Video Game Review: Guardian Tales

The above video is a joke anime trailer the developers made.

Details: I’ve been playing this game for the past few months. This is a mobile game available for Android and iOS. More information can be found at https://guardiantales.com/

Score: 7.5/10

Edit: Lowered the score by point five. There are some hard spikes in difficulty in later parts of the story mode (specifically chapter 10 and 11) that exist for no reason other than to push players to spend money for better characters and gear. The game is still mostly good, but this artificial barrier to seeing the ending is unnecessary and turns the endgame into a meaningless grind. There’s plenty of other places they could have made the content difficult, but the story mode was not a good place for that.

I’ve been playing a lot of gacha games during the pandemic. Some of them include Genshin Impact, Epic Seven, Exos Heroes, Arknights, Fire Emblem Heroes, and Princess Connect. In my opinion, Guardian Tales is better than all of them. Actually, Guadian Tales is the best gacha/mobile game I’ve ever played. Part of that is because of the charming and funny story. The other reasons is because this game truly has its own personality. You can feel that the developers of this game put their passion into this game before their greed, and that’s something that is not present in any other gacha game I’ve ever played.

This game takes place in a fictional world of very different nations. Some are magical, some are more science fiction. Aliens invade this world and it’s up to you, a soldier and guardian of one of the fictional countries in this world to find a way to defeat them. That means going on a grand adventure, exploring all of these very different nations and meeting a colorful cast of characters along the way.

The first and best thing about this game is the story, especially its dialogue. It’s very funny and I found myself cracking up constantly throughout this game. That’s not to say that there aren’t serious moments, because they do happen later on and they are well done. But for the most part, this is a very funny story.

What makes it especially funny is that the vast majority of this game pulls and parodies popular video games and movies. It constantly references things from nerd and weeb culture, but most surprisingly, American facing aspects of that. I would’ve sworn that this game was developed by Americans because of how American facing the references are. However, I recently watched a behind the scenes video from the developers and it seems that the nerds in Korea that developed this game are just as big of fans of the things that nerds in America are fans of. I guess some thing really do cross borders.

All this is to say that despite this being a Korean made game and that many foreign made games often translate poorly in the American market, Guardian Tales avoids all these pitfalls. As an American, I got all the video game, anime and movie references and that made the game even better.

Here’s a long list of some, but not all of the references I picked up on: Animal Crossing, Frozen, Bioshock, Kill Bill, Harry Potter, Mega Man, Doctor Who, Phoenix Wright, Shaolin Soccer, Full Metal Alchemist, Seinfeld, Dungeon Meshi, Final Fantasy II (or Final Fantasy IV in Japan), Ghostbusters, Back to the Future, Monty Python and Holy Grail, Shaolin Soccer, and Dragon Ball Z.

You can tell by this list that the developers of this game have either done their research or are huge nerds/weebs. As a fairly nerdy person myself, the constant use of hilarious references to my favorite stories only increased my appreciation of this game.

Something else I love about this game is the look of it. It uses a very nostalgic 2D sprite style that long time gamers will be familiar with. It’s like something from the Super Nintendo. However, this is a modernized take on that style. Expect to see perspective changes, 3D models, and complex special effects that would never have been used back in the old days of video games. This style is a mishmash of old and new, resulting in a nostalgic, but contemporary visual style.

The music is also fantastic. Again, it uses the old synthesized style of old video games, but modernizes them with more complex, contemporary beats and synthesized sounds.

The same can again be said for the gameplay. You go through levels, beat bosses, and solve puzzles. It’s a top down style, action role playing game very reminiscent of games like The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past… except you can use Gatling guns. It takes that old visual style and adds speed to the gameplay as well as a greater amount of options. You can use swords, bows, guns, shields, magic etc. Again, the tone of this game is nostalgia of old video games combined with the contemporary gameplay developments of modern video games. It’s old and new.

With all that said, this is still a gacha game. Gacha games are heavily stigmatized and rightly so. Many siphon thousands of dollars from players lacking self control. Guardian Tales is certainly one of these offending games. However, I will say that Guardian Tales is far more generous of a gacha game than any gacha game I’ve played before. They give you a ton of gems throughout the game with which you can roll for new characters and weapons.

There is a still a hard wall or difficulty spike in gameplay which comes in chapter ten and again in chapter eleven. At the time of this review, there are only eleven chapters, so that increase in difficulty is very late in the game. This spike in difficulty is common for free to play gacha games. They increase the difficulty to tempt players into spending money to roll for more powerful characters and equipment in order to progress further in the game.

There is also a multiplayer component where players play other players. Like other gacha games, there is a metagame and doing well in multiplayers usually requires having the best characters and equipment, which usually means spending money. Doing well in multiplayer in gacha games is usually reserved for the whales who throw tons of money at the game and Guardian Tales is no exception.

Guardian Tales is guilty of this tactic, but I would say that it is less guilty than others. This is because the difficulty spike is based mostly on skill. No matter what character you obtain, it will still be extremely difficult to get past these gameplay barriers. Will some characters make it easier? Yes. However, it will still be difficulty for all and I think that helps lessen the greedy, money grubbing aspect of this gacha tactic in Guardian Tales. Personally, I really liked the higher difficulty because it forced me to get better at the game. On the other hand. I rolled a fairly powerful character that really helped me get through it… so your experience may vary.

Overall, Guardian Tales is my favorite gacha game I’ve yet to play. I like it more than Genshin Impact, Epic Seven, Arknights, all of those games. And that’s because it has personality. It has a funny, entertaining story. That’s something none of the above games have in my opinion. At the very least, it has a vastly superior story and dialogue compared to those games. That’s everything to me. Give me the constant pursuit of progression of a gacha game along with an immensely entertaining story and I’ll be a happy gamer. Guardian Tales gave me that.

Anime Review: Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon

Details: Also known as Hanyou no Yashahime: Sengoku Otogizoushi and 半妖の夜叉姫. More information can be found at https://myanimelist.net/anime/41911/Hanyou_no_Yashahime__Sengoku_Otogizoushi

Score: 6.5/10

Yashahime is the sequel to Inuyasha, a fairly popular anime and manga that came out over a decade ago (maybe two decades). I watched the series when it originally aired and I enjoyed it at first. I soon lost interest as the story just dragged, pacing was an issue and no meaningful progression was made with the primary plot or the relationships between the characters. I’ve only watched a little more than a dozen of the episodes of Yashahime, but it seems like it is making all the same mistakes as Inuyahsa.

Some spoilers ahead.

Yashahime takes place around ten to twenty years after the ending of Inuyasha. In Inuyasha, a teenage Japanese girl named Kagome finds a magical well that transports her to Japan during the feudal period. This is a time of war, factions, and most importantly, magic and demons. When she gets there, she meets Inuyasha, someone who is half human and half demon. During Inuyasha, the two fall in love and eventually get married. Kagome decides to forgo the present and live the rest of her life with Inuyasha in feudal Japan.

Yashahime centers on the child of Inuyasha and Kagome, but more importantly, on the two children of Inuyasha’s brother, Sesshomaru. Sesshomaru’s children are born in feudal Japan, but one somehow gets sent to modern day Japan. That child grows to a teenager before finding a way back to feudal Japan. Now, that child has decided to travel back to feudal Japan in order to find her sister and making up for time lost.

The story is okay… but mostly boring. The original Inuyasha dragged on to such an extent as to drain me of any interest in the series. I watched Yashahime in hopes of something fresh or a revitalization of this franchise. Unfortunately, Yashahime is boring series and simply seeks to try and recreate the nostalgic feelings of what was present in Inuyasha. Yashahime is a series for only the most devoted of Inuyasha fans and even then, it is a dissapointment.

For most Inuyasha fans, they probably just want to see what happened to their favorite characters. While Yashahime does go into that a bit, it is a slow drip. They drop a small bit of plot progression here and there, but they mostly ignore the original characters and focus on the new characters. This wouldn’t be a terrible development, except the primary characters are kind of boring as well.

The animation is fine as is the voice acting. The original Inuyasha had this amazing, fully orchestrated soundtrack. The music here is good, but not as memorable as the melodies from the original series.

Overall, this series may attempt to attract new fans, but it mostly fails at that. Long time Inuyasha fans will likely mostly enjoy this series, but still be disappointed by the absence of their favorite characters from the old series. Personally, I did not enjoy this show and have dropped it from the shows I usually watch. I think it is also important to mention that this show is aimed at younger audiences, which may be why I– now much older than when I originally watched Inuyasha– find a lot of the humor and plot developments emotionless and boring.

Anime Movie Review: KONOSUBA -God’s Blessing On This Wonderful World!- Legend of Crimson

Details: More information can be found at https://myanimelist.net/anime/38040/Kono_Subarashii_Sekai_ni_Shukufuku_wo__Kurenai_Densetsu and you can watch it for free at https://www.crunchyroll.com/konosuba-gods-blessing-on-this-wonderful-world/konosuba-gods-blessing-on-this-wonderful-world-legend-of-crimson-konosuba-gods-blessing-on-this-wonderful-world-legend-of-crimson-794436

Score: 7/10

Legend of Crimson is a movie spawned by the fairly popular anime, Konosuba. While I greatly enjoyed this comedy, the movie was somewhat disappointing as it lacked that higher level of animation quality you’d expect from a movie. What’s also sad is that even though the humor is exactly the same here as in the anime series, I didn’t find it as funny. I think I just grew out of this type of humor and don’t enjoy it as much anymore.

Konosuba is an isekai story. Generally in these types of stories, someone from the real world dies and is reborn into another world, usually a fantasy world. That person is usually granted immense power as isekai stories are usually power fantasies. However, this is a comedy and our protagonist is reborn into the new world with almost no power. Now, we get to watch our unfortunate, sleazy protagonist flail about while meeting other oddballs in this new world.

One of the funniest parts of this anime is watching these pathetic characters struggle. Most scenes usually start off with our protagonists confident in their ability to handle the situation. Then the true danger appears and we get to watch our protagonists crumble into a pile of cowardly dust. They play up this scene structure over and over again and mostly, it’s hilarious. It’s almost always funny watching an arrogant character knocked into the shadow realm of humility again and again. Also funny is watching how these characters start off trying to be decent human beings, but once a situation escalates, they degenerate into the vile of characters. The main draw of Konosuba is watching these cowardly, perverse, sleazy characters flail about as the world their in continues to throw them in difficult situations.

My biggest gripe with this movie is the animation. The animation quality is about the same as the anime series, which isn’t terrible. It’s just that you’d expect a movie to up the quality just a bit over an episodic series because a movie is just one big episode. I don’t know how their budgeting and time management went, but the higher quality of animation just isn’t here.

Overall, I enjoyed this movie, but it could’ve been better. Also worth mentioning is that there is a lot of fan service in this show… though some of the fan service is turned around on you into a fairly hilarious joke. I won’t explain it more than that for fear of spoiling the plot.

Manga Review: I, the Demon Lord, Got Married to the Female Hero’s Mother Making Her My Stepdaughter

Details: Also known as Maou desu. Onna Yuusha no Hahaoya to Saikon Shita no de, Onna Yuusha ga Giri no Musume ni Narimashita and 魔王です。女勇者の母親と再婚したので、女勇者が義理の娘になりました.

Score: 6.8/10

This manga takes place in a fantasy world and is about a Demon Lord who marries the hero’s mother and tries to live happily together.

One day, the hero in a fantasy world attacks the evil Demon Lord, only to be crushingly defeated. Bored with the battle, The Demon Lord decides to spare the hero’s life and return her back to her home village. When the Demon Lord gets there, he falls in love at first sight with the hero’s mother (whose husband is deceased) and the two immediately get married. Now, the Demon Lord, the hero’s mom and the hero must find a way to live together and to live happily.

This is mostly a slice of life and a comedy. There are some sort of serious plot beats and a little bit that deals with the politics in a medieval fantasy world, but it’s mostly just an overprotective step dad trying to get along with his new step daughter.

Overall, it’s a nice little story that was boring in a few places. I still enjoyed it as I can’t recall reading another story similar to the premise in this one.

Manga Review: ‘Tis Time for “Torture,” Princess

Details: Also known as  Hime-sama, “Goumon” no Jikan desu and 姫様“拷問”の時間です. You can read it for free at https://mangaplus.shueisha.co.jp/titles/100071

Score: 7.1/10

‘Tis Time for “Torture,” Princess is interesting because it masquerades under the guise of a fantasy story. In truth, this is primarily a comedy and a slice of life story that takes place in a fantasy world.

‘Tis Time for “Torture,” Princess is about a princess who gets captured by the Demon King’s army and is set to be tortured for information. Each day, a torturer (named Torture) shows up at the princess’ cell and prepares something irresistible like warm apple pie with a scoop of ice cream or freshly made tempura. The princess tries to resist this fiendish torture, but succumbs almost every time, giving up a secret in exchange for partaking in the delicious food (the torture isn’t always food). Almost all issues are structured this way and we get to enjoy the gag of the princess being “tortured” by freshly made food or a fun activity.

The first funny thing is that it takes place in a fantasy world, except that everything is mundanely modern. The princess is kept in a medieval cell in the Demon Lord’s castle, but when Torture seeks to torture with some delicious curry rice, she takes out a modern rice cooker. Another such torture involved a bicycle race while another involved a trip to an amusement park. Suffice it to say, the juxtaposition of the medieval fantasy world and the modern Japanese world is one of the funniest gags.

I also appreciate how wholesome this comic was. There’s a lot of stuff going on in the real world (coronavirus for instance) and a lot of it’s pretty bad. Reading this comic made me feel surprisingly good. The princess repeatedly proclaiming that she would not fall for the torture and then indulging immediately after is always funny. The characters themselves are all very caring and considerate, which is also funny considering they’re all monsters and demons. The Demon Lord for instance is simply a doting father who is nice to everyone, except he has a terrifying appearance and demeanor. The torturers are all fairly nice and often just offer fun “tortures” for the princess just so they can all have a good time hanging out together. Much of the time, the series is just all the characters hanging out and going bowling, bike riding, or sharing a meal. It’s all predicated under the idea of “torture,” but it’s really just a group of friends having fun.

Overall, this was a nice, feel good series with lots of jokes and characters just being nice and supportive to each other. I didn’t know what to expect from the title, but what I got was a wholesome comedy that just happens to take place in a pseudo fantasy world.