Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Coffee Break: Final Fantasy XIV.

Taking a break from the ol' anime watching this post will focus on the upcoming Final Fantasy XIV, let's start the coffee break.

Final Fantasy XIV is the up and coming MMORPG from Square Enix. Fans of the series may have already played it's earlier online brother, Final Fantasy XI. Like XI, XIV places the player in the role of one of five familiar but new races in lands of Eorzea.

Hyur: The human race of Eorzea, presumably similar to it's XI counterpart (The Hume) in that this race will be a jack of all trades.

Elezen: Elves of the land, akin to that of XI's Elvaan. Long and nimble, the Elezen will excel at ranged and hand to hand combat, based on the clan chosen.

Lalafell:  Assuming they are the reincarnation of FFXI's Tarutaru, these mighty-midgets will be the intellectuals of the land, showing a great affinity for magic.

Roegadyn: Brutes in size, these muscle-men are the XIV adaptation of XI's Galka. If you want the bruiser, this is the race for you.

Miqo’te: Cat girls. That's right, like FFXI's Mithra, XIV will have playable  cat girls. As you might imagine, these feminine felines will likely be agile and dexterous, boasting skills to match.

 [Crafting in XIV]
Like any good MMORPG choices must be given to the player to better immerse them into the world. As far as beta has shown us, FFXIV looks to deliver. No more will crafting be seen as merely a "thing to do" or "the money maker". While these are still true statements, XIV raises the bar in that each crafter will be it's own class with abilities, gears and levels.

[Combat in XIV] 
In Final Fantasy XI, combat was somewhat a game of chess. You would lock on to your target, use abilities and your opponent would do the same. Of course there was gear to speed attacks, do more damage and the like, however it never had the free roam feel of say, World Of Warcraft. Though I loved FFXI, FFXIV again sets it's sights on the horizon with a battle system to blow it's previous work away.

Combat in FFXIV is based upon three factors. A stamina bar, MP (Magic Points) and TP (Tactical Points. Allowing for special moves above that of a regular ability). The stamina bar will refill continually, forever, until full. Moves cost a certain amount of stamina and possibly mp to execute. Upon successful attacks you will gain TP, which you can "spend" on special attacks. (Like a spinning piledriver. FOR MOTHER RUSSIA, just kiddin) These elements make XIV feel fast, fluid and best of all, a mix between fresh and familiar for XI players.

[Quests in XIV]
Quests? Everybody loves a good objective to lesson up on pure, mindless grinding to level cap and XIV is here to answer give us just that. XIV is introducing their version of a quest system dubbed: "Guildleves". These "leves"(quests) are given out to the player through various npc driven guilds and factions with differing objectives and goals. The dev team at Square Enix has hinted that the guildleve system will be extremely important to those that wish to participate in endgame raiding.

[So, when is it out, where can I learn more?]
Final Fantasy XIV will go into Open Beta within a mere few days, and will launch at two seperate times. The collector's edition will release with the usual goodies plus launch 8 days early prior to the standard.

CE: Sept. 22, 2010

SE: Sept. 30, 2010.

You can find additional information (I didnt even scratch the surface!) at the official site: FinalFantasyXIV.com.
Or you can head on over to fansites such as FFXIVCore.com

I know I, for one, cannot wait to explore Eorzea.


Monday, August 30, 2010

Hajime No Ippo.

Another "fighting" review folks, here we go.

I'll start this out by saying bluntly that Hajime no Ippo is, without a doubt, top knotch in a genre filled with countless "brawlers"

 Hajime No Ippo begins in a way akin to "Kenichi: History's Strongest Diciple" in that at the beginning "Ippo", who is our main character, is a wimp, bullied and outright mentally weak. However, unlike Kenichi, Ippo actually has vast untapped potential in that his physical strength is absurd. This is made clear through the story as we come to find that since a child he, after the loss of his father, was forced to help his mother run the family business of running a fishing boat. As you might guess, running a business such as that requires a hefty amount of physical exercise such as lifting ice chests full of fish and water, day in and day out.

After school one day, Ippo heads home on the usual route over an embankment, and just as common is the fact that he gets bullied on his way. After some scenes of him taking the abuse, we see a figure running along the top of the aforementioned embankment. In an instant the stranger fends off the bullies as if they were flies.
Impressed and ever thankful Ippo begins to talk to this man. Through the course of the conversation Ippo brings up his desire to be strong, to know what it means to be the strong one. We come to find that this strange man is a boxer from a local gym. The boxer, thinking nothing of his encounter tells Ippo if he can accomplish the small task of catching 10 falling leaves from a tree, he'll take him to his gym. From here begins the real story of Hajime No Ippo.
Ippo gains the motivation to box and begins a series of training and fighting. Interspersed throughout are bits and pieces of his home life and interactions with his opponents. This is what brings out feeling, character depth and caring for what happens in the show. The characters are incredibly well-fleshed out in a short period of time; their side of the story is presented well, and this caring on both sides of the boxing card is what draws you into the show.

The animation and art are both fine, on par with other current anime. The music used for this series is absolutely top knotch, so much so that I had to get the mp3s just to listen to it myself. All of the opening and closing themes are used well. Snippets of the themes are often played during key fight sequences and really give a nice punch, adding to the excitement of the match. The in-ring action features a nice blend of realism and anime-style boxing. These range from facial expressions to explosive specialty punches that leave an air trail through the sky
Hajime No Ippo doesn't solely revolve around Ippo, the cast you will encounter at the gym are extremely well flushed out characters. You will follow their fights as well. This doesn't come off as a hinderence, as some of these fights are the absolute best in the series. Often you will see Ippo in the crowd with his gym mates cheering on and adding commentary to a fight going on between a character from his gym.

It isn't all lollipops and candycanes though as HNI has a bad habit of implementing what some will see as "bad guy of the week". New challengers do appear often, this much is true. However, while some may see this in a negative light, others will feel each and every match to be extremely important as it shows his rise through the boxing ranks, attempting to earn himself title shots, key matches and the like.

Anyone interested in boxing and anime will absolutely want to give this a look. Those interested in fighters will also want to give it a once or maybe twice over. Those who find themselves lusting for more after two seasons will be glad to know that Hajime No Ippo is ongoing, in manga form, and shows no signs of slowing down after it's over-a-decade long run.

Story Telling: 7/10

Character Development: 8/10

Flow: 9/10

Musical Score: 10/10


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Kenichi: History's Strongest Disciple

I was on the fence with this one for quite a few episodes into it. I found myself thinking "That was awesome!" all the way to "I don't know if I really even like this all that much." My thoughts swayed towards "awesome!" as I kept going though, and I am extremely glad to have come across this one!

Kenichi: History's Strongest Disciple is, at it's core, a martial arts story.  There are plenty of training, fighting and power attaining scenes over the course of the series to sate anyone's thirst for battle. That isn't to say that this is a mindless brawler though, K:HSD has a huge amount of comedy.

The story starts with Kenichi being very weak and an over all wimp. However, he dreams of one day becoming a great martial artist. This proves to be a problem for him as he has no talent for fighting at all, and being the wimp he is, he tends to run away and hide at the slightest hint of trouble. 

Things take a turn for the better (or worse!) for Kenichi when one day, traveling his usual route to school he is struck in the throat by a seemingly normal girl, Miu. She is portrayed as a cute, caring and average girl. Things aren't quite as they seem, as this girl is actually quite the strong martial artist herself.

After some events, Kenichi is invited by Miu to study at a strange dojo, Ryouzanpaku, which is actually her home. There, we find the masters of several schools of martial arts. These aren't regular masters, but are seemingly the ultimate in the school in which they have trained.

Apachai, master in all things Muay Thai, Akisame the philosophical Jujitsu master, Sakaki, 100th degree Karate expert, Kensei, well versed in every aspect of Chinese Kenpo, Shigure, unmatched in the art of weaponry and Hayato, the absurdly powerful and mysterious elder of Ryouzanpaku.

Hilarious events take place at Ryouzanpaku as Kenichi fights for survival in training that most would consider torture. Over the course of his training Kenichi's progression is nicely notated episode by episode. You can clearly see each new technique and stance subtly but extremely well placed into his fights.

Comedy wise, K:HSD is sort of a jack of all trades, ranging from a hearty laugh to a slap-stick chuckle. There are plenty of instances where you'll find yourself laughing at some "special training" or event Kenichi has to endure. This doesn't push against the serious aspect of the series, though, as the creators seemed to know their placements, and well. Serious fights are portrayed well, adding comedy only when appropriate.

This isn't to say K:HSD is a perfect series, it definately has flaws. There are many times when you just wish that one thing had happened or something had taken a different turn. This, however, doesn't cripple the series, it just makes you want more. 

Don't compare this to a Naruto or a Bleach as it is not even truely in the same category. You will find yourself loving it or hating it if you do compare it to one of the above. On it's own feet, Kenichi: History's Strongest Disciple is a great anime to watch, with a good amount of fighting, a good amount of comedy and the flow to bring it all together.

Story Telling: 8/10

Character Development: 7/10

Flow: 9/10

Musical Score: 7/10

Over all, Kenichi is not to be missed for those who are looking for a great fighting comedy. Check it out.