Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Review: Princess Debut (DS)

Title: Princess Debut
System: DS
ESRB Rating: E
Number of Players: 1

If you read my post about gaming that segued into a post about my bizarre love of otome games, you remember me mentioning Princess Debut, the otome game about the girl who swaps places with the princess from a fantasy land that looks just like her. She then goes on to spend the next month in this fantasy land, learning to dance and looking for a prince to act as her dance partner, all the while trying to pose as the real princess. Oh, and the princes all look like the cute guys from her school in the real world.

Yeah, I know. The story kind of sucks. But this is an otome game, where the only thing that really matters is the boys.

Above: The only thing that matters in an otome game. (Minus furry.)

So, you have six boys to pick from, not including Tony (the rabbit) up there, though he does get an ending of his own. The sixth guy never actually shows up until your second playthrough. But those guys up there, from left to right, are: Prince Luciano, Prince Liam, Prince Klaus, Prince Cesar, and Prince Vince (lol, rhymes.) The last prince, tastefully clad in purple, is Prince Kiefer. Each of these guys falls into one (or more) of the stereotypical otome game male categories: the doting big brother (Liam, or "the ridiculously kind one who likes plants" in the "real" world), the "perfect" one (Klaus, or the basketball star in the real world), the aloof one (Luciano, or the childhood friend in the real world), the flamboyant flirt (Cesar, or the playboy in the real world), the bookworm (Kiefer, who's still the bookworm), and the mischievous one (Vince, who's still the mischievous one).

The point of the game is to get a partner and wow the crowd at an important ball at the end of the month. The gameplay is a decently-implemented rhythm game, Ouendan-style. (Or, Elite Beat Agents, if you have no idea what "Ouendan" is.) The game gets progressively tougher as it advences throughout the month, and gameplay is pretty fun. The synthesized tracks are annoying from the get-go, and don't really get any less annoying, but they're not annoying enough to make me put it down. However, the game isn't without its downsides.

First, if you're not using a DS lite or a DSi (this doesn't include the XL; I'm getting to that), the game doesn't always register your tap as an accurate tap, and marks you points off (if it even credits you at all for it.) We have at least one of every DS incarnation in my house, and I've noticed that songs that I've gotten perfect scores on countless times always come up short on the 3DS and on the DSiXL. I'm not sure why that is, but I'd wager that it has something to do with the increased touch screen size on both. Second of all are, unsurprisingly, the guys. Well, not them specifically, but the dating cutscenes tend to drag out and could be cut by three or four rounds of conversation and still get the point across. Not only that, but one of the boys is frustratingly hard to get: Prince Luciano takes off about halfway through the game. If you're already dating him, and don't answer his questionnaire just right, he won't come back at the end of the month, and if you're single before he leaves and don't answer his questionnaire just right - you guessed it - he won't come back at the end of the month. And, given his personality type is tough to figure out what a "right" and "wrong" answer is, there's going to be a lot of rebooting and cursing on your end.

Bottom Line: Typical otome game story line, with a pretty decently implemented rhythm game embedded into it. Oh, and Luciano is a douche, but that doesn't really affect points.

Final Score: 7/10

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Review: BlazBlue: Continuum Shift 2 (3DS)

Title: BlazBlue: Continuum Shift 2
System: 3DS
ESRB Rating: Teen for blood, language, partial nudity, sexual themes, and violence.
Number of Players: 1 player mode, local 2-4 (no global online play)
Buy It: Here.

It shouldn't have taken me this long to get on playing Continuum Shift 2. There really isn't an excuse for it, and that's because even though I historically loathe fighting games, I can freely admit that I adore the BlazBlue franchise. It's the only fighting game (Super Smash Brothers aside) that I can say that I've sat down and memorized combos for; I've invested more time in 2009's Calamity Trigger alone that it rivals the amount of time I've sunk into We Love Katamari on the PS2. And that's a lot of time.

So, how does Continuum Shift 2 stack up against its predecessors? And how well does it play on the 3DS? Well, that's a mixed bag, unfortunately.

CS2's fighting style plays out wonderfully on the 3DS, and that's a huge plus for it. Because it's a four-button fighting system to begin with, it feels natural on the 3DS, and the D-pad makes launching attacks in a specific direction feel crisp and clean because of its "clicky" feel. And the 2D sprites look fairly decent on the handheld as well. Granted, it doesn't look anywhere as nice as the PSP's offering of BB: Portable, but the 3DS isn't an HD system. So aside from looking nice and playing greatly, what went wrong?

The 3D went wrong, for starters. Playing in 3D mode lowers the game's frame rate and makes combos harder to time than when you have the slider set to turn 3D off because you can't always compensate for lag. Secondly, the 3D gives me incredible motion sickness and a headache I've never felt before in a game. I can't play more than a round or two without feeling ridiculously gorky, and I'm not the only one of my friends that's said that. Other 3D games for the system that I've played haven't given me this sensation (though 3D movies give me massive headaches - that's why I'll never watch a 3D movie.)

There's two other cons that the game has. Fitst of all, the game allows local wireless matches for two to four people, but has no Nintendo Wi-fi Connection link for global play. The second is that it doesn't go into sleep mode. Shut the lid, and it just pauses (and drains your battery) until you open it back up again. Seriously. That's kind of inexcusable, because every other DS game has a sleep mode built in. That was just laziness on Aksys' part.

Other than the frame rate being off and the sleep mode being nonexistant, the game has everything the original console version of Continuum Shift had, including Legion Mode and the Tutorial Mode, which is perfect for casual and beginning players. But this game really doesn't do anything that other 3DS fighters don't do just as well, or better, like Super Street Fighter IV.

Bottom Line: Unless you're a hardcore BlazBlue fan, bypass this 3DS installment. Even though it plays naturally, the 3D was implemented ineffectively and the lack of even a sleep mode gets it points off. It's still a great fighter by itself, but after SSFIV, there's nothing to see here.

Final Score: 6-7

Friday, June 24, 2011

An update about updates.

This isn't going to be much of an update, but I did kind of promise that I'd update about mundane things that I do in my free time. Well, here it goes:

  • I'm still looking for a job, and that means any kinf of job. I'd like to land a writing gig, but without a portfolio that has things other than a few blog posts and a handful of creative writing papers from college, I don't see that happening.
  • I'm still working on my final manuscript for Morgan, but it's proving to be tougher than I thought it would be. There's something about this story that's alluring, but at the same time, I'm not quite "writing what I know" about. 
  • I have a lot scheduled for the upcoming days both here and over at Fashion Disasters. The ladies and I just have a lot going on right now that prevent FD from being very important.
I'll probably have some reviews (not just books, I swear!) coming up soon.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Job Lot Reads 3: Jack Tumor

Title: Jack Tumor
Publisher: FSG
Author: Anthony McGowan
Category: Young Adult Fiction

Photo from
Hector is being bullied. At his school, it's nothing out of the ordinary, but it is when you're being bullied by your talking, know-it-all brain tumor that tells you that you're living your life incorrectly. Now, having to live with a talking tumor that calls itself Jack, Hector has two lives that he needs to find a balance for: the life he lives, and the one that Jack wants him to live.

This novel is uproariously funny, in that British sort of way. (No surprise there, it's a book from England!) The humor in here is still enjoyable by those of us in the States, even if you're not familiar with some of the English references in it, because of the writing style and the "realness" if the characters (especially Hector.) It took me about seven hours total to read this book, and I loved every page of it. This was another win for the Job Lot as far as books go.

Rating: 9/10

Monday, June 6, 2011

Topic: Gaming, and Otome games

Gaming. It's one of those things that I've done as far back as I can remember. My dad got me a Gameboy Color for Christmas the year the Pokemon games hit shelves; my grandmother got me my first Pokemon game. Before that, though, my dad still had games in the house. PC games, NES games... we had them all.

And today, that's no different. Today, we have a 360, a PS3, a PS2, and the Wii, as well as a DSi, 3DS, and PSP. We keep up with current gaming trends, continue to get games as they come out, and I keep myself on the lookout for older games at rummage, estate, and yard sales. (I'm frequently lucky.)

But don't get me wrong. While I love new games and feeling like I could reach out and grab whatever's in the environment around me, and I love (clever) motion controls that don't force me to waggle my controller around like a douchebag (Did you get that, Nintendo?) I often get nostalgic for old games. They have some sort of cracklike replay value that can't be outright expressed in words, but grab you once you see them online, or hear their theme played. There's something about older games that I really enjoy - still - that really shaped the kind of gamer that I am today. (Which is RPG first and foremost, in case you were wondering, thanks.)

But all the RPGs and classic shooters (my first ever PC game was Doom 3. Dad let me play it, and it was epic) didn't prepare me for one of my favorite game genres: otome games.

Otome games are the girl's equivalent of dating sims. (This has led to a long running joke in the family that the "normal one who doesn't need help getting a date" cripples herself with dating sims.) In a way, the joke is right. I don't need help getting a date - I never have - but otome games usually let me indulge myself in cheesy cliche-ridden storylines without anyone around me having to suffer through another viewing of Chocolat - because most of them are, in fact, portable. And that's awesome.

A few publishers aren't afraid to bring them Stateside. One could argue that Natsume's Harvest Moon series is part dating sim, because no matter what gender you play as, part of the game is finding a wife (husband, if you're playing as a girl.) Actually, half the fun for quite a few Harvest Moon players is the dating side of it.

Natsume's also brought over one other, non-HM title that I know of, and it's called Princess Debut. The game is part rhythm game, part otome, and you play as a girl who trades places with the kingdom's Princess (who looks just like you...go figure...) to a fantasy land to learn to dance at a major ball. That's in a month.

But see, while the storylines are kind of shoddy, they're not supposed to be great, because telling a great story isn't really what an otome game is about. It's about landing "your dream guy." Besides, everyone knows that no real guy is perfect, and that there's no such things as fairytale romances.

...Which is why women everywhere love chick flicks. And some like otome games.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Job Lot Reads 2: Holdup

Title: Holdup
Author: Terri Fields
Publisher: FSG/Square Fish
Category: Young Adult Fiction

Photo from
This book is interesting. Instead of starting with a summary, like I usually would, I'm going to just go ahead and say it: This is one of those unique, multi-narrator-telling-the-same-event kinds of stories that are quite hard to pull off well.

Terri Fields pulls this off well.

Even saying that, though, I didn't like this book. The story was fluid and had an amazingly steady pace; every narrator had their own unique, defined voice (I never once got confused with a who's who moment); and transitioning between narrators never seemed awkward or clunky. So even knowing and realizing that the book was well-written, flowed amazingly well, and had a compelling storyline, why didn't I like it?

Perhaps it was the same thing that made this book so interesting to me in the first place: the multi-narrator format of it. There's something both compelling and annoying about books with many perspectives. On one hand, they let every major character tell their own take on the things happening, their opinions of other characters, and their outlook on the situation on the whole. On the other hand, you have the same exact thing.

In the end, Holdup is an amazingly well-written novel that tells the story from nine points of view about a burger-joint holdup. Its best feature is also what irks me most about it, even though it's done incredibly well. I suppose that I just don't like the multiple narrator writing style. If you're looking for an interesting read, though, Holdup might definitely be for you.

Rating: 6-7/10

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Job Lot Reads 1: Full Service

Title: Full Service
Photo from
Author: Will Weaver
Publisher: FSG
Category: Young Adult fiction

It's the summer of 1965, and Paul Sutton is getting his first full-time job off of the family farm. Convinced that it would be good for him, his mother takes him around their small town of Hawk Bend, Minnesota looking for a job before he lands a job pumping gas at the local Shell station. For the next two hundred pages, Will learns the secrets of his small town, befriends the local regulars, and makes a few important decisions about where he's headed in life while trying to stay true to his roots.

This book had me pretty wrapped up in it from about the second chapter onward. I was pretty interested in it from the very beginning, but it wasn't until Paul started actually started interacting with the other characters around him that it caught my interest. Will Weaver's writing style is realistic and paints a vivid picture of what's going on in the small town of Hawk Bend, and I found myself really looking forward to picking it back up when I had to put it down for whatever reason. The characters were realistic (which is important to me, both as a writer myself and as a reader,) and the ending didn't leave me hanging or feeling like something was missing.

Final score: 8/10