Wednesday, 15 April 2015

#BoobsNotBlood the bizzare state of censorship

I recently watched a video by the one and only GaijinGoombah on the subject of Senran Kagura's ban and then re-acceptance on twitch due to its 'sexual content' and it got me thinking about the state of censorship in the gaming world today.
Before I get into the crux of the rant I'm going to show you two images and I would like you to think about which one makes you more uncomfortable, ready?


Now take a good hard look at both of those and think about it, personally neither make me uncomfortable (spoiler alert: they're just pixels) but if I had to pick one that I think would be worse to show to a kid, I'd have to go with the top picture. This is where I seem to differ from many people I know, many of them are fine with letting their children play or watch horrifically violent TV shows or games but get outraged the moment a sideboob is shown or a risque joke is uttered, this attitude really perplexes me, it really makes me wonder when human sexuality became more dangerous than ultra violence.

                                           Short of death by suffocation, boobs can't hurt you

I grew up with two much older brothers (about 7 years older to be precise) so I was exposed to sexual imagery very early and new about the mechanics of sex before we covered sexual education in school, and I have not grown into a misogynist or a rapist. An exposure to women whether naked or clad in wonderful form fitting clothes (see image above for reference) is not as harmful as the Helen Lovejoys of the world would have you believe.
I have always been a fan of fan service and Japanese games can usually deliver that to me in spades which is a small part as to why I love them so much, the method of story telling and the unique cultural influences are another part admittedly, but I do love some fan service.

To try and frame the differences between the two cultures I would like to talk about a personal favorite game of mine - No More Heroes: Heroes Paradise, now this version was released with all the bloody effects they would not put into the Wii release for the game as well as the inclusion of 'Very Sweet Mode' which placed some of the female cast into slightly more racy costumes.
A few people I spoke to and some reviews I read praised the inclusion of all the blood but stated the inclusion of 'Very Sweet  Mode' made them uncomfortable and said it ruined their experience of the game, keep in mind 'Very Sweet Mode' was entirely optional, the only reason to play it was if you wanted to see the costumes or if you wanted the trophy. So I hardly think something that is entirely optional should affect your overall experience as much as it did with some reviewers.
                                                 A few of the costumes shown in 'Very Sweet Mode'

A similar controversy came about 'Killer Is Dead' and it's 'Gigolo Mode' which from what I can see what slammed as 'creepy' or 'weird' across the board (I personally found it quite funny and the cutscenes were  equally entertaining) and while this mode was more important to the game (you obtain the four subweapons from the dates with the women) it wasn't really prevalent enough to warrant the level of complaints it generated. I replayed the dates mostly just to earn easy items, I remember reading one set of complaints where they said the dates were 'problematic' as you give a girl gifts and ogle them until you get them into bed. Suda himself indicating that inspiration for the game came from Ian Fleming's James Bond, a man who merely has to smile at women in order to get them into bed. Couple that with the over exaggerated gifting gesture and you get the sense that maybe these sections weren't meant to be taken seriously (shock horror!).
                                                                     A gift for you                                                                    

Finally we reach an observation that myself as well as a large number of people over on the Niche gamer forums have made, sexuality only seems to be condemned when it is in a Japanese video game.
God of war which features sex minigames is never really called out for this content and is streamed with no issue on twitch as it GTA5 despite the fact some people do streams exclusively about the strip clubs, I also have to point out games like 'The Darkness II' where you spend some time in a brothel, not to mention Dragon Age and Mass Effect which all feature sex scenes.
Some of the outrage seems to come down to not just a fear of sexuality but specifically Japanese sexuality which the media seems to paint as deviant or dangerous, and while I can understand certain areas being confusing to someone not familiar with the ins and outs of Japanese culture on the whole it is a sadly very ignorant view of a country rich in a culture that greatly admires beauty of any form, and for a group who claim to be progressive these SJW's who are so appalled by Japanese games come across as awfully racist and entitled with their attitude of 'this is bad, stop making it!' 

Well that's my rant done for today, have fun you magnificent bastards!

TL;DR version - Boobies good, racism bad 

If you liked reading this, consider following me on Twitter, I sometimes post funny stuff -

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Toukiden Kiwami - Ornery Oni Orgy

So Toukiden is a Monster Hunter style game set in a fictional alternate timeline of Japan where Oni have warped the fabric of space time and are stealing people's souls to strengthen their monstrous army, in short Oni appear and the shit hits the fan.
You take on the role of a new Slayer who arrives in the village only to be thrown straight into the fray when Oni attack the village, it's then that you find out your Slayer has the power to communicate with the souls of dead warriors and harness them in the form of 'Mitama' which can be used to compliment your abilities.
So far so straightforward, the character creation menu is fairly simple but effective, I created quite the beautiful young woman fairly quickly (I sometimes lack the patience for all the sliders and numbers associated with crafting a face in other games) and because I'm a total weeb I went for the sword as my weapon.
If the story outline above seems simple that's because it is, it feels like the story is straight out of a shonen anime and this is by no means a bad thing, the characters themselves are all fairly standard for the genre, you have the stoic young woman who trains hard to protect those she loves, the laid back womanizer, the battle-mad muscleman seeking revenge, the girl who is not quite what she seems and the stoic mysterious man with a softer side to name just a few.
Normally I don't like the use of such obvious character types but they work in the context of this game, as there are not too many cut scenes to push development between characters it pays to have easily identifiable character personalities as nuance can easily be lost in a game lacking in exposition, so the simple traits these characters possess actually help you identify with them a little more easily.

                                                                                     Best girl by far                                                                                          

Now in your quest to save the world from the threat the Oni pose you embark on a number of replayable missions with varying objectives such as 'kill x number of x oni', 'secure x number of areas' or to hunt a specific Oni, so in short most the missions come down to the same thing with slight variations but the missions generally don't last long enough to become too tedious. The only time I found myself getting bored with the game was during one side quest where I had to slay 20 of an Oni where only one or two of them appeared at a time in a specific area which led to me having to replay the same mission over and over again, however that is one of the only time I have really felt like I had to grind.
You generally take materials you gain from slaying Oni and use them to craft new weapons and armour and I found I can usually make a whole new set of  armour from slaying one or two giant Oni.
The armour sets themselves all look good, in fact the game on the whole looks great on the PS4 and plays relatively smoothly.
When it comes to the material gathering you get help in the form of an adorable little creature called a tenko that you can feed and send out into mission areas to fetch materials for you, if you happen to be in the same area you can even meet your tenko and it can save you in combat (this has yet to happen to me thankfully), this is a real time saver in the game as it means you don't have to constantly revisit areas for resources you can work on progressing through the story while the tenko does the legwork you need for materials. Another thing I personally love about the tenko is the fact you can change their fur colour and their voice through the use of special treats, it's a small thing but I can't help but smile when I see my pink tinted tenko greet me when I return to the village.
                                                                                                                                    I want one, I want one right now                                                                            

Now the fighting is one of the most important aspects of the game and all I have to say about it is... Eh it's not awful, you have three buttons dedicated to attacks, square is a light attack, triangle is heavy and circle is a special attack unique to each weapon, the sword for example has a gouge attack which inflicts cumulative wounds that do heavy damage when you either press circle again or run out of 'focus' (this game's version of stamina).
You also have the 'destroyer' and 'united destroyer' which are triggered with the triangle and circle buttons which are attacks that kill lesser Oni immediately and sever limbs off of larger Oni (a pastime I am far too fond of), you also have an ability called 'the eye of truth' which allows you to see hidden items in the world and also perceive the the health of Oni and the status of the larger Oni's limbs.
The biggest game changer though is what mitama you take into combat, each mitama gives you different abilities that can be accessed using R1 and they have a variety of effects, my personal favorites are the ones that focus either on healing or the severing of limbs as they can really make the battles against large Oni fairly easy and straightforward.
You can also give mitama to your tenko and use them to grant effects when you bathe at the pool of purity, the pool seems to mainly be used to help build up relationships between characters and yield you special effects similar to the prayers you can make at the shrine in the mission hub.
You can also gain special effects from mitama if you have a weapon with more than one mitama slot, combine the right ones together (usually ones with a historical relationship as they are all based on historical or mythological Japanese figures) and you will gain a special link effect to further strengthen your character.

                                                   Nobunyaga is my personal favorite mitama

Missions against small Oni are no real problem, you can handle them solo with no problem, it's when the game starts throwing the large Oni at you that you need your team and considering this game is all about working as a team with the AI (as I do not play well with others) obviously you would hope the AI would work well, and for the most part I think it does. With the exception of the character of Ibuki (who seemed compelled to run face first into an Oni's claw) the party members are able to look after themselves and provide good support without me really needing to issue orders which is a nice change from having to micromanage the entire fight.
 Battles with large Oni revolve around you dismembering and then purifying their body parts to gain rare materials and also dismembering to weaken the Oni's attacking and defensive capabilities, sever the limbs to cause huge damage and then go in for the kill, it's a very satisfying feeling seeing one of the huge Oni fall and it actually feels like an achievement.

                                                 The 'Manhunter' the first large Oni you fight

Now we reach a bit more of a personal ramble, I have never played Monster Hunter before but this game has convinced me to pick it up for the Wii U at some point, I found the gameplay while simple highly addictive and it is good to play just to kill some time as the missions barely take any time.
The main thing I love though is the richness of the lore regarding the mitama, I spend a while just reading the historical outlines of each one and giving the ones I personally don't like to my tenko as punishment (I'm looking at you Taira No Kiyomori) the village itself is also beautiful and though simple I feel a need to look after the people there. I suppose it's one of the reasons I love Japanese games so much, while Toukiden has a story with the same level as peril as many Western RPGs it does not seem to take itself as seriously and never feels over angsty or edgy, the game world feels like a group of people trying to get by and make it day by day by focusing on the good and not the bad.
All in all I find Toukiden to be a very charming game that is able to keep my attention for a surprising amount of time despite its flaws, if you haven't picked it up already I would highly recommend some Oni slaying action.  

Until next time, happy hunting you magnificent bastards 

Rating:  8/10

TL;DR version: Would r8 m8

(Please note that Toukiden Kiwami was bought through my own means, no shilling here)

If you like what I write it'd be great if you could follow me on Twitter, I practically live there now - 

Saturday, 28 March 2015

What #Gamergate means to me

I probably should have done this sooner but whenever I tried to write it down before I couldn't find the words, so I just decided 'fuck it let's see how it goes'.

I've been aware of the movement since day one, I was first introduced to it through IA's Quinnspiracy videos and the movement as a whole really helped me see how fucked up the media's view of gamers is. I've seen myself and people like myself get demonised as psychopaths and rapists one moment and then be told I'm a loser lacking the social skills to leave my home the next. I suppose part of me always assumed people didn't necessarily take that view seriously, how wrong I turned out to be and seeing the opposition put forward to a group that is about better ethical standards in journalism demonstrates how little people care about gamers, I suppose everyone needs their whipping boy.

I suppose my joining twitter and wanting to get more involved in GG is the culmination of not just the many months the movement has been around, but years of feeling pissed off at people saying video games don't matter in one breath and then blaming them for society's ills in the next.
As a multibillion pound industry I suppose I believe that games deserve better, gamers deserve better and that's why I was so happy to find sites like Niche Gamer that's run by people who seem to really love video games, it's sad to say that it seems to be a rarity to find a reviewer who actually enjoys games.

Now as I said back in my introductory post I have no sad back story of how games helped me through a dark time, my life up to this point has been relatively happy (aside from the usual dramas and frustrations), however before being exposed to the wide variety of people and views in GG I did always carry a certain amount of shame for liking certain games and franchises.
This mostly stems from when I first picked up DOA2 many years ago, I was talking about it with my friends when they all started looking at me as though I'd just dropped trow in front of them and waved my dick in their faces, they started asking me why I picked up that game that pervs played.
Now I'll be honest the designs in DOA appeal to me massively but the way fighting flows and feels in it is a much bigger source of joy for me. From that point on I was always slightly conscious of what games I picked and played, and felt like I was strange for liking games with fan service, thankfully that part of my life is behind me and I embrace my perverted impulses fully which has allowed me to play some games which I would now rank amongst my top 10.

I also have to say that seeing just how full of shit the industry is has helped me get the courage to start writing, yet another thing to thank the good people of GG for, I'm shocked at how friendly everyone has been on twitter so far and I have to thank everyone for making me feel welcome.

I suppose what I want to see is not only diversity in the industry in terms of people (not forced diversity via quotas or any of that bs) but also of ideas and types of games, I've grown tired of seeing grey and brown FPS games as well as generic RPGs with cookie cutter plots, I think that gaming has great potential as an artistic medium but it can't forget it's roots. It needs to be fun.

Well thanks for reading this, and best of luck in everything you glorious bastards. 

Friday, 27 March 2015

Bloodborne, worth the hype?

Let me just say I have been excited for this game since the announcement, and I did something I never thought I'd do with it, I pre-ordered the Nightmare edition. So was did it live up to my expectations? Well read on and I'll let you know, I'll also avoid posting any spoilers (boss names don't count do they?) I have found in the name of not being a dick.

First of all I have to say I didn't really pay any money for this game, I traded in a crap ton of games for in-store credit and used that to pay for the whole thing so my bank account is still happy and I'm very happy.
When I unboxed this thing and saw the concept art book, the ink and quill set as well as the bell (quite a pretty little trinket it is too) I beamed from ear to ear, the messenger skin is irrelevant to me and I'll explain why soon enough.

 So first of all after I had finished downloading the update file (which thankfully didn't take the 3 hours my PS4 initially told me) and booted up the game I noticed it wouldn't let me play in online mode. Now I've accepted that not having  PS+ membership stops me from playing PvP and to be honest I don't really care about it, but I didn't realise it would prevent me from using the messenger function as well, so that gave me a bad taste in my mouth but I suppose PSN becoming like XBL is a rant for another day.

The character creation seems standard for a Souls game only you can now create a character that doesn't look too much like a potato, and instead of choosing a class you choose a background which I liked considerably more than the usual warrior, thief, mage setup as it made my character feel a little more concrete to me.
After making my character (I opted for the troubled childhood route myself) I jumped straight into the game, and I have to say it looks bloody good, DS2 had no real tension or mood to the environments, they were all pretty boring in my opinion but Bloodborne actually impressed me with its Gothic look.
You start out in a clinic where you were having your blood transfused, the clinic itself is abandoned and it was here I noticed something else I liked, the sound of the footsteps are amazing, now I know it sounds mundane but I'm a bit of an audiophile and when I noticed how good the footsteps sounded on the wood I got far more excited than I should have.
The music is also excellent really lending itself to the moody feel of the game, the enemy voices are also of note with them cursing you as they die and screaming in horror at your approach, it almost made me feel like I was walking through a village from a classic horror novel, so I have to say the atmosphere is perfect so far.

This game was advertised to me as the spiritual successor of Demons Souls and I have to say that's an accurate description, everything from the opening of the game to the feel of the combat and the healing feels far more like Demons than Dark souls, which is perfect in my books.
 Now the combat was something I was skeptical of as you don't have shields anymore, I'm not afraid to admit that through most of DKS and DKS2 I spent a lot of time turtleing behind a shield waiting for an opportune moment to attack and usually getting slaughtered because I got my guard broken.
Bloodborne's combat is a lot faster in terms of pace and it pits your character against much larger numbers of enemies so the battles seem governed more by reflexes and flexibility as opposed to tanking your way through until your enemies are too tired to hit back, if I had to pick a game that the battle system reminded me of it would be something like a cross between Ninja Gaiden and Demons souls.
The battles are faced paced and unforgiving, more than once I allowed myself to get flanked and killed by some of the mobs, however once I figured out how to use alternate form of the Trick cane (what can I say I'm a Victorian gentleman at heart) the mobs stopped being so threatening as I was able to mow down entire groups with relatively little effort and some careful timing. The dodge function also works into the fighting incredibly well, in previous FromSoft games rolling and dodging felt very awkward and clunky (in fact combat in general felt like I was trying to attack an enemy in a pool full of treacle), the feeling of dodging and weaving amongst mobs of enemies while counterattacking with the cane and pistol is undeniably satisfying.
 A visual addition I like in the combat is the fact your clothes slowly get drenched in blood as you fight and by the time I got near the Cleric beast even my pistol was bloodstained, it's a small visual nuance but one that I find really ties in with the theme, it also gives me a warm fuzzy feeling to see my character coated in the blood of his enemies but hey that might just be me.

Now in general you won't die from lack of healing items from what I've noticed as healing items are dropped by most enemies (the basic mobs tend to drop one or two when you kill them) so generally you'll die because you got too pressured to heal or just generally because you fucked up... Although that isn't entirely true, on more than one occasion I have been killed because the camera decided to go full retard on a piece of scenery (the Cleric beast fight did this to me) but it seems to be a rare occurrence and to my experience collision detection seems better here than in previous FromSoft games (I have yet to be killed by invisible range on anything),
While I'm on the subject of dying (which I have done my fair share of so far) the only major gripe I have is with the loading screen, I might just be an impatient bastard but I found the loading time a little ridiculous all things considered.

Bloodborne seems to also relish the element of surprise as the only two bosses I have fought so far were not preceded by a fog gate, only when I tried to turn and bolt as fast as my legs could take me did I realise what a dire situation I was in, and I love it especially with Father Gascoigne as a sheer moment of panic ran through me once the boss fight started and he rushed me (I still need to get around to beating him...).

In conclusion friends and fellow hunters was Bloodborne worth the hype? Well from what I can tell so far, yes it was. I haven't finished (I got it this morning around 9:30am GMT and only played it for about 4 hours) so I can't make any judgements on the late game  and as I pointed out earlier I'm currently unable to experience PvP or even Co op play (No way in hell I can afford PS+ at the moment) but the single player experience has been everything I hoped it would be so far, it's more than making up for the disappointment of DKS 2, once I have finished the game I'll post up my final thoughts.

Until then happy hunting you glorious bastards.

(Please note that Bloodborne: Nightmare edition was purchased through my own means, no shilling here)   

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Senran Kagura Bon Appetit!

 I have been more than a little slow in getting around to playing this, bear with me as this is the first Senran Kagura game I've ever played (and it has convinced me to play the others in fact), I bought this on a whim off of the PS store the other day and was surprised when I got around to playing it.

I initially thought that the game would be one that I dropped fairly quickly once the appeal of the fan service wore off similar to my experience with Monster Monpiece, I quickly found myself addicted to this game though.


                                                             Best girl in my humble opinion

I was fully prepared for a rhythm game experience akin to Project Diva, oh how wrong I was! 
While arguably far simpler than Project Diva as it does not have anything akin to technical zones or chance times it offers it's own challenges, least of all are the two hit bars at the bottom of the screen with alternating notes. While this is a relatively basic mechanic it actually threw me through a loop on more than one occasion and I pride myself on my skill at rhythm games.  

Another thing I loved was this game's story mode, each girl has their own unique and oftentimes funny story, Haruka and Homura's stories are my personal favorites out of all the girls. The stories themselves consist of a short exposition piece at the start which explains their reasons for entering the cook off followed by a series of battles, some of which have a cut scene proceeding them and then an epilogue at the end followed by a closing cg. All in all a very simple affair but highly entertaining and the game itself is incredibly fun.  
Playing this game also makes me very hungry

 Now onto the meat of the game, the battles themselves, as mentioned above the battles take place with two beat bars which alternate combos of button presses while sometimes asking for you to hold or mash the buttons displayed, while this is going on you see the girls cooking at the top of the screen.
With each successive hit in your combo you build up power which you can unleash as a 'ninja art' which boosts your score and stacks as you hit more notes, however this effect ends if you slip up once which led to many frustrated shouts as I lost streaks of 10+ as one of my thumbs just grazed a button instead of hitting it directly.

                                                         Second best girl with ninja arts active

The battles are divided up into three parts which consist of two smaller meals separated by judgements and then a final 'super dish' with a final judgement, with each victory in the earlier rounds leading to some of your opponent's clothing being torn off.
In the final round a heart will appear if you won both previous rounds which will lead to a closeup of your opponent in her underwear, and will also lead to her being stripped completely naked at the battle's end, on top of that you will also view a special scene where they will be placed onto a dessert once you have cleared the results screen.

The game itself is deceptively challenging, I had real difficulty clearing arcade on normal mode once I reached the final battle against Daidoji, it is really unforgiving of you making a mistake, a few missed notes can lead to the bar plummeting to your detriment very quickly, this for me is a huge tick in the plus column as I love a game to challenge me.

                                          I sometimes wake up at night screaming remembering this woman
If you're not feeling up for actually playing the game you can play around in the dressing room putting your favorite kunoichi into any of the many cute outfits you've earned and once you've cleared their story mode you can view their 'special' scenes. The game also makes use of the Vita's touch pad allowing you to move the girl's breasts and slap their bottoms to elicit a number of different reactions from the girls ranging from embarrassment to sounds of arousal, while this may cause a certain demographic to get offended and up in arms, I found it to be a nice little extra.
You can also check out the gallery of images and music you have gathered, the music itself is from the various stages in the game, only a few of which have vocals to them, these tracks seem to be reserved for the major characters of the game and not for the subordinates, however all the tracks are catchy and very 'boppable'.

Now we reach the point where I tell you my gripes with the game, which are few in number to be sure but still frustrating none the less.
By far my largest issue is with the fact that about half of the playable characters are locked out unless you buy the DLC or already have the DLC for Shinovi versus so that fact left me with a very bad taste in my mouth, especially as I couldn't play as Daidoji, the woman who caused me so much suffering in the arcade mode.
My other far smaller gripe is with the judgement scenes themselves, watching them the first time is quite funny and I enjoy it enormously, however repeat viewings can be tedious as they are quite drawn out. This however is averted as they do give you the option of skipping these scenes by pressing circle.

                                                                   Living the dream

All in all Senran Kagura Bon Appetit is a thoroughly enjoyable game and I found it to be a nice introduction to the characters and world of Senran Kagura, it's game play is solid, the character designs and personalities are distinctive, the story is fun, essentially if you don't own this game already I would recommend you give it a try.

I give it 7/10, not the best game in the world but good if you have some spare time and cash.

TL;DR version - Would r8    

(Please note that this is an impartial review of a copy of Senran Kagura Bon Appetit bought with my own funds, no shilling here. All images sourced from the Googles) 



Video games are a great passion of mine alongside comic books, anime and manga, but I would have to say video games have definitely been one of my biggest obsessions.
I recall my home having a commadore 64 when I was very small, we also owned sega consoles (megadrive, mastersystem and dreamcast as well as the handheld gamegear) sony consoles (ps1, 2, 3 and more recently 4, as well as PSP and VITA) not to mention also owning N64, WII, WIIU and 3DS.

It's safe to say that gaming has been a large part of my life for as long as I can remember, and to this day it's still one of my favourite things to do, I believe the medium has great potential as an art form but first and foremost it is for enjoyment.
I have seen many posts like this one tell of sad childhoods and dark moments in life where the only way out was through a brightly lit screen and the colourful characters within the game's universe. I have to say fortunately I have not needed video games to get me through any such dark times, my main use for them was the break the monotony of life, and to live out fantasies I'd had for many years.

I hope to share with everyone my opinions and views on certain games in the form of reviews, story analysis as well as sharing my views on cultural influences and nuance, I'll most likely do some retrospectives on series that have had a particular impact on my life too.

I apologise for the brevity of this post and I look forward to positing something new up soon.