just keep mashing the forward and backward buttons to hack and slash at your foes.  However, it may be in your best interest to try to match all three cards.  The game doesn't make this too hard for you.  If you get the wrong card, the game will actually tell where the card actually does go, so it just takes a few seconds of trial and error.  Matching all three cards will unlock the Fusion attack, where Neku and Shiki attack in unison for an ultimate assault that heavily damages all onscreen enemies, and heals both of them a little to boot.  Shiki's AI will take over immediately after you stop controlling her to check on Neku, so you can leave her and not look back.

Back to Neku, who resides on the bottom screen.  Neku fights entirely with an assortment of "pins" that have special powers.  Each pin does something different.  For example, pins of the "Force Rounds" classification will allow to fire multiple shots of energy by simply tapping the screen.  Some pins let you swipe a line across an enemy to slash them.  You can combo by continually swiping them with the stylus.  Battle on the bottom screen is entirely touch operated.  Holding down on Neku then dragging somewhere will move him, while the Fusion attack is also activated by touch.  The system is very fluid and responsive, showing lots of polish.  Pins with similar attack commands (like slashing an enemy or slashing upwards to raise an icicle) are activated by priority.  The pin farthest to the left will generally activate instead of any others right of it, so keep this in mind when setting up your pins.

The plot of The World Ends With You is quite shady at first.  The main playable character, Neku, wakes up in the middle of a crosswalk in the bustling district of Shibuya only to quickly find that noone can see him.  Despite how incredibly crowded the area is, there doesn't seem to be a single person who can see him.  He also realizes that he can't remember anything of his life prior to when he woke up in the street.  He is attacked by strange creatures known as the Noise.  Though he barely manages to defeat them, it isn't long before he's attacked again.  As he's wondering what's going on, a girl rushes up to him and pleads that he make a pact with her.  Neku reluctantly accepts, and the girl reveals her name to Shiki, a cheerful, but slightly clumsy girl.  She tells him that they are Players in the Reaper's Game, a mysterious event that challenges a group of people to survive one week without being erased, either by the Noise or by failing the daily the mission.  The entry fee is the person's most valuable posession.  If they win, their entry fee is returned to them, and they also get "a second chance".  What this chance is isn't initially revealed.  The game follows the duo as they interact with other Players and participate (and learn more about) in The Game.

The game also features an extensive inventory system, which ties directly into battle.  In Shibuya, trends are everywhere.  As quoted later on, people will flock to a restaurant merely because its trendy and popular, perhaps regardless of the actual food quality.  The trends you'll be paying most attention to are the ones concerning clothes.  In TWEWY, what clothes your wearing are an essential factor to your battle performance.  Clothes and Pins whose brands are soaring on the popularity boards in a given area will be granted a 50% performance increase.  Unpopular brands have their products' performance halved.  So you certainly don't want to walk into a boss battle wearing duds that aren't all the rage.

I'm not actually finished with the game, but so far its pretty good, and I can see what the hype surrounding it was about.


I'm known to most online acquaintances as solowing or speed masta flex.  Those that know me offline simply call me Nick.  Read this blog, or don't.  I'm just making it vent my thoughts on various things, mainly videogames, probably.

That's the intro off the top of my head.

Oh, and I'm a huge Sonic and Lego fan.