Anime Review: A Certain Magical Index (Series)

Hello.  Once again I dive into a topic that I like, but I really have little knowledge about:  anime.  I look into various series that I have watched, either recently or a while ago, and give my take on them.  I will also look into aspect that arise from cultural differences from Japan and the West, as well as any “WTF” content that may be in the anime.

A Certain Magical Index is a series based on a Japanese light novel of the same name.  The anime was produced by J.C. Staff and released by NBC/Universal Japan (formerly Genon.)  There are two seasons of 24 episodes each along with a movie continuation.  It is licensed in North America by Funimation is available subtitled on Cruncyroll and dubbed on Funimation Now streaming services.

The story is set in a fiction Japanese city called Academy City.  It is a place were students with special powers (called ESPers) go to live, go to school and learn how to best use their power.  In this universe, special abilities like, telepathy, teleportation and electromagnetism are real and scientifically explainable.  Students are tested to see if they have the potential to be an ESPer.  If they do, Academy city trains them and assigns them levels, with the highest being Level 5.  Some, however, have the potential but never tap into those powers.  They are Level 0.  Our protagonist, Touma Kamijo, is one of them.

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Touma is well, meaning, likeable but just can’t catch a break.

Touma Kamijo is a typical anime high schooler, in the regards that bad and embarrassing things tend to happen to him.  Constantly late, forgetting his homework or embarrassing himself in front of the opposite sex, you’d almost think that bad luck was his super power.  Despite being labeled as a Level 0, Touma actually has a powerful ability; with his right hand, he can cancel out any super power.  Whether it touching someone using an ability, touching an object, or cancelling out an attack, he can disrupt the powers of other ESPers.  Unfortunately it cannot cancel out his own dumb luck, and that’s how he runs into Index.

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Index may be mean to Touma from time to time, but she is helpful and she likes him very much.

 

Index is a young nun from the English Puritan Church.  In her head she has 103,000 magical tomes, called the Index Liborium Prohibitorum, giving her access to all sorts of magical abilities.  When she mets Touma, she is on the run from fellow wizards from the Church.  Touma finds out that magic is real, that Academy City is at odds with the various magical Churches, and that his right hand can disrupt magic as it does the “scientific” ESPer abilities.  Touma takes Index in, reluctantly becoming her guardian and becoming more involved in the intrigue between the magic community and Academy City.

Throughout both seasons, Touma deals with the various churches. Caught in a war between the English Church and the Roman Orthodox Church, he fights off bloodthirsty nuns and various magical agents.  He also prevents various magical attacks against Academy City.  That’s not to say Academy City does not have its dark side.  In one story arc, he finds himself caught up in an experiment using one Level 5 ESPer, Accelerator, killing off clones of another Level 5 to reach the next level.  With the help of the girl who was cloned, Mikoto Misaka, they try to stop the experiment and save the clones, who are not the hollow, emotionless dolls that the experimenters believe them to be.  It is definitely an actioned-packed anime.

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Mikoto Misaka is a Level 5 “Railgun” and is one of the more interesting supporting character. Think she’ll get a spin-off?

The subtitled and dubbed version are equally good.  The translated subtitles are easy to follow and won’t leave you confused.  The dub is well done too, with the voice actors portraying the characters well.  There is no time in which you think the voice doesn’t sound right.  I think that the Crunchyroll version is a bit censored, which is often the case on that service.

As it is an anime set in Japan, it follows that the setting would reflect normal Japanese life as much as possible.  While the city is a bit futuristic and the buildings look like more modern cities,  there are still some uniquely Japanese aspects.  Bath houses (not seedy ones), vending machine serving hot drinks in a can and Japanese  shrines are all present.  The school runs 5 and a half days like in Japan and they go to school until the end of July.  None of this is jarring as you know it’s a Japanese show.

In this anime, however, the Western churches are sued as adversarial, in not downright evil organizations.  Given the setting of the anime having magic and super science, the Churches are  placed on the magic side.  They have different, yet similar names to their real world counterparts .  Although the English church is called the Puritan Church, they have nuns, which the real Puritan do not have (or magic for that matter, but, I’m sure you got that) so it is more similar to the Anglican Church, in that respect.  The Roman Orthodox Church is based on the Roman Catholic Church, an organization with its own secrets.  I am not sure if the changes to the name were done for the anime proper, or just the subtitled and dubbed versions.  In any case, some with religious sensitivities may be offended.

The WTF factor: Low-Medium As I said before, Toma has bad like, and that sometimes translates into getting in embarrassing moments with the opposite sex.  Whether it’s bursting in on Index changing, running face first into the boson of a Busty villain or inadvertently getting a peak up the skirt of a Misaka clone, these are fan service-y moments that you find in anime.  Add to that is the fact all the girls he runs into seem to develop a crush on him.  This includes Index, who, although her age is 15, looks younger.  There is some partial nudity, however and such scenes are short and played for humour.

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This is as fan servicey as it gets.

A Certain Magical Index was one of those animes that I hear of but never really looked into it.  I had a passing knowledge of its spin-off, “A Certain Scientific Railgun,” but only due to some merchandise that I saw.  Overall, I am glad I gave this one a chance. All 48 episodes and the movie are available on anime streaming services Crunchyroll and Funimation Now.

This Review is for entertainment purposes only.  I have not received any payment for this review. All opinions are mine and any pictures taken are for review purposes only.

 

 

 

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Anime Review: Space Battleship Yamato 2199 (aka Star Blazers 2199)

Note:  Hi.  I am trying something new to increase my number of posts and get more practice writing.  With a lot of streaming services out there offering anime, I have been watching quite a bit of it.  I seen shows that I haven’t seen in years, ones that I’ve heard of but never got around to watch and some that are new to me.  So, I will feature some of the ones I have watched and do a review going over the art style, storyline, dub (if it is dubbed) and overall feel.  I will also look at what I call the WTF factor; aspect of the anime that may raise and eyebrow or cause you to ask “WTF did I just watch?”  Our first subject is a remake of an anime that I have known about for years.

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Space Battleship Yamato 2199 (or Star Blazers: Space Battleship Yamato 2199) is an 2012 Sci-Fi anime series by AIC and Xebec studios.  It is based on the original 1974 T.V. anime series Space Battleship Yamato, which was dubbed and edited for the West and renamed Star Blazers.  The series is 26 episodes long.  The series is dubbed by Funimation and is currently being serialized on their streaming service, Funimation Now, which new episodes being released on Thursday.  It is also on Crunchyroll with in Japanese with English Subtitles, with the series being released at the same rate as Funimation.

The series takes place in the year 2199.  The Earth is at war with a and advanced militaristic race called the Gamilons.  They had destroyed all of Earth defences and, using radioactive planet bombs, destroyed the surface of the earth, driving the survivors underground.  But not all is lost.  A message from the distant planet Iscandar offers help to restore the planet to life.  Included in the message was the plans for a ship that can traverse the great distance between the planets and fight off the Gamilons.  But the UN could only build one ship in time and, for reasons, build it to resemble and ancient Japanese battleship from World War 2, the Yamato.

With the ship build, its crew set out on the perilous journey through intergalactic space.  The crew includes Captain Okita, a man who puts his mission first before his own health; Tactical Officer Susumu Kodai,  a brash young pilot whose brother served under Okita and in whose memory he joins the mission; and  radio and sensor operator Yuki Mori, a woman missing her past.  Together with te rest of the crew they set out on the perilous journey to Iscandar.  Time is not on their side as they have to travel 168, 000 light years to Iscandar and back in only one year, or else the Earth will die.

Star Blazers (as the English dubbed is called, like with the original series) is a space opera, science fiction anime, similar to series like Robotech and the Mobile Suit Gundam franchise.  The series has a serious tone, with the threat of war and it’s consequences being a central theme.  The ship gets damaged, machine fail, space fighters run out of ammo and not everyone makes it back alive (though mostly faceless extras.)  The Yamato does have its all-powerful McGuffin plot device, the wave motion engine, which powers the ship and gives her the ability to fend of waves on Gamilon ships and make the long journey through space.

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Lt Kaoru Niimi is one of the female crew members added to the series.

The art style is excellent.  It looks modern, but is still harken back to the original anime’s designs.  The original series was directed by manga artist Leiji Matsumoto, famous for the Space Pirate Captain Harlock series, so you can see how the ship design for the Yamato (a WW2 battleship) influenced the ship design in Harlock (17th century pirate ship…in space!)  The remake keeps that design, updating so that the ship is larger and only made to look like the Yamato as camouflaged for before it was launched.  The crew of the Yamato is more varied than the original, with a third of the crew being female (Yuki was the only female crew member in the original) with most with speaking roles being all new characters, with only the character of Akira Yamamoto  being gender-bent into a woman in this version.  The Gamilons, the Nazi-esque enemies in the series also were updated, with only those with blue skin being the “pure , true Gamilons, with the others of different skin tones and features, bring races subservient to the Gamilons but still as loyal.

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Pure Gamilons are blue-skinned.

The writing also gives us a better look at the Gamilons.  There are more scenes showing their leader Dessler, interacting with his subordinates.  While most of them are arrogant and looking to please Lord Dessler to advance their own careers, we see some of them in a more sympathetic light.  Some are fathers and husbands, some make the hard choice between duty and family.  Some even express their understanding on why the Earth and Gamilons are at war, causing some of the Yamato crew to realize Earth is not without blood on their hands.  But over all, the Gamilons are still a conquering race, driven by their own self-importance to consider the cost of their actions.

Still there are a lot of similarities’ with the original series.  In fact, there are episodes that are pretty much retellings of ones from the original series.  The fourth episode, “Grave Marker on an Icefield” follows a similar plot to the original series’ “Space Destroyer Yukikaze Sleeps in the Ice Field” or ‘Paladin Rest in a vast icefield” in the Starblazers version.  The major differences are the inclusion of the female medic, Makoto Harada on the mission (the original only had Kodai, Mori and the robot Analyzer) and the introduction of the robot Gamilon troops (one of which plays a big part in a later, orignal episode.  Truthfully, it has been over 35 years since I’ve seen an episode of the original Starblazers, so this is all new to me again, but is seems there is a good balance between honouring the original and telling a new story.

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The uniforms for the female crew members tend to flatter their form. Apparently, in the Medical wing, pants are optional.

WTF Factor: Low.  Now, with cartoons imported from Japan, there will be some cultural differences.  Different aspect of their culture, like holidays and beliefs will pop up and that is to be expected.  Space battleship Yamato 2199 doesn’t really have this issue (at least not with what I’ve seen so far as of episode 14).  Despite the addition of more females to the cast there has not been much of a romantic sub, those both Yamamoto and Mori showing interest in Kodai.  And there hasn’t been much in the way of fan service in this version (the original had a plot of Analyzer being in love with Yuki Mor, flipping her skirt and even confessing his love (this was cut from the Star Blazers version).  While there is a scene with Yamamoto and Yuki Mori in the communal bath (again, a common thing in Japanese culture), any nudity is avoided and the most salacious thing we get is a bit of lower side boob from Yuki.  If anything can be called fan service, it is that all the female characters wear body suits.  While the male uniforms have tunics and pants, the women are all in tight, form-fitting body suits with the only exceptions being Makoto’s nurse uniform with a skirt (or is it a long tunic?) and stockings and Yamamoto’s bomber jacket and flight suit.  Still this is not played up for fan service, with the only exception I can think of is a shot of Yuki descending a ladder behind Kodai in episode 14 (and I think she was flirting with him.)

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Ass shot!

Space Battleship Yamato 2199 is a great science fiction anime that hold up well for a Western audience.  Older folks like me who watch the series will get a kic out of this new version.  For those new to the series, I think you will find it an intriguing anime with a memorable storyline.  The series is done in Japan, but there is already a sequel retelling the second season of the original being streamed in Japan.  Here is hoping we see that sometime in the near future.

Star Blazers: Space Battleship Yamato 2199 is currently on the Funimation and Crunchyroll streaming services with 14 episodes released and new ones released every Thursday.

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Yet the front side being open is okay?

PS4 Review: Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash

Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash is a third person action shooter developed by Tamsoft (through Honey Parade Games) and published by Marvelous and XSEED Games.  It is a PS4 exclusive and the second Senran Kagura game on that system.  It follows the events in last years Senran Kagura: Estival Versus but is more of a spin-off than part of the Versus series.  It is rated M for Mature.

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The not-so-mysterious Miss R and Mister K

 

Peach Beach Splash finds the girls of the Senran Kagura series transported to a mysterious island.  There, they are greeted by two familiar-looking hosts, Ms R and Mister K (Hebijo/Crimson Squad master Rin and Hanzo instructor Kiriya in disguise).  They tell the girls they are to participate in an ancient Shinobi tradition:  a water gun tournament called Peach Beach Splash, or PBS.  The winners will receive whatever they wish for.  All four groups agree to participate to find out the real purpose of PBS, and why Rin and Kiriya are wearing those ridiculous outfits.

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Ninja girls having water fights in bathing suits?  Why not?

 

The roster for the game is robust.  It includes all the girls from the four schools (Hanzo, Gessen, Hebijo, and Homura’s Crimson Squad.  Ayame, the shop girl playable as DLC in the last game, also joins the Hanzo Squad.  Rin can be unlocked as well as Daidoji, along with the Mikagura sisters, Ryoki, and Jasmine from Estival Versus.  Former DLC characters Naraku and Kagura are also unlockable in the main game.  Also include right off the bat are characters from the Japan-only mobile phone game, Senran Kagura :New Wave:  Souji, Leo and Yuyaki.

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Yuyaki from New Wave G Burst.

 

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Enemies come in various forms.

 

The gameplay is pretty straight forward.  You control a character a group of up to six girls and battle groups of grunts, robots and other teams using water guns.  The water guns come in a variety of styles, such as pistols, shotguns, assault rifles, gatling guns,water bazookas, water grenade launchers and  shower heads.  Each weapon has its strength and drawbacks, like range, strength, clip size and reload times.

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You equip these cards for special attacks or bonuses.  Some of the artwork is…intersting.

 

Unlike the Versus series and the 3DS Senran Kagura games, there is no shinobi transformation or magic.  Instead, you get special abilities from cards you collect by winning battles.  You equip the cards in your character and activate them in battle using the D-Pad  These cards can affect your character’s stats, such as health, accuracy and clip size.  They can also activate a special attack, like flames, lightning or poison that will affect you enemy.  Other cards that can be earned are weapons.  Each Faction has their own effect cards with their girls on them.  Sometimes you will get higher ranking cards, depending on how well you did, the level you played or the difficulty.  You only need one type of each card however and you will get a lot of doubles.

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The doubles have a purpose, however.  You can trade them in for points to level up you cards, weapons of you characters.  Each card gives you a certain amount of experience points, depending on the rarity of the card (From Common to Ultra Rare).  You can use the points to upgrade your favourite girl to give her an edge in battle.

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Humiliate and disrobe opponents in Splash Mode

 

As you beat the other girls in the game, you get an opportunity to initiate  the Splash Mode.  Using a rubber duck squirt gun you target the fallen girl’s head chest or butt to humiliate them.  Score enough before the time runs out and her top or bottom will pop off.  Of course, lights protect their modesty.  Note that, no matter the outfit the character was wearing, they revert to the default white bikini for this mode.

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The strategic lighst keeps things rated M

 

The single player mode have three options.  You have the main story, Single Splash, which follows the PBS storyline: Paradise Episodes, which you unlock through playing the main game, featuring one or multiple characters in a five level arc; and the V-Road Challenge, which you battle different teams to win the tournament.  There is multiplayer, which has Co-Op survival, , Ranked matches for the online ranking system and free matches in which the host can set the rules.

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Each group has their own story.

 

Like the other Senran Kagura games, you have a shop and a dressing rooms to explore.  The Shop have various hairstyles, outfits and card packs, amongst other things, for you to buy.  New items are unlocked by playing through the various modes of the game.  The Dressing room is where you can customize the girls’ outfits.  All the default costumes are white, two piece swim suits but you can change it to their individual swimsuits from Estival Versus.  You can also dress them in their school uniforms and shinobi outfits along with outfits that you buy.  These outfits get shredded as you take damage in the game, like in the regular games.  There are also outfits that become transparent as you get them wet.  The default one is a t-shirt over a bikini and other one can be bought at the store.  There are also accessories as in the other games to be used or bought.  No balloons, though that may be DLC.

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Have fun in Diorama mode!

 

Of course, the popular Diorama mode comes back, with various settings and poses available to create your perfect scene.  Outfits can be set to be ripped or wet, depending on the outfit.  You can also adjust the characters head position and even their size.  The pervy mode is back too, now in a separate section called Intimate Mode.  You can look at, rotate and zoom in on your chosen girl.  You can also grab them, poke them and do really…unacceptable-in-polite-society things to them, which, for some reason, increases their Like meter and enables you to go in for a kiss.  You can also get a good look at the wet cloth physics by spraying the girls with water to get wet drenched.  You can even change the colour of the water by buying different  duck guns in the store.  I didn’t see a yellow colour, thank God…

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Those wandering hands are back.  Again THIS IS NOT HOW TO GO ABOUT MAKING GIRLS LIKE YOU IN REAL LIFE!!!!

 

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Get her wet…with water!  Get you mind out of the gutter!

 

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Some outfits become transparent when wet.

 

There is actually a story in all of this, but it is not as deep as Estival Versus.  During the story for each faction, the girls deal with a conflict with in the group such as Ikaruga realizing graduation will mean leaving her friends and Murasaki getting jealous when her sister, Imu, pays more attention to Miyabi.  The story is fine, but not deep enough to balance out Katsuragi’s groping obsession and Ryona and Ryobi’s…interesting family dynamic.  But, it is what you would expect from a Senran Kagura game.

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The last Hejibo mission has you fight a giant Ryona, echoing the battle in the Estical Versus OVA.

 

The thing you expect is fan service and PBS has that in spades.  In fact, the game is built around the wet cloths physics that was created for Estival Versus.  The outfits combined with either the ripping or the see-thru when wet mechanics is definitely front and center.  I will state that I like this series because it is a little naughty.  My complaint that I have with the other Senran Kagura games still stands with this one:  some of the girls look too young.  Mirai is the one I most have a problem with, though her default bathing suit is modest.  But, with the Splash mode, she is on a two piece like the other girls.  At least the girls are not hacking each other and fighting with swords, knifes and guns.  Well, they do use water guns , but at leat they aren’t trying to kill each other.

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Packs like these will contain a least on rare card

 

There is a lot of DLC coming out for this game.  This comes in the form of new outfits, weapons, accessories and cards.  In fact, the FIrst Week DLC bundle cost over $73 Canadian.  The DLC most are interested in though, are the guest characters.  In Japan, they got Ayane, Honoka and Marie Rose from Dead or Alive Xtreme 3, Ikki Tousen, with Sonsaku, Kan’u, Ryofu and, my favourite, Ryomu, and Super Sonico, the busty, pink-haired girl from the anime, Super Sonico and the game Communication With Sonico.  No North American Release datehas been confirmed, but if the Ikki Tousen girls come over, they will probably have their Chinese names.  Super Sonico may have an issue depending on the publishing rights Nitro+ has with JAST USA.

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Ayame joins the main cast for Hanzo.

 

Overall, this is a fun game.  It is nice to see a new game in the series come out so soon after the last one and even better that the localization was fast enough to have a worldwide release within six month of the Japanese release.  With a remake of Senran Kagura Burst coming for the PS4 in 2018, Peach Beach Splash will tide us over until the eventual English release.  It is good to see the series thriving after six years.  It might be a few more years until the next chapter in theses girls’ story, but it will be interesting to see what direction they will take.

3/5

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Soapy!

 

 

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Naraku is one of my favourites

 

 

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Oh, Kat.  Never change…

 

 

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Movie Review: Ghost in the Shell (2017)

gits_trailerThere has been quite a few good science fiction animes to come out from Japan.  Ghost in the Shell was one of them.  Starting out as a manga, the anime adapted the source material and went in its own direction.  Using elements from cyber punk like cyborgs and brain hacking, it  became a instant classic around the world.  It is not surprise that someone would want to do a live action adaptation.  It is also not surprising that, even though it is an international collaboration, a Hollywood actress was chosen to star in it.

Ghost in the Shell is an 2017 science fiction movie starring Scarlett Johanssen,  Takeshi Kitano, Michel Pitt, Pilou Asbaek, Chin Han and Juliette Binoche.  It is directed by Rupert Sanders.  It is based on the Ghost in the Shell multimedia franchise, pulling it’s inspiration from the various version, but with an original story.  It is released by Paramount Pictures.

Set in the not so distant future in a culturally diverse city that could be future Tokyo (on not;  they do not specify), it focuses on a woman given the name Mira Killian (Johannsen).  Involved in a terrorist attack which killed her parents and severely maimed her body, she is saved by a company called Hanka Robotics.  She becomes the first fully augmented human, with a robotic body and a human brain.   Employed by a government agency called Section 9, she obtains the Rank of MAjor and leads a squad of mostly cybernectically enhanced personnel.  When a mysterious hacker called Kuze, starts to target and kill employees of Hanka, the Major and her team-mate, Batou, try to track him down.  But, the Major discovered that she as a connection to Kuze, somewhere in the past that she barely remembers.  As she goes deeper into this mystery, she starts to question her memories, even her own name as she discovers a secret at Hanka that they will to anything to keep hidden.

Ghost in the Shell is a fast paced movie that does not forget it’s anime roots.  In fact, there are several shots and action secrets that were based on scenes from the 1995 movie, from the building of the Major’s body to the fight sequence in the water..  The visual are very futuristic, with the city skyline dominated by holographic signs and billboards.   It looks very futuristic but still very much in the realm of probability.

The storyline is good.  There is nothing too out of the ordinary, given the source material.  There are a lot of movies with heroes with a mysterious past with benefactors that are hiding secrets.  The Major is pretty somber but as she questions her past, more of her emotions show.  The rest of Section 9 is used sparingly, save for Batou who acts like he did in the original anime.  They even show how he got his cybernetic eyes.

Now, the major complaint about the movie is the “white washing” of the Major.  They could have easily cast an Japanese woman I the role, but with Hollywood, they would like a marque actress to star in such a project.  ScarJo is pretty popular right now and has international recognition.  The creator of the manga even says he didn’t mind th casting (but that could be the money talking.).  The movie does explain her name change and it will be up to each viewer to decide if they accept it.  But, there is no reason to thing that a future Japan could be more heterogeneous place.  Western films like Blade Runner had a future America where Japanese was spoken widely.  Putting aside the guilt of past colonial aspirations, what is the difference from that setting to the one here, if it is set in future Japan?  Anyone familiar with Ghost in the Shell knows that each iteration is different for each other.  The manga is different from the film.  The film is different from the T.V series.  Even Arise differed from Stand Alone Complex.  This is just a different version of the Ghost in the Shell story.

Ghost in the Shell is not perfect, but it is a decent science fiction movie.  If one can get past comparing it to the anime, it is an entertaining movie.  Scarlett Johannsem is a decent actress, but one cannot argue that she looks good in tight outfits, which she wears plenty in this film.  The call out to the original are well done and Aramaki is pretty badass for an old guy.

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Ghost in the Shell opened 31 March 2017.  It is rated 14-A in Ontario.

PS Vita Review: Valkyrie Drive: Bhikkhuni

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This got your attention?

 

Valkyrie Drive: Bhikkhuni is a third person action game developed by Meteorise and published by Marvelous Inc. through PQube. It is part of the Valkyrie Drive media franchise created by Marvelous Inc, (Senran Kagura series), which includes this game, an anime and an iOS game exclusive to Japan. This game is exclusive to the PS Vita system. The game is PlayStation TV Compatible.

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Sisters Rinka and Ranka arrive on the island

The overall plot of the Valkyrie Drive series is this: Sometime in the near future, a virus starts to infect teenage girls and young women. The virus is called the Armed Virus and can affect a girl in two ways: Some gain the ability to turn in weapons and some gain the ability to wield those weapons, if the girls are compatible enough. The ones that turn into weapons are called Extars and the one who can wield them are Liberators. Some Extars don’t turn into weapons: some turn into a vehicle or some just grown giant (as seen in the anime.) Some even have both the abilities of an Extar and a Liberator.  The governments of the world have decided to remove these girls and put them on artificial islands where they can learn to control their powers or be cured from the virus.

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Extars have one thing in common, though. In order to transform, they must be compatible with their Liberator in order to initiate the transformation. To initiate the transformation, the Liberator has to bring their Extar to a state of “euphoria.” If you’ve read my review of Gal *Gun: Double Peace, you know that’s code for giving them an orgasm. Yes, an orgasm. The higher compatibility between the girls, the easier the transformation and the more powerful the Extar gets. In the anime, it is shown that some girls effortlessly shift between human and Extar form if they have the right partner. It even showed that an Extar could involuntarily turn into a weapon if the sight of an attractive Liberator turns them on. But that is enough of the back story.

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Their Love is a Weapon

Valkyrie Drive: Bhikkhuni is set on the artificial island of Bhikkhuni (hence the title). It mainly follows two sisters, Rinka and Ranka, who have been sent there in order to be cured from their virus. Everyone on that island have a variation of the Armed Virus called the V Virus, which makes them both Extar and Liberator. Here they are put though various combat exercises in order to refine their powers as they are told the way to cure the virus is to master it. The sisters encounter others on the island like the mysterious Momo, the ambitious Mana, arrogant Viola, always hungry Manpukumaru and the serious Koharu. They all progress under the watchful eyes of the Four Pillar Gods, massive mechanical Valkyries that serve as teachers and opponents. Of course the girls pair up and strengthen the bond with their partners through touching groping and kissing. Yes, even the sisters because, Japan.

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The Four Pillar Gods

The game play is similar to what was in the Senran Kagura games for the Vita. You go through the map, fighting off hordes of mostly female enemies, with the occasional robot dog, scorpion or some other mechanical contraption. You attack with the square button for light and triangle for heavy attacks. Circle launches the enemy into the air and X is jump for light presses or a dash towards locked on enemies if you hold it. You can explore the maps to find hidden items and areas (guarded by a robot keeper that recognizes the girls by touching their breasts), and to collect pieces of lingerie tokens, which unlocks underwear if you collect all the pieces in the level. Like Senran Kagura, there is clothing damage that stays through the end level cut scenes. Usually at the end, you face off against another pairs of girls. After each level, you are given a score, a ranking and experience points to split between the Liberator and the Exter.

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Clothing damage stays through the end battle cut scenes

While leveling up the Liberator improves their speed, endurance and power, leveling the Exter improves the weapon’s power and unlocks the Valkyrie Drive. You build up you drive meter as you fight and defeat enemies, with combos yielding more power. Once the meter is full, you can initiate the Drive. There are four levels of the driver. First Drive is when the Exter turns into a weapon. Unlike the anime where the girl has to orgasm to turn into a weapon, in the game the girls just touch hands and one turns into the weapon. In fact, at the lower level, you don’t even start off in First Drive (even though you have a weapon), but you do as you get the Exter higher in the levels. You can activate the Drive 3 more times if you unlock the abilities for your Exter. Each stage of Drive is accompanied by a scene depicting you two characters: Second Drive has the Liberator touch the other girl’s breast; Third Drive the Liberator hugs the Exter from behind and nuzzles her neck; and Final Drive, the girls kiss (yes, even the sisters). In Second and Third Drive, the Exter loses a piece of clothing until by the final Drive, they are in their underwear. In the Final Drive, the underwear goes, replace by shining light to cover them up (like in Senran Kagura Estival Versus) and the girls launches into the air in ecstasy. You can also use the meter to do special attacks by holding L and pressing square.

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First Drive
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Second Drive. Yes they are sisters…and very close.
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Third Drive
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Final Drive begins with a Kiss, then her panties come off and she blasts into space!

The game has other modes as well. There is a hub you can go to change costumes, buy outfits and items at the store (including Lingerie) or look at unlocked art and scenes. You can also talk to the other girls here. Occasionally there will be hearts that you can collect for each girl which improves their affection level. Occasionally this will unlock a text and voice scene where the girls interact with each other. These could be about the girls challenging each other while training, day dreaming about an opponent’s boobs or directly asking Viola if the carpet matches the drapes, if you get what I’m saying. If you max out the affection level, you unlock a picture of the girls together. It doesn’t have much to do with the story, but is just fan service I guess.

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Momo is getting a little too friendly with Viola.

Like Senran Kagura, you can customize the look of the girls. You can either buy items from the shop, unlock items buy playing the main game, or by buying DLC. Each girl only have one outfit, but you can swap them for a different colour version of the main one for any that you have unlock or bought. You can also add accessories like Senran Kagura and adjust their position on their bodies to create unique looks. There is even a DLC pack that includes many of the items available for Senran Kagura. If you’ve played Estival Versus and checked out the Miss Shinobi Contest, you know the things that can be done. As in Senran Kagura, you can interact with the girls in the dressing room in what is called communication mode. You can press the Square and X buttons to cause battle damage to their outfits or you can play the touching mini-game as you build up levels by touching various areas of her body, with the girl all the while calling you a pervert (as if you didn’t feel that way already.) There are 7 ranks broken down into various levels, from “Girl”, the lowest, to Valkyrie, the highest. Reaching level 20 (Lady) unlocks the heart catch mini-game, in which you tap on screen hearts as they fill up and before they disappear as the girl you’ve been…tapping is shown in the background in her underwear, quipping lines like “Oooh,” Ahhh,” and “That was the best massage ever!” Doing this unlocks various pictures, lingerie and outfits for that character. Other modes in the game include a survival mode and a challenge mode.

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You can swap outfits.

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As mentioned, there is tons of DLC out for this game, including the swimsuit DLC included in Japanese special editions. There is also DLC with adds Liberator Mirei and her Exter Mamori from the anime. Valkyrie Drive: Mermaid. These two characters can only be used together, much like in the anime.  They do not show up in the main story mode, but can be used to replay beaten levels

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Mirei is a special DLC character from the anime.

Graphically, the game is on par with Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus, meaning they are fine, but not as smooth as the later Senran Kagura game. The areas in game are fairly large and the load time between areas is not that long. The game does look good on a larger TV through a PlayStation TV and most of the touch controls can be done through the face buttons.

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Mana (L) and Momo

 

Now content-wise, this game is a little more risqué than the Senran Kagura games. By risqué, I mean that the lesbian or yuri (as it is called in Japan) elements of the girls touching and kissing. While the Senran Kagura series has girls touching girls and there is some blatantly obvious attraction between some of the girls, it is not central to the plot. In Valkyrie Drive it is right there in the middle of all of it. But the game is not as explicit as the anime series. Watch an episode and you’ll be surprised that his was on a cable network (ATX, an anime cable channel) and not some OVA sold behind a counter. It is like an anime Game of Thrones, but with less violence, even less plot and much more lesbians. The game handles the transformation mechanics differently than the anime, but it have some risky elements with the two sisters being partners and all. Whether that’s so hot or super creepy is up to the player. Either way, XSeed (Marvelous Inc’s western arm) decided not to port this game so PQube had to step in.   They also aged up the girls, having the virus affect young women (meaning over 18) to appeal to Western sensitivity.  None of the girls look too jail-baity, unlike in Senran Kagura. Besides that, there are no other instances of censorship.

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Sisters give each other massages all the time, right?

Another difference is that no matter who your Exter is, you still use the same weapon. In the game, each Exter changes into a certain weapon. Ranka turns into Rinka’s sword and Rinka becomes Ranka’s hell gauntlets. But if you have Ranka as Mana’s Exter, she is her bow. I understand it is to make the game less complicated, but I would have been nice if who you choose as your partner determined what weapon you get. It could even be a challenging game mechanic to force you to use a weapon you are not used to. But it was all about the girl on girl action, right?

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Manpukumaru is always hungry

 

All in all, Valkyrie Drive is a good game that could have been better. It relies on the whole “weaponized lesbians” angle to pull in players but the story can be weak in places and the battles slightly repetitive. Not having who you choose as your Exter change your weapon is a loss for me, as I was hoping that was the case when I got it. I’m sure it was just to simplify the programming, but it was a wasted opportunity. I wonder if developer Meteorize just borrowed the SK engine to make the game since it looks so similar. Maybe if Tamsoft was involved, we would have gotten Estival Versus level graphics and unique weapons forms for each Exter, no matter who the Liberator is.

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Valkyrie Drive: Bhikkhuni is out now. Physical copies can be bought online through Video Games Plus or Rice Digital. Rice Digital had the deluxe edition with an art book, which may or may not be still available. The game can also be bought through PSN.

 

3/5

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PS Vita Review: Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors

Criminal Girls 2:Party Favors is a Japanese Role Playing Game developed by Nippon Ichi Software and published by NIS America  it is a sequel to Criminal Girls: Invite Only, also for the PS Vita (and reviewed here)It was released physically on 20 September, 16 and on PSN on 11 October, 2016 in North America.  The game is PlayStation TV compatible.

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Meet your new charges

As in the first game, you are a Reformation Instructor in Hell.  Your job is to guide the souls of delinquents, girls who have yet to commit a crime punishable by damnation, but are close enough to need guidance to reform.  Unfortunately you have lost your memory and suddenly fin yourself with seven delinquents to guide through hell.  Each are headstrong and resistant in their own way but you have to get them to work together to ascend the Spire.  The only issue is, you find out there should only be six girls…

 

Criminal Girls 2 plays exactly like the previous game, with you moving your 2d  characters through the mazes of hell.  Monster encounters random, except for boss fights and when it is needed to move the story along. The story is told though Japanese voice acting with English subtitles with 2D images of the characters with limited animation.  You explore the levels, only saving at camps at various locations.

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Yurine is ditzy, but she seems to mean well.

The girls that you guide  pretty much follow the typical anime tropes as the first game.  You have the regular sized girls (Shinoa and Lily), the well endowed women (Yurine and Tsukyasa) and the uncomfortably jailbait-like ones (Kuroe, Mizuki and Sui).  Of course the girls are old enough to no get NIS in trouble.  Each character has their own personality as well. Shinoa is caring and trusting; Lilly comes off as a rich snob but does have a soft spot; Yurine is a bit ditzy but wants to help, Sui is sarcastic and analytical, Tsukasa is a bit of a tease, Kuroe is shy and talks through her donkey doll, Baron; and, Mizuki who is a clumsy girl who’s child-like nature makes motivating her creepy.

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Mizuki skews young, doesn’t she…?

Combat is turned base and when you go into a encounter, the screen changes and you see four of your girls , two on either side of the screen and the monster(s) in the middle.  As the Instructor, you do not attack, you only choose which character to take battle advice.  That action will be take that round then the monsters go (if they didn’t attack first.  Some action have two characters attack at once.  You can also heal your girls with items or switch a girl out for another character.  These actions do not count towards the turn.  You can also use skill as spells that the character has learned.  After  the battle, the characters get experience to level up their hit points and CM points with can go towards items in the shop or to towards the motivation mini games.

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Yes , the Motivation system is back.  In order to get the girls to fight, you must motivate them with various punishments. There are five Motivational mini-games:  Scrubby Scrub, which you scrub soap off the girls; Spanking X, which is spanking two girls at a time; Slimeshot, which you spray your goo, er slime on the girls (that’s not suggestive…); and Shocking bondage, in which you shock the girls when they are all tied up.  As their Motivation level goes up, you unlock more attacks, magic or stat bonuses for that character.  You will have two types of skills, S Skills and M skills.  They can affect your character when you coach them in battle, enabling them to deal more damage (S) or reduce damage take (M).

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Motivation makes use of the Vita’s touch controls.

 

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Scrub their sins away.  This is the least creepy of the Motivations
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As you progress in the motivation, you can unlock new abilities

The gameplay is like a typical JRPG.  There will be a lot of grinding to get up levels and to unlock abilities.  You can go up to 30 second without having a random encounter and when you start out with only one girl fighting, some enemies will be tough.  Getting enough CM points to motivate the girls will be your priority as your attacks will improve.  All characters get XP after battles so don’t worry if you tend to stick with your favourite four.

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You get some XP.  You get some XP.  Everyone gets some XP!!!

 

Graphic-wise, it looks the same as the first game.  The dungeons change a bit from level to level but it can become a bit repetitive.  The monsters still look like they did in the first game, with some of them not resembling the creature the game says they are.  But, hey, you’re in Hell, scrubbing and spanking girls to redeem them.  Nothing has to make sense.

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The art was redrawn to be less explicit

Now, it has to be obvious that his game must have been somewhat censored to be brought out west.  Japan has some different sensibilities that may not fly in the west.  So the girls have been aged up (or, more accurately, all traces of age have been removed and it is assumed that they are old enough to drink in Alberta at the very least.).  Some changes NIS admitted were redrawn art for the motivation mini-games, removing elements that might have been considered explicit, removing the yelps and moans from the mini-games ,and even changing the name of the Motivation system (originally it  was called Punishment.)  Compared to the pink mist obscuring the Motivation mini-game in Criminal Girls: Invite Only, this is acceptable.

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Mizuki looks like a kid so Tsukasa treats her like one.
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…That ain’t helping to change anyone’s mind.

Overall, this is a okay game for those who do not mind the tediousness of a grindy JRPG.  You definitely have to be in the mood for it if you want to get far in this game.  Looking back, I think I judged the first one a bit harshly, mostly because of the annoying censorship and the battle mechanics.  But I seethe strategy in the system now and the censorship is not as prominent in this game,.  But it is not a overly pretty game, save for the characters themselves.  It is a long, dark bland game, but then again, it is set in Hell.

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Hell is other people.

Criminal Girls 2: Party Favours is available through online retailers, such as Video Games Plus and Rice Digital on online on the PlayStation Store.  There was a Collector’s Edition available as well as a standard copy.   Prices may vary by your country .

3.5 out of 5

 

 

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PS Vita/PS4 Review: Gal*Gun: Double Peace

Gal*Gun: Double Peace is a Japanese first-person on-rails shooter developed by Inti Creates and published in the West by PQube.  It is a sequel to the original Gal*Gun game published in 2011.  The game is available for both the PS Vita and the PS4 video game systems  This review is for both versions.

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Note:  This Review is not a paid review and only is my opinion.  All screenshots were taken with either the PS Vita or PS4.

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Ekoro, the angel with great aim but poor trigger control.

Gal*Gun: Double Peace puts you in the role of Houdai Kudoki, an ordinary, rather unremarkable student at the Academy (which I’m sure is some college or something…).  When Ekoro, a student angel assigned to bring love to one of the students, accidentally hits Houdai with 32 love arrows, he finds himself the target of affection of all the girls.  Ekoro explains that, because of her mistake, he has until the end of the day to find his one true love or be alone forever.

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The demon-hunting sisters , Shinobu (l) and Maya (r)

Houdai’s best chance for love resides in two sister he had known since childhood, Shinobu and Maya.  But they are both demon hunters, unaffected by the effects of the love arrows and are both emotionally aloof when around Houdai.  They are also busy trying to hunt down a novice demon, Kurona, who is causing more mischief.  Houdai has until dusk to get through to one of the sisters to show their true feelings and find true love.  He only have to avoid love-mad students and teachers, and any other trouble Kurona unleashes.

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Girls are rushing to express their love, sometimes violently.
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Let them get too close, they will hit you, kiss you, or express their love  which drains your strength  (Ribbon DLC costume shown)

 

In order to fend off the love-sick mobs of girls, you have to shoot the girls with pheromone shots from your… well, I don’t know where they come from.  Do you use a finger gun?  Shoot them with a sexy look (Blue Steel!) or do you point at them with an…appendage or some sort?  Well, anyways, you shoot them with your love gun (heh) until they collapse in euphoria.  That’s what the game tells you but it just another way of saying that it’s an orgasm gun.

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In Doki Doki Mode, shoot the girls in certain areas to raise their euphoria until they can’t take it anymore.
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Get their euphoria high enough and they will give you the “double peace” like this teacher.

One you have satiated enough ladies with your pheromone shots, you build up enough energy to go into Doki Doki Mode.  This stuns all the girls on-screen and you can select up to three girls for a mini-game in which you can shoot pheromones at specific parts of their body until the org-… achieve euphoric bliss.  If you do this in time to at least one girl, when the time ends, her euphoria will explode knocking out all of the girls on-screen.

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Some girls are under demonic influence. Zoom in and shoot the mini-demon first

Additionally some of the girls are under the demon’s influence and want to abuse poor Koudai.  These girls are stronger and more resistance to the pheromone shot.  You have to zoom in and find the mini-demon that is controlling the girl.  Take out the demon and then you can euphoria the hell out of her.

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Occasionally there are mini-games, like try to get Shinbou unstuck from a window,

Of course, throughout the game you have to win over one of the sisters.  Both love you, but each has a reason to deny that love and not get involved with anyone.  You have to say the right things to her to raise her affection rate.  Say or do the wrong thing and it could lower it.  You can also improve it by helping them out in a mini game.  These mini-games usually involve you shooting demon bugs off their bodies and help them out in some way.   You could be helping Maya get herself unstuck from a demon trap or bide your time  looking for a way to free Shinobu from the demon’s control while she…steps on your junk while in her underwear.  Oh Japan…

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You have to scan all over her body for those mini-demons.  All.  Over.

 

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She isn’t putting out a cigarette with her foot

The game adds replay value by having multiple paths and multiple girls to woo.  At first only Maya and Shinobu are available, but as you beat the game multiple times, options to woo them both at the same time opens up.  You can aso take a path to win over the angel, Ekoro, the demon, Kurona, or have them both.  You can also chose another path to find a random girl, if you unlock it.  There are multiple ending for each choice, too.

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Replay levels in time attack mode

Other modes are a time attack mode for all the levels you played and a speed one for each of the different paths that you beat.  There is alos a dressing room, where you can change the attire of any of the girls in the game with outfits you have unlocked or purchased through the DLC.  There is also a collection mode where you can see so stats in the game, what endings you have unlocked and view art from the game.

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Like this one.

Another option in Collection mode is the Student Roster.  Here you can see the names of all the students and teachers that you encounter.  As you play the game, you unlock more girls and you can find student hand books to tell you more about them.  You can also zoom in on them in the game to unlock information like their height, measurements (B-W-H) and weak spots which is handy in Doki Doki mode.  Unlock enough and you can even get an option to ‘fantasize’ about them, in which you view their 3d model, pose them and change the background.  You can even poke them on the Vita’s touch screen, if that is your thing.

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If you know enough about them, you can “fantasize about your fellow students or the teachers in the Student Roster

The versions of this game for the PS Vita and the PS4 are exactly the same, but each has their drawbacks.  The Vita version is slow to load, taking over a minute until the game actually starts up.  The PS4 version loads much quicker, but there are parts in the game in which the screenshot and video recording is disabled, such as when Shinobu is humiliating you while in her underwear or during the end scenes.    You can still screenshot in the PS Vita during those spots.  While both games have a good translation overall, there are no subtitles during the mini-games and, unless you speak Japanese, you don’t know what they are saying, though the games does tell you what to do.

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Screen shot from the PS Vita
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Video capture and screenshot are blocked in Fantasy mode but you can still the pictures on the PS Vita.

The graphic are good, if not spectacular.  It has a solid anime feel to the art design and you could be excused for not knowing it was make with the Unreal Engine middleware.  The graphics are bight and crisp and I did not see any glitches or slowdowns in either version.  The graphics are a bit better on the PS4, however, but that is how is should be.

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Shinobu in the torn Uniform DLC

This game features a cross save functionality.  You can upload your PS4 save and download it to you Vita and vice versa.  All of the DLC are cross buy as well, meaning you get it for both versions.  Currently the DLC is mostly costume for the girls.  You can buy them individually or in sets of four.  There are two sets available for purchase with one costume, the ripped uniform being only one not included.  There are also DLC for reducing the girls’ breast size (Angel’s Cutting Board) or increase it (Demon’s Meat Buns.)  Then there is the Pheromone Z DLC, which allows you to see through clothing (which you can already do, if you keep your reticule on the girl long enough.)  This one cost $90!

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Shinobu confronts Kurona

Let me rant here.  This is the worst case of nickel and diming people ever and that’s including horse armour and anything EA has ever done.  Now, there is no nudity in this game.  You can already see through their clothing if you zoom in and look at them long enough and you see their underwear.  If they are in swimwear or the ribbon DLC, there are hearts covering where the nipples would be and they still have panties on.  This DLC just makes it that the clothes disappear when you look at the girls through the site.  The developer, PQube, said that it was meant to be a joke and nobody should buy it.  So, why bother selling it?  Seems like a bad joke for a slightly lewd game.  You can get more value in a Season Pass for another game like Fallout 4 or Dead or Alive 5 Last Round.

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This should be enough for anybody.

Overall, this is a okay game.  Gal*Gun: Double Peace is bit of an ecchi (sexy or dirty) game with the ability to see through clothing, some of the dialogue choices if you want to play it at a creep and the questionable age of some of the girls, offset by the fact they are only anime characters and hey, Japan.  But, at it’s core, it is about childhood friends admitting their feeling have grown into love, if you play it that way.  The fact it is a on-rails shooter where you are pretty much along for the ride with the occasional choice turn giving you the illusion of choice takes away from it a bit.  But it is a fun ride and the multiple paths and collectables add replay value.

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What’s an ecchi Japanese game without Tentacle Monsters? Incomplete, that’s what.

Gal*Gun: Double Peace is only available in physical release through online shops or as a download on the PlayStation Network.  Check online for pricing.

3/5

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The girls can attack from afar with declarations of love…
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Or up close with kiss attacks.

 

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