Random Musings – Xenosaga III Demo Edition

I just finished playing through the Xenosaga Episode III: Also Sprach Zarathustra Demo. Thoughts about it:
-It covers one area and takes about 30 minutes to finish.
-Everything is on foot, meaning that there are no E.S. battles in the demo.
-There are the FMV-style widescreen cutscenes and then there are the talking heads-style cutscenes, akin to something you’d see in a visual novel or dating sim. The image I linked is not in the demo, it’s just an example.
-The playable characters are Shion, Miyuki, Caan, KOS-MOS, Jin, and Momo. They start at levels 4, 4, 5, 5, 5, and 4, respectively. HP/EP are 297/99, 256/95, 472/94, 516/88, 540/94, 252/105, respectively. Those Ether Point numbers seem a bit high to me, so I assume they boosted them for the demo. By the end of it, my characters were about level 8.
-Characters gain exp even if they aren’t in the active battle group. It appears that they were getting 80% the experience points.
-The only Ethers they start you off with is Medica S (4 EP), which only Miyuki and Momo have. You find various other Ethers during the level.
-Outside of battle, the square button is still used to destroy obstacles and objects.
-In battle options include: Attack, Arts, Ether, Item, Finishing Technique, Defend, Change, and Escape. Arts are special attacks that require Ether Points. Finishing Technique requires Two Boost Bars.
-The stock system is gone. The boost system is still in place. In general, I’m not a big fan of the new battle system because they took out the event slot system. I can see the battles becoming mundane really quick.
-In the demo, you encounter Segment Address No. 8, but you don’t have the key to open it.
-There is no save point in the demo.
-The boss at the end is kind of hard – it had a lot more HP than I had anticipated. It also did an attack that was ~250 dmg to all.
-The sound of Shion’s shoes is really loud and is probably the most annoying part of the demo. You change her out and make Momo, KOS-MOS, or Jin the party leader. I found that the sounds of Jin and Momo running to to be the least annoying. Miyuki and Caan cannot be party leader.
-On the other hand, the transition to and from battle is VERY smooth. I was very impressed by this.
-Miyuki is one of my new favorite characters.
-After finishing the demo, there is a long trailer for the game (one that I had not seen before). It’s pretty cool.
-The above images are courtesy of IGN, but are scenes/battles/enemies I saw in the demo. Jr. was NOT in the demo.

Random Musings – Suzumiya Haruhi Edition

Wow, Suzumiya Haruhi is so much more popular than I thought it’d be, considering the kind of buzz the series is generating. For those of you who haven’t heard or haven’t seen it, the Gundam parody of the Suzumiya Haruhi ED is back on YouTube (it was removed for a period of time). It’s pretty darn funny. The offical fanclub website is now open too.

Random Musings – Reflections After One Week

Well it’s been a little over a week since the new season “officially” started by my books. I logged about 20 entries in that week, though I think I only fully wrote up about 14 of those, which is about what I normally average. Before I go into which shows I’m going to drop, I’d like to point out the ones I really enjoyed. My top three for the past week would probably be 1. Ouran High School Host Club 2. Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu and 3. NANA. The first two have the perfect combination of humor with great production quality, and NANA is a series that lives up to all my expectations.
On the other end of the spectrum, the entries without summaries from the past week are probably going to remain without summaries, with the exception of the finale of Jigoku Shoujo and the first episode of Suzumiya Haruhi. Here’s the rundown of the shows I’ve decided to no longer write about:

  • KIBA – The first episode wasn’t bad and the show has potential, but Saturdays bring a lot of shows, including the upcoming Tsubasa Chronicle which I know I’m going to cover. And since this is a Sunday morning show (in Japan), that means that it’s fairly inconvenient for me to blog.
  • Joshi Kousei GIRL’S-HIGH – The first episode was pretty disappointing, didn’t feel funny enough.
  • Simoun – Part of me wants to do this series, but the other part of would really rather not. It’s really an issue of time (Mondays are tough for me) and the fact that I’d rather blog Utawarerumono. It’s also not nearly as mindless and easy to watch as Strawberry Panic!
  • Disgaea – I’ll probably watch episode two just for Etna, but I have big doubts about this show being any good in the humor or plot departments.
  • Nishi no Yoki Majo Astraea Testament – As I said in my thoughts about the first episode, this show really isn’t for me.
  • Several of the shows I want to give a couple more episodes trial (Soul Link, Inukami!, Himawari!, Strawberry Panic!) before I make a decision. Some of these may be considered inferior to the ones I’m dropping, but I’m giving them more of a chance either because they appeal to a certain part of me or because they have a relatively good timeslot (in relation to my own schedule). There are also a few more series that haven’t premiered yet, including the aforementioned Tsubasa Chronicle and the upcoming The Third. And on top of that, I’m also considering checking out a few J-Dramas that are set to premiere soon: Attention Please, Gal Circle, and Oishii Proposal.

    In other news:

  • The Mai-Otome official site has updated with information about the OVAs. Specifically, it mentions that the characters from the TV series will be back after powering-up, and that Arika, Nina, and Mashiro’s story is not over yet. Hrm, that actually disappoints me a little because I was hoping for an entirely new story without interference from the old cast.
  • Navel is making another game with the characters from SHUFFLE!. It’s going to be called Really? Really!. They sure know how to choose names… -_-;;
  • And finally, I’d like to mention that this site hit 10,000 comments sometime in the past day! A huge thanks to everyone who reads this blog!
  • Random Musings – The Upcoming Week

    So this week (and to an extent next week) are going to be pretty busy for this blog. Inevitabely, there’s going to be shows (like Haruhi) that were under my radar when I did my initial round of research a couple of weeks ago. Any shows that I’m unsure if I’m going keep blogging will be filed under Miscellaneous and likely won’t get a summary unless I have the time or really really liked the episode. Of course I can be swayed by you the reader. So if you like a show, leave a comment (Edit: Sorry, I wasn’t clear. If you like a show, leave a comment under that show’s entry). At the end of this week or next I’ll look over all the shows and figure out roughly what I want to stick with.
    On today’s schedule is Joshi Kousei Girl’s-High, Strawberry Panic, and Simoun.

    Random Musings – Extra Episodes Edition

    A couple of quick, important tidbits:

  • If you haven’t heard yet (news travels so fast on the Internet), Mai-Otome is getting a set of four OAVs to be released this autumn. The article, from Megami Magazine, thanks the fans for their support and says that they’re using new characters while still considering which of the current characters to use. Since the TV series explores the training of Otome, the OAVs will cover the next crisis that befalls the world of the Otome System.
  • MOON PHASE notices that there’s a lot of series getting extra episodes in the DVDs including Kashimashi (episode 13), IGPX (episodes 25-26), SOLTYREI (episode 25-26), Yomigaeru Sora – Rescue Wings – (episode 13), Binchou-tan (episodes 10-12), and Mushishi (episode 21).
  • Random Musings – Aquarion Season 2? Edition

  • The official Aquarion Blog features this image you see to the side from the Tokyo International Anime Fair with the words “2006 Autumn.” No word yet whether this means that a sequel is in production or if it’s an OVA or a game or something. I’d certainly love to see a second series, but I won’t get my hopes too high just yet. Thanks to Guido and BluWacky for the head’s-up.
  • This is semi-old news, but there’s going to be a Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid OVA coming out on May 26th. It’s supposed to be about a day in the life of Tessa, which would suggest that it’ll be a lot more light-hearted than TSR was.
  • The next set of Bleach opening and ending songs have been announced:
    ED7: 「HANABI」 by いきものがかり (ikimono-gakari)
  • Random Musings – Final Fantasy XII Edition

    Since it came out yesterday, I’ve been playing Final Fantasy XII. Even though I’m not very far at all (six hours into the game, not even double digits in level), I really like the game, a lot more than I thought I would based on how the demo was. Some impressions so far:

  • The Battle System – FFXII uses a system where all of the running around and fighting occur fluidly, without having to switch to a battle screen. You control one of your three active characters, and the other two automatically attack. My main gripe from the demo was that your allies did all the work for you, so that all you had to do was just find targets to kill (if even that much). Fortunately, the full game is a lot more interesting because of the Gambit system that allows you to basically set commands for the AI to follow in certain situations (i.e. cast Cure if party member has less than 70% HP). You have to set both a trigger and a command (in the previous example, the trigger would be the ally being at less than 70% and the command is to cast Cure). As you progress in the game, you learn more triggers (you only start with a handful), meaning that your allies kind of get smarter as the game goes on.
  • Ability Progression – FFXII also introduces the License Board, which is similar to FFX’s sphere grid in the sense that you’re moving around a board learning abilities, and everyone has the potential to learn almost every skill. What surprised me is that they require you to learn special equipment abilities on the License Board so that your character can equip the next level of a certain item (i.e. there is are several Sword Equipment abilities that allow you to use different swords). Spells work the same way: you have to have the White Magic 1 ability on the License Board before you can learn Cure.
  • Leveling – Leveling is a little harder in this game than I remember past Final Fantasies being. Like I said earlier, I’m only about six hours in and barely level nine. But the game hasn’t been hard except for the first couple of areas where you have very little life and don’t do much damage.
  • The Story and Characters – Not being very far into the story, I’ve only been introduced to part of the cast, but I can say that I don’t find Vaan quite as wimpy a main character as I thought Tidus was. Ashe has appeared as a guest character (two levels higher than my other characters at the time), after having landed in Vaan’s arms in quite a dramatic fashion. My favorite characters so far are probably Balthier and Fran (the brash space pirate and his partner). As for the story, the game occurs two years after the country of Dalmasca is conquered by its neighbor. The tutorial takes you through the game during that initial invasion from the point of view of Vaan’s older brother. Wikipedia’s entry does a decent job summarizing the back-story without spoiling anything.
  • Graphics – Not including the title screen one, I think I’ve seen about five or six FMVs up to the point where I am now. A couple of those (like the one where you first meet Balthier) are woefully short. And while the Full Motion Video sequences are breathtaking as usual, most of the cut-scenes are rendered by the in-game engine. Once I got used to the character designs and the color palette, I felt that the in-game engine was doing a pretty darn good job (though there’s obviously not as good as the FMV parts). They’re doing a good job of pushing the PS2 to its limits.
  • In other news, Bleach is now officially licensed in the US. That doesn’t really affect this site at all, but I do hope that it will now generate more buzz state-side.
  • Expect my picks for the Spring 2006 season sometime this weekend or early next week. It’ll probably include Strawberry Panic, NANA, School Rumble S2, XXXHOLiC, Tsubasa Chronicle, and Soul Link among others.
  • Random Musings – The End of YKK Edition

  • The long-running (12 years) manga Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou recently ended. If you’ve never heard of it, YKK is a beautifully drawn, “healing” series. It’s sad to see such a good manga come to a close. Though it may not be for everyone, I would recommend at least checking it out. See the Wikipedia entry and Cafe Alpha for more information.
  • It’s been a pretty busy week because of an exam and a term paper, so I’m still a bit behind. As usual, I should get caught up in the next two days.
  • I’ve decided to drop Nerima Daikon Brothers. The show started off great, and I still love the music, but lately I’ve been having a lot of trouble getting into the show. It doesn’t help that it airs on Mondays, which is typically a day where I’m brain-dead after going through my Physics Lab class.
  • For the people who keep asking about Ergo Proxy, I’ve more or less given up on watching/blogging that show. It’s really because of a combination of technical difficulties, lack of time on Wednesdays, and apathy towards the series in general. Sorry to disappoint anyone. Check out Sea Slugs! and Cinnamon Ass if you want to reviews.
  • On the flipside, I am strongly considering doing a PV-of-the-week feature to introduce everyone to music and artists that I like and that are currently popular in Japan (usually the two overlap).
  • Spring Season 2006 is rapidly approaching! That may still seem far away because most ongoing series are still getting to their final story arcs, but with 50+ animes coming in roughly a month, now is the time to start planning. Probably sometime in the next couple of weeks I’ll write up a schedule and ask everyone for feedback. Compared to the current season, there are a ton of shows that I’m looking forward to (Disgaea, School Rumble S2, NANA, XxxHolic just to name a few). And unlike this season, I won’t be able to even try to cover everything, but hopefully it’ll all work out. See MOON PHASE for a comprehensive list.
  • And Now I’d Like to Hear Your Opinion…

    Today’s poll question is “When Reading an Entry, I Prefer…” and the two choices are “More Images, Slower Loading Time” and “Less Images, Faster Loading Time.” To my complete surprise, the more images option is trouncing the faster load time one. This is actually a very important issue to the site and I’ve been made all the more conscious about it since Jeff Lawson started labeling this site with “Now with fewer screenshots” lol. The poll question is not meant to be considered in the context of how many images I currently use, but instead as a general indicator of whether you prefer more images or faster loading time. Personally, I prefer less images because it makes the page more readable and load faster. However, since bandwidth is less of a problem these days and broadband is almost everywhere, I can understand where the other side is coming from.
    But I’d like to hear your opinion. Why did you vote the way you did? Along those lines, are lots of screenshots or a good write-up more important? What you folks say here may very well impact how I write entries in the near future.

    GS3: Gundam SEED Fortune?! (To Be Taken With A Huge Grain of Salt)

    There are a lot of rumors circulating concerning the above image. Like this entry’s title says, this is to be taken with a grain of salt. I personally have no idea about the validity of the image, and there’s a pretty good chance this is a fake, but I thought I’d post it up for discussion. A Gundam SEED 3 seems almost inevitable, but Athrun and a red-haired girl (Meyrin!?) with two kids five years after?
    Image Source: 3108log Story Source: Manga Jouhou
    Edit: Well this turned out to be a fake (see comments for link to the fanart it was based on). Hence why I said it should be taken with a grain of salt…