Monthly Archives: May 2016

This could work: an Anime Adaptation of 999

Here’s a fun fact for you, did you know that the creators of Danganronpa and Zero Escape are friends? I’m not honestly surprised and in fact, I find that enduring, given the creators perchance for making dark video games with diabolic and white, cuddly characters. Although I have not yet played Danganronpa (mainly through lack of specific hardware) I have seen the anime and it’s quite good in all honesty. After seeing the anime, I really want to play the game even though I know the ending to it.

Video game adaptations to the small screen can be hit or miss but can be done right and even extremely well. In particular, the visual novel genre seems to hit a particular easy-adaptation and well-produced stride among other video games. It’s not surprising given how there is already a well-thought out story immersed with fleshed-out characters and plot twists galore. A simple elimination of the minimal player interaction combined with a full anime budget and you got yourself a decent miniseries on hand. Ace Attorney has finally gotten its own anime adaptation and I’m hoping that Professor Layton will follow suit soon. As such, why hasn’t Nine Hours, Nine Persons, and Nine Doors (or “999”) gotten its own anime adaptation yet? I honestly think it will adapt quite well.

I think 999’s biggest problem is the branching storyline that is absolutely essential to the game. 999’s alternate histories and complex plot could easily confuse new viewers who may lose focus even for a moment. What’s more, 999’s, and its sequel, loves thought experiments and hypothetical situations, which take time to explain and may further confuse a person who would question why these are here in the first place.

Before I offer suggestions how this could be resolved, let’s look at another visual novel-adapted anime that also has branching storylines, Umineko: When They Cry.

Umineko focuses on an extended family that visits their island after the head of the household dies. The greedy family wants to know who inherited what in the will of their now deceased father/grandfather. What follows are a series of supernatural events where many deaths occur and many alternate histories are explored.

What made Umineko easy to follow was how the main character was aware of these alternate storylines. Through him, he can remind us how things happened and how he was going to change them. What’s more, the anime made watching easy for the viewer and sped up certain already-seen events while establishing who was alive and when. In the end of the first season, we are left with a cliff hanger but we are not confused thanks to the excellent plot development.

The anime adaptation of 999 should follow a similar tract. Some events, mainly those at the beginning of the game, are ones that we will witness over and over again. A simple reminder of what happened and when will help orient the viewers of where they are in the timeline and what puzzle rooms have been solved. What’s more, Junpei’s ability to jump timelines should be more heavily explored near the beginning of the anime so the viewer is not confused why events are happening differently this time. The thought experiments, which are very dialogue heavy, is probably the trickiest part of 999 to adapt as the original flavor of the game would be lost if these aren’t included. I honestly think these can be done though given the right circumstances. If other, thought-provoking anime shows, like Death Note, are not afraid to be complex and not talk-down to the audience, then 999 shouldn’t be afraid either.

If you wanted to be poetic, the anime could be produced into nine episodes. I’m not honestly sure if that would be feasible or not but given the circumstances, it’s possible.

With the final Zero Escape game coming out this summer, I would welcome the possibility of a complete anime adaptation of this series but I stress that an anime adaptation of Virtue’s Last Reward would likely be insane. 999 had only five separate endings whereas Virtue’s Last Reward had over 20! True, you probably wouldn’t have to explore every single damn ending (quite a few of them aren’t necessary), but the amount of timeline jumping in that game is craaaaazy. The game had a helpful timeline chart you could look at but I bet the anime wouldn’t have it as easy as that.

I think the best course of action is just to stick to 999 as that game is more concise compared to its sequel. Video games are a form of art and sometimes, just like from books to movies, you can’t do the original media justice when you transform the source into something else. And maybe an anime adaptation of 999 will fall to pieces because of which. You just can’t adapt the player interaction into an anime. But hey, it could work.

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Greatest Moments in Battlebots History: Hazard vs. T-Minus

In the fifth, and what was then the last, season of Battlebots. A titan had fallen.

Hazard and T-Minus squared off in the Middleweight semi-finals. It was a fight worth remembering. It was a fight that any Battlebots fan should remember.   It was a fight where an unstoppable gladiator was slain.

Hazard is one of the winningest Battlebots of all time, his record outshines other Battlebot winners, even Biohazard and Ziggo. Hazard received the Giant Nut again and again. He vanquished his foes in glorious fashion and won his battles if not by cruel knockout than by decisive ruling. The crowd, and myself included, loved Hazard. His language was destruction and his life was victory. He won against virtually every robot type. The builders who went against him were clearly nervous before each battle, anticipating what kind of irreparable damage he will work upon them. Everyone in the Middleweight class feared him.

In a field where robots are preened for intimidation or absurdity, Hazard stands out for being so unassuming. A drab, gray color blankets this square robot and a simple metal bar rests atop him while four ordinary wheels carries him forward. And the only thing designating his front is an unembellished sheet of metal that hangs limply from two axles. This modest robot was king and his house creed was “actions speak louder than words.” His long spinning bar overlapped his ground-hugging body, which meant if you wanted to flip him, you would get a face full of steel first. Lightweight, Heavyweight, Superheavyweight. Every class had its winners and favorites but only in the Middleweight was Hazard.

It is this record that makes his loss against T-Minus amazing. For Hazard to finally fall is breathtaking. But not only that, the reasons why he fall still affect Battlebots to this day and will probably continue to do so this year for the second ABC season.

T-Minus, is like the younger…brother?…sister?…let’s call her sister…to Toro, a Super Heavyweight Battlebot. Their pneumatic flipping arms, whose power stems from CO2 cartridges, can toss their opponents skyward, incapacitating them once flipped. The big difference between the two is that T-Minus is in the Middleweight class, not the Super Heavyweight. As such, when T-Minus flips a robot, not only is it flipped but it is launched. The lighter robots aren’t as constrained to gravity as their heavier cousins and as such T-Minus could toss them to six feet in the air! T-Minus is so powerful that if T-Minus finds herself upside down, she can easily right herself up thanks to her arm (give or take a few tries). T-Minus, like her fated opponent, had a reputation of delivering KOs to many that challenge her. Yet, unlike Hazard, T-Minus did not win by carving, bashing, or mauling her opponent, but by simple incapacitation. One flip upside down or onto the hazards and her opponent was done.

Sometimes, that wasn’t enough; some Battlebots are just unflippable. No matter how many times T-Minus flipped her opponent, they wouldn’t stay down. But T-Minus didn’t care. If that happened, she became aggressive. Flip them, flip them, flip them again, onto the spikes, the screws, and the saws. She owned the fights. She was in command. She also knew, or I guess I should say her drivers knew, when to be cautious against a dangerous opponent; a skill that not many respect or have the patience for.

And in this case, if there was any robot destined to beat Hazard, it was her. Hazard is flippable; one flip onto his back and he is done. But fate wasn’t kind to T-Minus. T-Minus made her first debut in season 3 (in what I would argue was the best Battlebots season yet) and delivered one of the best battles that season, her fight against Sunshine Lollibot.

If you want to show anyone the true power of T-Minus, show them this video. Simply amazing. Her power, dominance, and playfulness are all neatly shown. That was T-Minus. She seemed like a dragon in a way, almost every launch she given was accompanied by a belch of smoke from her steaming body. Unfortunately, she lost in the quarterfinals to another Middleweight favorite and newcomer, T-wrex.  T-wrex continually fended her off and scored many consecutive hits which prevented T-Minus from doing any real damage to him.  A lucky hit by T-wrex disabled T-Minus’ radio communications causing her to be unresponsive and thus, counting her out.

Bad luck continued to follow her in season four. After KOing Ravager and Short Order Chef, T-Minus faced Heavy Metal Noise. I won’t lie, this fight was probably one of her worst ones. After a few blow exchanges, Heavy Metal Noise struck T-Minus’ fail-safe and she was incapacitated. If she had won the fight, she would’ve faced Hazard in the following round. It wasn’t until Season 5 that T-Minus got her shot of redemption. It doesn’t matter who she fought. What matters was that she won them handily and her opponent was Hazard.

For all my talk on T-Minus I only briefly mentioned Hazard. In all honesty, Hazard deserves an article all to himself and his accomplishments. He has fought many battles, some were close, many were not, and he had won them again and again. He was the Middleweight champion in season one, three, and four (he didn’t participate in two), and he had not lost a single battle yet. That’s impressive. There are so many wonderful battles he fought so I mean, take you pick!  Hazard vs. Little Drummer Boy, Sabotage,  Blade Runner.  Any one of these battles and more are great!  I like this one when he faced off against Misty the Wonderbot.

So when Hazard and T-Minus faced off, who would’ve guessed that Hazard was going to fall? This wasn’t like the almost predestined match between Biohazard and Son of Whyachi. This was the semi-finals for two veteran robots, one of whom had never been to the championship and neither of which had ever fought one another. Why should we care?

Well, we did, after we saw the short but decisive battle.

T-Minus won. After sparks flew in the air, T-Minus landed an imperfect blow to Hazard. The flip launched one of Hazard’s flaps upward, jamming it against Hazard’s very own weapon. T-Minus second blow would not missed. Hazard was flipped and the match was over. If T-Minus was any closer in delivering the former blow to Hazard, she could’ve been seriously injured and missed her chance. The imperfect flip saved her.

I think the biggest takeaway from this match is that no Battlebot is perfect. There will always be someone out there who can defeat you. And in this case, the only reason why T-Minus could triumph over Hazard was because she was low enough to the ground to get under him and strike at his weak spot. And how did she accomplish this? Through the ingenuity of her creators and their craftsmanship from behind the scenes.

I think one thing that doesn’t get enough appreciation in Battlebots, especially in the most recent season as of this writing, is how effective a simple change in the design of a Battlebot can have on a match. I’m not familiar with intricate rules, but I know that some modification of your robot is allowed between matches. This was how Alpha Raptor won its battles. Alpha Raptor’s crew modified and changed their robot to accommodate their opponents and it helped them win.

But there’s one other factor here and that’s luck. Luck was handed to T-Minus when Hazard’s own skirt disabled him. Hazard was defenseless and T-Minus did not let this opportunity slip by. Luck was always against T-Minus in the previous seasons but now it was luck that offered her the win. Luck and skill are why certain battles go the way they do in Battlebots. Trust me, I can attest to that. Trying to predict who will win in Battlebots is somewhat difficult.

I guess that’s why Battlebots can be so entertaining. Even when you are sure that a Battlebot will win, a T-Minus is thrown in the equation and we stumble. We live for T-Minus. For that one thing, or I guess I should say robot, that breaks tradition and rebuilds it into something even better.

The Brotherhood Treatment

The Fullmetal Alchemist anime debuted in 2001 and was based on the hit manga series of the same name. The anime was a chapter-to-chapter retelling of the story, staying true to the original source material. However, once the anime caught up to the source material the story soon divulged and took a direction all on its own like an alternate universe. Characters that were minor in the manga were important in the anime and vice versa; some were given completely different back-stories and others simply never existed before. Although the anime itself was good, it wasn’t faithful to the original source material. This wasn’t rectified until 2012 when a new Fullmetal Alchemist anime, this time called “FMA: Brotherhood,” came out that gave us an anime that was completely true to the source material.

“Brotherhood” was amazing and I can’t help but think how other stories should get the same treatment as Fullmetal Alchemist. These stories were blessed with a good adaptation but were not completely true to the source material. And I honestly think they should get a chance to achieve that adaptation.

Take, for instance, Elfen Lied. Like Fullmetal, it was a manga series that produced a decent anime adaptation that strayed from the original source. Again, this was the case where the anime was simply produced too quickly for the manga to stay ahead of. Unlike, Fullmetal, however, this anime adaptation abruptly ended leaving an unsatisfied taste in my mouth. And it’s a real shame too! The anime has a great soundtrack (the intro is especially poignant), the art direction is well executed, and the voice work is very convincing. Unfortunately, many characters’ arcs are either brusquely shut down or lack a real transition thanks to the anime’s sudden ending. We missed out on what could have been an engaging alternate universe that would have been as satisfying as the original manga’s source.

If there was a readaptation of Elfen Lied (we’ll call it “Elfen Lied: Evolution”), many of the characters will achieve a satisfying progression in their story development. And if we were to keep the original soundtrack (a tall order, I know) and combine it with modern animation, we can create a beautiful, and haunting, telling of this controversial manga. With the popularity of the gruesome “Attack on Titan,” upon us, now is a great time to reintroduce this story to a modern audience.

Shifting gears to a lighter story, the “Scott Pilgrim” comic series is an excellent candidate for a reimagining. The movie, “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” is a great adaptation and I can’t praise enough how tight and well done the first half of the movie is. The second half, I feel, suffers from a condensed story line and character motivations that seem questionable. Like Fullmetal, the movie was being produced at a time when the comic series hadn’t even finished yet. As such, they made up their own ending, which worked for the most part.

I think the “Scott Pilgrim” series has a very high potential for a remake. For one thing, it can be adapted into a television miniseries instead of a movie. This miniseries can really bring into light so many things that the movie either skimmed over or dropped. In the miniseries, we can see the badass, three-way fight between Scott, Roxie, and Knives’ dad. We can learn more about the Katayanagi twins. We can dive into Scott’s past and his previous relationships. And we can bring Envy to the foreground and really develop her character.  Scott Pilgrim can also flourish as his own being rather than an another Michael Cera character.

I think though the thing that will really make this miniseries stand out is the use of animation as a storytelling device. The movie was live action, and thus, this can be animation. The artist and author Bryan Lee O’Malley original work can now move and jump around like a Justice League or Spiderman cartoon and this can be amazing. We have even been given a taste of what this miniseries could be like as seen here:

I think it would be awesome

Of course, there are many series out there that deserve a remake (Nasauca: Valley of the Wind anyone?) and I’m not surprised! Given the nature of a source’s adaptation to a movie or television series, there are bound to be changes, especially if the adaptation surpasses the original source material. Game of Thrones has done this already with the advent of Season 6 so we might get a retelling of that story 30 years from now!  And I’m totally fine with that.

The Elements of a Worthwhile Board Game Expansion

With the recent, and exciting, news that the famous “Betrayal at House on the Hill” board game is finally getting an expansion, I thought now was a great time to talk about why we board game enthusiasts buy expansions. Expansions are like the DLC in the board game world as they can enhance the original board game and create new and exciting ways to play the game. And like DLC, there can be multiple expansions for the same game (Dixit or Pandemic, anyone?). As such, for all these expansions, what should you look for? Which expansion do you buy and the which one do you leave on the store shelf?

For me, it boils down to two things

  1. The expansion adds more players to the game
  2. The expansion enhances the original board game experience by balancing and diversifying it

The first point is the easiest to understand of the two. When you have a board game that only goes up to four or five players and you have five or six friends over, you can’t use that game! Simple as that (unless you double up). But an expansion throws that out the window and gives you the opportunity to add those players in. The Settler of Catan 5-6 player expansion is a great example of this. By simply adding new tiles and player tokens, the game can now incorporate more people with the sacrifice of a longer game. In all honesty, if I get an expansion, this is my primary reason.

My second point, though, is bit more subjective (your mileage may vary so to speak). Diversifying a board game can add a fresh, new take on a game you’ve played many times. The expansion adds a new element of fun into a now stale system and this is where most board game expansions fall into. To name a few off the top of my head, Night of Werewolf adds new villagers and wolves, Dixit adds new cards, Powergrid adds new maps, and Ticket to Ride adds a freaking Alien and Dinosaur! All of these expansions change up the formula, change up the gameplay, and most importantly, add a new level of fun to your favorite board games!

Along with the diversifying aspect, the gameplay developers will usually try to add balancing aspects as well. Do they work? Well, I would like to say yes but given the extreme diversity of board games and players out there, it’s really hard to say. So to cherry pick from one example, Evolution’s expansion, Flight, does an amazing job balancing a gameplay that can be, at certain times, broken (though to be fair, the 2nd edition of Evolution really cleans up the first game). The Flight expansion allows your animals to evolve flying traits that can counter defensive traits like “climbing” nicely. What’s more, the added capabilities of flight are not overpowered and also have its limits as well. Great expansion, btw.

But I think the best expansions out there are the ones that combine both of these qualifying traits of additional players and diversified gameplay. There are some legitimately good expansions out there that fall under this category. My two favorites are probably the Cosmic Encounter and Pandemic expansions. Cosmic Encounter has possibly the best expansions ever as they add 25 new aliens to an already astonishing diversity of species and they add an additional home system. What’s more, given Cosmic Encounter’s highly encouraged cooperation system, everyone has a chance to get planets even though the game takes longer to make one complete round. Meanwhile, the Pandemic expansion “On the Brink”, not only adds additional gameplay, such as mutant strain, but the additional player serves as a bioterrorist. This bioterrorist brings up the number of players to six and acts as the antagonist to the other five players. This expansion is amazing as you can do so much with it. Pandemic can now be even more challenging, more frustrating, and more fun to boot!

As for Betrayal at House on the Hill?

Well, unfortunately, it doesn’t look like we’ll be getting additional players but I’m really looking forward to the new rooms, haunts, and monsters! I think though if they want to push it to a new level they should incorporate the adventurers’ traits into certain items, rooms, or events. Think about it, Brandon Jaspers likes bugs, well, there should be an event where if a whole bunch of bugs swarm all over you, everyone loses a sanity point unless you’re Brandon Jaspers. It’s funny to me how the personality traits and birthdays are so underutilized by the game itself. I think the creators of Betrayal should really tap into that for the next expansion.

What are your favorite expansions? Let me know!