QuickRecs

Apologies for the delay on the next Fate post; I had an oddly busy weekend. It’ll be here soon. God help us.

For now, here’s some things I enjoyed recently but don’t have enough time/thoughts to do a full writeup on.

Chrono Trigger
Super NES jRPG
I’d
never played this game as a kid because I was incredibly turned off by
the Dragonball-style art and assumed it was mindless shonen. I never
played it as an adult because people talk about Earthbound in the same
way and God above does that game suck. But my assumptions bit me in the
ass, because this is a great, multifaceted game that still holds up
today. It’s an engrossing story with fun gameplay. It was one of the
first RPGs to feature multiple endings and a litany of sidequests that
affected them, and it still feels fresh. I really loved it. The cast
tilts male but is surprisingly varied, proving that we have made
literally zero progress in 20 years.

As a warning,
the sequel/spiritual successor Chrono Cross was a disaster of epic
proportions. DO NOT MAKE THE SAME MISTAKE I DID. There are like 40 hours
of my life I will never get back.

Puella Magi Oriko Magica
Manga
Not
without its issues, including “meh” art and some questionable
storytelling decisions, this is still an interesting and quality
addition to the Madoka canon. It takes place in one of the doomed
timelines and focuses on a girl with the power of foresight who sees the
horrible witch Madoka is destined to become. It’s a quick read, but an engrossing one.

Rune Factory 4
3DS jRPG
I love this series, which is a spinoff of Harvest Moon (a franchise I’m tirelessly devoted to).
It’s light on plot but I love the gameplay, and the game is absolutely
enormous in the best possibly way. If you like Harvest Moon and you like
jRPGs, you’ll like this. The best story in the series goes to Rune Factory 3, which I also highly, highly recommend (though it does present some interesting… logistical questions). The most recent Wii game, Tides of Destiny, was decidedly mediocre.

Ni no Kuni
PS3 jRPG
This is “Studio Ghibli: The Game.” It’s not groundbreaking, but it’s
cute, clever, fun escapsim with some interestingly unique gameplay and a
fresh fairytale story mercifully devoid of the obnoxious sexism that
plagues jRPGs made for teen-to-adult audiences. Contains all the
sidequests and monster-raising a jRPG should. It’s one of those games
that reminds you why video games are fun.

Attack on Titan
Anime
Totally
worth the hype. I liked the anime much better than the comic, as I felt
it was better-paced and explained the setting better and, perhaps most
of all, the art was thousands of times better in the anime (I really
loved it). Does shockingly well with female characters. Mikasa Ackermann
is one of the best I’ve found in a long time.The sub of the first 25 or
so episodes is on Netflix right now, so go watch it!

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind
Movie
This
was one of the most feminist anime movies I’ve ever seen. Then again, that’s
what you’d expect from Miyazaki. It’s also one of those movies that when
the credits roll, all you can do it sit there and think, “…wow.” If
you’re downloading it, be sure you get the 2005 Disney re-dub and NOT
the original dub, which was an epic disaster. I recommend the dub over
the sub because it makes it easier to look at the art, which is amazing.

17 Comments

  1. Septentrion Euchoreutes says:
    Puella Magi Oriko Magica is something I’ve almost forgot about. I was a bit annoy the the little healing girl. She just seemed to generic with her healing powers and quite unimportant. I did like the rest of it.
    1
    1. actonthat says:
      It did have some problems, but overall I thought the story was really engrossing and it worked well as a “what if” scenario.
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  2. Wright of Void says:
    I never played it as an adult because people talk about Earthbound in the same way and God above does that game suck.

    Oh dear gods yes. I thought I was the only one. Everyone sings its praises to high heaven and I have no idea why. It’s got some interesting ideas but they’re poorly executed and not enough to carry a full-length RPG. I guess it was a “you had to be there” sort of deal; with the prevalence of non-fantasy RPGs nowadays, the novelty is nonexistent.

    Chrono Trigger is still great though.

    (Have you tried UnderTale? It’s basically everything Earthbound should have been.)

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    1. actonthat says:
      Earthbound was so awful. I just kept waiting for it to get good and waiting for there to be “witty” jokes, and then it ended. I think it’s hivemind + nostalgiavision that’s responsible for its praises, because you will be zergswarmed by enraged fanboys if you suggest it a mess of cliche nonsense and bad localization.

      (And no! But my to-do queue for books and games is so long right now…)

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      1. Guest says:
        I found Mother 3 (the third in the series, but never published in America) to be far more enjoyable than its predecessors. It suffered from some of the storyline issues that the Earthbound series tends to have, but I thought it pulled off its plot a lot better than the other games in the series did. Perhaps that’s the one people talk about so much?

        I personally had issues with how Mikasa didn’t have any sort of motivation beyond “protect/serve/assist Eren,” especially later in the series/during the female Titan arc, but apparently I’m one of the few.

        1
        1. Joe says:
          At least it isn’t glorified. Both her ridiculous talent and her weird Eren obsession come from the same place, and the obsession is to her as being a weakling is to Armin and a stupid shit is to Eren.

          Also, she isn’t sexualised and for now I can pretend she loves Eren platonically. That’s more than I expect and much, much better than the state of affairs in Muv-Luv, which is AoT with aliens instead of giants and mecha instead of spiderman.

          If Muv Luv Alternative wasn’t so long, boring, and blatantly sexist I would recommend it just for Yuuko. She’s the smartest character in the setting, routinely plays god and wins, constantly manipulates everyone including herself, and is always objectively right despite our protagonist’s Shirou-like bleatings to the contrary. By the end of the game she’s the unquestioned savior of humanity and you never rise above the station of her best pawn.

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          1. actonthat says:
            I am hoping with everything in me that Eren and Mikasa’s relationship stays platonic, although I know it’s a pretty slim chance. Right now, her obsession is familial and of not wanting to lose more of her family, which is really understandable and also portrayed as a bit unhealthy, as you said. Turning it into a romance changes the entire dynamic into something pretty bad. Also, it flies in the face of the Westermark Effect.
            1
  3. Ember says:
    I love Rune Factory! I’ve played two, three, and four. Two had a nice big world to explore, but the characters were a little underwhelming. I liked three a lot better even though the dungeons kind of sucked, because I was a lot more invested in the characters (espcially my birdwife, who I got really attached to). Four is the best of both world, and therefore my favorite. I put it down a while back, before finishing the third plotline… I’m really going to have to pick it up again at some point!

    How far along in it are you? Who’s your favorite bachelor/bachelorette? Surprising absolutely no one, mine is Forte.

    1
    1. actonthat says:
      My favorite thing about 4 is just how amazingly big it is without ever being tedious or uninteresting. The dungeons are fun and challenging from one end to the other, and a lot of care was put into each NPC’s side stories.

      I beat the game, but never finished up the post-story dungeons (if I recall, I got Animal Crossing 3DS right after). I married Doug! If I did another playthrough as Lest (so tempting), I think I’d pick Dolce.

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  4. Wright of Void says:
    I’m sorry this is four months late, but I recently read an analytical LP of Chrono Trigger so I have to ask: What did you think of Zeal? Everyone and their dog seems to hype it as the best and most important part of the game, so I’m curious what your reaction to it was. And I suppose a secondary question is what convinced you to soldier through the art style, since that seems to be an understandable sticking point with a lot of people.

    (And Chrono Cross was indeed disappointing. It had some interesting ideas but floundered at executing all of them. I did like this analytical essay on the game, though.)

    1. actonthat says:
      I mean, it was a place? The idea of a utopia whose lust for power/knowledge/whatever brings about its downfall is an really old cliche, so there was nothing about it that was particularly interesting narratively, but it fit well into the story and was home to some great characters. I like the art of it; it was a really cool style and palette.

      I’m not sure I would call it the most important part of the game. I mean, in what way? The ultimate antagonist lives there, I guess, but its role in the story is just as pivotal as the past, present, and the apocalyptic future. It is the setting where a lot of plot threads converge, but in that it’s arbitrary– the revelations aren’t reliant on them being found there, they just happen there logically.

      Personally, I think the battle with Janus in the past was my favorite part.

      As for why I actually ended up playing it, I was really bored and wanted to play a jRPG and got tired of seeing people rec it. In-game the only place the art style comes up is in character screens, so it didn’t really matter– there wasn’t enough room for detail on the overworld. And even so, it’s not so much that I dislike the style as I assumed it meant the game itself would be similar in tone and structure to DB/Z, so once it became clear it was really something entirely its own that didn’t matter anymore.

    2. actonthat says:
      RE: That article, it was interesting. I agree with the complaints he makes and thought his final reflection of the storytelling failures was really solid, but the parts where talks about how the flaws most people see are not actually bad things and the game is ~philosophical~? WTF. No, making a story “darker” does not make it better. No, complexity is not automatically a sign of depth. The ending wasn’t “disorienting” because it was “uncanny,” it was because it’s nonsense. The game was nonsense, and not for any reason, it just sucked. It wasn’t some kind of deep attempt at a philosophical opus that was thwarted by the evil, evil game designers, it was shitty, cliche writing and game design from top to bottom, and the quotes he provides show that the team knew it.

      I think a lot of his praise is out of a desire for it to be better than it was, and for there to be a real reason it was so bad. He even kind of admits this.

      He also really doesn’t understand what a MacGuffin is. Like, his attempt at discussing it was cringeworthy.

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      1. Wright of Void says:
        it was shitty, cliche writing and game design from top to bottom

        Hm? In what way? Admittedly my memory’s a bit fuzzy, but I thought it did have some interesting ideas – the concept of heroic actions having unintended consequences is one that could have gone places (though it did go way, way overboard), and I thought the body swap idea would have been really neat if it had been pulled off properly. I think it is pretty clear it was shooting for a more philosophical story, even if the writing had issues.

        (Definitely true on the game design front, though.)

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        1. actonthat says:
          I agree with the article that most of the best ideas were in the first hour or so of gameplay; swapping between universes, the mystery of who Kid was and how Serge died, etc.

          After that… it was just pseudo-philosophy any college kid could come up with. “Are humans actually evil???” isn’t exactly a new idea for scifi to explore, and this didn’t really even bother to take it somewhere interesting, or anywhere at all.

          To me, the philosophy felt pasted on like a band-aid meant to give the illusion of a deeper story, not like the markings of a deeper story that got messed up in the dev process.

          I actually thought the most innovative thing was the battle system. I’d never seen anything like it, and the “run away at any time” mechanic was particularly interesting, because why not? If you were forced to stay in and die, you’d just reload right before the boss anyway. Why not give you the option to heal and try again? I also thought the idea of swapping unique characters instead of attacks was really intersting.

          In a game that married story and gameplay better, I actually think it could have worked.

          1
  5. Guest says:
    Out of curiosity, what did you think were the questionable storytelling decisions in Oriko Magica?

    By the way, have you read any of the other Oriko installments? There’s already a few out, with one called “Noisy Citrine” fully scanlated, “Symmetry Diamond” partially, and both those ones and an extra short, “The Last Agate”, are getting an official translation in “Extra Story”, which to be released in March this year. There’s another one, “Sadness Prayer”, going on, but has no scanlations yet.

    What of the other Madoka spin-offs? There’s Kazumi, the Different Story, and a scanlation of volume one of Suzune out there.

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    1. actonthat says:
      To be completely honest… I don’t remember. I’m sorry! I almost certainly had specific things in mind when I wrote this and it’s just gone from my brain-archives. I’ll find a summary of it and see if I can jog my memory.

      I’ve read Different Story, which was interesting but perhaps not worth the $40 outside of my magpie tendencies. Kazumi’s cover art immedaite triggered a massive NOPE attack that was upheld by negative feedback from a friend here who’d read it, and it just does not appeal to me at all.

      I haven’t read any of the EU Oriko stuff, as I tend to not read comics online. If they ever come out for real I’ll def check them out, but I’m a complete curmudgeon when it comes to consuming media online. Reading, comics, games, if it can be done off a PC I refuse to do it on one. I have no logical reasoning; I think people here have just gotten used to it.

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  6. Doortothe says:
    Ah Chrono Trigger. I too was surprised at how well the game held up despite the over hype. Characters were interesting, plot took advantage of the premise to take us through a variety of places and meet a wide variety of people and party members (I mean seriously a frog, cavegirl, and a robot all in one party? That’s weird and varied even by today’s standards). And perhaps best of all, it is living proof that you can have a story with time travel and not be overly-convoluted and full of plot holes. Dear god am I tired of people assuming that time travel = overly convoluted with plot holes and paradoxes.

    And then Chrono Cross happened. It starts off really promosing, with an interesting combat system and a multiverse mechanic to replace the time travel mechanic from last game. Before Chronopolis I was thinking “I’d like a sequel just for the gameplay alone! It is so interesting and has a lot of room for growth”. Then I got to Chronopolis and I realized why the director doesn’t want to make a sequel: the plot of Chrono Cross is a nonsensical, convoluted piece of shit.

    I have never seen a writer take a dump on his own work like this before. It almost looks like intentional sabotage. I mean the game brings back Robo from Trigger for literally one unimportant line and kills him off with no ceremony. For me, the only explanation must be intentional sabotage but I’d love to hear what other people think.

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