Wednesday, October 10, 2007

3週間!でも今仕事は大変な。。。

Nothing too spectacular happening lately, hence the delayed entry (once again). Must be the storm coming. Work's brewing up a real tidal wave, and the sirens have been sound. I'm in the midst of preparing for the worst storm in quite a while, but hopefully I'll live and learn some new things from this experience. The storm won't really last long, about 2 weeks at max. At least the light at the end of the tunnel is shining. Dim, but visible. And of course, I'm referring to our Tokyo trip early next month. I'm in the midst of confirming the itinerary, though the damn hotel still won't confirm my extension. Guess I'll have to make a call to them soon. Wouldn't want to be wondering on the streets of Ikebukuro on our first night there, now would we?

The itinerary is pretty much simple, but we'll be aiming to cover quite a few new areas while selecting a few to revisit, such as the Asakusa temples again. Mabel's requested for me to write some Japanese for her, so that she can thank the Gods there for granting her wishes for the past few years. I guess the Gods don't really have time for Engrish over there :P Anyway, I'll be posting up the itenerary once it has been confirmed in a future update. Also expect a mega entry even bigger than the one last year when we get back.

I mentioned in the last post that I was hooked on the PSP game Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII. After some long nights by my bed with the PSP in my hands, I've completed the game and is currently in my secound run through, to level up even further and to go face to face with the real tough enemies in the mission mode. Currently on level 54, and have my max hp and max damage limit broken. Still searching for good items to fight my way to the best equipment the game has to offer. Luckily most of the kanji are pretty simple, and the items are mostly written in kata as well. I've went ahead and wrote a review for the game which was posted on gamefaqs. It's been a long 8 years since my last review on gamefaqs. You can check it out via the link, but I'm also posting the review here:

"Staying true to the FFVII universe, and possibly the best RPG on the PSP"

It's been ten whole years since we first laid our eyes on Final Fantasy VII on the Playstation. Fans of the game would remember memorable scenes and characters from the game, as well as a deep and revolving storyline which focus on Gaia theory and the lifestream. FFVII was widely considered to be the best RPG game ever, and since then we've seen many other FFVII related media in the form of games, anime, and even a movie.

Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII is a prequel to Final Fantasy VII. In the original FFVII game, Cloud Strife was the main protagonist, and the plot focused on his fight against Sephiroth, and in the process he was also seeking for the reason of his existence. In the game, Cloud was having an identity crisis, and he confused his memories with those of Zack's. Zack's part in the game was minimal, although his role in the plot was very crucial. It took Square Soft 10 years to finally complete Zack's story, although the anime "Final Fantasy: Last Order" did explain most of what happened. I strongly advise that the player, before starting FFVII:CC, to recap on the plot of FFVII (through the plot analysis on this site), watch Last Order, and perhaps Advent Children after you've finished the game. This way, you will get to enjoy the game fully without being lost in the many references. Bottom line, if you've never played FFVII, you will find yourself lost (plot wise), and many of the scenes will not mean anything to you, such as why Cloud didn't reveal himself to Tifa at Nibelheim, who was in the coffin at the mansion basement, etc.
Graphics and visuals: Visually, the game is stunning and possibly the best that the PSP has ever seen. The in game models are very detailed, and reminded me a lot of FFX on the PS2, particularly the 3D backgrounds and the details given to the surrounding areas. The frame rate for certain cut scenes look a little choppy at times, but the game plays at a very smooth rate during fights. Magic spells and limit breaks look great, and some of the enemies look so detailed you'd be surprised that they can pull this off on the PSP. In short, CC:FFVII has set a new graphical benchmark on the PSP.

The CG scenes in the game are amazing. From the starting scene where Zack faces off the Shinra soldiers on the Midgar train, to the final tear jerking sequence where our hero finally realises his dream. The 3 way fight between Genesis, Angeal and Sephiroth on the Junon cannon is possibly the best, and rivals Cloud's and Sephiroth's showdown in Advent Children. The summon sequences are also in full CG, and are absolutely breathtaking. There aren't too many of them though.

Music and sound: Taking over as music composer is Takeharu Ishimoto. Throughout the game, you will hear many familiar pieces from FFVII, composed by Nobuo Uematsu. The battle music, victory fanfare, Aeris's theme, are all still here, although slightly changed. Listening to the music definitely sets you in the mood, and if you're played the FFVII before, you can be sure that you'll recognize many of the themes. Like most of the other Square Soft games these days, voice acting has become an integral part of story telling. Cut scenes in real time features realistic voice acting, and features many returning voice actors from Advent Children.

Game play: As a RPG, you'll find that the game is as linear as can be. But that is to be expected, because we already know how the ending will be like before we even start the game. By itself, the game is also very short. You can complete the game in around 12 hours, if you skip the missions section entirely. Having said that, I must say that the game features a very extensive mission section. There are lots of missions to unlock, and although you'll be running through the same few areas, you get to fight newer and tougher enemies. It is also in the mission section that you unlock new shops, new items for materia fusing, new equipment, etc. Basically, you'll find that apart from plot progression, you'll be doing missions most of the time. It is also though the missions that you're gain the most satisfaction from, through getting valuable items to level up your character.Materia and summons return in the game, but in a totally new way. Gone are the materia linking chains, but a whole new aspect of materia fusing is introduced. After some time of game play, the player is given the ability to fuse 2 materia and 1 item together, either to create a new materia type, or to increase its statistics. Besides leveling up traditionally, materia fusing is the other option to strengthen your character, but you'll need to hunt for specific items to create the materia you want.

On the topic of leveling up, you'll find that Zack does not have any experience points, and that a slot machine determines whether you level up or not. Sounds dumb at first, and totally unlike Final Fantasy, right? Yes, I agree some what that the randomness can seem a little frustrating at first, especially when you cannot skip the limit breaks. But as you progress, you'll find that through the materia fusing, your character becomes very much customizable. There are tons of spells to master, and it's also possible to break your HP/MP/AP limits to reach 99999. This significantly increases the replay value, since you are able to port over your stats and items to your new game. It's a very addictive process, trying to figure out what materia you can create, and how best to raise your statistics without wasting valuable items.

Conclusion: FFVII: CC is a must get for all FFVII fans. Again, do watch Last Order first, which is easily accessible through youtube. Great graphics, fantastic music, a high replay value, and a chance to finally experience the entire Nibelhelm event through Zack's eyes. For those who don't read Japanese, the wait for the US release is a painfully long one, but it will definitely be worth the wait.

Morning Musme celebrates their 10th anniversary this year. Although none of the original 5 members are still active in MM (some of them are still in HP though), the current generation (8th) has 9 members, and none of them has any intention to quit yet. Paying a tribute to the original members, they have released a special commemorative 10th year anniversary album, which includes all previously released singles. The cover of the new album is a replica of previous albums, namely Morning Coffee (above right) and Love Machine (above left).
This is the new version, which of course includes all of the 9 current members, including the 2 Chinese girls. It seems they are mixing in well, and their spoken Japanese have also improved significantly. Hopefully we'll be seeing a new single from them soon.

In the meantime, another HP group, Viyuden (美勇伝) have released a new single called Jyajyauma Paradise(じゃじゃ馬パラダイス). I've not really heard it before posting about it here, but I've managed to find the PV on youtube, so here goes:

Episode one of the new Gundam series named Gundam 00 was shown in Japan this week. Having seen the episode, I didn't really feel the sense of awe which captured me like the 1st episode in Gundam Seed or even Destiny. Perhaps its the designs of the several new Gundams or characters which don't seem to be too interesting at first glance. Still, a Gundam series is still something to look forward to, and I'll by keeping my eyes on this one for some time.

Gundam 00 is the first Gundam series to be shown in HD, but for some reason I find the animation a little too "shiny" for my liking. But being in widescreen some how makes up for that little complaint of mine. Viewers in Japan remarked multiple parallels between Gundam 00 and an earlier installment of the metaseries, Mobile Suit Gundam Wing. By the start, both series feature an independent group of Gundam pilots, challenging the world's powers for the sake of obtaining peace for all mankind. However, at this points it seems that the series has departed from certain accepted Gundam archetypes. One example is the notable lack of space colonies and a unified earth government or international union, features common to many Gundam series.

Ultraseven X also made its premier this week, and thankfully tv-nihon provided the fans with a superbly subbed version. It is the 21st entry in the Tsuburaya Productions' long-running Ultra Series. It is a revival and 40th Anniversary series of the 1967 classic Ultra Seven, and is the first in Tsuburaya Productions' Ultra hero series to be produced for an older audience. I thought the first episode was pretty slow, though it set the setting required for a futuristic and dark city. The fight scene was different from previous Ultra series, but sadly it didn't appeal to me too much. Maybe it's because of the suit, which I think is too bulky, and he looks like the original Ultraseven on steroids to get a six-pack. Still, I'll also be keeping a close watch over this series and hopefully it won't disappoint. Here is a video, so check out Ultraseven X in action.

I'd be honest and say that I doubt I'll have time in the next 2 weeks to post much. But I'll definately have at least one post before we leave for Japan. This post will also explain our planned itinerary, and hopefully everything will work out according to plan. Actually, even if it doesn't it'll also make the trip fun and unpredictable. That's what makes free and easy trips so much better than organised tours. Well, until that post, keep your heads up!

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