Akihiko is basically the ace of your group. Which is fitting. He is left-handed, after all, a member of that genetically superior race. Dude is good at nearly everything. He’s an excellent boxer, and is riding on a 16-match win streak as of the game’s start. He’s a great combatant against shadows as well, shown taking them on without backup in the game’s opening act and being one of two people you need available to be allowed to take on the tower of Tartarus in the early game. And he’s got a sharp mind and a stable core, to boot, coming up with great tactics on his own while also keeping S.E.E.S. emotionally grounded during its most difficult moments.
Unfortunately, Akihiko’s also the character most ruined by the sequels completely discarding a lot of what makes him special and the character growth he went through here in favor of over-emphasizing just a few strange moments from him. So let’s go over just who Akihiko is in Persona 3.
The big, central thing to Akihiko’s arc and personality is his constant drive for self-improvement. He’s incredibly competitive, although it often seems that he’s competing more with himself than others. He often drives others to do the same as well, taking on a sort of mentoring/managerial role. He’s the one who guides and protects you as you’re new to the art of shadow-fighting, introducing you to all the resources S.E.E.S. has mustered thus far and making sure you’re adequately prepared. He also takes a direct hand in helping the academically-challenged members of S.E.E.S. prep for big tests. When others are trying to temper your expectations of an upcoming athletic meet you’re competing in in the face of the stiff competition you’re set to face there, he’s the one to encourage you most whole-heartedly. His drive to improve does go too far at times, seeing him take risks alone that others are really uncomfortable with and leave him injured, refuse to rest to allow his injuries to heal, and do make him seem insensitive others when they think he’s focusing on the wrong things. It can also make him a bit single-minded. Shinjiro does remark at one point that he is so focused on the future that seeing him think about the past even a bit means that something is dearly wrong.
The game dances around this a bit, spending a lot of time hinting that Akihiko’s got some traumatic events in his past, before coming out that this drive for self-improvement comes from the death of his sister in a fire. It seems they were living at an orphanage at that point, but otherwise, there aren’t a whole lot of details to go around on it. He felt a whole lot of guilt for not being able to save her, and devoted everything to getting strong enough that he’d never lose someone like that again. That pursuit of improvement has its good and bad points throughout the story, as seen above, and continues up until the death of one of his closest friends, Shinjiro. At that point, he’s forced to come face-to-face with the fact that, as powerful and skilled in so many different ways as he has gotten, there are things in life that he will still be completely unable to prevent. His pursuit of improvement as a safety measure will never be absolute, and he won’t be able to save everyone important to him from everything arrayed against them. At that realization, he recommits himself to fighting against the dark hour, knowing that he’ll need to find a new way to live once its done.
And with that, maybe you can see a bit why I find the ‘Let’s eat protein! Train all the time! Fight fight fight!’ personality he adopts in Persona 4 Arena and Persona Q so disgusting.
Man, 2020 is an absolutely cursed year. A ruinous global pandemic that’s been going on far longer than we all imagined it would. A plague of murder hornets. The social war erupting with the dumbest people getting the loudest voices. Jay White cheating Kota Ibushi out of the G1 #1 contender’s contract. It’s hard to see how the year could get worse. And yet its going to.
As I may have mentioned previously, I work in the Human Services department of our local government institution, and I’ve been part of some of the meetings we’ve been having to organize our Coronavirus response. And now, levels are worse than they’ve ever been before, lockdowns are looming, and it’s largely being driven by people who know better or should know better. People who have just stopped taking precautions seriously. There are, of course, some people who never took them seriously, or at least, never took them as seriously as they should have. And those were people we’ve known our messaging and measures we’re going to have little impact as long as we weren’t willing to cross a punitive line. But the ones that I, at least, find most interesting, are the ones who’ve started out the pandemic being very careful not to be a transmission vector, but now, have just stopped taking precautions.
We haven’t explored why they’ve stopped, which I feel is a rich area for progress, but resources are limited, so I won’t have answers there for the near future anyways. But I can posit. I’m a case manager, and a lot of what I work with people on is understanding just how their emotions come into play in their decision-making, and I see that all over the place here. Most didn’t expect to need to put restrictions on themselves for this long, and whether they did or not, the same feelings are likely setting in. Exhaustion. Desperation. Anxiety. Loneliness, and a distinct, long-term existence outside of their comfort zone.
Traditional social views around persistent negative emotions like these lie on endurance. You need to tough it out and last through these emotions to get safely to the other side. And it’s not necessarily a wrong perspective. But it is an incomplete one. Rather, it needs to go hand in hand with what’s been a rather fashionable concept of late, that being resilience. Which, if you’re in the type of field I’m in, there’s a whole bunch of psycho-babble to go along with it, but essentially, it’s the recovery aspect. With resilience, you don’t just tough out the bad times, you focus on getting better. Crap happens, you deal, then you get your emotional state back to normal, possibly while crap is going on.
So in essence, you don’t just sit in the badness because that’s how you tough it out, you acknowledge the badness and do something to make it better. Whatever that is depends a lot on the specifics of the situation and how you operate. Personally, I haven’t had that hard of a time, comparatively, with the pandemic. Friends and family and work contacts have noted how chill and steady I’ve been, so it’s not just me saying that. A lot of that comes from my deep, encompassing belief that I am absolutely magnificent no matter what happens. But I’d say most of it just come from what I’ve been doing for my resilience. In my case, most of it’s been physical fitness, because I’ve not yet encountered a problem I can’t make better by doing deadlifts. But that’s what works for me. What works for you may be different.
And in the case of thousands of people in my locality, what they’ve been doing for their resilience has been meeting with people and spreading the virus around. That’s been a problem. Bad resilience choices.
So, there’s not a single right way to manage your resilience. But apparently there’s a whole bunch of wrong ones. And in pursuit of living their best lives and recovering from the horrors of 2020, a lot of people are individually making the wrong resilience choices that are collectively keeping them from living their best lives.
And we’re going to be seeing more and more of that coming up, too. With American Thanksgiving in a few days, people are going to be taking the calculated risk of coming together, and that coin is not going to be coming up heads for everybody, which is going to drive things further. And the likely vaccine candidates are both a blessing and a curse right now, as the situation is not going to be progressing as quickly and solidly as people feel it should and that exhaustion is going to be felt more acutely than ever. And when people start taking one risk and it works out, they feel more comfortable taking more, so this all will have a cascading effect.
This next month is going to be incredibly hard. Early 2021 will be incredibly hard. Wrestle Kingdom might not end with Kota Ibushi kicking Jay White’s face in. And also the Coronapocalypse will likely be hitting incredibly hard, I guess. And yet, all this, it’s what you make of it. You can choose to make this better for yourself. And I don’t mean that in a touchy-feely “You can choose how to feel about it! :)” way. You can make choices with your resilience in mind. The outbreak is a horrible situation, and I’m glad I stopped doing my apocalypse logs because they’d be downright dour by this point. So many lives and livelihoods have been destroyed. And yet, this is also a gift and opportunity. You can make it such. You can take this time to do things you wouldn’t have done in the normal ages. Everyone deserves to feel as magnificent about themselves as I do, and you can take this time to make the choices that’ll take you there. For myself, this has been an incredibly productive year. I’ve been one of the few case managers in my statewide program that’s been as successful in the pandemic as I have, and I’ve been getting a lot of recognition for that. I’ve found a lot more time to study my almost-second language. I’ve enrolled in dance classes. I’ve gotten a lot more time for gaming. My Dungeons and Dragons game has never had all members there as consistently as it has these past 8 months. I’ve enrolled in dance classes. I’ve put on 20 pounds of muscle mass and have been breaking a lot of personal fitness records. That’s what’s been working for me, but there’s tons of openings for you, too. Don’t just endure. Rebound. Be resilient. And in so doing, make the right choices for your resiliency.
And remember, as dark as things get, as harshly as Jay White has been taking it to Ibushi, there’s always the light of hope. After all, it sure seems that Testuya Naito has had Evil’s number, and Evil’s been cheating even harder than Jay White ever did.
Alternative Title: The One With the Alien Cockroaches
Godzilla vs. Gigan is… well, divisive is a good way to put it. So, as a refresher, this is part of a string of Godzilla films that came after they intended to end the series, then decided “Nah, let’s make some cheap dumb things for children”. Of the ones of those we’ve seen so far, All Monsters Attack was abysmal, whereas Godzilla vs. Hedorah was of the ‘so bad it’s good’ variety. So, now we have Godzilla vs. Gigan lined up. They’re bringing back Jun Fukuda, the guy who was behind the rather meh and definitely not Big G-feeling Ebirah, Horror of the Deep and my least favorite Godzilla film in Son of Godzilla. Haruo Nakajima was having a hard time stepping into his long-time role as Godzilla after the death of series special effects director Eiji Tsuburaya, and this would prove to be his final time in the Godzilla suit. And, to make matters worse, the Japanese film industry as a whole was really going through some rough times at this period, and the results show greatly here. This film seems to have been made with a negative budget. The actors are, even beyond the language barrier, obviously not of the highest paygrade, the sets are really sparse, stock footage is used in abundance, nearly all the soundtrack is pulled from other Toho films, and for the original footage, the returning monsters suits are all so beat up that they’re barely functional. You can see scales peeling off of Godzilla in parts.
And yet, even with all that, you can tell they applied quite a bit of wisdom when working with their limits. The stock footage is used far more wisely than it was in All Monsters Attack, and it doesn’t really stand out that much when shown in sequence with the original content. And once the monster action starts, you can tell that all the skimping on sets and the extended amount of time you spent without your monster action was dedicated to make the monster action that was as big as it could be. And hell, even the long time you spend on the human drama kind of things is pretty decent, if incredibly low-rent and cheesy. This is a film that really rolled with the punches.
And it also introduced us to one of the Godzilla video games’ favorite monsters in the cyborg space-beast Gigan. Take note of him. This guy shall recur. Even in the films’ continuity.
So, does all that serve to elevate the film above its severely weak productive foundation in the eyes of the Aether? Let’s dig in to find out.
So, the film opens up with out lead character, Jimmy Slacks, lazy artist extraordinaire, putting in a pitch for a manga he’s been working on, except he didn’t bother to finish his sample or even draw in the big monster that’s supposed to be its central figure and… yeah, that gets him nowhere. So he goes to have lunch with Lady Pain. Lady Pain is awesome. Jimmy Slacks basically does whatever she says because she’s a black belt and her ability to kick ass is without peer. She’s off for most of the story here, but she shows up whenever anyone needs their face inverted. The film’s not clear on their relationship, but he treats her and she acts more like his mother and he’s nowhere near cool enough to be the boyfriend of someone as stellar as she is, so that’s what I go with. Anyways, there’s this children’s theme park that’s looking for a monster designer, and she hooks him up with an interview there. Jimmy Slacks shows up at their office which is inside a giant Godzilla statue, discusses the lamest possible monster designs, and even he’s honestly surprised when he gets hired. He hears a bit of the organization’s mission statement, which is to bring peace to the world by destroying monster island and everything on it. Which is not something I would expect a children’s theme park to be going for. A little bit of mission drift there, it seems.
Anyways, Jimmy Slacks designs some really bad monsters, then goes to show up at the office and bumps into some girl. She drops a tape and runs off. He picks up the tape, then the guy that just hired him and some guards show up. They ask him where she went, and for completely no reason, he covers for her and points them in the wrong direction, then heads into the office. Nobody else is there, so he starts nosing around until he accidentally opens a secret door and finds the boss of the place inside. Jimmy Slacks is apparently stunned by the boss being a teenager, but he looks older than Jimmy Slacks, so that really didn’t come across very well. Teen boss is working on some incredibly advanced mathematics, and when asked, says that he’s charting the position of M Space Hunter Nebula. You might have picked up by now that these guys are incredibly suspicious. Like, they’re not even trying to hide it. Also, nothing about them hiring Jimmy Slacks makes sense. Like, they never need monster designs for anything, and when we do learn their plans, none of them involve anything about a homework monster or overbearing mother monster or anything else they hired him to do, so I have no idea. Whatever, lets move on.
On Jimmy Slacks’ way home, the girl from earlier stops him and tells him to hand over the tape. Jimmy Slacks did one thing right at least, and saw this coming, having hid the tape somewhere before hand. He refuses, they can’t find it on him, and some beatnik comes up and sticks an ear of corn in Jimmy Slacks’ back. Jimmy Slacks faints. So they take him to his house and give him some TLC for a while, then he wakes up and they chat. Turns out the girl’s brother, Dr. Computer, has probably been kidnapped by the theme park, and she thought the tape might give some clue as to his whereabouts. Jimmy Slacks could just write them off as crazies who held him up with corn, but on the other hand, that theme park is super shady, so he decides to check it out.
Man, I have lost track of how many of these awards I have won now. I have been building new shelves in my house to hold all these awards when WordPress finally gets around to sending them to me. If I keep being this award-winningly magnificent, I might have to remodel. Get an extra room in there. To hold all my awards.
This most recent one comes courtesy of Thero at A Reluctant Hero, a blog about essentially whatever’s on Thero’s mind at the moment. Usually video games, but sometimes she’ll hit some other notes, such as when she recently went over some local ghost stories from her region. I found her blog a good positive place to follow, so give it a look. You might like it. And obviously. she has good taste.
So, let’s take a look at THE RULES of this blog award.
Put the award logo/image on your blog.
There. Doesn’t particularly match my manly allure around here, but we can check this off the list, at least.Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
2. Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog
Hey! I did that already! Man, I rule. And so does Thero.
3. Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well.
Hmm… is that why people make these viral blog awards? To get additional clicks from everyone’s site that catches the virus? Oh well. The creator of this award is MyAnime2Go. Maybe they’re a great site for you! I don’t know, I didn’t read them, so no official endorsement there.
4. List the rules.
Ok, let’s see here. The rules are:
Put the award logo/image on your blog.
Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well.
List the rules.
Give a brief story of how your blog started and the problems you faced.
Give five pieces of advice for new and old bloggers. (Note: you can still mention a tip that’s been mentioned already because we all express things differently)
You have to nominate 5 -12 bloggers.
Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog or just reaching out to them.
5. Give a brief story of how your blog started and the problems you faced.
Eh, don’t have much of a story to go with here. I used to be big into online forums, and got all my online socialization piece and my discussion of all the nerd stuff none of my friends were into through them. But then life changed , and I wasn’t finding the time to keep up with them, so I let those drop. There’d always been a number of other bloggers I followed, really enjoying their work, and occasionally I’d have pangs of wanting to do that too, but never really wanted to commit to it. And then on a whim I spent a week making overly badass descriptions of some mundane things I’d been cooking on Facebook, and friends started saying I should start a blog, so eventually, I just did it. Except I use my nethandle so none of them actually know I have this blog.
As far as problems I faced go… eh. I mean, it’s writing. I can do that. There’s definitely been less of the ‘if you build it they will come’ factor than I thought there would be in the beginning, and even what I consider my best works don’t really get as much audience as I would have thought I deserved, but hey, I’m a small blog, much like most everyone doing this, but I still enjoy doing it. And in some ways, having such a select, private audience works even better. I’ve known many bloggers to completely burn themselves out by focusing on increasing their audience. So in retrospect, that’s never been a problem for me.
6. Give five pieces of advice for new and old bloggers. (Note: you can still mention a tip that’s been mentioned already because we all express things differently)
5 pieces of advice. Huh. You’d think after having done this for almost 8 years, they’d come to me more easily. Let’s see.
Write what you enjoy.
Again, I’ve seen lots of people burn out on chasing greater readership. And I get it. Writing takes a lot of time, a lot of thought, and sometimes a lot of prep work and research. It’s natural to want it seen by as many people as possible. But we’re working with a blogosphere that has tons of good and great and mediocre and bad content and it’s hard for even the best of the cream to rise above the rest of the crop. If you’re going to be taking all that time to be writing this material, you need to enjoy the act of writing it. That’s the only way this is going to be worthwhile. It’s not the audience that makes it worth your time, it’s you’re own enjoyment.
2. Be social with it
You know what one of the best parts of blogging has been for me? The social aspect of it. The comments. The bouncing ideas off of each other. The other bloggers cluing me into new games that I wouldn’t have given a chance otherwise. Getting ourselves a shared experience. Again, I don’t have a large circle here. I’m pretty selective about which blogs I’ll follow, and I don’t get the audience that keeps my comment section going for ages. But I greatly value everyone going through here, and every other blogger I have as part of this regular network. It has truly made all this experience more worthwhile. In fact, shout out to the lurkers, too. I don’t know you’re there, exactly, but if this material means enough to you that you’re taking the time out of your day to go through it, that means a lot to me.
3. Be wary of doing things just to generate content
This one’s not an absolute rule. Sometimes you play a game just to make a blog post about it, and it’s a really good time. Or it gets you a really great post. Or whatever. Sometimes it works out. But do that sparingly. In my experience, at least the way I’ve gone, the best content seems to come out of the things I wanted to do anyways. I didn’t originally intend to turn my Dark Souls run into a Let’s Play, but my experiences with my first few hours of the game were so profound, that I felt compelled to do so, and then I found the experience so much fun that I kept doing it, and I think I put together something really great overall. And that passion, when you’re genuinely interested and having fun in doing something, I think that comes through to your readers a lot better than when you’re forcing yourself into something just to have the content.
4. You’re unique. Trust that.
Well, I mean, of course I’m unique. There’s not exactly all that many genius video game players with a great tact for writing who also happen to be the sexiest man in the universe, but really, your thoughts, your impressions, they’re yours. I used to hold back from writing certain things I was wanting to, because I thought someone else would have said what I already wanted to say. But sometimes, I took the time to look that up. And I couldn’t find that. Like, this blog has what I believe to be the most comprehensive list of left-handed characters in games on the internet. And when I was doing my first post of that, I was absolutely sure someone else had already written a complete list. Except no. Nobody had. There were a lot of partial lists, but nothing that was as full or captured as many options as I had, as far as I can tell. Same thing with my posts on why Nintendo behaves in the unique ways it does. Or why we really don’t see that many female video game protagonists. Those things seem so obvious to me that I was sure everyone else already had those thoughts, too. But they didn’t. I have never seen anything like those posts. My thoughts are both incredibly intelligent and unique to my own style, even if they seem like I’m saying things everyone must already know. Because they don’t already know. And they need me to illuminate them. And that’s the same situation you’ll find yourself in, too. Your thoughts are worthwhile and unique, so let them fly.
5. Use your personality
Blogging is personality driven. Use that. Let that shine through. Most people change personality in writing, at least a bit. Try to avoid that. You’re not here to force humor, to tone yourself down, to put on a show for others. Be genuine. Don’t try to impress, don’t try to force, don’t try to be accepted. Be you.
7. You have to nominate 5 -12 bloggers.
I don’t have to. Watch me not.
In general, I don’t make a habit of passing along these viral awards. Because I don’t spread virus. Just watch me crush the coronavirus into submission. But yeah, I’m a curmudgeon, and nominating bloggers for content crosses out of my comfort zone, so I shan’t.
8. Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog or just reaching out to them.
Ok, I will do that with all my nominees right now.
Man, it’s been a while since I’ve done one of those business analysis posty things. Do you remember those? How I would use my business education and past experience as an entrepreneurial consultant to sound smart while talking about video game business things and everyone thought I was so cool? Yeah, good times. So let’s do that again. Because I’ve got some thoughts. About a thing.
And that thing is the Epic vs. Apple lawsuit.
And, looking back on that post after I’ve written the thing, those thoughts are really rambling and I’m not sure what kind of point I was trying to make, but hey, it was on my mind and now it’s out here so I hope you enjoy.
Now, going into this, I should put in a couple of caveats. Epic has chosen to make their case in terms of antitrust law. Now, my education did include a class in business law, but we didn’t devote a whole lot of time to antitrust, and my work following that was largely in small business and microenterprise and other areas where that sort of thing just doesn’t come up too often. Also, I hate antitrust law. So I’m haven’t devoted any more time to looking into it than is required to pretend I know what I’m talking about and properly enjoying the drama of this case. I’m going to seem like I’m well informed here, probably. But keep in mind that I’m not, and it’s not especially important to me that I am, really. So although I am incredibly wise and intelligent and sexy and you can usually put a lot of trust in the things I say, don’t base any judgments on what I’m talking about with regards to the law, here. Also, there’s a bunch of other factors I could look up here, like the contents of the emails between Epic and Apple leading up to this, but I choose not to. Because I’ve got better things to do with my time. Like making this post. So go me.
Ah, Yukari. In my view, she’s the most realistically complicated character in the Persona series. She is complex and inconsistent in much the same ways that real life people are. She is very open and socialable and popular and has no close friends whatsoever and is incredibly lonely. She’s a caring person who keeps an eye out for the needs of those around her and she frequently lashes out at others with little to no provocation. She is incredibly insightful, often picking up on things that nobody else even notices and remains grounded even when everyone else is distracted, and also fears abstract concepts and fictional spooks greatly. She’s a lot more complex a character than you usually find in fiction. As a very complex character, fan opinions of her also vary quite a bit. Some like her. Some hate her. Some are annoyed by her at first, but like her more as the game goes on and she develops as a character. Some start out a fan of hers, but then hit a point in her social link where Japanese and western principles and values vary greatly and she ditches you if you do what seems most natural and supportive to her from our perspective. Fun times.
Yukari officially joined S.E.E.S. a short while before you did, although she’s been on their radar for a while before. She just recently awakened to her persona before the start of the game, and isn’t yet adept at facing down the emotional hurdle required in summoning it. When Yukari was a kid, her father was one of the scientists working on the Kirijo Group’s Shadow project, the thing that ended up creating the Dark Hour in the first place. When things went south there, the only thing the public knew was that there was an explosion that killed a lot of scientists, for which the survivors used Yukari’s dad as a scapegoat, posthumously. Because we’re dealing with a society that’s horrible and hateful in this game, although Yukari’s dad also died in the blast, everyone around treated Yukari and her family horribly because of it. Between the grief from their loss and the combination of pity and hatred they faced, they had to move quite a bit of times, preventing them from building any real connections with anyone. In her grief, Yukari’s mother sought solace in a series of short-term romantic entanglements, which led to Yukari being neglected, at least in her view. Yukari started living alone, some time before starting at Gekkoukan High School, and it seems she and her mother rarely talk, now. Ten years after her father died, Yukari gets a time capsule letter he left for her, full of good feelings and love, and with that, Yukari doesn’t believe he really could have done the things he’s been accused of, and, knowing his experiments were tied with Gekkoukan High School somehow, enrolls there to figure out what exactly happened.
So, Dead Cells is a roguelike action platformer with some Metroidvania elements. It’s awesome. Sorry for spoiling the rest of the review there.
It’s also hard, as befits a roguelike. But sometimes you have to play and beat those hard games. Because that’s how people know that your penis is big. Even if you don’t have a physical penis. Your metaphorical penis is big. The penis of your soul.
Anyways, Dead Cells is really a great model of what makes roguelikes so enjoyable to play. For those who aren’t super familiar with the model, let’s go through what makes a roguelike a roguelike. The model traditionally built around having a high degree of challenge, a very high skill ceiling, and permadeath, meaning that the games are very hard and if you die you’re right back at the beginning, but there’s a lot of room for you to get very very good at them and they’ll throw challenges at you for near every level of skill. Given that you’ll be dying and going back to the beginning a lot, the model makes heavy use procedurally-generated levels (well, at least semi-procedurally generated, a lot of games will cheat by just having premade rooms connected in a randomized layout) and randomized gear and resources, which cuts down on the repetition by changing up the levels and your playstyle each time. In fact, the randomized gear adds a lot to the gameplay of the model, as you have to try out and adapt to a lot of different capabilities and your strategy needs to adjust constantly to the specific things your character is capable of. In more recent games, roguelikes have started adopting a practice of having you collect resources in each run that unlocks upgrades or new weapons or whatnot that linger between characters, meaning the game will grow as you play it more. Success in a roguelike usually relies on three factors, your knowledge of the game and its future possibilities and various microcomponents, your ability to use that knowledge to make strong decisions about how you’re building your character with the limited and randomized resources available to you as well as your decisions to manage risk, and your in the moment gameplay skills in whatever genre the roguelike is.
So Dead Cells takes that foundation, just as described there, and builds on top of it a very technically solid action platformer. Your main character is… well, a sentient blobby mass possessing a headless corpse, but it really doesn’t control like a sentient blobby mass possessing a headless corpse. Your character is quick and incredibly responsive, and it feels very natural controlling them. It does take a little bit of getting used to, but soon you’ll be zipping back and forth around enemies, dodging through their attacks, leaping through platforms and coming up behind them to bring the pain in no time. Moreover, this game does a thing. A thing with speed. Every time you kill an enemy, you get a speed boost for the next several second. This stacks to a certain extent, so if you’re smacking down enemies over and over again, you’ll get pretty darn zippy, which you can then use to beat the level in record time or to be even more deadly against your foes. Complimenting the great controls and speed here are that your rank and file enemies are very distinct in their moves. They telegraph their attacks really well, both with their sprites rearing back as well as with a nice exclamation point decal alerting you to the attack, even if it’s coming from off screen. They’ll also pause just long enough for you to take a single action, aggressive or defensive, as long as your reflexes are on par. There may be a bit of trouble time as you get to recognize the enemies and the nature of their attacks, but once you learn how and what they do, if you get hit, it’s because of a mistake you made and you know exactly what that mistake was. Usually. Because there was at least one point where I got killed by an enemy that attacked in half the time its fellows did with absolutely not warning. Jerk. But yeah, the game is hugely demanding and its very easy to make mistakes, but aside from those few times, its completely fair in its challenge.
Alright, so this post is proving to be too large and taking too long to write, because it turns out I can run my mouth about things. So we’re breaking it up, rather than going through all the characters at once. Here’s the first bit of our Persona 3 character analysis. We’ll be at this for a while.
Here’s a fun time! Let’s talk the characters! Persona is a very character-driven series, and Persona 3 marks a point in the series where you started going over each of them with a magnifying glass. So what say we dig into them, and see what they’re all about. Starting with the PCs. Well, the PC and the sorta-PCs. They’re not NPCs. But you don’t control them directly. Except for that one version where you do. Uh… maybe I should just lower-case it then. Let’s talk about the PC and the pCs.
Also, another warning here. This is spoiler territory. I would imagine that if you’re going to play the game, you would have done so by now, but just in case, if you still want to take it on, might want to stop here. Else we’ll be revealing all sorts of secrets.
The party as a whole. S.E.E.S. is an officially sanctioned student club at Gekkoukan High School, who apparently don’t blink at having a club with “Execution Squad” in the name. Given the Shadow stuff is all supposed to be secret, I wonder what school staff think S.E.E.S. actually does. Staff advisor is the school principal, Shuji Ikutsuki, who you never actually see doing any principalling, although in my experience the principal’s only duties are to yell at you when you’re having fun and keep you from flirting in the hallways, so… In any case, leadership structure is a little varied. Mitsuru Kirijo is definitely the group’s leader, and she and Ikutsuki are usually the ones to set goals, plan strategies, and coordinate activities, with Akihiko Sanada serving as the group’s underboss, taking more direct action in building up its members and keeping them in line with Mitsuru’s direction. In the field, however, the protag calls the shots, due to his unique wild card ability allowing him the greatest degree of tactical flexibility.
I think S.E.E.S. is unique in that it’s not your typical group of fire-forged friends. Most every other RPG will see a lot of strong bonds develop amongst the cast. Even every other game in the Persona series will have the main cast incredibly strongly together by the game’s end. Except for Persona 2: Innocent Sin, which ended by killing one of the characters and wiping all the remaining one’s memories except for one who responded by turning into a huge douchebag so the rest wouldn’t lead to the world being destroyed again. That’s the odd one out. Anyways, S.E.E.S. is a lot more realistic about it. The main characters do feel strongly for each other, and do develop good bonds among each other, but the natures of those bonds vary from truly being friends in some to just being good coworkers of sorts in others. There’s a lot of intergroup conflict, as you would expect if you stuck a bunch of teenagers together and pushed them to do just about anything. Yukari seems to really hate Mitsuru for much of the opening, before their joint conflicts and traumas lead them to opening up to each other and becoming great friends. Akihiko is welcoming but aloof and doesn’t really get close to anybody except Mitsuru and Shinjiro. Junpei spends a big chunk of time resenting and constantly trying to one-up you before he ever actually gets close. The group starts out rather impersonal among each other, before many, but not all, start developing some true bonds, and they’re not a perfectly cohesive group, in all. There’s times where the group loses their way, individual members drift apart or strike out on their own aims, or something shocks them and they each need to spend time alone to process. It leads to a lot of that good character development that we love in these sort of stories, and also sets this group apart from many others. This is a bit outside the scope of this game, but the Answer shows that the protagonist, your character, did a lot to keep everyone together and moving in one direction; after they’re dead, the members of S.E.E.S. lose a lot of what bound everyone to each other and start drifting apart, although they do find common ground and a good level of trust in each other again when Mitsuru later reorganizes anti-Shadow activities, as seen in the Persona 4 Arena games.
Every member of S.E.E.S. has some sort of complications in their relationships with their parents that lead to them growing and operating independently of them. Some don’t get along with their parents, some have been deeply hurt by them, and some are tragically orphaned. Likewise, everyone outside of the protagonist doesn’t really fit in with society as a whole. Akihiko is popular for his looks and accomplishments but has no social skills, so doesn’t really have any close bonds outside of S.E.E.S. Mitsuru has a hard time relating with anyone that doesn’t have her same upbringing. Junpei is so wild he puts people off. Fuuka is very shy and has a hard time opening up with people. Etc. Between the two of those factors, perhaps that level of disconnection from one’s family and community is necessary to independently muster up a persona in corporeal form.
You know Dark Souls, right? It’s a great game. Absolutely phenomenal. Honestly one of the best I’ve played. We’ve spent some time on it. Well, let’s imagine you’re a game designer. And you look at Dark Souls. And you see how fantastic it is. And you’re like “Aww, I wish I made that.” You find your craft at the top of its form and wish you could be there, making something of that level.
Well, Death’s Gambit is what you would get if you just went ahead and made Dark Souls again anyway, and put your stamp on it and called it yours.
Honestly, that describes the game really well. This is 2d indie action-platformer Dark Souls. Everything about the game, from its structure, to its set up, to its atmosphere, to its means of storytelling, absolutely everything was incredibly clearly inspired by Dark Souls. Even the unique things it does were built on a Dark Souls base, rather than truly standing on their own. For a while, I wasn’t sure what I thought about it. The game is good. No doubt about that. This is a team that was just making Dark Souls in a different form, sure, but also a team that truly understood what makes Dark Souls great, way more than most of the game’s imitators. But the thought I struggled with was whether or not there was a place for a game like this. Like, why would I play a Dark Souls imitator if I could just play the original?
It took a while, but eventually, the unique bits about Death’s Gambit won me over. Particularly, it was the more compact nature of Death’s Gambit that did it for me. I love Dark Souls. It is a hugely dense, long-form game. The run we did here took me over 70 hours of game time, and there are plenty of those hours I didn’t make any real progress in, just trying and failing and learning and trying again over and over. Dark Souls is a huge, multi-layered cake. Death’s Gambit is a cupcake. And sometimes, you just want a cupcake. You get the complete experience in around ten hours game time. Even though the bosses required a similar mechanically complex means of handling, and had the same scale of tension as Dark Souls, they were far more achievable and it doesn’t take quite as much an investment in time to achieve them. The levels have less back and forth, better placed checkpoints, and it doesn’t take as long to traverse them. So yeah, here, you get a lot of what you probably love about Dark Souls, but you’re able to do it with less of an investment of time. And I ended up finding that really valuable. Snack size Dark Souls is really meaningful as well, especially when you don’t have the emotional bandwidth to do the “Try, Die, Learn, Repeat” for hours on end that Dark Souls requires before you complete any particular challenge.
And I do rather like a lot of the unique things it does here, some of which wouldn’t work out in OG Dark Souls. In addition to your starting class being a selection of stats and starting equipment, they also come with their own abilities and skill trees. You can still spec any class however you want and gear them with whatever they have the stats for, but your unique abilities and your skill trees are different for every class, and both give more replayability as well as more impact. I wouldn’t want that in Dark Souls, the ability to design anything however you want there is really powerful to the game’s structure, but it works a lot better in a quicker game. So does the way they’ll sometimes interrupt your deaths to give you a bit of story before they revive you. Your character here is a defined personality with a bit of backstory, which I wouldn’t want in Dark Souls but I feel they were able to make work here. I also have to give particular props to the way this game handles death. Normally, in Dark Souls and all the games that copied it thinking this was why Dark Souls was good without understanding the other factors around this, when you die, you lose all your money/experience points unless you can get to where you were and grab those back. Here, you leave behind one use of your standard recovery item. Which you can choose to pay out the nose with via money/experience if you can’t get those back yourself, so that option is there, but it’s not by default. It still keeps death feeling like it has consequence and impact, but it’s not as punitive and time-sinky as losing your combined cash/development resource. That’s something I’d absolutely like to see more Souls-likes picking up on. Between that and the better-placed checkpoints, you can bounce back from failure with a lot less frustration, which is fantastic in a game that’s built around you failing a whole lot. Honestly, the walk back after Death in Dark Souls was always my least favorite part of the game, and it almost absolutely ruined both Demon Souls and Bloodborne for me. You have a game here that mitigates it very well, while still using the same structure, so… yeah. Good going.
Combat maintains the relatively slower pace, high consquence actions, and generally more thoughtful, tactical feel of Dark Souls, although it’s slight faster. You’ve got a couple of additional factors here, though. Being a 2D action platformer, of course you have to worry about aerial combat and environmental threats. Positioning becomes a lot more important, and you’ll need to know the range and arc of your weapons in a variety of different circumstances, both ground-based and in the air. As in Dark Souls, defense is your primary consideration in most circumstances, so you’ll need to keep an eye out for how you and your enemy will move in all these circumstances as well. In addition to your bread and butter weapon attacks, you also equip three abilities at a time, most of which will have you do a heavy attack, and will often also leave an ongoing buff, debuff, or other active factor for the next while. There’s a fair amount of variety to them, and I found myself really relying on them a lot as the game progressed. In fact, by the time of the endgame, my own success seemed to lie just as much as my designing equipment and abilities in effective combination as it did with my in-the-moment twitch reflexes and decision making.
Presentation in this game is a bit weird. The art is absolutely gorgeous. All over. It looks really fantastic in screenshots. The animation is horrible. The game makes heavy use of rotoscoping, even for basic animations, and with the complexity of the sprites, it looks particularly unnatural to see them wholly shifted into angles. You get stray pixels and mismatched components everywhere. Which is a shame. Because the art design is so good, and the pixel art, generally, so fitting, this game could have been a visual treat, but that ends up just making the poor animations stand out. Music is pretty great, though. Definitely worth a listen.
Storywise, it does have a lot of the opaque storytelling that Dark Souls did so well, giving hints and pieces in item descriptions and bits of dialogue and whatnot, and having a lot of features you come across that are only hinted at, while also having a more clear throughline than Dark Souls had. You’ve got a defined character, Sorun, a soldier of a nation that’s been locked in a decades’ long war with a nation of lizardfolk that had uncovered the secret to immortality. The rulers want the secret of immortality themselves, while Sorun’s looking for his mother, who was drafted into this same war when he was a child and never returned. Sorun, is killed in battle early on, but Death appears before him, and offers him a deal. Death, understandably, isn’t a fan of immortality being out there, and if Sorun is willing to slay all the immortals of the land, Death will grant him eternal life himself. However, he warns that immortality has costs of its own. Sorun agrees, and a contract is signed, although Sorun’s more concerned with his own aims, and uses the quest against the immortals as a means to an end.
The world of Siradon here is also rather interesting as well, and it does some nifty things of its own. As Death warned, immortality has not been kind to its residents, and although everyone else wants it, as you venture inward you find that it has caused this civilization to tear itself apart. You’ll run across high magic establishments. You’ll run across unique takes on standard fantasy settings. You’ll get hints that things aren’t quite as clear as expected, through some enemies and locations that seem way out of place. You’ll end up in absolutely freaky locations that seem straight out of the depths of your fears. And through it all, you’ll get these hints, leading you along to greater places. The locations are phenomenal, both from a soulsian level design perspective as well as from a lore/backstory one.
Also, I’ve got to give good props to the boss fights here. The bosses are the best parts of the game, and all of them deliver a great amount of tension. Some of them used mechanics I hadn’t seen before in a game like this. And almost all of them hit that fantastic Souls level of skill ceilings, where they seem completely impossible at first, but you try, and fail, and learn and grow as you’re doing so, until you earn the ability to overcome them and feel absolutely phenomenal doing so. It doesn’t take as long as Dark Souls did, as I previously mentioned, and they’re not as complicated, but they’re still thrilling fights nonetheless.
So yeah, it took me a while to warm up to Death’s Gambit, but I ended up really enjoying my time with it. This is a game that copies Dark Souls so closely it’s not possible for it to be anything more, but it does feature enough smart changes and care in the design that it does create something different. I could definitely see myself diving back into it, and its more compact design makes it easier to do so when I’m jonesing for some Souls goodness but not ready to make a huge commitment for it.
Alternative Title: The one that was made on drugs, probably
Ask Godzilla fans what they think about Godzilla vs. Hedorah and you’ll get reactions ranging from “eh, it’s OK” to “OMG this is the worst!” One thing they’ll all agree on though, is that this film is balls to the wall, pants on head, writers with cocaine and a dartboard WEIRD. This movie runs like a fever dream. Full of things that you never expected, never thought you’d see, and after you saw them, you’ll wonder why the hell they showed it to you in the first place.
So this one follows up on Son of Godzilla, being a low budget, quick turnaround, child-oriented take on Godzilla, which is frankly where the series is going for the next while, so buckle in. Had a new director, Yoshimitsu Banno for this one. He got fired from the series after this. Longtime series producer Tomoyuki Tanaka absolutely hated this film. But Banno did come back to help out with the 2014 American Godzilla. So… that I guess. Anyways, this wasn’t a film that was set up to succeed, and then had some really weird and questionable decisions upon release, was reviewed horribly upon release, and had significant ramifications for that.
But, at the same time, there are some interesting things it does. It’s limited budget was used with purpose, Hedorah is legitimately threatening, and it has some neat parallels to some of the better Godzilla films, so it has some layers to it.
Also, Banno started this film with an ENVIRONMENTAL message in mind, inspired by seeing heavy pollution in the rivers and smog in cities. So there is an absolutely heavy ENVIRONMENTAL moral to this story. That being that the ENVIRONMENT IS GOOD and POLLUTION IS BAD. It will hit you over and over again with all the grace of a jackhammer. So, keep that in mind as you’re reading this. To be fair, this was made at a point where ENVIRONMENTAL conditions in Japan were absolutely horrible, and it got better in the years following this film, so maybe it was super called for and Godzilla vs. Hedorah is exactly what Japan needed to make a comeback. But in any case, there are few morals that will be slammed into your brain harder than this. It will crash and splatter everywhere. Kind of messy, in all. If there’s ever a point while you’re reading this that you’re thinking something other than how absolutely terrible it is that there’s POLLUTION in the ENVIRONMENT, you need to adjust your expectations and start over again. It doesn’t matter that nothing else in the film makes sense. ENVIRONMENT!!!