Anime: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

This time I decided to do a review on something completely different from what i usually do.

The Girl who leapt Through Time is spiritual sequal to a Novel written by Yasutaka Tsutsui in 1965. Directed by Mamoru Hosoda and produced by Madhouse in 2006, the film brings together a lively tale of a young girl who gains the power to time travel, though, this isn’t anything new that hasn’t been used in film literature before. Of course, along the journey there are various pitfalls and realizations she goes through and soon enough does she start to realise about her actions effect her and those around her. But does the film bring a refreshing take on a tried and used formula or does it end up back in time?.

The film tells the tale of Makoto Konno, a girl attending High School in a district of Tokyo who, after enduring a horrible day ends up with the ability to travel back and forth through time. Upon realization of this new founded ability, she goes to her Aunt who happens to be the lead in the original novel. At first the ability proves to be a useful ability to correct her horrible day and easy way to fix things but no sooner does she realise that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Further complications arise when she realise the effects of the power on others around her and especially on her close friend Chiaki Mamiya. The story is light hearted and compelling at times and the conclusion really brings the idea of self awareness and maturity. On my first watch however, I said that story felt too contrived and pointless as there wasn’t a clear cut resolution to the story but on the second watch I am reminded of what I originally enjoyed about the movie. The film isn’t action packed and it’s not meant to be, it simply tells a tale of a girl who learns from her mistakes taking her new ability for granted and learning from those mistakes. the whole theme of “Time stops for nobody” in combination to some of the more intense moments serves the flow perfectly. At first you’ll feel the simple youthfulness of the story then you’ll really feel the emotions of Motoko and feel attached and the major plot twist near the conclusion will really surprise viewers. It really shows how much character development there is to her character. Overall the plot really delivers a satisfying feel good storyline with well developed characters.

Visually the film doesn’t break any new boundaries, but it helps the overall aesthetics of the film which is more focused on telling a good story.In this sense the washed out visuals add to the youthfulness of the film. You won’t see much in line of obvious and overused CG except for the time travel sequences but this is probably a good thing as it would break the nature of the film and any connection to the audience it may have.

The Seiyuus each do a wonderful job. Riisa Naka plays the big role of the young and naive Makoto and plays the part well, never feeling too disconnected with the character. The music used is both light and cheerful and becomes more dramatic to the end. It fits with the narrative well and never feels out of place.

Overall, The Girl Who leapt through time is a wonderful lighthearted tale of a girl learning one of life’s lessons and though it definitely won’t appeal to someone looking for alot of action, it still is a very good film and still recommended to anyone who likes anime and those wanting an excellent feel good movie.

Story: 9.5
Video: 7.5
Audio: 9.0
Overall: 9.0

Wii: Samba de Amigo

Sega’s hit franchise hit’s the Wii and revives the maraca shaking game play of the original Dreamcast game but does the game end up producing a rhythm or does it end up as an annoying instrument?

Back in the glory days of the Dreamcast, Sega produced a hit sleeper title called Samba de Amigo, a game which used a pair of maracas as a controller. Fast forward five years and with the capabilities of the Wii, you’d think that combination would be a success. Little did we know that we were so so wrong.

The game play at its core is a music game similar to Guitar Hero and Namco’s Taiko no Tatsujin. The fun pick up and play casual title delivers at its core a fun experience to many casual gamers and many will find the title to be an enjoyment and will enjoy playing through it’s normal difficulty setting. The game handles by presenting six shake points on the screen where three are for each hand. Basically the player shakes the controllers when a ball hits one of those points through a variation of shaking while tilting up, straight and down. Further adding to this formula is gesture moves where it requires the player to point the controller in some pose to register a hit. While this is all manageable in Normal, the problem is that players of the first game will most probably ramp up the difficulty to Hard and that is where the problems begin. The control scheme allows you to use either two Wii Remotes or a Remote and Nun Chuck and both do alright at first on normal but on Hard mode the game is simply impossible to play. The motion sensor of Wii Remote and Nun Chuck is always off and you’ll find that you’ll be getting “bad”s even though you had the right angle. It’s simply frustrating trying to pull through hard mode and I foresee that many players both old and new won’t even bother playing through the higher difficulties.

Visually the game runs smoothly though it doesn’t push any of the Wii’s graphical capabilities in anyway, but it presents an overall satisfying diversity of bright colours and decent textured models though we would have preferred something that would differentiate it more from the dreamcast game.The game is still visually appealing to most audiences and pulls of a constant frame rate which is required in all music games.

Audio is also upheld with a playlist of Mexican style music ranging from obscure to popular songs which has been covered into that style. All play as you’d expect from a music game of this type.
Beyond finishing story if you manage to beat hard is a bunch of multiplayer modes and some collectables. Other than that you’ll have some fun replaying some stages but other than those there isn’t really anything else.

The game brings some new ideas during its conversion over to the Wii but the end result is still a struggle to handle but many casual players will like the simpleness of Normal difficulty and enjoy playing with friends. Veteran Gamers however will need to take a step back and wait for a more refined version should there ever be another.

Gameplay: 6.0
Video: 7.5
Audio: 8.0
Replayability: 6.0
Overall: 7.2

DS: Call of Duty Word at War

First Person Shooters haven’t always been the best on the DS given the hardware limitations but we’re seen a few arising from the pool of new games. In comes, Call of Duty World at War, the latest incarnation from developer N-Space known for the previous Call of Duty DS title and the newest iteration brings many of the same core mechanics and engine that made the previous title so good. Set in the overdone WWII, does the game freshen what already is served in other games or is it already too stale?

The game is back in World War II and with it comes the same old tried and true formula that we’ve all come to expect from a Word War II shooter. You take on the role in 3 factions. The US, British and Russian solders as they each reclaim and conquer over the Japanese Army and the Nazi’s. The plot isn’t very integral to the experience and you’ll soon find that you’ll mostly be diving head first into gunfire without much care about the overall story. What story there is doesn’t really work itself into the game anyway as most segments and interludes are told via on screen text on the top screen and throwing the player straight into the action. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but we’d love to see more of the quality of the console version’s campaign mode make it’s way into the DS but what already is there is done well. I mean, who really needs a reason to be firing at Nazi’s?. The Gameplay is executed extremely well with alot of the same core design from the last iteration making it’s way into this one. You’ll have a smooth first person shooter that only drops in framerate in a few areas but the underlying core is very well done. Moving is all done via the D-pad while shooting is done by using the touch screen and the shoulder buttons to shoot. Some features are also improved with a single tap of the upper part of the touch screen bringing up sight aim and the guns are now more balanced than before requiring fewer shots to kill. It’s a very streamline experience that works itself well into the overall experience. However, as with the power of the DS, you’ll find some parts where the enemy AI is still pretty clunky as they’ll stand shooting nothing while you mow them down one by one. Utilizing the features of the DS, there are also small minigames here and there with Morse code and healing downed allies. The Morse code is more of a timing minigame while the healing bits feel like a rendition of cooking mama.

Visually, the game is impressive with clear 3D environments and models. It does look abit grainy but it’s normally accepted due to the limitations of the graphic power of the DS but it works. You’ll see impressive battles with bombers and tank missions that requires blowing up houses and soldiers. All the environments are also well done with the temple of the Japanese and the lush environments of the jungle and chaotic Berlin. Guns are also very well modeled with actual 3D aim lock using the 3D gun rather than a static 2d image. It really makes the guns feel realistic.

Also up to scratch is the Audio. Music is very well done with the ambiance of going through caves and ramping up for more intensive moments. The Voices however sound scratchy and probably could use a better sample rate.

The game also includes multiplayer both online and local for 4 players with team modes, CTF and death match options. though 4 players is very lacking, what it has is very well implemented. There are also titles and collectibles scattered around the missions for players to collect but most likely players won’t ever get around to them.

The return to WWII is a good one but the concept is aging and I hope the next series will take this to another setting. The gameplay plays well but the random minigames still need refinement and the sound quality is abit lacking. Online play is a start but very limited compared to the console counterparts. With other ds titles being able to support up to 8 players, I hope we’ll see more players on multiplayer. Overall the game is a good step up from the previous entry but there are still areas to improve.

Story: 5.5
Gameplay: 8.5
Overall: 8.0

Wii:Disaster Day of Crisis

i:When the Wii was first unvailed and showcased at E3 2006, A little title caught people’s attention and since then Disaster Day of Crisis has taken 3 years to finally release in Europe. The tittle by Monolith Soft (No relation to Monolith Studios) has crafted a tale that is both intriging and strangely addictive. The game showcased some of wii’s more impressive visuals and got many to anticipate the title’s arrival. The game was thought to be on indefinite hold after E3 as no news on it was made right up until 3 months before the title’s launch date. Disaster Day of Crisis brings all of mother nature’s Wrath into one day, but is that day exciting or is it a disaster?

The story starts off as you play Ray, a former member of the Search and rescue team along with his partner Steve on top of a volcanic mountain. Things however don’t go as planned and the volcano starts to erupt sending lava to flow down the side of the mountain. As the pair make their way down, Steve injures his leg and falls off the side of a cliff as Ray tries to save him. Steve however saves his friend by scarificing himself as he makes Ray promise to protect his Sister Lisa. 1 Year later, Ray, now in mourning for his friend finds out that terrorists have kidnapped a siecismologist and his assisstant who just happens to be Lisa. Ray now sets out to protect and keep a promise. The plot has a number of twist and turns and there seems to some melodrama involved and the style plays out similar to an action movie. The characters themselves never try to be serious about themselves and the plot for itself played out pretty well. There wasn’t a moment where one would feel bored. The range of disasters and how they work into the plot is actually pretty impresive. You’ll experience flash floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes and the list goes on and none of them ever feels out of place which is partly due to the storyline.

The gameplay is a mixed experience. One point, you’ll be facing seveal bouts of action gun shooting sequences similar to “Time Crisis” where the aciton is basically an on rail shooter and the next you’ll be running around finding citizens to save. Most of time you’ll be walking around bashing open crates and saving citizens as seen in the trailers. The rescue portion is fairly initutive and innovative using the Wii Remote for actions such as wrapping bandages and performing CPR. They are however limited and I hoped to see more variety with them but the Wii mote actions do appear in other portions of the game. The gun shooting sequences plays out way too much and the repetitive of it may make some plays fustrated. The problem is that the ememies are crack shots, they’ll hit you perfectly until you hide and wait for them to reload draining much of your health. However, there are crates and barrels you can shoot to replenish some of that lost health. One of the biggest gripes, is the car driving portions. The problem is that the the driving mechanics are based on tilting the wii mote and due to the poor car physics engine,crashing into walls will either flip your car entirely or send you heading towards the wrong direction. At one point I had a problem distingushing a street from stairs, there was just that much happening with debris flying at the windscreen.
Boss battles are mixed however, the first few,play out like a puzzle game requiring you to work out ways to defeat them usually very obvious by a purple circle appearing to show their weakness. Later you’ll be faced with quick action sequences which require a gesture of the Wii Remote to act upon. The variety of boss battles aid in helping an otherwise repetitive experience from taking down helicoptors to a large mechanical robot.

The Controls are generally okay, using the control stick to run around and the A Button to check items in the adventuring sequences. A simple waggle of the wii mote in front of barrels and cates destorys them open. Car driving portions however is an utter disgrace. Holding the wiimote horizontally, a la Mario Kart, steering is controlled by tilting the controller from side to side but handbraking is performed by the A button which is no where near intuitive. Why couldn’t they make it the 1 Button? We use the handbrake more than the useless brake anyway and there seems to be issues with detecting the tilting involved when doing turns which is hard to judge the right amount of tilt for. The on rail shooting plays out as expected from an arcade shooter. The B button controls your trigger, the directional pad lets you change weapons and the nunchuck is used for ducking with Z and C button for Focusing more accurate shots.

Visually the game looks impressive when depicting the natural disasters but grainy in some areas. You’ll see a gigantic tsunami that looks terrifying to red hot lava flowing and destorying everything in it’s path. You’ll be impressed with what the wii manages to push out and the experience is worth while.

The audio in Disaster is fairly average. Dialogue is mostly by text but there’s voice overs in all cutscenes and the actors play their part decently.The music for the game brings out the drama of each disaster well, but that’s about it to it. Other than that, you’ll get the normal gunshot sounds and effects. There isn’t any problems with audio quality so I don’t know why Reggie would think the audio quality is subpar.

Upon finishing the game once, you’ll be enjoying various extras being able to reply cutscenes and replaying the game with all your unlocked weapons and collected items. Other than that, there’s costumes you can collect through various playthroughs though i wouldnt expect many would.

Disaster Day of Crisis has taken 3 years to finally release and the experience is worthwhile. The game brings new meaning to mesh gameplay but also delivers in it’s presentation. the game is definitely addicting but there are some flaws that keep it from achieving the potiential that it should be. The gameplay though a mesh of 3 genres, never seems to fully expand on any of them and the atroucious car driving seqences and the drawn-out shooter gameplay definitely gets uninteresting. But the experience is still there and is definitely worth a look.

Story: 8.0
Gameplay: 6.0
Video: 8.0

PSP: God of War: Chains of Olympus

Currently released in America on PSP, if you like blade swinging, mindless killing and Greek Mythology, then this is your type of game. Following in the line of the formally console based action title, SCE Santa Monica have finally ported the action-adventure title over to the PSP but does this port live up to the hype?.

You play Kratos, a ruthless Spartan warrior hell bent on revenge against the gods for making him take his wife and Daughter. The story in COD, predates the first PS2 installment and takes place 10 years before the lead up to the start of the original game. Kratos is immediately sent on another mission by the god in retaliation against the invading Persian army. Along the way he discovers the sun chariot and the temple of Helios where Athena pleas for Kratos to save Helios.
What then ensures is a plot full of twists and turns though the plot is easily forgettable by the great game play and doesn’t shine out in any way.

Game play is what you would expect from a God of War game. Simple attacks are done by the square button which is basically all you’ll need for a majority of the game while aerial attacks are all controlled by mashing triangle. There aren’t alot of weapons in the game as you’ll be mostly using Kratos Blades of Chaos which sufficiently does the job well for a large portion of the game. However there are a few additions like Zeus’s gauntlet which allows for more damage and special combo attacks all of which can be upgraded by the collection of red orbs dropped by enemies. There are at times where you’ll feel like all you’re doing is just the same repetitive actions again and again. The action is broken up by a mini-game for a few enemies where you’ll tap certain buttons displayed to you on screen at the right time for a more vicious kill.

Magic, though limited, do return in this installment but for the most part does not play a big role in terms of combat. You can obtain 3 types of magic. Efreet Magic which allows you to summon Efreet who creates a powerful blast on the ground eliminating nearby enemies whereas Light of Dawn throws fireballs at selected enemies allowing long range attacks. Save points are plenty and you can blast through most of the game without even using one. God of War Chains of Olympus plays very much like it’s predecessors and retains much of what made the game play so great even when condensed into the size of a portable.

Visually the game is stunning, even given the limited screen size the of PSP the game rarely hinders in frame rate. The only noticeable drop only occurred during transitions between places in the levels where the rest of the level is loaded into memory. Kratos and enemies are detailed in their set up and all the viciousness from the action is brought into light where you’ll see blood splatter from hits to the aftermath of unleashing hell upon enemies. Levels are vast and impressive to look at such as seeing the fiery depths of Hades to the gigantic Titans of Tartarus. Story elements are told through a mix of pre-rendered CG and in game cut-scenes which not only look impressive but do a marvelous job of using the capacities of the PSP.

The audio in this game definitely requires the use of headphones for the best enjoyment. The music is all orchestrated in full and mixes well with the onscreen action. The voice acting does a decent job though the emotion in some parts is not conveyed well by Kratos.

Given that the PSP is missing an analogue stick and two buttons, you’ll wonder how they managed to retain a majority of the controls from the PS2 editions. What they have done is mapped more actions to the shoulder buttons in combination to face buttons. This does the work decently but you can be overwhelmed by remembering what combination does what.

The game however does tend to be on the short side, clocking the normal difficulty in 6 hours though harder difficulties do stretch this time longer. Upon finishing the game you unlock God mode, this is of course, a much harder version of the whole game and will mostly be played by expert or perfectionists. There are unlock-ables and extras obtained by completing the main story and challenges in the games treasures menu.

Overall the game though short lives much to it’s hype and definitely a must have for any PSP owner wanting to at obtain an additional game to the limited selection for the PSP.

Game Play: 8.7
Replay Value: 7.8