One of the things I find endlessly fascinating about Japanese popular media is how it blends disparate, seemingly incompatible things together to produce something altogether unique.
That’s certainly the case with Shade’s Bullet Girls Phantasia, a game which pops elements of Cute Girls Doing Cute Things, military action, fantasy fiction and Norse mythology into a big bowl and then whizzes it all around into a fine, blended paste.
It works. It really works. So let’s take a closer look at what you can expect from the narrative, themes and characterisation of this unusual game.
Continue reading Bullet Girls Phantasia: A Tale of Three Worlds
Sometimes there are games that aren’t the most fun to play today, but remain significant from a historical perspective nonetheless. SNK’s 1986 title Athena, in both its arcade and NES incarnations, definitely falls into that category.
Acting as a spiritual predecessor to Psycho Soldier but having pretty much nothing to do with it — the “Athena” in this game is supposedly a distant ancestor of the “Athena” in Psycho Soldier, so it’s not even the same character — Athena is a monstrously challenging platform action game that does a lot of interesting things… and a lot of frustrating things!
Let’s take a closer look.
Continue reading SNK Essentials: Athena
How DOES The Wild Man do it? Find out in today’s thrilling installment of Warriors Wednesday, as the Wu forces attempt to prove themselves to Keiji Maeda.
If you were looking forward to seeing my smiling face again on this video, apologies to disappoint; I recorded this before I got the new gear necessary to display my smiling face on videos. If, on the other hand, you were disgusted and repulsed by my fearful countenance in Sunday’s Split/Second video, consider this momentary relief.
Hit the jump to see how today’s battle went.
Continue reading Warriors Wednesday: How The Wild Man Does It – Warriors Orochi #26
Sakon Shima has been something of a fixture in the Samurai Warriors series since the second installment.
Typically depicted as a cunning strategist and a powerful warrior in his own right, the real Sakon Shima was an extremely well-regarded and famous samurai. After his original master Junkei Tsutsui met his end, he retired, but after being offered an extraordinarily generous amount of wealth, he decided to return to the fray to serve under Mitsunari Ishida. If someone offers you half of their income to bring you on board, you don’t argue!
Of course, most of this is irrelevant in Warriors Orochi, but Shima still has a significant role to play from the perspective of his formidable strategic skills. Hit the jump to see how he helped out this time around!
Continue reading Warriors Wednesday: When You Get Around Like I Do, You Pick Up a Thing or Two – Warriors Orochi #19
The narrative of Ne no Kami: The Two Princess Knights of Kyoto has a number of different threads, all of which intertwine with one another to create a rather compelling whole.
We have the very personal story of the protagonist Len, as she attempts to come to terms with a new world that is vastly different from everything she has ever known. We have the story of humanity’s hidden struggle to protect the world against horrors that most people will never know about. And we have the story of lifelong feelings of love that, although based on a misunderstanding, have grown into something genuine that transcends traditional societal norms.
There’s a lot going on, in other words — even though the work as a whole is a single-route kinetic novel with no choices for the player to make. In many ways, though, that’s an entirely appropriate structure for the story Ne no Kami is trying to tell: more than anything else, it’s a tale of being swept along by fate, seemingly unable to deviate from the plan the Universe has for you despite your best efforts to find alternative solutions.
Continue reading Ne no Kami: Love, Innocence and Ayakashi
One of the best things about the visual novel medium is its ability — and willingness — to tackle things that are outside the normal remit of “video games” as a whole.
In the case of Ne no Kami: The Two Princess Knights of Kyoto, a visual novel from small, independent Japanese circle Kuro Irodoru Yomiji, there’s a certain degree of “crossover” in terms of subject matter. We have the sort of “plucky young heroes tackle otherworldly horrors” angle that we’re most used to seeing from more conventional video games, but at the same time we also have some sensitively handled exploration of romantic relationships, disparate cultures colliding and young people trying to find their place in the world.
Of particular note is Ne no Kami’s exploration of traditional Japanese and Shinto mythology, an angle which it takes great pains to point out is only its author’s interpretation rather than “fact”. But this doesn’t make it in any way “invalid”, of course; mythology, by its very nature, doesn’t have any “factual” basis in the first place, and has only survived so long by being reinterpreted and passed on across thousands of years.
Before we investigate the game’s story in detail, then, it behooves us to have a general understanding of the mythology on which it is based.
Continue reading Ne no Kami: Exploring Shinto Myths and Legends