Suidobashi Heavy Industry vs Megabots Inc

So we finally had the long promised Giant Robot Duel. Seeing part of this blog’s thing is to comment on mecha designs, it’s only fitting to comment on real world giant robots.

While we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, I can’t help but give some feedback on the outer appearance from the get-go.

Their first robot, Iron Glory MkII is outright dirty. This is certainly by choice and often fits the whole worn-out industrial look Megabots wanted to go, but in a publicity stunt like this, they could’ve cleaned it up a lot and tweaked it to simply be more eye pleasing. The earthy tones here give a look of something that was dug up from a hole somewhere. It also looks unbalanced. Without a doubt it’s designed to stay upright and move around without the height becoming an issue, but we’re talking about a fight here. It’s going to get pushed around, and any mass that’s outside the region directly above the tracks it has will sway it if push comes. As long as it stays as low as possible, there shouldn’t be anything to worry about. Those arms may be neat for target shooting, but as the video makes clear, this is a hand-to-hand battle, meaning they’re more or less useless.

 

Kuratas on the other hand is painted showy red, and during the pre-fight interview, we see its left hand constantly opening and closing. While useless, it does give off a certain attention to detail. While Megabots is traditional American dakka and looks the role, Kuratas follows rather unorthodox Japanese design. No legs to be seen here, Kuratas rolls on wheels. The clawed right arm could’ve used more red paint for sure, at least for its shoulder. The welding do look sturdy and up to standards.

Well, let’s get to the first fight.

Here we see how small the treads on Iron Glory MkII are. Kuratas’ design has spread the mass rather low while Iron Glory MkII decided to stand up and make itself a sitting target.  The blow Kuratas delivered easily tipped Iron Glory MkII over. This may have been prevented with the treads extending further back, or adding a pivoting action. Like with tanks that keep their turret to one direction while the lower body pivots on place. However, I doubt Iron Glory MkII would’ve had enough power for that otherwise. Kuratas seemed to be pretty good on straights, but that mass must be hard to direct to another direction without slowing down.

Furthermore, it looked like the cockpit for Iron Glory MkII was not designed to fall, and the pilots clearly got rather serious shock. There was no head support or harnesses to speak of. That’s dangerous, and anyone who wants to make their own mecha, please make sure whoever pilots it is secured in place and has the necessary shock absorbents around.

Iron Glory MkII was just a warm-up though. Its design has loads of problems that simply won’t work in a competitive fight. Megabots’ Eagle Prime was specifically designed to for this contest, and it shows.

Eagle Prime has twice the mass either Kuratas or its predecessor has. This alone makes it a bit harder to tip over. However, they stuck with the rising legs idea, meaning it’ll spread its mass again between low and very high points. However, it is stated to be bottom-heavy with 60% of its mass residing on the lower half. It also stands in the middle of the treads, making it much harder to topple over.

In terms of offensive, it’s right hand is an industrial claw that is more designed to crush than punch, but that’s not really important. The mass of the whole thing is enough to be worried about. It’s left hand’s cannon is useless, unless it manages to paint Kuratas’ to the point of  pilot being unable to see outside. A definitive upgrade, and another very American design.

Let’s not forget that is movement macros it has, but onward with the second fight.

The second round was more about the environment. Kuratas launched a drone that got knocked out of the air and Eagle Prime utilised the environment. This sort of slow-paced fighting isn’t exactly Kuratas’ strength, and in close combat they got stuck to each other. Most damage was done to Kuratas, not by Eagle Prime’s claw or shots, but with the barrels of the cannon. So, what’s the next most American choice of weapon after your guns fail?

I admit, I did not see Megabots going so far as to install a chainsaw. Because live ammunition is not an option here, might as well go straight in cut. Kurata’s plan in this second round was to blind Eagle Prime’s cameras, but as we already saw, cannons do jack shit. For whatever reason, neither Megabots or Suidobashi had well designed, accurate paint ball cannons with them.

The problem in using a chainsaw that was intended to cut stone is that you need to have it revved up at full speed before you can cut through. With low velocities like this, the blades simply get caught and rip pieces off rather than cutting them. On a more smoother surfaces, like the main body of Kuratas, the chainsaw mostly skims cross before hitting the shoulder.

With this, the American Megabots was announced the victor. Nothing really came out of this, outside all the money that went into production of these things, and some stupid fun. Kuratas never really had any chances against Eagle Prime, seeing it was few weight classes lower. Without some sort of puncturing weaponry or something else to mess with the opponent’s system, the sheer weight difference made it lost. Maybe having a high-yield flamethrower or a blowtorch of some sorts could’ve delivered victory by frying off the exposed electronics and piping, but that would’ve been too easy and not hand-to-hand combat. That’s why a close-combat torch might’ve been a good call.

Both designs of Kuratas and Eagle Prime do show us the reality of giant robots. We can’t have them walk around on two legs, because that is largely unfeasable. Strength and speed are all relative, and while all this may have seemed slow, there was large amount of power behind each hit. The plating on Kuratas was stripped right off rather easily by just one direct hit and some chainsawing, something we barely every see in fiction. An idea of having as unified armor as possible with no corners or holes for the enemy to have anything to latch on, might be a good idea overall. A smoother surface would also make bullets skim off easier if their angle is low enough.

The whole content probably was scripted to a degree, but hey, at least got to see metal turned to scraps.

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The skill of play

With Cuphead raising such questions as What is gameplay? and Is easymode bad? we really do see something lurking inside the media. As little as any of us care about John Walker’s ignorance, the question is valid in its own way. As humans we tend to describe the same thing in different ways, sometimes expanding and taking away details depending on whatever, but his insistence that gameplay is a wrong word for interaction with a game. Then I guess putting a game into a console is gameplay, as that is interacting with the game. Smartass remarks aside, gameplay is a term that was originally used to describe the system of functions that the player would play with within a game, and because electronic games are a continuation of children’s play culture, this term has then trickled down the evolutionary ladder of games towards tabletop and other sort of games with play as an element. Interaction is far too large term, and nobody in their healthy mind would use anything like it to describe something so precise.

This leads us to Ben Kuchera’s post on Polygon, where he has missed the whole point of games. Using books and art galleries as his point of comparison is missing the point. Kuchera is comparing apples and oranges at best. Because a game like Cuphead has more in-common with sports parkour and card games than with books and art galleries, his comparisons lack any sort of oomph. Yes, a game expects basic competence from the player to be able to clear a level before you see the next. It is, after all, a game. You don’t win at a game, unless you know how it is played and are skilled enough to play. You don’t get freebies in Solitaire either.

Easy Mode is something nobody should have anything against, as options are just that: options. That is not the case of Skip Boss Button. Electronic games are self-tiered tournaments of sorts. You can not advance in a martial arts tournament further if you lack the skill and discipline to follow the rules and execute your desired moves. Similarly, in Street Fighter you have to have enough control over your character to defeat each opponent to advance further. In a 2D action game like Cuphead, bosses can be seen as a similar opponent to any normal Street Fighter fight, with the exception that a stage is a warm-up. Of course, it just may turn out that the stage was harder than the boss, but there are always healthy exceptions. Skipping a Boss effectively negates the need of any sort of skill, and while the idea does not have anything wrong in it inherently, it really does tell you how little some people are willing to put effort.

My notion of effort in this isn’t about getting good, though it certainly is a part of it. Much like any other product, not all games are for everyone and not all games are meant for everyone. I would use a food comparison here, but it wouldn’t be apt enough. The one I used previously, about how no game with multiple players allows one to advance without excelling, is what applies here. While in a single-player games cheating does not cause any harm to anyone, it would go against the structure of the game’s play and how it’s planned out. After all, games are virtual spaces made with restrictive rules that the player plays according to and with. A game that allows its structure and rules to be broken without any consequence often turns into a dull and wasted game rather fast, mostly because skipping play is essentially just not playing it at all. If you’re not intending to play the game, you might as well find your pass time with other titles that challenge you a different manner, or other forms of entertainment and play. After all, just like with pasta sauces, some games are more chunky and demand more active jaw work than runny ones you could just use intravenously.

The problem, quite frankly, is not that a game is too hard and that the players can’t see its “art,” as Kuchera puts it. The problem is that they’re not appreciating the art. If anything is art in video and computer games, it’s the mathematics, coding, the set of rules and design, the thing that ends up being called gameplay. Not the graphics, the sound, visual design or any other part, those belong to other schools of arts. The art of games is the art of designed play, and much like other forms of art, this one challenges us both mentally and physically. Why? Because electronic games are a form of play and without that play, they’d be virtual spaces of content to see and watch but never to be played with. The pathetic thing about all this is the fact how Kuchera and other supposed journalists like him want to remove a section of this art and force it to become something mundane and have no legs to stand on its own. Variety is demanded and required.

Do I contradict myself there? Regarding this blog yes, but I can always entertain the argument of games as art whenever necessary.

Kuchera then goes in a tirade of personal achievement how nobody’s stopping you from fast-forwarding a television show, but again misses the point; games aren’t television shows. Not that anyone who would like to review a series or a movie would use fast-forwarding, that’d be skipping on the content.

Games are about learning and using information learned. If you make a mistake, you should be learn from that and not make that mistake any more. Any sort of pastime we have with any sort of game, be it cards or miniature tabletop figurines, there are always rules that we abide to and learn new things we screw up. Of course, there is a group of people who are just unable to do this, but you can’t please anyone. You can never create a product of any kind that would be universal to everybody. Someone will always bitch about it, so might as well make it as good as you can the way you know it’ll work the best. While it is up to the provider to provide the piece for the consumers, the provider can always choose its targeted customers. There are other similar products out there that will suit the consumers outside your targeted demographic better, and if there isn’t… well, that’s a niche someone else can step in fulfill.

Or you could carry some personal responsibility and step up the game.

Overly busy, nonsensical and lacking in imagination

While I would love to dive into and give my two cents on the quality of Star Trek: Discovery as a show, the blog’s not really a place for that. I’ll comment on the designs of STD instead, similar on what I did for Star Wars. Well, the title really says it all, doesn’t it? Well, I’m going to give it a shot and aim to veer away from comparing too much to old Trek shows, mainly because this is a reboot all things considered and because all the designs are far too advanced for its time period. I’ll also concentrate on the Federation designs, because I don’t want to lose my mind with the Klingon’s.

I’ve seen some people on the ‘net using busy and complex designs as synonyms to each other. This isn’t the case. Busy design just means there is a high amount of unnecessary details, lines, cuts and whatever else elements that simply don’t sit right. There are some designers who can make busy work extremely well, but it’s usually the first way to fill in “blank” space rather than working over the designs overall.

The uniforms and force fields are probably a good example of this. The uniforms don’t look too bad at a distance, but whenever we get a close-up, we see that nothing on it looks set-in. Every surface has a texture of some sort on it.

The above shots shows three things; the areas on her sides are riddled with smaller Federation symbols for whatever reason, the Federation badge itself is split into two for no reason and houses ranking pips. Pips, which would’ve been great on the collar, but the collar is now wasted to look funky with its asymmetric design. This asymmetry forces the zip to be on her right side more, but as seen from this shot, it still angles towards the middle of the jacket. It looks stupid. If the jacket had been single-breasted, this would’ve worked. Hell, it would’ve looked great even. Now, with the symmetrical stripes on the shoulders and itty bitty Starfeet logos on the sides, it looks someone botched their day at the clothes workshop and called it a day.

Pants on the other manage to look like uniform pants a bit more, but the unnecessary zippers on the sides look stupid. This sort of vertical pocket is not very practical, so maybe it’s to let some air in. The stripes on the shoulders continue down the pants’ sides, which we don’t see here, but at least they’ve consistent with them. The boots look pretty terrible, with soles jumping out like they were just attached to a pair they didn’t belong to. Let’ not forget that even the boots have Starfleet logo on them. Twice.

Here also get to see the stripes running on the side of the pants.

The only time the uniform looks good is when it’s straight. Any other time there’s a wrinkle or its twisted by a body movement, it looks pretty terrible. All because all the things that should line up don’t, and the texture gets all messed up. The Starfleet symbols don’t help in this at all, and their removal would make the uniform look lots better. Centering the zipper would help a lot too, or at least making it straight.

The force field is a another good example of this. Let’s pass the whole thing that safety force fields didn’t exist at this point in the timeline like they’re portrayed here, and let’s ask why the hell it has all those little lines running in it. There is no logical reason for it other than separate it from other force fields we’ve seen thus far, and certainly does not look like the ones in any Star Trek. It’s a good example of business for its own sake. I could touch upon Klingon designs and all other examples I could muster, but we’re going to go over the word limit as is, so let’s move on.

If the designs aren’t busy to be filled with something, they’re nonsensical and impractical at best. Chairs are always a good example.

The chairs we see here are actually a contrary example of busy design, but they’re a good example of a chair that would be horrible to sit on. Because they’re made from one large piece, there is nothing to adjust on them. The edges are hard and the cushioning looks inadequate. These are the chairs used in classrooms and the like, where you have to have a universal, cheap as hell chair, except even those tend to have some angle to allow natural back curvature. These would make your back ache.

Then again, not everybody has a chair and there are no seat belts. That’s a terrible position to work your whole day. The fact that the station is not adjustable to height means it’s designed for human use, which is a terrible oversight in a universe where aliens serve on Federation vessels.  Also notice how  w i d e  the captain’s chair is

Also notice the paneling in the room filling each and every surface, except the floor which has a carpet, further mudding the scene down. It’s also in a Dutch angle, making it look terribly shot. Straightening it makes a better shot, even if you have to crop stuff out.

A trope in science fiction is that screens are transparent. Considering nobody really would like a transparent screen with high-brightness visuals on it, SF really should get away with it. But a massive screen with unnecessary borders, information and statistics you can’t even see?

Darkening the bridge is another trope that should be dropped, because nothing sounds better than having bright as hell panels in front of your face and then have the room darkened, blinding you for a time. Just like the Dutch angle.

There are two problems with screen like this. First is that nobody is able to see the information on the screen, not even the viewer. The only valuable information that’d be nice here is the meter running at the top of the screen, except it’s relevancy changes all the time, and all the people who needs this information sees it more relevantly on their station. The information on either side of the screen is largely irrelevant, just as is the larger information charts on the right. Hell, the square in the middle functions as some sort of shield against brightness differences, but it actually turns the brightness up, not down. I thought it was some sort of zoomed-in window, but the space in there clearly isn’t zoomed in and we saw that zoom-in function looked completely different. I don’t know what the hell it is, but it’s absolutely nonsensical and impractical. Drop the excess stuff allow the view screen function as a giant window. You get all the data on your stations.

I don’t really need to put different snaps up on how the design are lacking imagination. All the designs, from lighting to chairs, clothing and even colour choices scream of generic science fiction show. Without the Starfleet symbol floating anywhere, on the costumes, this would fit any science fiction show out there. The design work is lacking that heart. It’s not necessarily even lacklustre, but it’s very safe and sits nicely in the middle-ground of being forgettable. The photography and the way scenes are shot doesn’t help the matter at all. The series’ designs are already finished, and unless they managed to revamp things, it’s still gonna look terribly dull.

Let’s not forget the terrible desktop lamps we have here and that Sarek’s hologram is sitting on a table he should not know exists there. Does he know there was a table there and has an exactly same height table at the exact same spot at his house to sit on whenever Michael calls him? Maybe I should come back to this and do a comparative technology level review after the show’s over

Exogularity; F-47 Ishkur

To celebrate Muv-Luv Alternative hitting Steam, let’s talk about the future of Tactical Surface Fighters. Namely, the 8th Generation Tactical Surface Fighter F-47 Ishkur.

Needless to say, this be spoiler country.

 Ishkur is the Sumerian name for Hadad, the god of rain and thunderstorms of spring. A fitting name for mankind’s latest weapons against extraterrestrial threats: the BETA and their Silicon creators pose. While the previous generation of TSFs were defined in their G-Generators and system made possible through them; a decade of operation time without replenishment, TSF sized particle cannons and advanced Rutherford fields that could withhold Fortress-Laser Class’ barrage for fifteen minutes. Tactical Surface Fighter development became stagnant after the introduction of the 7th Generation due to mankind-wide civil wars. With the global unification of 2043, a project to face the creators of BETA was launched a year later, with a need for the 8th Generation following in suit. Three years later, the F-47 would meet with abilities such mission would demand.

The 8th Generation is redefines the role of a TSF to the point that it’s no longer “Surface;” Space is its main field of operation, but the F-47 has been designed to function from Zero-G to 3-G environments. Movement is attained by manipulating gravity, and as F-47’s main role is to function as an envoy to the space fleet aiming to contact the Siliconians, it boasts an impressive long-range particle cannon as its main weapon. Furthermore, the F-47 is able to engage in limited ranged warps and contains regenerating life-support systems, giving the unit ability for independent interstellar travel.

The name Ishkur represents this aspect of F-47 being able to rain down storm and thunder on whomever the pilot chooses to strike.

This rough design shows where we’re going. One thing that I didn’t include in the above description of the unit, is that Ishkur would be able to purge its damaged sections to continue to fight unhindered, at least according to Ishi Sho.

While the F-47 Ishkur sounds overpowered, the mook it is from, exogularity 01, hints that BETA tactics have evolved as well. Despite this, it does carry more traditional weaponry.

We can already see from these roughs that the two familiar weapons seem to be a mainstay still. The Assault Gun boasts rather functional design, probably to give emphasize how it has to function in variety of environments an interstellar mission might have. The Close Combat Sword we have here seems to have taken the handle idea from BWS-8 Flugelberte as it is arching to the wrong direction, but I’ll let that pass, as we’re talking about a giant robot and not a human hand. The lowest one is 8th Generation multi-purpose additional armour, a shield of sorts, though it is rather small for that function alone. It is missing from Strike Frontier render of the unit, and may have been dropped from the design for now.

As the F-47 is a completely new design, not based on any existing aircraft, its Jump Units are based solely on Tactical Surface Fighters’ own design language.

If you look too long at these, you may end up seeing a skull of sorts. That may just be me.

To summarise all this, F-47 Ishkur is what Tactical Surface Fighter line would naturally evolve into when materials, sudden surge in advanced technology and necessity for interstellar warfare all come together. It was Yoshimune Koki himself who jokingly said that it’s not longer “Surface” and that TSFs have now entered the realm of Super Robots, but he isn’t half wrong. Perhaps calling F-47 Ishkur Tactical Space Fighter would be more appropriate, even when it could function on Earth-like bodies. Tactical Multi-Environmental Fighter doesn’t have the same ring to it. I’m not ready to agree that this mecha fits in the Super Robot category straight away. It certainly is a compact and hi-performance mecha all things considered, but in a world where technology is being combined with extraterrestrial material that allows bending dimensional barriers through the sheer power of love, I’m reminded of Third Clarke’s Law; Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

The design itself is combination of two things; the designer Ishi Sho’s own taste and view how the TSF line is to evolve, and cues from Mamoru Nagano’s Mortar Hedds from Five Star Stories. However, I would also argue that there is an influence from Tomohiro Shimoguchi’s illustration works, namely Linebarrels of Iron. Furthermore, some elements, like the shoulder armours, do remind of Gundam AGE‘s Vagan designs, thought this is probably just my eyes tricking me. F-47 Ishkur is probably the first properly modern design in the franchise, as even the 4th TSF Generation still has visible vestiges of the early 2000’s mecha design. If I can be frank about my own view for a moment, Ishkur’s design does please the eye and probably does good to the franchise in that it is far removed from any real life fighter jet.

This mecha, Ishkur, represents what will probably be the future of the franchise, if it has the chance to go that far. Things have certainly changed, with âge now more or less servicing as the brand and front for ixtl, Avex Pictures acquiring ixtl itself and both Muv-Luv and Muv-Luv Alternative being officially released in English. However, with both Total Eclipse and Schwarzesmarken being largely failures all around, the staff at âge/ixtl are in a position very few people would wish to be in. Whatever comes next has to strike true. Of course, with Avex Pictures now being the upper management, an adaptation of Muv-Luv and Muv-Luv Alternative itself isn’t far too far-fetched. However, it would have to be an adaptation that would aim to expand the audience, something the core fans probably would not prefer. It would be necessary for the health of the franchise and companies involved.

But for now, let’s enjoy what we have.

Listen, The wind is still, And far away in the night — See! The uplands fill With a running light.
Open the doors. It is warm; And where the sky was clear– Look! The head of a storm That marches here!
Come under the trembling hedge– Fast, although you fumble… There! Did you hear the edge of winter crumble
-Mark Van Doren, 1924

The Archetype maker

Before going into Mega Man’s 30th anniversary, let’s make this week a thematic one for Street Fighter. Let’s talk about the design now that I alluded to that possible topic last time.

To cut the chase, this will be a very truncated version what should be a series of posts concentrating on each of the original characters in Street Fighter II. Yes, we’re ignoring the original game, because it’s just background noise at this point. Unless Capcom decides to remake it, which they should have already done. Also note that I’m going to use Japanese naming scheme.

The core of Street Fighter II‘s character designs is that they come from the culture around. It’s not self-referential or tries to shove other games into itself. There was nothing to reference yet, outside Capcom’s use of Yasichi and few other smaller items, like Henry from Side Arms Hyper Dyne. All the characters also have certain spot in the roster both in terms of gameplay and design.

While the planet beneath there came out of nowhere, it really drives in the idea of a World Warrior

Ryu’s design at its core is a Japanese martial artist, specifically Masutatsu Oyama. While originally a South Korean, Oyama has been one of the most influential martial artists in Japanese culture for developing his one-hit kill techniques that could kill a bull. Not only are Ryu’s and Oyama’s training style similar, but his Hurricane Kick, or Tatsumaki Senpuukyaku, was inspired by Oyama’s match against a Muy Thai fighter in 1954, where Oyama defeated this Black Cobra with an elbow strike, followed by a swift aerial triple kick. Yoshiji Soeno, Oyama’s most senio pupil, would later repeat this aerial marvel against another Muy Thai fighter in 1974 in hopes to rise against Reiba, who also went under the title The Dark Lord of Muy Thai. The name was attached to him not only due to his presence in the ring, but also due to his dealings with the local mafia, who killed him before he had a chance to fight Soeno.

Street Fighter‘s core is in Oyama’s challenge to fight against skillful martial artists in the world to test himself and his skills. The bout between Kyokushin Karate and Muy Thai kickboxing was not to be underestimated and spread around the scene in stories and legends. You never really knew any of this, but your brains did because of popular culture you consume.

Sagat is an amalgamation of these Muy Thai fighters, though due to how much has been lost to time its hard to say how much in terms of visual flavour. His trunks are style for certain are direct visual cues at least. Understanding how Ryu and Sagat are essentially the core martial art theme in Street Fighter gives them more depth both in terms of characters and design. This sort of approach is what makes Street Fighter II unique, even among Street Fighter games.

It’s said Thai fighters are not interested in fighting the Japanese anymore due to them lacking the same drive as they used to. There is not contest anymore.

However, things need to be more fantastic, and the low, semi-realistic take Street Fighter used to have is all but gone. Despite having roots in anime too (Hadouken is supposedly inspired by Uchuu Senkan Yamato and its Wave Motion Gun), none of its fantasy elements were too exaggerated.

The rest of the cast follows similar suit. Mike Bison is modeled after Mike Tyson, who at the time was the boxer around. Even now his name resonates among boxing enthusiasts. He has weight in popular culture due to his career, and probably will stay there for a good time, until someone stands up to take his place.

Ken, while being just a pallet swap of Ryu, was based on Joe Lewis. Lewis isn’t a small time name either, as he has won large number tournaments and was voted twice at the greatest fighter in karate history. He was a strong fighter, but what set him apart was his explosive speed. Ken’s kicks were probably inspired Lewis’ left side kick.

E. Honda and Zangief are both easily recognisable from their looks. Whereas Zangief is your archetypical show wrestler, E. Honda an archetypical sumo wrestler. Zangief carries the name of one Victor Zangiev, a Russian amateur wrestler who was known for his spinning throws, The Carousel. After winning two titles in Soviet Russia, he entered the New Japan Pro Wrestling scene 1989, from which he probably was just directly adapted into Street Fighter. Capcom’s staff is filled with pop-culture hogging fans, as it should be evident whoever has played their games. E. Honda is probably based on a well-known sumo wrestler, but my knowledge on sumo history is lacking. Only as of late I’ve begun to appreciate the sport. However, seeing he is still a very unique character in the whole of the roster, E. Honda stands out on his own and counters Zangief in the heavy weight department.

Guile’s sources, while clear, are rather interesting. Combine with 1980’s American Action movies Schwarzenegger offered with a cyborg Nazi Rudolf von Stroheim from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, and you get Guile. Stroheim’s influence comes in with Guile’s neat, flat cut, while the rest comes from Arnold’s physique and the American soldier image. Guile is a strong character, very limited in some sense, yet extremely explosive when used properly. Even without the JoJo reference, Guile’s appearance is very much to the point and shows one of the ways how Capcom’s staff didn’t stick just with Japanese popular culture. Well, Sagat and Mike Tyson already told you this, but the point still stands.

This playing with existing ideas and giving them form plays out in Dhalsim and Blanka as well. While neither has a strong real-world point of comparison per se, they both embody the idea of something that has spread across the world. Dhalsim as the Indian mystic who can contort his body into the most odd shapes and breathe fire isn’t exactly a stereotype. It’s more a mystical character and a perception the rest of the world has of some of India’s holier people. The skulls around his neck are a point of interest too, as you wouldn’t expect any other character carrying them around. Blanka is probably the strangest of the bunch due to him being a wild child, and is a good example of Japanese culture electrifying a something to an extreme degree. A green beast-man itself is nothing new, and out of all the more human kind of characters he stands out.

Balrog, the Spanish ninja, stands out for a different reason. The only globally accepted warrior-type characters Europe has are knights and Vikings. The rest don’t even scratch the surface. Nobody even knows Finland has an old martial arts of its own that is based on bear’s movements. Thus, Balrog fills the place of the exotic. A very lean, masked assassin with a claw might not be anything new, but putting flamenco into the mix allowed them to create something that reminds an archetype, but isn’t one. It could also be that Balrog gained his design cues from Japanese pop-culture, with him sharing similar history with JoJo‘s Dio and tends to hold a rose between his lips, a thing Japanese tend to repeat with certain kind of beautiful male characters.

Vega is Yasunori Kato of The Tale of the Imperial Capital. This in itself doesn’t matter much. the West only has passing familiarity with the character and story through the anime Doomed Megalopolis. What matters more is that the influence from Kato comes into play in his military uniform design. With a glance the player can see that Vega is something serious; while all other characters are martial artists, Vega is a military leader. Vega’s uniform however isn’t anything exceptional in itself, as it is more or less a suit from the Imperial Japan’s army. Vega is also the only character who still has a introduction before the fight, where he throws his cape away. That alone makes Vega seem a threat. These few simple things hammer in Vega’s influence.

Lastly, we have Chun-Li. Her design harkens back to a time when Japan had a boom for Chinese culture, hence such titles as Ranma½ and Gekisatsu! Uchuuken came to be. Her design takes the usual Chinese qipao and dons her hair into buns. Both of these are very traditional take on Chinese clothing, though her choice of military boots and wrist bands with spikes give a more lethal impression. Those wrist bands and Blanka are pretty much the only thing in the design department that hasn’t aged all that well, but have become iconic in the game scene. Chun-Li uses some open hand techniques that were inspired by Chinese kung-fu, but her very core point was her legs. Her design makes a clear colour difference between her qipao and lower body, and this comes clear through Hyakuretsukyaku, or Lighting Kicks. Certainly, she was designed with certain liking in mind, but this doesn’t demerit her at all; it gives her far more control in terms of visuals and how she controls the fight through speed from her legs as opposed to punches or projectiles.

That’s where come to an end. Street Fighter II didn’t just write the book how make a V.S. Fighter, but also what character styling to use. Almost all fighting games that followed used the same base formulae of character set-up and design to some extent. The simpler designs like Ryu and Sagat carry a long history before they were put into sprites, and often the reality is more fantastic than what we see on the screen.

Knives don’t kill people

Edeka, a supermarket chain in Germany, stated that they no longer sell kitchen knives any longer. This decision was made after an attack was carried by an asylum-seeker in Hamburg. This is, by all means, both incredibly stupid and a failure in service design on their part. It is also a failure on the German officials on not keeping proper tabs on the assailant after, especially considering how many attacks there has been in Germany and United Kingdom as of late, especially with crimes by migrant has seen an increase on German soil. The assailant was found psychologically ill, but it seem he was left to his own devices rather than given proper care. Whether or not he was actually psychologically ill is beside the point.

While the only person who is responsible for the attack that cost a life is the assailant, it does raise the question how he was able to just grab a knife and begin attacking people.  I’ve seen no reports of what brand of knife it was. It could’ve given us a chance to see whether or not the knife’s package was properly prepared in order to prevent the incident to some occasion. I’ve criticised many knife manufacturers for not putting enough resources in their knife packaging, often simply opting to cover the edge of the blade in a cardboard sleeve, if even that. Sometimes it’s a plastic container that’s easily slipped away. Rarely there are packaging solutions that would require a heavy effort to forcibly open within the store, e.g. have a plastic screw going through a hard plastic housing that would prevent both damage to the knife during transit as well any sort of opening of the package without an external tool. One of those vacuum styled packages, that are bloody impossible to open without a knife or scissors, can only protect so far.

All this may sound rather extreme for just a kitchen knife, but a safe package does not only protect the product itself, but also the handler, and in Hamburg’s case, could’ve possibly caused more trouble for the assailant to gain access to a naked blade. Edeka probably never gave a second thought about this, and it is a bit too common to see stores of any kind selling knives of any kind on the open. Knives are a tool meant to cut, and even a kitchen knife is able to severely damage and kill. Edeka could’ve begin to demand their knife suppliers to create better casing for their goods.

Another here is one of safety. While hunting knives and such are often sold behind safety glasses, kitchen utensils aren’t despite of their sharp nature. Rather than pulling knives from sale, Edeka could’ve opted to create a supposedly safer environment where access to the more dangerous tools would’ve been restricted with a safety glass case. That, or an increase in security. Security of course is a problem, and not all smaller stores even have a security guard on-site all the time.

Edeka’s failure to foresee the event is understandable. Kitchen utensils have been sold in supermarkets for decades now without many incidents. However, Edeka’s on the issue is completely backwards, blaming the knife rather than the man wielding their knife. Knives really aren’t the problem here. The problem in cases like this are always the people wielding the weapon.

Edeka’s action is highly questionable, as it shows two things. One is that people still don’t get that slashing is more effective than stabbing. Second is that Edeka has not pulled their corrosive acids from sale as well. Considering an attack with a knife requires close physical contact in order to cause damage, an acid attack can be enacted from a distance. Hell, you could put acid into a slightly modified Super Soaker and start shooting people with it. You can find, for example, effective pipe cleaner sold openly in stores. It’s not uncommon to find sulphuric acid cleaning solutions either. An acid attack may not kill the target outright, but it certainly will incapacitate and damage can be severe. Especially if eyes have been targeted. The attacks in UK are on the news every other day, or so it seems. Where is Edeka’s kneejerk reaction to the possibility of their acidic compounds to be used within their store against other customers? They’ve made a solution that can’t fix the problem. If we’re going to be rather crass with the whole deal, there are few items in a supermarket’s utensils and tools section that couldn’t be turned into a damaging weapon of sorts.

Edeka’s solution is a terrible one, and barely a solution at all. It will cost them money to pull all the knives from sale and they will lose all the possible future knife sales. Depending whether or not this is permanent decision on their part is yet unknown, but I hope they will see the light of common sense and put them back on the shelves. As mentioned, if they want to ensure customer safety, they might want to implement better safety solutions rather than just outright remove the knives.

It also does not offer any solution to the core problem that is the people wielding the knives in order to attack. All these could do is to make it harder to gain access to a knife while out in the open.

Similarly to Edeka’s decision, ministers in the UK are considering putting some restrictions on the sales of corrosive liquids. This would not remove the problem either and would only require future assailants to be more creative in their attacks, or gain access to these items some other ways.

All this really reminds me to remind you, dear reader, to take care of your own kitchen knives. A monthly sharpening and using something like mineral oil (or the same oil you use in cooking) keeps them in a good condition and makes cooking much more enjoyable experience. If you’re looking for a sharpener, and would be willing to pay a bit more for a good one, I have a review up for Vulkanus sharpener. Be sure to store them in a proper manner as well, a manner that does not allow children to easily access them. After all, it’s not the tool that causes the damage, it’s the wielder.

Review of the Month: Dariusburst Chronicle Saviours Limited Edition/s

I was to review Huion GT-220 Ver.2 this month, but I realised that I’d need a lot more time with it before saying anything solid about it. Next month then. The second options was to review the tat that came with Dariusburst Chronicle Saviours Limited Edition package. I’m doing it a double though, reviewing both the Japanese Vita release and the PlayStation 4 Limited Run release. Let’s get on with the show then.

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The Japanese Vita release is a big box
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Limited Run’s box is essentially a carbon copy of the Japanese PS4 LE release

I have to start with the covers, because these things are pretty sweet. There are few iconic themes and illustrations with the Dariusburst sub-series, and both boxes do the game justice. Both portray the Legend and Next ship that defined the original Dariusburst with new takes on the classic bosses. It’s also nice to see some bigbox releases this day and age, even when it’s just for limited release products.

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Overall, the layout of the box is pretty good. Darius Odyssey, the book on the information of the whole series with an emphasize on the bosses, lays on top of the game case and music CD. While it would’ve been preferable to have the book behind the game and the disc so that you’d have a faster access to the game case, this is a doable solution.

Darius Odussey is a superb book. If you’re a fan of the franchise and have a preference for books of this nature, finding yourself one would something to consider about. Of course, there is a language barrier to consider about. Even if your linguistic skills aren’t up to the task, the pictures are nice.

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I had to edit my fingers out

The paper used is glossy, as per usual for these releases. This also means the page’s corners are easy to damage, and mine got a bit crunched from the sides during transit, meaning the base packaging itself is insufficient.

The music CD the Vita LE comes with is Original Arrange Soundtrack. It doesn’t contain any original tracks from the game itself, but contains music used for DLC stuff, meaning you’re missing a lot of good Zuntata music. While it can be understood, as the main soundtrack itself is sold separately and Zuntata really makes some decent dough on those, it would have been nice to have some Darius. I’ve got no qualms about having music from Space Harrier and Night Striker, which has a godly track titled Emergency Order, there is something amiss here. It’s nothing notable, but as far as included soundtracks goes, it misses the point a bit.

Overall, the Japanese Vita release was worth the money. Darius Odyssey was the money grabber in this one without a doubt. It makes an interesting conversation piece when your guests realise that all of the bosses have a seafood theme to them, and then you can proceed to wow them with your knowledge on mechanised sushi.

Limited Run’s PlayStation 4 release offers different contents, like the Japanese PS4 release.

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Uh, I’m not sure if they were arranged like this

You don’t see them, but bunch of Dariusburst CS capsule toys were stashed beneath both of these cases. The PS4 case may seem like something it would slide down in a moment, but they’ve managed to play the millimetre game well enough and it keeps the game’s case in place well enough.

There is no book this time around, but the Arrange Album is a new one. Again, we can DLC music from games like Death Smiles and Battle Garegga, of which Battle Garegga has an excellent remix of Into the Leaden Clouds. However, unlike with the Arrange Album in the Vita release, this sequel album has some songs from Darius games. They’ve been heavily arranged and carry individual composer’s tunes instead of relying on Zuntata’s own melodic trademarks. Both Arrange Albums are worth to listen to at least once and pick up your personal favourites from them, but I would recommend against purchasing either Limited Edition solely because of these music albums.

The game case is nothing special, but the main attraction of this piece is the two Silver Hawk capsule toys. Which is kinda backwards, because these two are just packed pieces of Shooting Game Historica toys and carry all the flaws a cheaply manufactured quick-pack toys have.

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The stand’s a huge upgrade from the original Silver Hawk figures from the first Shooting Game Historica

Limited Run’s Limited Edition came with Player 1 and 2 colours while the Japanese PS4 Limited Edition came with Player 3 and 4 colours. Whether or not they had a rerun or this release was provided from an excess stock is unknown, but ultimately this doesn’t matter. While I’m sure most people want the Red and Blue Silver Hawks, the P3 and P4 colours are now the rarer ones.

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Wings and cockpit were delivered in separate bags, as per capsule toys standards

The overall mould is good, but like with all toys like these, the tolerances are rather big. There are numerous spots where the pieces don’t align straight with each other without the use of glue, which I would recommend anyway.

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Because the tolerances are so high, the cockpit doesn’t sit in. You can see how it is turning to the right to the extent of the back right bit resting against the top. The turret on the left is also bending outwards due to cheap plastic used, though this is not a rare things with capsule toys. The cheapness also shows in the paintjob.

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Not the worst, not the best, but quality that doesn’t belong to a Limited Edition title

The cockpit is moulded in transparent blue plastic and then painted over with silver and red, or blue in the case of P2 colours. Due to the tolerances, the paint application is sloppy and the cockpit’s windscreen doesn’t come through as well as it should. It looks pretty terrible, and it would’ve been better if the windscreen was painted.

To be completely serious, the figures are a major letdown. Of course they wouldn’t make a new mould for this when you could cheap your ass out with this, but seeing the Japanese release did the same, it’s not exactly Limited Run’s fault. However, I would argue that Degica should’ve trumped the Japanese release and should have opted for the model kit of Silver Hawk. It might’ve had raised the price a bit, but it would’ve crowned the release. Now it’s just a drag.

Between the two releases, the Vita release gets a stamp of recommendation simply based on the book. However, it should be noted that PS4 version does have the book included as an extra on-disc that you can access in-game, but the most baffling part of this that the book’s completely untranslated. This is a significant miss on Degica’s part. The staff handling this project should have realised that they’d need to put the effort to translate it, though Degica and translations don’t really meet half-way through, it would seem.

However, if the book doesn’t look like your thing, then you’d better off with the standard release from Japan, or one of the digital options. It’ll be cheaper, and you won’t have a huge box taking your shelf space.

Or pick up Odin Sphere Leifthrasir ‘s limited edition for fifty quid on Amazon UK if you want a good limited release package.