Author - Allison Burr

Arise: A Simple Story Review

In a time where online first person shooters and battle royal games dominate the market, Arise: A Simple Story invites both new and veteran gamers to take a step back to a simpler game style and as its namesake – a simpler story. Arise was released digitally December 3rd, 2019 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and the Epic Games Store.

Arise has a very somber start, with the screen opening upon what looks like a Viking funeral. As the older gruff man is lit on fire the screen transitions to him waking up in Snow with indication to use right stick to move. Thinking this would move my character, I was pleasantly surprised to see that this control commanded the sky, not the body. With this motion the player is able to manipulate time back and forth. This is put to interesting use in the first level to change the landscape from a frozen snow landscape to spring flowers and back.

As a haunting voice commanded “arise” with soft piano melody as backup, I knew that this was where my story was to begin. I was now in command of this man who appeared to be at the end of his own story. With no backstory or idea of where to go, I set off to the first snow covered level. The game left me to explore with only simple control hints appearing on screen when I reached an insurmountable obstacle. On the Xbox the left stick controlled the player with the A button as a simple jump motion. The right stick then controlled the sky, or “time” both to rewind and fast forward.

As I aimlessly wandered about the first snowscape playing with the time speed controls I was pleasantly surprised to see puzzle solving elements woven into the game itself. Instead of the generic “move block into space to solve” kind of puzzle, the game focused on obstacles that stood in the way of your advancement. These puzzles required the use of the time control to make the snow melt into water to lift wooden tree trunks to higher ledges, command the sun to shift the direction sunflower platforms faced, and rewind falling rocks from a cliff face. Although the game lets the player choose their own pace to explore, there is a set path that the game guides you to with stone markers indicating an element of the story – of the man’s life. It didn’t take long to understand that this game was about the journey, not the destination.

The lack of text and simple controls makes this game highly accessible to all gamers. Though the gameplay and repetitive obstacles soon became monotonous and at times felt like the memory cut scenes were placed too far apart from each other. This made the game seem to drag on and become a race to get to the next area to advance more of the story. This story is derived from what the player puts together from flashback cut scenes, the music tone, and “memory drawings” that can be found hidden throughout the stages and marked by butterflies. These memory Easter eggs give the game more of a collecting completionist feel to the game, but if you don’t mind having the full story can easily be ignored and overlooked.

As the game goes on, you realize your character is a man who has lived a long, complicated life. Each small discovery is something that you as the player are witnessing for the first time but as the character are reliving as lost memories that even he has forgotten. The game does an amazing job of painting contrasting levels that showcase both the joys and sorrows of a life. The small sweet moments are set against contrasting levels filled with sorry and despair. The first chapter of the game brought me to tears, and the lightning filled level titled “Alone” stirred up self-reflection and fragments of my own life that I was finding myself adding onto the character. The lack of dialogue and written story lends itself to the player creating their own story and adding their own human element into this game that ended up being both an exploration of the character’s life and a look into my own.

After a couple hours of solo play, I decided to dive into the two player mode option. I was curious to see what this second player could add to the experience but was instantly let down to see that it just split the controls, myself having control of the character and the second player manipulating time. With the addition of a second player the game instantly lost its intimate feeling and became just a platformer where poorly timed jumps and miscommunication with the second player became comical and tedious. This is definitely a game better suited for one player, but it was interesting to see that it offered the ability to share the experience more with the person beside me.

It is easy to say that the game trailer had me hooked instantly. Sadly the trailer has the problem of showing the “greatest hits” of the game, these striking moments that when played through lost their power as I realized I had already seen them once before. The downfall is that Arise is the type of smaller game that needs a hook to get people interested in picking it up, and while the trailer did just that, the game itself seemed to lack in new emotionally stirring sections. I recommend giving the trailer a quick watch and picking it up if it tickles your fancy. It isn’t a game for everyone, but it is a game that will definitely stick with me for a while and my own memories that it stirred up along the way.

Attack on Titan 2: Final Battle Review

Attack on Titan (AoT) is a Japanese manga series that was adapted into an anime, and most recently transferred into the realm of video games. In the AoT realm, humanity lives within a city surrounded by three walls that protect them from the giant human like Titans that wish to devour them. In humanities last effort to survive, they create an army of humans with a set of equipment, the Omni-Directional; Mobility Gear, that allowed them to fight in the air attached to iron wires that hook on to the terrain around them. Equip with this gear, humanity must push back against the advancing Titans in hopes of one day being able to live outside their walls.

Attack on Titan 2 was released on March 20th of 2018 and offers the players a glimpse of what it would be like to be a part of the story. On July 5th, an expansion Attack on Titan 2: Final Battle was released which furthered the story mode and included additional battle modes. I went into this sequel game having a basic knowledge of AoT. I knew there were titans, they were naked, they were the bad guys that needed to be taken down, and that I was ready to hack and slash my way through the air.

The game loaded in and immediately recommended easy mode, it then gave the player the option of setting the gore to either on, or off. The final option the game offers before starting is “auto-assist”. This feature is a type of autopilot that helps the player automatically complete aerial maneuvers. For this play through I chose to go with normal difficulty, gore on, and no assist. One of those I had to change almost immediately.

The game play seemed simple at first but aerial combat soon became the bane of my existence. During the tutorial training mission, I found myself frustrated trying to button mash the controller and found my character very often slamming head first into the ground. After about five minutes of frustration I buckled and turned on the “auto-assist” mode. This mode made a huge difference. I soon found myself as a medieval spider-man swinging across the screen with giddy excitement. What was first a chore, become immensely fun. I felt intimidated by the Titans at first glance but soon found myself doing aerial moves and taking them down single-handedly all with the help of the auto-assist. It allowed me to enjoy the game, but also didn’t make it feel like I was cheating or that the game was holding my hand. I still needed to be alert and in the driver’s seat at all times.

One of the most surprising aspects of the game for me was the audio. I went in expecting to be reading text off a screen and becoming bored rather easily. Instead the game had a wide range of voice actors, with all in game dialogue text accompanied by Japanese voice over. The game also allows the player to fully customize their character’s appearance, clothing, and choose from both ten male and female voices. I began to feel more a part of the in game world knowing that my character had their own style, and more importantly their own voice.

With all of the fun combat and downtime talking with characters from the manga, there were a few downsides. My first major issue was the point of view shifts from game play to the cut scenes. During gameplay, the player’s perspective was third person which made it easy to navigate and take in the world around them. Cut scenes however, were told from the first person perspective. This made looking up at Titans thrilling, but also took away from the story as it was jarring to suddenly switch perspective mid battle and no longer be able to control the character.

The second gripe I had was long it took to reload. In AoT2, the player has to keep an eye on their blade sharpness and how much gas they have left in their Omni-Directional Mobility Gear. The issue wasn’t how fast these gauges depleted, but how long it took to reload them. The developers did not make it possible to both move and reload simultaneously, so mid battle with a Titan the player would have to stop in their tracks to reload, all while hoping the Titan didn’t happen to notice.

I am amazed how well Attack on Titan transferred over into the video game realm and much the developers packed into one game. The basic story line covers the first 50 chapters from the manga, and the additional Final Battle DLC covers another 40 chapters. With the creative tie in to the story while getting to fully customize a character, I found myself enjoying the adventure and wanting to know what happened next. Both fans and newcomers alike that feel up to the challenge of being humanities’ last defense should definitely step up to the plate!

Anime Expo 2019 Rundown and Photo Gallery

Anime Expo (AX) is the largest anime convention in the United States with over 100,000 fans in attendance. AX is known for occurring four days over the 4th of July and began back in 1991. Since its start, AX has been taken over by the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation (SPJA) and has evolved from its roots into a large convention that fills both the South and West halls of the Los Angeles Convention Center.

AX offers fans a widespread of activities, from their Exhibit Hall, live gaming, maid cafés, artist alley and more. The exhibit hall has grown exponentially over the years and offers fans exclusive merchandise, photo opportunities, and the chance to find an elusive anime figure. Key players such as Atlus, Crunchy Roll, and Viz Media had their booths up front as usual, but this year Bandai took up a large portion of the floor with their 40th Gundam Anniversary celebration. The hall was a buzz with their 9 foot Gundam Statue and the opportunity for both new and old fans to step up to build their own RX-78-2 to take home.

Another anniversary celebration took place at the For Fans by Fans booth where the little cartoon pug Puglie had a 5th birthday celebration cake for fans to take photos with and meet the creator Euge Leung. From simple beginnings, this little pug has taken over the internet with his love for food! It is great to see such an interactive way for fans to take part in the celebration and even adopt and take a Puglie home.

Once part of the Exhibit Hall, the Artist Alley has taken over its own separate space just below the hall. It was great to see so many artists offering their original art, keychains, and even on the spot art commissions. Since expanding the artist alley, AX has allowed more niche anime and video game representation that they would not have from the main players on the exhibit hall floor. These artists build their own displays and sell their work that they brought with them.

One of Anime Expo’s short comings has always been organization. Although this year was better than previous years, they still have a long way to go. Years prior it was always the dreaded “badge pick up” that caused attendees to arrive a day early to devote an entire day to standing in line to pick up their badges on site. Since switching to mailing badges, this stress has been lessened though sadly replaced with the newest issue, the Security & Bag Check.

With the influx of attendees, AX has put in security check points to make sure that only badge holders are allowed into the convention space, with only approved items. Due to poor planning, attendees were faced with multiple zig zagging lines without shaded cover or clear direction. On day one alone, attendees were faced with multiple hours of waiting to make it into the convention center itself and faced line merges and people cutting in the line. Premier Access Attendees had a much shorter wait with their own express line, but at the cost of a premier ticket. Peak hours such as the exhibit hall opening and lunch time caused an overload on the lines and attendees were faced on deciding if they should leave the hall for lunch- or wait in the food lines for on-site meals. By the second day of the convention, the staff had a better handle on the situation, but there were no major adjustments. By upping the staff at the convention center, Anime Expo has kept up with the number of attendees but miscommunication and poor information is a major factor in the chaos to enter the convention center its self. Hopefully staff can learn from this experience and come up with a more streamlined system to keep attendees both safe, and comfortable.

Anime Expo is a gathering of anime fans from across California and across the world, one that any fan needs to experience. Parking can get pricy, lines sometimes endless, but overall Anime Expo is worth the adventure into Downtown Los Angeles in July.

Photo Gallery