A born and bred Minnesotan, JC founded the original Dragon's Anime back when the site was still just a Tenchi Muyo fan site, and remains the primary maintainer of the site.
Ok, honestly, I'd try to come up with some sort of semi-clever, maybe witty intro on to announce this review, but honestly, this one really just kinda took it out of me. I've got a review on Dragon Age: Origins up, and you're welcome to come take a look, as always. Oh, ah, you might want to bring a bag lunch… It's a bit of a doozy of a review…
Dark times have come to the nation of Fereldan. Having recently freed itself from a century of occupation by a neighboring country, now a new, ancient threat has begun to move in the southern reaches of her lands. The darkspawn, a twisted mockery of life created when the mages of old attempted to breach the Maker's city, are rising. So evil that just being splattered by their blood can be enough to corrupt you and turn you into one of them when it doesn't just kill you, they are legion – and man alone is not enough to fight them. Enter the Gray Wardens, an order of heroes who appeared when all hope seemed lost during the first invasion by the darkspawn so long ago. Men and women of all race and creed, immune to the taint, and gifted with unheard of strength and power and... Oh, sod it, we've heard this story before, let's just get on with the review.
Y'know, I've been noticing something strange lately out where I live… Just something weird, and I'm pretty sure if I could get a good look at it, it wouldn't look good. Hell, I think it's even fair to say that I've been seeing things, and not just in my head. Thought for sure there was something invisible in my bed last night, at least until my cat scrambled out from under the covers she'd been curled up under. I tell you, I just don't know who I should call… Anybody have any ideas?
1984. A relatively unremarkable year, all things considered. Ma Bell was broken up, Michael Jackson provided his own stage lighting when his hair caught on fire during a Pepsi commercial filming, and Ronald Reagan tries his hand at humor with the line, "My fellow Americans, I'm pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes," during a radio voice check. Nothing particularly interesting. A legion of little transforming toy robots invaded and forever corrupted my co-writer's consciousness as Transformers debuted. Like I said... small potatoes. And oh yes... A little town on an island on the East Coast got overrun by ghosts, goblins, ghouls, spirits, apparitions, and one really nimble little minx with a flat top... But who you gonna call when something like THAT happens?!
What's a guy supposed to do when he's out on a backpacking trip with his cute little new girlfriend, who wants to go play hide and seek in a complex system of shadowy caves? Personally, I'd be running the other way, fully expecting the insane axe killer that always seems to stalk girls like that in remote locations to be coming after me any moment now, but Jason Flemming dives right in after her. Unfortunately for our little love birds, what's in those caves might just be worse than Jason… well, ok maybe not, but come spelunking with me while I check out Shadow Complex on the xBox Live Arcade and find out whether or not we're going to be quoting the horror movie rules while being horribly chopped and dismembered.
There's something that we've lost as gamers in the years since the shift from 2D to 3D based graphics. Sure, you might say, we've gained the more immersive world of the Halo series or Gears of War shooters, or the riveting, beautifully crafted vistas to be found in games like Final Fantasy and Mass Effect. The shift to 3D allowed us to focus on world crafting, on building settings in which the player could lose themselves in as easily as the story itself. Remember how incredible that opening area in Metroid Prime on the Gamecube was? The stunning, pouring rain, the rich, lush vegetation and the ripples of the water as Samus ran around in it? The Metroid series, though, highlights that something that we lost in the transition from 2D to 3D. After all, long before Samus was running around the world of Tallon IV, she was an explorer of the dark, side-scroller tunnels of Zebes – a platformer. For all the advantages of 3D, it just doesn't do platformer style games well, much less the sort of huge-map, backtracking, hunt-and-seek style gaming of games like Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. What does all this have to do with this review's target, Shadow Complex for the xBox Live Arcade? Everything.
There are reasons to be afraid of the dark out there, even if you don't believe in critters under your bed and hiding in your closet. For myself, I took the doors off my closet so they couldn't hide there, and my mattress sits right on the floor so there's no room for them to fit. Unfortunately, that just takes care of the physical ones – what about the ghosts, the phantoms that wander about? This week it's time for a Requiem for the Phantom(s) out there. Dunno if we can put them to rest, but at the very least it's going to be a spooky ride.
One of the things that the entertainment industry often draws upon is that of the mob. From Al Capone to The Sopranos, and more episodes of Law & Order than I care to admit to having watched, America has a love affair of sorts with the notion of the mafia. It's not just an American obsession, of course, but we're certainly in the running for being the head of the family, so to speak. It's a popular setting – and thus we come to this week's review, Phantom ~Requiem for the Phantom~, an exploration into the dark and seedy world of the mob, and what happens when you drag an otherwise normal person into it.
Last year I had the chance to bring you the review on one of the more original storylines I've seen in the last decade or so, Spice & Wolf. At the time, I mentioned that the TV series was based on a series of light novels by author Isuna Hasekura, and had been under the impression that the novel's run was finished. As it turns out, though, the series is ongoing – and is up to twelve volumes as of this review. As I said, Okami to Koshinryo has proven to be wildly popular in Japan and also here in the states, spawning both a manga and of course the first TV season. The good news is, Lawrence and Horo are back this season for another round, this time with a new animation studio, Brain's Base.
This time we're revisiting some old friends as I take a look at the second season of Spice & Wolf. Horo's back, and of course she's still teasing along her favorite chew toy Lawrence Craft as they make their way northward. Come hit the road with them and see what sort of trouble they get into this time!