Katawa Shoujo

See our Katawa Shoujo articles for every one of the paths in the game! Did you like them? Share your opinion!

Anime and Manga

Find reviews and opinions from new and old mangas and animes.

Game Reviews

PC, consoles or mobile devices. Find here my last reviews and insights.

Board Games and RPGs

From the table to mobile devices!

Thoughts

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

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.

Plot

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.

Characters

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?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Neuroshima Hex - A board game Review


One of my favorite board games is getting a new ios app update: Featuring the newest army Steel Police Neuroshima Hex number of armies rises to a grand total of 9!! 

If you haven't give it a try yet, now it´s a great time to start!!

The game

Neuroshima Hex is a polish tactical board-game for 2 to 4 players based in an obscure polish RPG called Neuroshima and has gotten a pretty successful adaptation for iOS and Android. The game sets us as the commander of a post-apocalyptic army during conflicts for supremacy on the barren wastelands of a devastated USA.

Neuroshima’s premise is simple: the good and old “kill’em all”. Translated to game mechanics:  you have to tear down your opponents headquarters, or be the one with more life points remaining when the dust sets.
The battlefield is set on a small board of hexes where players will have to set their troops and maneuver to overpower all the opposing armies into submission.

Each turn, the player will receive at random 3 hex “cards” from his stack of available resources. They will then choose one of them to be discarded and up to two to be used or placed on the board. Any hex not used or discarded will remain in your hand and since you draw until having 3 hexes in hand there is really not a solid reason to hold on to them, so you pretty much always play 2 hexes per turn.

3 tiles... yet so many options.
Battle hostilities will only start when a player plays a “Battle!” hex from hand, or when the board is full, so you are never quite sure when battle can begin unless you play the battle card yourself. This forces you to always be wary of every movement and placement on the board as to react accordingly and keeps the tension always high in a cold-war like style.

Battle

Every troop hex has one initiative stat, and may have a various number of attack powers in every facing of his hex, as well as some special abilities. This makes positioning and facing crucial as you may be a monster facing one certain direction and a harmless hex while facing  the wrong side. 
When battle starts, attacks will resolve in decreasing initiative order. Starting with the highest initiative, all hex will attack their targets and place damage, when all of them have attacked, damage will be calculated and casualties will be removed from the board before proceeding to the next initiative tier. This means controlling initiative is a crucial point of the tactics in play, as you can eliminate potential threads before they are able to attack and harm  your much powerful but slower units.

Each troop and army has a different flavour, fitting various play styles.
Some hexes have special abilities, giving extra healing capabilities, extra attacks or initiative boosts for the troops around them, while some play as instantaneous effects that allow you to snipe enemies, nuke them or even make them turn cloaks.

Multiplayer

While the game plays the same for all armies, factions are asymmetric and their troops and special actions are usually focused to enhance one type of play. Thus, faction specializations vary from close combat, to ranged, to mobility… some even have the ability to turn enemies into their own troops!

This makes the game very dynamic, and due to the randomness factor of the hex drafting, you will rarely see a typical pattern that players stick too. This makes it more a tactical game that strategic, as you cannot plan in advance and are always reacting to the very specific conditions on the board. This also means that a significant amount of luck is involved though, which may annoy some players. 

The game features 4 different armies, but there are lots of expansions which further the choices.
The design of the board is one of my favorite points of the game due to its deviousness. By being hexagonal and tiny, players can’t easily position themselves symmetrically and can’t flee from the fight. In 4 player games, the board gets crowded very fast, and as many hexes have multiple attack sides, there is no way that you can maintain alliances or non-aggressions. Everyone is forced into a battle royale, and being like this for everyone people don’t get so upset when you target them.

Overall:

A fun and fast game to play. It will keep you coming once and again until you try all different armies and manage to get a hold of their strategies, and even then you still be coming back just for the mindless fun of a 4 player game battle royale.

I definitely recommend this one for people used to tactical games, but i should not throw it at casual gamers as may probably scare them off. Also purist strategists may find it unappealing  due to the luck factor and the fact they can´t plan in a long term focus.

You will like it:

If you are into some fast thoughtful fun.
If people who hide in multiplayer games annoy you.
You like collecting expansions

You won’t like it:

If you can’t focus on more than one thing at a time.
If you like long term strategic planning and a luck based draft sound too casual.
Post-apocaliptic settings scare you.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Groove Catch for iOS - Small review



This last weeks i´ve been spending some time with rythm games on the ipad so i´m gonna make a small review of some of them that have caught my interest.

Groove Catch

Groove Catch is a fun game that features lots and lots of cool music to play with. 4 modes are available all of them played on portrait screen mode.

In the first two ones, notes appear on the screen while a line marks the tempo going top to down on the screen and reappearing back on top at the end.  When the tempo line hits the notes you have to activate them to count toward your score depending on your precision with the timing. On one mode you touch directly on the notes on the screen (like Ouendan or Elite Beat Agents) while on the other a small keyboard at the bottom of the screen is your activation method, in a gimmick to Guitar Hero/Rock Band.

Anime graphics are plenty. Including that chibi version of Cutie Pai´s Vocalist.
The two others are a bit different and instead become a Catch game where you have to get as much of the falling fruits and ice cream as possible. The modes are in fact variants of the same game which different control modes, be it touch or tilt-based.

Groove Catch features 3 difficulty modes for each track, but also tracks range a lot in speed which also increases difficulty. This that should be a good point is kind of confusing as you will find that even in easy mode some tracks are insanely difficult! To make things worse, when you start missing some notes an alarm sound starts to play and the screen starts to blink in intense red: result it’s even more difficult to see the notes and hear the tune when losing, effectively killing you for good. 

Where is your skill now?!
The game features a lot of music from indie Japanese bands, with very diverse music styles that will send you from the Vocaloid tunes of Hatsune Miku to the rock of Broken Doll and back to the j-pop of the girl band Cutie Pai. Some electronic tunes and even gothic can be found for those fans of Ali Project.

The game is now priced at 1$ (it was 3$) and has 14 playable tracks (the developer has already promised 5 more on the next update), and 14 more buyable DLC tracks – At 1$ each. (With more to come, too).  While it does not seem very different proportion from other music games. The fact of seeing so many locked tracks in a game you have already paid for kind of makes you feel like you were tricked. I think they seriously need to place a store somewhere in the app to leave the locked songs there, as it gets annoying to have them mixed with the songs you bought already.

The game and the store being mixed is quite annoying.
As a side note, the developer offers the possibility for other indie bands to feature in their game and get them to be known, which I find to be a very nice symbiotic initiative. The game also enhances this by publicizing the artist´s itunes albums, so if you like the tunes you have quick access to a place where to buy it.

You will like it:
If you are into japanese music and vocaloid.
You like insanely difficult rythm games.

You won’t like it:
If high pitch voices annoy you.
If you don't like being continuously rubbed in the face the DLC you don't want to buy.


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Busou Shinki: First Impressions



While i´m aware this season is going to be one of the weakest when it comes to anime releases i had to give some of them a chance at least, so my first pick was Busou Shinki.

While i´ve always liked the Mecha-Musume theme, the last animes on this issue didn´t make the cut for me. I was really disapointed by Infinite Stratos who forgot about battles and degenerated into a harem, a bad one even. So i´m kinda hoping that Busou Shinki doesn't turn the same.

Busou Shinki comes with a premise very very reminiscent of Clamp´s now vintage anime Angelic Layer. In the future, people has access to 15cm dolls (Shinki) that keep them company and  make chores. Some people suit them for combat in arenas where tournaments occur, this warrior dolls are thus called Busou Shinki. The main character has been living outside japan and now returns with his 3 busou shinki, to start a life alone as a highschooler in his childhood home.

The hamster in the house is kinda funny.
Judging from the first episode, the series expects to focus more on the dolls point of view that the master´s one, and we get to see how they deal with their daily lives and struggles, with some combat scenes to maintain the combat doll idea in an otherwise low paced presentation episode.

The quality of the animation in the battle and action scenes is great and i hope it isn´t just because of being the first chapter and we see more of this on the future ones.

Combat scenes are fast and beautifully animated.
On th other side of the spectrum the opening and ending scenes are nothing worth even mentioning. The opening music (Install Dream) is not  really appealing and the animation is also quite generic, so don't expect to be seeing them more than once.

My first impression on the chapter´s plot is so-so... while the animation is good the theme does not seem promising and the characters are very plain. At first glance you can already see the personalities of the girls without even having said anything.

I kinda liked the design of the middle girlñ But you can tell she's a tsundere miles away.
I'll probably give a chance to chapter 2 or even 3 but still has to improve substantially for me to see this through it all.



Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Queen’s Blade - Hide and Seek - A manga review


After reading Sundome i was in need of something new to spend my bus trips with and I was glad it took me no time in found Queen’s Blade: Hide and Seek. If you are familiar with anime you should know by now that Queen’s Blade, together with Ikkitousen and Seikon no Qwaser are probably the paramounts when comes to erotically charged anime.

I know that there is a lot of people who is taken aback by this constant nudity and never even give a try to the series. And that’s a pity because Queen’s Blade has a decent story and some cool character designs, created by renowned japanese illustrators.

Thankfully Hide & Seek fills the void to provide the best of Queen’s Blade to a Teen rating audience, changing eroticism into comedy.
Elina is paired with a dubious crew on a new revision of the story.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Sister

For those unfamiliar with the series Queen’s Blade story revolves around a fantasy land where every 4 years a new queen is elected to rule the kingdom. Such Queen may be a girl from any race or class condition as long as she manages to win in singular combat the actual Queen.  However, to earn the right to fight the Queen, the aspirant must first win the Queen’s Blade, a tournament where the strongest girls from every part of the kingdom gather to earn that honor.

Aldra, the reigning Queen and champion . Though in this series her role is secondary.
Hide & Seek is set during the events of the first season of the anime. Unlike the main series, who follows the ascension to power of the wanderer warrior Reina, daughter of the Vance Earl. Hide & Seek accompanies the story of her little sister Elina as she searches for Reina to bring her back to her duties as heir to the Vance household.

During her journeys, Elina herself will meet some of the cast of the Queen’s Blade tournament like the Iron Princess Ymir or the Dark Elf Mercenary Echidna, as well as some new characters created exclusively for this series like the knight apprentice Florelle, that will aid Elina on her quest, as she gets dragged to participate on the tournament.

Claudette and Ymir form the relationship that will lead to the events in Queen´s Blade: Rebellion.

Characters

I must confess that when I thought of Elina as the main character I wasn’t really thrilled about it. She was one of my least favorite characters in the series universe, mainly due to being very plain character (in a place already filled with one-dimensional personalities).

Elina was vicious since child.
This manga though, while not increasing much the character deepness, looks at Elina with an augment glass, magnifying all her extreme personalities into comical exageration, especially her catlike behavior. She is short-fused and arrogant, prone to mindless aggression and with almost zero consideration for any other than herself and her family… basically, a cat in girl dress…or a cat dressed as a girl dressed as a tiger to be accurate.

The rest of the cast mostly enacts their same roles of the main series with the notable exception of Ymir that is quite childish and a weakling; though through the series she will evolve to fit their anime persona.   
Claudette, and Echidna get a lot of scene time too, so if you are fan of this two you should probably look forward to read Hide & Seek.

Less nipples, more chibis.

Hide & Seek breaks the norm of the house by reducing the nudity considerably. While there are some ecchi scenes, specially once the perverted Echidna tags with the group, you won’t be seeing the usual cloth tearing and gratuitous panty shots that are a stapple of the anime.

Instead humour and chibis are all over the place introduced by some recurrent gags, like Elina’s unhealthy passion for sausages, or her ability to snap into a trance state where her mind becomes one of a cat for a certain period of time when conditions are met.

Ymir also is part of most of the jokes during the first volumes, as she is treated like a child until she gains strength to make herself respected. It is true that some of the jokes are still sexually oriented, but being otherwise would deny the very essence of many characters inside jokes (like the pantylessness of loli half-elf Nowa).
We caught a glimpse... of something secret.
Despite this, this change of perspective opens the series to a whole new target audiences, and I know for sure that some girls have given this a chance and liked it. It kinda leaves me wondering if the anime was done like this would have hit higher demographics and wouldn’t be discriminated as sick otaku material.

Fight!

The manga features fights aplenty and they grow in number and intensity as the Queen’s Blade grows near at the apex of the series.

Unlike other manga protagonists, Elina is not a fair fighter. She is ruthless and savage in combat, with no mercy even for her friends, and always fights at her best, never holding back. This makes her combat scenes some of the best of the manga, as she pulls moves you wouldn’t expect from more “noble” characters like Nowa, Reina or Claudette.
Another one bites the dust!
While some minor fights of the tournament are played on the background most of the important fighting is given attention. Those are well narrated and illustrated in detail, so you can actually feel the rhythm of combat as swords clash panel after panel, and the clean artwork let’s you clearly understand what is going on without having to look twice.

Also, unlike the anime, Hunt & Seek is more interested in showing impressive fights than clothes being torn so no more bizarre camera angles or nipple-shots.

 Overall

Be it that you are a Queen’s Blade fan or not, I really recommend you to check Hide & Seek if you are into shounen manga.


You will like it:
If you are looking for a light shounen with sexy girls, but you are not into mindless fanservice and hentai.
If you are a Queen’s Blade fan (a must read if you are into Elina, Claudette, Ymir or Echidna)

You won’t like it:
If you thought the nipples and pantyshots were the best Queen’s Blade could offer.
If the idea of lesbian incest does not seem like a valid plot hook to you.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Torchlight 2: First Impressions



While I’ve never been a fan of the Diablo franchise, I was a great fan of the previous Torchlight, so I was really looking forward to grab the new Torchlight 2. 

With some friends we grabbed a 4-pack as soon as it hit the Steam store and got down to business.

Back to Torchlight… now with Multiplayer

One of the things we most repeated while playing Torchlight 1 was – “this game is so frigging awesome, pity it doesn’t have multiplayer…” – Well, now that suffering has come to an end. Torchlight 2 does feature multiplayer, and does it well. My first multiplayer game was a 7 hour marathon with very fast response and no lag whatsoever.  This was one of the critical points to me, as the battle speed in Torchlight is frenetic.

My first choice to delve back to the dungeons was an Outlander. The ranged, was my first class in Torchlight and I recall I loved the ricochet shot mechanic. So I tuned up a bit my visuals, got my pet (a ferret) ready, and dropped to the lobby where my two friends were waiting. Just then I noticed one of my friends had grabbed an Outlander too. So we ended with two Outlanders and a Berserk in the group.
My second character, a sturdy Engineer girl, with a fellow Outlander friend.

Character Customization

The first thing I loved in this game is the great amount of customization of the characters, either via items or skills. Despite we were having two outlanders in the group, we were different like night and day.

Skills are grouped in skill trees but they have no previous requirements aside from level, so you can freely pick the best of each world to fit into your play style. Never we had to worry about a skill being mandatory to progress and through the 25 levels we upped, only 2 skills we shared: the starting burst shot, and some bat invocation shot.

My friend decided to max his dual pistols and his passives abilities, thus choosing range and damage output as his primary focus. He is not fond of the keyboard so he limited himself to two maxed spammable skills. His pet was a bulldog, his armor, looked like a barbarian archer of sorts.

I, on the other side, love having lots of skills, so I soon found myself cross-building between the different skill trees for a lot of variety. Some Ricochet shots, and glaive throwing abilities, made me less dependent on the weapon, so I kept going from bows to pistols to shotguns as items got better. I paired the damage with utility skills that allowed me to back-flip out of combat and debuff enemies, so in the end I made myself a not so powerful, but far more versatile skillset. My tunic-like armor finished the picture for a complete different character played on the same Class.
My Outlander and his pet - as you can see, nothing to do with my friend´s Outlander.

Difficulty and leveling

One of the things I have to praise Runic for is the way enemies adapt to the parties. While you usually drift through lone monsters meant to be just “time-killers” to be munched upon, they are tough enough to justify using skills instead of auto-attacks, yet weak enough to not suppose a real threat.

When you get to the ambush points or mid-bosses you will face quite a challenge though. While they are not impossibly strong, the enemies can hold their ground and pack some punch. You will have to manage your resources well if you don’t want to be re-spawning at the nearest city.
Even alone you can charge into the horde and obliterate them without mercy.
Even if you stray away from the group, neither you nor your friends will be obliterated as the mobs seem to adapt to the number of present teammates, thus you will always face a decent challenge so the game doesn’t get too easy or too hard.

Leveling is also done at a steady pace, and it never took more than 10 minutes to reach the next level. This is one of the things that keeps me grabbed to the game:  As the skill points flow you have always your eye in the next best thing you can buy from those tempting skill trees.

Explorable Areas

The first impression on the game areas was really nice, the overworld is big and vast, with lots to explore, and if I am to judge by my friends in-game comments it is randomly generated because it didn’t match their previous gameplays.

One of my previous concerns about the original Torchlight was that the dungeons got repetitive due to few environment variations as you delved deeper.
Dungeons are still there and have a lot more detail now.
In Torchlight 2 you don’t get that boring feeling due to the dungeons being randomly fit on the overworld. This keeps you constantly switching from open surface environments (with their day/night cycles), to the tight passageways of dungeons sprawled across the land. 

Loot, portals and the meaning of live.

Torchlight loot is evenly distributed between the players, who don’t see what is dropping for fellow players. This is good because you usually don’t worry nor rage about what other’s drops are, and instead you keep chatting alive with news of notable items that might be interesting to others - or keep in secret items you are too greedy to share.
You can have the weapon but the pokémon is mine!! 
Portal waypoints in multiplayer are pretty cool, as each player can keep an active portal, which any player can use as a destination in his travels. To add on that, you can always teleport to your friend’s location from a portal waypoint so even if you die in the middle of a boss fight, you can re-spawn at the city for no cost and then portal your way to the fight in less than a minute (I talk from personal experience on this one).
This means death is almost a zero penalty issue in multiplayer as you will never lose anything from dying as long as your friends keeps themselves alive.

PvP

We’re not much into PvP but once we came back to town from our long dungeoneering we tried some for fun. I really doubt the game is meant to be balanced for PvP, as even at the same level, the ability of the Berserk to wipe Outlanders was out of question.
As long as you stay at the city you can die without worries or penalties so turning the cities into a battlefield is fun from time to time.


An example of badass enemies and cool environments.

Closing Comments

I am really glad I got Torchlight 2 and certainly is worth every one of the 15 bucks I paid for it. While the first Torchlight kinda got old with the time I’m sure I will be playing this one a lot for the next months, especially as soon as mods start being released.
Overall I highly recommend it.  I will not compare it to Diablo as I never played any of them, but for my hack and slash needs it has totally lived up to my expectations.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Sundome - A Manga Review


There are many things that could describe Sundome, but probably the first one to say is that is not a manga for everyone. Not only because it’s an adult manga, but because the theme that explores through the lenght of the series might be controversial for some and disturbing or  disgusting for others.

Certainly is a manga that you wouldn’t like anyone catch you reading if you want to prevent wrong interpretations of your persona, but on the other side, the story enthralls you in such way that once you grab it it will be difficult to stop reading. So watch out!

Okay, that’s cool, but what is it about?

Sundome tells the story of Aiba, a high-schooler belonging to the Roman Club, a club who seeks for traces of paranormal activities, UFOs and such other misteries.  

Graduated Ex-members of this club are notable members on Japanese society and will help club members to achieve their desired career after graduation with only one condition: they must remain virgin through highschool. To prove the members are worthy, the ex-alumni regularly send women to tempt the club members into giving their virginity (these girl´s are often refered as Assasins).

The story begins the day a new transfer student named Kurumi Sahana appears at Aiba’s class making him fall instantly in love with her. Sahana discovering Aiba’s interest in her starts to power-play Aiba into a master-servant relationship, allowing him to have all kind of sexual experiences with her, with one condition: under no circumstance, even if they were the last people on earth, she will let him have sex with her.

Sahana has some "peculiar" ways to show she cares.
Aiba, desperately in love with her, will accept everything and go to high extremes to satisfy her mistress while improving to be a better person as to better please her.

Uh… is this as weird as it seems?

Sundome in japanese stands for “the instant that precedes the orgasm” and this is the concept that is played around during all the story: while Aiba is always wanting a bit more of Sahana she is always managing to let him go only until when she allows it. This concept is further reinforced by the chapters, called “collars”, in reference of how Sahana is always in command of Aiba.

While this may seem at the beginning like she is getting advantadge of Aiba, as the story unfolds you will see that Sahana is in fact quite in love of Aiba too, and despite of her sexual preferences she cares a lot about him and helps him become a better person through their relationship.

Aiba will turn to be a reliable person thanks to Sahana

Why I cannot read this with people around?

To give you an idea: Sahana’s first request is to see Aiba masturbating himself... with a nail… from then on she will start to control when and how is he allowed to jerk off, and they will together go through various sexual experiences, from funny to completely kinky, going in some cases into various degrees of bondage and domination play, including breath play and even golden shower. As Aiba is negated almost all physical contact without Sahana´s permission, she starts to treasure every last bit of her like an invaluable thing. 

The fact that you have to read this in solitude kind of helps you to feel more into the atmosphere of the story. Sundome is about sexual discovery, is about secret encounters and love practices seen as devious from most people, even in the series. But also is a story about love, about people that holds secrets and specially about how we deal with confidence in our relationship.

You end up feeling like a silent voyeur of Sahana and Aiba´s peculiar relationship.
This looks like a dense story…

Fun thing is it isn’t. While the story about Aiba and Sahana is playing through secret encounters, the main day by day of the story follows the adventures and misadventures of the Roman club, a bunch of really pervy nerds while they scout for ghosts, ufo and other phenomena.

The typical chapter structure for sundome is always the same: The Roman club plans an activity, some comedy scenes will occur and then Sahana and Aiba manage to have some alone time which will lead to either some sexual encounter or some dramatic scene. This helps from keeping the mood either too gloomy, or too hilarious for two much, attaining a great balance.

The Roman club members and their relationships are hilarious on their own, and when a secondary love story emerges within the club (between Tattsun and the new girl Kyouko) you have one more story plot that will grab you to the book until you finish. In some chapters you will in fact be more thrilled with Tattsun’s story that Aiba’s.

Tattsun and Kyouko have a peculiar story on the background.

You kinda left me curious: What other things I should worry about…

The art may not be for everyone. While I personally loved it, the art style shifts from extremely detailed and dark on the heavy sexualized encounters or dramatic points, to caricaturesque plain characters with crowded panels on the more comedic points.

While inconsistent, I think it shifts well with the mood of the story so I gave it my personal thumbs up.
Also, as the story unfolds it progressively turns more dramatic. And while I personally didn’t cry over this one as i did in Ano Hana, I know quite a handful who did. So be warned.

From drama to terror to humor to fanservice... Sundome has it all.
Conclusion

If you really are a thoughtful adult and not shaken by out of the standard sexual practices (hell, you may even be into it) I would totally recommend you to grab this one. I devoured the 8 volumes in 2 days and certainly I consider it one of the best love stories I have read so far. 

The manga has been adapted into 4 live-action movies which suffices to say that it made quite a success on Japan. They have picked my interest so i´ll try to see if they live up to the magnificent story the manga is.

That said, there is only one thing left to do...




Monday, September 17, 2012

Burn the City - an iOS app review




Burn the city is a small casual game that puts you in the skin of a giant firebreathing lizard with no other purpose in life that to put cities ablaze for shear amusement.

The game relies basically on physics and the "angry birds" catapult model to offer a lot of fun in a small package.


Tried and true mechanics at the purpose of mindless destruction. YAY!!
Unlike angry birds, in Burn the City you won't be restrained by a limited number and shots and ammo. Our little lizard and his unlockable companions all have a basic fireball attack, that causes impact damage to buildings, sets them aflame and even bounces a bit when stroke on the right angle. This removes the frustration factor of the game as you can practice most shots before wasting your precious special ammunitions on them.

Special ammo, must be obtained in the very stage, and comes in 3 forms, sniper, explosive or remotely detonated. The first is not affected by gravity so can reach targets beyond normal firebal range, the second goes boom on everything it touches, bouncing up to 3 times, while the last wont explode until you touch it which will allow to hit onto other surfaces and enter ducts without exploding.

From chapter 2 onwards meteorological effects like rain and wind will also affect the performance of your shots so you'll have to learn to use it in your favor while aming for the weakest spots of the city, like energy generators, nuclear plants or oven overflying airplanes that you can take down into uncovered buildings (i wonder if they'll ban this game on the USA).

Usually there is more than one way to clear a mission, but only one way to score tons of points. This is tood because encourages you to retry mission until gaining gold, but rarely you'll find a mission that blocks your progress. Only a handful of missions can actually be failed due to being dependant on timing of a shot and but not usually on precision.

You must admit that the dino is kinda cute.


The game never penalizes failed shots, in fact scoring is only dependant in the amount of destruction you can cause, and you will get multipliers from striking multiple targets and causing chain explosions with a single shot. This is a good point for a tactile game because we all know that aiming is not always easy in a handheld device and is kind of frustrating to repeat a 10 shot chain just because you missed a milimeter on the last shot, or unvoluntarily touched the screen causing a rogue fireball to launch.

The game also includes a "Battle" mode where you have to survive an onslaught of copters and tanks coming from a big city. The time and precision is critical on this mode, as well as taking profit of the ricochetting nature of the fireballs to strike multiple moving targets.

In battle mode you can score big by bringing aircrafts in flames down to the buildings.

Overall the grafics, though simple are clean and the physics are well represented, specially in the final stages in space. The backgrounds are plain and simple, and the music and sounds are not memorable, decent at much, but they complement the game enough and are not annoying.

The game totals around a 100 missions, some of them with some hilarious setups (special mention for the Space invaders mockup stage). Shame is the most original ideas are used only on one or two missions. In the end of the game you feel that some ideas could have been used more into further extending the fun. I wish we see updates with new missions on the near futuro.


The space invaders stage closes the game with golden key.
There are 3 additional dinos, all unlockable with points earned in game, but none of them affect gameplay, just are small graphic variations.

Overall it's good fun game that will keep you entertained for some hours.

You will like it

If you like mindless destruction or thoughtful destruction, whatever.
If you hate casual games with frustrating bottleneck stages.
If you are into dinosaurs.

You wont like it

If you´re looking for really tough challenges.
If the idea of throwing planes into buildings makes you shiver

Friday, September 14, 2012

A Clean Desktop for Efficient Working



Since some months ago i´ve been a computer order junkie. After some virus fought valiantly and forced me to make a system restore of my manufacturer settings, the subsequent work to reorganize together with the amount of info lost made me realize that I needed to do something to keep my virtual life tidy.

For the good or the bad I had search around the internets to find the proper solutions to the things I wanted to achieve, so today I’m starting a series of articles to explain how I managed to find inner peace within the madness of my previously chaotic virtual self.

A Dock to keep it all in reach

I love wallpapers, I really do. I have a collection that probably goes above the hundreds, rotating randomly in my computer background every 30 minutes. They inspire me when I’m out of ideas and sometimes bring me a smile when I recall images I haven’t seen in a while.

But in order to appreciate my wallpapers I need to keep my desktop clean. This is quite difficult when your desktop icons keep shifting from place to place constantly due to changing screen resolution and/or screens.
My first incursion on the clean desktop world was lead by apple style docks. Mainly Rocket Dock.
Docks are small instant access bars that remain hidden, but hover over your desktop when your mouse comes near their screen edge. They allow to have some amount of quick access icons to recall your defined programs in a visually appealing way.

Rocket Dock in action

 Though I used docks a lot during the last two years, they still left some issues to deal with:

First: In order to not overcharge the dock with useless things you should only place a handful of programs on it, thus, if you ever used a higher variety of programs, you will have to go back to the classic Windows Start menu and search them out.

Second: Documents you are working on are not so long-lived as to place them on the dock, yet, they are important enough to not leave them on the confusing mess of a constantly shifting desktop.

Third: The dock has two activation modes – under windows or over windows – this means that you either have to go back to your desktop with no active windows maximized to open it, or you can activated over your maximized windows, usually resulting in the dowck beckoming a constant a**hole by popping out when you don’t need it.

Organizing desktops with Fences

Part of my dock problem was solved when I found another tiny and useful program called Fences.
Fences allow you to set a group of contained areas in your desktop where icons stick to whatever happens in the outside of the fence. So you can for example define a IMPORTANT fence with all the docs you are working on, and another fence with something like PENDING ORGANIZATION. No matter what sorting order you apply to the Desktop, the fences will remain in place and the contents of them won’t get mixed with the others.

I myself love to have the recycle bin in the lower right side of the desktop, so I have her in her own fence so I’m always sure she will always be there no matter how I mix and shuffle other things around.
For almost a year the Dock/Fences combo did it for me until I met WinLaunch.

How Fences can keep order on your desktop

WinLaunch - The temptation apple

I am an ipad user, and though I’m not an apple fanboy, I must confess I really find peace on the organization system of the icons in OSx. So when I met WinLaunch I decided I needed to give it a try… and I loved it.
Winlaunch loads on startup and remains hidden from sight as long as you don’t activate a certain command on your computer (mine is Ctrl-Alt-F in order to not mess up with some gaming keyboard configurations). When you do, your desktop blurs to an ipad like icon shelf, where you can place as much icons you want, acting like a second desktop of sorts.

This not only allows you to keep a clean Windows desktop, but also prevents that unwanted attention to your desktop contents, especially important when you use to carry your computer around to job meetings, roleplaying sessions, or have a meddling girlfriend.

Winlaunch will blur your desktop and put everything one or two clicks away

Icons can be further organized into folders, and will always remain in the place you left them so you don’t have to worry about them shuffling around. Also, as they are not crowding your wallpaper now, icons can be considerably bigger, allowing faster identification.

Folders will open on the exact way they do on OSx, showing their contents in a small strip but without cramming your screen with lots of open folder windows. This that may be something stupid sums up with the decision to open programs with a single clic, and auto-hiding the WinLaunch app after opening. At the end of the day, you won’t need to close all folder windows opened while searching for the app. 

Conclusion


I hope that if you are in the same journey of self organizing as i am this article has been helpful and shown you some tidying options. During the next weeks we will talk on some other ways to help you achieve order on other places of your computer, so don't miss it!

Oh, by the way, the header image is from Real Desktop, some fancy thing if you are into the visual, but i guess if you were reading this is because you don't want that kind of desktop to begin with.