Zawa – ざわ‥ A japanese onomatopoeia meaning uneasy atmosphere.
I figured the above explanation was necessary since most would have probably interpreted the title as weird nonsense. It took me longer than I planned to get around to this blogg but I think that’s natural since IGN is still a ghost town and my desire to pump out these posts at a swift pace has diminished over time. Even if it does take me longer I still plan to continue this series, and hopefully you’ll continue to enjoy it. This time we have 3 different games, 2 anime and 1 movie ‘reviewed’. Now on with the video game music remixes.
You might remember that last year I watched an anime called Akagi. This anime had centred around a genius mah-jong player and was quite enthralling, but it unfortunately had a lacklustre ending. This makes sense though since the manga is still ongoing and there wasn’t really a good cut-off point. Kaiji is similar to Akagi, most notably in it’s art-style in which every character is wario and waluigi levels of ugly. And yes while the characters are ugly the style itself is interesting and not as terrifying as other anime out there. Like Akagi, Kaiji has a lot of high stakes gambling however it’s more varied in the types of “games” played and it ends up throwing a lot of curve balls thanks to this (Akagi on the other hand was almost ALL mah-jong). The pacing of both shows is the same with plenty of cliff-hangers and “edge of your seat” moments and I don’t think I could sit and just watch one episode. This is good because it makes a 50 episode series breeze by and it never felt like a slog. Also worth noting is that Kaijji has an ending that leaves room for further seasons but also feels like a somewhat natural end to the series with a decent amount of closure, at the very least it trumps Akagi in that regard.
Kaiji unlike Akagi is focused on Survival and it’s by no means a happy anime, that’s all I want to say on the subject though since any more is too much information that would verge on spoilers. In fact the whole “Zawa Zawa” thing is one of Kaiji’s key trademarks that helps amp up the tension and it works well with the soundtrack (which has some pretty neat tunes). There are almost no guarantees with Kaiji and I think that adds quite a bit to the anime making the audience feel more connected with the characters and situations. At the very least I recommend giving this show a shot, since I understand that the art direction can be off putting. Sorry if this isn’t too in depth but if you’d like to discuss the series you are welcome do so in the comments.
Counter Spy (Vita):
A 2D stealth with randomly generated rooms that offers a ton of replay ability, however upon reaching the end I didn’t feel compelled to play it again at all. Perhaps this is just my issue but something felt lacking from this game. Perhaps it was the same designs repeating over and over in very familiar ways? or maybe it was the lacklustre soundtrack? or perhaps it was the gameplay just becoming monotonous over time? I personally think it’s a combination of these things and that’s a real shame since there is so much potential here. For example I quite like the art style and it really suits the spy theme quite well and the core gameplay itself shows huge potential and is very competent. However the problem stems from slow pacing and not enough variety, sure you can unlock guns and perks but a lot of these go against the idea of being stealthy (like a fucking shotgun for example). Of course since I only saw the credits once there may be more on offer than I can see but frankly the game didn’t tell me that was the case and I don’t want to sink more hours into this just to try and find out.
This is another case where I’m just glad this was a PS+ game and not something that I went out of my way to purchase full price. Funnily enough if you can ever play it for free yourself I would actually recommend it since the first few hours are quite fun despite just how negative this overall ‘review’ is. Note: The story isn’t enthralling at all and the characters are bland.
Punch Line! (Anime):
You know for a show that sounds like Panty Line when spoken out loud by the characters I was expecting something that was shallow and crap. Something that might make for a nice negative ‘review’ however my expectations were way off. Punch Line! is a weird series that takes many clichés from anime and just kind of meshes them together in a story that somehow works. It’s got a nice sense of weirdness to it while not being incomprehensible and it takes several unexpected turns while also building up an interesting mystery. The soundtrack is amazing, the visual style is excellent for the most part and the fanservice has at least some plot significance and isn’t so in your face that it ruins any story and character building.
The pacing is nice and fast but never feels like it was rushed, in fact for just 12 episodes this anime has great characterisation and an interesting plot. It’s also quite comedic and delivers on intense action sequences. Personally I would consider this a must watch show, and I hope people do give it a fair chance since while this may seem like a shallow puddle it’s a lot deeper than you’d think and I think it’s worth diving into.
Ratchet and Clank (PS2):
This game won 4th place in this years backlog tourney and I’m glad I’ve finally gotten around to it since I borrowed this title quite some time ago. It’s also great to finally experience the origins of this franchise, and really I think I’ve gained a greater appreciation of it’s sequels because of this. This game is quite clunky, for starters you can’t strafe from the start and when you finally unlock the ability to do so it’s not exactly intuitive. Next is the issue of most weapons being close ranged which makes dealing with ammo a pain especially since bolts aren’t as easily acquired and the ammo buying process is tedious. The health system is also somewhat poorly thought out as you can only take 4 hits until you obtain some optional upgrades later in the game. Even then I would say 8 hits isn’t much I’m glad that this system was replaced in later titles. All of these faults don’t drag the game down much though since it’s still a fun adventure and in some ways it has a nice simplicity to it compared to its sequels.
For an early PS2 title it’s aged quite well visually although the style wasn’t quite refined yet. The music though is pretty awesome and the type of soundtrack that gets the blood pumping and creates excitement while also sticking to the sci-fi theme. In fact it’s like a sci-fi take on a spyro soundtrack at points which makes sense due to insomniacs history with spyro. That said though it does feel like the same tune is being used throughout the game but with different instruments which worked well for Mario World but doesn’t quite cut it here. In terms of writing I think this game does a decent job of establishing characters and has some good comedic writing but it’s a bit too weak when it’s trying to be serious. There’s not much explanation about the main characters before or during the adventure and while I don’t mind Ratchet being an asshole I just don’t see the motivations for this other than petty revenge (he’s got like a moby dick thing going on halfway through the game). I’m very glad that the games after this didn’t try to be so serious with the characters and instead focused on the comedy and action side of things since that’s the obvious strengths in the dialogue here.
The game-play is quite a lot of fun though and this is an excellent foundation for some of the best PS2 games, I can easily recommend this unless you’re too used to newer titles and the problems mentioned above seem too detrimental to your experience.
Mission Impossible: Rouge Nation (Movie):
I decided to this on a whim and honestly I can’t say I feel strongly about it in any way. This movie felt very by the numbers and I’m not sure if I could tell the difference between it and the other movies in this series. The exceptions would be the Third movie which tried to be really serious and gritty, and ghost protocol which was really funny and took a more light-hearted approach. Meanwhile Rogue Nation seems cheesy but not quite funny enough to justify the ticket price, it’s not a bad movie either though and it’s at least worth renting once. This movie didn’t stand out to me in any way but it did provide a decent amount of forgettable entertainment and some days that’s kind of what you just need. Okay I can’t think of anything else to say… lets move on.
Never Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna) – (Wii U):
A short indie game based on native Alaskan culture that is partially a documentary and a learning experience. It’s an interesting look into a culture I have next to no clue about and thankfully it’s optional. The game has an atmospheric soundtrack which is easily forgotten, however the visual style it’s beautiful… that is until you die and the character models go fucking insane and janky. Of course these moments provided unintentional comedic relief and I personally don’t feel they detracted from the experience. I don’t mind the increase of games that have passive education to them, for example Valiant Hearts is still an excellent game but has optional facts about the first world war. Never Alone has a similar approach but is perhaps less polished as a game and I think this is why it seems like a very divisive title. It’s a puzzle platformer and while it’s far from rubbish, it could’ve used the same level of polish as the presentation. The characters feel stiff and unresponsive at times and there are plenty moments of “Fuck you, I grabbed that rope”. My recommendation is to play this if you’re wanting an interesting experience and above average gameplay (like just above average for the most part, which is far from bad). Personally I was able to tolerate the lack of polish and found the game somewhat fun although that may just me being immersed in presentation and enjoying the genre. For others that kind of thing is a deal breaker so please think wisely before you buy. Also this could be a pretty cool gameplay concept for an ice climbers game, get onto it nintendo.
Well it’s done folks another blogg down as we slowly approach october and I have some games for that planned so hopefully I can make the plan a reality. Also if you have any questions about the stuff in this blogg leave them in the comments bellow. Anyway thanks for reading, here’s some pictures.