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mana
2:29 PM on 08.02.2010



I don't usually PC game outside of the occasional free pc game that pops up. I don't have a problem with PC games, I just get too distracted with the internet and other things on my computer to focus on PC gaming. When I heard of Recettear's free demo, I figured it couldn't hurt to give it a whirl.

And I think I'm in love. With a demo none-the-less.



Recettear is about a girl, abandoned by her adventure loving father and forced to work for her livelihood. The local loan shark follows her around threatening her with an escalating bill lest she find some way to earn her meal. With a bit of spare change and some kindness she is able to get a small mom and pop shop started in a desperate hope of turning 1,000 pix (Recettear money) into 10,000 pix in 8 days to make the first loan payment. Failure to make the loan payment will result in this poor girl losing everything except the cardboard box she has to live under.

Ok, maybe its not that morbid. In fact, it's quite the opposite. A fun loving tale that really highlights what life as an entrepreneur is like. In fact, I enjoyed how this is all presented as a fun story about how a loan officer and a random orphan start a business together to become the next Carnegie or Rockefeller.


This can usually be overheard from my office before the workday begins.

If you've ever worked a shop where you are in charge of both purchasing and working the counter, this game is fairly accurate in what it does. I've worked in a family owned small business all my life. This is pretty accurate stuff here. Like business 101 without the tedious accounting.

They explain in the beginning that items need a set standard markup for the store to break even. This is true. 100% true. You have to work off a set standard otherwise you can not pay your overhead. In the first walkthrough, they tell you its 30% markup. I tend to work off 35% in real life. You can go back and forth on which item should be 40% and which should be 30%, but you can't run a small business charging list (usually 50% markup). Only the ignorant will buy from you at that price point and the customers you have will leave and forget you.

Anybody who has been in debt can tell you that the next big feature of the game is especially true. Time management is the thing that makes and breaks check books. In Recettear, you only have 4 quarters of a day to run around and get what you need to. Adventuring (which we'll get to later) takes 1/2 a day, and shopping takes 1/4 of a day. The markets aren't open at night and you have to rest to get to work in the morning so that limits the time you can actually do things. I've also noticed that most customers come in the morning (very similar to real life in my job) so you have to make sure you are either stocked well early on, or you will struggle to make the final sales.

The last thing I love the most about this game is that the customers have actual personalities. The lumberjack will only buy stuff weapons or armor. The everyday man will only buy clothing or food for his wife. The wives will buy many different things, but they'll haggle you just because they think they can. The adventurers are friends in the industry so they will come to you wanting some help. If you help them they'll help you in your Adventuring which works out for everyone.

Those were the normal characters. The final two are the most aggravatingly realistic. The elderly men come in two forms: Rich man and poor man. The rich old guy is the one you want to buy that 3,000 pix back scratcher that nobody seems to look at. The poor old guy will haggle you like his social security check is running late in the mail. If you don't satisfy him he'll leave shouting "Madness!"

Lastly is the poor little girls. Oh, how I hate them so. Their real life counterparts are the people who only look for deals on items and then get angry that you don't sell it for only 10-20% markup. You and I know these people when we see them. Heck, you and I might be these people. They are the people that make working retail hard. You try to work with them. They ask for a slightly lower price and you oblige by giving them a good deal at 22% markup after coming down from 35%. They then insult you for not going lower. You try the next girl by starting at 28% markup and going down to 20%, and the same results.

This is very close to real life. You have your good customers: the everyman, the adventurer and the lumberjack. The decent customers: the housewife and the old man (depending on which meds he's taken). And finally the aggravating customer: the little girls who test you even on the best of days.


Time to get my grind on

In general my favorite games are the ones that aren't afraid to mix and match. If I get bored with a game element, I want something else to do. Recettear actually has a mini Shiren style dungeon crawler inside of it. It's nowhere near as complex as a Shiren game, but that's the point. This isn't a complex dungeon crawler. This is a complex business 101 class. Adventuring has a risk reward aspect to it as it kills time that could be made earning money. To add on to that is the fact that if you die, you can only take one item from the dungeon. While that one item might be good, you could have also made that money buying and selling product.

It's a really fun system as the difficulty isn't really there, its just your low level adventurer can't survive the attacks from bigger opponents early on in the game. That's why you have to leverage some good deals so that in return he'll get far enough to get out of the dungeon, or at the very least he'll bring back a higher level item. I love that this represents so many things. First, he's a customer that will keep coming back due to loyalty. He'll always be demanding new equipment as you'll always be needing higher level product. Secondly, he represents an outside agent trying to bring in new deals as you discount product for his services. Finally, he represents a character in the same place as you that isn't in the same situation. In business you'll come across a lot of contacts that might not be the best customers, but they are people to share experiences with or even in some cases warn of possible dangers.

The only real conclusion is that Adventuring has to be done early in the week so that you have time to turn around and push the product you've found. If you do it too late, there isn't any chance of selling the product before the next billing cycle. If it's a tight month, you might be out in a box. So spending and time management is a crucial deal.



I guess what's left is to say what I'm expecting from this. All the above is what I got from a measly 5% of the game. From the trailer above we can see more interaction with the bar and a deeper battle system with new adventurers. The demo hints at ingredients which means an item fusion system. The appearance of a rival business should make for some really intriguing strategy elements as well.

This demo really hints at lots of things to come. An advance ordering system pops up at level 7 which is probably the one of the things I really hearken back to my own experience. Early on in the demo we get a chance to start taking simple orders like food and armor from customers. Sometimes its specific and you just don't have the stock for the consumer. In my business we have thousands of different items that we just can't always match the demand for. Instead of turning customers away, we have to order in for them. Most businesses have this and in the beginning when I first couldn't place the order I really felt bad that I had to turn a way a few customers because I couldn't match their demand. This shows how small the business is in the beginning and how little consumer faith you have.

The last thing I really like is that you can customize the store. I don't know how much you can customize it, but I like that I can change from simple wood flooring to carpeting or even cobble stones. Buildings have to be maintained constantly otherwise they start to feel dated. When you are trying to sell someone something, its best to attract them to fresh things. A new set of wallpaper can do that. I can't wait to see how deep the system really is.

The focus on the layout of the store is fantastic as there are hot corners and dead corners in every store. The stuff you want to move or show off goes near the window while a guaranteed sale or just cheaper product gets shuffled to the sides. As someone who has to work the showroom a lot, this small little gameplay element is welcome.

Finally I'd like to talk about the pawn shop element to the game. I rarely have to deal with customers trading in things, let alone chocolate bars like in this game. I can't vouch from experience, but I'm pretty sure this is how Game Stop does it. While Game Stop will probably offer you 20% of an item and Recettear tells you to offer 40-60% off of cost for the items, its pretty much the same system. I remember selling a Thankful Statue for 3,000 pix while only paying about 900 pix for it. It felt a bit dirty. Maybe that's just me. It sure helped me make my payment though.


I wish confetti came out every time I made a loan payment

I honestly believe that this type of game could very well be marketed to the "casual" gamers, but they'd have to remove the great characters and turn all the shoppers into facebook friends. I would never play it then, but it could be marketable. Maybe I'm just jaded by my friends and family mindlessly clicking away at Farmville, but I appreciate a story and a goal in these little repetitive style "casual" games. Oh yeah, they'd have to kill the JRPG stuff to.

It's a good game that everyone should give a demo. Heck, it might be one of the first PC games I've bought in a long while. That's saying something.








I went to half of the Palm Springs International Film Festival and got to see about 14 films over 4 days. Since this is Japanator I'm not going to bore you with a long list of reasons why The White Ribbon didn't deserve a Palm d'Or nor a Golden Globe. Instead I'll talk about the films of the orient. All 4 of them. Unfortunately I couldn't see Air Doll. Not enough time and it crossed over Reykjavik-Rotterdam a film I had to go see.


Mother
Two years ago I went and saw a late showing of The Host and was blown away. This was before any studio had picked it up and it was one of my favorite films of the show. Mother is director Bong Joon-Ho's follow up to The Host. Unfortunately it doesn't live up to its predecessor.

Mother is about an overbearing mother trying to prove her emotionally stunted son is not a murderer. The story is fresh and balances comedy and drama in a fashion similar to the host. It feels light hearted and has a few wonderful "I didn't see that coming" plot twists that are sure to shock. My biggest gripe is that Mother is too unfocused in its editing. Characters come together and interact in odd ways. As the Mother unfolds the mystery, the supportive characters just tend to appear to help her. Whenever she does anything herself it ends with somebody else coming in to give her a hand. I guess I just never felt like she was doing the detective work and would happen to trip over new evidence as she tried to solve this.

In the end Mother just didn't have the focus that it needed to become a good film. For every good thing it did, it countered itself. The plot was wonderful, but the editing wasn't up to snuff. It had great characters but unfortunately Ku Jin's portrayal of the son paled in comparison to Won Bin (the best friend) and Hye-ja Kim's (the mother) roles.

I honestly believe that with a bit more focus in editing some of these issues could have been ironed out.





Chances of getting licensed: High. We already have the Host so I doubt this will get left on the curb.


Prince of Tears
I was having a discussion with a film blogger before A Brand New Life (see below) about what I had seen the days prior. We went back and forth about Max Manus and The White Ribbon and then he made a statement that all these Asian films felt the same. As if lumping the an entire continents film making into one distinct style. I had to explain to him how he was wrong using this movie and Mother as reference.

From my experience in these festivals I've always found the focus of Chinese presentations to be on attempting to make some aspect gorgeous while the South Korean films tend to focus on creating interesting characters with depth. Its like comparing the Curse of the Golden Flower to The Host. It can't be done nor should it be.

All that being said, Prince of Tears has no interesting characters. None. It is gorgeous however in so many ways. From costume to set design to the whimsical shots of the ocean, it will leave you in awe of how beautiful things truly are. The story involves a family separated by soldiers during a McCarthy-esque Anti-Communist witch hunt with focus being on the two sisters as they get shuffled around. Its amazing to find how they could make a witch hunt seem boring, but whenever a character of worth is brought in, they are killed. Leaving us to focus on two young girls who don't have anything of interest about them. There are so many angles that they could have taken to spice the film up, but ultimately they relied on a twist that really had no real meaning to the story. As Hong Kong's official entry into the Oscars, it was just a course on good wardrobe and set design with some pretty locales thrown in. You know all the stuff that makes a great film great, but none of the stuff that makes for a good film.





Chances of getting licensed: Moderate. Its an Official film so somebody might pick it up.


Breathless
Breathless was probably my 2nd favorite film of the show right behind Max Manus. What I was saying about South Korea and characterization was proven by this film. There wasn't one character that seemed out of place or out of touch. Breathless is about Song-Hoon and the violent lifestyle he lived up until he meets a school girl. It's violent, it has lots of profanity and even more heart. What's even more impressive is Yang Ik-Joon. He wrote, produced, directed and acted the lead role of Song-Hoon. He makes you wonder what you could be doing right now.

I only have a few problems with Breathless. My biggest issue is that the film had an ending set up perfectly, only to add upon it with more than I wanted. It appeared almost as an Epilogue would appear. It showcased what happened to all the characters months after the climax and it wasn't needed. Like spending extra time to decorate a gift card for somebody. It just wasn't necessary.

It also took a Lost in Translation style handheld camera shots that may have been necessary with all the pressures of directing and acting, but tended to slow down the nice pacing the film had built up. It showcased the local shopping districts, but didn't really add upon the film.

Other than those two gripes, the film exceeded my expectations and was something to recommend.





Chances of getting licensed: Very High. Its well shot and well done. I would be surprised if it didn't do well.


A Brand New Life
A Brand New Life is exactly like Annie. Like a non-musical, depressing Annie. It's all about a young girl who is abandoned at a Catholic orphanage and all the events leading to her adoption. If you've seen any sad story about orphans then you've pretty much seen A Brand New Life.

It is a very heartfelt and touching movie that runs through the emotions. You get greed, depression, resentment, loneliness, and anger all played out through a small group of girls in Korea. It just didn't have any angle to really hook onto. The main character Jinhee never seems to be focused on her adoption, friendship, faith or any other message of hope. I was left wondering why a girl like this could be intriguing other than the fact that she had to endure what would understandably be a hard life.





Chances of getting licensed: Low. I just don't see it hitting dvd stands with a story like that.
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I've been feeling sick recently so I figured I'd do something mindless that would take about an hour to complete. Writing a blog will suffice. This is Anime Trailer Park. The point of which is to examine new and old trailers and see how they impact expectations.

Long Promos:

Sekirei -Pure Engagement-

Summary: I'm intrigued
I've read Sekirei, but I havent followed the anime. When watching that first episode, Musubi's voice actress was so drastically different than the way I played Musubi in my head that I couldn't get over it. But I, like any man, am fond of a good harem story so this new season might win me back. While the animation in the trailer is a little too unrefined for my tastes (Karasuba's eyes just magically appear in the first scene), the battle music works well with the fight sequences and promoting the fighting is a big plus as this season should be much more action based. I still don't see how the story can be considered a "Miraculous Love Story," but I guess Japan romanticizes harems much more than I do. Overall I want to like the trailer because I want to see Sekirei in anime form. I'm sure as soon as Musubi talks this season I'll go back to watching something else on this list.


Tatakau Shisho -The Book of Bantorra-

Summary: Round One. Fight!
The entire Tatakau Shisho trailer looks like the intro to a fighting game. There is just no other instance in which a group of characters so diverse can come together while fighting each other and not be a part of a fighting game. No other way. At least that's what I thought until I fact checked with anidb and found out that this game...er...tv show is actually about a man who has his memories wiped so he can assassinate the most librarian in the world. This plan is foiled by a beautiful woman who works in the library. The books in the library just happen to be the bodies of the dead. Now I ask you, do you see any of that bizarrely interesting plot in this trailer? If you said yes, then I applaud your ability to read into unrelated imagery. If you're as confused as I seem to be well then I welcome you. Let's join together and try to figure out fighting game characters to match the ones on screen. So far I've got Charlotte (Samurai Showdown), King (Art of Fighting) with a top hat on, Slash (Waku Waku 7), Kairi (Street Fighter EX3), Rouge (Power Stone), Morrigan (Darkstalkers) and Eliot (Dead or Alive 4). What did you get?


The Sacred Blacksmith

Summary: An answer to a medieval codpiece?
Subtlety is an amazing thing. After replaying the video a couple of times it finally dawned on me that the first thing they show you (besides "Presented by Manglobe") is some cleavage. I had assumed that it was, but my better half kept telling me it was just a shield instead of being actual armor made to fill her cup size. This really isn't a big factor for the trailer, it just made me chuckle that the follow up to "Presented by Manglobe" are some "globes."

Now that I have that out of my system, on to discussing the trailer. It seems like a stereotypical character intro trailer. Much better than Hatsukoi Limited's trailer. Of course that's really not hard to do. Its hard to gauge how the series will do based on a trailer full of unrelated scenes, but it looks like Cecily and Luke will have a relationship much like Sakura and Li from Card Captor Sakura. Where Luke always seems to come in and help Cecily while putting on a reserved and bashful front. In fact I deem this medieval Card Captor Sakura. Cecily is Sakura, Luke is Li, Lisa is Tomoyo and Aria is...umm...Meiling Li? There really isn't much we learn about Aria as half of her section was a still shot which really seemed to stop the trailer as I just stared waiting for her to twitch. So yeah, its Card Captor Cecily with a nice celtic tune that sounds like a battle theme to a JRPG.


Tales of Symphonia: Tethe'alla-hen

Summary: I've actually never played a Tales of game.
I recognize Lloyd since he's the most definitive looking character in the Tales of Symphonia, but beyond that I've got no clue what's going on. So that makes it a bit easier to rate this trailer unbiasedly. Interestingly the trailer opens up like an opera. The horns gear up and make a lot of loud nonsensical noise until they finally get together and make some music. Whats left however didn't really go with the trailer. Since the trailer is geared for the Tales of crowd, no story is presented leaving the viewer to watch small snippets of uncoordinated action sequences playing along to some music that sounds like its playing over the video instead of with it. I will have to admit that the character models look much better than many anime adaptations of console games, but the only real animation was of the lips and hair making me question the depth of the animation.


Sora no Manimani

Summary: Needs less comedy
This trailer really could have been cut into one small commercial. Starting out we get treated with a scene almost reminiscent of Haruhi Suzumiya standing and declaring her intentions in an awkward manner. She seems more reserved than Haruhi up until the title screen disappears. She then transforms into the overexcited (and slightly childish) archetype that always has some deep understanding that reaffirms the meaning of their group. That being said I really wish that every moment in between the title and when she holds her "Light of Star" were removed. It breaks up the flow of the opening and does nothing to add to the trailer. The comedy just seems so out of place with the soothing intro and the background reveal of Haruhi....I mean Saku's reason for being in the club. It really is disappointing as I was enjoying the trailer until Saku yelled "STOP!"


World Destruction

Summary: Bad editing. Also, teddy bears pirates.
The way that they cut and spliced this trailer together is pretty nonsensical. Tile credits just appear with no sense of rhythm and really change the beauty that the music conveys. I also have no idea how the teddy bear pirates or the fox man play into the story, but it does jump out at you. Once again these two don't go together with the music at all, but they do grab your attention. In fact, the teddy bear pirates really just pop out and ruin the setting all together. They are as cute as a teddy bear should be, but a story that is all about six harbingers of destruction should stay away from cutesy animals. I'm sure it makes sense in the game (or about as much sense as most JRPGs make), but not in this trailer. They are cute though. Overall its probably best to close your eyes and listen to the background music. That's where this trailer truly shines.


Dogs, Bullets and Carnage

Summary: Good Editing. No teddy bear pirates.
I never realized how short an attention span I start messing with my volume controls after seven seconds of video without noise. The trailer really reminds me of Cowboy Bebop, which I'm sure is intentional. Only issue is the characters and settings just pale in comparison. The only one that really shows some emotion is the crazed one eyed red headed gunman. This is a fault only because of the music's upbeat tempo. Nobody should be looking like they are at a funeral with jazz playing in the background. The editing however does march right in tune with the music, I just wish they didn't waste so much time with the character notes at the end of the trailer. Also, it needs more cute teddy bear pirates.







mana
9:20 PM on 08.16.2009


I had a couple trailers lying around (some new, some old) and I figured I'd post about it. The point of which is to examine new and old trailers and see how they impact expectations. Lets get to it.

Long Promos:


Eureka seveN: Pocket Full of Rainbows

Summary: Pocket Full of Rainbows is a really weird title.
I've only seen a bit of Eureka seveN on TV, but after watching this trailer I really grew to like the Japanese seiyuu better than the American voice cast. The music on this trailer is powerful and emotional and matches the strong voice acting. This music just really goes well with this kind of series. What I like is the fact that they aren't focusing on the mech suits with this trailer. For a mech anime, we only see the actual suit in about a 1/4 of the trailer. The rest is really focused on the relationship between Renton and Eureka which makes it kind of sweet. That being said, the story is still kinda weird with Imagi and surfboarding robots. Thankfully the focus isn't really on that in the trailer and Bones does their typical great animation.


Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas

Summary: Change isn't always good.
Saint Seiya is a Japanese show that has been around forever. Its similar to Ronin Warriors and came out around the same time. Its received numerous movies and spinoffs and even video games. So after saying all that, this trailer is the first time I've ever really looked at the series. That being said its trying to put a new coat of paint on an iconic series which just doesn't have enough radical change to be interesting, like in the case of Casshern Sins. It seems like its just evolved the models in slight ways from Saint Seiya to make them look more like every other anime that we've seen over the past few years. It doesn't work and makes a trailer with people who punch pegasus while wearing giant armor seem bland. The music is pretty cheesy, and dare I say fantastic. I can't wait for an AMV with the older anime to be used with this song. This show is only going to be direct-to-dvd so that might explain some of the animation decisions, but I was hoping for something with as far stretching a lineage to have some kind of hook.


First Squad: The Moment of Truth

Summary: Great
Like Production I.G. (Eden of the East) people should pay attention to Studio 4°C (Tekkon Kinkreet). They don't always make the best anime, but its always something new and interesting. First Squad is something new and interesting. The communist backdrop opens up a new perspective as most Americans and Japanese never really hear that side of the war. This trailer is action packed with monks fighting busty twins that oddly remind me of Juli and Juni of Street Fighter Alpha 3 fame. That's most likely the Street Fighter 4 media blitz coming out of me. I like the way the music opens, but it seems to be too overpowering when we get to the hallway. Thankfully it alleviates with trumpets. It's a good trailer and makes me really interested in if they can translate it into a solid film because right now its just a really cool AMV.


Hatsukoi Limited

Summary: They forgot to put money into the trailer budget.
Have you ever seen a trailer for a Visual Novel. This is what they look like. They throw the general concept of the game at you and introduce the seiyuu and the characters they play. The only difference is that visual novels throw a million more things in the trailer to make you more interested. Somebody forgot that anime trailers should first have animation followed by story. If it weren't for the mangaka being famous, I wouldn't have even payed attention to the trailer. Its boring and even the translators for it did a lame job.


Toward the Terra: Type Blue the Origin

Summary: Its not a real trailer. I think.
Not in the traditional sense at least. This was a special bit of bonus material added on to the dvd. Its really more of a summary than a trailer, but its in trailer form and it only summarizes the beginning like trailers do. This was used to give more focus on the setting of Toward the Terra. It both works and doesn't. If I had owned the dvd, this would have been a part of the film that I'd have glossed over like most bonus features. It also makes it that they didn't have to cut for TV restrictions. So we get a well done trailer with strong audio and presentation, but we'd never have seen it without purchasing the dvd. Overall, the story is your standard super human persecution stories. Its just presented so over the top that its really fun to watch.


Touhou Project: Musou Kakyou

Summary: Holy crap this is fanmade.
Touhou Project is a set of Bullet Hell Shmups from Team Shanghai Alice. They've gotten alot of fanmade stuff (doujinshi, youtube vids, games, hentai) but this is another level. This was created by Maikaze, a group set to making music and anime for sale at Comiket and other doujin markets. The audio is really good and brings up the animation which is simple with non moving backdrops. I don't know how well the show is animated based on this, but its interesting to see how fan projects have been growing.

Short Promos:

Pocket Monsters

Summary: Gotta Catch 'em All!
This was the original trailer for the pilot of Pokemon. Looking back its interesting that in the beginning this show practically has Satoshi's seiyuu scream at you to tune in for the premiere. As much flak as Pokemon gets these days its reached a somewhat iconic stature. Yes its a mediocre show that once caused hundreds of kids in Japan to have seizures, but looking back its one of the few gaming shows that has ever crossed into the mainstream. Captain N and Mario only lasted a season and Sonic was the only show to really ever do well enough. This trailer was the beginning of a new generation of kids getting into anime.

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I had to post this on the DToid C-blogs cause JTor didn't have any. Now that we do I'm posting it here. So this is me testing this out real quick.