Ongoing Investigations: Case #219

301447 It was time for me to finish GTO: The Early Years since Vertical Inc was gracious enough to license volumes 11-15 to finish off the series after Tokyopop went belly up. The adventures of the Oni-Baku are mainly episodic so there was no burning need to see the conclusion to the grand narrative. Also the main plot point: Can Eikichi Onizuka and Ryuji Danma get laid is already known conclusion to anyone who ever read GTO. But that does not mean just because there in no huge meta-plot that these episode are any less worth reading.

The relationship between GTO: The Early Years and GTO always reminds me of Ranma ½ and Urusei Yatsura. GTO and Ranma were extremely popular in the U.S. so the American licensors took the next logical step and licensed the  earlier series in hope that they would have the same fanbase. But as both works are rougher works with a slightly older art style they were both generally ignored by anyone but the most die-hard devotees of the more popular series. That is a real shame because both GTO: The Early Years and Urusei Yatsura both have a unique charm that the latter series lacks. It is not that the new series are bad. The appeal is just slightly different. Maybe that is why the older series don’t sell as well.

It is fascinating to see how Tohru Fujisawa styled evolves over the course of the series. GTO: The Early Years starts off as a goofy and raunchy “teens tying to lose their virginity” comedy like one would see in the 80s. It then morphs into a yankee fighting series where the Oni-Baku have to fight increasingly hard cord punks. There is still some humor but it is mainly a fighting series. Then the series ends with a better mix of the first two styles of the series. None of the later arcs really feel like they have to choose which manga it wants to be.

But thankfully for the most part the manga brings those two hand together nicely. The crazy mayhem and the goofy comedy translation between each other seamlessly. In fact the last arc does a great job of mixing them like a wonderful peanut butter and chocolate combination. It really lays the groundwork for GTO which would use this formula in the last third of the series pretty much for the entire run of the series.

I really feel bad for Shinomi Fujisaki. She was just a key part of GTO: The Early Years near the end so her being nothing more than cameo in GTO is sort of sad. Ryuji and Nagisa’s storyline was pretty much over by the end of GTO: The Early Years. So them getting pretty much just an epilogue in GTO makes sense. But Shinomi feels downright neglected. Thankfully she gets her proper sendoff in Shonan 14 Days.

There are some stand out stories in these last 5 books. There is a surprisingly sensitive transexual love story from a series that is mostly dick jokes or people racing on bikes and punching people. There is a Kindaichi Case Files inspired murder mystery that I will write-up for the blog when I have a chance. There is a story about mega racists ex-marines, surfing, and drama that is pretty much as close to an American 80’s movie as you can get without be a direct adaptation. Also the story about the night vision goggles is simply inspired.

If you ever liked GTO but felt that GTO: The Early Years was a bit too different you might just want to go back and try the last 5 books from Vertical. Heck. If you just like comedy manga with a bit of action then you owe it to yourself to pick up these classics. GTO: The Early Years is about being young, stupid, and macho in the best possible way.

sep-videogames

I can’t stop playing Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones. I’ve been even more drawn into this world and its character than that of the first GBA Fire Emblem which has really shocked me.

A dark force has reemerged in the land and each nation holds a one of the sacred stones a means by which to stop it. At the beginning of the game, Eirika and Ephraim’s homeland is betrayed and invaded and their father the king is murdered. Eirika first sets out on a quest to find her brother. While you simultaneously get to play through some of the parts of Ephraim’s story as well. In this game, you are simply each character as opposed to being a wandering tactician.

There are a couple of added battle features in this game which give you the ability to grind somewhat. I am trying not to do it too often since one of the things I really liked about the first game was a reliance on only story-based combat to level your skills. It made it challenging but also kept it interesting all the time. But I have found it useful when characters have gained a new skill which starts at rank E or D.

I’m loving all the wandering royalty in this game! And I find myself more invested in the many relationship opportunities than I was in the first.

The Ongoing Investigations are little peeks into what we are watching and reading outside of our main posts on the blog. We each pick three things that we were interested in a week and talk a bit about them. There is often not much rhyme or reason to what we pick. They are just the most interesting things we saw since the last Ongoing Investigation.

sep-videogames

Wow. Torchlight is really just Diablo not made by Blizzard. I mean one type of game coping another is hardly a new or rare phenomenon. The first person shooter market is has some real stand out and innovative titles but at the same time it is not a well-spring of innovation. But even then most of the time they go out of their way to seem a little different. It is like the shoe market. They all basically do the same thing but differences in materials, designs, and functionality make huge differences. But Torchlight and Diablo is more like Coke and Pepsi. To those who care there is a distinct difference between the two brands but the average person can’t really tell the difference and will consume either with little distinction between the two.

The plot of Torchlight is spawned from the simple formula that is as old as games like Angband. There is an evil that lurks below a city. An adventurer has to travel down randomly generated levels and kill the evil. There is a corrupting but power mineral called Ember, a companion sage by the name of Syl, and a corrupted mentor named Alric. Other than that there are some NPCs and some flavor text but this is hardly Game of Thrones. But Halo has lots of ancillary background and information. But most people don’t play either game for all that. The fandom is almost all mechanics based and if there is an interest in the greater world either game it is set in it is almost always secondary.

Everyone really plays to get loot. It is the heart of the dungeon crawl formula when it comes down to it. All the plot in any pure dungeon crawl is just fancy window dressing for the real goal of having the sweetest treasure that has some combination of having the best stats and looking cool. It is the D&D consumerist culture experience.

Other than that it is also all the other standard piece of the machine are there. There are three most basic classes you find in these games. The fighter who is focused on melee damage and being tough, the wizard who is far weaker but has versatile spells, and the archer who has a speedy ranged attack and is the balance between the other two classes. Overall any other classes in these games usually is just somewhere in this spectrum either being a slightly more spell oriented fighter or a more sturdy wizard. There are a few stand out exceptions but Torchlight sticks to the trinity as it is the heart of the formula.

Also anything with the ability to steal HP as you do damage is really the only thing worth having. That is just the fundamental rule of any dungeon crawl.

So the real question comes down to what is different. The big difference is having a pet. It is a little animal that can fight alongside you, cast spells, and sell items in town for you while you’re in a dungeon. The little animal companion has sadly little personality. It was a really interesting mechanic. It can really aid in battle as well as help organize you  inventory which is highly critical in these games.  But any attachment you form to it beyond the pet as a useful device is totally a piece of outside psychology than any in-game mechanic really supporting it.

The main thing it lacks compared to Diablo is multiplayer. I don’t really care about that because playing with  strangers on the Internet is pretty much on the same level to me as helping someone else clean out their storm drain.  If someone I liked asked I would probably participate but otherwise I have little to no interest in such dirty and sometimes upsetting work. But the lack of it is a distinct negative in the game’s favor for anyone who gets a kick out of such a mode.

As I stated last week it is incredibly easy to get PC games for cheap. I got this game for nothing. And so it was worth every penny I paid for it. I’m not sure I would pay the full price for it. I did not buy Diablo III so I obviously don’t have the interest in this type of game I used to have in college (as well as all that free time.) Still it is a fun game especially if you enjoy clinking on waves of baddies underground to get some neat magical items.

sep-comics

I picked up the first issue of Six-Gun Gorilla because a name like that shouldn’t be passed up. I was expecting over the top ridiculous, and it is pretty crazy, but also has a serious edge to it, too.

A war is being waged on a wild-west-like planet for reality TV entertainment. People who need the money for their family (or have a death wish) volunteer to have their eyes made into cameras to broadcast the show which also means they have to throw themselves into the middle of the action. Our protagonist, a lonely librarian, is one of these people.

Violence ensues pretty quickly as the war is not waged with traditional weapons. Big razor blades are being shot at people! Also did I mention giant turtle tank transports?

Many die including a well-known leader who tasks the librarian with delivering a pendant back to the guy’s wife. Of course, that pendant has greater value than our librarian knows yet.

Our titular gorilla does not fully appear until the last page, but he does a nice job of scaring the bejesus out of a gang of bandits.

sep-videogames

Speaking of free games I also played a bit of the Card Hunter beta. I found out about the game from an article on Penny-Arcade. Overall it seems like a fun idea. It combines the structure and feel of old school TSR pen and paper dungeon crawl, a SRPG, and a deck building game like Dominion into one game.

The game is set around playing D&D style adventure modules with classic hack and slash plot lines. You have things like raiding a corrupt baron’s castle to loot his treasury or defending a caravan from raiding goblins. You then fight 3 to 4 strategy RPG battles but your attack and defense all comes from the cards you equip on your characters. So far all the missions have either been simple kill all enemy or king of the hill battles. Although I have to say I would actually DREAD an escort mission. That seems like a valid module choice but would be incredibly frustrating. (As opposed to the escort missions that are not incredibly frustrating.)

So 1/3 of the game is deck building via your items, 1/3 is strategy of moving around and choosing which cards to use, and  1/3 is luck of the draw like and card game. But as with any serious CCG a well-chosen deck will minimize the importance of the last third especially if you are smart about the second third.

I would be very interested to see if they add more classes and races to the full game. Rangers, Thieves, Paladins, and Bards all seem like fun additions to the game if they were added. Some additional races would also be cool but hardly as exciting.

The worst part of the game is the stink of free to play that is subtly but pervasively all other the game. It is a lot less than most free to play games. There is actual skill and strategy to the game play so it’s not simply a pay to bypass timelocks or pay to win. But there is distinctly some of those elements. In many ways those are the effective heart of the model and this game does not ignore them. They are far less than most free to play games but they are there. So if you utterly hate the somewhat the easy to despise free to play model then this is going subtly annoy you over time. But it is probably the most actually fun free to play game I have seen.

sep-anime

Attack on Titan has finally started to slow its pace, the last episodes I watched (11-12) felt glacial. It is not as if nothing at all happened, but the series packed such an intense punch in each episode prior. I know it cannot surprise me each and every time, but I also don’t want episodes of dialogue without progress and 12 especially felt clearly designed as a stalling tactic.

I have a feeling I won’t even be able to guess the origins and the back story for Attack on Titan, if every other crazy thing that has happened is any indication. I am convinced that Eren’s dad is a bad dude because he just looks creepy. Yup, that is my reasoning plus my gut feeling. I am mildly worried that once we have more concrete answers about the titans, if indeed there are any to be had, it might take away the real power of the show but that is just a little pessimism slipping in.

One thought on “Ongoing Investigations: Case #219

  1. Sang Logan says:

    After the last volume I was getting a little tired of the bad guy shows up then gets beat up formula; however, this volume has renewed my faith in the series due to how the characters act. This really is a high school series, but Fujisawa keeps it fresh and exciting with his heartful characters who really do care. If you enjoy this series that GTO, by the same author, is a must read.

What are you thinking?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.