Dreaming of Dancing Burritos

Shin Megami Tensei Devil Summoner 2: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon Raiho Limited Edition mini review
July 20, 2009, 3:45 am
Filed under: appeals to the capitalist in you, awesome, fangirl, review, toy review

(also, Gundam 00 Multibox Nandemo Haro)

Something awesome happened during my usual weekly date with the Nyan yesterday.
We were facing the front display of the Data Blitz shop in MoA, and our conversation went like this:

Him: Hey, look!
Me: (stares at the display box  of an arcade stick and Wii Fit) Er what?
Him: Look!
Me: (peers at the WoW toy) What am I supposed to look at?
Him: (takes hold of my head and turns it a bit to the side) LOOK!
Me: (sees the SMT Devil Summoner 2 Limited Raiho Edition) OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT

A few minutes and almost three thousand pesos later, we got out of the Data Blitz branch toting around a big yellow plastic bag containing what could be my luckiest find for these past few months:

This is Shin Megami Tensei Devil Summoner 2: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon for the PlayStation 2. Now, saying that what I bought is a limited edition of the game really isn’t accurate – this is the only edition of the game’s North American release, with Raiho plushies thrown into every copy of the game with nary a dollar added to its SRP.

However, the game itself is rare, and each box bears a serial number “to ensure its rarity and collectible value,” according to Atlus’ press release. (Note to self: when selling items in the internet, add a serial number sticker to increase profits by 50%)

These are the contents: the Raiho plush and the game. The Raiho is immensely cute as promised, sporting its own bancho uniform and sharp sideburns just like his predecessor, Raidou Kuzunoha. He has a little cape , though his bunny tail is nowhere to be found. Leaving out a small detail like this is tantamount to blasphemy, but it’s okay. A tailless Raiho is better than no Raiho, after all.

I regretted opening the package when I realized that every copy of the game has its own serial number, but then again I really don’t have any plans of reselling it. Raiho and Devil Summoner 2 will join Ouendan and other awesome games in my shelf, and it will of course be the centerpiece.

Oh look, Raiho’s snuck out of the box and is trying to hide in–wait, is that a Haro? Yes I believe that’s a Haro; The Gundam 00 Multibox Nandemo Haro, to be exact. As hinted by its name, its a Haro that serves as a box to hold various things in: knick knacks, snacks, toys, etc. You may even use it as a desktop trash bin if you like, but…that’s a Haro!

I managed to spot it despite its rather unassuming box, which was almost covered underneath a mountain of model kits in Robinson’s Galleria’s Toys R’ Us. The packaging is rather plain, but hey, there’s no missing Haro. The box contains the upper and lower half of the Haro, and a stand so it won’t go rolling off your desk and to its doom, as well as a sticker sheet containing two pairs of Haro eyes, one black and one red.

I decided to use the black eyes; red against bright orange background doesn’t look too good.

It’s rather large, and it’s by far the biggest Haro in my collection. Shown in this picture alongside the Nandemo Haro for comparison purposes are the pink Haro Capsule, which contained a Gundam Seed figure, and a tiny silver gift Haro that came with additional gift packaging and ribbon.


The weather last week was like Mum. Also, Manila Ocean Park.
June 8, 2009, 5:16 am
Filed under: obligatory, review, sentimental

If I were to anthropomorphize last week’s weather, she’d look and act a lot like my mum. I even have almost the same kind of misgivings towards the weather as my mum (thank you for NOT letting me go to the company outing). That’s all I can say about last week’s weather.

Mother-flavored weather or no, Sunday still saw me being treated to a sunny day with the fishes in Manila Ocean Park, courtesy of that someone who will remain seriously awesome…until our next argument.

With the exorbitant ticket price (400 can see me through an entire work week complete with a Wendy’s side salad for each day), I wasn’t expecting the place to be packed with people. While there was no line for the tickets by the time that we came, we were still greeted with several families gawking at the fishy population once we got into the park.

Needless to say I’m actually glad; while the park is relatively small I wouldn’t want to see it close down due to lack of visitors.

The fishes were hard at work in entertaining the guests: a trio of huge Amazonian fishes – touted to be the largest freshwater fish in the world – tried tried their best to be as cuddly as possible, making me feel a strong urge to jump into the aquarium and hug them. Too bad that doing so would see me getting hauled away from the park.

Rays were also employed to shade the underwater tunnel visitors from the harsh rays of the sun, using their flat, wide bodies. Some of them looked grumpy, begging to have their pictures taken and used for macros such as “I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE. AND I DO NOT LIKE IT.”

Of course, there are the doctor fishes of the fish spa. If I ever have to tag one group of fish as the company “overperformers”, these lot would be it. The moment we dipped our feet into the shallow pool, hordes of nomnom fish instantaneously approached our submerged limbs and nom’ed on our feet and legs.

It was, I suppose, the doctor fishes’ way of saying “Ma’am and Sir, we advise you to change your year-old loofah and scrub more. In the meantime, we recommend that you let us NOM on your dead skin cells. Nomnomnom.” Having crowds of fish happily nibbling on your skin could very well make up being born with chronic dry skin.

A precarious boat ride and a nice lunch later, my companion and I mellowed out in MoA, strolling around hand in hand, just as we always do.

1: Even if we fight a lot, I’ve never been happier in my whole life.  
2: What made you say that so suddenly?
1: I just wanted to let you know.
2: Uhm, is this the point when the couple goes all lovey-dovey, then parts afterwards with one of them dying because of a freak accident, and the other goes emo and eventually saves the world?
1: Let’s just look at them balls touching, shall we?

Manga Review: Saint Young Men (aka Jesus is a weeaboo)
May 26, 2009, 3:58 pm
Filed under: anime-related, fangirl, lolwut, manga review, random, review

…or, what if God (and Buddha) was one of us.

If you’re still familiar with one-hit wonder Joan Osbourne’s If God Was One of Us, then you may have played around with that thought. Did you imagine the earthbound Jesus as the  holier version of King Midas, who turned everything he touched into gold? Did His footsteps turn the hot asphalt He walked on into holy ground? Was He even remotely human, in every sense of the word?

What if He was just chillin’ in a rented studio apartment, with Buddha as his roomie?

In Nakamura Hikaru’s Saint Young Men, two of the poster men of religion, Jesus Christ and Buddha, decide to take a break from their work and descend into Japan (surprise, surprise) for good old R&R. They rent an apartment, and judging by Buddha’s stricken reaction at Jesus’ exorbitant purchases, they’re also restricted to a certain budget. Will they enjoy their vacation? Maybe, if only their divinity wasn’t in the way.

Contrary to the Jesus Christ in every Christian’s minds, Nakamura’s rendition of the Son of God is incredibly human and a tad carefree, to the point of being a bit out-of-character at first glance. To Japanese highschool girls who catch glimpse of Him buying food in the nearest kombini, He is that Johnny Depp-lookalike who has a penchant for the Shinsen-gumi. He owns a Vaio, and is a J-dorama blogger who makes sure His reviews come out the same day that the episodes get aired – and His blog gets thousands of hits per day.

Tl;dr, Jesus is a weeaboo, just like us.

On the other hand, Buddha of Saint Young Men is truer to the Buddhist doctrine as the man who has discovered the Middle Way (the path between the two extremes of hedonism and self-mortification): he is temperate, scolds Jesus for squandering their limited vacation allowance on needless luxuries like a beginner’s clay modeling kit, and a full set of Shinsen-gumi cosplay, and absolutely loathes the extreme sensation of riding the rollercoaster. But he finds it in himself to become a Leah Dizon fan.

As expected of a manga of this genre, Saint Young Men pokes a small jab at its protagonists, putting Christianity and Buddhism in a humorous light. The manga even goes so far as to “reveal” that the fabled Baptism in the Jordan River was not a proof of Jesus’ divinity more than a show of John the Baptist’s great compassion, and that the white dove that descended from the heavens was the Father Himself, inquiring about the welfare of His slightly aquaphobic Son.

Jesus’ addiction to blogging was also explained as a manifestation of his desire for an audience; whether or not this translates to craving attention depends on the readers. I myself know that this isn’t always the case.

One of the bigger questions about this manga is whether or not Nakamura’s Jesus was too out of character. Is He, really? Jesus of the Bible was capable of playing truant as a kid to show His wits (or youthful presumptuousness?) off to them pesky old men; He certainly was cheeky enough to make His unbelieving disciple to touch his wounds just to show that he was that same person who died on the cross. 

He was also human enough to wreak havoc on the merchants in His Father’s temple – but this manga series does not emphasize His righteous anger (an error which will be righted in this particular sidestory).

One of the more obvious reasons why this obscure title shines is its irreverent handling of subject matter, yet never straying far from what could be the entire point of this manga series: Jesus (and Buddha, depending on your beliefs) was once human, just like us. Does it follow, then, that mere humans can transcend humanity and become divine?

Another point being, of course, that people of varying beliefs can hang out with each other and become roomies. It’ll be wonderful if that other religious figure (hint: turbans) made an appearance, but we all know what would probably ensue. Denmark knows .

Of course, this seems to be lost in the more orthodox lot of believers and those too narrow-minded to appreciate the message behind the satirical comedy that is practically on the same level as Cromartie High and Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei (thanks to its tasteful placement of cameos like that one God of the New World).

While the manga has reportedly been received warmly by the Christian and Catholic populations in Japan, the manga a good ice breaker between people of Christianity and Buddhism – and by extension, Shintoism – it’s obvious how people from the more fundamental Christian countries will take this gem: all fire and brimstone. And it’s sad, really.

For those who missed the scanlation link: Saint Young Men

Anime First Impressions: Ristorante Paradiso
April 28, 2009, 2:53 am
Filed under: anime review, anime-related, fangirl, first impressions, review
Before I proceed, let it be known that I never liked harem anime of any sort, be it the conventional harem or a reverse one. There are two exceptions though: Kyou Kara Maoh and this one, Ristorante Paradiso.

(…I’d like to explain why my exceptions are a bit…well, strange, but that’s besides the point.)

Here’s the gist: A young woman named Nicoletta searches for her estranged mother, and finds herself in a popular restaurant in Rome, staffed by a group of bespectacled, older gentlemen who, despite their age, seem to attract a number of fans of the female persuation.

I have to confess that I couldn’t help but cringe while writing the above paragraph. But no, this isn’t the same cringe as the Dragonball Evolution-type of cringe. Rather, this is a cringe of guilt. As in “this is horribly wrong but I like it so much” cringe.

Ristorante Paradiso’s characters are well thought-out and the cast makes for a promising brand of interaction. There’s spunky, impatient Nicoletta and her seemingly self-serving mother, Olga, who tries hard to make things appear A-OK to her husband all the while trying to patch things up with daughter in the most roundabout way possible thanks to her (typical) womanly pride.

Of course, the central characters – the gentlemanly staff of the restaurtant whose Italian name escapes me – are as interesting as your usual reverse harem cast of males, and a lot more.

But nevermind the entire restaurant staff, most viewers are interested with Nicoletta and the elderly waiter she’s crushing on, Claudio. It’s that one facet of the show that can potentially overshadow a lot of other things going on in the series. The producers know this fact very well too: the preview for Episode 2 already shows an aroused Nicoletta struggling to (gasp) undress a shocked yet submissive Claudio. Yes, cue another guilty cringe coming.

I’d like to rave more about it, but suffice it to say that the series kicked-off nicely. Sharing the same smooth, silky ambience of Bartender, Ristorante Paradiso may very well be that one guilty pleasure that merits a space in the typical anime viewer’s hard drive, but never quite show off to other enthusiasts.

Dragonball: Evolution movie impressions
April 11, 2009, 3:29 pm
Filed under: anime-related, fangirl, first impressions, gross, lolwut, rage, review

Play-Asia shipment review (Part One): Dissidia soda, Castlevania "7 Alucard Figure, Gundam 00 wafers, Space Invaders headset (black), Lion Ramune Candy

Receiving a parcel notice from the local post is a moment for having mixed emotions. There is elation, of course, coming from the knowledge that YES MY LONG-AWAITED PACKAGE FROM PLAY-ASIA IS THERE AND IS WAITING TO BE PICKED UP IN THE POST. I apologize for my use of caps, but attempting to express my joy otherwise is an exercise in futility.

On the other hand, picking up the package means that I’m forced to go through one of the worst public transportation routes I have ever undertaken ever since I started commuting between my first (crap) job in Quezon City and my Las Pinas home, and that’s saying a lot.

The commute to the post office involves two uncomfortable tricycle rides where somehow 5 people magically fit in a single tricyle. Yes, that includes one of said people almost sitting on the lap of another. In addition to that, my trek to the post office somehow always take place on a scorching hot day; certainly not helping ease the fact that I have to walk on hot concrete for several minutes somewhere in between rides. It’s a modern-day Penitensya before the Easter Egg Hunt.

In any case, here’s what I claimed from the post a few days before my birthday:

Clockwise from top-left: Dissidia Final Fantasy Potion (Chaos), NECA Castlevania Action Figure “7 Alucard, Lion Ramune Candy and Mobile Suit Gundam 00 2nd Phase Character Card with Chocolate Wafer, Space Invaders 30th Anniversary Headset Black

I got sorely burned with this particular shipment. I guess I got too complacent with not getting taxed to hell and back with my local customs office (as it should be; I never order anything extravagant online and I make it a point not to let one package exceed $US 50) that I never thought they’d consider a pair of headphones as an electronics item. What happened? my US$ 34.80 package got taxed with “duties” worth 1,000. That’s an additional US$ 20. Burn.

On to the actual contents:

The Dissidia potion I got is decorated with Final Fantasy IV’s Cecil Harvey and the bad guy Golbez(a). I have no idea how it tastes, though I read somewhere that the soda is Muscat Grape-flavored. Having consumed a couple of other Final Fantasy-branded sodas before, I think I can forgo the taste test and safely say that this Dissidia drink is no different; most probably tasting like carbonated piss with a handful of ascorbic acid tabs thrown in.

Next up is the “7 Alucard by US manufacturer NECA. Figmafags will most likely scoff at me getting a US-manufactured figure, but the awesome detail lovingly applied onto this awesome piece of plastic (from the flowing hair, manly cravat, carefully detail coat buckles, and the maddeningly intricate embroidery in the underside of his coat) is nothing short of [insert synonym to “awesome” here, I’m out of words].

While I wouldn’t give too much props to a manufacturer for doing something that they ought to have done in the first place, seeing such loving attention paid to a part that wouldn’t see light of day impressed me immensely. Seriously, I wouldn’t have noticed the beautiful patterns if it weren’t for me trying to see if I could disrobe the figure (and maybe fulfill that ten-year-long fangirl urge ebbing within).

I’d take more pictures, but I’m stuck with a crappy celphone camera and thus images will just get fuzzy whenever I attempt to take close-up shots.

Then we go now to Morinaga’s Gundam 00 wafers (or as Ryan would call them, the trap wafers). I thought of ordering one solely for the novelty of it; as much as I loved what I managed to watch of Gundam 00, I’m now really lukewarm towards anything pertaining to the series with the exception of the beautiful Miss Sumeragi.

For each pack you get a big piece of hazelnut-flavored wafer, a transparent plastic card and cardboard backing. I made the big mistake of disregarding the wafer as something that’s just chucked into the package so the item can be classified as a consumable item…until I took a bite out of it. No mistake about it, the wafer practically tastes like something made by Loacker: densely packed with delicious filling and not too flaky at all.

The cards that come inside each pack are not too shoddily made either: each are made of transparent plastic, making them good, sturdy bookmarkers. I’m not too keen on the card I got from my first pack, though:

I never liked Nena Trinity.

Since Ryan managed to get a taste of the heavenly wafers earlier, here’s his own review:

The Gundam 00 wafer is a strange, strange product. You’d think that something about giant robots with androgynous, mentally-ill pilots would have nothing to do with foodstuffs, but as always, we are reminded that Japan does not roll that way – hence we have this piece of surprisingly palatable wafery goodness emblazoned with the Gundam name. A name long sullied by Gundam seed, but a name nonetheless.

The foil pack contains two things: the wafer itself, a thin cardboard backing to make the package less prone to snapping in half/crumbling into pieces, and the collectible card. Okay, that’s three things, but I doubt you’d be buying this little baby for the second item. Unless you’re like me and like cardboard a tad bit too much.

The wafer is edible, the cardboard backing and the collectible card itself unfortunately is not.

In any case, the wafer, despite its rather dubious branding and packaging, is actually one of the best-tasting wafers out there. It’s dispensed in a pretty big size, the same size as a trading card – and it’s solid. You’ll be biting through solid layers of wafer and filling – none of the feathery, airy stuff you get at local stores – and you’ll be relishing every bite. It’s crispy, it’s tasty, and you better bet that it’s awesome with ice cream. You do not want to order just one or two of these babies. Order an entire box. It’s worth the money and the wait.

You heard the man.

The last two items in the shipment are the Space Invaders 30th Anniversary headset (black) and a couple of sticks of Lion Ramune candy. The headset is noteworthy solely because it’s the main reason why I got taxed heavily for the shipment. But that aside, it functions just as well as its pink cousin.

..and the Lion Ramune candy? The lemony hard candy fizzes in the mouth. Careful not to consume too many at once, or in a row, though: you don’t want to desensitize your tongue.

That’s part one of this shipment review – I received a couple of boxes from Play-Asia earlier today, and I’m going to blog it when I’m finally able.

First impressions: Ragnarok Online DS
December 18, 2008, 2:10 am
Filed under: fangirl, first impressions, gaems, obligatory, review
Originally written for Gamer Blag. 

(Author’s Note: Considering that I played the game’s Japanese release and I didn’t want to force myself to “read” moonspeak by squinting at the text for long periods of time in the hopes of understanding it, I may have missed some options that would have improved my gaming experience.)
Finally managed to get my hands on Ragnarok Online DS, the miniature version of Gravity’s surprisingly resilient MMO. Despite my enthusiasm towards the concept of finally getting an RO experience (more or less) in the pocket, an hour or so of playtesting the game left me feeling a bit… “meh”. Not too awesome, but not too crappy. 

Graphics: At first glance, the whole game looks like it’s been ripped out from the original PC version of Ragnarok Online. Now, this is good: imagine being able to walk through the familiar Pronteran fields with the same trees, the same pathways and waters, and the same plop-plopping Porings, all in the compact handheld console that is your DS. Fields and dungeons are broken down into small parts so the player can go through the environments piecemeal with minimal lagging between areas and/or slowdown. 
Judging from the first dungeon I played through (DS exclusive; I’m not sure if I came across an underground dungeon solely populated with Porings and the Culvert theme playing in the background), expect some areas to be sparsely decorated. No pillars, no trees, no rocks; just you, the floor, and the poor Poring. Now, if you’re a nitpicker you’d certainly go anal-retentive at the sore lack of background elements.
But what really gets to me is how the sprites look crappy when you zoom out your view. Surprisingly, the GungHo Works managed to make the zoom in/out function available in the DS incarnation, but it pretty much gives a mediocre result. The 3D background and textures still looks more or less the same, whether zoomed in or out, but the sprites become horribly pixellated when you crank up the zoom out view. And when I say pixellated, I say disfigured beyond recognition.
All things considered, liking Ragnarok Online DS’ graphics its just a matter of nostalgia versus quality.

Interface/Controls: GungHo Works, the new console gaming arm of Japanese MMO publisher GungHo Entertainment, certainly made an effort to mimic the user interface of the game, at least to a certain level. They implemented the shortcut bar (or however you call it), where players can opt to hotkey skills and/or items for use during battles. Like the later version of the shortcut bar in the original RO, you can configure and swap between three bars with just a nudge of the stylus.
Now, here is where things go a bit wrong: it seems that in order for you to use skills, you have to tap the icon of your chosen skill in the shortcut bar, then immediately perform the needed motion to activate the skill (check related screens here). I see this as redundant – the developers could have opted a more streamlined control scheme akin to The World Ends With You, where players can just perform stylus motions anytime they like without having to push any buttons or tap any icons. I can see myself getting flustered at the game if ever I’ll encounter a higher-level mob, tapping icons and doing random stylus motions, and maybe break the touchscreen in frustration. 
That said, the in-game controls of Ragnarok Online DS are mostly stylus-based, and the DS buttons are only used as shortcuts to the following windows:
Y – equip
B – stats
X – items
A – menu
R – notepad
The Notepad function is a cute addition to the game – I’m not sure if it’s main use is to let players scribble important notes for quests, but I used it as a nifty drawing tablet. Seriously, though, its a convenient touch and most RPGs should make use of a similar function (like Phantom Hourglass and Phantasy Star). Hey, that’s what the touchscreen and stylus is for.
Gameplay: I haven’t gotten that far into the game to give pertinent impressions about its gameplay, but suffice it to say that it has a decent combat system similar to Soma Bringer. You control your newbie character, while your party member (you get a Shaman at the first part of the game) is controlled by AI. 
Since I couldn’t make heads or tails of the moonspeak menu, I’m also not so sure if you can assign certain actions or behavior patterns on your teammates. It would be nice if you can order your partner, who has less that 1/4 HP, to defend himself or to concentrate on healing the party. That would really be a big plus towards the game.
Like the original Ragnarok Online, you can assign stat points to attributes such as Str, Int, Vit, etc. Sadly the stat attributes are labelled in kanji, so I couldn’t tell which is which :/ I don’t think I’ll be able to play the game if my stats are stunted, so I think I’ll just have to keep an eye out for FAQs for reference before I play again from scratch.
Sounds: Not surprisingly, Ragnarok Online DS makes use of the same soundtrack found in the original PC version. However, the background music is midi-fied, meaning that instead of the awesome SoundTEMP-produced orchestra and guitars you’ll hear mostly techno bleeps and bops trying hard to emulate the original music, but they do a great job anyway. Except to hear the usual plop-plopping of Porings, and other sound clips that can’t be mistaken for anything else but Ragnarok Online.
Miscallaneous but still important: Here’s what really disappointed me about the game: I was duped by one of the game’s cutscenes into thinking that I could walk around Prontera, showing clips and scenes of familiar Pronteran streets and landmarks, such as the fountain. After the cutscene, however, it turns out that I couldn’t traverse the Pronteran alleyways (and maybe find a scamming vendor or two). To go to shops, inns, or go out of the city, all I have to do is talk to Ms. Pavianne, who would warp me to my chosen location.
What also ticked me off are the extremely long cutscenes. Sure, they’re needed to build the game’s story and all, but having to go through five full minutes of watching the characters talk, bump, or hit each other is nothing but tedious. Even more so when I’m allowed to do a short piece of actual game time after a lengthy cutscene, only to launch into another borefest again. I’m starting to think that Ragnarok Online DS is actually a parody of Metal Gear Solid 4, only without the Kojima touch. At least you can opt to skip cutscenes in his game.
Overall Impression: As I said before, it’s not great, but not bad either. Yes, it looks like I’m weaseling out in this review, but let me reiterate that I’m playing a Japanese version of the game; there’s a chance that I’ll actually like Ragnarok Online if I can actually understand the menu, etc.
Pros: Good job in retaining the look, feel, and sound of the original game; character customization is enabled to some extent (naming, equipment, stat assignment…not so sure about being able to play as other classes, though. All the screenshots I’ve seen is the main character wearing a knight sprite); small things such as the inclusion of zoom in/out function as well as the notepad.
Cons: Crappy sprites on zoom-out, redundant battle controls, extremely long cutscenes, not being able to explore cities like the original Ragnarok Online.