Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Summer 2015 schedule for Prisma☆Illya Season 3 confirmed!

A tweet from the official Prisma☆Illya Twitter page reveals that the next season of Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya, titled "2wei! Herz" (2wei, a play on the German word for 'two'; and Herz meaning 'Heart') is all set for Summer of 2015, and even better sporting an awesome new key visual on the website:

It roughly translates to "[Announcement!] Happy New Year! The 2015 summer broadcasting schedule for "Prisma Ilya Zwei Hertz!" is ready! I also put up a new visual to the official website! Thank you, and give lots more love to Illya this year! #prisma_illya"

The new key visual, sporting our beloved characters Chloe, Miyu and Illya on the beach

 In September of this year, the broadcast of the final episode of Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya 2wei! ended with an announcement that production on a sequel has been green-lit for next year. Hiroshi Hiroyama's original Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya manga re-imagines the Fate/stay night character Illyasviel von Einzbern in an alternate universe as a magical girl. A manga adaptation of Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya ran in Comp Ace (a monthly Japanese game and manga magazine) from 2007 to 2008. Hiroyama then launched several sequel manga series. I loved the other two seasons, so I'm really hyped up for this. I've grown a special place for Illya and Magical Ruby in my heart, and it's nice to know that she's not going anywhere anytime soon.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

More Fate/stay night for 2015? Yes, please.

With Fate/stay night's 12th episode airing last week came the 30 second preview for the series' 2nd season.

If you ask me though, 30 seconds is just enough to get this hype train started. It has everything from Lancer and Archer's showdown, to Saber in a wedding dress (wink wink), and even Illya drenched in blood (wink wink WINK). The awesome factor is pushed to 10 when the visage of Unlimited Blade Works towers over Archer. Hopefully he'll get the screen time he deserves, lol

And don't forget, an animated film of Heaven's Feel is right on it's heels. Here's hoping it'll get the Kara no Kyoukai treatment and get multiple installments.

Prepare to never look at worms the same way again.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Melty Blood

The year is 2009. I had my first taste of Type-Moon with Studio Deen's anime adaptation of Fate/stay night. While it was far from perfect, it had me intrigued. The characters were awesome and I found myself wanting more. At this point in my life, everytime I watched an anime that interested me, I always tried finding the manga to expand that universe while it was fresh in my mind. What spawned was my undying love for everything Type-Moon. After hoarding many figures, soundtracks and visual novels, it was only natural that I would learn about doujin games (the Japanese equivalent of independent video games). And this, my friends, is how I happened across the awesomeness that is Melty Blood.

Developed and published by Type-Moon and French Bread (another Japanese game developer), Melty Blood was released on December 30, 2002 for the Windows PC. Taking place a year after the events in Tsukihime, a new series of vampire-like murders is happening in Misaki Town. Tohno Shiki takes it upon himself to search for this murderer and chances upon Sion Eltnam Atlasia, an alchemist of the Mage's Association who fights and attempts to capture him. After learning that Sion wants to lure out the "True Ancestor" so that she can obtain a cure for vampirism, Shiki decides to help her. Of course, this is a fighting game, so depending on who you’re playing as, the story takes different twists and turns, taking on a visual novel feel in between matches.

A Tsukihime fighting game. Go nuts.
That's right, this game is a fighting game. With a visual novel twist. And Type-Moon does it very well. Melty Blood uses the 4-button fighting style reminiscent of Neo Geo fighters (3 attacks buttons of varying strength/speed, and a “Shielding” button), and the the fighting is extremely fast-paced. It makes use of other conventional fighting game concepts and mechanics such as quarter-circle specials, super jumps, throws, dashing and chain combos, while throwing new twists in there to keep things fresh. Shielding, one of your four attack buttons, is comparable to Street Fighter’s Parrying or Slash Backs in Guilty Gear, is used to block and counter an opponent’s attack. Using the Magic Circuit (Melty Blood’s Power Bar), you can unleash EX Attacks ala Street Fighter, and activate Heat and/or Blood Heat mode. While in this state, your character’s health recovers slightly and gains access to more powerful moves.

Sadly, the graphics seem to be the worst part of the game. The 2D sprites are recognizable, but don’t hold up too well, unlike other doujin and doujin-like fighters that were released at the time (Guilty Gear XX Accent Core, Arcana Heart). Some of the backgrounds are stiff portraits, but the scaling, shadows and other effects thankfully bring them to life. On the flip side, deep blues and bloody reds perform an excellent job of creating a dark creepy atmosphere. The animations are smooth and special attacks are beautiful as they draw a great amount of 3D effects. While the graphics aren't horrible, It’s sometimes strange to see jaw-dropping and flashy attacks come from the pixellated characters.

Those pixels just throw me off sometimes.
Melty Blood has a damn good soundtrack, as expected of Raito Kate and James Harris, among others. The intriguing mixture of pop rock-esque sounds with the ambiance of the soul is a delight to the ears. Electric guitars and organs mix well to build a menacing atmosphere. You even get some Thrash Metal. The music is clearly the star here. Go get the soundtrack, NOW.

The voice acting, though in Japanese, is typical of these types of fighters, and is done pretty well, especially during the visual novel segments. One thing that is more than welcome is the pre- and post-fight banter some characters share with one another. One gripe that I have is that during fights some sounds just seem off, like some of Shiki's slashing moves. I don't know, they just seem a little off to me.

Still haven't gotten that soundtrack yet? You're missing out.

Melty Blood has several iterations and/or expansions as well, re-balancing the game while adding more characters and such. Re-ACT, released in May of 2004, expands on the original story and adds new characters. In March of 2005, Ecole Software released an arcade version of Melty Blood, Act Cadenza which added even more characters, new gameplay mechanics, and brand new graphics. With July 2005's Re-ACT expansion, Final Tuned, the game was updated even further, and adds several features to allow the game to be configured to resemble the gameplay of the Arcade-only Act Cadenza. Act Cadenza was later ported to the Playstation 2 in July of 2006, and was updated and released on the PC the next year as Act Cadenza Ver.B, replacing Re-ACT Final Tuned as the latest installment of the Melty Blood franchise.

But in May of 2008, Actress Again was released in Japanese arcades. The first game of the series that can be considered a sequel, events in this game take place after the aforementioned expansions, and the game has been dramatically updated. Music has been rearranged, stages are larger, and even a Guard Meter has been implemented. Each character now has three selectable fighting styles designated by a phase of the moon: Crescent, Half and Full. The Moon Styles are like Isms in Street Fighter Alpha 3 or Grooves in Capcom vs. SNK 2, but with a lot more depth. Aside from changing the mechanics a bit, the different moons will often change their moveset and sometimes even alter their movement options. Some characters are completely different, essentially making every opponent you face different. Of course, new characters have been added as well. This was ported to the PS2 in August of 2009, adding new characters and a Boss Rush mode. Finally on December 31, 2011, Actress Again was updated and released onto the PC as Melty Blood: Actress Again Current Code (whew, that's a mouthful). This version added even more gameplay tweaks, characters, etc. This was also one of the three versions I've played for this review (the other two being Re-ACT and Act Cadenza Ver.B).

Actress Again: Current Code - the latest cherry on the Melty Blood pie.
Since Melty Blood does have visual novel elements to it, you might want to play with everyone to see their involvement in the game’s overall story. Depending on which version you play, you can unlock more characters as well. Like all fighting games, the best way to play is with someone else, at least for me anyways. Luckily there’s a Training Mode, so if your skills aren't up to par, you can always brush up on your skills. And you’re going to need those skills when facing up against opponents on harder difficulties, even though the AI may come off a little cheap at times.

Veterans of doujin fighters like Blazblue and Guilty Gear will feel right at home, while Melty Blood might not be for those solely hooked on Tekken and Street Fighter. Myself, I’m a casual fighting game player, and find Melty Blood more than addictive for its fan service alone. I will admit that if you're not a fan of Tsukihime and/or you’re playing alone it can get boring fast, but most fighting games I've played that are based off anime/manga/visual novels are like this. The game is pretty beginner friendly, though button mashers will definitely have a hard time in later levels in Arcade Mode. If you can't decide which version to start with, if any, I suggest Act Cadenza. It includes the story from the older versions, and all of the updates. Actress Again, being the sequel, might throw people new to the series off, but if you can't read Kanji (or get translations), that shouldn't be too much of a problem. I say definitely get the PS2 versions, though you're going to need a Japanese PS2. You can't NOT play this with a joystick (and the extra modes are pretty sweet, too). Oh, and get the soundtrack!

Oh and before I forget, Kirishima Takeru wrote a couple of Melty Blood manga series, all of which are done well, despite being so short.

Might have to do a review on this one. The art is amazing.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Saber to appear in upcoming Nitro+ fighter

With all the announcements of upcoming fighters Tekken 7 and Street Fighter V - what about the doujin fighters? Surely they don't expect me to be satisfied with Person 4 Ultimax and Guilty Gear Xrd? Well, did.

Anyways, this week's Famitsu revealed that game developer Examu (Arcana Heart, AquaPazza: Aquaplus Dream Match) is working on a new fighting game starring the heroines of Nitro+ ( a Japanese visual novel computer software company), and joining the roster is none other than Fate's Saber!

Titled Nitro+ Blasters: HEROINE INFINITE DUEL, other characters include Ein from Phantom of Inferno, Dragon from Dra+KoI, Mora from Vampirdzhija Vjedogonia, Natsumi Aibara from "Hello, world.", Sansei Muramasa from Soukou Akki Muramasa, Spica from Sumaga, Aino Heart from the Arcana Heart series and even Super Sonico, the mascot of Nitroplus’ annual music festival, makes her official fighting debut! SUPER-FREAKING-SONICO!
Looks like aerial combat is going to be awesome.

The game seems to have a support character system in which the partner protects and/or attacks alongside the main fighter. Looks like you can choose up to two.

I can definitely see Nico as a grappler-type fighter.

Looks like it's the same Saber from Fate/Zero, but we'll see.
A Japanese arcade release is slated for 2015. As a Nitro+ fan, here's hoping it'll come stateside! I also want to see characters from their previous Nitro+ fighter, Nitro Royale: Heroine's Duel. Saya, anyone?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Fate/stay night (Visual Novel)

This is it. The review I've been waiting for. 

I wanted Fate/stay night to be my first review, but I figured I'd go the Tsukihime route, as that's the visual novel that started my love of the Nasuverse and Type-Moon as a whole. But now after revisiting it recently, I decided to give it a go. If you're here, you probably know a lot about Fate/stay night, so anything I say here won't be new to you, other than my experiences and opinions. I'll try not to get all fangirlish (this is my favorite Visual Novel, after all).

Fate/stay night is a Japanese eroge (or erotic game) visual novel developed and published by Type-Moon and released on January 30, 2004. It takes place after the events of Tsukihime in the far off Fuyuki City. For two centuries, a secret and violent battle takes place here. Seven Magi are gathered to fight to the death with the legendary Holy Grail as the prize. To help each Magus in this battle, better known as a Master, the Holy Grail bestows them with the power of one of seven familiars known as Servants. A Servant can be summoned in each war from one of seven classes: Saber - The Knight of the Sword, Archer - Knight of the Bow, Lancer - Knight of the Lance, Berserker - The Mad Warrior, Rider - The Mounted Knight, Assassin - The Stealth Killer, and Caster - The Magus. This "Holy Grail War" has gone on for centuries, and our protagonist, Shirou Emiya, is caught in center of this bloody battle after he summons the seventh Servant - Saber. Nasu does an amazing of creating and maintaining this world, as I found myself rooting for characters and staring open mouthed at some of the more intense scenes.

"Are you my Master?" Shirou summons Saber in one of the most recognized scenes of Fate.
Like most visual novels, you are given choices at key points. Depending on the decisions you make, your take the story in a different direction, or in some cases - die. That's right, certain decisions result in a "Bad End", so it's suggested to save often (luckily there are more than enough save slots). Even if you do get a Bad End, you'll be sent to one of my favorite parts (and the most comedic) - Tiger Dojo. Hosted by two of the characters, Fujimura Taiga and Illyasviel von Einzbern, they break the fourth wall to explain what you did wrong - hilarity ensues. Speaking of routes, Fate/Stay night splits the story into three major routes - Fate, Unlimited Blade Works, and Heaven's Feel. Each of these routes has a plot that focuses on Shirou's relationship with each of the heroines in the story. As a result, you're going to need to play multiple times to see them all. Fate focuses on the Servant Saber; Unlimited Blade Works focuses on Tohsaka Rin, a classmate of Shirou's and the Master of Archer; and Finally, Heaven's Feel focuses on Matou Sakura (my favorite if you haven't noticed). Of course since this is an eroge, there are a couple of sex scenes. So there's your heads up - NSFW. Overall, they're not bad - the writing is good, but they feel kind of tacked on (with Heaven's Feel being the exception).

The three heroines (From left to right: Rin, Saber and Sakura)
The visual and audio aspects of this game is one of best I've seen and heard. The art style isn't bad, with plenty of facial expressions for each character and plenty of backgrounds. The little things are what make me appreciate Fate/stay night. The animations are awesome, especially during the action scenes, which are perfect on their own. The music is breathtaking - I'm definitely listening to it as I write this. Tainaka Sachi, Kawai Kenji, and Jyukai put in a lot of work to make this as good as it is, and I can't praise them enough. The wide array sounds just meld so perfectly. Though one of my favorite graphical choices is the Servant character sheets (in addition to the already extensive encyclopedia). There's an option to view the info of all the Servants Shirou has encountered so far. The best part is that the more info you learn about them, the more complete these character sheets become - adding another facet to the experience. And did I mention that LOVE Tiger Dojo?

One of the in-game character sheets.
On January 6, 2006, Studio Deen animated an anime adaptation of Fate/stay night. This primarily focused on the Fate route, but had several elements from the other routes. Studio Deen also adapted the Unlimited Blade Works route into a movie , released in theaters on January 23, 2010. While I love the music from both adaptations, everything else is a watered down, convoluted mess. I think visual novels have forever spoiled me. That's all I'll say about the anime versions for now (wink wink).

On April 19, 2007, Fate/stay night was re-released on the Playstation 2. Known as Fate/stay night Réalta Nua, this version provided voice acting but removed the sex scenes, earning it a 15+ rating. It also provided the true ending to the Fate route. The theme song, Ougon no Kagayaki, was performed by Number 201 feat. MAKI, and I love it (shown below). This version was ported back to the PC in 2011. A PlayStation Vita port of Réalta Nua released in Japan on November 29, 2012 which received new opening themes.

Overall, Fate/stay night is one the best visual novels (if not the best) I've ever had the pleasure of experience of playing. My only gripes is that some of the sex scenes outside of Heaven's Feel seemed out of place, but nothing really game-breaking for me. Fate/stay night isn't one of the best eroge I've ever read - it's much more than an eroge. It's much more than a visual novel. I laughed while reading this, I've even cried. I've grown to love these characters and hated to see the story end. I can't recommend this one enough. I've revisited this world to get a fresh take for this review, and I'd gladly do so again - if I weren't too busy with the sequel.

More Info: Fate/stay night on the Visual Novel Database