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Review: Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call

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Written by Iris the Keyblade Master

The Theatrhythm Final Fantasy games celebrate one of the best aspects of the series: the music.  Both rhythm games are available for the Nintendo 3DS.  Although if you’re interested in giving Theatrhythm a try, don’t waste your money purchasing both of them.  The sequel, Curtain Call, has all of the same songs and lots more.

I debated with myself about whether to get the original Theatrhythm when it was first released on the Nintendo 3DS.   Having gotten booed out of levels of Guitar Hero and Dance Dance Revolution, and surviving the infamous Little Mermaid sidequest in Kingdom Hearts 2…my experiences with rhythm games weren’t very good ones.  But someone at GameStop encouraged me to give it a try, and that’s how I ended up losing countless hours of my life to this game.  I have no regrets.

The gameplay’s divided into three types of stages: Field, Battle, and Event.  Field songs consist of tracks like “Terra’s Theme” from Final Fantasy VI, the main theme from VII, and “A Place to Call Home” from IX.  An adorable chibi Final Fantasy character of your choosing strolls along a path to the music, while you try to hit as many notes correctly as possible.  Although the notes can come across the screen quickly, depending on the song and the difficulty level, Field Stages are generally slower in pace than their Battle counterparts.

In Battle, you create a party of four chibi characters who fight different monsters and villains who have appeared throughout the Final Fantasy series.  When you hit the right notes, their attacks are successful.  If you miss a note, they lose health.  (This actually applies to the Field and Event stages too, except you’re not attacking anything. You’re just trying to keep the character’s health bar full.)  The songs you can choose from include the always classic “One-Winged Angel,” as well as “Dancing Mad,” “The Man With the Machine Gun,” and “Battle on the Big Bridge.”

Last, but not least, we have the Event stages.  These stages were more prevalent in the original game, because every entry from the series had one.  In Curtain Call, all of the songs that originally appeared as Event stages got turned into Field or Battle stages instead.  It’s a shame, because even if they’re difficult to play, they’re beautiful to watch.  Instead of battling enemies or walking through a field, you watch a video that highlights the most memorable moments from the featured Final Fantasy game.  The selected songs are popular themes from the game that people tend to think about when they think of that particular entry, i.e. “Sutaki da ne,” “Aerith’s Theme,” and “Answers” from Final Fantasy XIV.  The best, by far, appears in Curtain Call.  It’s a gorgeous medley of Final Fantasy themes played over highlights from the entire franchise.  If you’re a fan of any Final Fantasy games, I dare you not to cry while watching it.

It’s worth mentioning that the way you progress through the game changed in a few significant ways from the first Theatrhythm to Curtain Call.  In the original game, you could select any of the main musical stages for each of the games featured in Theatrhythm, from the original Final Fantasy to XIII.  However, once you committed yourself to one of the entries, i.e. Final Fantasy IX, you had to play through all three musical stages before being allowed to go back and play whichever one you wanted.

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Ouran High School Host Club Review

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Ouran High School Host Club Review

199744-ouran-high-school-host-club-ouran-high-school-host-club The first time I sat down to watch Ouron Highschool Host Club, I had a lot of questions and some very strong feelings from the start. In fact, there was a lot of yelling at the screen. I am actually half convinced that part of my watching this anime was so that Crymson, and later Vanri, could watch me watching it. I didn’t turn it off, though. In fact, I marathoned Ouron till the last two episodes because, at that point, I was emotionally invested and didn’t want it to end.

Ouron Highschool Host Club is an anime based off a successful series of a manga that was written by Bisco Hatori. The anime debuted in 2006. Fans have not so patiently been waiting for a second season ever since. The characters are all parodies of shojuo manga stereotypes.

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In the pilot, we meet Haruhi Fujioka, the main character and honor student. Haruhi is attending the prestigious Ouran Academy on scholarship and looking for a quiet place to study. What Haruhi finds in an “abandoned” music room that is actually the home of the Host Club. The Host Club is run by six attractive and wealthy male students who entertain the school’s bored and equally wealthy female students.

Tamaki Suoh is the president of the club and its princely/king character. Kyoya Ootori is the vice president and the real brains behind the club while he represents the glasses/cool character. Hikaru and Kaoru Hitachii are identical twins in Haruhi’s class and the mischievous characters. Mitsukuni “Honey” Haninozuka is the sweet boy lolita character and his cousin Takashi “Mori” Morinozuka is the protector with a soft heart character of the club. Haruhi breaks an expensive vase and becomes indebted to the Host Club during this first meeting.my fav

Haruhi starts to run errands for the club to work off the debt. Soon the club finds out that Haruhi is a natural with their female customers and offer to let Haruhi become a Host to pay the debt faster. The series shows Haruhi becoming friends and learning that the Hosts are more than their roles in the club. These friendships are written beautifully. The information about the Hosts are given slowly throughout the series in different episodes. We even get more information about some of the secondary characters; such as my favorite, the head of the Dark Magic Club Umehito Nekozawa.

The Hosts also strive to understand Haruhi better as the series progresses. Since Haruhi comes from a very different socio-economic world, the group clashes at times. These clashes usually lead to some cringe worthy moments for me while I was watching. The Hosts make each other better throughout the series. It is wonderful to watch them all evolve.

I did have a hard time with some of the verbiage of the show. Some situations also made me uncomfortable. Overall, I really did enjoy the show. The characters are fun. The animation is a great mix of beautiful and silly. The music is very catchy as well.

There is even a live action version of the show which I desperately want to watch. 

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I can understand why people love this anime. Ouran High School Host Club is silly and fun. It also has a lot more depth than you expect.

I would rate this anime as: Yes watch! 

Always keep sparkling!

Game Review: Randal’s Monday

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Game Review: Randal’s Monday

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Daedalic has a winner here with Randal’s Monday, a point-and-click adventure game currently available on Steam. The humor is crass, vulgar, and full of nostalgia.  Randal is a kleptomaniac douche who swipes his buddy’s wallet and the engagement ring within.

The bad news, for Randal, is the ring is cursed. What follows is a time-loop scenario with a slight twist: whatever Randal changes stays changed and alters the space-time continuum wreaking havoc on reality.

The dialogue is all spoken, sometimes though with a speed that left me frantically clicking to advance it. The artwork is decent with many hidden Easter-eggs to well known fandoms. There’s even a sci-fi convention, and a guest star (voiced by the actual actor, if my ears are correct) who has slightly more than a cameo in the tribulations of Randal.

8/10 paws

 

An Anime Review: Sailor Moon

An Anime Review: Sailor Moon

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There is a fantastic concept in anime which is known as a “magic girl.” In this trope, a normal girl who, with the help of a magical item, transforms to fight villains in a super cute new disguise. She usually gets magical weapons to help her on her mission. It is a glorious trope. There were earlier versions of magical girls before, but on March 7, 1992 in Japan, the game was seriously stepped up.

That was the original premiere of Sailor Moon. You did do that math correctly. Sailor Moon is 25 years old this year! The show was based on a manga created by Naoko Takeuchi about a girl in middle school who was the reincarnation of the Sailor Scout of the Moon, who needed to search for the Moon Princess and fight the evil Nagaverse… oh, and finish her homework on time. The show would later air in America. It helped to introduce some American fans to anime, including myself.

Yes, Sailor Moon was my first anime. I was in middle school when the show first aired in America and somehow I happened upon it. I loved it from the start. I didn’t have a lot of friends at that stage of my life. I was chubby. Not great at school… and, well, you get the idea. I needed a hero like Usagi.

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Usagi is just a normal girl at the start of the show. She likes sweets, hates school and abhors studying. She loves her friends and family. She has a heart of gold, even if she is a crybaby. Oh, and she is a huge gamer, which should win her all the bonus points. Her favorite being the Sailor V game at the arcade. One day, she sees some children tormenting a cat. She puts a stop to it and thus starts her adventure.

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The cat is Luna, who can talk. Luna explains all about the fall of the Moon Kingdom and will guide Usagi on her mission. Usagi is given a compact, which powers her transformation to become Sailor Moon, the pretty guardian of the moon, love and justice. Through the series, Sailor Moon fights different villains who work for the Nagaverse; the crystal named baddies who are trying to steal the energy of humans to fuel their evil empire. Throughout the first season, she also meets the other sailor scouts, who become her best friends. Together, the girls help each other. The Sailor Scouts fight evil with, you guessed it, the power of friendship and love.

I know it can sound silly, but Sailor Moon is pretty amazing. It has a little bit of everything. There’s romance, character growth, some campy humor, plot twists, and fight scenes. Also it is just really pretty to watch.

The original English dub, Sailor Moon R, made a lot of changes, including cutting episodes, changing character names, taking out Japanese writing and adding these shorts at the end of the episodes with lessons on how to be a better person in order to make it more marketable. I don’t entirely understand why any of those changes were made. The new series has, thankfully, not made the same choices. 

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I spent a lot of time watching Sailor Moon. My friends and I bonded over it. I have great memories of waking up every day one summer at 7 AM to call my friend Maggie and watch reruns of episodes together. I have memories of sleep overs, where, with too much sugar, we would put in the English dubbed soundtrack and play with my other friend Amanda’s toys. Maggie used to draw the most beautiful Sailor Moon inspired art for us. Julie hated Tuxedo Mask with the burning passion of a thousand suns, so we used to play his theme for her all the time, because that is what good friends do. Julie also wore her hair in little buns all the time. We were so happy being in this fandom together and it really helped to strengthen us in different ways. Sailor Moon has always been a bright spot in my life.

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Recently, Sailor Moon was released with new art and a tweaked plot to be a bit more like the manga. I eagerly awaited the release of Sailor Moon Crystal. The animation is gorgeous. The new music is lovely. My only real complaint is that I wish the first season would have been longer so that we would have gotten more. That being said, the series is just great. Please watch it if you haven’t already for the animation alone.

In conclusion, I love Sailor Moon. I love it because it is girly and bright. I love how dramatic it is. I get exasperated sometimes and have to remind myself that the protagonist is a fourteen year old. I really appreciate that it teaches girls to love themselves and each other. I also enjoy that Tuxedo Max needs to be saved, too. It is just very important to myself, and other fans, that it shows him having doubts about his own abilities to protect Sailor Moon. In fact, I think that is just as important to the show as the female empowerment that he is given these moments of growth. 

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Right now, we all need heroes. I firmly believe that we especially need a hero like Sailor Moon, who is so human. I think we all very much need a klutzy crybaby to rise up and show us that we are all heroes. 

Thia’s rating: Must watch… and possibly fight evil by moonlight.

Always keep sparkling!

 

Power Rangers: A Movie Review

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Power Rangers: A Movie Review

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As a “90’s Kid” Mighty Morphin Power Rangers holds a very special place in my heart. I watched it every day it was on. We played Power Rangers at recess and after school. The franchise also launched many video games, some were better received then others. Currently, there is also a new mobile game available, so check your app store!  There was definitely an obsession that was fueled with high kicks and fights over who could be which Ranger. I always wanted to be yellow. In short, I loved Power Rangers. I wanted to be a Ranger. I wanted to save the world with awesome friends. I wanted to learn martial arts, which my family could never afford, and kick Rita’s goons in the face.

Because of this, I was a little concerned when I saw that a reboot movie was being made. My apprehension started to ebb away as I saw more about the Power Rangers movie. The humor in the trailers really helped. I agreed to see it with my friends on opening weekend. I walked in without high expectations. I don’t think any of us really expected more then to see flashy suits and to have a burst of nostalgia.

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I am so glad I did go. I laughed. I laughed a lot, which a person should do when watching Power Rangers. I cried a little. My friends and I kept looking at each other with these huge, goofy grins on our faces. The crowd around me, who were mostly grown up, hardened Rangers fans like myself kept laughing. We could all feel it. That collective moment of, “YES! They did it right.” They had made the movie and we were all LOVING it. This was beyond anything I thought it would be. I was happily surprised at how much I liked it.

Power Rangers is a story about a group of misfits coming into their own. In the small town of Angel Grove, not everything is idyllic as it seems. As an evil rises to take over the world, so must a group of heroes rise to stop her. First, they have to get out of detention, though. Yes, in this remake the kids really do have the attitude and some very real challenges in their lives. After finding colorful crystals, they have to figure out how to use their new powers and become a team in order to save everything they love.

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Without spoiling anything, I can tell you that I really liked the plot. The story was really well done. I enjoyed the costumes and the suits when seeing them with the overall story, which was something I had been a little concerned about prior to seeing the movie. The fight scenes were also really well done. I appreciated how the cast was diverse, and not even just in terms of race. I think a lot of us could see ourselves in at least one of the characters. They were all well developed and given a bit of arc, which can be difficult with a larger ensemble cast.

The music was great. The soundtrack really added to the movie. Rita, who I was probably least impressed with during trailers, ended up being one of my favorites. I was always kind of happy and also… cringing, in a good way… when I saw her come on screen. The effects were good without detracting from the action. The pace of the movie was also good.

Overall, I think it’s a great movie. I felt hyped up when I left, almost like a little kid again. My friends and I talked nonstop in the car. Even my two friends who have watched every episode of Power Rangers were really happy with the adaption. Yes, it had campy moments but, as a Power Rangers movie, it should. No, it wasn’t the series, but it was a very well done modern adaptation of it.

I would rate it: Must see.

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Always keep sparkling!

Review: Pokemon Snap

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By: Iris the Keyblade Master

Ah, Pokémon Snap, the only Pokémon-related video game that I ever got to play when I was a kid.  It was made for the Nintendo 64, but it’s also currently available on the Wii U Virtual Console.  I recently bought a copy for my N64 and found that it still held up for me as an adult.

First, I told myself that I just wanted to test the game out to make sure it still worked.  About twenty minutes later, I had furiously headed back to the Beach level to prove to Professor Oak that the size in my pictures was NOT “so-so!”  It’s one of those games that is so simple and yet so addicting at times.

Unlike other Pokémon games, you don’t get to capture, train, or trade any of the wild Pokémon that you find in the different levels.  You take pictures and send them to Professor Oak, who then gives you points based on its size, position, how many of the same type appeared in the shot, etc.  (And boy, does he have high standards for “size!”)  However, to get to the next level, you must complete a variety of objectives.  Sometimes, it’s a matter of taking a certain number of pictures of unique Pokémon.  Other times, you need to trigger something special within a level to get to the next one.

Additionally, certain Pokémon won’t appear without the help of tools that Professor Oak gives you throughout the game.  And sometimes the ways to get new Pokémon aren’t so obvious.  For example, there’s a Charmeleon that walks around a lava pit towards the end of the Volcano course.  If you knock him into the pit with an apple treat, he’ll evolve into Charazard.  This interaction increases the replay value of the game, since it encourages you to go back and try new tricks to find hidden Pokémon.  (Side note: it’s also worth mentioning that because it’s an older game, you won’t find any Pokémon that came after Mew. Mew himself doesn’t even appear until after you’ve unlocked the final level.)

Technically, the player character has a name, Todd.  But like Link and the early Final Fantasy heroes, you get to pick what you want to call him.  He doesn’t have much of a personality in the game beyond, “Oh boy, let’s take a lot of pictures of Pokémon!” but it works.

Pokémon Snap is a fun, colorful game.  I love the different environments that you get to view through Todd’s safari vehicle.  Hopefully, some day, Nintendo will make a sequel.  They could really make it work by including the other generations of Pokémon, and maybe add new features, i.e. editing your pictures or getting to explore open world settings instead of following the same track.

If you like the Pokémon series, but never got around to trying this game, then I recommend checking it out if you still have your Nintendo 64 or access to the Virtual Console.  It’s a lot of fun!

Review: Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories

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By Iris the Keyblade Master

Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories is one of those games that probably shouldn’t work as well as it does.  The first game in the series was this big, epic adventure, involving Sora, Donald Duck, and Goofy traveling all over the universe to stop Maleficent and meeting all kinds of Disney characters along the way.  Kingdom Hearts II was another a big, epic adventure that continued Sora’s quest.   He searched for his lost friends, befriended more popular characters like Captain Jack Sparrow and Tron, and fought an evil organization.

Chain of Memories limits the adventure to one castle made of illusions.  Every floor that Sora visits is designed to look like a Disney world from his memories.  So almost all of the levels that you complete are areas that you’ve already explored from the first game.  (Little did we know that this would be a recurring problem in future games.)  It’s not necessarily what a person would have in mind if you told them to check out the sequel to Kingdom Hearts.

However, I love the story of Chain of Memories, so it’s probably the entry in the series that I replay the most apart from the first game.  It picks up where the first game left off, with Sora, Donald, and Goofy on the trail of their lost friends, Riku and Mickey.  They come across a castle inhabited by a mysterious organization that claims to have something- or someone- that Sora wants.  Sora takes the bait, only to find as he progresses through the castle that he’s losing his memories.

First, the story’s fantastic.  It’s one of two games in the series that involve a group of villains trying to trick Sora into working for them, and this one executes the idea much better.  The other game more or less saves the mind-bending shenanigans for the final level.  In Chain of Memories, it’s a steady progression of Sora forgetting his previous adventures and becoming increasingly obsessed with rescuing Naminé and Riku from the Organization.  Sora’s been previously established as somebody who cares deeply about his friends and the promises that he makes to them, so his change in personality makes complete sense.  The new characters are also well-written.  It’s the game that kicked off Axel’s popularity, and it’s easy to see why.  Naminé is wonderful too and a good example of a well-written “damsel in distress.”

I thought I would hate the battle system when I learned that it would be card-based.  Every attack that you make and magic spell that you cast is limited to the number of cards that Sora has in his deck.  However, I found that it was very manageable and does force you to strategize a little.  You can only carry so many cards in your deck, and the powerful ones are more expensive than the weaker ones.  You can also create special attacks called “sleights,” where you load three cards and use them together.  But the first card that you load for the sleight will not reappear for the rest of the battle.  So spamming sleight attacks will only take you so far.

Oh, and Donald gets to be just as useless in this game as he is in every Kingdom Hearts game.  Only this time, he doesn’t just fail to heal you.  If you don’t watch it, he can heal your enemies.  Yeah.  You read that right.  You’ll be desperately fighting Axel or Hades, who both use Fire spells, and he’ll happily hit them with Fire spells that bring their health back up.  Try to avoid using him in a fight with a magic-based enemy.

I also find it interesting how the difficulty level of the bosses and the usefulness of certain cards did change in the GameBoy Advanced version and the PlayStation 2 version.  See, the GBA obviously has a small screen, so big enemies aren’t hard to fight and Summon cards have a wider reach.  Cloud Strife was my favorite card in the GBA game.  All I had to do was summon him and he’d wipe out enemies with two slashes of the Buster Sword.  But the PlayStation 2 remake puts you in a bigger, three-dimensional area, so it’s a matter of getting close to an enemy, hoping that enemy stays put as you summon Cloud, and hope that Cloud moves in the right direction to slash said enemies.  If you’re in the wrong place or facing the wrong way, he’s completely useless.

All in all, I think this game was much better suited for the GameBoy Advanced over the PlayStation 2.  It has a smaller story and the levels are mostly the same as the first game.  In a way, it’s kind of impressive.  In terms of world design, it plays like a GBA remake of the first game.  Yet it has its own unique story, which supplies a reason for why you’re playing through the same locations again.  If you play the PlayStation 2 remake without that context, it comes off like a cheap, lazy sequel.

Nonetheless, I love playing the PS2 remake due to the improved graphics and voice acting.  Sora’s character arc and his relationships with his friends go to interesting places.  The series got two new fabulous female characters.  The soundtrack mostly rehashes the first game, but Yoko Shimomura composed some beautiful new tracks, i.e. “Naminé” and the final boss battle theme, “Lord of the Castle.”

Although it’s not an entry in the series that you absolutely must play to understand the rest of the plot, I highly recommend Chain of Memories.