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8:00 AM on 07.08.2014

Check out the first seven minutes of HAL

This one seemed have just slipped by me. Studio WIT, which is a subdivision of the mighty Production I.G. has a new animated film coming out, under the unassuming title HAL. The name gives me some serious Space Odyssey flash...

Hiroko Yamamura




Japanator's Summer 2014 Anime Preview Guide, Part 2! photo
Japanator's Summer 2014 Anime Preview Guide, Part 2!
by Josh Tolentino

The sun's up and it's time to get the heck into the shade and watch some Japanese cartoons! Welcome to the second part of Japanator's Summer 2014 Anime Preview Guide! Just as we did in yesterday's first part, we're here to take a sidelong glance at the newest anime of the season (including a few that beat us to the broadcast punch), in an effort to decide what we'll be watching and writing about!

Now get on below and check 'em out, then tell us what you'll be watching in the comments! 

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Japanator's Summer 2014 Anime Preview Guide, Part 1! photo
Japanator's Summer 2014 Anime Preview Guide, Part 1!
by Josh Tolentino

It's the summertime, and the weather is high. You can reach right up, and touch the sky. When the weather's fine, we've got Japanese cartoons on the mind! It's the first part of Japanator's Summer 2014 Anime Preview Guide!

This is where the highly trained staff at Japanator's Space Station HQ turn their all-seeing eyes upon the latest anime coming out of Japan, to cast their gaze in equal measures of HYPE and pre-judgment. Also, we'll tell you what cartoons we'll be watching for our regular Annotated Anime recaps!

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Japanator's Spring 2014 Anime Preview Guide! photo
Japanator's Spring 2014 Anime Preview Guide!
by Karen Mead

Spring hasn't really sprung for me in my neck of the woods yet, but it's officially the season of flower buds and abundant sunshine, no matter what my thermostat says. Fortunately, even if I have to wait a while for warm, beautiful weather to grace my doorstep, I won't have to wait much longer for a fresh new crop of animated entertainment, as the verdurous spring anime season is just about upon us.

Here's our pre-season guide to what's coming out and who's covering what. Of course, show assignments may change as Jtor editors viciously plot and scheme behind each other's backs to steal the best shows and leave their competitors with lame harem fare, so take that particular information with a few grains of salt. Some of these shows look promising, others not so much, but there's one thing we know for certain: no matter what happens this season, Recently My Sister is Unusual will definitely be over. YES.

LET'S SPRING!

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Preview: Cloudbuilt photo
Preview: Cloudbuilt
by Brittany Vincent

I don't like hand-holding. Sometimes, I want to jump in and make my own mistakes. I don't want the safety net of a checkpoint or the illusion of control afforded to me by objectives. Perhaps that's why, even in games like Mirror's Edge that so meticulously attempt to recreate the feeling of weightlessness and freedom afforded to those interested in parkour or free-running, I feel tethered to the idea of getting from point A to point B. Cloudbuilt is an intriguing riff on these ideas that doesn't encourage nonviolent combat or "alternate routes" to a target a la Assassin's Creed. It's not operating under some grandiose pretense or attempting to weave an unforgettable narrative, It's just you, the sky, and a delicious dose of speed. 

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Import Preview: Puyo Puyo Tetris photo
Import Preview: Puyo Puyo Tetris
by Elliot Gay

Those of you who follow me on Twitter have probably read my tweets hyping up Sega's new crossover puzzle game, Puyo Puyo Tetris. A few folks have expressed confusion toward my excitement, going so far as to wonder if I'm just being sarcastic.

The reality is much more simple than that.

Puyo Puyo Tetris has kept me glued to my Vita screen for over 20 hours at this point. It's just that damn good.

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Japanator's Winter 2014 Anime Preview Guide! photo
Japanator's Winter 2014 Anime Preview Guide!
by Josh Tolentino

As the year draws to a close, it's time to think about all the Japanese cartoons you'll be watching next year. That's right, folks, it's Japanator's Winter 2014 Anime Preview Guide! We're here to deliver the preliminary word on the latest - and potential greatest - Japanese cartoons of the next quarter and beyond!

The season is packed, so there's a lot to look forward to, so read on to see our big pile of trailers, teasers, and snap judgments, as well as seeing just who on Japanator's staff will be taking on coverage for our regular Annotated Anime recaps! And don't forget to tell us what you're anticipating this winter in the comments!

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An artbook preview just for Luka Megurine's biggest fans photo
An artbook preview just for Luka Megurine's biggest fans
by Kristina Pino

UDON Entertainment have revealed a nifty 12-page preview of an artbook featuring the lovely Luka Megurine all by her glamorous self. This artbook comprises over 150 illustrations on 96 pages created by over 35 artists, and it's available for you to purchase right meow.

The book's cover is metallic and the pages are 8.25" x 11.75". It does indeed look like a fab release for fans and perhaps even an ideal holiday gift. I only took one photo (besides a crop of the cover art) from UDON's site for this post, so be sure you click through to their blog to see the full preview. Just make sure you hide your wallet before clicking.

That being said, this book was released last month and its listing on Amazon is a fair bit below MSRP at the time of writing, so now's a great time to pick it up if you're going to.

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Japanator's Fall 2013 Anime Preview Guide! photo
Japanator's Fall 2013 Anime Preview Guide!
by Josh Tolentino

The fall anime season just kicked off, and you guys need to know who's covering which shows for Annotated Anime. Here at Japanator, we like to imagine that you base your viewing decisions strictly on which of your favorite staffers is taking up coverage duties, so clearly this is mission-critical information. Also, if you still haven't decided what to watch because you're a terrible procrastinator, here's our preview of some of the most notable shows on the slate for this season.

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TGS 2013: Jumping in with J-Stars Victory VS photo
TGS 2013: Jumping in with J-Stars Victory VS
by Elliot Gay

It wouldn't be a stretch to say that nearly three quarters of Namco Bandai's Tokyo Game Show booth is composed of Shonen Jump games. 

Perhaps the biggest of the bunch is J-Stars Victory VS for the PS3 and the Vita. A four player versus game, J-Stars takes a bunch of characters from the past and present of Jump and throws them together in destroyable environments. Sadly, I wasn't able to play with other people, so my 15 minute demo was against three different CPU players. 

My immediate impression upon sitting down with the PS3 version of J-Stars is that while it certainly doesn't look bad, it almost feels like it was developed for the Vita first and the PS3 second. On the flip side, energy blasts are colorful, and the fact that environments can take visual damage does a lot to spice things up. I was playing as Goku, so using a kamehameha blast to toss my opponent through a building felt especially satisfying. The controls reminded me a lot of the Gundam VS series, with a dash button and multiple attack buttons that when pressed together produce different kinds of attacks. 

Each player can select a sub-character that supports you in battle when you press L2 (I might be mistaken about the button). In my case, I chose Luffy, who would dash out ahead of me to attack my opponent, leaving him open to further follow-up attacks. It was messy and frantic, but a ton of fun, especially when you have four fighters on the field throwing out support characters every which way.

One concern I do have is the camera and its tendency to get lost when the action goes close quarters. Any time I found myself up against a wall, I had difficulty tracking my character. It only got worse when I was under attack, and the target I was locked onto was moving around further confusing the camera. These are problems I'm familiar with through the Gundam VS series, so I'm not all that hopeful that this'll be fixed before release. 

That being said, I can see J-Stars being a popular game in groups of people. It's fun, the controls are fairly simple, and there's nothing like seeing Goku and Luffy butt heads with Yusuke Urameshi and Kenshin. 

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TGS 2013: A look at Tales of Symphonia Chronicles photo
TGS 2013: A look at Tales of Symphonia Chronicles
by Elliot Gay

I didn't exactly have high expectations for Tales of Symphonia Chronicles, but it still somehow managed to miss them by a long shot.

First, I have a confession to make. I've never actually played past the first two hours of the original Tales of Symphonia. At the time, it just failed to sink its hooks into me, and I found myself gravitating toward other RPG experiences over on the PS2. As somebody who eventually became quite the Tales fan, I've always been meaning to go back to Symphonia and give it a real shot. I figured the Chronicles HD re-release would be the perfect way to do that.

In the past few years, we've had some truly fantastic HD re-releases. The most recent, Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix, did a great job of updating the visuals and sound without losing what made the original game so great. The fresh coat of paint really did a lot to make the experience feel brand new again. There are very few excuses for lazy HD ports nowadays, which is why Symphonia Chronicles makes me so sad.

I sat down with Tales of Symphonia for about ten minutes, and I couldn't help but constantly find myself shocked by how poor the game looked. I don't mean this on an aesthetic level either. It felt like the game had been poorly up-resed. Textures were blurry, it seemed like there was no anti-aliasing, and I'm fairly sure I've seen Symphonia look fantastic in Dolphin on high spec PCs. As it stands, folks hoping for a new experience with an old favorite might want to temper their expectations. The new PS2 content and a stable framerate certainly make it worth taking the dive, but don't expect a whole lot else.

There's still a bit of time before the game officially launches though, so hopefully they iron out these kinks before then. 

My fingers are crossed.

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TGS 2013: Partying with Sengoku Basara 4 photo
TGS 2013: Partying with Sengoku Basara 4
by Elliot Gay

I've never been much of a fan of Koei's Dynasty Warriors series. That isn't to say the appeal is lost on me; the idea of smashing through hundreds of weak soldiers has always been an exciting one. I suppose in my case, DW just seemed to take itself too seriously.

Enter Capcom's Sengoku Basara franchise. A rewrite of the Sengoku Era of Japan, SB is ridiculously over the top, featuring absurd redesigns of famous Japanese historical figures that may or may not include giant cyborgs. I remain convinced that Sengoku Basara actually takes place thousands of years in the future.

No, I'm not crazy.

In a year without a big Monster Hunter-like title being premiered, it's not an understatement to say that Sengoku Basara 4 has definitely been getting a whole lot of attention. It's Capcom's most lavish booth by a long shot, and it's clear they're putting a lot of marketing power behind it. The lines were never super long, but they were consistent. Sengoku Basara has always appealed to a large range of people, and it looks like the forth game is set to continue that tradition.

How does the game itself play? I had the opportunity to spend 15 minutes with it, and decided to play as newcomer Ii Naotora, voiced by the always incredible Maaya Sakamoto. As expected, her attacks are slow and methodical, as she wields a huge sword that has an incredible long start up time. Using her heavy attack multiple times gets her spinning, which in turn helps her to send opponents spinning into the air like a tiny tornado. Her style of combat is a nice move away from the more agile female characters from previous games; Ii is a tank.

For the most part, the Sengoku Basara formula seems to be unchanged. You make your way to different areas on the map so you can take down generals and reclaim spots. There are plenty of little UI differences that do a lot to make the whole experience feel much more polished, but overall, if you liked Sengoku Basara before, I don't see that changing any time soon.

There is one massive change that I think long time fans will be fond of. The supporting character you bring with you into battle can now be ordered to attack certain areas. With the click of a button, you can send your pal to the enemy in front of you even while you hammer on baddies. I foresee a lot of cool situations in which you sandwich a tough boss between the player and supporting characters. 

Are you ready to party?

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