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Ergo Proxy, Volume 6: Deus Ex Machina
Ergo Proxy, Volume 6: Deus Ex Machina
DVD ~ Artist Not Provided
4 used & new from $7.98

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The end of a great series, September 25, 2007
Ergo Proxy Vol 6 marks the last volume in one of the most intriguing and thought provoking series I have seen in quite some time. While I can't go into too much details as to what actually goes on in the episodes I will give a brief spoiler free overview of where the disc starts. It picks up after Pino, Re-l, and Vincent have returned to Romdo to find that all is not well. There is what could be described as a civil war going on between the humans and the entourages. All the while you can tell there is something sinister lurking in the background just waiting to make itself known. The three episodes on the disc reveal everything that has been hidden in the past. As a result there are a lot of things thrown at you at once (as animes so often tend to do), so you may not get everything right away but after a few watches it does make sense. Re-l's truth and past is revealed along with Vincent's and the truth about what Proxy's are. Not too mention what roles the Regient, Daedalus, and Raul play in the unfolding of it all. One of the things I enjoyed most though, was the fact that this makes the previous episode about the Walt Disney like world make sense. If you read my review about that, I couldn't find anything relevant to it at all in the story. Now I can and that just shows how well the team behind the series developed it. Obviously if you are reading this you have probably watched the rest of the series and will pick this up regardless, but if for some reason you haven't seen any of it or just some, I cannot recommend it anymore. This is one of the best animes to come out in recent memory.

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 - PlayStation 2
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 - PlayStation 2
40 used & new from $11.93

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth the wait, August 17, 2007
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
Fans of the Persona series have had a long time to wait for this game, but it was well worth it. There are a lot of things that have changed in the game mechanics since Persona 2: Eternal Punishment was released stateside, but it works to perfection.

Persona 3 begins with a young man (you/main character) arriving at the train station at midnight. Shortly after getting off the train everything goes dark and all electricity goes out. He continues to walk to his destination undeterred by what is going on around him. There are no people in the streets. Instead, there are coffins. He arrives at a his destination; a dormitory for Gekkoukan High students. Walking in he meets a mysterious boy. Before you can learn anything the child disappears and a girl named Yukari comes in and nearly pulls a gun at you before she is stopped. Then everything returns to normal. The lights are on and everything seems fine. Welcome to your new home.

The people living in this dorm are part of a school "club" called SEES (Specialized Extracuricular Execution Squad). The purpose of this club is to destroy shadows. Shadows only appear during the Dark Hour, a time period that occurs between midnight and 12:01 am. Normal people are unaware of this and are "transmogrified" into coffins during this time. Those who aren't are either people with the power of Persona or have been chosen as food for the shadows. To fight against the shadows, SEES members use Personas. Personas are alter egos and entities that reside deep within the soul of an individual unbeknownst to them that can only be called forth under extreme conditions. Each character has one Persona, save for the main character who can house multiple Personas within him. In order to call forth a Persona, they use a gun-like object called an evoker.

Now, about the evoker. This is the point where a lot of people will shun the game or embrace it. When I said it was gun-like, well it pretty much is a gun. It just doesn't fire bullets. It is used by members of SEES to call forth their Persona to fight the Shadows. This is done by pointing the evoker at their head and pulling the trigger. This simulated suicide seems like it was tacked on unnecessarily to many, but I see it as a key point in the plot. In order to call forth a Persona, one must be in dire circumstances of emotion, under extreme stress, yet have a strong commitment and firm will. The emotions of pointing a gun (or gun-like object) at your head and pulling the trigger is a situation that does all those. Strong sense of fear, yet it takes enormous amounts of commitment and resolve to actually pull the trigger. So for those who say it is shameless and has no place, I think it fits with the story and overall feel of the game.

Now, to the gameplay itself. Those of you who have played previous Persona games will see that a lot has changed sonce the last installment. Now there is only one dungeon called Tartarus. It is only available during the Dark Hour (a period between midnight and 12:01am). The tower is made up of a couple hundred randomly generated floors for you to climb with access points every so often along the way for easy travel.

You encounter enemies in Tartarus by running into them on the map. All enemies are visible so you can avoid them if you see fit. If you can manage to sneak up behind an enemy and strike it first you will get a preemptive attack in battle, but the same works the other way around.

Battles should be relatively familiar to anyone who has played a MegaTen or Shin Megami Tensei game. Like all US releases in the franchise (except Devil Summoner) this game uses a modified Press-Turn battle system. The difference this time around is that you can only control your main character. Each turn you have the ability to change your Persona in the middle of battle to access specific skills you need on the fly. If you can exploit your enemies weakness you will get another turn. All your teammates fight based on their AI (which is actually very well done) although you can issue some basic commands to them as well strategy wise (conserve SP, support/heal, etc). When you exploit an enemies weakness they fall to the ground. If you can do this to every enemy at the same time you can rush them with all of your teammates and do increased amounts of damage. All in all the battle system is done quite well and as per the series norm, hitting the enemy where it hurts is the name of the game.

Pretty much everything outside of battle will be new to anyone who's played any game in the franchise. Since your main character is a student, you will still have to proceed with everyday life while fighting during the Dark Hour. The daily life sim is most comparable to a dating sim in respect to the fact that different actions will change some of your key stats (Charm, Academics, and Courage. The rest are decided by your equipped Persona). Each of these serves different purposes (Academics is crucial for midterms and finals).

The daily sim isn't just about stats though. You will get to know a wide array of characters by joining clubs, talking to friends from school and so on. Doing this will establish Social Links (S. Links). Each S. Link is alligned with a specific one of the 12 main Arcanas (types of demons/personas) and will effect the bonus experience you can give new Personas when you create them. Mixed into those 12 are 5 women that you can effectively date as well. Hence a large part of the dating sim reference. Every acquantance has a very detailed story that makes the relationship system well worth it and it can be just as involving as any game all by itself.

Your daily exploits along with your trips into Tartarus (you can go any night you choose except for story events) do affect each other though. If you spend to long fighting in the tower one night, you may become tired or sick the following day. As a result you may decide to sleep through class to recover and miss a chance to increase your Academics. You really do have to learn to balance out the two different worlds quite well to get the most out of the game. If you can do that though, you could very well be hooked.

Persona 3 definately isn't a game for everyone. Like all the MegaTen games, it deals with some heavy and potentially controversial topics that a lot of people will shy away from. All the Persona are taken from different world mythologies and religions with very few exclusions. Not to mention the constant imagery of highschoolers putting a gun to their heads everytime you go into battle. If any of that bothers you, then this isn't for you. But if you can deal with that and love well written (and voiced) stories and dialog, along with thought provoking issues, then you can't go wrong. The game is a unique experiece unlike anything else on the market. Each phase of the game (daytime/nighttime) really could be a standalone game by themselves they are so well done. So if you are looking for something a little bit different and engaging I can't recommend this game more.

Ergo Proxy, Volume 5: Terra Incognita
Ergo Proxy, Volume 5: Terra Incognita
DVD ~ Ergo Proxy
11 used & new from $4.94

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The stage is set..., July 22, 2007
Terra Incognita is the fifth volume of the anime Ergo Proxy. Throughout their journey, Re-L, Vincent, and Pino have encountered many hardships and had to deal with each others differing motives and desires. All the while traveling towards Vincent's home city of Mosk in order to try and bring back his lost memories. This volume sets the stage for what will most likely be a very revealing Volume 6, but doesn't give you too much info in advance.

Perhaps the most intriguing episode is the first on the disc (Terra Incognita) in which Daedalus and Raul (the Chief of Security) are thrust back into prominent roles that seem to be critical in the stories future evolution. The final episode on the disc (Episode 20) is perhaps the biggest enigma however as motives, desires, and dreams had by Vincent and Re-L become entangled in a way that can be very tough to follow. In a way similar to the episode on the previous volume involving the Dopplegangers, there is a lot of jumping around and while the finer details can be a bit tough to follow, the basic point is still made well and provides a great cliffhanger before the next volume.

There is one other similarity to the previous volume that volume 5 has. The fact that the third episode on it seems rather out of place. Whereas the game show episode from volume 4 gave you a lot of insight and backstory into the domed cities and the worlds decaying, this episode really gives no new insight into the story plot. It truly does feel like it is just a filler. It surrounds Pino alone in a city called Smile Land which is run by a hand sketched animator (who looks a lot like Walt Disney) named Will B. Good, or The Creator as he likes to call himself. I put a lot of thought into the purpose of the episode and it really serves no direct purpose into the story of Re-L, Vincent, and even Pino. If you can find one, please leave me a comment, I'd love to hear some ideas.

Overall, volume 5 sets the stage for what should be a revealing volume 6 (which may even be the last one since most anime are around 24-26 episodes). While there wasn't a whole lot of information directly revealed, there is a lot that can be inferred and hypothesized from this disc. In the end, that works out to be one of the strengths of the volume because it really does make you want to see how everything plays out. In the end it is quite good and continues the series outstanding production quality and story.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 7, 2008 12:14 PM PST

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Official Strategy Guide
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Official Strategy Guide
by Double Jump
Edition: Paperback
19 used & new from $19.99

29 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Definately not DoubleJump's best, July 18, 2007
DoubleJump has become renowned for its in-depth detail into all the charts and tables that it puts into its guides. Especially for the Shin Megami Tensei franchise. While it does those things well, it has been at the expense of the basics.

The guide is a treasure trove of information for all your demon fusions, items, spells, bestiary, and so on so forth. Everything down to all the optional sidequests and Social Link system. It lists all the events that can be taken during the day to increase specific stat levels and has recommendations on how to build up your character. The only problem though, is they left out anything about actually how the game itself is played.

It has pretty much become a player's guide convention that you start with the preface and then go either into the character introductions or basic gameplay controls features. DoubleJump seems to have skipped over these two sections entirely. While they do say how the game is divided between the day time and night time, they give no information as to how the game itself flows. Same goes for the characters and background story. They refer to all the characters by name in the guide, but without a reference pic to know who they are talking about, if you forget a name, you may get frustrated wondering who they are talking about. Granted this isn't the biggest deal since the good walkthrough and item infos are all present, but it still feels like the guide is incomplete.

Despite the plethora of information that DoubleJump is providing. They have overlooked some basic info that is in all guides. And while not integral to the guide, it doesn't feel right. Definately a step back from the amazing Nocturne and Disgaea guides, but substantial for what it will mostly be used for.

No Title Available

13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great device for DS owners, June 21, 2007
I was introduced to this product through a friend and decided to pick one up myself. Boy, was it a great thing I did. I absolutely love this thing. The R4DS package comes with the R4 card, a carry case, a USB flash drive (with input slot for the SD card), and the CD containing the manual and other programs that work with the card.

Essentially this item lets you download games and other media files and allows you to play them on the DS. For instance, a quick torrent search for DS Roms netted me a file that contained the entire US catalog of games released thus far. To transfer them, just plug your SD card into the USB flash drive and copy the file to it. Then place the SD card in the R4 disk and you're done. That's all.

The only negative I can say is that the manual on the CD doesn't always explain itself the best. There are some files in there that need to be transferred to the SD card before it'll work. That and some of the other programs that come with it you will barely even touch if at all. The only one that is really handy is the trim program that minimizes the file sizes (similar to converting music into MP3 format).

Overall, I love this thing. Once you get it set up, it is quick and painless to use. And with some of the deals that offer the 1 or 2 GB SD cards with it, you can't beat it.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 20, 2007 8:34 PM PDT

Ergo Proxy, Volume 4: Wrong Way Home
Ergo Proxy, Volume 4: Wrong Way Home
DVD ~ Ergo Proxy
Offered by insomniacsonline
Price: $9.38
12 used & new from $1.37

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The series that just won't quit, June 15, 2007
Ergo Proxy continues to grow more and more intriguing. Volume 4 begins to give you some back story as to how Proxy's were developed and what exactly caused the state of the world. Albeit while taking the form of a gameshow. While that episode in specific seems out of place, to those paying close attention to the questions and answers, there is a lot of information to get out of it. That however, is not the heart of this volume.

As another reviewer had previously mentioned, the first episode on the disc (Episode 13: Wrong Way Home/Conceptual Blindspot) will really grab you. It is focused on Iggy and his relationship with Re-L and the effects of the Cogito Virus. While I can't say too much for fear of giving things away, this episode will take you for a ride which will stick with you for the rest of the disc and probably the series. Nothing is the same afterwards.

Episode 14: Ophelia/Someone Like You takes place in a vacant city that is devoid of all life aside for what appear to be two dopplegangers. Easily the most confusing episode in the series (at first watch anyway), this is where we see quite a bit of Vincent coming into his own.

Episode 15: Who Wants To Be In Jeopardy/Nightmare Quiz Show is the episode I alluded to prior. While the odd episode in the group, aside from some backstory it doesn't really add too much to the overall plot. But it does provide a nice diversion from the pressing matters, if only for a short while.

Episode 16: Busy Doing Nothing/Dead Calm is my favorite episode on this disc. While many people would classify it as a boring episode, that is the point of it. There is no wind to move the airship so they are stuck in one place. Dwindling supplies and sinking moral, Re-L narrates this episode and we get a good look into her psyche and motives. By far the episode with the single most characterization.

Overall, it is a solid, well rounded volume. It starts off strong and draws you in, furthers the characters relations to each other, provides a nice diversion from the tension, then gives you one of the most insightful and well-thought out episodes in the series thus far. If you are a fan of the series, you won't be dissapointed. If you aren't, what's wrong with you? Get going already. This is one of the best series to come around in quite some time.

When They Cry, Vol. 1 , With Box
When They Cry, Vol. 1 , With Box
DVD ~ When They Cry
2 used & new from $149.95

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An anime with everything... for real this time, June 15, 2007
When They Cry is an anime that encompasses almost every facet possible. It starts off relatively cutesy but will slowly twist and decend into a violent sadistic world. All the while the tension is interjected with the return of cute moments. While at first it may sound like it jumps between different angles in some odd sort of plot just thrown together, it actually just heightens the tension within the viewer because it becomes hard to tell what is real.

The story revolves around a young man who has just moved to a new town and befriends a group of girls at his new school. He is somewhat forced to join their club in which they play games after classes to kill time. The loser must be humiliated (for instance he loses and they draw on his face with a marker to look like a cat). Slowly things turn a bit strange as stories begin to surface of the towns history. A history filled with murder, demons, deceit, and mystery. Who's involved? Who's safe? Who will be the next to die? The story keeps twisting and turning throughout.

Originally called "Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni" which translates more directly to "When the Cicadas Cry" the show is laid out in episode groups. Five or six episodes combine for one plotline and then the next set starts. Some new groups fill in gaps, others provide different angles or possibilities. It's up for a lot of interpretation. This is probably because the show is based off of a Korean Computer Game that was released episodically. As a result, the show reflects that in its presentation. But the art is beautiful, the story is ensnaring, and at 26 episodes long, I can't recommend it more. I rank it up in my top animes with Wolf's Rain, Hellsing, and Azumanga Daioh (yes I know it seems out of place but they are all similar to this show in a way). Stop reading now and start watching. You won't regret it.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 2, 2007 2:22 AM PDT

Ar tonelico: Melody of Elemia
Ar tonelico: Melody of Elemia
Offered by Douse Store
Price: $103.95
38 used & new from $44.95

41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not for everyone, but amazing if you give it a chance, March 28, 2007
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
Ar Tonelico: Melody of Elemia is one of the newest games to be produced by NISAmerica in collaboration with Gust Studios. The game follows the story of a young man named Lyner Barsett on his quest to save the city of Platina and the whole tower of Ar Tonelico from a deadly new strain of virus.

The game takes place in the a world that has twice met destruction at the hands of God and man. As a result only a small portion of land remains inhabitable. To solve this problem, the Tower of Ar Tonelico was constructed. The tower is composed of many sections having the poorer more agricultural folk at the bottom and the industrious technological cities towards the top.

The story begins in Platina, one of the upper cities. Here we meet Lyner Barsett, a knight of Elemia. As a knight it is his job to protect the tower from viruses that threaten to destroy their very world. When a new strain appears that is immune to all of the knights attacks, Lyner is intrusted to retrieve the Purger Grathnode Crystal from the lower lands and return to Platina. However, when his airship crash lands at the base of the tower, things become much more complicated as he meets many new people and will be forced to climb back up the tower level by level to get home. Hopefully in time to prevent its destruction.

There are only a few things that really help to define this game from other JRPG's. The most important of which being the Rayvateils. Rayvateils are basically androids or cyborgs (although they have the ability to reproduce so it has evolved into a substrain of the human species really) that have the ability to harness the spirits of songs from stones to generate powerful magic. You will meet several Rayvateils along the way, but there are two key ones that will shape the entire story (there is another, but it'd be a spoiler), they are Misha and Aurica.

You use the Rayvateils magic in battle in a slightly less conventional way than you might expect. You select the magic for her to use and she will begin casting it. She will continuously amp up the power of the spell until she runs out of MP (or you tell her to cast it) for devastating damage (you can easily amp the power to 10,000% on some early bosses). All the while you can have up to three regular humans attacking in the traditional ways.

Thus far, everything seems not to different from a regular RPG. Then you find out there is a complex dating-sim-esque mechanic that is essential to building up the abilities of your Rayvateils. Since they are part machine, there are places called Dive shops where you can go into the subconscious mind of your Rayvateil and help her work through her demons and scars from her past. By doing so, she will use the strong emotions built up and pent up to craft new spells. It isn't all that simple though because she will not let you delve into the deeper levels of her mind until she grows to trust you and your intent. By having conversations with them at rest points and a few other actions, you grow relationships with your spell casters that allow them to become more powerful. This is truely the heart of the game and is the main reason I purchased it in the first place.

Aside from the relationship system, everything is none to different from other RPGs. Although the text heavy portions for the relationship scenarios is apt to turn several people off. Unless you are a fan of bishoujo games (Japanese dating sims), some more dramatic animes or movies, or are just willing to try something unique that hasn't been done to this extent before, you may want to steer clear. But for those of us who love having things really driven by story, characterization, and the relationships between the characters as opposed to just nonstop action, I cannot recommend this game any more.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 3, 2013 4:05 AM PST

Curse of the Golden Flower
Curse of the Golden Flower
DVD ~ Chow Yun-Fat
Offered by Media Favorites
Price: $7.63
177 used & new from $0.01

5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One of Gong Li's greatest works, March 27, 2007
This review is from: Curse of the Golden Flower (DVD)
Curse of the Golden Flower is a brutal and beautiful look at the inner court of a Chinese Dynasty. When distrust and ill-intent creep in, the stage is set for a powerful and gripping masterpiece.

Anyone familiar with past works of Zhang Yimou knows they are in for a visual masterpiece. Curse is no exception. The use of color that Yimou is so well known for is apparent throughtout with vibrant and awe inspiring locals, backdrops, and costumes. Truely one of his greatest visual works.

The story is not quite as convoluted and twisting as those of Yimou's past works (Hero, House of Flying Daggers) and lays itself out relatively early. That isn't to say it doesn't have its share of twists. It is more about the personification of what the knowledge of the situation does to the members of the royal family. Why they act as they do. And how they plan to resolve everything, each in their own way. An amazing work of characterization capped off with solid performances from the main cast of characters.

Chow Yun Fat plays the Emperor to perfection. He is cold and calculating, while remaining a sense of majesty and humanity despite some of his actions. The three princes are portrayed wonderfully by some very competent actors. Especially the roles of Prince Jai and Crown Prince Wan. As the movie progresses the roles of the princes begin to become far more than you could ever imagine and family lines are drawn as sides are taken.

But out of all the wonderful astetics and performances, nothing outshines Gong Li. Her portrayal of the Empress is absolutely breathtaking. Gong Li is known more for her dramatic roles than those she has in action movies and I was worried initially, but she really doesn't take part in any of the action and her full abilities as a dramatic actress are on display to be seen. Harnessing various emotions ranging from pain, suffering, loss, heartache, and anger, Gong Li crafts a character that is to be admired and adored by all. This truely is one of her greatest works ever.

Overall, Curse of the Golden Flower is another amazing movie by Zhang Yimou. The only reason I did not give it 5 stars is I personally expected more story. While the story that is here is wonderful and really draws you in, I think maybe I may just be jaded by Yimou's other masterpieces of the last few years. Still, it should be no reason to prevent anyone from seeing this movie. I can't recommend it enough.

Ergo Proxy, Volume 2: RE-L124C41+
Ergo Proxy, Volume 2: RE-L124C41+
DVD ~ Artist Not Provided
5 used & new from $0.98

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It draws you in with complex beauty, February 12, 2007
The second volume of Ergo Proxy continues to devulge bits and pieces of information that left you scratching your head after the first disc. Now that Vincent is in the outer world after escaping the domed city of Romdo, he is constantly being searched for by patrol vehicles from the city. As a result of the increased patrols the people living in the commune come to distrust Vincent and factions begin to form. All the while Re-L continues her search for the truth behind the existence of Proxys. Knowing that Vincent is the key to unlocking the mystery, she leaves the city withouit permission to track him down and bring him back. But the outside world is full of disease that is capable of killing a person within a few days if no vaccine is given. This is the basic setup entering the first episode of this disc and everything continues to change and evolve from there. What are the proxys? What does Vincent have to do with their appearance? Some answers will be given and some more questions will be raised.

The only downside to the series thus far is the lack of character progression. Although after viewing the second disc there are signs that information is just waiting to be devulged. It provides us with Vince's growing instability and soul searching, Re-L's relation with her grandfather who runs the city Romdo, the objectives and motives of technical officer, and Re-L's friend, Daedalus, and the desires of the ruling council of Romdo. All are set up for major revelations but nothing has been given yet. As a result, just as things start to come together, we are left hanging until the next volume is released. While not everything is laid out for you, Ergo Proxy continues to devulge its secrets at a pace that keeps you crawling back for the rest.

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