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Greetings true believers!!

In real life, I go by the name of Chris, but in the realms of the internet, I am known as GundamJehutyKai!
The name itself came by an IRC chat many moons ago and is a combination of my 3 main loves: Anime (Gundam), Video Games (Jehuty) and Giant mecha, which can be seen from the names used. The "Kai" was just added later as a suffix.
I'm a pretty big collector of anime figures and spend a lot of my time building and painting resin kits, so I tend to be more active on the Destructoid sister site, Tomopop but I thought I would jump the gap and see what else is in store!
I've been playing video games since the days of the NES and I still own almost all my consoles which I have purchased over the years, all in still working condition!

As well as building anime model kits and playing video games, I also maintain a small blog which I use primarily to show the progress of whatever model kit I am working on but I also throw in a few random video games review and particularly noteworthy news as well.
Feel free to check it out if you wish.


My Top 10 Games of all time:

1) Xenogears (PS1)
2) Valkyrie Profile (PS1)
3) Burning Rangers (SAT)
4) Virtual On: Oratorio Tangram (DC/XBLA)
5) Super Metroid (SNES)
6) Sonic the Hedgehog 3 + Sonic & Knuckles (MD)
7) Dragon Force (SAT)
8) Resident Evil 2 (PS1)
9) Dungeon Keeper 2 (PC)
10) Metal Gear Solid (PS1)
Player Profile
Xbox LIVE:gundamjehutykai
PSN ID:gundamjehutykai
Steam ID:gundamjehutykai
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I'm back with yet another mini review. Given how polarising the game has been if review scores are to be believed, it seemed like a good choice to review this game, which I did last week, but I haven't posted it here until now. Here's my Mini review of Ridge Racer Unbounded!

This was one of those things which had to be done. I'm still a little amazed that I have this game in my collection seeing as I played an early build back at the Eurogamer Expo last year and hated it with a level of hatred saved for only the most heinous of things.

My original intention was to gleefully ignore the game and let it sink as I was confident that it would. Then I read the reviews and, instead of a critical mauling, I found that some respectable publications, such as Eurogamer and Edge magazine were giving the game very high scores and praising the game while others fell in line with what I was expecting. It was one of the most divisive games I have read up on for a long time and there seemed to be no middle ground. So, I decided to check it out as I was able to acquire a copy without having to pay full retail.

Now, if you've been keeping up with the game at all, then there's nothing much to add. This game is basically Ridge Racer in name only. The mechanics are more in tune with burnout and Split/Second as opposed to the "pure racing" that Ridge Racer Represents. There's also no Reiko Nagase so you KNOW that this isn't a canon RR game now!! There are several events available in the game, all of which ram home the point that this is not anything like the Ridge Racer you know. The main one is domination, a standard racing fare with destructible environments, hidden shortcuts and the ability to take out (or "Frag") rival cars. Next up we have Frag Race, where you just eliminate as many cars as you can in a set time limit; time trial, where the developers make weird stunt tracks with lots of ramps, half-pipes and god knows what else, pepper the track with tokens which shave seconds off your time and just tell you to get to the end within a certain time limit; Drift events, where you drive and perform drifts to accumulate points and extra time and finally, there's just plain old racing (though this is not a common event).

The unofficial slogan for Unbounded seems to be "Forget everything you knew about Ridge Racer" but it may be more accurate to say forget everything you know about EVERY racing game! And that was part of the problem when I first played it and it seems many others have hit the same wall. The developers of RR:U actually changed the method of drifting in their game to the point where it's pretty alien and there's not a single tutorial or set of instructions to explain this in the game! If you haven't played Unbounded yet, let me say this, if you try to play this game like any other racing game, you will fail HARD!!!
In Unbounded, the handbrake button has been changed to the "drift" buttons and to drift in the game requires you to hold down the button while simultaneously doing the usual steps of release accelerator -> brake -> accelerate like in almost every other arcade racing game. Except that the drift button also slows you down so you need to balance the presses with the other inputs to ensure that you don't slow down too much or spin. And it's VERY tricky to do well! My technique is basically down to lightly tap once on the brakes and then continue to tap the drift button repeatedly to maintain the drift and speed. It's not perfect but it kinda works for most situations and the game is more enjoyable once you break from the ways you are used to. However, there are quite a few other problems which rear their head when you play...


Drifting: As I said above, drifting is very different from other racing games and is quite hard to do. It requires a fair bit more thought and concentration but when you get it right, the feeling is sublime!

Pure Racing: It may sound odd, considering how the game has been marketed, but for me, the most fun to be had is when you're on the racing events. Just 7 other cars, you and boost. No shortcuts, no Frags. Just pure racing and it's here where I think the game excels

Track editor: the game allows you to make your own tracks and, once you've unlocked a number of parts from the main game, it's pretty in depth! Sadly, it can be abused for easy exp points to unlock other stuff, but the system itself is solid.


F**KING CHEATERS!!: Let's get this out of the way first because it's pretty much unavoidable. This game cheats like hell! The most obvious method is by the blatant rubber banding which is performed by the AI. We're talking Mario Kart Wii levels of rubber banding here! It doesn't matter if you're 5 seconds ahead of the pack, just one mistake, a corner taken too wide for example, will have your lead not only disappear but more than likely your position will be knocked down to outside the top 3! You don't need a catastrophic error like a crash or spin for it to happen either! They will always be right on your ass! Furthermore, I have seen some races where opponents will simply drive past you and gain a massive lead WITHOUT BOOST! At several points, the car in front of me managed to maintain the same distance from me while I'm boosting and they're not. That just isn't right!!

Fragging: Fragging is basically the equivalent to a takedown in other arcade racers but with the difference being that you can only really do it if you are either boosting or drifting. It hits almost ridiculous levels as you are practically invincible under normal circumstances until someone boosts or drifts, at which point, you become as strong as wet tissue paper. Even if you are fragged, should your flaming wreck of a car hit another car before you restart, the other car would come out pretty much unscathed. You need to get into several head-on collisions with traffic before your car hits "damage critical' levels but you still need one mighty shove before you get fragged. On the other end of the scale, if you're boosting, you just need to touch the bumper of another car to get a frag. If you're driving side by side and jostling for an advantage, boost is it because as soon as one of them boosts, the other is fragged! There's simply no consistency beyond you frag if you're boosting/drifting and you get fragged if you're not!

A general lack of understanding: The developers said that they didn't add any tutorials or help because they didn't want to hold the players hand when they played. The problem is that not explaining things made it arguably worse! Many shortcuts (which are marked but can only be accessed if you are boosting. If you just drive in at top speed or your boost cuts off just before you hit, you will crash!) don't seem to provide much of an advantage in terms of distance from other racers, if any BUT they do often provide significant boost power. This isn't explained so while you can get a free boost bar from taking shortcuts, it's often not economical to hold your boost you've accumulated until you reach one. Also, when you frag an opponent, at times, you can earn a lot of boost power while at other times, you get next to none. At this point 2/3rds of the way through the game, I still don't know what controls how much boost you get!! All these question marks hurt the game because it makes it very difficult to think up strategies and plan ahead! And there's always the guy right behind you just waiting to frag you!

Ultimately, I think the game is above average but has so many flaws, it might just stand out for the wrong reasons. From the looks of things, many of the low score reviews are "playing the game wrong" by adhering too strongly to traditional control styles while the high scoring reviews are giving the game too much credit. My experience with the game paints it as an incredibly frustrating and confusing racing game with some exceptional high points appearing from time to time. It says a lot when I say that the time I have the most fun on the game is when I don't have to worry about frags, shortcuts or any of the stuff which was pushed so heavily in the advertising of the game! It's best when it's just being a racer! The other side events feel out of place (especially time trial) and domination will frustrate many a gamer as this is where the cheating is most obvious and prevalent. There's a solid base to be found in unbounded but it needs a lot of refinement before it can stand up to the big boys. The burnout games are still the kings of the destruction derbies while racers still have the standard Ridge Racer titles and Reiko Nagase to hold up the series so where does that leave unbounded?
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This is actually a repost of my private blog post from last week but seeing as it's video games based and still kinda recent, I thought that some would be interested in it, esp since I doubt many ppl visit my personal blog here! Having said that, this comes with additional info after spending an even more extended time with the demo along with playing with Ayane after picking up my limited edition NG3

Hurray for boobies!!! Wait... nope, I got it right!

Seriously though, I am a pretty big fan of the Dead or Alive series. Afterall, I've played every version of the game and own all but DoA2 hardcore on PS2 and DoA for PS1. Heck, DoA dimensions is by far my most played game on my 3DS! Still, I have to say that the series did lose its lustre after the last few games. DoA Ultimate wasn't too great and it introduced that stupid "forward + hold" to counter just mid kicks which I hated with a passion. DoA4 has cheating AI, a fickle counter system and just felt less accomplished than earlier titles. For me, the best in the series were (and still are) DoA2 and 3.

Dead or Alive Dimensions did a pretty good job of scratching a small itch but when Dead or Alive 5 was announced, I was cautiously optimistic. This is, afterall, the first original DoA game since the departure of Itagaki (Dimensions doesn't count cos it was basically a remake) but my hands on with the Ninja Gaiden 3 demo at the Eurogamer expo last year left me with some major concerns on how the final version of NG3 will play, concerns which proved to be fact if the online reviews are to be believed. That leaves some big questions about how well Team Ninja will be able to handle DoA5.

I have the PS3 collectors edition of Ninja Gaiden 3 on the way but I was able to acquire a code for the 360 demo from a member of Destructoid (thanks, Chris Carter!) so I spent a while blasting through the demo which had Hayabusa and Hitomi as playable characters!

So, how was it?

The first thing which struck me was a sense of familiarity. Controls are still the same and the moves still have the same feel and impact to them but there were several noticeable changes to the formula. The most obvious one, from the videos released, was an increase in the interactivity in the stages. The demo has the rooftop stage which was shown on the very first video and if you hit some of the danger areas, the level will change as debris makes the stage smaller and the stage tilts slightly, opening up new tactical possibilities which are opened due to your character potentially being higher than your opponent. It also opens up a new danger area which will knock the opponent to the lower level. That's the bit from the video with the opponent hanging on the edge of the building. The DoA series were always the best at handling interactive stages out of all the fighting games and the new dynamic changes while you're fighting really takes things up a few notches. However, there's also a slight problem in that, at times, the screen is simply too busy. Especially with the debris falling. With all the parts falling down and potentially causing damage, it's easy to lose focus on what's happening with your character. This is particularly evident when using the new "dynamic" camera which has a tendency to move a lot to give a view of the moving debris while you continue fighting. This can be turned off in the options menu but then you have no idea where, for example, the overhead steel beams are so you could end up launching your opponent into them, which prevents you from following up with, say Hayabusas inazuma drop.

The next big thing is a new charge move which is triggered by pressing p+k+g together (or whichever button is mapped). Pressing the button causes your character to begin charging DBZ style and, should the following hit connect, the character will perform a short flurry of moves which conclude with a heavy attack which causes the screen to go into slow motion. During this time, the background become monochrome save for active danger areas and you are able to rotate the camera to a certain degree in order to line up your opponent with the obstacles and hit them into them to trigger set animations which will cause damage to your opponent. The most well known ones so far from gameplay videos are when you hit your opponent into some steel beams on the rooftop, which triggers an animation where the opponent holds onto the side of the building before you kick them off and a flying car which you can hit your opponent into when fighting at ground level. With regards to the flying car, theres a brief QTE which ensures that you do hit the opponent into the car. Not great but it could have been far worse but many (myself included) will bemoan the introduction of a QTE into DoA.
The charge itself is fairly brief but long enough to give opponents time to react. At this point in development, I think that will need to be tweaked before release as I don't think it'll be of much use when playing against human opponents right now. It just takes too long to pull off. pressing up or down while charging also controls the sidestep, and this will probably be used far more in high level play.

The counter system has also been reworked quite a bit.. I wasn't sure initially due to the fact that I was playing with the crappy 360 dpad but after playing on PS3 as well, I'm certain that the window for successful counters have been shortened quite significantly. It's still not too hard to pull off but it does feel less spammable compared to earlier games. Damage has also been reduced considerably. And at least they kept the retarded forward+hold counter for mid kicks out of this game. God, I hated that!
However, I can't say that I'm a fan of the new look for the characters. Dead or alive has always had exaggerated character designs which were more inline with anime characters than photorealism. So the sudden change in look which went more towards realism is rather jarring, particularly with the female characters. Ayane got off lightly but kasumi and hitomi do look off. There's some real "uncanny valley" work going on here! It's not all bad though. There are some nice touches like how the characters get dirty as the match goes on and if you look at them at the end of the fight, you can see sweat beads rolling off their faces. Of course, if you're playing Hitomi, it seems that she sweats like a pony, which isn't great when you're wearing a white top... or is it?

And from my playtime with the demo, I can say that fans of Hitomi don't have anything to worry about. If you played as her in any of the previous games (but mostly dimensions) then she'll be instantly familiar. Hayate has a few new moves but it won't take long to adjust. I've never played as Hayabusa in any DoA game so I can't say too much about him, but Ayane plays rather differently. She's got quite a few new moves which have different properties to her old repertoire. Her basic tactics still work but you won't be able to just jump in and get her if you've used her in previous games (as I found out!)

Otherwise, the alpha demo does look promising. Dimensions was a lot of fun, though I have heard people complain about the dumbing down of the system (like namco did with soul calibur 5) but that's really only people who take he game way too seriously. DoA is never going to reach the level of complexity or dedication of the likes of streetfighter IV or blazblue but it's a solid fighter in its own right. Team ninja may have dropped the ball with ninja gaiden 3 but it looks hey they are more intimately familiar with dead or alive and with dimensions already under their belt, I think we have room to be a little optimistic when it comes to #5. And there's always the boobies!!
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Some of the community members may know that I keep a small blog. Normally, I post about my garage kit projects, how they're progressing, what they look like once I'm finished, etc but every now and then, I break off and post about current anime seasons and (more frequently) I write mini-reviews for some games I've completed recently.

Most of the time, I don't bother cross posting here as the games are often the big titles which people already have opinions of or they're so late, I don't see the point in posting them again elsewhere.
OK, maybe I could have posted my review of Gundam Extreme VS...

But this time, there's a small PSN game which I think IS worth posting about, partly because it doesn't seem like it's getting much coverage anywhere! And since this is the first review I'm cross-posting, I guess I should say that my style is kinda kotaku-like. I'll give a little backhistory about the game and some of the gameplay mechanics on it and then explain a few points which I liked and hated about the game before summing things up at the end. But before we begin, here's an obligatory warning about the wall of text you're about to see. You can find the original here. If you like this style of review, let me know and I'll consider throwing more out when I write them. The next one is likely to be either Catherine (which just recently got its european release) or the Last story.
Ready? Well then, here's my mini review of the PSN download title, Malicious:

And now for something a little different! Up until now, my mini reviews have been on boxed titles and I haven't really done a review for download titles found on XBL or PSN. The reasons are many, like how I often don't pick them up until much later than release or that, due to their nature, I don't really have that much to say about them. Even the best ones, like hard corp: Uprising, tend to fall into either category or both but a few weeks ago, I bought a PSN game which kinda needs to be talked about, mainly because nobody is!! That game is Malicious!

I first learned of the game via some gameplay trailers from youtube. It was released on the Japanese PSN back in 2010 and the trailers gave it an almost Bayonetta like flow to the combat and I was immediately interested.

This was the original launch trailer for the game. But afterwards, we didn't hear much until late last year when it was announced that the game was to be given a western release. And it arrived earlier this month in the UK!! There is pretty much no story to the game. You are a vessel given a power to defeat a great evil but are told that other beings contain parts of your power and you need to beat them in order to be powerful enough to defeat the big bad! There is a backstory which is contained within the game and it's loooooooooooooong! When the game itself gives you a bookmark to allow you to come back to reading it later, you know it's long! It does provide the setting though and also hints at the name of your avatar.

You can choose between a male and female character, though the impact on gameplay is negligible at best. Your character attacks with a mantle around their neck. Initially, only 2 abilities are available (excluding guard). Punch and shot. they're pretty self explanatory but you get more as you progress. The game starts in a white hub world and gives you access to the first 5 stages and you are able to tackle them in any order you wish, though ones tackled later will be considerably more difficult compared to if you took them on earlier. The stages themselves are rather small and the objective is to take out the boss which appears at the start of the stage. To do so, you are expected to take out the smaller enemies which appear to collect "aura" which can be used to augment your attacks to make them more powerful. Each boss holds a special ability which is passed onto you once you defeat them. For instance, one boss wields a sword and defeating her allows you to change your mantle to a similar sword which allows for wide, powerful but slow attacks.

There's no lifebar as such in the game either. Instead, when you take sufficient damage, the screen flashes red and your character loses a limb. If you lose 4, then you go into a "sudden death" like state. Limbs can be restored by using aura and the more limbs you need to repair, the more it costs. Sadly, you can't restore 1 at a time so if you lose 2 or 3 and don't have enough aura to restore them all in 1 go, you aren't able to!

That's pretty much the game in a nutshell. So, how well does it play?


Beautiful to look at - for a downloadable game, it looks really stunning. This isn't the kind of art-y "look at me" style of limbo but genuine "this could pass off as a boxed title" beautiful!
surprisingly deep - despite only having a rather limited set of moves, even after you unlock them all, the game still has a lot of depth and allows you to combo attacks surprisingly easily
Instant gratification - by making the stages somewhat small and showing the boss off straight away, you get right to the thick of things and take things on with aplomb from the offset!


Ridiculous difficulty spikes - Some of the stages are just insane. I did the red queen last and she was able to completely destroy my character with a handful of moves if I was not careful. None of the other bosses came close to that level of power, save for the final one.
Really crap camera - Remember how crap the camera was in ninja gaiden? Yeah, this one is at that level. It easily gets stuck around corners, locks onto the wrong enemy and can leave you totally blind in certain moments.
Story? What story?? - For all the effort the makers went to in order to establish a setting and story in the prologue, it means jack shit when you actually start playing!
Really short - With only 6 stages available and each one taking an average of 30 minutes for me on my first run, that doesn't add up to much gameplay time, but what it does provide is fantastic!
Lives? in 2012?? - The game provides you with 3 lives at the start of the game which allows you to continue exactly where you left off when you die to make things easier for you but there's no way to gain any more so if you use them frivolously at the start of the game, you'll end up in great difficulty on later stages. But if you don't use them, you have to start the stage you're on from the beginning. And just in case you didn't get this from the description, that's 3 lives for the WHOLE GAME! if you find youself stuck on a later stage and have no lives left, you have 2 choices, get a lot better so you can complete the stage (and subsequent ones) on 1 life or start from the beginning!

With its emphasis on boss fights and short stages, Malicious reminds me of Alien Soldier, a treasure game for the Mega drive/Genesis which was basically nothing but boss fights! Malicious isn't terribly long but it's wonderful to play while it lasts and you can't really argue with the pricetag of a mere £7. The game was able to distract me from Catherine until I managed to complete it, and that says something (not sure what though, as I can't say I was a fan of Catherine. I'll probably post my thoughts on that game soon). There's also a vita version in the works. If that gets a UK release, I'll be sure to get that too since my purchase of a Vita is pretty much a forgone conclusion. It's just a matter of when! This is definitely one PSN title which deserves more exposure than it has been getting and a genuine but pleasant surprise! Just go play it!!
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I will be the first to admit that I have a little vanity in me. Not the usual physical type where I love looking at myself in the mirror (hell, I wouldn't even count myself as even remotely handsome) but more to do with what I collect.

Being a big fan of Japanese anime figures, I've collected a number of figures and model kits over the years but unlike many others, I don't simply buy completed figures from online shops to display. That kind of thing has never appealed to me. Afterall, what's the fun in collecting and showing off things if your items are exactly the same as everyone else who bought the same item? As a result, my usual poison is making garage kits, Super limited items which require me to assemble and paint them myself. The end result being a completed figure which is uniquely mine. See where the vanity comes in?

This also stretches over to video games as I have a tendency to lean towards limited edition versions of video games (or at least steel case versions) when they are available. But the nature of video game buying means that you can't really stamp your purchases as your own. Other people will buy limited edition games as well afterall, Sometimes, you can make them stand out by getting them signed by the developers. I Managed to get Kitamura to sign my Final Fantasy XIII (the only reason I haven't banished the game from my home), Hideo Kojima for metal gear solid 3 and 4 among a few other trinkets but otherwise, my collection is pretty non descript.

But for a while now, I've been getting into fighting games and, as many similar gamers will tell you, it's all about using an arcade stick! So about a year ago, I purchased a Mad Catz Super StreetFighter IV TE:S fight stick. And one of the first things I did was to contact someone on a local forum to get it modded to run on both PS3 and 360. But it didn't stop there. After a little bit of thought, I figured that I would mod my arcade stick as it's one of the few things which I could stamp as being uniquely mine. And because I'm a big fan of Blazblue, I decided to wear my allegiance on my sleeve, or rather, my stick!!

It's taken quite a while to get to this stage. I bought the stick back when Continuum Shift was released a little over a year ago. Here;s how it looked for a long while

Aside from the dual mod, I also replaced 6 of the buttons from the standard Sanwa to Seimetsu for 2 reasons. The first was because I've never been a fan of the "squishy" feel of the Sanwa buttons. I prefer my buttons to give me a little more resistance when I press them. That and I always felt like I could accidentally press the sanwas down if I so much as rested a finger on them...
The second reason was because Seimetsu do clear buttons which let you do some cool things with the artwork! Take a closer look again!

The clear buttons allowed me to put some of the artwork into the buttons to give it a look of being unbroken.
As for the artwork itself, it was commissioned by myself and I asked Radiant Dreamer to do the honours. He and I have been friends for a while since we met up on Danny Choos website before he (and it) really took off and have been in contact on and off for a while. He was also the illustrator for the cover of the UK release of BB:Calamity Trigger. Not the best advert for his skills cos the cover sucked (even he admitted that he didn't like it as much as his other entries but that's what his client asked for) but at least it meant that I knew that he would be familiar with the source material. He also showed me a few other pieces which he submitted and so we started talking. The end result, after months of talking and throwing ideas back and forth, is a pretty damn cool custom artwork which is mine, and mine alone! No, you can't have it! (seriously, I'd get into trouble if I just handed it out)

The main section of the art is obviously, the Noel Vermillion who adorns the left hand side. Bet you can't guess who my main is!! I did also toy with the idea of having Tsubaki in there as well, but the cost would have gone way up and as we discussed it, it became clear that the art would have probably ended up too complex so the idea was shelved early on. Poor Tsubaki...

The right side was what took up the most time to decide on as I wasn't happy with the idea of leaving it too plain but couldn't decide on how I was going to full up the empty space. Radiant helped me out here and we went for Noels Emblem.
The Chibi characters are the ones used in the "teach my Ms Litchi" segments from the game as well as the Bururaji radio show from the game. If you haven't listened to them, find them on youtube. Some are absolutely hilarious! Sadly, there weren't any sprites for Makoto in her combat outfit at the time so I had to make do with the uniform. I was given the pst file from radiant so I should be able to update it later will little fuss.
There was a little worry that they would provide too big a distraction on the artwork as a whole but I stuck with it and I think it turned out pretty well!

But that's not all...

I also have the stick signed by Yoshinori Ono

... And Katsuhiro Harada

OK, it would have been even cooler if I had it signed by Mori Toshimichi and Ishiwatari Daisuke when they visited the UK last year but I got something else signed instead cos I wasn't able to take my stick to the event...

Well, that's enough about me showing off. Time to put the stick through its paces. And just in time for soul calibur V!
And for those curious, I wrote a personal blog post which went into a little more detail about the assembly process.

Can't wait for CSII:Extend!!
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Being a person based on the east side of the Atlantic (UK), I couldn't help but chuckle when I read the bloggers wanted topic this time around. Afterall, Europe is still widely regarded as the toilet of the games industry when it comes to releases. We've missed out on so many classic games, that we would probably make this c-blog post a list of games which were never released over on our shores and shout "any you guys complained about not getting Xenoblade?"
And the more things change, the more things stay the same. We don't even get Catherine until a year after the Japanese release!

But we're meant to be blogging about games which we loved but had to import to enjoy. And in my case, trying to choose just one would be difficult. Of course, I could talk about Final Fantasy tactics on the PS1 or Valkyrie Profile. Two of my favourite games which never reached our little island until many years later when they were re-released on the PSP. But at least they got here in the end, right? But eventually, I chose to try and work around a theme. A very loose one, to be fair but one which allows me to endulge not only my love of games but also of a certain type of anime show which I have loved since childhood. To this end, I will be talking about 2 video game series which I hold close so I apologise about this post being rather long in advance. First up, we have the the Xeno- series

It seems fitting to start with the series of games which inspired this particular Bloggers Wanted topic. While Europe got Xenoblade before the US (for once), it's easy to forget that aside from Xenoblade, the series which spans a total of 5 games had only one other game in the series released in Europe. And it was the weakest one! I suspect that quite a few european readers will share the same reverence to the one which started it all as I do. Xenogears was, and is, one of my favourite games of all time. as an impressionable teenager, fresh off Final fantasy 8, Xenogears showed me something different. Even though I did not get the intricacies of the plot until much later (especially the Religious stuff), the game captivated me with its battle system which felt so familiar yet so alien. The way it forces you to pay attention and diversify your attacks was a stark contrast to the "mash X button" from the final fantasy games and it was a hook which worked brilliantly. It has been said that for an RPG to work, it needs either a strong plot or a great battle system. And this one was leagues ahead of anything else I had played at the time, and that includes FFVII (Hush, FFVI wasn't available to us Brits yet!)

The mecha designs were also something to behold and Xenogears remains one of the few games I went out and got the OST for. Second disk aside, the game is phenomenal and still stands the tests of time. I bought a physical copy several years ago and bought a digital copy on the US PSN but the game seems unlikely to ever be released in Europe, seeing as it's stuck in a licensing limbo.

But lets not forget the Xenosaga games, the pseudo-sequel developed by Monolithsoft. I picked up Xenosaga Episode 1 on a whim off ebay after acquiring a modded PS2 to play it on. While it was really showing its age by the time I got it (the game was over a year old by the time it was released in the US!), there was a firm sense of familiarity in the game battle mechanics and other elements which made me feel at home. It also introduced me to KOS-MOS, One of my favourite character designs from any video game. I love her so much, I paid over �600 to import a japanese resin kit...

which needed to be assembled...

And painted

Totally worth it too!
The series in general never touched the heights of Xenogears but they were enjoyable in their own way. Except for episode 2. And it was episode 2 whch was also released in Europe for whatever baffling reason. The game came with a DVD which contained the cutscenes from episode 1 and was meant to fill in the plot from the first game for those who jumped straight into episode 2, since the plots were linked. Except the DVD was useless. It was also a pre-order bonus for the US copy and I had it. It was a complete mess which was impossible to follow since scenes jumped over the place and made no sense since there was no gameplay elements to explain how the characters got to where they were. No wonder episode 3 was never released in Europe as Episode 2, understandably, flopped. Who the heck wants to start a story in the middle? It's a shame that the series got cut short and episode 2 was pretty lame but episodes 1 and 3 gave me a fun time and gave KOS-MOS to the world so I thank it and Monolith soft for that! The mecha connection is a little weak for the Xenosaga series but lets not forget about the (admittedly useless AWGS from episode 1 and the ES units from the other games! ES Dinah was a beautiful unit to look at. I think that puts the games under the mecha unbrella!

But now, lets go onto the second series I'm planning to discuss. It's a series which has been around for years but only in its native Japan. It's the Super Robot Taisen series!

For those who don't know, the games are a Strategy RPG (think Disgaea or Final Fantasy Tactics) which incorporates mecha shows from the 1970s and beyond into a twisted mass of awesome which takes elements from the series to make a story which combines them all.
And it was 8 years ago when I played my first one. Super Robot Wars R.

I owe a great debt to my Korean friend who introduced the game to me by way of an emulator. He gave me the game to play on my PC and explained the basic controls which were all in Japanese and a few tips to help me on my way. So, armed with a rather limited knowledge of the mechanics and the 2 of the ability enhancing "pilot spells" I ventured into a brave new world. And what a world it was!

I still remember the first time I watched the battle animation for the Aestavales units from Martian successor Nadesico with a massive grin as I recognised the attacks and the midi music being played on the screen. Same for when I used the Gundam W units. My knowledge of anime shows in general was much smaller than it is now but I knew Nadesico and Gundam W. (I have to thank the Super Robot Taisen series for introducing me to shows which I would have otherwise missed. )

But it wasn't until my first SRW game on the PS2 when I really took a liking to the series. It was the second SRW game released on the PS2, dai-2-ji Super Robot Taisen Alpha (lit: the second super robot wars alpha)!

It was the game which introduced the squad system to the series so I ended up having to learn the whole game system all over again but it was worth it. Compared to SRWR, Alpha 2 had a much larger selection of mecha anime series and beautifully animated battle sequences and fantastic music. I remember singing along to a few of them as well as I played! And I couldn't contain my glee when I unleashed Shin getter robo for the first time! The plot in these games can be a little hard to follow but usually, it takes a few series as the core plot so if you know how the story goes for those, you know what happens in the game. For example, Alpha 2 introduced King of Braves GaoGaiGar to the series and covered the first half of the show, so you fought all the way up to the battle with EI-01 and defeat him near the end of the game. The penultimate stage was one where Char tries to crash an asteroid into the Earth, mimicking the end of the movie Char's counterattack, which also neatly ties with the ending for Crossbone Gundam where something similar happens with a different antagonist. And so, you get the idea!

From then on, I never missed a beat when it came to the main console Super robot taisen games. There were a few spinoff games but the core titles were released on the PS2 at the time and I got them all. I also played the ones on the GBA and DS. All in all, I have played the entire SRW alpha series (2 games on PS1 and 2 on PS2), all the DS games (3 of them), most of the GBA games, SRW MX and Z on the PS2 and Z2 on the PSP as well as all the super robot wars Original Generation games!!

Ah yes, Super robot wars original Generation. I guess a little explanation is in order here. In each Super robot taisen game since the second game, there have been original units designed by Banpresto (the developers) which do not belong to any anime series. Then, in 2001, they decided to release a game which contained just those units. This was significant because the first 2 games are the only official super robot taisen games to be released outside of Japan! And by that, I mean the US. Again, Europe got shafted!!
The reason why the super robot taisen games have never been released until then was because of licensing issues. A game which contains so many different anime shows would require permission from all the license holders in the region which it was trying to be released to. It's not so much of a problem in Japan where license holders are more flexible and having a series in a super robot taisen game is good publicity, especially for older shows. But in the west, it's not so easy. Heck, half the series aren;t even licensed, so who do they go to ask?
Legend has it that there was an attempt to release the first super robot taisen alpha game in the US but it fell through as ADV films, the license owners for Evangelion, supposedly asked for so much money to use the license that it made the venture unprofitable...

But the original generation games neatly sidestep those issues, which is why the first 2 games on the GBA managed to get a release late into the handhelds twilight years. Those 2 GBA games were later combined and remade for the PS2 and one more game was released, called SRW OG gaiden. And now, fans of the series are waiting for the first PS3 release in the series called, confusingly, SRW OGs 2. Sadly, only the GBA games were ever released in the US.

But I have a lot to thank the Super robot Taisen games for. As well as introducing a few of the older mecha series for me to watch, it also improved my understanding of Kanji, as I needed to know what all the buff pilot spells did! And, while completely following the plot is still beyond my meagre language skills, I have more than enough knowledge to understand the options for upgrading my units, pilots and also all the pilot catchphrases they say in the battle animations. Still, it's not like you need to know all this stuff to understand how the game plays. All you need is a desire to watch your favourite mecha kick some serious ass!!! The rest just falls into place.

At this point, I think this post has gone long enough. There's still the matter of the spinoff series like the Super robot taisen saga games and the ACE (another century episode) games, but lets take a break, shall we? Perhaps I will be able to talk about those games another time if readers are interested (the ACE games are particularly good!)
If you want to jump on the bandwagon without the intimidating language barrier, there are a few fan translations for some of the games (specifically, SRW A for the GBA and Alpha gaiden for the PS1) and you might stumble across the GBA releases of the Original Generation games if you look hard enough.

Years on, and us Europeans are still getting hurt by delays and non-release of games, far more than the US. But if you tread off the beaten path, you may just find some games which stick with you for life, and the entry barrier is getting lower all the time!
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[one of these days, I'll post a more timely c-blog post about a DtoidEU event!! But it won't be this one. I wrote a more lengthy recollection on my personal blog for those who aren't afraid of walls of text!]

November 5th 2011. Just over 11 months after after tickets were put on sale, Distant Worlds, the music of Final Fantasy finally arrived in London for the first time. Of course, the concert has been around the world several times, landing in numerous American cities, Singapore, Vancouver, Sydney and a whole bunch of other cities but not the UK.
And, despite the very long wait (regular tickets were sent to buyers months ago!), you could tell that people were looking forward to this! Heck, when people start applauding the orchestra when they're just tuning their instruments, you know that they're ready to go!!

The Legend of Zelda 25th anniversary concert was held a scant 2 weeks prior and enthralled and annoyed people in abundance. However, as I am a much bigger fan of the Final Fantasy series than the Zelda games, I was looking forward to this concert far more than I did the Zelda concert.

And as soon as you enter the venue of the Royal Albert Hall, the difference is like night and Day! Distant Worlds is a tried and tested production and they know how to put on a show! The seat where the above photo was taken was actually part of the VIP section, where (supposedly) the best seats in the house were. Well, I don't think I have the knowledge to argue and the tickets themselves cost considerably more than the regular ones outstripping the Zelda concert VIP ticket price once the booking fee was taken into consideration! It would have been cooler to sit closer to the floor and be closer to the orchestra but then you would really have to bend your neck to be able to see the screens, and the music would probably be blasting your ears into oblivion!

And here was the setlist for the evening. A piece of music from every mainstream Final Fantasy game released so far. Even FFXIV (which even Arnie Roth took a quick swing at, saying how it was "still struggling to be released!") which they fit in around memoro de la stono.
The concert was performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the London Voices, the same duo who performed at the Legend of Zelda concert so we knew that we were in good hands, for the most part. There were a few duff notes played on a couple of tracks in the first half of the show but we won't hold that against them. More damning was the fault of the sound balance. The brass section of the orchestra pretty much overpowered all the other sections at times so great tracks like JENOVA and Blinded by Light were mere shadows of what they should have been as you could not hear the string sections clearly!
But when we had such an expertly performed Don't be afraid and Zanarkand, not to mention Dancing mad, the good vastly outweighed the bad. Besides, they had me at prelude, the very first piece of Final Fantasy music I ever heard, back on the PS1 when I was playing Final Fantasy VII for the first time in christmas 1997!

Of course, as promoted by the website, Nobuo Uematsu was present at the event and, as an encore, he joined the London Voices to sing the vocals of One Winged Angel!! I was also really impressed by his command of english!! But for me, the defining moment of the evening came right at the beginning!
After Liberi Fatali, Arnie Roth Addressed the audience and the orchestra played the victory theme to truly kick off the concert! He then went on to talk about how most of the music being played that night was composed by Uematsu and then asked the audience to show their appreciation for the man behind such memorable themes. At this point, one would expect him to appear on the stage and take a bow. But that didn't happen. Instead, a beam of light appeared on the left hand side of my vision to illuminate a part of the audience... And there he was. Just a few seats away from where I stood was Nobuo Uematsu. I could have taken a few steps to the side and I would have been able to put my hand on his shoulder! That was how close I was to him and he sat there for the entire evening, enjoying the concert just as much as the rest of us (I suspect!)!!
The benefits of VIP! The ticket also gave us access to a meet and greet after the show so I didn't leave that to chance!

I also got the programme for the evening signed...

And also both Distant World CDs

Sadly, the meet and greet was very strictly controlled (a far cry from the Zelda concert debacle) and we were only allowed to present 1 item to each guest to sign as well as 1 photo op. So yes, there is a photo where I am with Nobuo Uematsu, Arnie Roth and Susan Calloway and no, there's no way you are going to see it!
Arnie Roth also took some time at the beginning of the concert to say that Distant Worlds was going to return in a years time! November 17th 2012 and you can bet your ass that I will back then as well!!!

Of course, I was not the only member of Dtoid EU present and to close off, I'll give the other guys the spotlight!

Have you seen such a sexy group before?

Now, if only Yasanori Mitsuda did a concert with the Xenogears and Xenosaga music, I would be in bliss! Heck, I'd settle for a short concert where the orchestra played the Myth Album!!

Fellow Dtoid member Nik Monroe was also at the concert and has given permission to share some of his pics! His seat was further away than mine but his camera was better suited to the job. EXTREEEME ZOOM!

Where he was sitting

The orchestra

Nobuo Uematsu

The soloists for the concert

and some more dtoid sexy!!

Tickets for next years concert should go on sale early next month and I highly recommend that you join us there! Even if you're not a fan of Final Fantasy, it's still a night to remember!
And I don't care if I have to wait on hold for nearly 1/2 hr like I did last December, I'm going for the VIP ticket for next years concert too!!
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