Archive for February, 2012

Animution:steins;gate

Animution is a weekly column (hopefully) where I rant/complain /admire about the anime that I watched recently.

The Butterfly Effect.Divergence. Action and consequences. Discrepancy. These are all the theories and terms  that are mostly associated with one enigmatic phenomenon that still intrigues me, time-travelling. I admit that I easily get excited with stories that incorporated time travelling mechanism in them, regardless of the medium. So when I heard about an anime series that tightly woven its plots with time-travelling mysteries, my body is ready for it.                     

steins;gate is an anime based on a popular Visual Novel game developed by 5pb. and Nitroplus for the Xbox 360 and PC in Japan. From what I’ve read recently, there’s a possibility that the game would be released to the western market, eventhough there is already an English  translation patch released by the fans for the PC version lurking somewhere in the internet last year.

The characters in steins;gate

The anime was aired from April 2010 to September the following year, consists of 24 episodes. From the general consensus among the anime fans, it was one of the best anime last year. So I was really excited based on the positive reactions it received. There are maybe some minor spoilers that I may accidentally write, but I try my best not to. Anyway generally the story follows  a cast unique characters that got tangled up with some time-travelling experiments.Okay, the pacing of the story is kinda like Darker than Black-ish, where it starts pretty slow but gets interesting really fast. So you have been warned. But once the mysteries of time travelling mechanics kicks in, you will be hooked and desperately wanting to know what happen next in the story. The cast of characters are pretty strong too, with the lead male character, Rintaro Okabe, a narcissistic, delusional, self-proclaimed ‘mad scientist’  provides an interesting take on male characters that we rarely seen in anime nowadays. He believes that ‘The Organization’ is watching him constantly, and it is his responsibility to fight them back with his inventions. He convinced that ”The Organization’ is ruling the world in the shadows, and it is up to him to stop the world ruling and creates chaos and destruction. He is being helped by 2 of his friends, a hacker named Itaru ‘Daru’ Hashida, and his childhood friend, Mayuri Shiina. Together they formed ‘Future Gadgets Lab’, an amateur lab that are placed on top of a CRT-repairing store. Then he meets up with Kurisu Makise, a prodigal genius that has a high level of curiosity in her. The story progresses after he met her, with some unexpected twist in the mix to keep me glued to my monitor screen. The plot is really good, tackling the time travelling theme makes it a standout compared to other anime. The quality of the anime is really high, with striking art design for the characters. In an era where moe characters are prevalent in the anime industry, the character design  is a breath of fresh air. The music is good too, especially the piano score that resonates with me well.

Anyway if you looking for  thought-provoking anime to watch, this anime is just for you.The interesting plots with unique characters will leave you wanting more . So just sit back, relax and enjoy the ride..

Simple and Clean: The Kingdom Hearts Retrospective Part 6

Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep was developed by Square-Enix Osaka and Disney for the Sony Playstation Portable. It was the 6th installment for the series, and dubbed as Kingdom Hearts Episode 0 by Nomura because it serves as a prequel for the Kingdom Hearts series. Nomura said that this game has the same importance as the 2 mainline games in the series, Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II.

Kingdom Hearts:Birth by Sleep was originally planned for the Sony Playstation 2, with Sora as the protagonist. The development began in 2005, before the release of Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix+ but the development team changed the platform to the PSP to take advantage of the PSP functionality such as co-operative and competitive gameplay. Nomura was still acting as a director, and co-directed by Tai-Yasue.

KH:BBS gameplay scenes

KH:BBS gameplay scenes

The development team used the engine from previous Square-Enix game, Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core for the game. The titled of the game was inspired by the unlockable trailer shown in Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix+.

Nomura said in an interview that an unlockable secret ending will be in the game,  and a new kind of monsters will be introduced in the game, The Unversed. Nomura also implemented a new feature in the game, the Command Board system that was inspired by his primary school experiences playing board games.

Left to right: Ventus, Terra, Aqua

The game features an revamped battle system, and follows the story of Terra, Aqua and Ventus  in their quest to locate Master Xehanort. It comprised of 3 parts: Terra, Aqua and Ventus where players will have to finish all 3 parts of the game to understand the  story of the game from 3 different perspectives. The 3 characters would be played differently: Terra the brute character, Ventus the agile character and Aqua the magic focused character. The game made some public appearances  on the 2009 Tokyo Game Show and 2010 Jump Fiesta before it being released.

The game was released in Japan on January 9th, 2010 and September 10th in North America the same year. The game was received very well by the critics, with praised on the game’s graphics, music and improved battle system. The 3 different perspectives provide a fresh and unique gameplay for the franchise, but the camera controls (due to the lack of second analog nub on PSP) and the loading times was being the common complaints. The game received an aggregate of 82% in metacritic, the third highest aggregate score of the franchise behind Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II. The game sold extremely well, with 500,000 copies sold in two days times in Japan. It was also the sixth bestselling video games in  North America at  the month of October 2010.

KH:BBS box art

Kingdoms Hearts 10th anniversary logo

Kingdoms Hearts 10th anniversary logo

So what the future holds for the franchise? Endless possibbilites.With the 10th anniversary for the franchise coming up this year and the latest installment for the franchise, Kingdom Hearts:Dream Drop Distance that will be released on March 29th in Japan, and in North America and Europe later this year, the future still looks bright for the franchise. Nomura said that the voice recording session for the English version of Kingdom Hearts:DDD was already underway, and the storyline would progress in preparation for the long overdue, but still inevitable Kingdom Hearts III. After nearly 10 years since it was first conceivable, the amount of hype for the franchise  is still going strong. Nomura hinted that Kingdom Hearts III would concludes the Xehonart saga, but when the game would be announced or what platform it would be on is still a mystery for the fans….

The End.

Simple and Clean: The Kingdom Hearts Retrospective Part 5

Kingdom Heart coded was developed by Square-Enix, with collaboration with Walt Disney Internet Group for the Japanese mobile phones. It is an episodic, puzzle video game sets after the events of Kingdom Hearts II. The game was directed by Nomura, and co-directed by Hajime Tabata. Tabata disapproved the idea for a Kingdom Hearts game for a mobile phone, but then he found the idea interesting.  The playable demos was being shown to public at Tokyo Game Show 2008 and Jump Fiesta events at 2009.

coded was released on the  PRIME Series “P-01A” mobile phone on June 3rd, 2009. The game consists of 8 episodes,with the last episodes being released on January 28th 2010. The story follows Jimmy Cricket as he found a hidden message in his journal.  Players play as a digitized Sora as he went back to the previous locales in the first game, digitally to investigate the anomaly in Jimmy’s journal.

The game was ported to the Nintendo DS titled Kingdom Hearts RE:coded. It was ported by h.a.n.d, the same team that developed Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days. The game was released in Japan on October 7th,  2010 and January 11th in North America the following year.  A few improvements were made, such as the

KH RE:coded gameplay

revamped combat system and some secret unlockable trailer that hinted Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance for the Nintendo 3DS. The game received an aggregate of 66% on metacritic, with some calling it the worst game  in the series. Most called the game as decent, as it will filled the hunger of fans for a new Kingdom Hearts game. The unlockable trailer was deemed worthy for fans, as it details the events when Master Sid discussed Riku and Sora the location of Aqua, Ventus and Terra. He sends Riku and Sora to the Mark of the Mastery exam as a preparation for the revival of Master Xehanort.

Kingdom Hearts RE:coded box art

To be continued to part 6…

Simple and Clean:The Kingdom Hearts Retrospective part 4

Tokyo Game Show,an annual event that happens on September every year showcasing some of the latest games from Japanese developers and publishers. Previous Kingdom Hearts games had been announced at the show (Kingdom Hearts II and Kingdom Hearts:COM),so naturally gamers were eagerly anticipating this event for a possible announcement of new games for the franchise. And boy,they were not expecting the surprise that Square-Enix has in store for them.

It was on September 21st, 2007 at the Tokyo Game Show held in Makuhari Messe. On that day, Square-Enix announced not one,but three new Kingdom Hearts titles for three different handheld systems. Nomura was already hinted the possible spin-offs of the franchise on the mobile platforms during an interview with Famitsu earlier that year. He wanted the spin-offs played sligthly different than the main game in the series.

The three new KH games

Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days for the Nintendo DS,  Kingdom Hearts:coded for the Japanese cellphones and Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep for the Sony Playstation Portable. These three games would tell a different story for the franchise, and gamers were gleefully surprised with the announcement for 3 new Kingdom Hearts games.

Kingdom Hearts:358/2 Days was developed by h.a.n.d with Square-Enix overseeing the project  for the Nintendo DS. The team  decided to make a new Kingdom Hearts game for the system, while still retaining the core gameplay of the Kingdom Hearts series. Nomura was the director for the game, with

As usual,concept art for KH:358/2 Days

Tomoshiro Hasegawa acting as co-director. Nomura hinted that the players would understand the meaning of 358/2 Days when they finished the game. One interesting feature that has been introduced in the game was the cooperative multiplayer system. This was the first Kingdom Hearts game that has a multiplayer component implemented in it.  The demo of the multiplayer and single player components of the game were playable during Jump Fiesta in December 2007 and the DKΣ3713 Private party event on August the following year.

The game was an intersequel to the franchise, spanning the story from the end of the first game to the beginning of  the  Kingdom Hearts II. It tells the story of Roxas, during the days when he was a member of Organization XIII. It details the relationship of Roxas with the Organization XIII members, especially with his best friends, Axel and Xion. The multiplayer components of the game allows up to 4 players takes part in  Monster Hunter-esque style of missions. Players can choose to play as the numerous Organization XIII members, as well as some hidden characters that can be unlocked in the game.

The game was finally released in Japan on May 30th, 2009 and in North America on September 29th the same year. A special Kingdom Hearts themed Nintendo DSi was released in Japan to celebrate the release of the game.

The KH themed DSi

The game received mixed responses from the critics. They praised the visual fidelity of the game on Nintendo DS, but complained about the repetitive nature of the game, the camera controls and the lack of depth of the battle system due to the system limitations. The multiplayer aspects of the game were generally being complimented by the critics, as well as the A.I partners. Overall the game gained an aggregate of 75%, still a favorable review  at metacritic. As expected, the game sold reasonably well, with up to 1.2 millions units sold worldwide by the end of November 2009.

Kingdom Hearts:358/2 Days box art

To be continued to part 5…

Simple and Clean:The Kingdom Hearts Retrospective part 3

Everyone knows that a sequel to the first game was coming. This was first teased by the unlockable trailer in Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts Final Mix. A Japanese  video game website,Quiter also published an ‘insider rumor’ that the sequel was being made for the Sony Playstation 2. It was not until September 2003,during the Tokyo Game Show the rumor was confirmed by Square with the announcement of Kingdom Hearts II for the Sony Playstation 2 along with the announcement of Kingdom Hearts:Chain of Memories for the Gameboy Advance. Both of the games will be directed by Tetsuya Nomura,the director from the first game and will be produced by Shinji Hashimoto and coproducer Yoshinori Kitase. Shinji Hashimoto hinted that all the questions from the first game will be answered in the second game during Square-Enix E3 conference the following year.Fans were all aboard the hype-train that year.

Kingdom Hearts II was developed by most of the original staff members,which formed Square Product Development Division 1. A lot of changes were planned for the second game. Nomura planned to improve on a number of aspects that

Kingdom Hearts II concept art

Kingdom Hearts II concept art

were thought lacking . The battle system was improvised by introducing a couple of new elements such as the Drive System which allows Sora to change forms and increased flexibility of the summoning system. The battle animation of Sora was reworked completely, abandoning the previous battle animation. Nomura said that it was to reflect the maturity of Sora for the second game. The camera controls were mapped to the right stick (hooray for  common sense!)  and improvements were made to Gummy ship minigame . Reaction commands were now introduced to the game,depending on the circumstances during fights with the enemies.  All these changes were made to reflect the scope of the sequel while addressing some of the complaints from the first game.

Kingdom Hearts II was released in Japan on December 22nd,2005 and on March

Saix,a member of Organisation XIII

28th the following year in North America. The game takes place a year after the events of Kingdom Hearts:Chain of Memories. The game still follows the plight of Sora (which has lost most of his abilities due to the event in KH:COM) searching for his two best friends,Riku and Kairi. However, the game starts with a new protagonist ,Roxas who has more connection to Sora more than he can ever predicted. New villains and monsters emerged,such as the shrouded in black Organization XIII from KH:COM and nobodies(a shell from the Heartless) from the first game. The tone for this game is sligthly darker compared to the first game.

There are some noticeable differences between the Japanese and the English version. Some of the contents were edited,this is due to Disney’s decisions that they are deem inappropriate for the western market.For example,the original scene  where Axel sacrificed himself in the game ended with him getting burned  alive with his power. Shockingly cruel for a Disney game.  The English version replaced that scene with Axel slowly fading away after using up all his power.

Unsurprisingly, the game sold extremely well. The game was the second best selling game for 2006. By the end of March 2007,the game has shipped 4 millions copies worldwide.Critics lauded the improvement in graphics and gameplay,and gaining an aggregate of 87% in metacritic. The game won several awards such as Sattelite Award in 2006 and Famitsu ‘s Game of the Year Award for 2005. Based on the quality of the sequel,fans could not contained their excitement for Kingdom Hearts III..

Kingdom Hearts 2 box art

To be continued to part 4…

Simple and Clean:The Kingdom Hearts Retrospective Part 2

Since the first Kingdom Hearts game was a commercially successful product,it’s natural that a sequel was already being made for the series.However,the series takes a detour before the inevitable sequel.Nomura planned to make an intermediary sequel for the franchise. It was being conceptualized by Nomura because he wanted to use the theme of memories for the next game in the series.The intermediary sequel was planned for the Nintendo Game Boy Advance(GBA),a 32-bit handheld system developed by Nintendo.

        

The original GBA

Initially, this raises concerns for Nomura since he was worried how the gameplay would translates to a 2D plane.However,he became convinced when he heard the excitement of gamers on the thought of being able to play a Kingdom Hearts game on-the-go.Thank god for enthusiastic gamers.The team made changes to the core gameplay of the handheld game by making the battle system an action oriented card battle,where each actions are dictate by the cards used by the player.

The original concept art for the handheld game

The game was announced publicly during the Tokyo Game Show on September 2003,along with the announcement of the next installment of the franchise,Kingdom Hearts II.It was appropriately titled, Kingdom Hearts:Chain of Memories.

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The box art for KH:COM

Kingdom Hearts:Chain of Memories was developed by Jupiter and Square Enix and it was released in the year 2004.The game was a technical masterpiece for the GBA, boasting with 3D FMV sequence and fluid gameplay.The critics praised the high production values in the game,especially the FMV sequence and the beautiful animated sprites.However,the new card based battle system received mixed reviews from the critics.Some of them called the new battle system as original and interesting,while the others called it awkward and troublesome at best.Overall the game gained an aggregate of 76% at metacritic,a favorable review score.

The battle scene in KH:COM

The game sold reasonably well,with up to 1.5 millions sold worlwide at the end of 2005.The game was considered as important in the storyline of the franchise,as it bridges the events of Kingdom Hearts 1 and Kingdom Hearts II.Generally,the story follows Sora as he enters Castle Oblivion,which causes him to lose his memories.His memories are transform into ‘world cards’,where he uses it to help him regains his memories by visiting various Disney locales from the first game.The game introduces important characters such as Namine and Axel,two characters that would appear later in the next installment of the franchise.

Namine

The game was later ported to the Sony Playstation 2 system,remade using the Kingdom Hearts 3D engine and was released in Japan on March 2007,titled Kingdom Hearts RE:Chain of Memories.It was bundled with Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix.Sadly a game that was not released in North America.It was released without Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix in North America the following year on December 2nd.

This was the first installment of the handheld Kingdom Hearts game.This game indicates that later in the future Kingdom Hearts series would branch into the handheld gaming system,filling the desires of fans alike.Interestingly,the battle system of KH:COM also inspired the battle system of a new IP from Jupiter,The World Ends With You for the Nintendo DS .The team decided for a card battle system for that game,but later modifies it into a new and interesting dual screen battle system.

To be continued to part 3…

Simple and Clean:The Kingdom Hearts Retrospective


It was sometime during the turn of the century,a Square executive and a creative mind from Disney studios step into the elevator together.When they step out,they already making plans for one of the most interesting and creative crossover that ever happened in the gaming industry.That was the  seed of idea that in the future grows into one of the most celebrated franchise in gaming industry,the Kingdom Hearts series.

Kingdoms Hearts was produced by Square with the collaborative effort with Disney Interactive Studios.Both parties visualized a video game where Final Fantasy franchise would crossover with the various Disney franchises.Weird,I know.The unlikely combination of a franchise with characters that has spiky hairs ,swords that has the same height as a human being and family friendly franchises that includes a talking mouse with a dog as his pet really shook the gaming audience at that time.So how would all these elements blend in together? Meet Tetsuya Nomura.

Tetsuya Nomura was a character designer back then at Square.He was the lead character designer in Final Fantasy VII and VIII.He acted as a director,character designer and responsible to the concept of Kingdom Hearts.Nomura was tasked to directed a game which combines the world of Final Fantasy and the world of Disney.So he envisioned a game where characters from Final Fantasy mash into the various distinct world of Disney locales.These two elements would be mashed  together with an original story written by Nomura himself.The story follows the plight of three children,Sora,Riku and Kairi as they’ve been separated by unknown forces and being transported to new world that consist of various Disney locales and Final Fantasy characters.

Interestingly,the original design of Sora uses a chainsaw instead of a keyblade as a weapon.But the design was rejected by Disney as it is too inappropriate with the Disney audience.Maybe the thought of Sora cutting enemies with a freakin’ chainsaw is too gruesome for Disney audience.

Kingdom Hearts was released in Japan on March 28th 2002 for the Sony Playstation 2.Then it was released in the States on September 17th,2002 with some additional contents that are not included in the Japanese version.Then Kingdom Hearts Final Mix was exclusively released in Japan on December 26th,2002.The game was critically and commercially successful,gaining an average of 85% on metacritic.Critics lauded the innovative battle system and interesting themes brought forward by the game.The game had shipped up to 8.5 millions worldwide by December 2005.Fans of JRPG and Disney was in love with Kingdom Hearts.

To be continued to part 2…