Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Ben's Top Mecha - Day 4: Lost Planet

Lost Planet is a series that very often gets overlooked. Back when it first came out on the Xbox 360 and PS3, the online demo was often pushed on the online market place, and copies of the game could be found in pretty much every store. It was one of Capcom's major "next gen" titles, and it was popular enough for them to release an enhanced "Colonies" version which had cross play with the PC release. (Poor Xbox me didn't stand a chance.) Of course, it's popularity didn't stop there. As time rolled on, the game eventually received a follow up sequel titled "Lost Planet 2," that would shift the series' focus to co-op and giant boss battles (kinda like Monster Hunter in a way, with some Monster Hunter emotes and costumes making it into the game), and then after that Lost Planet 3 would release with more of a focus on a single personal story. A mobile game was also released earlier on in the series' life, and before LP3's release, we would eventually get a PS3 and 3DS spin off game as well. This game seemingly used assets from the canceled Mega Man Legends 3 project, and focused more on dungeon crawling styled levels, and boss fights. This was back in 2012 though, and with LP3 releasing in 2013, we have never heard from the series since. That doesn't stop it from being one of my favorite mechas however.

Lost Planet 1:

I know I've mentioned this before on the blog, but Lost Planet 1 really was an eye opener for me. When I got an Xbox 360, I really didn't know what I wanted when it came to it's games. At the time I mostly stuck to what I considered "safe," and rarely branched out. One day however, I decided to give more games a chance. I remember it was a weekend where my dad had to work on Saturday, so we didn't have anything planned, and I decided to ask my mom if she would take me over to Best Buy. Back then I didn't have a car of my own (being only 17), and Best Buy was roughly an hour drive away. Well, see agreed, and the two of us went out to get something to eat, and then on the way home we sung by the store. I didn't know what I was looking for at the time, but I had extra cash I wanted to spend, and I was really interested in trying out something new. That's when suddenly Lost Planet Colonies Edition caught my eye, and I decided to give it a chance. It was dirt cheap, and, from what I played of the demo, it seemed like it would be fun. To top it all off, it was a game by Capcom, and that alone was more than enough for me to give it a shot. So I picked up the locked case the game was sitting in, took it to the counter, paid for it, and then ran back to the car. That hour drive home felt like it took forever, but it wasn't anything I wasn't already used to. Many of my games had been bought at either that store, or the Target close by, as at the time we really didn't have any other options. GameStop wasn't around here yet, and Walmart honestly didn't have that much. So I was pretty used to the long drive. Once I got home however, that was the last my family saw of me for awhile.

Lost Planet blew me away. The graphics, the physics, and the setting itself was impressive to me. It was set on a frozen planet where humans must not only survive against the freezing cold, but against the giant monster aliens that lived their as well. Killing these aliens required you to shoot out their heat source, and once it was taken out their bodies would freeze over, and shatter as they crashed into the ground. This was amazing to me, as I had never seen anything like it! It made me feel like I was in an action movie or something, as I gunned down swarms of flying enemies and watched them plummet to the earth! The fact that you too had limited heat as well was pretty interesting to me, because it required you to blow things up so that you could absorb the energy to keep on living. It meant you were on a timer as you went through the levels, but it never felt like it was too strict. It even rewarded you for exploring off the beaten path, so as long as you weren't playing on the hardest mode, you never had to worry about freezing to death. This was only one part of the gameplay though, as what I didn't expect was how mechs would come in to play a role.

While on foot you have access to a grappling hook that you could attach to nearly any object, and pull yourself up. I thought this was really cool, and made the levels a lot more vertical based than what you see in most 3rd person shooters. The introduction of mechs however was even more interesting to me, and became easily one of my favorite parts of the game. Scattered throughout each level in the game were different armors you could pilot, and each one would typically come with different weapons for you to use. These machines were powerful tools that helped make it easier to survive in the world, but at the same time, they also required more resources to run. This meant you had to work faster with your new found tools, or else you'd find yourself freezing to death in no time. It was a way to balance the sometimes "unfair" stopping power the mechs had, but without taking it too far. You still had plenty of time to use each mech as you found them, and often you'd run out of ammo long before your energy would drop to 0. Even so, piloting the mechs was a lot of fun, and I especially loved the role they would go on to play later in the story. It's one reason I couldn't wait for Lost Planet 2. (Assuming they would make one.)

Lost Planet 2:

While I consider Lost Planet 1 my favorite, 2 was a lot of fun as well. This is the game that introduced co-op to the series, and large boss battles. Because of these new bosses, mechs once again played a large role, and it was still a lot of fun piloting them. Many of the added fights however, did rely on you coordinating with your team, and that also meant that each person would often have to take on a different role in the fight. This unique "Monster Hunter" like twist is something you rarely see in 3rd person shooters, yet alone games where mechs play a huge role in said fights. I had a lot of fun playing this game with randoms online, and still to this day I love sharing some of the crazy stories that happened during these matches. Sadly the game's story wasn't quite as good as the original's, but it was still a lot of fun gameplay wise.

Lost Planet 3:

Lost Planet 3 was nothing like the previous games. It was a slower moving game, with more of a zoomed in camera, and focuses a lot more on exploration and "horror." In some ways it felt like a Resident Evil game, but without actually focusing on horror survival. In this game you were thrown into a connected world, and tasked with traveling across it. While a lot of the gameplay did take place on foot as you explored caves, the mech in this one had even more of a focus than ever. It served as your "home base," and was essentially your key to survival. This mech would be used to travel the world to get you to key areas, and then you'd disembark and explore said areas on foot. It was a very interesting system, and is unlike most other "mech" based games. It constantly forced you to rely on your machine, yet it was more like a partnership, rather than it just being another tool for you to use.

EX Troopers:

While this game did come out before LP3, it never received a US release, and because of that I ended up playing it last. As I mentioned before, this game was more of a dungeon runner than a Lost Planet game, and it's missions controlled what you could or couldn't do. The main game would have you running around the hub base talking to NPCs and triggering story scenes, but once you accepted a mission, you were then thrown into one of the game's many levels. While a lot of these stages mostly asked you to kill all of the enemies, or to take on giant bosses on foot, some were actually fully mech based. These missions included team matches where you and your partners would fight against enemy groups, but of course mechs were featured in some "normal" stages and boss fights as well. It just depended on the mission you accepted, but even then, with or without the mech, most stages were "the same." This game was a high speed combat dungeon crawler, and overall the mechs stages weren't too much different than the on foot ones. That's not to say they weren't fun though!

(At least you survived Legends 3....)

So which was my favorite?

It has to be Lost Planet 1. While I loved the larger focus on mechs in LP3, LP1 will always be my favorite of the four. It blended interesting levels with mechs perfectly, and I really enjoyed the story. It's something I've watched through multiple times, and still go back to every once in awhile when I feel like it. It was a really great game, and is well deserving of now being called a "classic." It's just too bad we never received a collection, or HD remaster.
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Monday, May 25, 2020

Anime Monday - Casshern Sins

When I first heard of Casshern Sins, I was actually pretty shocked. Here I was, thinking I was this huge Mega Man fan who knew nearly everything about the series, and yet I had no idea what Neo-Human Casshern was! At first when I saw the design of the main character from Casshern Sins I thought, "hey, look at this Battle Network like rip off! He even has hair similar to Rock from Rockman DASH!" Then, after I actually clicked on the series, I went on to realize just how stupid I really was. You see, Casshern wasn't a rip off of Mega Man at all. In fact, it's technically the other way around.

While it's obvious that Astro Boy played a huge role in Mega Man's creation, Casshern deserves just as much credit. The story of Casshern revolved around a young boy who transforms himself into an android so that he can fight the rouge robot "Buraiking Boss." Joining him was his robotic transforming dog "Friender," and a female robot by the name of Luna, and together the three would fight against Buraiking Boss, and his army of rouge robots, to protect the world... Sound familiar?

For anyone who hasn't played Mega Man, or it's future series Mega Man X, then this won't be a story you're familiar with. For any Mega Man fans however, you'll realize just how many of the same plot points the series hits. "Rock" was a young robot who transforms himself into the fighting robot Mega Man. He fights to stop his robot friends, who are now under the control of Dr. Wily, and teams up with his sister Roll, and his transforming dog Rush. See the connection now?

Of course, the similarities don't stop there. On top of the plot points, there are many other things inspired by Casshern as well. Mega Man himself is powered by solar energy (which is also Casshern's power source), a dog mini boss named "Friender" appears in Mega Man 2, and let's not forget about the designs. While the original Mega Man and Casshern weren't too alike in their designs (other than their helmets and body suits), future entries of the Mega Man series would change that. Mega Man Battle Network focused on more human like designs, compared to the large legged robots from Mega Man and Mega Man X, and by doing so gave us a Mega Man that was closer to Casshern's style. Taking it a step further, Mega Man also gained a face mask when in battle, which, again, was something that Casshern had used, and was something that had not been seen in a Mega Man game before the new "Casshern" like designs came into play. Really, there's no denying just how much Casshern would be an influence on the Mega Man series, and Capcom as a whole. Even characters like Viewtiful Joe would continue being influenced by Casshern, and eventually Capcom would be a sponsor for the new (at the time) anime project, "Casshern Sins." The very same series that would lead me to discover the truth of the matter.

On top of supporting the anime series, Capcom would also go on to do a fighting game with the animation studio behind Casshern as well. Similar to the Marvel vs Capcom series, Tatsunoko vs Capcom was a Wii exclusive that had characters from both companies battling it out. It's where Capcom first introduced characters like Zero to their fighting game series (as he would later be brought into Marvel vs Capcom 3), and it's also where Viewtiful Joe himself would get to fight Casshern. It was a very interesting game, to say the least, but sadly it's also one that never really caught on. Eventually Capcom lost the rights to continue selling the game, and it faded away into obscurity. But that's besides the point...

What is Casshern Sins:

So, now that you understand what Casshern is... Let's finally move on to Casshern Sins.

Rather than being a sequel to the original series, Casshern Sins is a full on reboot of Casshern. It takes the original concepts of the old series as a base, but ultimately it is it's own show. Similar to how Mega Man X showed a dark future for the Mega Man series, Casshern Sins it's an even bleaker version of a similar theme. In this world, the world is dying. Casshern is the man who "killed the sun called moon" (Luna), and because of that everyone is now dying. And dying horribly they are.

After killing Luna, for reasons that are eventually revealed throughout the series, a broken Casshern wonders the wasteland with little memory of why things turned out this way. The air is filled with poison, the human birth rate has fallen to almost 0, and the self aware machines that rule the world are falling to ruin as well. Nothing can survive in this new age, and it's only a matter of time before death comes for you. It's a harsh reality that Casshern must face head on.

Each episode of Casshern Sins tends to focus on the different people that Casshern meets as he explores the world. While there are recurring characters that are considered "leads," many are ultimately only seen once due to the nature of the series. And if it's not the world that kills these people first, then it's none other than Casshern who puts them out of their misery. It's a very dark show, to say the least, and it doesn't shy away from showing disturbing content. To add to this, the series is actually animated by Madhouse, who was already known for their unique (and sometimes disturbing) style. Due to their animation, and the themes of the series, Casshern Sins walks a fine line between horror and drama, with many of the dramatic moments evolving into full on horrific scenes during their conclusions. Even the more "touching" moments of the series are typically stylized in a disturbing way, so the sense of unease never really leaves you. It's a very bleak series, with no hope in sight.

One episode of the series that really stands out, is one that happens very early on. In this part of the story, Casshern stumbles upon a robotic couple and their dog Friender (yes, that Friender), and is invited by them to come join their "community." Agreeing to follow them, Casshern finds himself at a camp filled with robots who wish to live out their dying days in peace. They know they don't have long to live, but they want to enjoy every minute they have left and live their life to the fullest. They welcome Casshern with open arms, and during his stay there he gets to know them. However this "peace" is very short lived. After one of the robots drops dead in front of the others, panic insures and a strange rumor comes to light... Apparently there's said to be a robot out there who will not fall to ruin. This robot will continue to live on, and his body will remain in perfect condition. If that robot is consumed by others, then those robots too will gain eternal life. Needless to say, that robot is none other than Casshern.

Fearing death, the community turns on Casshern and tries to eat him. With no other option, Casshern activates his "battle mode," and quickly gets to work. He slaughters the entire village, and leaves a horrifying scene in his wake. Body parts are thrown everywhere, and those who once wanted to become his friend, now lie with their heads smashed open, and their robotic internals thrown about. The only robot to make it out of this massacre is none other than Friender, and ultimately he decides to "join" (more like "follow") Casshern on his journey. It's not the happy partnership of the original series, but this is also not that same "happy" world. This episode makes that painfully obvious, and let's us know exactly what we can expect moving forward.

Should You Watch It:

Casshern Sins is NOT for everyone. If you can't handle disturbing content, then even the art style may keep you from even giving this series a chance. Pretty much every single episode is a depressing story, with most of them having a horrible ending. This is not a show for kids, nor is it a show for those looking for a fun adventure. This one WILL make you feel like crap, and it will burn itself into your memory forever. Because of that, you do not want to watch it if you think you'll go on to regret it. It's a very memorable series, but it's also one worth checking out -- if you can handle it.

Originally the show released back before anime became more "mainstream" in the West, and because of that fan subs were the only way to check it out. Since then times have changed however, and Casshern has even received a dub that aired on the rebooted Toonami. Because of this it is much easier to track the series down now days, and that's even more of a reason that you should give it a chance. If any of what I said above sounds interesting to you, then all I can say is.... What are you waiting for!? It's one of the few shows out there, where you can watch only a few episodes, AND actually understand what the series is going to be like. Sure, it does get better as it goes on, but the start of the series sets the tone perfectly. It doesn't sugar coat anything, and jumps right into the "action." If you don't like it from the start, then it's kinda hard to recommend you continue, but I'd still stay to give it a chance either way. It's a unique reboot of a classic series, and it's something that you should at least give a chance.

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Friday, May 22, 2020

Ben's Top Mecha - Day 3: Macross Ultimate Frontier

Here's a series I've wanted to talk about for awhile, but I've never really had the chance to. It's a series that is pretty special to me, and one that actually would go on to shape the world of media as we know it! It's just, a lot of people don't actually know it exists, and those who do, they actually know it as the abomination that is "Robotech." What series am I talking about? Well, it's none other than Macross of course!

What Is Macross:

This is something I want to get more into later on, but for the sake of today's post I'm going to keep it simple. The Macross series is an anime that was created because of Shoji Kawamori (yes, the Armored Core guy), and his love for mecha design. After creating models of mechs that would go on to form series such as Transformers, another model of his would instead go on to become something else -- that being the Macross series. The "VF-1 Valkyrie" as it was called would actually be sold in the US as the Transformer Jetfire, but in Japan it was seen as the very start of a brand new mecha series. One that was unlike anything we had seen before. While Gundam was there to focus on realistic war storylines featuring giant mechs, Macross took a similar concept and put it's own twists on things. Rather than fighting in your standard giant mechs, the VF-1 Valkyrie was a jet plane that had the ability to transform into a mech (as well as a hybrid jet/mobile form) to allow for higher mobility and combat skills, but with more of a focus being put on it's actual jet form. This meant fights were typically hectic dog fights with enemy ships rather than robots, and the Valkyries themselves were a lot more fragile. Of course this isn't the only thing that set Macross apart from other mecha series, as it's also where the first "virtual idol" was born.

The original series of Macross focused on an alien invasion, and Earth's attempts at surviving the assault. The aliens are giants and easily outmatch Humanity, but thanks to an old abandoned alien ship that was discovered, a large chunk of Earth's population was able to escape the planet and head into space. This is where the vast majority of the series takes place, with humanity living aboard the "Macross," and doing whatever it takes to survive as they adapt to their new life in space. While the main characters of the series are your standard pilots (as you would expect out of a mecha), Macross did do things a bit differently by introducing music to the series as well. Voided by singer/song writer Mari Iijima, Lynn Minmay is a young woman who would eventually go on to become the "star" of the Macross. Through her songs, not only does she help bring the people of Macross together, but she causes quite the culture shock for the aliens as well -- a race that has only ever known war and destruction. And her popularity actually doesn't stop there. Minmay would go on to become the world's first virtual idol, and her songs would reach the top of the charts in Japan. This theme of having music as a central focus would be something that Macross would carry on into it's future sequels, with series like Macross 7 taking it a step further by focusing on a band. This band would go on to preform concerts in the real world, and release multiple albums as well. 

What Is Robotech:

I'll keep this brief. Robotech is trash.

Not kidding.

So the reason many people might know about Macross, including myself, is because of this series called Robotech. The original Robotech takes the first season of Macross (the only season at the time), and adapts it for the American audience. Surprisingly, this actually isn't bad. There were some name changes (main character was named Rick Hunter), but they actually kept the story mostly the same. They even went a step further with Minmay by creating English versions of her songs, and overall made a pretty decent adaptation. The problem is with what comes after. Rather than stopping Robotech at the end of Macross, they decided to bring two other shows into the mix to do their own thing. Yep, season 2 of Robotech does NOT follow the story of the daughter of two Macross characters. Instead it takes Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross's main character, Jeanne, renames her to "Dana," and then splices together scenes from Macross to attempt to adapt the story into a Macross story. Eventually they would go on to do the same thing with a 3rd anime (titled Genesis Climber MOSPEADA), and continue to make a mess of each series' storylines.

To make matters worse, the true sequels to Macross were basically completely shut out. While Macross Plus was able to get adapted for a movie release here, that's pretty much the extent of the Macross series outside of Japan. Robotech continues to keep "ownership" of Macross, and will continue pushing it's own "created series" simply because of all the kids who grew up watching it. It continues to be loved in the West, yet hated by fans of the original anime series it stole.

Macross Ace Frontier:

And now we get to the reason we are even here. Sorry about the long introduction, but it's pretty much required to explain what follows.

After I got into the Macross series (thanks to my friend Keith lending me his Robotech DVDs), I sorta became obsessed with it. I watched every series released multiple times, I would rent and play through the game Robotech Battle Cry every chance I got (because it was the only game we really had), and I would spend a lot of my free time reading wiki pages about the series. I became a "huge" fan in a short amount of time, and it didn't take me long to realize just how many games the series actually had in Japan. That's when I came across a PSP game titled "Macross Ace Frontier."

Although Macross has quite a few games under it's belt, the problem is the fact that they were mostly on consoles that were region locked. The PSP was one of the few out at the time that didn't have such a restriction, and seeing such a "robust" Macross game being released for it, completely took me by surprise. From what little info I could find about the game, it appeared to be an action game that took you through every single story in the series, up to the end of part 1 of Macross Frontier (the series that was currently running at the time). Needless to say, I HAD to have it. Thankfully it was getting close to Christmas, and I stumbled upon a little known website called "Play-Asia" where it could be ordered. My parents agreed, and I couldn't wait for Christmas day to arrive.

While Macross Ace Frontier was a fun game (and the one I spent the most time with), it's not the best option. A year later, once again around Christmas, a second game titled Macross Ultimate Frontier was released, and one again I received it as a Christmas gift. By this point Macross Frontier had finally finished airing, and I wasn't any less of a fan of the series than I was the year before. I would still rewatch episodes from time to time, and pick up Ace Frontier whenever the mood struck me, but with the release of Ultimate Frontier I had very little reason to go back to Ace. You see, rather than being a standard "sequel," Ultimate Frontier was actually a full on expansion, and improved pretty much everything about the original.

The basic gameplay of Macross Ultimate Frontier was the same as it's predecessor. When you start the game you're asked to "create" your own original character, as well as a support character who will fight along side him/her. These characters would then be thrown into different different battles from across the entire Macross series, and by completing said missions you would unlock different features. Gameplay wise each mission was pretty simple, with you basically being thrown into different battle arenas loaded up with enemies, but because of the unique transformation nature of the Valkyrie's, there were different ways you could actually complete these missions. If you remained in your jet form, these missions played a lot like some of the fighter jet simulation games on the market (Ace Combat comes to mind), but your full on mecha mode featured gameplay more similar to Gundam. In fact this game was actually built off of the Gundam Battle series PSP game's engine, so not only could mechs fight with ranged weapons, but they had access to melee combos as well. It helped keep things from getting stale as you jumped from mission to mission, but the real fun came from actually unlocking all of the game's content.

While Macross Ace Frontier basically only focused on the main characters of the series, and their mechs, Ultimate Frontier took it all a step further by introducing more characters, and different forms for said mechs. For example, the main character of Macross 7 was a man named Basara. Rather than fighting to kill, he would shoot "speaker pods" into enemy mechs, and then sing until they lost the will to fight. This is how he fights in Ace Frontier as well (with a meter appearing above enemies as their "will to fight" drains), but Ultimate Frontier included attachments that were added to Basara's mech later on in the series. These new upgrades allowed his mech to harness the power of his music, and turn it into a weapon. (Which of course Basara doesn't fully agree with, but he is happy about them amplifying his music in general.) It's just a cool extra that was a part of the show, and was originally left out of Ace Frontier, so it was nice to see such things get added into it's sequel. Of course Basara isn't the only character who received similar treatment, with a wide range of unlockables spanning the entire series. Mix in the fact that you could use your own custom soundtrack (so I was able to add in all the Fire Bomber songs not included in the game's OST), and what Ultimate Frontier ended up becoming is exactly what it's title implied -- the Ultimate Macross game. One that covers the entire series. But even it too would be replaced.

Sadly I was never able to play the sequel "Macross Triangle Frontier," but even if I could there was one major problem with it. This game introduced an "Academy" story mode, where you basically played through a visual novel type story, with your custom character. While the first two games could easily be played without knowing any Japanese, that really isn't the case for the third one. Sure, you could skip through most of it's new story content, but that would be missing out on the reason the third game even exists. It takes Ultimate Frontier and expands on it further, but only if you can actually understand it. That being said, this game actually came out after my PSP was pretty much shot, so I wouldn't have been able to play it anyway... If I could've however, I'm sure it would've been my new favorite.

So yeah, overall the Frontier games are great, and perfect for Macross fans. If you've never seen the series then they might just seem like "generic mech battle games," but if you're already invested, then these games are a dream come true. I had a lot of fun playing them, and I hope one day we can get a sequel... (Then again, there is Macross 30 and Delta.... But that'll be a story for another time.)

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Thursday, May 21, 2020

Ben's Top Mecha - Day 2: Trails of Cold Steel II

The Legend of Heroes "Trails" series is something I've brought up multiple times on this blog (don't worry, I won't be recounting the same old story again). It's easily one of my favorite JRPG series, and over the years it's become somewhat of my "go to" series. Instead of rushing through each entry as they come out, I take it nice and slow, and try to enjoy it's world to the fullest. It's just one of those "relaxing" games I'll pick up from time to time when the mood strikes me, and because of that I've invested MANY years of my life into this series. Heck, if you scroll through my list of save files for each title, you'll see multiple major holidays as the save date, and you can physically see the years pass by. I can't stress enough how much time I've actually spent playing these games, and it's something I continue to do as the years go on. Trails of Cold Steel IV will be releasing later this year, and until then Cold Steel III will remain my current "go to" game. But that's not what I'm here to talk about today -- instead I want to take a look at one of my favorite games in the entire series: Trails of Cold Steel II. The game that marks the switch from standard "middle age RPG," to a sci-fi mecha adventure.

The thing that makes the Trails world so interesting, is just how much detail is actually put into it's characters and world building, and the unique state of the world. While the first game, Sky FC, starts out as your standard middle ages style JRPG, the existence of objects known as "orbments" are causing a major change in the times. Technology is advancing at a a crazy fast pace thanks to orbal technology, which in return is making the world advance in different ways than our real world. Cars are brand new to the Trails world, but Air Ships are a bit more common place. Motorcycles aren't invented until Trails of Cold Steel, and basic mobile phones have entered the picture as well. It's not too long after that "Smart Phones" enter the mix, and it's only a matter of time before TV and the Internet becomes wide spread as well. So it's only natural that this world too would eventually discover the wonders of robotics.

(Spoilers Ahead, You've Been Warned)

While machines did play a role in earlier titles of the series, it's not until Trails of Cold Steel II that the major shift happens. In the original Trails of Cold Steel, we get to see our young hero Rean attend his military academy, meet new friends, and overcome multiple challenges with his class as they venture out into the real world for themselves. The country he lives in is currently unstable, and it becomes painfully obvious that they currently stand on the tipping point between war and peace. Needless to say, things don't go that well.

Trails of Cold Steel I is what you would consider the "good old days" for Rean and his friends. It's back when they only had to worry about school and their studies. Back when they could take everything for granted, and not have to fear the future. Cold Steel II however is the point of no return. The country is thrown into war, and Rean finds himself being caught up in the whole thing. It's a world of death and destruction, and he has no choice but to face his new reality head on. Thankfully he isn't alone.

Joining Rean on his adventure is a talking cat (and co-pilot), and the massive giant mechanical being known as "Valimar." Valimar serves as Rean's main mech throughout the entirety of Cold Steel II, and becomes a major part of the core gameplay. At this point "standard" mechs are now common use in the military, and Valimar is Rean's only defense against these new giant threats. While most of the game still has you playing as Rean on foot, exploring towns, and fighting monsters and human soldiers, mechs do become a major focus point of the series. Valimar himself can be upgraded over time, and there are multiple full on mech battles spread out across the game;  however Valimar's involvement actually doesn't stop there. At some point Rean does eventually gain the ability to summon Valimar to his side in normal battles, and to help against challenging boss fights as well. He becomes another tool at Rean's disposal, and he becomes key to surviving some of the more challenging fights of the game. Overall it's a nice addition to the game's battle system, but it's only one of the main improvements Cold Steel II made overall.

One thing that makes CS2 stand out compared to other mecha series, is the fact that the pilots are still soldiers outside of their mechs. Just because Rean can now pilot Valimar, it doesn't mean he's given up fighting the normal way as well. Again this is still a JRPG like previous entries in the series, and adding controllable mechs to it doesn't change what the game already was -- it just expands it. It's still a lot of fun exploring this world as Rean himself, and getting to experience his story as it unfolds. By this point players are already invested in Rean's life, and him now being able to pilot a mech is just another plus. It's also something that will continue to be a main part of Trails' storyline, with Cold Steel III further expanding on the concept. Mech warfare is now common place in this world, and by the time CS3 rolls around it becomes a requirement for all soldiers. While not all fans will be happy with the change, I personally love it, and am excited to see the concept get expanded upon even more as time goes on. Again, the mecha genre is one of my all time favorites, and seeing one of my favorite series of all time transform into one is like a dream come true.

Of course there's a lot more I can say about this title, but I'd rather wait till my full on review. In the mean time, feel free to check out my review of Trails of Cold Steel I if CS2 sounds interesting to you, and you are new to the series. It's really worth checking out -- specially if you're a fan of classic turn based JRPGs.
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Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Ben's Top Mecha - Day 1: Armored Core 4

The Armored Core series is one that is pretty special to me. Long before Dark Souls was a thing, From Software was releasing these mech games seemingly non stop. With mecha design by Shoji Kawamori, (that's the guy who created many of the robots that would go on to become Transformers, like Optimus Prime, create the Macross Series, and even eventually pave the way for the whole "virtual idol" genre), it was a series unlike anything I had ever seen before. Ever since I was a little kid watching Power Rangers, mechs really interested me, and Armored Core was the first game that really let me feel like a pilot. It was a dream come true for me, but it was also one I had to wait many years to actually get into.

Getting Into the Series:

The very first time I heard of Armored Core was actually from my friend Ian. He's the guy who would eventually get me interested in series like Final Fantasy and .hack, but Armored Core in particular was one that sounded amazing from the get go. I didn't have a PlayStation 2 so I never expected to actually play it, but the way he described it at school sounded amazing. You could build your own mechs however you wanted them, swap out parts, give them different weapons, adjust their stats, color them, add decals, and so on. You got to do pretty much anything you want, and you then got to go out on missions where the pilot of said mech could actually die. That was shocking to me, and reminded me a lot of what I was watching on Toonami after school (that being Gundam The 08th MS Team). No other game I had seen came anywhere near that realism, and I wanted to be a part of it. (Although the whole dying thing did kinda scare me to be honest). It took awhile, but eventually I had my chance.

A year or so later, I graduated from 8th grade, and with my graduation money I bought a PlayStation 2. At the time I was more interested in playing Mega Man X8, but Armored Core 2 ended up being one of the first games I'd rent for the console. We had a new movie rental place open up in a town near by, and, unlike my local shop, they actually let you keep the games for a full week! This was perfect for a game like Armored Core. I rented the thing over the weekend when my parents were free to drive me up there, and then I spent all week playing it (summer vacation)! It was amazing. Very hard! But so amazing. I loved that game, and wished I could own it, but finding it wouldn't exactly be easy. So I ended up never owning it... Sure I did try to buy it when that movie store closed down, but they wanted an outstanding price from what I recall. Most titles were going for $80 bucks or more, so they just weren't worth buying. That being said, things did change about four years later.

When I finally got an Xbox 360, Armored Core 4 was one of the first games I bought. I remember giving the money to my dad so he could stop by GameStop on his way home from work, and when I handed him the piece of paper with the game's title on it, he thought I spelled it wrong. "It's Corp, not Core" he said, but of course he was the one who was actually wrong. I don't think the game was what he expected, but he picked it up for me that night, and I spent the whole night playing it. Of course the next day I'd go back to school and tell Ian all about it (just as he had told me about 2 all those years ago), but what happened next was kinda unexpected. The reason I ended up playing the game as much as I did...

I'm not sure how much later it was (maybe a week?), but one day during PE at school I screwed my back up. Bad... Really bad. We were playing baseball and I was in the outfield. The ball was hit in my direction, so I ran over to grab it as fast as I could, but when I spun around to throw it back towards home base something went wrong. My foot slipped and my leg went outward, my body twisted in ways it shouldn't, and I ended up throwing the ball in the completely wrong direction. Everyone looked at me and laughed like I was an idiot, but I really didn't care. The pain came fast, but it wasn't really bad enough for me to tell the teachers or anything -- so I just continued playing the game like normal. That was a big mistake. After running back home, and hitting the ball myself, I was dying. I couldn't move, couldn't breath, couldn't walk, couldn't sit, and just couldn't do anything. It was horrible. I ended up having to stay home from school, and the doctors weren't really able to do anything for me either. They basically told me to rest it, and that's really all I could do. So instead of going to my senior year's pep assembly at school, I was stuck home in my chair unable to move. Thankfully I had Armored Core 4.

So, why do I consider this one to be one of my favorite mecha games? Well, putting aside the nostalgia... It's everything I wanted from a mecha.

Armored Core 4:

While Armored Core 2 was pretty great, it was actually pretty limited in a lot of ways. It was on PS2 hardware so the stages could only be so big, and there were restrictions on what weapons could be equip to what arm. With AC4 however, all of that was pretty much stripped away. These mechs had full customization, they added extra "cosmetic" parts that you could equip that also slightly altered stats, there were different types of engines and what not you could install, you had reserve weapons, shoulder mounted weapons (one on each side), back mounted weapons, and you could fine tune the mech to fit your style perfectly. Wanted to have a high speed mech that duel wielded energy swords, and could doge so fast that your eyes can't possibly keep up with it's actual movement? That was doable! On the other hand you could also build mechs that were fully suited for flight, and that was something new for the series.

This time around, flying actually played a much larger role. Sure, you could be a grounded mech with only small bursts of flight available to you, but that would make things a lot harder. The levels in 4 were made at a much larger scale (compared to the PS2 games) with multiple layers to them. Often you had to fly up shafts inside buildings, or get to top of mountain ranges, and without the ability to truly fly, reaching such places was a challenge. Then there was the fact that you had a lot of enemies that could fly as well, and being on the ground simply put you at a disadvantage -- especially if you only had melee weapons with very limited range weapons in your reserves. While not everyone might have liked this change from older entries, I personally loved it.

The main campaign had a wide verity of challenging missions to undertake, the battle arena tasked you with rising through the ranks as you took on challenging bosses, and the local and online PVP modes let you put your own mechs to the test against other players. There was just so much to do in the game, and because of the deep customization, you seriously had millions of possible combinations for your mech. It was nearly impossible to run into someone who had the exact same build as you, and even if you did find someone with the same parts, it's unlikely they were tuned the same way yours was. The game was all about expressing yourself, and building your mech to suit your personal play style, and because of that you never really knew what you'd run into when you played the game online. It was always interesting to see what others had created, and it was always a challenge to come out on top in a fight. You always had to be at your best, and you had to know your mech's capabilities inside and out if you even wanted to stand a chance at fighting. It was a "hard core" PvP system that took a lot to get used to, but once you got into it, you were hooked (sadly PS3 players had their servers shut down early on).

These are just some of the reasons why I continued to come back to the game non stop, and why I was so excited when it's sequel "For Answer" was released. I simply couldn't get enough of Armored Core 4. However, while that game did improve on a lot of 4's features, it was also sadly a step back in a lot of ways. The co-op was great, sure, but the loading screens, and sometimes unfair missions really put me off. It was like every step forward that game made, there was also a step back. Even so, it did "replace" 4 for me, and was a game I'd continue to go back to until my Xbox 360 finally died.

Moving past AC4, I did actually enjoy ACV and AC Verdict Day as well, but they just weren't the same. They featured smaller mechs, and felt more like something out of Code Geass rather than Armored Core. The cool thing about them was the fact that they could move at high speeds and wall kick off of buildings to launch themselves in the air, but the down side was that actual flight combat and flight based missions were completely removed. The game also had a higher focus on being online with almost like an MMO styled structure, and that's something I missed out on with V. V's servers were shut down when VD became a thing, and I was late to the party for that too. While the servers were still going when I played through VD, they were no longer nearly as active as they once had been. Still I had fun with the game, but still wished it could've been better.

That being said, I still consider Armored Core 4 to be the best in the series, with the older titles still having their own charm as well. The Armored Core 3 series of games were titles I'd eventually go back and buy the moment I got the chance, and, despite being spoiled by 4, I actually really liked them. Each game in that series is pretty different from the last, and it was cool to see how things changed as time went on. (If only we'd get a remaster of them someday...)

So yeah, if you're interested in mecha at all, or like From Software's challenging games, then give Armored Core a shot. It's great.
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Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Announcing New Blog Series - Ben's Top Mecha

Hey everyone, I'm back! After some technical difficulties over the past few days, I'm finally going to be getting back to my daily schedule. I know I didn't mention this before, but Blogger has undergone some major changes behind the hood, and let's just say that things haven't been all that smooth for about a week now... Labels not working correctly, posts and their formats freaking out on me, etc. (It's been pretty annoying...) But anyway, that's besides the point. For my return, I wanted to announce a new mini blog series: "Ben's Top Mecha."

Now it's no secret that I'm a huge fan of giant robots, but I've never actually taken the time to explain just how much I really like these things. So for the next week I wanted to take the time to finally do so. Similar to the horror series I did last year for Halloween, each day I'm going to be discussing one of my favorite mecha games to be released, and sharing my story of how I came to discover said game/series. So these posts won't really be reviews, but rather my experiences with the games, and why they are still some of my favorites to date. To avoid being repetitive however, I'll limit myself to only picking one game from each series. So don't worry about seeing this series being filled with Gundam (that could be a blog series of it's own honestly), and I also won't limit myself to just "pure" mecha games. In other words, as long as a game has giant mechs as one of it's main focus points, then it qualifies. This means games like Xenoblade X can be included on the list, despite taking over 30-40 hours to actually unlock your first mech. It's technically a mecha with mechs as a huge focus, but it's not purely about the mechs themselves.(Spoilers: Xenoblade X won't be included in my list.)

So yeah, that about covers it! I'll be kicking things off starting tomorrow, so I hope you guys enjoy! I'm looking forward to finally sharing these stories with you all, and hopefully it'll help introduce some of you to a few new games as well. There are a lot of great mechas out there, and sadly a lot of them seem to go unnoticed. I hope to change that though!
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Thursday, May 14, 2020

Paper Mario: The Origami King - Releasing July 17th

Today Nintendo announced the next entry in the Paper Mario series for the Nintendo Switch. This time around the world is transforming into an origami shape, and it's up to Paper Mario to once again save the day. While the announcement itself does come as a surprise, what's even more surprising is it's release date -- July 17th 2020! Yep that's right, we're only a couple months away! Such a quick release is pretty unusual for Nintendo, but it's great to see!

For more information check out the trailer below:

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Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Unreal Engine 5 - Demo Footage

In preparations for the upcoming next generation of consoles and PC hardware, Epic Games has finally given us the first look at their brand new Unreal Engine 5. This is something that words cannot really describe, so check out the video below for all the details. Let's just say it's pretty impressive!

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Monday, May 11, 2020

Anime Monday - Persona 4: The Animation

Persona. This is a series that really needs no introduction. Back in the day it was a lesser known side series to Shin Megami Tensei, but now it's basically reached mainstream status. Anyone who knows anything about JRPGs has at least heard of the Persona series, and even those who couldn't care any less about them have most likely been exposed to characters such as Joker because of Super Smash Bros. It's a well known series at this point, and it's something that will only continue to gain more attention as the years go on. But again, this wasn't always the case. In fact the old games are some of the most obscure PlayStation titles to date, and are titles that haven't been seen since their rerelease on the PSP. And while Persona 3 is what eventually would pave the way to the series' current popularity, it and Persona 4 both are now both distant memories. But even then that's not to say they weren't popular. In fact Persona 3 received a non canon anime sequel, and Persona 4 would go on to have its story adapted into anime form -- not once, but twice! This is actually how I was brought to the series, and why I consider myself a Persona fan to this day. And it also marks the first full start of this blog.

Looking Back at May 2013:

When Netto's Game Room first got started as a stand alone blog, Persona was one of the first series I personally took the time to focus on. It's hard to believe it has been 7 years since then, but sometime in early May I remember having some extra cash and trying to decide what game to buy with it. My first priority was to secure nettosgameroom.com (which I did), but I also wanted something to talk about once the blog was fully up and running. So I started doing my research on this brand new port of Persona 4 called "Persona 4 Golden" for the Vita, and I realized the series had an anime. Now back then I was actually pretty wary of the Persona series, as I had heard it focused on summoning demons and what not, and was filled with sexual content. It just seemed like something I shouldn't play, and that its content would bother me. However when I realized that the series was given an anime adaptation also I figured I'd give that a chance before I committed to actually buying it. So instead of actually watching the series from the start I went out to find some YouTube clips of it's "funniest moments" and instantly I was hooked. I loved the art style, the music, the comedy, and the characters -- everything just seemed perfect. So I put aside my worries about the game, placed an order on Amazon, and then waited for it to arrive. It actually came the day of my cousin's funeral, and the very same day nettosgameroom.com went live. I still remember sitting at my desk getting ready for the funeral, while also dealing with paperwork and other forms required to get things up and running correctly. I had Persona 4 Golden running also as I killed time and waited for other people to get ready, but my mind was mostly elsewhere so it wasn't easy to focus on the game itself. At least not at first.

After the funeral was over and I got everything here at NGR squared away I would instantly jump into playing it however, and that's when I found myself completely hooked to the series. I would spend the next week playing it non stop, and the moment I finished I would buy Persona 3 and work through it as well. Persona 4 Arena would be what I'd ask for for my Birthday that year, and then once all that was said and done I'd go on to track down the anime. I couldn't get enough of Persona and its story, and that's what eventually lead me to where I am today. Persona has since become one of my all time favorite series, and now once again I get to talk about it here on this blog. Seven years ago I was here reviewing the game, and now I'm back with the anime. Funny how things work out sometimes.

The Story of Persona 4:

The Persona 4 anime follows the original game's story almost perfect, so if you're already familiar with it, then you'll know what to expect. That being said... Persona 4 is the story of a young man named Yu Narukami (in the game you named him yourself, but his anime name has since been made canon) who is forced to leave his old life behind to move to the small Japanese town of Inaba. Yu moves in with his mother's younger brother (yes, his uncle) and his daughter Nanako, and has to learn to adapt to his new life in this small town. He must register for a new school, learn how to fit in, and survive an entire year there before he gets to move back home to the city. While Yu doesn't really have any expectations for his new life, it becomes obvious right off the bat that his time spent there won't be as easy as he hopes. His uncle is a police officer who often stays out late at work, his cousin Nanako is distant and has a troubled relationship with her dad due to his work, and to make things even worse the town is currently being plagued by a series of strange murders. It's a lot to take in, but as long as Yu stays out of trouble he doesn't have to worry about it. Yeah, he does a horrible job.

After meeting his classmate Yosuke, things start to change for Yu. The two become fast friends and start hanging out, when eventually they hear of a strange rumor circulating around town. Apparently the murders happen after rainy days, and that the person who will die appears on TV screens at night when the TV is shut off. Of course this is one of the stupidest things they've ever heard, but they decide to try it out anyway. So later that night they shut their TVs off, wait for midnight, and stare at them in amazement as a figure does in fact appear. Not only that Yu hears a strange voice in his head, and is nearly pulled into the TV.

The next day Yu tells Yosuke, and another classmate Chie, what had happened, and both of them think that Yu is basically crazy. "Getting pulled into the TV? Yeah right!" That's when the three decide to go to the local apartment store Junes to see if it's actually possible with a larger flat screen TV. And sure enough, it works. All three of them fall into the large screen TV, and they find themselves in a bizarre world where monsters called "shadows" exist. At first they don't know what to make of the whole thing, but after running into a mascot looking bear character named "Teddie," the three are sent back to the real world and are given some time to process what they had just seen. And to come up with a plan. Despite the possible dangers, the three are interested in investigating this strange world, and fear that it might in fact have something to do with the murders. This is where things differ a little from the original game. In Persona 4 they decide to sneak weapons into that other world to protect themselves, but in Persona 4: The Animation this plan doesn't work out so well. Instead they head into the TV world defenseless with only their "Persona" to protect them.

While in this strange TV world, Yu eventually awakens to his "inner self" and summons what is known as a Persona. These are beings that can be based on any legend, mythology, or even religion, and are seen as that person's true inner strength. Izanagi is the Persona Yu himself receives, while Yosuke too eventually has to face his own shadow self, before awakening to the legendary frog ninja Jiraiya. This new found power is the only way they're able to survive inside the TV world as it doesn't take them long to come face to face with the monsters that dwell there. Of course this is only the beginning.

The main focus of Persona 4 isn't quite what you would expect. Although at its core it is actually a murder mystery where the main characters enter the TV world in hopes of preventing more deaths, the show itself i actually more about the characters than anything else. Everyone has their own inner demons they must face and overcome, and as the series progresses more people join Yu, Yosuke, and Chie's investigation team. While these characters are the main focus of the show, that doesn't mean the rest of the game's cast is ignored. In the original Persona 4 there were events called "social links" where you got to see character stories unfold by hanging out with them. Sure this included the main party, but there were also many side characters with fully fleshed out stories as well. By becoming closer to these characters in the game you unlocked new gameplay features, and you also got to see their stories fully unfold with each encounter. Thankfully the anime adaptation doesn't leave these out, but instead adapts them in a slightly new way.

Throughout the series there are multiple episodes dedicated completely to these side characters, with some plot points being altered to better incorporate them into the main plot. It's a way of retelling the same old stories, while also adding something new to them which wasn't actually seen in the game. This gives some of these characters more character development in general, and adds quite a bit more comedy to the series as well. It's an interesting way to handle what used to technically be side quests, and it's nice to see these characters actually get worked into the main plot. Of course this isn't the only change made to the anime and it's characters.

Although the game itself is fully fleshed out, there are some scenes where time either skips ahead, or events are only implied to happen. Rather than doing the same here in the anime, Persona 4 The Animation actually takes the time to animate these scenes and add extra to the story overall. This includes multiple new comedy scenes, as well as new key character driven moments that were only hinted at in the original. The main villain themselves also receives more attention, with their motives becoming a lot more clearer. It's scenes like these that make the series worth watching even if you've played the game, while keeping the reverse the same as well. Obviously the anime can't cover everything from the original 80-90 hour long story, so even those who watch the anime first will have a reason to play the original as well. It works out nicely here, and is handled much better than most game adaptations. But this is only for the first series.

Persona 4 The Animation Golden:

Because the original anime aired shortly after the game's release, any new content added in the future titles was not touched upon (obviously). So when Persona 4 Golden came out and altered it's story with brand new characters and scenes, the only way they could handle the new canon is by going back and releasing a new series. So that's where The Animation Golden comes in.

Rather than redoing the original, Golden is basically an extra series meant to be watched after finishing the original. The first episode begins with Yu coming to Inaba just like in the first anime, but this time around they took a "new game plus" approach to it. In the original Persona 4 game there were multiple dialogue options you could select for many of the event scenes, and often you were actually limited on what you could say due to your social stats. Some of the funnier options were available from the start (which are also the choices the original anime mainly went with), but the more gutsy and skilled based ones were not accessible on your first playthrough. So of course the original anime ignored these story options, but with Golden that's no longer the case. The Yu seen here is the "fully upgraded overpowered" Yu from the end of the story, and he's free to say and do whatever he wanted -- and so that's what Golden makes use of. Yu is much more direct in this series, he's crazy strong from the get go, and he's able to go down those "challenging" story paths that were not previously seen. But that's about as far as Golden goes with this. Outside of the first episode, the rest of this series is pretty much all new.

Each episode of Golden focuses on different events that were added for the Vita game, and because of this it constantly skips around through the story. These episodes mainly focus on the new character Marie, but other events (mainly comedy events) are scattered throughout it as well. Eventually the final episodes do take the series past the original show's ending, and lead it to the new revised ending that the Persona series would use as canon moving forward. It's an interesting way to handle the new Golden content overall, and can actually be watched side by side with the original series as long as you're careful about the timeline and episode order. (But in general it's better to just watch it after.) It is too bad it never received an English Dub, but that's really just preference and not an actual issue.

Should You Watch It:

So, should you watch it? Honestly, I think it depends on you and what you have access to. If you're a fan of RPGs and have a Vita (or have access to the original game), then I'd have to say no. This is a story you should really just play for yourself. A big part of Persona 4's fun comes from living a year in Japan, and being able to do whatever you want when you want. Knowing the full game's outcome before hand will actually ruin the experience in multiple ways, but thankfully not completely. The game does have a lot of content that the anime wasn't able to fully explore, so you can always come back to it if you still decide to watch the show first. Even so, I strongly recommend playing the RPG before watching this -- assuming you can get past its slightly dated gameplay and dungeons.

If playing P4 isn't an option for you, or you simply don't like JRPGs, then by all means go for the anime. This is a really fun story from start to finish, and it's filled with both comedy and drama. It's a very interesting series overall, and despite it's strange fantasy elements, it deals with a lot of real world issues. That psychological element is something that helps you relate to the story, and is just one of the many reasons the original game pulled people in. The anime does a very good job adapting this, with the new scenes further deepening your connection to these characters. It's rare for an anime adaptation of a video game to do this, and Persona 4 nails it. So yes, it's worth watching -- even if you've played through the original games.
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Friday, May 8, 2020

Diving Into "Kill the Past"

Kill the Past. The first time I heard these words I didn't really understand what they meant, nor did I realize what it would ultimately become. It was just a simple sentence coming out of a game that would confuse me for years... And now I'm finally going back to it.

Back when I was in high school the Nintendo Wii released to great success, and pretty much everyone I knew owned one. We'd go to school each day, talk about the new games releasing on it, talk about how great the new Zelda was (which sadly I was unable to play), and we'd look forward to the upcoming release of Super Smash Bros Brawl. It was fun. Every time a new Wii game came out we all had something new to talk about, and we were all so hopeful for the Wii and motion control's future. Really it was a pretty exciting time to be a Nintendo fan! Of course most of us mainly only knew about the "mainstream" games, and the ones that were either brought up non stop over at Nintendo Nsider, or mentioned in Nintendo Power, but every once in awhile someone would find something new to share. That's exactly how my friend Ryan introduced the rest of us to the world of Suda51's No More Heroes.

Honestly when I first heard about No More Heroes I thought it was a really cool idea, but I also knew there was no way that my parents would allow it. This was a crazy blood violent game where you used the Wii Remote to hack people to pieces, and watch the blood spray everywhere. You recharged your energy sword by making obscene motions with the Wii Remote, and you saved your game by taking a dump. Pretty much nothing in this game would be something my family would've been okay with, and that's not to mention the non stop f bombs and other profanities that flew throughout the adventure. It was a very crude game, that was also stylish in it's on way. Yeah, I never did get that game -- at least not on the Wii. I knew a lot about it thanks to Ryan, but because of that I also knew I'd never play it.

Jump ahead a few years later and once again I was reliving this very same past. Now in college, I still remember the day me and Ryan were sitting in the campus's Math Building cafe area as he pulled up the news concerning the newly released No More Heroes 2. He was bringing up videos of the new gameplay and explaining to me the differences between it and the original game -- such as the removal of the hub city and the addition of new mini games, and the fact that now Travis (the game's lead character) could use two swords rather than one. He was pretty hyped for it to say the least, and I'm pretty sure that night he stopped by GameStop on his way home and bought it. After that he'd bring up the game pretty often, and once again I thought the whole thing sounded pretty cool. Still didn't think I could get into it though (considering I didn't play the original), but it was something I was going to keep in mind -- and keep in mind I did.

A few months after the release of No More Heroes 2, No More Heroes: Heroes Paradise was released for the PlayStation 3. Being a new PS3 owner myself looking for exclusives to play, this was the perfect chance to not only get a new PS3 game, but also finally get into the series. And so I did. I went over to GameStop with my dad (we car pooled as he worked next door to my college), bought the game, and then spent the rest of the night (and the next day) playing it. Really I'm still not sure how I feel about the game.

I think the biggest issue I had with the game was the fact that I didn't understand it. I wasn't familiar with Suda51's work, nor did I quite understand everything that was going on. Playing with a controller was also a little bit of a pain because they had to replace all of the Wii's unique actions with standard button prompts. Instead of being able to pull off combos and then finishing off enemies by physically slicing upwards, I was being forced to hit specific buttons to land the killing blows instead (mainly with the analog stick). It just felt like it killed the momentum for me because I was constantly pausing to finish off "already dead" enemies just so that I could move onto the next one. It wasn't bad by any means, but it would've been a lot better if I had a move controller. Even so I pushed on with the game and eventually finished it, but a lot of what happened is now mostly a blur. Sure I remember the basic's of the story, but it's something I want to return to.

After finishing No More Heroes, and never getting No More Heroes 2, the next Suda51 game I'd experience was Killer is Dead. Sure Ryan would go on to buy his other games like Lollipop Chainsaw, but for me it didn't interest me too much. Sure it looked like it was crazy over the top fun, but I honestly didn't feel like going through another No More Heroes type game. So I gave it a few years and one day I saw Killer is Dead's limited edition go on sale on Amazon, so I bought it as well. Still to this day I never finished it (mainly due to my backlog of PS4 games), but I did have fun with what little I had played. It was an interesting game that fixed the issues I had with the PS3 port of No More Heroes, but I just never found the time to sit down and give it a proper playthrough. Around this time however is when I started realizing the connections between Suda51's games, and it's what eventually lead me to look into the little game known as "The Silver Case." This is what brought me to the words "Kill the Past."

When I first saw the news of the Silver Case remake I was excited. I love visual novels, love crime dramas, and seeing Suda51's name on it made me want to play it. It was the Japanese exclusive PS1 I had previously learned about thanks to the internet, but never expected to actually play. It in itself was a sequel to Suda51's previous series Twilight Syndrome (which my only experience with was in Danganronpa 2 funny enough) and Moonlight Syndrome, but also acted as a beginning to what would be dubbed the "Kill the Past" series. This dialogue appears in The Silver Case multiple times, and actually refers to destroying one's past. Cutting yourself off from it, and moving forward after the past has been erased. The Silver Case goes on to deal with a lot of complex and unique ideas, while telling a story that will leave you with so much confusion your only option is to really replay it from the beginning with your new insight and knowledge gained from your initial playthrough. It's a very unique experience, and it's one that you won't forget. The first time I beat this game that's exactly how I felt, and it made me want to continue on with it to fully uncover the truth. Sadly this was easier said than done.

The follow up to The Silver Case was a Japanese PS2 exclusive called Flower, Sun, and Rain. This game would eventually receive a DS port and be released outside of the US, but stupid me completely blew this one off. I would see it in GameStop and even on Amazon being recommended to me often, but I just passed it off as a "Hotel Dusk" knock off. Yeah I'm still kicking myself for that one. Now days the game is quite rare, and I had to resort to importing a used EU copy to even get my hands on it. The third game to be tied directly to The Silver Case also received a remake a few years ago, and is actually why I am writing about this today. The 25th Ward is a direct sequel to The Silver Case, but also takes place after the events of Flower, Sun, and Rain. Of course it isn't quite as simple as that. The game features multiple main characters, some new and some old, and deals with themes and ideas that were originally brought up in past games, but also greatly expands upon the "truth" you'll eventually come to realize. It's not an easy game to explain, and by the time it's all said and done you might come out more confused than when you first went in -- prompting yet another playthrough of The Silver Case to hopefully come to terms with these new facts. Again, it's a complex series, and I love it. And that's what brings me to today.

After recently going through the 25th Ward finally (multiple issues kept me from playing it back when it first came out), I'm finally going to set aside the time needed to get into this series properly. While I've completely finished The Silver Case and The 25th Ward, I'm taking a look back at the rest of what I missed and never finished. My EU copy of Sun, Flower and Rain is my next target, but thanks to Steam I was able to get Killer7 as well. While Killer7 isn't technically a part of this series' timeline, it's still a connected game with callbacks and references scattered throughout. No More Heroes: Heroes Paradise is another game I'd like to replay through (possibly this time with the move controllers), and Killer is Dead is currently sitting on my "queue" shelf waiting to be played. Once I've completed these I plan on hopefully getting No More Heroes 2, and moving forward from there with Travis Strikes Again and the upcoming No More Heroes 3. Sadly many games still remain Japanese exclusive, but I'll do my best to get through what we have access to. It really is a unique and interesting series as a whole, and it's something I really look forward to completing. That being said, I also recommend everyone else to check it out as well. Every entry in the series is vastly different from the previous, but in the long run that just makes it all the more interesting. No single game out stays it's welcome, and you're constantly moving into something new. Not many series do this, so it's a nice change of pace.
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