Legendary Gambler Tetsuya Review

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Dec 232019
 

Legendary Gambler Tetsuya is a gambling themed anime that was released in 2000. It follows the journey of Tetsuya who is trying to make some money because there are no jobs in his town. It’s set in 1947 so the gambling is a little different to what we have now, there’s no Online Baccarat or Blackjack involved.

The gambling in Legendary Gambler Tetsuya is all about Mahjong. It’s a little different to the Mahjong you might have seen on your PC or tablet. It’s traditional Mahjong, which features four players against each other. The anime is produced by Toei and although the animation is a little bit dated compared to modern anime, it’s still extremely watchable.

Why Watch?

What sets Legendary Gambler Tetsuya apart from other animes is the attention to detail. Throughout the show, the game of Mahjong is featured heavily. You could almost say that it’s the joint main character, along with Tetsuya. Unlike other anime that feature gambling though, the rules of the game play a bit part in the action.

If Tetsuya makes a move when playing then it’s explained vividly. This might put some viewers off, as if you don’t know the rules to traditional Mahjong then you might struggle to keep up with what’s going on. This issue is usually cited as to why this anime never really caught on like some of the other big shows.

It’s a massive shame though, because underneath all the intricate details is an amazing show. Unlike a show like Yu-Gi-Oh where there never seems to be any real consequences to losing, Legendary Gambler Tetsuya offers genuine conflict all the way through. It’s this conflict that makes it worth sticking with. Very few shows offer this kind of dedicated storytelling, so it’s a real shame that there were only ever 20 episodes created.

I Can’t Play Mahjong, Does That Matter?

It doesn’t really matter if you can’t play the game, although some of the Mahjong scenes might not make complete sense to you, the essence of the story remains intact. Legendary Gambler Tetsuya makes a big deal when Tetsuya wins a match and although you might not understand how he did it, you can still enjoy that resolution when he does. The anti-hero character of Tetsuya is also one that many people can get behind, even if he doesn’t always use honest methods.

Overall, Legendary Gambler Tetsuya is a forgotten classic in the world of anime. It might not be the most accessible title on the market, but in terms of anime about gambling it’s definitely the best there is.

Street Fighter is 25

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Aug 032012
 

Apparently today is the actual 25th anniversary of the Street Fighter franchise.

I’ve talked about Street Fighter plenty of times in the past, but I figured I’d do some waxing of nostalgia today. Not that today’s date is particularly relevant to my Street Fighter fandom, since I never played the game until SF2 hit the US in… 1991? But hey, this is as good of a day as any to do this.

The first time I saw Street Fighter 2 was at the arcade in Rolling Oaks Mall. At the time, Rolling Oaks was the mall here in San Antonio. North Star was a bit more upscale, and Rivercenter was, is, and always will be the tourist trap mall, but Rolling Oaks was the one to which all the suburban kids flocked. Those brats being the very lifeblood of the mall entity, yeah, Rolling Oaks was the place to be if you were bored middle class kid with too much money and time to kill.

I was a middle school kid. It was either late in my seventh grade year or that summer between seventh and eighth. Pretty sure it was the former. I was wandering around the mall while my mom and sister did their shopping thing. I had ten bucks at most in my pocket– cash for a couple of slices of pizza and about five bucks of actual spending cash. No way in hell I’d be able to afford any of the shit at Electronics Boutique. I was in that time between childhood and adulthood phases of buying toys, so Kay Bee Toys was useless to me. I didn’t have enough time to catch a movie at the mall theater. Everything else was mall fashion territory– it may as well be the poison swamps from Dragon Warrior to a geek like me.

So I hit up the arcade. I was a video game geek, spending most of my free time at home playing shit on the NES. I’d play games at the arcade, but it wasn’t as frequent of a haunt as it’d soon become. I looked around the arcade for something to play. I can’t remember exactly what I played at first, but I played some other stuff before Street Fighter 2 finally caught my eye. The mall wasn’t too busy at the time, and the game was fairly brand new, so there wasn’t a huge crowd around it just yet. It was just another kid around my age playing some weird Indian dude with skulls around his neck fighting against some Chinese chick. I figured it was a boss fight, since they were the only two characters on the screen.

The kid lost to the girl and left. I didn’t want to continue off of his game, since I’d never played it before and didn’t want to start right in the middle of a boss battle, so I let the timer tick down before jumping in.

That’s when I looked down and saw six buttons. SIX FUCKING BUTTONS. What kind of game needs this many buttons? I knew the SNES was gonna have that many buttons, but the idea seemed kinda excessive. Who needs that many options to punch and jump? What do all of these buttons do? It was downright arcane– like peering into some eldritch spellbook and seeing an entirely new language, and in reading it you find your consciousness rewritten. I was intimidated.

But once I plunked in my fifty cents I noticed something. That chick that kicked that one kid’s ass? That chick who I thought was a boss? She was selectable. What? You can play as a boss? What kind of game is this? Seriously, my whole concept of video games was being challenged here. This was some revelatory shit. So I picked this “Chun Li” character and started playing, expecting this to be like Final Fight or something.

Yeah, that’s when I found out that the kid before me wasn’t fighting a boss. This game is all about boss fights. One on One. Fight this one dude. Best two out of three. Win and fight the next dude. Lose and you gotta plunk in another quarter (Continuing usually costing less than buying in on single player games.).

It didn’t sink in at first. I knew this was a cool game, but I didn’t grasp what was happening at the time. This was all new to me, and I was aware that this game was different, but that was it. I played a few games. I discovered that mashing kick would make Chun Li do a super kick. I discovered that doing the same with the punch button did jack shit, much to my dismay. I accidentally discovered that she could do a flying spinning kick, but had no idea how to replicate it. It’s a bit like those half-truths about Columbus not realizing he was on a new continent, believing he was just in a part of Asia. I knew I was onto something here, but how much of a something was beyond me. I spent my quarters, it was time to go home, and that was that.

It wasn’t until that summer that I’d see how big of a phenomenon Street Fighter 2 would become. People crowding around the lone machine in an arcade, waiting forever to get one lousy game in, plopping down quarters or tokens to reserve their spot. I’d slowly discover the arcane language of controller movements. Charge back or down, then move forward or back. Quarter circles. Half circles. The mythical Spinning Piledriver 360 degrees. I’d soon become fluent in that then-esoteric controller language.

Street Fighter 2 would pretty much define the latter half of my grade school years. I’d go to the arcade at least once a week to battle it out with other dudes. I’d buy a SNES just to get access to Street Fighter 2 at home. My grades in school would suffer as I’d spend far more time playing this shit than studying. Granted, we’re talking about an A student falling into low B he’d-be-awesome-if-he’d-just-do-his-homework territory, but yeah.

It defined me in a lot of ways. Still does. Other than maybe Katamari Damacy, no other game really sank in as deep and as permanently. And my Street Fighter fandom was one reason why I ended up becoming an anime fan. It led me to subscribe to gaming magazines, and they’d talk about all of these crazy games based on Japanese cartoons. That led to curiosity and that soon led to hunting down VHS tapes at video rental places.

Yep. Street Fighter’s one of the main reasons why I’m here at this blog thing blabbing about this shit. You should thank it. Or hate it.

Katamari Damacy’s the Closest I’ve Come to a Religious Experience

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Apr 012012
 

That title’s only half-sarcastic.

When I was in elementary school, my parents made me go to bed super early. Like, I was lucky if I got to watch TV past 7pm. There were times where I was lying in bed and I could hear the neighbor kids still playing outside. It sucked.

But I didn’t go to sleep. I was in that bed like the parents commanded, but I’d spend several hours every night reading stuff. Said reading material would either be comic books or science books. One particular science book that I remember reading numerous times was a book on the development of life on Earth. I think it was one of those Time Life books you’d see commercials for on cable television back in the 80s. It was mostly pictures, so the second and third grade me didn’t have to pour through a bunch of heavy scientific text.

What fascinated me the most about this particular book was a depiction of life developing in the sea. On the bottom of the page was pictures of single-celled organisms, and as the picture flowed up the page the life evolved until it got to the first life crawling out of the sea and onto land. I would lie in bed and think about what it’d be like to be one of those single-celled organisms. What would it be like to be one of the first living things on Earth? And my mind would drift off into thinking about what it’d be like to have already lived billions of years ago. Like, would I feel disappointed that I missed out on being more evolved? Would I be jealous that I already lived and died and didn’t get to see stuff that happened after my lifespan?

And that got me thinking about how awesome it’d be to be able to observe this passage of time from some sort of distance. I didn’t want to just be some kid reading a book billions of years after the fact, I wanted that same sort of scholarly distance from my “subject” while being able to see it in real-time. It wasn’t like I wanted to be God or anything, I hadn’t developed that much of an ego in elementary school. I just wanted to be some observant force of nature watching things play out. I wanted to see things change and grow. I honestly felt kinda cheated that I was stuck here as some kid having to read about this shit after the fact. What’s up with that?

And that’s how this plays into Katamari Damacy. More so than anything else I’ve experienced, it captured that feeling. Watching movies like The Tree of Life, Mind Game, or 2001 come close to that feeling, but it’s a bit too divorced from the subject matter. In those movies I’m watching someone recreate their own vision of that ebb and flow of time and life. With Katamari, I’m more in tune with that vibe.

Most levels of Katamari start off on one scale and stay on that same relative scale. The early levels have you start off in a room in a house or on the street. Later levels have you starting out large and getting slightly larger. But the last level always has you starting off on a small scale and growing to gargantuan proportions. And in that 20 minutes or so that it takes you to start from the level of a thumb tack to the point where you can literally roll up The King of All Cosmos, I’m able to capture the very feeling I always wanted to experience as a kid.

It isn’t a literal translation. In Katamari you’re just rolling up objects to create a larger ball, but that metaphor is there. You’re starting out on a near-microscopic level, much like how life started on Earth, and you get to experience the exponential growth that is Life.

In all seriousness, that’s about as close as I’ve come to having a truly positive spiritual experience. In a fucking campy Japanese video game where characters talk in record scratches. It’s beautiful, man. Truly beautiful.

Uncharted

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Dec 042011
 

It ain’t the main reason, but one of the reasons why I haven’t blogged in, like, a week is that I’ve been immersed in the Uncharted games. Bought all three during those evil Black Friday sales. Stood in line for over an hour at Best Buy to buy the damn things. I had no idea what to expect beyond claims that they were meant to be modern-day takes on the whole Indiana Jones spiel. Since I love me some Indy, I’d been meaning to give them a try.

Overall, I dig the series. It ain’t rocking my world like Katamari of Street Fighter, but it’s cool.

The gameplay can be a little repetitive. There’s two styles that dominate all three games: shooting scenes and platform scenes. The shooting scenes can be intense when other elements are tossed into the mix, but most of the scenes boil down to you hiding behind a box and waiting for people to stop shooting so you can pop up and shoot. It can be a little tedious, and if this is how these “cover fire” games tend to play it makes me glad I never bothered with the likes of Gears of War. Because of this, I looked for every opportunity to just rush in and punch people.

The platform bits are a little better, but they’re way too easy. I played the game on Normal, and the only time I ever failed on a jump was when I didn’t know where to jump because of camera angle issues. There wasn’t much of a need to time your jumps or anything like that. And the puzzles tend to be just as easy, since they usually boil down to matching up symbols and simple stuff like that.

But when the games decided to change things up a bit, it gets pretty damn awesome. The chase scenes, where you have to outrun swarms of spiders or collapsing bridges or tanks, tend to be pretty intense. The shooting scenes become just as intense when they toss in new elements, like when you’re on the top of a moving train and having to worry about low-hanging bridges and helicopters all while having to shoot at dudes. Unfortunately those cool scenes are outnumbered by the tedious ones, especially in the first game, but they’re cool enough to make up for the disparity.

So yeah, the actual gameplay is kinda mediocre. And if these games were from the same gung-ho paramilitary school as all of those obnoxious Modern God of Battlefield Grand Theft Warfare games that dominate this generation of gaming, I’d probably hate this series. I can’t stand that trend, with its faux-grittiness and hyper-realism. While Uncharted leans towards realism over stylized shit, it wants to be Indiana Jones rather than 300, Black Hawk Down, or Saving Private Ryan. The main dude, Nathan Drake, is your classic roguish hero. He’s a bit of a deceitful, amoral scumbag– he does it all with a good bit of charm and ends up doing the right thing mostly out of the need to screw over someone who screwed him over. He’s a bit more like Han Solo than he is Indy Jones in that regard.

And the stories are straight from the Indiana Jones school of thought. Each game deals with Drake trying to find some lost city (El Dorado in 1, Shangri-La in 2, Iram of the Pillars in 3), and his quest quickly turns into a race with some nasty individual wanting to exploit some relic found in the city. And each of the games seems to be a deliberate reference to one of the Indy Jones movies. The artifact in the first one is basically a South American version of the Ark of the Covenant, and the game references how Nazis were heavy into searching for such items back in the day. The second game shifts over to Asia, not unlike Temple of Doom. And the third one has scenes completely lifted from The Last Crusade, like when Drake is looting the tomb of a crusader knight while being chased by a swarm of things, or when he has to chase down a convoy of trucks in the desert while on horseback. I look at these bits as homage rather than rip-offs. These games are modern love letters to this sort of pulp shit, and it’s good stuff.

The first game was my least favorite. Part of that is due to the fact that it was the first in the series and didn’t have the room to be “experimental,” and part of that is due to it being released early in the PS3’s run, so the developers didn’t have as much experience with the system. All of that makes the game feel “small,” especially when compared to the sequels. It doesn’t have the same scope as the other two games, with most of the story taking place on a single island. This leads to a lot of repetition in terms of setting. I was sick of jungles and brick walls by the time I was done with the game. And the jet ski parts were pretty awkward. I fucking hated those barrels that would explode if you so much as touched them. Yeah, it makes sense if you rammed into one going full speed, but there was a point where I was just sitting there and the barrel slowly floated towards me and it still blew up as if I smashed into it going 100MPH. That was lame. And the climax was a little underwhelming, mainly because the final baddie was just some second-tier dude who looked like every other generic dude you fought in the game. And the running Nazi zombie things came out of nowhere and kinda ruined the vibe of the game. Had I just bought this game and hadn’t bought all three at once, I probably would have given up on the series after this game.

But the second game changed all of that. It broadened the scope, turning the games into the globe-trotting spectacle they should have been from the get-go. The villains were a bit more interesting, especially since one of them was your former partner-in-crime who betrays you in the early levels. The game also adds in a few more supporting characters, adding to more witty banter and the like. The only thing I didn’t care for in this game was the “twist” at the end. Up to that point, you had been encountering some Yeti-like monsters, and it felt “right.” You’re in the Himalayas, so it makes perfect sense, but then it turns out that they’re actually dudes in suits. What makes this particularly annoying is that they’re blue-skinned dudes that look like super-buff Avatar cat-people. And once you discover this, these guys abandon their Yeti suits and you spend several levels thinking “when did this become Avatar?” But other than that detail I think the second game is the best in the series.

The first half of the third game is the best stretch in the games thus far. The opening level is a bar fight that revels in melee combat. And after that you work with an entire team of characters, and it makes the whole thing feel like a heist movie. It also introduces the most interesting villain in the entire series. He’s a smarmy, arrogant type who’d just as much pay you off as shoot you in the back, and he also pulls off some mysterious moves as you chase him around. I was thinking this dude was being built up as something of a rival for Drake, or at the very least a memorable one-off villain, but the second half of the game kinda ruins all of that. The climax feels like a retread of the second game, and the finale just sorta happened. But what ruined it for me was the fact that said villain doesn’t pan out. You get to duel him in a cool knife fight in the final level, but all of his mysterious posturing amounts to nothing. All this talk of djinns and secret societies and he’s just a dude with a knife? Really? So yeah, the third game has the best set pieces (the airplane scene is great, and there’s a cool bit where you race out of a sinking cruise ship, among other scenes), but it doesn’t come together as well as the second game. Still better than the first, and it left me wanting more, so it did plenty right.

The games are the sort of action movies I wished Hollywood was churning out. The set pieces are awesome, the banter is good, and the characters are likable for the most part. There’s stuff that kinda pisses me off (Fuck you Nazi zombies and blue cat-people.), but it wasn’t enough to completely turn me off.

Let’s Make an Anime About Vampires and Werewolves, Except Without Vampires and Werewolves

 Anime, Darker Than Black, Games  Comments Off on Let’s Make an Anime About Vampires and Werewolves, Except Without Vampires and Werewolves
Nov 282011
 

Kinda surprised that I hadn’t seen this Darkstalkers anime before now. I love the video game it’s based on, since it’s a mash-up of Street Fighter and old school monster movies. I guess I avoided it since it’s one of those dreaded video game to anime adaptations. Those things almost always suck.

And you know what? This one sucks too! Way to keep the trend going, Darkstalkers!

It isn’t a completely suckfest, though. There’s some genuinely cool bits in this series. The fights, which are few and far between, are well animated. And they’re especially cool in that they lift moves straight from the fighting game without making it feel forced. It all melds together into generally cohesive action scenes, with Morrigan, Felicia, Demitri, and the like tossing fireballs and doing their versions of dragon punches and all that. Unfortunately the best fight comes right at the beginning of the series, where Morrigan and Demitri face off. After that, the fights slow down, and when they do happen they tend to be pretty abrupt. They still look good at least.

And while the actual plot behind their motivations is all but non-existent, the main villains are pretty cool. The Huitzil robots were placed on Earth by an alien civilization, and they awaken whenever life on Earth reaches an apex. When they awaken, they basically act as an extinction event, wiping out most life on Earth and allowing it to effectively “reset.” And I always dug their Mesoamerican look. They’re, like, fertility god robots that shoot lasers.

Pyron, the big bad, has a cool backstory as well. He’s another alien entity, and it’s implied that he’s the mythical “sun-god” that all of said deities on Earth are based upon. His arrival on Earth is essentially his “second coming,” and he’s here to judge us… through what amounts to a Dragonball Z styled fighting tournament of sorts.

This is one reason why this OVA sucks. Pyron has this cool story to him, but he devolves into Cell from DBZ. He’s on Earth to find a worthy opponent, so that he can experience a genuine, satisfying victory before he destroys the planet. He goes around, challenging the various Darkstalker characters, and kills them. It all plays out exactly like a DBZ arc.

If that were the only problem with the story, I probably wouldn’t mind. If we got to see this pseudo-tournament play out over the course of the OVA’s four episodes, it’d probably be silly fun. But Darkstalkers has more on its mind. It doesn’t want to be a mere fighting anime about aliens and vampires and werecreatures. It wants to touch on the human condition. Or, rather, the demi-human, half-Darkstalker condition.

At least half of the series is devoted to Donovan. He’s your Vampire Hunter D/Blade sort– half-Darkstalker, half-human, all angst. He’s supposed to be some badass monk type, decked out in huge Buddhist beads and carrying around a huge sword that he can fly on like the Silver Surfer, but he spends all of his time spouting variations of the same monologue. His Darkstalker blood is bad, but he wants to be good, so he kills Darkstalkers, but he’s still hollow, oh woe is Donovan, why can’t he just be human. The only thing keeping him from being straight out of Twilight is that he only has fatherly feelings towards his underaged companion, a little demon girl named Anita who has whatever super power the story finds convenient at the moment.

So while the world is falling apart at the hands of two invading alien forces, we ignore all of that and follow Donovan around as he waxes philosophically about his existence. Sure, he fights Bishamon, the samurai zombie ghost thing from the video games, but that fight ends with Donovan’s altruism confounding the spirit. Yeah, Donovan is SO DEEP that he makes ghosts blow up with his thoughtfulness.

What makes all of this even worse is that the series begins with some promise. Not only was the initial fight between Morrigan and Demitri cool, it also sets things up to where Demitri is going to invade the Demon World and claim its throne. It’s a simple set-up, but it was the perfect platform to allow for all sorts of crazy Darkstalker on Darkstalker combat. The monsters could have chosen sides, with some going with “I’m just M. Bison as a Vampire” Demitri and the others going with Morrigan. Instead, the series brought in the two bosses from the original video game to act as antagonists and completely dropped the Morrigan/Demitri conflict in favor of Donovan’s mope quest.

And I wanna talk about Morrigan for a moment. Considering that she’s the sexpot poster girl for the series, I was shocked at the general lack of fanservice centering around her. The series portrays her as a soft-spoken but dignified leader who can kick ass. She could have been a genuinely compelling heroine if the series didn’t choose to forget about her.

So yeah, I was expecting this to be an orgy of vampire-on-frankenstein-on-succubus-on-mummy-on-whatever fighting. Instead, the series focused on all the wrong things. It isn’t incompetent the way some other fighting game anime can be. It sucked because it didn’t want to be a fighting game anime.