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From eroticism to job ethics... thought´s and dillemas from an exiled artist wannabe.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Pr0n is on your mind...

Disclaimer: This post contains questionable content, so if you feel offended... do yourself a favour and grow up a bit before surfing the internet.
Some days ago, scrambling in the ideological melangerie that is BoardGameGeek i found a very interesting post by a very active user of the comunity when regarding games with fanservice.
The comment itself was refering Tanto Cuore, a deck-building board game with an anime theme where you are a mansion master and have to employ your maid staff. And, like anything involving maids and anime, the game offers the classic fanservices of the trade. 

Simon Lundström (Zimeon) answered the post of a user wondering why people feel disturbed about games with suggestive depictions of men/woman.

"Running the risk of sounding obnoxious, I think what people ACTUALLY have something against, is the fact that they're drawn. It's considered unhealthy to be attracted to fiction. Or something."

Simon stroke true in one of the concepts that has always bothered me about social apreciation for suggestive art (i´m not even saying erotic).

The offending cards from Tanto Cuore
For some reason, our society considers that is morally acceptable to behead a man in 3d full definition but not to show some skin... okay that is something we´vegotten through in previous posts here at Missing Spagonia. But once we get to actually show some skin, most bystanders consider that it´s acceptable to have photos or videos of girls/boys in suggestive poses for recreative purposes (we´re animals after all... how can´t we be attracted by an attractive member of the opposite sex?). But if the same exact same poses are drawn, the situation changes a bit...

Some months ago I was talking with a fellow colleague at work and showed him some of my drawings (the SFW ones)... his comment, while I knew was just mocking me, caught me off guard:

- Oh, so you´re one of those guys who faps to drawings?

The comment directly implied that being attracted to drawings was invalid. It was not healthy. Probably it would stand somewhere dark in the plethora of filias between S&M, incest and even maybe Zoofilia.

Why is it that being attracted to artistic depictions of humans is not as valid as being attracted to a video or a photo? Photos and videos are a newborn technology compared with the thousand years of tradition of sculpture or painting. Seduction through art came a long way before kids could go to the news-stand and convince the shopkeeper to sell them a Playboy under the clandestinity of a hoodie and some dark glasses.

Who decided from one day to the other that feeling attracted to drawings was wrong? I mean, come on... do you think that 50 Shades of Gray sold that much due to it´s profound literature? Drawings, as well as writing are the basic ways the human expresses feelings that he cannot voice out loud. Through art and literature we give birth to fantasies that usually are not possible or morally right in our society. They are a way of transgression that reaches to our most primary steps in Maslow´s pyramid of needs

Before there was video, or photo, even pencils or inks, there was human imagination! Those were the good times for pr0n... where everything was made possible by your mind. In your mind is where arousal lies, floating in the fluid liquid of emotions next to fear, love and hatred. We can be scared by books! We can hate throught poetry! We can express indignation or even dignify gods through drawing! Feeling aroused from a drawing is a natural reaction too. Art is just a conductor. The pr0n lies in your mind!

Different knifes for the same bread

On the same lines above, another discussion on BoardGameGeek, this time on KanzumeGoddess. Many people stated that strangely enough, when playing games with suggestive depictions, the most adverse reactions are from the male sector in the table.

Let me put you in picture... you walk into the table and find a guy and a girl playing this game. Both of them have these cards in front of them. How will they react to the passer by?

Let's see who is ashamed...
Well, girls are by now more than used to see sugestive depiction of girls (i´m not saying they agree to being depicted like that, just saying that they are more confortable around them). Guys on the other hand seem to feel quite more unconfortable: What if someone comes by and sees me with this scantilly clad female on my hand? What he/she would think of me? Would he/she think i´m into drawings?
Guys shift and shuffle on the chair, not because of the drawing making them ashamed, but instead they are ashamed of an external passerby perceiving them as depraved or immoral. They will be probably okay playing this alone or at home with close friends, but they would not dare to play in a cafeteria or bring it to a new player group witch they are not yer acquainted with. 

Oh... so you're into THAT!
Girls usually don´t have that problem even when holding cards of seminaked males, because no one would usually would associate the ideas of girls+onanism (yeah, girls masturbate too, but for some reason society seems oblivious to that), and usually fanservice is not targeted at them (which i particularly find stupid because everyone knows that rabbid fangirls are the most powerful force to reckon in the universe, just look at the absurd sale numbers of products targeted at them).

Also, when girls have suggestive products, they are so proud of showing them that it makes me equally proud for them for having the courage to admit publicly they are not ashamed of showing they like their fanservice share. 

Going back to the double standards, the same is also applied to sculpture. If we glance at the miniatures of Kingdom Death Monster´s survivors.

Oh... that's some sexy... paintjob!
While it is clear that the four figures are "dressed" exactly with the same amount of nothing if you show the models separately to a bystander the reaction would be probably on the lines below:

Male models: Oh, those are some cool sculpted minis. You are going to paint those?
Female models: Teehee... now i know why you were interested in this game!

Summing up, it´s no longer important why did you get the miniatures in first place, the public opinion will always see females as a sex fantasy object and taunt you by exposing that you might be atracted to something inanimate, something that ironically has been a valid standard in human culture for thousand of years...

So if you are one of those people who squirms in the table, or is ashamed of playing games with suggestive themes i strongly suggest you revisit your core values. If you like the idea or what it implies, it doesn´t matter if it´s art, book, or whatever media you are using, you shouldn´t be ashamed of it. If you are aroused or attracted by suggestive art, it means that the author has reached his goal with his art piece. By negating that is condemning the author to ostracism and not recognising that he did an awesome work: Transmiting the pr0n to your mind!

Monday, July 22, 2013

PWN: Combat Hacking - An iOS review

Sometimes among the sea of mediocrity of the appstore you can find some little jewels that grab you for good. This is the case of PWN: Combat Hacking, a game I got when it was free for a day and I got so engaged by its magnificent simplicity that now I feel bad for not having paid for it.

What is this all about?

PWN: Combat Hacking is a game about… (suspense music) - hackers. In a future world controlled by corporations, these professionals are highly valued both to protect and to do black ops for the benefit of these corporations. Thus, they stage great tournaments to find the most promising ones and offer great contract deals to the winners. Some others though enter the tournament with more shady motives.

There are 8 main protagonists to choose, each one specialist in one of the 8 different abilities of the game. Each one starts with his unique skill and in a Megaman-esque way needs to beat all the other 7 characters to unlock their abilities and finally make it to the tournament finals.

Optik Scanners are the best in the game. Beat her and she might teach you to use them.

The game

Each game of PWN features a network of interconnected nodes. Victory is achieved by either completely suppressing the other hacker´s presence on the network or by controlling a certain number of main computers that may be present in the network.

To do so, all the players have the ability to capture nodes. Simply by taping a node adjacent to a node you own a capture percentage bar will start to load until you take control. Neutral nodes are faster to capture than the opponent´s, and if you have more than 1 node connected you will also gain speed multipliers to any capture. On the other side if you lose the attacking nodes capture will be interrupted.

Having more than a node will double or triple the capture speed bonus. Encrypt that node!!

It is important to note that this capture percentage stays on the node even if you abort capture or are forced out so a later attempt to capture will start from the previous capture percentage.
Additionally, if any of nodes are isolated from your main network, they become vulnerable. So detecting weak points in the anemy network and exploiting them is one of the main strategies of the game.

Adding Spice

With that the game would end up being pretty basic, but then the 8 abilities come into play adding a lot of flavor.

Encrypt: Adds a second capture bar to a node, harder to remove, thus increasing the time needed for capture. It is vital to secure chokepoints, and if applied to a node being captured it restarts the requirements for capture, thus being a good counter to capture. If it gets isolated from the network though, it will be easier to capture.

Overclock: Overclocked nodes increase passively your capture speed and are good at capturing encrypted nodes. The bad thing is they also speed up virus spread on your network and if the enemy captures them they keep the overclocked bonus so it´s good to keep them out of reach.

An overclocked node in the frontline is usually a heavily disputed position.

Spike: Spike targets adjacent nodes and disconnects them from the network for some seconds. It can be used aggressively to split your enemy network in half and attack the isolated nodes or on your own network to prevent capture of critical positions. However spike doesn’t affect Encrypted nodes.  

Virus: Viruses target a set of adjacent nodes and start a simultaneous capture. If any of the nodes falls to the virus It spreads to the adjacent nodes. The virus can be cleansed by touching the infected nodes, but as the capture percentage stays, using scanners to “heal” the nodes is critical or else a second or third virus could cripple half your network. Viruses cannot capture or spread to firewalled nodes.

Backdoor: Backdoors are placed on enemy nodes and by all effects they always count as adjacent to your network so you can start captures or launch attack skills through them. They cannot be placed on Firewalled nodes though, and they can be detected by Scanners.

Firewall: Firewalls block Viruses, Backdoors and Trojans to access adjacent nodes so they are a defensive ability. However if a firewall node is capture it is not destroyed but it changes allegiance so it´s important to place it far from your opponents reach. Also, Spiking the firewall node will leave the adjacent nodes vulnerable again while the firewall is down.

Axiom's mastery of Firewalls proves too much for Phantom´s Backdoors

Trojan: It´s a Trap!! – Set a trojan in a node, and when the enmy captures it…BAM. You keep the node and take with you the attacking nodes and maybe some other adjacent. They are an excellent way to capture overclocked nodes without the hassle of tearing the cryptography and If you manage to do it this way you will keep the encryption for yourself when you capture the node!. Trojans can be detected by a Scanned though and are easily deactivated when the enemy is aware of them.

Scanner: Scanners remove enemy presence from your nearby nodes, effectively “healing” the nodes. They can also detect Trojans and Backdoors so they are a very efficient defensive tool. However, as Firewalls and Overclocked nodes, they change allegiance when captured so you need to keep them away from the front lines.

Thinking out of the node

The game can only be described as frenetic. It´s like having to play rock paper scissors lizard spock with ten hands simultaneously. You have to keep guessing and assessing the situation in real time and thinking of effective ways to counter or lock down your opponent into submission. And even though, just one error can mean defeat, so it´s a very intense game where nothing is decided until the last second.

Even cornered, Paragon still has a chance if he manages to split Cipher´s network in two.
Many times I had victory at my grasp when I detonated a Trojan and lost half my network, leaving the weakest areas exposed. Or a rogue virus broke havoc into my heavily overclocked network. On the other hand I also grasped great victories by crippling a superior enemy with a well placed Spike.

To make things harder, PWN networks are in 3d, and, while most of them can be usually seen completely from a certain angle, giving you access to all the nodes in a glimpse, there are  some exceptions, and maps like Diamond or Axis will test your nerves as you will have to change camera view  by spinning and twisting continuously to grasp everything that is going on in the network a la Minority Report.

Endless Fun

Overall the experience is challenging and fun. The campaigns increase in difficulty and offer an incredible amount of different network patterns with their chokepoints and weaknesses and while some will favor different playstyles, in the long run, only the most aware hacker will be the only successful. The AI is also very good and makes for a great challenge, adapting to your strategies and effectively punishing you for playing recklessly.

The only major problem I saw in the game, after all my playtroughs is that the AI on games where you do not have full map vision is very difficult to beat. It´s a bit frustrating to fight a fast responsive machine opponent when you cannot see the blows coming or can´t clearly discern where the nodes are connected. The most grievous injury is the use of Virus in these maps: you will rotate spin and turn frustratingly to have visual to the nodes that are half hidden while the virus spreads and you can´t just tap them fast enough.

Even though, this ended up feeling like a challenge. You see, every map you beat is unlocked to your collection, so if you want to be able to play on that network later, you need to beat the AI. So in the end it feels like a boss fight with a small reward… and there are achievements too… who wouldn´t like some achievements?
So... many... maps!

Summing up

If you like games that make you think and test your fast reflexes, get PWN. You will not be disappointed. It´s a game with a lot to offer in a very simple presentation and that will keep you grabbed to your ipad for hours to come.

You will like it:

  • If you are into fast strategical thinking.
  • If you always wished hacking was like in Hollywood movies.
  • If you are used to have a cube as a best friend.

You won´t like it:

  • If eye-hand coordination is not your forte.
  • If you get frustrated easily by challenges.
  • If you always thought Encryption was the name of Superman´s dog.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Sid Meier's Ace Patrol - A dogfighting experience review.

There was a time in my life, after finishing my degree in aeronautical engineering, where i became a true fanatic of aerial combat. Inspired by Wings of War and Dawn of WWII boardgames i started to look after books, tv series and games that would instruct me in the noble art of dogfighting without ever entering a cockpit.
Air simulators were too complicated and couldn't easily represent cooperative maneuvers unless you played online, boardgames were too slow-paced and couldn't handle big fights easily, arcade fighters were too light on representing g forces and the difficulty of certain maneuvers... Today i want you to meet the game that at last gets the best of the dogfighting experience in a small priced tag package, courtesy of one of the biggest game designers in the business: Mr. Sid Meier.

The game

Ace Patrol is set during WWI: during the dawn of combat aviation. In the game you will start as a rookie pilot in a certain squadron of one of the 4 nations in the conflict (British, French, American or German) and will be taking a series of missions through 4 campains were you will have to shift the tide of battle in favor of your country by performing attack and defense missions across the front.
Your pilots will progressively evolve as the war goes on and they score downed planes, learning new maneuver sets like drifts and rolls to enhance their moveset or ace maneuvers like the Immelman turn or the Wingover to outwit their enemies... But the enemy will also evolve so it's important to keep your rookies safe and out of the enemy ace sights.
Show me your moves!!
Defining the mission you will take on is also part of the strategy of the game. Some missions will require more pilots than others, require faster or sturdier planes, some may give more points or be set in enemy territory... Missions in enemy territory will cause your pilot to be captured if he is downed or crash lands, so sometimes you'll need to gauge the risk of keep fighting or risk to lose a squad member for several battles. 
Remember, a hero is the man who survives to claim revenge, and there is no shame to flee from the battlefield if the odds are against you. One of my favourite missions so far pits one single pilot of yours trying to deliver a lethal payload to an enemy base, against 3 sturdy german planes. Fighting is not a sane option, so you will have to take your best ace and make severe use of the clouds and erratic maneuvers to evade and outwit your pursuers and the antiaerial fire until you strike the base, and then make it safely back home.
Choosing your mission is your first concern. As choosing wrong and losing may start a chain of losses due to unavailable pilots.

The action

Action in the game is turn based but still fast as it's cleanly and cleverly implemented. Your planes always act in the same order and will show you their available moves on the hex grid that makes the battlefield. Selecting any of the movement arrows will show you a card with a visual representation of the maneuver and a series of icons stating the properties of your move (climbing, diving, evading, high speed, rolling, etc...). The game will also present you in a different color the moves where you have clean shots on enemy planes and a green cross will mark the point where you can do maximum damage.
The grey arrow indicates an unavailable move due to orientation or speed of the plane.

One of the things that I like the most about this game is that the available moves shown to you correspond to the plane reality, so if you banked hard left on the previous turn, you wont be able to make any turn right but you will instead be able to skid left as your plane is slightly rolled. On the same way, you wont be able to loop if you are not flying straight at high speed or wont be able to force a stall at high speeds... So basically this is not like one of those arcade aviation games where you are free to move wherever you are pleased, whenever you are pleased.
By the way, as i said on the intro, the fact that you control all the squad makes possible and really fun to pull classic cooperative combat maneuvers like the Scissors on the enemies, or use your more mobile and evasive pilots as baits to trick the enemy into offering their six for a heavy damaging shot.
How to guarantee your enemy has nowhere to run 101
The battlefield features areas of cloud, where planes are invisible and can't be fired into, as well as areas protected by AA fire where you wont like to enter or you'll want to lure your pursuers into. This only two terrain features are enough to turn the tides of many battles and play an important part of the dogfighting mindgames. 
And if strategy fails... dive into the fuzzball!!

Replayability and other cool features

Replayability is one of the main selling point of this game. Even if you don't buy the other nations packs, you will have 4 different starting pilots with various abilities at start, and all your pilots will be upgraded differently from time to time... Missions available are varied enough to not feel repetitive and to add an increased variety, the enemy squads rotate randomly so the enemies in each mission are always determined randomly from an available set.
Also, the pilots portraits evolve as they are promoted and their kill count increases, but also they change when they are downed, injured or captured by the enemy.
Thank god Immelman is not flying today. 
Another cool feature is the possibility of watching the battle replay without pause after the battle ends, displaying as a continuous movie you will get to feel more of the awesomeness of the maneuvers you just managed to pull. It's a real pity though that this replays can't be saved or shared, which would be nice in an update. Also, fixing the camera in the replay would be cool as it sometimes it jumps too fast between places and you lose sight of the action.

Replays are a cool way to check your mission faster and in a cinematic point of view.
The game also offers 5 difficulty settings that you can choose at your base after the tutorial missions. Each will upgrade the enemy AI and give you a bonus multiplier on your missions. Currently i´m playing in Ace difficulty (medium) and the game starts to get challenging from campaign 2 onwards. Not only because of the difficulty of the game per se, but because having a downed or severely damaged plane will leave your pilots out of the next battles. If you have 2 consecutive losses you might see yourself out of pilots and unable to challenge the enemy on the next missions. 
This is cool because it makes you think more about your pilots safety so you won´t be taking excessive risks, and many a time you will prefer to skid or roll away from a chase in order to save you from a wingman targeting your 6. 


The game is free to download and play for the first campaign. From there on, you will have to decide. If you want to keep playing as the brits, you will just have to make Mr Meier 1$ happier. Surely though, once you have cleared the first campaign and seen what the game has to offer you will probably be buying all nationsa in the 5$ pack. If you are a true fanatic of WWI dogfighting, you might even want to buy the aces. At a dollar each, they are special skins for some of the planes, featuring the ace pilot with a special ability or set of maneuvers from the start. So for example you can buy Max Immelmann and start the game with a rookie Immelmann that already knows how to pull his trademark Immelmann turn!

Additionaly, there are 3 one time 1$ upgrades that buy you field hospitals and heal all your downed pilots, reducing future injuries in 1 battle each. This means, buying the 3 will reduce the time of healing from 5 to 2 battles. After losing some pilots you might see yourself considering this ones too.

The various planes of every nation have different performance.
You will like it:
- If you love dogfighting and combat aviation. If you are a Wings of War or Dawn of WWII player, this game is a must have for you.
- If you are looking for a turn based strategy game different of what you've played before.
You wont like it:
- If you are looking for a campaign with a lot of storytelling involved.
- You need the feel of the cockpit view to savour the kill.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Voyage of self-improvement

Sometimes in life you have to make a stop, step back from your path and watch all you have done so far to understand where are you heading, or why are you even heading that way. I guess it´s a little moment of introspection and selfdiscovery you sometimes have to dive into to set up new goals for your next steps.

Lately, due to my exile situation i kinda felt like i was letting myself fade from the general view. I was so troubled with external problems i didn´t left time enough for my self-improvement, so i decided to invest a bit in myself and my external world visibility, both personal and professional. 

Through the last weeks i discovered lots of interesting websites that caught my attention and i decided to share with whoever is in need of a bit of self-loving.

Coursera is an online e-learning platform that allows you to partake in classes of international universities, from your home, whenever you want, free...  Yeah, not joking. It´s not everybody that has time or money to afford higher education this days so this option comes like a blessing for those like me who still want to learn something but want to do so while on pajamas at home.

An example of coursera´s course offering.
While the offer is great, I didn´t found any appealing course until some weeks ago when i enrolled in two courses that have resulted in a very engaging and interesting experience. Strategic Innovation on Organizations, from Vanderbilt University and Gamification, from the university of Pennsylvania. The professors are very knowledgeable and provide clear explanations and interesting debates, and the best point is i don´t feel like i have that pressure from taking lectures at the university. I really recommend any of you willing to learn something new to head to coursera to check out all they have to offer.

I found accredible through a fellow coursera colleague. Accredible is a really new platform (in fact it officially launched this week) that allows you to create online catalogues of information for the courses you have taken. The original point is to prove you actually did that course to a possible employer, but it also doubles as an efficient place to store your course notes and assignments.

An example of Accredible certificate.

The page is still new and they still have some improvements to make but they seem to be heading on the right direction.

I highly recommend you give it a try, especially to those who do online courses in platforms like coursera, as is a good place to  store online the info without the risk of getting your notes lost in your closet or HD. Highly recommended too if you want to enhance your skills visibility for possible employers.

Smarterer is a collaborative website that produces tests about different skills and bases the difficulty of the answers in the amount of people who managed to answer them correctly. This way provides tests that scale in difficulty with your level for a variety of skills.

An example of a Smarterer Scorecard

The point is that the test grades your level on the skill and assigns a point based value, displayed on a badge on a scorecard that you can share with others, for example, in LinkedIn (which is currently integrated) to show others what your skill level truly is instead of just have your personal word on it.
Also, highly recommended for you guys looking for a new job.

About.me is a service that offers you a simple, visual homepage where you can centralize your online presence. It can be linked to all your social media accounts, your blog, and some other nice features like your Smarterer scorecard. It´s ideal if you are looking to have a place where people can find you or your work with ease. I´ve already created my page and i plan to use it as a signature for emails and blogposts.


I hope all this pages are useful for you as they are being for me. I´ll try to post some more webs and apps that I find interesting during this voyage of self-discovery. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Phantom Breaker: Battlegrounds - A chibi review

Phantom Breaker Battlegrounds is a recently released addition to the plethora of beat’em’ups currently available at the Xbox Live Arcade.  With magnificent Pixel Art visuals and good chiptune music, he delivers a lot of fun for a small price. Apparently the game is a sequel/spinoff to Phantom Breaker, a title currently on hold on the American market and in risk of being cancelled, so it’s good that we at least get to see a bit of this new franchise in this game. 

From the very moment you enter the game you will see that comparisons with Scott Pilgrimvs the World will be unavoidable, as the game offers the same high quality pixel art, and the menus and HUD look practically the same. What sets aside both games? Well, both have their highs and lows, and while they look tailored to the same audience, you will feel that having one won’t necessarily set you appart from playing the other.


Phantom Break is set in a hypothetical Japan where young ones have received powers and weapons from an unknown entity called Phantom, urging them to fight with promises of various wishes. The use of those powers affects the space-time fabric, causing Phantom to release itself into the world. Battlegrounds is set after the events of that game, where Nagi, the sister of one of the protagonists is kidnapped and the team needs to rescue them facing Phantom’s minions on an alternate mirror dimension of Japan.


Unlike Scott Pilgrim, gameplay in Phantom Break is based mainly on combos and special abilities. No items to grab and throw through the screen. Instead all characters have a weak, medium and strong attack button commands, plus a special attack command. Combining those leads to insane combos that can be button mashed or tailored to your needs depending on how you feel like playing. 

Punching through enemies is fast and furious... specially if you play Cocoa.

Button combinations will also trigger special abilities like ranged attacks, blocks, counter attacks… Doing defensive abilities is easy as usually involves pressing an attack button at the moment of the hit, which probably you would be doing anyway, so overall the game feels more accessible to players all ages and doesn’t feel as technical and punishing as Scott Pilgrim once you know the tricks of the trade. 

The stage is set in two depth levels where you and enemies can switch back and forth during gameplay. This helps minimize the frustrating feeling of pixel-guessing while trying to hit an enemy that is not in the same plane as yours as it happens in some free movement classics like Streets of Rage. The system has his flaws though, and it does not exempt all cases: Flying enemies do not vary enough in size when switching as to know when they are in the front or later row, so you will see yourself jumping like an idiot a lot on some stages. Also, as the game goes on and enemies grow in size, the front row can virtually blackout the back row vision witch can leave you helpless to enemies ganging on you from unexpected sides. 

If you go to the back line when facing big enemies you are pretty much blindfighting.

Story and Game Pace

While the story is not the main point of the game it helps the game moving forward with a nice pace, and helps alleviate some other faults of the game. Humor is always present and various emotion animations created especially for the characters during their story interludes are  nice and help build up a bit on the characters personalities in a game that has not much room for that.

Sadly, some internal jokes or info on the series seems to have been lost in translation and you will see yourself wandering why Cocoa doesn’t want a random demon egg smashed, so far as to sell her allegiance, or some puns impossible to translate like the “Panda Cocoa” joke late in game.

The four starters feature different playstyles and a lot of Moe!.

The game also suffers from a very weird plot decision that lead to a completely anticlimactic development:  Somewhere near the end of the game you will face Phantom, M and Cocoa together in a rooftop, in a very climatic scene that could have been a nice game ender, to be then thrown into a labyrintic maze that lags down the game pace, and later into a monotonous background cave with an easy final boss never before introduced during the game plot (still being a major antagonist on the main series).  This makes the last stages a bit of a disappointing ending for a game that was really fun and engaging.

Character Design and Progression

With 4 starting characters, plus 6 unlockables and some crossover DLC characters coming in next days, the game offers quite a lot of variety when choosing your chibi maiden in distress. Every one of the girls (and guy) features 10 color schemes to choose from can be switched later on.
All of them look distinctly different both in design and gameplay, especially once they start to unlock their special abilities. Thus you will have some fast hit and runners like the shuriken throwing Yuzuha, some who prefer grabs and rush-down tactics like Cocoa, or range-keepers like Waka and her sister Nagi.  

Characters will level up based on the amount of red drops of experience they catch while fighting. This will allow more points to be distributed on their character sheet, with 3 stats and an ability progression tree that, while being the same for everyone, will perform very different on every character, depending if he favors combo or special abilities. The best of it is that the skill tree and stats are customizable between stages, so if a certain configuration didn’t suit your needs you can just redo it for the next game.

Let's see... how I'd like to mince my enemies today?
This gives the game a lot of replayability and a more distinct feeling to the characters so changing characters does not just feel like switching skins, but actually a gameplay style decision.

Visuals and Music

The game visuals are stunning, without doubt. While the menus are simple, the characters and backgrounds have a lot of detail and personality, especially on the city stages, where you can lose yourself admiring all the pretty details in the background. On the other side though, some of the last the stages do not have as much variety and charisma in their backgrounds (yet are still impressive to behold as a pixelart masterwork). 

Look at that store in the background!! It looks so good you´ll actually want to be there!

Enemies are pretty varied as well offering a range of various variations in each of the designs, not just a pallet swap. While the first monsters modeled after nerds and ganguro girls are somewhat strange, the evangelion-esque demons or the shrine maidens appearing later on are very cool.

Music is good old chiptune, it plays nice and gets you into the atmosphere, but by any means manages to rival the awesome music that Anamanaguchi composed for Scott Pilgrim vs the World. I don’t particularly remember any stage music, what pretty much says that the music isn’t that memorable.

Closing Comments

Overall, Phantom Breaker is a great game for his price. Though it feels somewhat shorter than his most direct counterpart, the amount of variety in characters and customization totally makes up for it.

You will like it:
If you are an old school gamer or have a passion for anime graphics.
If you enjoy cooperative games, be it couch or online.

You won’t like it:
If you are expecting a long and entwining story.
If you are too young to understand the beauty of pixelart and chiptunes.

A DLC is set to be released this month featuring...  Kurisu Makise!! A treat for Steins Gate fans!

Monday, February 18, 2013


Well, i guess it's time t start with season 2 of Missing Spagonia, and i'm doing so with a recommendation of a great series that is running this season.

Sasami-san@Gambaranai follows the story of the hikikomori girl Sasami, after which the story is named. She lives secluded in her room dwelling on the internets for most of the time while her brother Kamiomi teaches at a local school.

Nothing would be notable if it weren't because Sasami and Kamiomi are heirs to the power of the godess Amaterasu, which can shape and twist reality to their user's will. This is not explained until episode 2 and not clearly identifiable in episode one wich makes the first episode very random and fun to watch, as lots of weird shit start to happen for no apparent reason, reminding of the classic Gainax anime Furi-Kuri.

Nothing says insanity like unwanted appendages.

During the following episodes the series goes on various explanations that clear everything up, from the insane situations to the strange incestuous relation between Sasami and his brother or even Kamiomi's habit of covering his face with the most ridiculous objects at hand.

Kamiomi using her innate ninja ability for hiding in plain sight.

The action in the stories is provided by the three Yagami sisters (named after the three godly treasures of japan: The sword, the mirror and the magatama). This trio of godly origin try to maintain order in the city and protect Sasami from the chaotic situations that their powers cause.

Peace through the use of superior firepower.

The animation in the series can't be qualified less than superb: Beautiful colors and textures, mixed with lots of artistic effects make for a delightful experience that surely will make lots of anime appreciators shudder in pleasure.

The animation is also notably better than most animes nowadays and the combat scenes look both dynamic and spectacular, but still perfectly readable so you always know what is going on scene.

Sasami´s attempts to escape her seclusion are among the best animated on the series.

Overall i'm having a great time watching this series and i hope for new episodes to be released.
Sasami-san @ Gambaranai is a breath of fresh air in an anime industry that has seemed very stale in the last years with very few notable animes worth mentioning.

I'm having really high hopes that this one will set a new benchwark and pave the way for new high quality animes.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Cynthia: The mission - a manga review

Cynthia the mission is a martial arts shounen i had my eyes on for quite some time. Some weeks ago i managed to find some time to read it and i must say it has surprised me greatly... for the most unexpected reasons.


Cynthia revolves about a teenager loli who works as a hitman for the HongKong mafia. As heir of the family business and kung fu techniques, Cynthia was trained by the best assassins his old grandpa could pay for, mastering infiltration, espionage, gunfight and sword-fighting.

After the mafia sends her to japan to finish off a rival mafia leader, Cynthia's team is eradicated by a mysterious fighter, leaving her as the lone survivor. While investigating about the mysterious assassin, she loses her will to fight and instead tries to leave her past behind by becoming a regular student, and finding a bunch of new friends, each of one as dangerous fighter as she was.

Obviously, it doesn't take long for the Hong Kong mafia to want Cynthia back.

Assasins come to retrieve the loli in a regular basis.


The problem with Cynthia starts at the very title. This isn't a manga about Cynthia but about the awesome characters she meets in japan. As new characters are entering the scene you realize all of them are way cooler and have more interesting stories that the hitman loli, making Cynthia progressively slide out off the fighting scene. 

Both good and bad guys have some story to tell... even that faceless guy.
 A split personality girl who hides a killer boy inside (responsible for massacrating Cynthia's team), a high school Banchou girl, a teacher heir of an ancient mind controlling technique, a pro-boxer...
All of them have cool stories and design and can match in strength or even overpower Cynthia. Additionally, they have a lot of starring time as the manga focuses heavily on long flashbacks from times where the loli was not involved. 

This goes for foes as well. With original yet interesting designs and enough story to make you really care for them. You will really feel bad when the bad guys are trashed or die.

Violence as a narrative resource

While not being over the top, Cynthia shows good artwork and well drawn fighting scenes. The art is clean and kinetic lines do not disturb the flow of the story, that is generally bright, shifting constantly between tension and comedy,

The love story of the boxer and the banchou grabs you  right from the start.

Some people may distance from this title as violence is plenty, brutal and explicit in Cynthia.
Bones are painfully broken and some organs may even find it's way out of the bodies from time to time. This added to the fact that most characters are ruthless assassins or completely psycho gives a lot of room for painful imagination.

Losing your virginity... the painful way.

But, while other manga show violence just for the sake of violence, in Cynthia violence is instead used masterfully as a plot hook that keeps you grabbed to the reading.

For the first time in my life i read a shounen where wounds feel real. Bones are not magically restored, organs do not come back and scars are there for you to know the beating the character has taken... And of course, death is death. 

Characters carry with them every single scar they have taken from the beginning of the series to every next appearance, and those scars that were made before will probably be explained in a later flashback. After every fight they will usually spend some time at the hospital and, as real athletes, they'll have to train to hone the skills that have rusted while inactive on bed. 

Most characters won't fight more than 3 or 4 times during the series, mostly due to being through recovery or aware of the risks of the fighting. Even Cynthia who is a veteran killer is later revealed to have performed around 13 assassinations only (not counting collateral henchmen damage). This makes your heart come to a stop when you see some of your favorite characters (or even villains) are stabbed, disfigured or maimed. You know every wound will be there for the chapters to come... Or might end with the character at once.

Whose mission?

Cynthia is kind of strange when it comes to protagonist roles and drama point definitions.

During the first volume Cynthia is a cold blood killer, not having any remorse or doubts when having to kill her former master in her very first mission in the series, a scene that would probably be much more impressive if it was left for later.The interest of the author in starting the manga with this seems to hint he wanted to reinforce this dissafection for life, but in the very same volume Cynthia turns unexplainably to be an innocent lamb and lose her will to fight just because a bunch of unknown henchmen were killed.

Well... maybe having her brain turned to dust had some impact.
From volume 2 to the last in the series she only takes part as the main character in 2 major plot line fights, as she basically avoids most combat and she was not present in japan during the numerous flashbacks. This creates a bizarre situation as you end up having no interest whatsoever in Cynthia and she becomes just an excuse to tell everyone else's story.

During the following chapters her story seems to be stalled until the appearance of her sister who sets up the final story arc, and by then you kinda have let go already on the character. This makes Cynthia progressively fall back as a background comedic character, losing all the appeal she should have as a reliable and strong shounen character, which is a pity.

Summing up

Cynthia the mission is a great manga but it suffers from an inconsistent main character. Thankfully compensates with a thrilling story for secondary roles that pack lots of charisma.

Art is great and combat vicious and thrilling, so if you are into shounen manga and you don't mind the bloodspilling, you should really give it a try.

You'll like it:

If you like combat to be thrilling yet credible.
You grow attached to characters.
You like your blood with a dose of humour.

You won't like it:

If you don't like excessive violence.
You like to follow just one main story.
You looking for a rememberable main character.

The country of fighting? Seriously?