Seething Cauldron of Pop Culture Talk

Irascible Analysis of Popular Culture

Anime: House of Five Leaves

One of the best series this season, House of Five Leaves is set during Japan’s feudal era and concerns the Five Leaves gang. The group is led by the somewhat enigmatic and unexcitable Yaichi, who hopes to recruit Akitsu, a masterless ronin. Akitsu, uncomfortable with the groups MO, kidnapping upperclass kids and holding them for ransom, is unsure whether or not he should join the group. However, Akitsu finds himself spending more and more time with Yaichi, who he struggles to understand, and the rest of the group. The others accept his presence, figuring that Yaichi won’t give up until Akitsu joins.

One of the most striking features of the show is the characters designs, especially the large, black eyes and wide mouths. It’s definitely a departure from most anime character designs and I think it gives the show a unique style that sets it apart. Another difference is that the show is very quiet and contemplative, rather than excitable and brimming with action. Some people are probably going to be turned off by that, but it’s another aspect of the show that I really enjoy. There’s no real overarching plot here, at least not yet, just a lot of situations to develop the characters and find out what they’re all about.

It’s hard to say where exactly the show is going to go after the first two episodes, but I honestly don’t care. I’ll follow this show wherever it goes because it’s proven to me at this early stage that it’s a quality show and one of the highlights of this season of anime.

April 26, 2010 Posted by | Anime | , , | Leave a comment

SNES vs. Genesis: Part 1 – Recap and Concensus

Well, Part 1 is now in the books and I barreled my way through about fifty games over the past ten days. Honestly, I wish I hadn’t started this because I’ve become completely obsessed with the idea and can’t get anything else done until I finish. The main problem with that is that there are probably about a thousand games between the two systems that I might reasonably be expected to play. At a rate of fifty games per ten days, it would take me about half a year to finish. I don’t like that at all. But, I digress, let’s recap Part 1 and get it over with.

Top Five Genesis Games:

1. Gunstar Heroes

2. Contra: Hard Corps

3. Landstalker

4. Beyond Oasis

5. Popful Mail

Honorable Mentions: Strider 1, Crusaders of Centy, Mega Turican, Alien Soldier, James Bond 007, and Shinobi III.

Top Five SNES Games:

1. Super Metroid

2. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

3. Front Mission: Gun Hazard

3. The Firemen

4. Super Turrican 2

Honorable Mentions: Demon’s Crest, Vectorman, Wild Guns, Contra III, Metal Warriors, EVO: The Search for Eden, Mega Man series, Pocky and Rocky 2, Super Castlevania IV, and Gunman’s Proof.

Top Developer: Capcom, for developing Demon’s Crest, Super Ghouls & Ghost, the Mega Man series, Strider, and Magic Sword

Runner Up: Konami, for developing Castlevania: Bloodlines, Super Castlevania, Contra III, Contra: Hard Corps, and Legend of the Mystical Ninja.

With the top ten out of the way, it’s now time for some point allocations. The points are based on the number of titles in the genre, my personal enthusiasm for said genre [yeah, it’s subjective, but that’s just how it is], and the quality of the titles from each console in said genre. The winner of this round will get a hundred, the loser will get slightly less. That’s an arbitrary number, but numbers from the next parts will be based on how they compare with this part’s genre offering, so all other numbers won’t be arbitrary like the first one. All the points for each console will be added up at the end and a proper winner will be determined. Explanations aside, here’s the winner and the loser of Part 1:

SNES – 100

Genesis – 80

Final Thoughts: Although the Genesis had some strong showings in its top five, which even rivaled some of their SNES counterparts, once the top five was out of the way the quality dropped steadily. On the other hand, the SNES had a very strong showing it its top five, along with some all-time classics and best game ever contenders, and kept going all the way past the top twelve. SNES wins this round by a nice margin, but there are still many more genres to take a look at, including a few that the Genesis has some very, very strong contenders in, so don’t think this battle’s already over.

Coming soon in Part 2: Platformers!

April 26, 2010 Posted by | Console Wars, Games | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

SNES vs. Genesis: Holy Umbrella, Chakan, and Red Zone

Chakan: The Forever Man

Well, what can we say about this one? It’s an action game developed and published by Sega in June 1992, based on a comic by Robert A. Kraus. It’s notable for it’s dark theme and unrelenting difficulty. Chakan must fight his way through various levels filled with monster in order to become human again. It’s actually nearly impossible to get a real ending to the game, because of how difficult the final boss is [and the fact that you only get one try]. And the “real ending” is just an hourglass background with no text because it was never actually implemented. Joy! So, I suppose if you like to punish yourself, this is the game to play. It’s slow, incredibly hard, and doesn’t actually feature the real ending.

Red Zone

This little top-down shooter from Zyrinx, and published by Time Warner for the Genesis in November 1994. In the game, you pilot a helicopter through various missions designed to prevent nuclear war. Failure results in a little video of nukes being set off and the remainder of the world being taken over by communism. This is a scene that you will become very familiar with because the game can be very unforgiving. It’s hard, really hard. There are enemies that you can wipe out your helicopter in a matter of seconds and you can run up on them before you even realize what’s going on. You’ve got to be incredibly careful at all times, especially since get killed means an instant game over. It’s kind of cool, especially because of the neat graphics effects that it employs [and which very few other Genesis games did], but it’s just so hard and unforgiving that it’s difficult to really enjoy it.

Holy Umbrella

This action game, developed by Naxat Soft and released by Earthly Soft for the SNES in September 1995, most of the action takes place as a sidescroller, although towns are presented in RPG-style isometric view. It’s a colorful game and pretty kid-friendly, but difficult enough that someone more experienced with games won’t be immediately bored. Having said that, it’s a bit too slowly paced to be all that much fun, but it does make up for that slightly by having all sort of different abilities that have to find in order to progress, mostly relating to the main character’s umbrella. It’s also possible to switch characters mid-level to gain access to areas that the main character might not be able to. Overall, it’s a decent little game, but a bit too slowly paced for its own good. The game was only ever released in Japan, but a translation is available online.

April 26, 2010 Posted by | Console Wars, Games | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment