Saturday, October 22, 2016

Code of Princess 3DS

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Code of Princess, Agatsuma Games, 2012, Grade: B-
I've been looking for an inexpensive 3DS game for a while, and I finally broke down and got Code of Princess for 500 yen ($5 USD). I'd seen it in Book Off for months, but I'd been holding off buying it partly because the box art didn't show much in the way of the game play. CoP is, in the words of one reviewer, "a sidescrolling brawler". It's very similar in concept to the old Simpson's video game, where you walk left or right along a street, fighting a fixed number of enemy within a time limit.

(Player selection screen. In story mode, you can only select one of the 4 main characters. Obviously, to get all 4 up to the higher levels, you have to replay the story quests at least one time each for each character.)

You play Princess Solange. Her father's kingdom is attacked by monsters, and the army blames the royal family for the mess. Solange is instructed to get the Sacred Blade DeLuxcalibur out of the armory and find out why the monsters are attacking. DeLuxcalibur is a huge blade, longer than Solange is tall, and very heavy, so Solange spends most of her time dragging it along on the ground when she walks. It has a slow attack, but does a lot of damage if it hits the enemy. It is funny, when Solange is surrounded front and back, that the blade hits anyone behind her, while throwing the enemy in front of her up in the air. In the first few stages, you only have 4 actions - upward cut, lunge, attack the legs, and "burst" (burst uses up all your MP, but adds extra magic damage to the other attacks).

(Princess Solange, from the opening cut scene.)

As you progress through the story, you unlock each chapter one at a time. Any chapter can be replayed if you want to get more experience. At the end of the chapter, you get experience, money, items, and points that can be assigned to specific character stats (strength, HP, MP, defense, etc.) I've only started the game, and I think I have less than 4-5 hours on it. One of the NPCs that joins your party will sell you random weapons, armor and accessories, which are largely useless. I have encountered the three other playable NPCs - the thief, Ali Baba; necromancer Lady Zozo; and "bard" Allegro (Allegro plays an electric guitar, and apparently doesn't need an amp). There are other characters you meet later on, but according to the wiki page, you can't play them in story mode. You can switch to a couple other free play modes, where you can use the other characters, apparently up to 50 total.

(One of the battle screens. Pressing the D-pad in various combinations, then following that with that A-B-X-Y buttons will give you different attacks. Just like Street Fighter.)

The story mode fighting system is very simple, and it's mostly just button mashing. The artwork looks really good, but there's not much strategy - upper cut to keep the enemy air borne, and if someone gets too close, back away and lunge, or attack for the legs a bit, then go back to upper cutting. Guard if the enemy are too high-level and swarm you. I really wanted a traditional RPG, so I'm a bit disappointed at getting a sidescroller. So far, though, it's not difficult to keep beating each chapter, so I may play CoP occasionally, rather than playing Spider Solitaire on the PC. Recommended only if you can find it cheap, used.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Ajin, vol. 9 review

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Ajin, vol. 9 (Good Afternoon, 2016-16), by Gamon Sakurai. Grade: A-.
The battle between Satou's forces and Tosaki's continues, although it's really Tanaka and Satou, with the police inadvertently getting in the way of the defenders. The one guard recognizes Kei, and the boy takes Kou as a hostage, whispering out a quick plan. Kei shoots Kou in the legs, giving the guards the chance to dart him. Kou then darts the medics tending to him, and shoots Kei in the head with a gun, resetting him. After a brief skirmish, the guards are all down, and Kei and Kou work their way up the stairs. Elsewhere, Izumi and Tanaka fight it out, until Tanaka succeeds in darting her a couple times. He handcuffs her to a railing. The medics arrive, and think that Tanaka, who is in a uniform, is on their side, and they let him leave. Unfortunately, the medics realize that Izumi is an Ajin, and they prepare to shoot video with their smartphones to put on the net, as Tanaka is still within earshot. (He may have become a little more sympathetic after exchanging memories with Izumi when their ghosts came into contact with each other.)

(Izumi's and Tanaka's ghosts fight; Tanaka prepares to dart Izumi.)

Hirasawa and his two remaining men have Satou pinned down on one floor, next to an indoor swimming pool. Satou takes a dart to the arm, and tries resetting himself by shooting himself in the head, but his revolver is out of bullets. He collapses. Hirasawa radios Kei, who tells him to see if Satou's throat is vibrating as he plays possum (breathing shallowly). It is, and there's more gun play until Satou takes a dart to the back of the neck and collapses for good this time. (He has a tourniquet around his bicep, keeping the sleeping drug in his arm from entering his bloodstream.) However, his ghost is capable of going autonomous now, and it kills the two remaining bodyguards before resetting Satou. Satou almost kills Hirasawa, but Kei saves him. Hirasawa hits his head against the wall, and Satou punches Kei in the face, hard. When they recover, Satou is gone.

(Satou takes a dart to the arm, then pretends to be out of bullets to set a trap for anyone that gets close to him.)

Satou gets to the executive floor, where Kai, the company president, thinks he is safely locked inside. Kai tells Satou to end this and go home. Instead, Satou cuts his arm off, presses the stump up against the saferoom door, and resets himself. The black smoke that causes Ajin to regenerate discovers the door in the way, and assimilates it to make the guy's arm whole again. Leaving a hole in the door for him to shoot Kai through. At the same time, Tanaka discovers Kai's secretary, and takes pity on her for having had pity on him. He tries to get her to safety before his boss finds them, but it's too late. Tanaka threatens to shoot Satou if he tries to kill the woman, and Satou backs off, claiming that he's more interested in capturing and torturing Kei. Tanaka doesn't trust him, but he and the secretary head to the lobby. Simultaneously, Tosaki, in the main security control room, had activated the lock down system, then gotten a phonecall that is too important to ignore. He leaves the room, and finds Izumi cuffed in the stairwell, surrounded by dead medics (their smartphones all have bullet holes in them). Izumi tries to get Tosaki to help her rip her wrist off so she can escape the cuffs, but her boss looks at the blood, and leaves to find the keys to the cuffs instead.

(Satou promises to cut Kei's head off and have the boy generate a new one.)

Satou gets to the control room, and activates the PA system. He says that he's going to track down Kei, cut his head off, and carry it far enough away that he'll generate a second one to torture. Given Kei, the boy will be able to let him do this. Kou and Kei argue over what to do, and Hirasawa orders them to the roof. The exit door is locked, so Kei has the other two cut his arms off and reset him so that he can disable the lock the way Satou had. Hirasawa orders them to escape, and Kou stands close enough to the edge of the roof to be blown off by a strong gust of wind. Kei doesn't want to run away, and he realizes that Hirasawa is bleeding. Turns out that somehow, Satou had managed to shoot him through a gap under his bulletproof vest. He's dying. Satou finds a gas-powered weed trimmer, and reaches the roof. Hirasawa shoots Kei in the head, causing him to fall over the ledge.  Satou is disappointed, but consoles himself with the idea of going toe to toe with the lead bodyguard in a boxing match. Kei orders his ghost to go to the roof to help Hirasawa, but when it gets to the top, Satou is gone (he admits Hirasawa was a great fighter) and the bodyguard is lying on the roof, dead.

(Hirasawa prepares to box with Satou, while Kou attempts to hold on to a ledge a few floors down.)

Kei lands on the pavement in the middle of a crowd of reporters. They recognize him, and some cops rush up. Kou steals a TV transmitter truck, because it has the keys in it, and he rescues Kei. They get to a bridge next to a river, and ditch the truck. Kei orders Kou to use the fact that no one knows he's an Ajin yet, and return to his safe life. He himself will seek out another backwood mountainside to hide in. Kou asks about all the people Satou is going to kill, and Kei replies back that Kou was only concerned about the death of Hirasawa, yet had no feelings when he saw president Kai dead. That is, he's being irrational. Kou replies that when he first died, he'd been trying to replace a lightbulb in the family's apartment. He was just a kid. He'd climbed up on a chair and a stack of newspapers, slipped off, and broke his back on the floor. His family moved away, leaving him there, paralyzed, waiting to die. It took days to die and reset. He is desperate now to help people who need him, but he can't do it alone. He needs Kei, too. Kei leaves, trying to think of somewhere that has no people. Suddenly, he stops and says that he'll try calling his mother one more time.

Summary: The security doors of the Forge building open the next morning, and everyone is shuttled out. Tosaki and Izumi leave together, while Tanaka continues pretending to be a guard, then ditches the uniform in a nearby alley. No word on what happened to the secretary. Satou threw himself off the roof and escaped that way. And essentially, everyone is back to square one. Although, Satou is in the lead because he had succeeded in getting one of the two remaining people on his top ten hit list. Great artwork, great action, great pacing. Lots of gory combat. Recommended if you like this kind of thing. Upgraded to A-, based on the improvements in the character art.

Thursday, October 20, 2016


Ok. Yeah. There was another opportunity to get a toy from a UFO Catcher (crane arm) machine. I took it. Took 7-8 tries ($7-$8 USD), but I got it. I guess it's just something called "the huggable pillow, Flan."

I have no place to keep these things, so I donated it to a woman that has a dog, to use as the dog's companion. I've been told the dog likes it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Capsule Cafe, Takepla

The capsule ball dispenser banks keep moving around in Tenmonkan. This time, they've been relocated to one of the upper floors of the Taka Plaza (Takapla) department store.

None of the machines have anything really new. It's just that there are so many dispensers in one place, and they've been arranged by type - girls' toys, animals, gimmicks, etc. Prices are between $2 and $4 apiece.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Miyazaki Day Trip

As mentioned in yesterday's blog entry, my plan for Sunday was to visit Aoshima, in Miyazaki. Miyazaki is a 3-hour bus trip from Kagoshima, so I got up to the main station and took the 9:35 AM bus. The bus driver mostly stayed on the express roads, keeping a few miles from the bay, so all I saw were hills and trees. The sky stayed overcast and there was light rain all day, meaning there really was nothing to look at on the trip. I got to a department store in Miyazaki at 12:30, and switched buses for the one that goes down to Aoshima. Miyazaki is on the east side of Kyushu, and Aoshima is a small island down the coast heading south a few miles. I stopped at a roadside restaurant called the Phoenix, and had fresh sushi and sashimi for lunch. With beer, the meal came to $20.

Actually, Aoshima isn't visible from this vantage point, but there is an observation deck where you can stand and stare at the ocean. One of the main features of this region is the washboard-like coast line.

The Phoenix. It's a combination restaurant, souvenir shop, and abandoned educational center. Most of the visitors were Japanese, but with some Chinese mixed in. The most popular items of the day were the soft cream cones.

I'm guessing that the beach is made up of layers of eroded shale. The observation deck does have stairs leading down the hill, but they only go a few yards down. There had been routes that reached all the way to the beach, but those had been closed off a few years ago. So, there's not any point to taking the stairs unless you want to look at some of the flowers below the observation deck. The weather stayed bad, so I took the next bus back to the city.

The Miyazaki main train station has a cut-out board featuring three of the gods and goddesses that created Japan according to myth (including Susanou and Amaterasu, if you remember the Area 51 manga). The express train was maybe $50 dollars, and still took 2 hours to get back to Kagoshima. I got in there at 6:30 PM, and had more sushi for dinner at a restaurant across the street.

At 7:30 PM, on my way home, the sky cleared up and the rain stopped. The full moon was absolutely brilliant. Sigh.

At 10 PM, when I took the trash out at night, the rain had started up again.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Oct. 15

Asian Kagoshima 2016

I didn't have to work at the English conversation school on Friday, so I had no idea if anything was going on at Central Park. Saturday morning, I was busy preparing for a day trip to Miyazaki on Sunday, so I wasn't able to get out of the apartment until just after 12. On the off-chance, I swung by Central Park, and yes, something was being set up. Unfortunately, there were no clues as to what it would be for. Since it was raining relatively hard, I expected whatever it was might be canceled for the day.

The only thing I could think of that normally occurs at this time of year is the Asian Fest, where representatives of high schools from other countries in the Asian region visit to perform various dances and songs. But, that's a two-day event, and Saturday is usually indoors, in Houzan Hall, across the street, but still with the food court open in the park.

At 4 PM I had a short break, so I headed back to the park to see if anything had changed. At a minimum, the opposite end of the park, closer to the Hall, had the entrance gate up, with the sign "Asian Kagoshima 2016." I turned around and looked at the Hall, and I could see a number of people hanging out near the entrances. So, I was at least partially right.

Then I found the schedule board. The outdoor portion was being limited to just Sunday this year, which was disappointing. The sign shows the different kinds of foods to be offered at the booths, and advertises a quiz rally, with airplane tickets from a travel agency as the prize. There would also be music performances at the outdoor live stage.

It's a good thing they expected rain on Sunday. It did rain the entire time I was in Miyazaki, which is about 100 miles away at the other side of Kyushu. It was a rather miserable weekend. I never did hear if the event was successful or not.

Wine Festa

Meanwhile, the open space in front of Lotteria was hosting the latest wine festa, which is a drinking party supported by a small food court and live music (either classical or soft jazz). I swung by here at 12:30 Saturday afternoon on my way to the school. Since the cost is something like $25 for a wine flight, I didn't bother spending money because I'd have to be at the school a few minutes later. The main thing was to see who was performing the music. At this point, it was two guys in tuxedos, with guitars. The music wasn't interesting and the support staff kept walking in front of the stage and spoiling the photos.

During my 4 PM break, I came back and stood around for a few minutes. This time, there was no music - just the MC hawking the food at a couple of the booths. Instead, I took photos of the Harley Davidson bikes.

I wanted to get a better photo of the trike, but it was parked between a pillar, and the sales tent.

The booths sold food and wine, and there were advertisers like Harley trying to sell other stuff. The event wasn't that heavily attended, with maybe 30 people total at one time, many of them families with kids that just drank soda. So, maybe closer to 20 people paying for the flights of wine. Again, I had to be back at work before 5 PM, which didn't give me time to do much. Then again, just about all the food and wine here is overpriced, and I wouldn't have spent the money anyway, unless I had several hours to sit and talk with friends.

This is the MC. I went back to work, and didn't get out until 8:30 PM, by which time the booths were closed. I went home, had a quick dinner, then went to bed early so I could get up at 8 AM Sunday to go catch the bus.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Jim Benson, Cursive

I finally won another GoComics contest. It's been at least a year since the last time. GoComics changed their entry system, and I'd had no luck after that. But, there haven't been that many contests recently, anyway. Then, at the end of September, they ran a contest on Facebook, where they'd pick names from people that commented on the Facebook page, for a signed copy of the latest book of cartoons from Jim Benton. It was only me and one other guy, and I won. Which worked out really well for me because I have an interview with Jim lined up on Basket Case on Oct. 28, and this allowed me to pose with the book for the interview.

It's a great book. At least half the cartoons have run on GoComics already, but there were quite a few that I haven't seen before. Most of the cartoons are on the dark side, but some are more light-hearted or heartwarming.

(The signature is on the dedication page.)

For those of you not familiar with the name, Jim wrote the "Franny K. Stein" and "Dear Dumb Diary" kid's book lines, and had a TV series produced on the Fox Kids channel - The Secret Files of the Spy Dogs. His "It's Happy Bunny" line of shirts and other products is sold at Hot Topic.

"Man, I Hate Cursive" is recommended to anyone that likes cynical, mature humor.