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 

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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)

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