Moogy’s Year End Extravaganza (かわいい) – Part 1

I’m going to review literally everything I read, watched, or played this year, and there’s nothing any of you can do to stop me. This will be a two-part series, mostly because I’m terrible.

Please be aware that all statements presented in this post are objective truths and if you disagree with me on anything then it is because religion has stolen your soul and made you its slave.

Let’s begin with the most disgusting category of them all.

Video Games

Games that I dropped in the middle aren’t included, since I would just give them a terrible score anyway. This list also only includes games that I played for the first time in 2015, because otherwise I would have to review games like Super Metroid and Felghana and I’m not sure I’m prepared for such an undertaking.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

Design: D
Story: N/A
Music: C-
Overall: D

If we’re being generous, then Revengeance just barely functions as a demo – but it’s not even a very good one. Asinine enemy placement and boss battles that feel more like tutorials will leave you feeling unfulfilled. Some of the music is okay.

Bravely Default: For The Sequel

Design: C
Story: D
Music: B+
Overall: D

The occasional fun boss fight keeps this game from sinking into a miserable mire of utter mediocrity, but the job system loses its luster (and ability to keep the player’s interest) once you realize how few abilities are actually viable options. Also, the writing is so terrible that I began to question if Steins;Gate (written by the same person) was actually even any good – no mean feat, given that S;G is a completely different genre of video game released several years prior. BD does bring some excellent music to the table, courtesy of Revo, but that’s not enough to make it worth playing.

Tokyo Xanadu

Design: C
Story: D
Music: B
Overall: D

The staff responsible for this game were clearly unwilling to actually trust the player to surmount any sort of actual challenge; end-game maps feature about the level of complexity seen in the first few stages of Nayuta no Kiseki. That said, the basic battle system itself is well-constructed, so the game remains more or less fun to play despite the soporific level design. Sound Team JDK’s soundtrack is also a pleasant listen. Unfortunately, any merits that Tokyo Xanadu might have presented in other areas are rendered null and void by the unbelievably poor writing; unless you’re a 14 year old who thinks Kirito is the most badass character of all time, there’s no way you’ll be able to take the story (cribbed from a generic third-rate light novel) seriously.

Makai Senki Disgaea 5

Design: C+
Story: D
Music: C
Overall: C-

While it won’t win any awards for originality – nor will it win over newcomers to the series –  Disgaea 5 is the sort of “comfort food” one would expect from the Disgaea name at this point. The sheer variety of systems ensures that there’s plenty to sink your teeth into, but at some point I would like to see Nippon Ichi actually put some sort of effort into actual map design, especially as the story mode of D5 is significantly longer than any previous entry. Which is especially bad here, as the story of D5 is outright terrible and far overstays its welcome. Unless you think Bleach is the pinnacle of human achievement, you will probably find yourself longing for the sweet release of death by the time the needlessly overextended plot finally has the decency to end.

Astebreed (PS4)

Design: D
Story: N/A
Music: D
Overall: D

Edelweiss’s attempt to discover just how little actual content one can get away with including in a game. Don’t buy this unless you really just absolutely hate the concept of possessing money.

Phantom Breaker: Battleground Overdrive

Design: D
Story: N/A
Music: C-
Overall: D

A shitty button masher.

Nayuta no Kiseki

Design: C+
Story: D
Music: B+
Overall: C

Excellent level design saves Nayuta from being merely a failed attempt to introduce Kiseki elements into the ARPG formula, but it can’t make up for the lackluster plot that never does anything more than go through the motions and try to pretend it’s relevant. If nothing else, it’s worth playing for some of the best music from modern Falcom.

Gurumin (PC)

Design: C
Story: D+
Music: C+
Overall: C

A shoddy camera and overly simplistic combat mar what is an otherwise charming ARPG system. And while the plot may be stupid, at least it isn’t offensively bad.

Xanadu Next

Design: B-
Story: C
Music: D
Overall: C+

Engrossing dungeon crawling with just a hint of Metroidvania. I do feel like Falcom could have taken the level design even further than they did, however; though Xanadu Next managed to actually satisfy me in the end, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was missing something. And while the plot won’t win any awards, it’s well-presented and surprisingly competent. Unfortunately, however, Xanadu Next fails to provide any sort of memorable music outside of the final boss theme – a rare instance of Falcom dropping the ball on the sound front.

Undertale

Design: D
Story: D
Music: C+
Overall: D

While the two actual boss fights on the Genocide route are actually quite a bit of fun, the rest of the game could be completed by a blind, sleepwalking Canadian. The battle design probably warrants more credit than I’m willing to give it, but I cannot help but be disappointed by what I see as a major waste of potential. The game is nothing special otherwise, with an underdeveloped plot and surprising lack of meaningful content. While there are a few good pieces of music here and there, the majority of the soundtrack is forgettable as well.

Toushin Toshi II (18+)

Design: C
Story: C
Music: C
Overall: C

Excellent dungeon design can’t make up for the dated combat, but there is a certain charm to the game that prevents it from devolving into tedium. The story itself is solid conceptually, but the actual events are presented in the sort of disjointed fashion typical of 90s games, so it’s hard to engage with the plot if you’re used to more modern video game storytelling. I would say TT2 is worth playing if you’re a fan of JRPGs and compares favorably to its contemporaries on consoles when appraised by the modern eye, but don’t expect a mind-blowing masterpiece like it’s made out to be by some.

Toushin Toshi (3DS)

Design: C
Story: C
Music: C+
Overall: C

Despite the name, this is a remake of Toushin Toshi II, not the original. Although Imageepoch did an admirable job of updating the battle system, managing to produce something that is actively engaging to the point where I was looking forward to random encounters, they really dropped the ball with the dungeon design – every map has been simplified to the point of absurdity when compared to the original. In that sense, TT3DS embodies both the best and worst of modern JRPGs – while the system itself is eminently playable in comparison to the original game, many elements of the underlying design have been compromised in some misguided pursuit of accessibility. The story has also been redesigned in accordance with modern sensibilities, which, while it does improve some areas, results in a “tamer” experience across the board – though it’s hard to say how much of that is simply a result of TT3DS being a console remake of a game which was originally 18+. I found that overall I enjoyed TT3DS about as much as I did the original, so you might as well check it out if you’ve played the original game. If nothing else, it’s fascinating to compare the two games and see how design trends have shifted in the past twenty years.

Axiom Verge

Design: D
Story: N/A
Music: D-
Overall: D-

While it’s technically more playable than the original NES Metroid, it’s not much more fun. A typical example of an indie game developed by someone who has no idea how to actually design a video game; the game world is a series of nondescript rectangles populated by filler collectibles (heart pieces are a design trend that should have died out long ago) and enemies that fail to do much more than be mildly annoying. I cannot help but feel that anyone who praises this game is not actually very familiar with video games. Also, no points for making the protagonist a Generic Guy instead of a cute girl. If you’re going to make your protagonist an Agent of the Patriarchy™, he should at least be a total badass, like Dante, who is from the Devil May Cry series.

Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse

Design: C
Story: N/A
Music: B
Overall: C

Though it is a surprisingly competent effort on all fronts, especially the aesthetics, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse fails to be truly memorable. It’s worth playing through once if you’re a fan of this sort of game, but there’s nothing special that will draw you to it time and time again like with the classics. It’s worth nothing that Jake Kaufman (virt) is probably the best VGM composer operating outside of Japan at the moment; I was quite impressed with his score here and would consider it better than Shovel Knight’s.

Wizard’s Climber (18+)

Design: D
Story: D
Music: D
Overall: D

Mildly addictive until you realize just how shallow the system really is. To be honest, this is barely more of a game than Progress Quest. It doesn’t help that the “story” and “writing” had about as much effort put into them as the “acclaimed” Kamidori. Unless you have a serious need to waste (in the most literal sense of the term) 10 hours or so, Wizard’s Climber is not worth your consideration.

Armed Blue Gunvolt

Design: F
Story: F
Music: F
Overall: F

Everything about this game is utter shit and no sapient being could ever derive any form of enjoyment from it.

Mibibli’s Quest

Design: D+
Story: N/A
Music: C-
Overall: D

Mildly entertaining, mostly due to how outright bizarre parts of it get, but not worth actually playing. Go watch raocow’s LP instead.

Sophie no Atelier: Fushigi na Hon no Renkinjutsushi

Design: B
Story: D+
Music: A+
Overall: C++

Who would have thought it – Gust is still capable of designing a fun game. Sophie’s system is a well-oiled machine, with every mechanic acting in harmony to ensure that the player doesn’t even have a chance to put the game down. The relatively short length also works out in the game’s favor, since it means that there is a continuous stream of new content from the start until the very end. Mechanically, Sophie was easily the best game I played this year – which makes the terribly lackluster plot quite a disappointment. Although the writing (if you want to call it that) has courtesy to stay out of the way and never intrude on one’s enjoyment of the system itself, it is really a shame that Gust didn’t even try to write any sort of meaningful plot for Sophie; it could have been something truly great if only the writing acted as more of a driving force throughout. That said, maybe we don’t need a complex plot when Sophie has the best video game soundtrack in years; Gust’s sound team has been consistently operating at a higher level than the rest of the video game industry for the past few years, and Sophie is quite possibly their strongest effort yet. Every track is memorable and the music’s presence alone makes the game a joy to play. Sophie’s soundtrack is on par with the very best of what VGM has to offer; I would not hesitate to compare it to masterworks like Xenogears and Wild ARMs 3. Too bad there are no Hymmnos.

Evenicle (18+) – GOTY #1

Design: B
Story: B-
Music: C
Hanny Voices: A+
Overall: B

Do you remember playing JRPGs back in the era of the Famicom and Super Famicom? Back when they actually felt like an adventure instead of a series of menus and traversing the world map actually felt like some sort of fantastic voyage? Well, TADA does, and Evenicle is his take on that sort of experience in a modern context. I am confident in stating that Evenicle has the best world map of any JRPG ever made – exploring its every nook and cranny looking for offbeat landmarks and other various secrets (or just to see what the party has to say about various locales) is an experience like no other and really took me back to those halcyon days of my youth when I thought games like Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI were actually good. And despite the relative lack of difficulty throughout the game, the battle system does manage to provide a streamlined experience that never intrudes on one’s appreciation of the surprisingly developed world and genuine sense of adventure Evenicle presents. To be honest, the writing does stumble a bit in areas and I did find myself itching for some meatier fights here and there, but Evenicle is so successful in providing the player with a sense of “wonder” that I’m inclined to overlook its minor flaws. It helps that the ultimate story is actually pretty original and filled with Alicesoft’s trademark quirkiness. The cast of characters is also quite charming; I found myself rather attached to the party when all was said and done. Anyway, if you’ve been a fan of JRPGs for decades like I have, you really need to play this game. It’s as simple as that.

Rance 03: Leazas Kanraku (18+) – GOTY #2

Design: C
Story: B
Music: B
Voiced Kanami: A+
Gyokai’s Art: A+
Overall: B

Yeah, yeah, the battle system and dungeons aren’t really that hot. But honestly, who cares? This game is fucking awesome. Who would have thought that adding voices to Rance would work so well? I spent an entire weekend transfixed by this game and I regret absolutely fucking nothing, fuck all of you motherfuckers. Here’s a kawaii picture of Kanami by Gyokai because I don’t even give a fuck. Also it has the best Alicesoft soundtrack since Shade left and that’s pretty fucking cool holy fuck.

Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen – GOTY #3

Design: C+
Story: B
Music: C+
Kuon: A+
Nekone: A+
Fujikei: A+
Overall: B

Is Utaware 3 out yet???

Anime/Manga

Onward to the mediums I care about the least nowadays. There won’t be many entries here!

Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata (TV Anime): B

Accomplishes everything it sets out to do with a rare verve. Saekano is a franchise that simply exudes passion, and the anime adaptation is no different. Maruto put in the care necessary to faithfully translate the novels to the screen, and the result is an adaptation that perfectly complements its source material. If nothing else, Matsuoka’s performance as Tomoya is one for the history books.

Yurikuma Arashi: F

After a very promising start, Yurikuma descended into the depths of Ikuhara’s addled psyche and never returned. Though Ikuhara is clearly a visionary with a radical approach, that doesn’t mean much if he can’t express his ideas in the form of a coherent story. In the end, Yurikuma accomplished nothing but demonstrating Ikuhara’s ineptitude when it comes to storytelling, and I really had to force myself to sit through the last few episodes. Only recommended if you enjoy plots that consist solely of twists and cliffhangers, packed in with such density that the story itself loses all meaning.

Princess Tutu: C

A strong premise and some memorable sequences nevertheless fail to establish Princess Tutu as anything particularly meaningful. Two cours were unnecessary and the length weakens the narrative; were it a more focused show that didn’t feel the need to fall back on episodic developments and fairy tale/opera motifs so often, it might have been able to accomplish more with its characters, who ultimately come across as lacking any particularly strong motivations of their own – a detriment to a work ostensibly dedicated to exploring the personal turmoils and triumphs of fictional players. Princess Tutu is enjoyable to watch, sure – there’s a lot of genuine charm and spunk on display – but in the end I simply walked away feeling unsatisfied. If you’re interested in something that actually manages to follow through on a similar premise in a big way, I would highly recommend the eroge Dies irae. It does everything Princess Tutu wanted to do, and so much more.

Charlotte: X

Watching this show filled me with courage.

Alien Nine (Manga): B

Expressive artwork and composition combine with an intriguing セカイ系 worldview to create a narrative that is almost shockingly coherent given its superflat trappings, compressed storytelling, and high-level concepts. A perhaps surprisingly  “human” take on the idea of cohabitation with alien beings that has withstood the test of time more than I ever expected it to. You can buy the entire series in one package on Kindle for around 10 USD, so if you want something short to read (it’s only thirty chapters), you could do much worse.

Missile & Plancktone (volumes 1-2): SS

Written by Romeo.

Fushigi na Somera-chan (volumes 1-3): C+

Less consistent than I would like, but still quite funny when it’s on a roll. Chobo-sensei’s work is very divisive and I don’t expect most people to appreciate her sense of humor, but I’d say Somera-chan is worth a read if you’re already a fan of her stuff. It’s only three volumes at the moment, so like… why not?

Well, that’s all for this post. The second half of this will delve into eroge and LNs, so expect it to be both incredibly long and incredibly lazy! Hopefully I’ll be able to get it out within the next few days or so.

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Moogy’s Year End Extravaganza (かわいい) – Part 1

6 thoughts on “Moogy’s Year End Extravaganza (かわいい) – Part 1

  1. Ja says:

    Yeah, Tokyo Xanadu’s story was very disappointing. I at least hoped for some big twist at the end, not the cliched and obvious.

    Like

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