Archive for Rants

The Great RPG Debate: My Perspective

This post may contain some facts, but mostly my opinions.

I am proud to be a female gamer, and even more proud to say that the RPG genre is my favorite game genre of them all. Being an aspiring writer and fan of general literature, I appreciate well-developed characters and epic storylines. As a gamer, I appreciate well-developed gameplay and that triumphant feeling of accomplishing something after working so hard at it (anyone who has ever played an RPG knows that feeling of finally beating a boss after fighting it, losing, and then returning after hours of grinding. So, so satisfying). So it makes sense that I would take to RPGs as well as I have. However, the term ‘RPG’ has changed over the years.

When I think of an RPG, I think of what is known as a Japanese RPG, or JRPG. In the past several years, we have seen the advent of Western RPGs, or WRPGs, which include games such as Fable and the Elder Scrolls series. American game designers took some strong elements of JRPGs and applied them to their games in a way that completely split the genre.

Once again my good friend Jon over at JANAiBlog inspired me to speak out about this via his own recent blog on the topic. He specifically referenced an article from IGN that all but floored me when I read it. This article claims it has the top 10 ways to ‘fix’ JRPGs. In my opinion (although the article claims this is not its intention), this list should more appropriately be titled ‘Top 10 Ways to make JRPGs Just Like WRPGs’.

That, my friends, completely defeats the purpose. They are two completely separate things for a reason, and the 10 things this article claims needs to be ‘fixed’ are old-school trademarks of JRPGs and, in many instances, those trademarks are what makes them so much fun to play.

In his blog, Jon specifically spoke about the way towns are laid out in JRPGs versus the ‘open-world’ format that is so popular in WRPGs where the player can literally wander around everywhere without any map borders. While WRPGs have lots of houses, stores, and other things you would typically see in a town, JRPGs usually just have a weapons and/or armor shop, an item shop, a magic shop (if magic exists in the game), an inn, and maybe 2-3 houses filled with relevent side-characters, NPCs whose words can help flesh out the story and enrich the game experience, or are just chock full of goodies to steal. The IGN article referrs to this as a ‘static’ world and complains about the oddity of prices getting higher on items the farther you venture from your starting point.

What this article seems to fail to acknowledge is that those things are what make an RPG feel so satisfying. As you continue on the story, monsters get stronger, so they drop better items and more money, and so the items offered in those areas increase in quality, and so their price goes up. Is it unrealistic? Sure. I want to move down south some day, and I guarantee you that most places down south are cheaper than where I live in New York. Not every place you venture to in real life is going to offer better-quality stuff and higher prices. However, this slope of increasing difficulties and rewards is what makes you really feel like the game is evolving, and it shows that you are making progress. I know I’m doing well when my crappy dagger gets upgraded to a long sword and damn it, that’s the way I like it!

Given, the things mentioned on this list do seem ridiculous nowadays when back in the day they didn’t seem so weird, and I think there is a reason for that. A lot of focus on games, especially in America, has turned to realism. American gamers want to play a game that feels like they’re really there, like it could really be happening. The advent of things such as motion controllers is also indicative of this.

In the times we live in where the economy is crumbling and people are losing jobs, a lot of people are turning to video games as a form of escape and, in fact, I have seen several articles pop up in the past year or so claiming that video games are very good for dealing with these kinds of stress (This desire to ‘escape’ also bleeds into non-gamers, which led to the boom of casual gaming, but that is a whole other discussion, so I will digress on that point). I think it is largely because of this that a lot of those not-so-sensical JRPG clichés, like walking into a strangers house and taking his secret stash of potions, were disposed of and are now being seen as bad game design by some people and that just isn’t fair to say, if you ask me.

Sure, maybe someone wouldn’t be seen as a ‘hero’ if they survived their journey by using items they stole from strangers’ homes. Clearly towns don’t just consist of 3 homes, an inn, and a few stores. No, people don’t have genetically blue hair. So what?

Long story short, these JRPG cliches may seem stupid to some, but they make sense as far as gameplay is concerned, and they are part of the JRPG culture. It’s like being a fan of cheesy horror flicks; yes, some of the devices used are old and worn-out in some people’s opinions, but thats what makes the genre so great. They’re defining marks of what makes that genre what it is, and while everyone has a right to say they like or don’t like something, I get very irked when people equate their dislike of a game mechanic to poor gameplay or bad game design. That just isn’t right, it doesn’t always work that way. This article does acknowledge this to a point, but it still says that current JRPGs are bad for, and I will quote this:

conform[ing] to the standards that were acceptable on consoles that are now two or three generations old.

I think this is just horribly unfair. Take a look at an excerpt directly underneath the quote above:

Don’t be mistaken: we love JRPGs — we want them to do well. But when games on the PS3 and 360 are following Super Nintendo rules, something just has to change.

Does it have to change, really? The Castlevania series still produces 2-dimensional sidescrollers where you collect different items, fight the same kinds of monsters, and eventually kill Dracula in the end. Are you going to tell me they’re bad because they ‘conformed’ to the same formula that the series used on the NES? That is just blasphemy. In fact, in Castlevania‘s particular instance, I would say the opposite is true, because whenever the series attempted to deviate from this motif and tried to update the series by making a 3D game, it bombed. Hard.

I understand where this article was trying to come from, and it does raise one or two promising points (I would most certainly love to be able to save anywhere, but I also enjoyed the race of making it to the next save point before I had to go to bed, it’s a classic JRPG component) but I think that it either wasn’t thought through properly or just wasn’t executed correctly.

I realize that this post turned into more of a rant/review of the article itself, but I think this also pretty much covers my general feelings on the JPRG/WRPG debate, which is simply this: They’re both different animals, trying to compare them is fruitless, and the modern inventions of the WRPG do not make JRPGs bad.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some Final Fantasy VI to go play.


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Rant ~ Kimi ni Todoke

In my extensive blog about the state of the anime industry, I gave several suggestions on how to use fansubs properly while still supporting official releases. I was delighted when my good friend Jon of JanaiBlog took my ideas to heart and started holding seasonal anime samplers. He lists whats coming out this season, everyone that will be attending votes for which shows they would like to sample, and we go over to his place and watch an episode or two each of the shows that garnered the most interest. It’s fun and exposes everyone to anime they would not have normally tried.

At the last sampler Jon hosted, one of the shows we watched was Kimi ni Todoke. We only watched one episode, but by the end of it, my friend Alicia and I were (embarrassingly) squeeing like fangirls, and while Jon was changing over to the next anime, we talked excitedly about going home, checking out the rest of the show, and hoping that it somehow would get licensed in America. We were instantly hooked.

A few weeks later, I finally had enough down time to try and scour for some more episodes. I found them, and fell more and more in love with the series as I watched. I finally was all caught up at episode six, but by then, my perspective had changed.

You see, Alicia and I had been the only people at the sampler who had enjoyed Kimi ni Todoke. Even after the sampler, I got a lot of flack from Jon and my other friends for loving the show so much. Everyone thought it was a generic shoujo show, and I believed (and still do) that it was unique in many ways. I couldn’t understand everyone’s hatred of it. However, the show absolutely sabotaged itself in those six episodes. How, you ask? With the one thing that everyone that hates this show hates it for: Sawako.

Now, I am known for my hatred of main characters in anime. I can love a show to death but absolutely dispise the main character. Seiya from Saint Seiya makes me want to tear my hair out. Usagi from Sailor Moon is downright irritating. I wanted to pimpsmack Mirai from Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 more times than I could count. I generally avoid main characters at all costs and instead delve into the other characters in the show, and it’s very rare that I find myself even being able to stand a main character let alone actually like them.

Now, let’s talk about Sawako.

I adored Sawako at first. She is extremely relatable. Everybody can remember what it felt like to be excluded as a teenager. Each and every one of us has had at least one moment in our younger years where we were teased, bullied, or laughed at. We’ve all had our points in life where we felt lonely and just wished for someone to talk to. Sawako embodies all of the pain, happiness, confusion, and frustration of being a teenager and trying to find your own inner-strength. She was an excellent main character for the show.

Then, she opened her mouth.

At first, the stuttering, crying, and unsure re-asking of questions (“You really like me? Really? REALLY?”) were fine, and very indicitive of what Sawako was meant to portray. The problem is that they made her do it every time she appeared on screen. The stuttering turned into what could be misconstrued as some kind of mental disorder, her crying turned to whining, and the funny, coincidental miscommunications between her and her newfound friends were happening several times per episode. In fact, I almost dislike Sawako’s two female friends (who are so memorable that I forgot their names!) as much as I do her just because they are so thick-headed that I almost started screaming at my computer screen.

I was still fine with all of this because after a few episodes, it began to die down and Sawako started acting slightly more sure of herself, which is normal, good characterization! However, once the above-mentioned misunderstanding occured and made Sawako’s friends think she hated them and was spreading rumors about them, she regressed so hard that it made my head spin. Mostly because I was slamming it against my desk. Seriously Sawako, didn’t you just realize that speaking your mind was the best way to go, like, in the previous episode? Did you forget already?

As shown by my initial acceptance of Sawako’s behavior, I think that these annoying traits can be very tolerable when used in moderation. For instance, Tohru from Fruits Basket is one of the few main characters that I do love, but her constant self-doubt can get annoying at times. In fact, I thought that Sawako was very much like Tohru at first, and I think she still would be if she wouldn’t display these behaviors so often.

Now that I think about it, the problem here may not be so much with Sawako as it is how the creators used her. They seemed to be going in the right direction at first, but they lost their way somewhere within those first six episodes. I would love to have a discussion with these creators about how they handled this poor girl. In fact, if I wrote them a letter, it might look something like this:

Dear Creators of Kimi ni Todoke,

I understand that Sawako is unsure of herself. I understand that she is scared, and frustrated, and in love, and is trying to deal with these new emotions that she is feeling. I understand that she wants to be friends with everyone very badly, and that making those first steps towards that is something that fills Sawako with fear. I understand that she is lonely. I understand the she is awkward. I understand that she is emotional. I understand that the kids in her school talk about her behind her back. I understand that her name sounds like Sadako and that she looks like the character from “The Ring” with the same name. I understand that her classmates also drew this correlation and like to make fun of her by calling her Sadako. You did an excellent job of showing us these things through actions and back story.

Now, stop telling us all of this over and over again. We get it already. Really. I promise.

Seriously. Stop it. Right now.

Love, Gina

In the world of writing, there is something called exposition. Exposition is the process of telling a viewer or reader something about the story through actions, or relevant dialogue, or a flashback scene. When done correctly, it is executed in a way that doesn’t feel forced, awkward, or out-of-place. Kimi ni Todoke accomplished this, yet didn’t seem to realize it and felt the need to try over and over and over and over again to tell us about how severe Sawako’s problems really are.

It was as if the creators baked us a batch of chocolate chip cookies and said ‘here viewers, try this. They’re chewy and sweet and delicious!’ So, we took a bite or two and said ‘wow, these really are chewy and sweet and delicious!’ The creators then took the entire batch of cookies and shoved them down our throats, saying ‘NO REALLY. TRY IT, YOU’LL SEE HOW CHEWY AND SWEET AND DELICIOUS THEY ARE!!!!’ We got that from the first few bites. There’s no reason to overload us with more cookies to prove your point.

Now, I can’t stomach another bite. I have ceased watching Kimi ni Todoke. Will I ever watch it again? Maybe. It’s entirely possible that I may pick it up again sometime in the future. I still want to see how everything will end, but I can’t imagine watching this show in doses of more than two episodes at a time. I think I’d go crazy.

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Sub Versus Dub: My Perspective

There has been a lot of talk about anime subtitling and anime dubbing lately. This has been because anime companies have been releasing a lot of titles in America that are sub-only. A lot of people have gotten up-in-arms about this issue and have started reacting very passionately; anime fans are normally very serious about what goes on in the industry. Everybody seems to have been chiming in lately, so I have decided to put my opinions in the mix as well.

I’d like to start off by exploring exactly why so many companies have been releasing their licensed titles in sub-only form. The American economy has basically tanked, and the anime industry has of course also been affected. Still not following? Let’s take a brief look at some of the basic things you need to pull off a dub:

  • Casting the dub, which includes hiring producers, ADR directors, and other behind-the-scenes crew, then putting in the time and money to hold auditions and pick a cast.
  • Hiring lawyers to draw up confidentiality contracts to make sure that the voice actors won’t talk about the project before they are legally allowed to (I assume that is how this is done, I may be wrong).
  • Record the dub, which includes paying the bills to run the recording studio, then paying each voice actor money to spend several hours a day in a booth saying lines over and over until the ADR director is satisfied with them.
  • Post-production, which includes paying people to edit the voice work together, calling back in voice actors and paying them AGAIN to re-dub anything that didn’t come out or that the director isn’t satisfied with, and laying the English vocal track over the animation.
  • Dub advertisement, which includes paying voice actors to attend conventions and the like to promote the title that they dubbed.

Keep in mind that the above steps are IN ADDITION to the following:

  • Paying translators to translate the Japanese language track and opening and ending theme songs.
  • Paying editors to create and format the subtitle text, time the subtitles correctly, and then finally lay it over the raw Japanese footage.

You can clearly see here that producing a dub is far more expensive than producing a sub. Everybody in America is struggling with finances right now, and this is the reason why many companies are deciding not to dub the titles they acquire. They also have very little funds coming in from products due to anime pirating, but that’s another issue that I’ve discussed previously, so I won’t repeat it here.

Now that I’ve shown why the industry is turning to subs rather than dubs, allow me to go into my personal opinion on it.

I personally love dubs. I’m a huge fan of voice actors and the industry. I love meeting voice actors, asking them about their craft, and of course as someone who doesn’t understand Japanese fluently, it’s easier on me to hear voices in my native language speaking from my screen; I can watch an anime while I run around and do things rather than sit in front of the screen and read.

However, I also am a huge lover of subs. I love seiyuu, and I love seeing different Japanese culture references in my anime, which often get lost in localization. I also love how Japanese sounds to the ear, and I enjoy picking up new words and phrases in Japanese. It’s an immersive cultural experience, and I’m one of the few people I know who actually don’t mind having to read words on the bottom of a screen.

So yes, I am a fan of both, and no, I’m not ragingly angry about American anime companies turning to subs. Why? Simply put, I’m mature enough to understand why they’re doing it. I know that they are short on money, and I’m honestly glad that they’re at least bringing these titles to America rather than just closing up shop and fully denying us the anime we love. I will continue to support official releases and do my part to ensure that these companies will still be here when the economy turns around so that we can once again see a day where dubs are commonplace. That’s my stance.

I’ve read some blogs lately that have discussed this issue, and I wanted to quote some parts for them here to give my opinion on some of the things said in these blogs. The Golden Waste released a blog about this issue that was rather harsh towards dub fans in my opinion. Here are some points I wanted to discuss.

It wasn’t until May 2009 that Bandai’s solicitation for July 2009 would include the sub-only Hayate [The Combat Butler] and at a steep price that only made people even more furious. It was 7 episodes for $39.98 suggested retail price (SRP). Many cried that it should have been more content for the price…

…And those people are immature, uninformed saps. Anime is overpriced because people keep pirating it and not buying official releases, which forces companies to up the prices to make a profit. It’s simple logic, people. Maybe if those people stopped complaining and started buying, their next favorite anime wouldn’t be offered to them at a sky-high price and it might, just might, have an English dub. Just a thought.

Sentai Filmworks had launched yet another major battle when they announced in the October 2009 solicitations that they had acquired Clannad After Story, He is My Master and Ghost Hound. Once again, the communties cried foul and moved on, ignoring the fact that ADV Films must rebuild their catalog and make money before even thinking of dubbing again.

THANK YOU. This is one of the few things in this blog that I agree with. These companies must make money in order to be able to afford dubbing again, and rioting against them or boycotting them is only going to be counterproductive. I cannot drive this point home enough.

But here, ladies and gentleman, is where I put my foot down.

[Dub fans] believe every anime should be dubbed in English. Oh please. These people need a reality check. Badly. Dub fans still have Funimation, Viz and Media Blasters to rely on for dubs, but how long can they really take on the financial losses? Get a dose of reality English dub fans, because at this point, you should be looking for a new hobby or adapt to the changing market. You don’t get what you want anymore. Got that? Good.

First of all, as a dub fan, I’m annoyed by the fact that this person lumped every dub fan into a group of only a few that seem to spew anger all over the place at the dub versus sub debate. I agree that money must be pumped into the industry to produce dubs once more, I’ve said that several times here now, but the way this person phrases it is downright rude and immature. There are better ways to inspire anime fans to support official sub-only releases than insulting them, trust me.

I’d also like to point to this blog, written by a good friend of mine. He is also a huge dub fan and while he checks out anime online, he buys official releases mainly for the English dubs. He is also angry at the loss of subs, but unlike some other people, he’s handling his opinion in a mature manner.

It’s not that us dub fans don’t understand why the companies are doing this. It is simply the fact that it frustrates us that so many great series’ are being “wasted” through a sub-only release.

I understand that frustration, and as someone who loves voice actors and hearing English dubs, I agree with you. What I love about Jon, the writer of this article, is that he still wants to buy these sub-only releases, because he recognizes that not buying them is only going to make the situation worse. This is the mentality that I think more anime fans need to have.

Now, after reading both of these articles, The Golden Waste made another blog replying to the strong response they got from the first blog I mentioned. There’s a part towards the end of it that I want to bring to attention:

Dub fans need to stop complaining about the sub-only releases and tearing apart all the communities and causing a rift.

I find it funny that he accuses dub fans of ‘causing a rift’, yet this blog has caused more controversy than I’ve personally ever seen over this issue. Nobody is tearing any communities apart here. This person is taking this issue way over the top, where it doesn’t need to be. This person is also continuing to be very rude to dub fans. I understand that this particular blogger has a very blunt style of speaking, and I respect that, but if you’re going to be rude and blunt, you’re going to get the same in return.

So, there you go. As a fan of both dubs and subs, I’m sad to see that dubbing has begun to fade out due to lack of funds, but I’m also smart enough to understand why it’s happening and supportive enough of the anime industry to continue to do my best to support official releases, whether they be dubbed or sub-only. I hope that one day the industry will build itself back up to the point where we will have dubs for every anime once again, but until then, we must fight to keep the industry alive, and that requires action.

Buy official releases. Buy official products. Encourage others to do the same. If you’re going to refuse to do these things, then you, in my opinion, have no right to complain about the lack of dubbing or funding in the American anime industry, because that makes you part of the problem.

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