Video Game Review – Gigantic Army (Version Reviewed: PC)

Gigantic Army is marketed as a return to the side-scrolling mech game popularised by Assault Suits Valken and Front Mission Gun Hazard on the SNES; functionally a 2D platformer, the emphasis is far more strongly on combat (evoking something like Contra or Metal Slug) but with a more ponderous, weighty physics engine. This sense of nostalgia shines through in advertising – which uses a mockup SNES game box and logo – and in the game’s use of achievements (names of which are a series of puns on other mech-game classics) and even the pared-back cutscenes of moving stills and scrolling text. Whereas a game like La-Mulana takes the mechanics and design ethos of retro games and builds on them into something new and ambitious, Gigantic Army is slavish in its use of past game design. Entire level concepts are lifted from the games which inspire it – given an original spin aesthetically, and designed around its core mechanical changes from the formula, but nevertheless there is a significant familiarity to it that is both a virtue and a reason for criticism.

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Thoughts on ZZ Gundam

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ZZ Gundam is the third part of the trilogy of Gundam television series that form the core of the Universal Century timeline – each follows chronologically on from the next and, through different pervading dramatic tones used in each entry, the trilogy has a strong sense of character progression among those characters which recur. ZZ is sometimes criticised for being too light-hearted and inconsistent with previous works – it marks a significant departure from the often cynical seriousness of Zeta Gundam and at the same time is a very different kind of light-hearted story to the surreal, resolutely 1970s animé, Mobile Suit Gundam. It is at first far more reliant on simple physical humour – clumsiness, visual jokes and general slapstick scenes – than most Gundam animé, far more visually a cartoon in its use of the animation medium to go from exaggerated visuals to detailed sci-fi stills.

Note: The subsequent article will contain some plot details for Zeta Gundam

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Episode 14 of Rahxephon – Ayato vs Elvy

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The emphasis of episode 14 of Rahxephon is – despite its opening with more cryptic conversations between Haruka and Futagami – almost entirely on the arrival of the prototype of a mass-production super robot, bringing together two sets of expectations. In mecha animé the prototype is generally the ace unit, and the new Vermilion unit lives up to this cliché with its red colouration and the fact it is piloted by Elvy, a character shown to be the most capable of the TERRA support pilots. Yet Rahxephon, being a super-robot animé, has its own set of cliches surrounding the arrival of a human-made robot – the viewer will likely expect it to be doomed to fail simply because it is piloted by a side-character.

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Video Game Preview – Dark Souls 2 (Version Tested: PS3)

The best way to experience Dark Souls 2 is to play it from scratch, completely blind to what is coming in terms of level design and challenges; for this reason, this preview will comprise two clearly defined sections. The first will focus on those details which do not relate to exact game events, instead highlighting those mechanical changes that set it apart from its predecessor. The second will be a series of reflections on the gameplay experienced during the three-hour preview session I was a part of, going into more detail about the exact progression of levels and aesthetic.

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Video Game Preview – Evolve (Version Tested: PC)

Evolve feels, at first, like an arena-based mixture of Left 4 Dead and Borderlands with aspects of older multiplayer shooters; asymmetrical multiplayer, with light, low-gravity physics thanks to jetpack movement and an emphasis on characterful classes with names and unique aesthetics. It even shares, apparently, some of the knowingness of Borderlands; the characters are exaggerated in looks and have the same junkyard, redneck look of industry-meets-war, albeit made more serious – the end result evocative of Unreal Tournament more than anything. Yet the overall aesthetic is a little bland; the map provided in the preview build was a quite generic industrial complex in a jungle of strange creatures. “Neat”, smooth-panelled, run-down and abandoned equipment placed Avatar style in a hostile environment is a very standard aesthetic for shooters; Unreal Tournament 2004 made extensive use of it, for example, while similar complexes populate Warframe, Dust 514 and so on.

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Words and Deeds – Dewey vs Holland in Episode 35 of Eureka Seven

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There is more action in the first half of episode 35 of Eureka Seven than there has been in much of the series previously; it is an episode about acting, about taking responsibility for what must be done and doing it. Holland claims the Gekkostate’s mantra is “do it yourself or you won’t get anything,” while Dewey claims that “the only thing I ever wanted was to win, using my own words as a human being.” So much of the series has been about people trying to avoid action, or refusing to accept what must be done – on all sides – but now there has been a sea-change. Dewey’s actions have motivated all the characters to act, because there is now a quantifiable, known threat. If anything this vindicates Renton; all along his resistance to acting has been whenever he has felt he does not know why he should act, and his impetuous actions have come from what he perceives as a proper understanding of a situation. Dewey’s wanton slaughter, and his realisation of his feelings for Eureka, have given him the reason he needs.

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Brief Thoughts on the Comedy of “Tonari no Seki-kun”

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Tonari no Seki-kun, or Master of Killing Time, is a series of short sketches based around a simple joke – an ingenious student devises ridiculous ways of entertaining himself in lessons while managing to avoid ever attracting the attention of the teacher. Five episodes in, it has managed to quite avoid becoming repetitive by making its protagonist unpredictable – it has become an absurd comedy that exaggerates what could be a simple premise not through a simple escalation of scale into parody, but through wrong-footing the viewer and engaging far more with the viewpoint character, Seki’s studious classmate Yokoi.

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The Language of “Real Robot” Combat

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“Real robot” mecha animé is a sub-genre usually considered the effective opposite of “super-robot” stories. The usual definition is based around a distinction in tone and theme – stories based on superhero traditions and those based more on military fiction – and can provide a guideline for recommending series similar to each other, but beyond that is a limited definition. Nevertheless, when considered as a way of differentiating series by specific aspects – not as an absolute binary scale with the possibility for a series to be entirely one or the other but instead as a more granular thing which shows the variety possible within the wider genre (for mecha is ultimately a subgenre of science-fiction, and although some series may contain robots or powered armour, the focus is on some other aspect of the setting), it has some value.

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“Don’t Lose Your Way” – Kill la Kill’s Intentional Lack of Engagement

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Don’t Lose Your Way

Your Mind

We Have to Be As One

I gotta find out who killed my dad

I hear the voice of him in my mind…

The lyrics to the chorus of Before My Body is Dry, what is arguably the “action theme” of Kill la Kill, set the song up as a dialogue between the two principal characters, heroine Ryuko and her sentient suit of armour Senketsu. It is an unsubtle restatement of the series’ chaotic plot – for all the mayhem of armed invasions, ridiculous villains and fighting-tournaments, Satsuki Kiryuin and her family remain the series’ villains. Every incidental episode – from the ridiculous deathtrap-filled race to school to Satsuki’s plan to make Ryuko and Mako turn on each other via luxury and fulfilled wishes, is played out as a villain suddenly aware they might lose playing for time and trying to distract or slow down their enemy.

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Video Game Review – Hoplite (Version Reviewed: iOS)

Hoplite is a puzzle-RPG in the vein of 2013′s hugely renowned 868-Hack, mixing board game like fixed piece movements with roguelike-esque survival dungeon crawling. Much like Hack the aim is for the player to complete a certain number of floors of puzzles, all the while collecting abilities to allow them to better challenge the enemies. However, the emphasis is more on clearing floors efficiently than survival; enemies do not respawn, but instead are deployed in fixed numbers and known positions.

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