31 October 2012
Early last year, shortly after the notorious PlayStation Network outage, I started trying out the Ace Combat series on the PS2, first off with Ace Combat Zero. I like it quite a bit, and eventually went off to try out the older games. Eventually, I found out that a new Ace Combat game would be out on the PS3 (and on the XBOX 360). That would be Ace Combat: Assault Horizon. Heck, I even made a couple of blog posts about it too.
It's now been a little more than a year since its release. After playing the game out of a the blue again recently, I think it's time to give it a review of some sort.
Ace Combat: Assault Horizon sets its story in the real world with relatively believable settings, which is an unusual departure from its previous games. In late 2015, NATO and Russian forces are assisting East Africa's nations to fight off against an organised insurgent group, which is found to possess powerful weapon of mass destruction called "Trinity". It is later found out that a portion of Russian military is behind the actions of the African insurgents, and plotted to overthrow the Russian government under the name of "New Russian Federation", with rebel Russian general Ivan Stagleishov and mercenary ace pilot Andrei Markov leading the coup d'état, plunging the nation into a civil war, and threatening the rest of the world with the Trinity that they possess. Throughout the story, Colonel William Bishop of the United States Air Force faces Markov on a number of occasions, who happens to be the one Bishop faces death from in his recurring nightmares.
The player takes the role of Colonel William Bishop of the United States Air Force in most missions involving jet aircraft, but for a change the game also has missions involving helicopters and as well as an AC-130 like in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, and even large bomber aircraft like B-1B and B-2.
The mission layout in general is pretty straight forward and consistent in the whole game: destroy enemy units as you go along, and more of them will spawn in waves. This unfortunately gets repetitive as you are always facing the same kinds of aircraft, and there is not too much variety in between. It's understandable that it may be difficult to implement some of the more interesting scenarios from previous games into Assault Horizon as the story is set in a real world, hence limiting the variety of situations deemed acceptable in the story. No tunnel flights, massive airborne fortress, or other crazy superweapons.
The addition of attack helicopters as playable aircraft is an unusual addition to the game. The controls took a bit of time to get used to as it's very different to that for jet aircraft, but it's simplified enough for casual gamers to get adjusted to. I personally like this particular addition, but there are only two long missions for them in the story; perhaps having more shorter missions would be a bit better?
Jet aircraft combat in Ace Combat: Assault Horizon has also been given cinematic-style new features, called Dogfight Mode (DFM) and Airstrike Mode (ASM) for dogfight and ground attack respectively.
DFM can be triggered when the pursuing aircraft reaches towards the rear of a target aircraft, which then takes the pursuer directly behind the target and turn into something like a rail shooter, with some of the maneuvering controls simplified for the ease of the shooting part. The one being pursued can still control their aircraft as usual, and can escape the chase by outmaneuvering their opponent, or do a counter maneuver and reverse the tide if conditions are right.
In ASM one finds and enters from one end of a pre-defined attack route, of which then the game somewhat guides the control of the aircraft while the player focuses mostly on attacking ground attacks, which is similar to DFM but for ground.
The new combat features in the game, especially with DFM, causes rather polar views among the players. DFM helps breaking the old dogfight problems of players circling around each other for ages, and is more visually appealing combating opponents up close rather than shooting them far away as tiny planes or even pixels. However, there are complaints on its scripted play at times in singleplayer, as well as it potentially making combat easier due to the guided controls. I too have a bit of grudge with it when there are unexpected bugs encountered during the heat of gameplay, or that some parts just don't feel right at all.
The multiplayer aspect is a little better received, especially for the competitive play. Apart from the typical deathmatch and area control domination mode, the capital conquest is the most popular online game mode, focusing players to destroy the enemies' headquarter while defending their own over real cities such as Washington DC and Moscow. Co-op mode features 8 missions in singleplayer for up to 3 players, but otherwise nothing terribly new from the singleplayer perspective (which is a pity since I really like co-operative gaming).
There are other tidbits that are not critical, but would help making the game experience a bit more appreciating. The lack of mission briefings and debriefings made story progression seem a little disconnected and jumpy, and the absence of free flight mode is a pity as it would be to fly in a plane you want appreciating the real world landscapes. The custom aircraft colouring is a nice addition though, if you like colouring your plane to your own liking, or even making it bright pink and shooting missiles with green smoke trails (if you really want to).
Overall, Ace Combat: Assault Horizon feels more like a spinoff from the rest of its series due to the addition of new features and the lack of some of the recurring ones. If you are new to the series, the game may be worth trying out, but those who are used to the older Ace Combat games may find it rather... Different and perhaps not very "Ace Combat". It's not surprising that some people call this game "Call of Duty: Modern Combat for Ace Combat".
Oh, and last but not least, Happy Halloween!
29 October 2012
Recently hinted from latest issue Hobby Japan magazine, and later revealed at the recent Tamashii Nation 2012 exhibition, Bandai's Tamashii Web is showing off display samples of Doven Wolf, Silver Bullet, and Gundam Mk-V as potential candidate to go into next lineup for Robot Damashii Ka Signature as a web shop exclusive item. A questionnaire is now up for people to vote which of the three shall make it through.
First is the AMX-014 Doven Wolf aka Dooben Wolf, which appeared in Gundam ZZ and is the only one to make appearance in animated series so far. One of the most powerful units fielded by Neo Zeon, it stood heads above many other mobile suits at the time, and was armed with numerous beam weaponry, missiles, as well as remote weapons.
A closer look on the Doven Wolf.
ARX-014 Silver Bullet, which was reversed engineered from the Doven Wolf by the Earth Federation. They only appeared in the manga Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn - Bande Dessinee where they were used to perform tests along with Unicorn Gundam.
Closer look on the Silver Bullet. Too bad the eyes are obstructed from view here. There are actually two types of faces for Silver Bullet: one is the typical Gundam face, whereas the other has a simpler feature with a visor like the GMs.
And finally ORX-013 Gundam Mk-V, which came from the photonovel Gundam Sentinel. While the story takes place just before Gundam ZZ, the story was written at a later time, with the Gundam Mk-V retconned to be the predecessor of Doven Wolf.
Can't see the Gundam's face, but compared to the original artwork, Katoki's redesign seems to be a bit sleeker (a common feature with his designs), and with a smaller chin than I have expected.
Anyone can participate in the questionnaire and vote. If you are interested, go to the questionnaire page, then input your age and select the MS of your choice of out the 3 listed above. You can also name out what other MS you wish Bandai to materalise into the Robot Damashii Ka Signature line if you want. Once you are happy with your choice, click on the green button to go to confirmation page, and click on the green button again to submit your vote.
The questionnaire will close on 8th November 2012 at 4pm GMT+9.
The 3 MS are fairly interesting choices here, as all of them did not get materialised into model or action figure in recent times, and they are all related to each other lore-wise. I personally will prefer them appear as Gunpla models, as having (one of) them as web shop exclusive items means it will be expensive and relatively more difficult to acquire, just like the Robot Damashii Byarlant Custom, and thank goodness a Gunpla version of it will come out next month. I personally voted for Gundam Mk-V for its stalwart looking design, and one that is most intimidating to me (appearance and lore-wise).
So, which one will you prefer out of the 3?
Images are from MasterFileBlog
27 October 2012
Been a little out of touch these days, with the majority of my stuff packed away as home is still under partial renovation. Nevertheless here are a few images of Mobile Suit Gundam 00 that I picked up occasionally
Exia Repair. This was originally taken from the TV series official website (now no longer available)
First scene of the TV series, with young Setsuna first seeing the angelic-like O Gundam. This was also taken from the official website before it got replaced with another one
Young Setsuna looking up at the flower grown Gundam 00, as seen in the 2nd ending theme for the 2nd season. Another picture taken from the website, but it is the ultimate one.
Gundam Exia and Gundam 00, from the box art of PS2 game Mobile Suit Gundam 00: Gundam Meisters
A rare image of O Gundam slicing an Anf off.
Gundam Rasiel and several GN Sefers from photonovel prequel Gundam 00P
Image of XN Raiser, which is actually a box art for a conversion kit included in one of the issues of Hobby Japan magazine
And finally a clean image for 00 Qan [T] Full Saber, which also is a conversion kit included in an issue for Hobby Japan magazine. I bought the kit and made it sometime last year.
It's a bit of a random post, but I hope you enjoy the pictures! ^^
21 October 2012
A Puella Magi Madoka Magica film strip was sold for a 1,080,001 Yen on Yahoo Auction Japan. This amounts to roughly 13600 USD or 10400 EUR.
The auction began with the initial bidding price at 1000 Yen, and over the course of 1 week, the bidding war erupted to an astonishing number.
The film strips were part of a gift campaign for viewers who saw the first two parts of Puella Magi Madoka Magica movies, which are a retelling of the TV anime, with a third part (not yet released) to be a new story.
Pictures of film strip on the auction page.
And here is the reference GIF picture of Homura and Madoka rubbing their cheeks together:
The final selling price of over 1 million yen is quite a figure to be reckoned with. It's also breathtaking to see how far people would go to get the item. Definitely a big talk since the Wedding Miku figure mentioned last year. My total expenditure on anime and other hobby related stuff so far definitely is nowhere close to this number! o_o;
Then here comes a question that perhaps a lot of people would be asking: Is it worth that much? Like the Wedding Miku, I won't comment directly on this particular matter, as we all have our own opinions and perceive things differently.
Though I am curious whether the transaction will actually take place or not.
And if it does happen, what will the buyer do with all that money?
Original auction page:
16 October 2012
Earlier this month, Sagamiya, a company that makes tofu and other soya products, has released Z'Gok Tofu (bean curd) based on the mobile suit of the same name from Mobile Suit Gundam as part of its ongoing collaboration campaign!
A promotion video was made specifically for the Z'Gok Tofu, even featuring them invading Earth!
Earlier this year, we had the green Zaku Tofu in edamame bean flavour
Now, the Z'Gok Tofu joins in the invasion!
Z'Gok Tofu being rolled out in mass production~
The actual tofu. Without the eye and the details, it looks relatively plain. Those with a bit of creativity and passion can decorate it to make it more like a Z'Gok.
The tofu package even comes with a Z'Gok claw fork! I seriously have my eyes on this!
Example dishes. As the Z'Gok is amphibious, it is recommended that it is placed in hot pot~
On the other hand, while the original Zaku Tofu is now discontinued, a new version with vanilla flavour is also available together with the Z'Gok Tofu, called Zaku Type D (based on the Zaku Desert Type). As the name hints, it is recommended for the Zaku Type D to go with desserts.
The actual tofu without the packaging. The shape is the same as the original Zaku Tofu but in cream instead of the pale green.
Perhaps a bit of decoration will liven it better?
Production of the Z'Gok tofu is over, so it's only a matter of time before they're sold out completely. It's a pity that the production run is quite short, and like many other food it is only available in Japan. I seriously won't mind having some of them, especially for the forks, and perhaps keeping the packaging for display or even moulding your own food like jelly!
Pictures from MasterFileBlog and Gigazine:
11 October 2012
Anime has changed a lot in the past decades, in terms of style, themes, demographics, and of course popularity. Let's see what popular anime series there were aired on TV for the past 50 years, like taking a trip through time tunnel!
There is a 15-minute long video on YouTube showing the popular TV anime series as well as a graph depicting number of titles aired in Japan. The video is mentioned on Gigazine, and the screenshots below are taken from its article .
Wind back to 1963, Osamu Tezuka's Astro Boy along with Tetsujin 28 appeared on TV. Note that Astro Boy is in black and white, though anime in colour already exist by that time. Back then only a total of 7 series were aired that year, with one carried on from the previous year.
Sazae-san started airing in 1969. It is still airing on TV today 40+ years later, making it the longest airing TV anime to date. The number of anime series aired stayed around 30s until 1977.
Lupin III aired in 1971.
Space Battleship Yamato aired in 1974. This makes it one of the early series that sparkled the space theatre, with many more to follow.
Mobile Suit Gundam aired in 1979, following the space theatre after Yamato. While not initially successful, Gundam contributes to the birth of "real robot" genre as it branches off from the "super robot" genre.
The Super Dimension Fortress Macross aired in 1982. Following the real robot genre and the space theatre, Macross carries on being one of the potent ongoing franchise out there.
Saint Seiya aired in 1986, with several OVA series and a film to finish the original story in the 2000s.
Sailor Moon aired in 1992, which is still one of the most recognisable Magical Girl series out there. Speaking of Sailor Moon, apparently a new series will air next year.
Neon Genesis Evangelion and Slayers aired in 1995.
Detective Conan (aka Case Closed) aired in 1996. Other notable mentions are Rurouni Kenshin and Nadesico.
Pocket Monster, or Pokémon aired in 1997, based on the Game Boy games that became some of the best selling games at the time.
One Piece starting airing in 1999 and it's still going strong. By now we are past 100 series per year.
Naruto, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Gundam SEED, and Azumanga Daioh aired in 2002.
The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi, Gintama, Zero no Tsukaima, Code Geass, and many more aired in 2006. 2006 also marks the peak in anime history in terms of number of series aired, with a total of 279 (195 of them were new, and 84 continued from 2005)
In 2007 we have Lucky Star, CLANNAD, School Days, Hidamari Sketch, Nodame Cantible, and Gurren Lagann.
K-On! aired in 2009. 3rd anime from Kyoto Animation mentioned in a row :o
In 2011 we have Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Anohana, Steins;Gate, Penguin Drum, as well as Fate/Zero (prequel of Fate/stay night).
From 1963 up to April 2012, a total of 3013 TV anime series had aired in Japan! And that does not include films and OVAs!
Looking back, I remember watching a number of series in my childhood that dated earlier than I thought, such as Astro Boy, Kimba the White Lion, and Ikkyū-san (the latter two are not shown here, but are present in the video). A lot of the early series had a long production run, and since I only watched a fraction of them with little memory left, I did not mention them in My History with Anime post.
It's interesting seeing how anime changes throughout time. Anime series were few in the early years, but they had much longer run, spanning over years for the entire series to air. They were also relatively simpler, not only in details, but also in themes and stories.
Slowly anime is gaining popularity, and the variety also slowly increases. Sci-fi, especially meccha and those set in space were also gaining prominence.
Eventually, computer graphics start to aid animation industry, slowly replacing cel drawing. With the boom in popularity of anime, visual novels and light novels also become sources for anime adaptation along with manga and original animations. Many of the series are also becoming shorter, and restricted in lengths of cours. We now have literally hundreds of anime series available to watch every year in the past decade, (almost?) too many to choose. A lot of them are also become more geared for specific audience, in comparison with many of the older ones, where they can be watched by a wide range of age groups or tastes.
One way looking at it, it's not surprising why older anime were more memorable, and the ones nowadays seem more forgettable; just look at the numbers and graphs above! It's also worth mentioning that anime is become more business-like, with anime series become more "formularised" and sometimes also heavily merchandised. And this is the direction that we are heading at the moment.
The conclusion may sound a little pessimistic on the future of anime, but nevertheless it's an interesting look at what anime we had for the past 5 decades, and seeing the changes that go along with time. I wonder how anime will be like in another 50 years' time, and how we will feel looking back at the changes like we did just now? :O