The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Kouko Nosa in a Pinch!?- High School Fleet (Hai-Furi) OVA Part Two Review and Reflection

“‘…and the sea will grant each man new hope, as sleep brings dreams of home.’ Christopher Columbus.”
“Welcome to the New World, Captain.”

— Captain Ramius and Jack Ryan, The Hunt For Red October

After relaying here concerns to Mashiro and Akeno, Kouko is tasked with gathering everyone in the Harekaze class for a general assembly. Rather than idling, Kouko decides to initiate a petition to save the Harekaze, and sets out to find her classmates at their usual hangouts. From the conversations shared by the various classmates, all of the students are troubled by their purported situation and sign onto Kouko’s petition, which also doubles to restore her spirits. On the day before their sealed orders can be opened, the Harekaze’s crew put on a festival with the hope of raising more awareness to the cause with help from Moeka and Wilhelmina’s fellow classmates. Despite a slow start, the festival sees a large number of attendees who sign onto the petition. Their event is successful, with their petition gathering a large number of signatures, and on the morning the students are permitted to open their orders, the Harekaze’s crew learn that they are to remain together under Akeno’s command, operating the Okikaze, a new vessel outfitted with operational gear from the Harekaze. Principal Munetani remarks to Akeno that the vessel can be re-designated the Harekaze, and with their new home in order, Akeno sets sail on their next adventure together with her classmates. Thus, the second of the Hai-Furi OVAs comes to a close, wrapping up in a manner that was quite welcomed even if it was foreseeable.

In spite of the melancholy ending of its precursor, the second of the Hai-Furi OVAs manages to maintain a very cheerful atmosphere. Kouko’s fears from the previous OVA turned out to have been from confirmation bias, and my speculation turned out quite close to the actual events — I had suggested that teamwork could make up a large portion of the second OVA and would result in the crew working towards bringing back the Harekaze by repairing the original vessel. Although not true in its entirety (the original Harekaze is destined to be scrapped), the Harekaze is reborn and brought back in a manner of speaking. The events of the OVA continue to build on the thematic aspects seen in the TV series, and serve a twofold purpose. The strength of the bonds amongst the Harekaze’s crew allow them to now function quite cohesively, and their faith in Akeno as a captain only serves to augment their capability. Far from being the ship that was home to the misfits, the Harekaze’s students have proven time and time again that they can pull through together to get the job done. This is not diminished even with the revelation that the Harekaze’s crew would not be disbanded: the implications were that, petition or not, their exemplary actions are worthy of praise and noticed by their command. There was never any threat or risk that they would be disbanded; how the girls responded to circulating rumours merely serves to reiterate the points raised in Hai-Furi‘s original run.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I’ve been noticing a great deal of inbound searches for the second Hai-Furi OVA, so as stipulated, here I am writing the discussion for the second Hai-Furi OVA. Like the previous Hai-Furi OVA post, I will feature thirty screenshots fresh from the OVA, which released on BD on May 24. Despite Kouko’s entering the OVA with a subdued mood, it appears that a combination of a night’s sleep and a conversation with Mashiro, who promises to inform Akeno, lightens her up sufficiently so that she’s back up to her usual self.

  • Still inundated with paperwork, Akeno is given an update, and Mashiro reluctantly decides to help her finish. Armed with fresh resolve, she begins filling out the smaller forms at a faster pace. It’s been a shade under a week since I flew back home from Hong Kong now, and while time has resumed moving at breakneck pace since I returned to work, I was quite happy to take the vacation that I did; time flowed a little more slowly, allowing me to really enjoy the moment and take in the sights and sounds of a world away from home.

  • With a few days left until their sealed orders can be opened, Kouko shares a bold plan with Megumi and Tsugumi, intending to create a petition to convey the feelings that she and her classmates have regarding the Harekaze. Kouko references Tōgō’s actions from the Battle of Tsushima, where he ordered his fleet into a U-turn to take the same course as the Russian vessels they were engaging, at the same time preventing the Russians from launching broadside volleys. While the Japanese fleet sustained hits from the Russian ships, the Japanese gunners returned fire, hammering the Russian ships and managed to sink the Oslyabya, a Russian vessel.

  • At Tsushima, the Russians lost all of the battleships and suffered a loss that was quite shocking to the rest of the world. Kouko is referring to this battle here, to continue with a difficult course owing to the long-term outcome, and sets in motion the idea of a petition to save the Harekaze. The Battle of Tsushima was the turning point in the Russo-Japanese war and reaffirmed to the British that large caliber weapons would be instrumental to naval combat. This way of thinking precipitated the creation of larger battleships, and the belief in the battleship’s might endured until the Second World War.

  • I note that searching for the “Tougou Turn” as it appears is not too instructive: it turns up some music videos. Conversely, using “Tōgō” in place of “Tougou” brings up the Battle of Tsushima, which is more relevant to the discussion at hand. The gunnery team is initially open to the idea of a transfer to a different ship, relishing the idea of firing more powerful weapons, but their friendship with one another draw them back, coupled with the prospect of giving up having Akeno as a captain, lead them to reconsider. They sign Kouko’s petition.

  • A visit to the engineers results in additional signatures being added to Kouko’s petition. I’ve seen several forms of spelling for the character names around the ‘net – each character has a nickname, as well, and most venues for anime discussion prefer the nicknames because they are faster to type. Kouko is thus referred to as Coco. Having said this, I prefer referring to the characters by their given name: this did lead to some challenges earlier on, where I was mixing up Shima and Tama to be different people.

  • Elsewhere, Shima and Mei continue on with their own game. While Mei has consistently schooled Shima during the previous OVA and appears to be dominating the game here, Shima manages to turn the tables on her in a hilarious moment. I’m not sure if this was a budgetary constraint or a stylistic choice, but some of the backgrounds in the Hai-Furi OVAs appear to be done in the style of a watercolour painting. While there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with this, it does appear a little out of place compared with the other backgrounds, which are more consistent in style.

  • While signing a petition certainly won’t alter one’s physical appearance or likely improve their grades, Kouko manages to inspire the Navigation team to sign the petition. They had been the most visibly shaken by the news in the previous episode: it took all of Kouko’s willpower to assuage their fears without bursting into tears herself, but here, the total of Kouko’s dialogue, music and lighting seem to be insinuating to audiences that their so-called dissolution might not be what it appears, and for a supposedly-serious situation, the Hai-Furi OVA’s second half is surprisingly laid-back in emotional tenour.

  • High spirits in spite of what appears to be sobering news dominates the second Hai-Furi OVA’s first half. In the time since the first half aired, I’ve been keeping an eye on the Hai-Furi official Twitter, where build-up to the OVAs have been presented every so often. Since the OVA aired, their channel has gone quiet, and I remark that discussions surrounding both OVAs have been surprisingly minimal, with only one claim that stands out: that the first OVA was “…probably weaker than any other episode of the main series”. Such remarks can only come from a mindset that OVAs are generally frivolous, and such a belief is incorrect especially for things like Girls und Panzer and Hai-Furi.

  • The rationale for my position, that OVAs can be enjoyable and offer insights into characters, is that OVAs that are light-hearted relative to their TV counterparts provide opportunity to explore another side of the characters to more fully flesh them out. Seeing characters out of their duties and observing their interactions in a more relaxed environment, if done properly (which Hai-Furi has) can also serve to reinforce thematic elements in a show. It is for this reason that I am so fond of OVAs, and here, the navigation team continue on their photoshoot with Machiko as their subject, although their ploy to draw the crowd’s interest is unsuccessful, prompting Kouko to move on.

  • Encountering Kaede near the harbour again, Kouko learns that Kaede was contemplating leaving briefly to attend an Opera Ball, a social event where debutantes present their eligibility for marriage. She has no plans to leave long-term, at least, not until her education is complete at age eighteen, meaning that Kouko’s assumptions in the previous episode are false. With more indicators that her concerns might not come to fruition, the overall tone in the OVA shifts subtly as Kouko continues on her quest.

  • Aspects of Kaede and her aristocratic background, represents a fine example of where an OVA is able to present aspects of characters the TV series itself is not able to. Similarly, we’ve seen very little of Tsugumi and Megumi in the series proper, so giving them a bit more screentime in the OVA allows audiences to appreciate that the Harekaze’s crew are a unique, diverse group. This is why it is not always appropriate to hastily dismiss OVAs, being the rationale for why I myself enjoy anime OVAs to the extent that I do. It is also here that I remark that Megumi looks a bit like Da Capo Second Season‘s Aisia, a magician-in-training whose resolute belief in magic being used for the good of all precipitates the events of Da Capo Second Season‘s later segments.

  • I finished watching Da Capo and Da Capo Second Season a year ago. While quite unremarkable with respect to story and concept in its anime incarnation, Da Capo and its second season did manage to nail the unusual atmosphere surrounding Hatsunejima. Similarly, I rather liked Nemu Asakura and Kotori Shirakawa. My interest in Da Capo came from me coming across a collection of CooRie songs a friend had sent me years ago, and I decided to see the anime that made use of Akatsuki ni Saku Uta as its ending song. I don’t see enough positives in Da Capo or its second season to recommend, hence the lack of a review. Back in Hai-Furi, Kouko encounter Minami, obtains her signature for their petition and learns that she enjoys the hover-board because it mimics the rise and fall of the sea.

  • The Harekaze’s crew put on a grandoise festival in order to raise awareness for their cause, and despite the amount of effort they’ve put in (even recruiting Moeka and Wilhelmina to assist), the day is off to a slow start with low attendee numbers. Disappointment reigns supreme, but things quickly turn around when Akeno shows up – the profound change in morale amongst the students is nothing short of remarkable.

  • Stepping into the open-air stage, Akeno and Moeka perform a live song that turns things around: although her role in the OVAs has been primarily restricted to dealing with paperwork while Kouko’s been out and about, she now carries with her the same presence as Miho of Girls und Panzer, as well as the great heroes from Lord of the Rings: when folks like Aragorn, Legolas or Gimli stepped onto the battlefield, characters and audiences alike knew that the situation would be well in hand as extraordinary folk went to work. The similarities between Miho and Akeno are noticeable: both are capable leaders who believe in leading by example, each motivated by an event in their past, and over time, earn the respect of their classmates with their actions.

  • Following the live concert performance, attendance at the festival skyrockets, and the Harekaze curry being sold is depleted. Other students step up to the plate and bring in supplies to make festival foods such as takoyaki and okonomiyaki, and all sorts of things, like, such as that. During my last day in Japan, at the Kansai International Airport, I had Botejyu’s seafood okonomiyaki – an authentic taste of Tamayura, it was absolutely delicious, featuring succulent prawns and cuttlefish in a flavourful batter, topped with a hearty sauce. I subsequently explored the airport’s shopping outlets and purchased the Kimi no na wa movie guide while waiting for baggage check-in to open.

  • It’s been a week since my final day in Hong Kong, which I spent shopping at Taikoo Shing Cityplaza. I came across Ian Lambot and Greg Girard “City of Darkness”, running for about 110 CAD. Tempted though I was to buy it, the book was very bulky and would have presented considerable challenges to bring in my carry-on. We stopped for lunch at a Pizza Hut at Cityplaza, ordering a Seafood pizza (scallops, prawns and pineapple toppings with a sausage-cheese crust), before continuing to explore Hong Kong University and Central. The evening was rounded out with a family dinner. At present day, a week after returning to routine, I enjoyed another family dinner at the T. Pot China Bistro much closer to home: the Cantonese cuisine back home is of the same standard of that in Hong Kong, being of an excellent quality. Elements inspired by Vietnamese, Thai and Canadian elements make their way into dishes here: our dinner tonight encompassed wonton soup, sweet and sour pork, roast crispy chicken, yi mein and shrimps in a savory sauce.

  • Back in Hai-Furi, Hiromi, Kouko and Maron admire a fireworks display rounding off their festival; despite a sluggish opening, combined efforts from everyone make the event an unqualified success. Numerous signatures are gathered as attendees visit to enjoy Akeno and Moeka’s singing, the curry and other festival foods. The effort the Harekaze’s crew places into the festival move the attendees, prompting them to sign Kouko’s petition, allowing them to accrue a large number of signatures.

  • Later that evening, Akeno, Mashiro and Kouko carry the signatures to their superior officers, resolute on illustrating that they do not wish to go separate ways with a crew that has accomplished so much during a crisis. The course of this meeting is not shown, although it is not unreasonable to suppose that their higher-ups will simply commend them on their resolve, tell them to leave the petition with them and that a decision will be reached in the morning, when everyone is finally cleared to open their sealed envelopes.

  • The skies are pleasant on this June day when everyone assembles. The atmosphere is tense as the Harekaze’s crew await the instructions allowing them to open their documents. While certainly not something I would recommend or personally do, there is a way to open adhesive-sealed envelopes in a reasonably difficult-to-trace manner. The process is quite simple and was used in Tom Clancy’s Threat Vector: place the envelope in a freezer for around an hour, and carefully cut at the interface where the sealant is with a sharp knife. Cooling makes the sealant brittle, allowing it to be cut without tearing the paper. Once the document is inspected, re-sealing the envelope is as simple as letting the envelope thaw.

  • When the order is issued, each of the Harekaze’s crew apprehensively open their letters, learning they are to be transferred to a new vessel. Seemingly confirming Kouko’s fears, it turns out that she, and everyone else present, is to be moving to the vessel Y-469. These are transfer orders as Wilhelmina had predicted, but far from what Kouko was expecting – everyone is moving together into a new vessel after the Harekaze was found to have sustained excessive damage, and as such, will be sticking together as a class. Principal Munetani and other members in command have found the Harekaze’s actions to be commendable, and impressed with their abilities as a team, permits them to stick together.

  • Kouko’s relief and happiness is written all over her expression here; it’s a beautiful sight to behold. Because the sealed envelopes had been printed and issued well before Kouko was aware of their existence, it would appear that the Harekaze’s crew were never in any risk of being separated from one another. A secondary theme in the Hai-Furi OVAs, then, is that there are occasions when fear of bad news drives individuals to worry needlessly, and that it might have been to simply wait for the news before making any decisions. With this being said, had Kouko acted as common sense might dictate, there would have been no Hai-Furi OVA to enjoy.

  • Designated Okikaze (literally “Flourishing Wind”), Akeno climbs into the bridge of the vessel Y-469 and finds Garfield Isoroku sitting on the instruments. She realises that all of the equipment is familiar, right down to the binoculars, compass, wheel and fire control systems: the other bridge crew marvel at this seeming miracle, as well, feeling as though they are reuniting with an old friend after a long separation.

  • Elsewhere on board the Y-469, the different crews make similar discoveries in that much of the Harekaze’s equipment seems to have been transferred wholesale onto the new vessel. From the engine room to navigation and everywhere in between, familiar traces of home are found. What the girls are feeling is probably best approximated with the real-world analogue of restoring a new iPad or iPhone to a backup after an accident that totals one’s older device. Thanks to iCloud backups, users can rapidly restore data and settings to new devices should they lose an older device, and in this day and age, our data’s value grows to be much more valuable than the physical device itself.

  • Miran Irako, the Harekaze’s head cook, hugs her beloved rice cooker upon learning that it has been restored and placed in the Y-469’s galley. The rice cooker was one of the first items to be listed in the damage report, being dented during the skirmish in the first episode, and became the subject of no small discussion. I remarked that the rice cooker should still work, since its walls did not appear to be compromised, but discussions elsewhere were much lengthier. To see this reaction from Miran is a reminder that Hai-Furi does pay attention to the details in its characters, and I smiled at this moment.

  • Outside, the weapons team admires their vessel’s 12.7 cm/50 Type 3 naval gun in a single mount configuration, and this weapon was originally fit to Fubuki-class destroyers. On the note of Fubuki and destroyers, I’ve heard unverified rumours that KanColle: The Movie will see a home release on August 30. I felt that the anime, for all of its impressive visual effects and masterpiece of a soundtrack, did not compel me to try Kantai Collection or move me with its story. Having said that, I am still interested to see what the movie is like, and I might drop by to review this movie as time permits.

  • Back on the bridge, Principal Munetani explains that Y-469, Orikaze, was a new vessel laid down and intended to be an addition to the fleet, but in light of circumstances, they took the unfinished vessel and fitted its interior with equipment from the Harekaze. This course of action suggests that the original Harekaze’s internal structures must have sustained extensive damage beyond repair even if the hull appeared to have been damaged minimally. She allows Akeno to re-christian the Y-469 as the Harekaze, and if there is to be a continuation of Hai-Furi, I will refer to Y-469 as Harekaze II on account of all of the trials the original Harekaze went through.

  • In a cruel bit of irony, Moeka is taken aside for questioning, having been involved with a confidential matter. One would imagine that the repercussions are not too severe in nature: its military setting and unexpected narrative direction notwithstanding, Hai-Furi is, at its best, a tale of human team spirit and cooperation. Something more severe would not be consistent with the message that Hai-Furi has aimed to send since its plot began to materialise in Hai-Furi‘s televised run.

  • In life, folks win some, and they lose some; today, Akeno and her friends win some, big time. Here, the bridge crew prepare to take the Harekaze II on a test run. This is the end of the two Hai-Furi OVAs, and my final verdict is that I enjoyed them, as they add a bit more to the characters that were not frequently seen during Hai-Furi itself. The OVAs are definitely worth watching for that reason, and a new Harekaze opens the possibility for new adventures. It seemed a shame to waste a finely-crafted world, and if Hai-Furi goes down the same route as Brave Witches, a continuation could prove worthwhile to watch.

  • In news quite unrelated to Hai-Furi, it turns out that my preorder for Your Name‘s novel incarnation, which was set for release on May 23, arrived on May 16, a full week before the release date. It speaks to Canada Post’s efficiency and just how on their game that Chapters-Indigo is for deliveries. As we move into the final few days of May, the biggest posts on the horizon will deal with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Remastered and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. I finished the game today, and will be looking to write a final impressions post on it, plus some reflections on Modern Warfare Remastered in the new future. As for anime-related posts, the largest planned post is a revisitation of Garden of Words: it will have been four years since I watched it, and I do wish to look at this film again before diving into a full-scale discussion of Your Name come July.

The second of two OVAs is now in the books, and was an enjoyable addition to Hai-Furi. I have remarked that the outcomes are predictable; there was never any doubt that Kouko and her classmates would be separated, especially with their previous role in saving the Musashi in mind. However, I place less emphasis on the outcome and more on the journey taken, so seeing the events of this second Hai-Furi OVA unfold and progress was most entertaining. More so than the first OVA, this OVA portrays the commitment and unity shared universally amongst the Harekaze’s crew. To see them take the initiative and, within legal bounds, do what they can to save their vessel was admirable. To see the entire crew unify and undergo a dramatic improvement in morale when Akeno appears was moving — this is the mark of a good leader, to be able to single-handedly lift spirits simply by making an appearance. Viewers are given an opportunity to see Akeno sing when she performs a song for her classmates and the festival’s attendees with Moeka. With all of these elements in mind, one must wonder about what a continuation could entail; a Tweet from the official Hai-Furi Twitter account strongly hints at a future project, stating that “Planning and policies for various projects are under way. Please look forward to it”. While we’ve heard little since then, having Hai-Furi go through a more involved narrative, possibly featuring a plot to destroy the Blue Mermaids, and the Harekaze’s involvement in thwarting this scheme, could definitely be something that I would be interested to watch.

My First Time on a Company Vacation: New Game! OVA Review and Reflection

“讀萬卷書不如行萬里路” —Chinese Proverb

Despite her initial fears about skiing during a company vacation, Aoba discovers that she enjoys skiing and overcomes her fear in the process. Meanwhile, Kō becomes sick and Rin looks after her. After a speedy recovery, Kō takes to drinking and goads Umiko into a drinking contest while Aoba and Hifumi relax in the onsen. The OVA for New Game! comes as a bonus for individuals who had bought each of the six home release volumes and submitted their proof-of-purchase stubs: despite early materials strongly suggesting that this would be a hot springs episode, the actual OVA turns out to be set at a ski resort, being a faithful adaptation of the manga’s story. Despite being a bonus episode set in the aftermath of Eagle Jump’s successful release, the simple tale of how Aoba manages to find enjoyment in something that she initially is initially apprehensive about serves as the episode’s message, acting as an analogue to her experiences with taking on a new job. Though doubtful, Aoba manages to find enjoyment in a new activity because of her interactions with her co-workers, as well as with her own resolve to make the most of things. Although simplistic, it’s a fitting element for the New Game! OVA that subtly mirrors the thematic elements seen in the anime proper. Fun, relaxing and fitting for New Game!, the OVA is something for all viewers who enjoyed New Game!, although folks should not be missing out on too much should they pass over the OVA.

The contents of the New Game! OVA bring to mind my own recent experiences. Having just returned from a two-week long vacation to Japan and Hong Kong, of which a week was spent in Japan, the time is also fresh to look back on my first-ever setting foot upon the Land of the Rising Sun; I do not quite feel up to the task of writing about this fantastic vacation just yet, primarily because so much was seen, done and eaten over the past two weeks. However, I will recount the second evening in Japan, during which the itinerary saw me visit the Hotel Heritage in Kumagaya. Set just a short ways outside of Tokyo, it’s located in a quiet area with beautiful scenery, although upon arrival, darkness had already settled over the land, hiding the landscape. After checking in, we sat down to an exquisitely prepared Japanese dinner: a personal-sized nabe with rich cuts of beef, katsu with shredded cabbage, sashimi and bento, along with snow crab. This was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, and upon its conclusion, I soaked in the onsen. Despite living only an hour from the Banff Upper Hot Springs, I’ve never actually gone to a hot springs before, so this was a wonderful experience. I found the onsen empty upon arrival and had the bath to myself; after cleaning up, I stepped into the bath and marveled at the water’s warmth. After ten minutes, however, I began feeling light headed and exited to cool off. All in all, this was superlative, and I left with a sense of relaxation. These elements are seen in numerous anime, ranging from The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-Chan and Urara Meirocho to K-On! and Yūki Yūna is a Hero: to have experienced the same first-hand is quite unlike merely watching from behind a screen, and it continues to impress me the extent that anime in the slice-of-life genre capture elements in Japan.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I’m back, baby! It’s been a shade over twenty days since my last post, and while it may have appeared that I unceremoniously stopped writing for my blog, the truth is that I was on vacation. Superbly enjoyable, I saw, hiked and ate my way through the trip in all of its glory. I mentioned earlier that I would be writing about the second Hai-Furi OVA, but the contents of the New Game! OVA were more closely aligned with my vacation experiences, so I figured that I would do a post that was one part anime discussion and one part a short discussion on my vacation.

  • The page quote, a Chinese proverb, translates directly to “it is better to travel ten thousand miles than to read ten thousand books”, and my experiences in Japan definitely confirm this: it was something to watch in anime the sorts of things Japanese people do for recreation, but quite another to have actually experienced it for myself. As is the custom, this talk will feature twenty screenshots, although like the Non Non Biyori OVAs, the images are captured from a DV PAL source and so, are of a lower resolution than my usual posts. When fit into a 640 by 360 form, the fuzziness is minimised and the image quality becomes acceptable for a blog post.

  • The start of the New Game! OVA sees a raging snowstorm that blankets the land in white. I’ve seen more than my share of snow during the past winter, which had been a bitterly cold one, and in a bit of irony, a powerful low pressure system swept into Alberta today, bringing with it powerful wind gusts reaching 100 km/h and copious amounts of rain. It even snowed while I was at work. In Hong Kong, a Black Rain Advisory was issued earlier today, and news reports of waist-deep flooding in places like Shau Kei Wan have arisen.

  • Aoba savours the moment as she prepares to tuck in to breakfast. One of the things that I enjoy most about travelling and staying in larger hotels is the fact that breakfasts are quite large, featuring all manners of baked goods such as bread, croissants, muffins and pancakes, as well as eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, vegetables, fruits, cereal and yogurts. In general, having a good breakfast is essential for keeping energy up for the day, and this goes double for travelling, which can be quite exhausting on account of all the listed activities: I typically have continental breakfasts or something quick at home, since I need to roll off for work on short order.

  • However, when I travel, there is invariably the opportunity to eat what is known as an American-style breakfast: the combination of simple and complex sugars, plus proteins means being able to maintain reasonable energy throughout the day. Diverse selections available at breakfast buffets means that I will also pick fruits, as travelling means reduced availability of fresh fruits. Here at breakfast, Aoba remarks that she’s more inclined to relax at the hotel rather than go skiing with the others. Midway through breakfast, Aoba notices that Kō’s not touched her food, and it turns out she’s developed a minor fever.

  • Rin looks after Kō to ensure that the latter makes a speedy recovery, and here I am, in the aftermath of my vacation, rocking a sore throat and cough. My health remained solid through the trip, but on the flight back home across the Pacific, I noticed that I was feeling a bit drier than usual, and drinking water did little to alleviate the sand in my throat. A bit of sleep the day after proved helpful, although I’m still coughing at the time of writing. Having said that, my headache has vanished, and the jet lag seems to be abating. Being sick while on vacation is unpleasant, but Kō’s choice to rest will allow her to recover.

  • While preparing for their ski run, the art team runs into Umiko, who is outfitted in winter gear and enjoying some time practising survival game drills in the snow. Between the choice of joining Umiko or skiing, Aoba decides to bite the bullet and remain with her colleagues. I’ve only ever gone skiing once: back during January 2012, I visited the mountains with friends from the Health Sciences program. My friends plainly overestimated my ability, and after a single hour of basic training, they decided to take me out to the “beginner” hills.

  • While I managed to hold out and make it for most of the track, there was a steeper hill that I was quite unprepared to deal with. Poor technique and inexperience saw me fly down the hill; I eventually hit a bump, did a front flip and landed back-first in the snow, winded, stopping just meters from some trees. In New Game!, Aoba’s colleagues seem a little more understanding and give her a bit more time in basic training.

  • Owing to the hazards associated with flying down a slippery, snow-covered slope on two thin pieces of wood, folks tend to wear helmets when they ski where I come from, so it does come across as a bit strange that the characters of New Game! are seen without helmets whilst skiing (especially Aoba, who’s about as much of a novice at the trip’s beginning as I am now). I am content to overlook this, since in fiction, characters are not subject to the laws of physics quite as vigorously as people would in reality 😛

  • Aoba crafts a number of miniature snowmen throughout the course of the OVA, giving them numeric designations, subjecting them to “tortures” by bringing them into the warmth and sending one to Kō to wish her a speedy recovery. She’s also heard making some snow-related puns during the episode, something that Hifumi notices but fails to give comment on. This playful side of Aoba’s personality, though not commonly seen during New Game! proper, is not unexpected, given that she is still quite young.

  • Aoba’s friend, Nene, reacts to a message from Aoba while studying on campus. Closer inspection of this image shows a large number of sticky notes in Nene’s textbooks and notes — it’s a common technique to allow one quicker access to important materials, but during my time as a student, I preferred creating notes anew for finals. This was motivated by the fact that I would be forced to revisit all the materials again to distill out core concepts to build a summary, allowing me to better recall things. As it turns out, after two days, Aoba’s become rather more familiar with skiing and is able to traverse the basic slopes without much difficulty, keeping up with the others.

  • As the evening sun sets in, Aoba’s perspective on skiing has done a full one-eighty. An open mind and willingness to learn has allowed her to become sufficiently skilled in skiing to enjoy it, and it is this that forms the basis for the OVA’s theme. Typically, OVAs do not offer much in the way of an overarching idea owing to their short length, but in supplementing the events of an anime proper, they can offer additional insights into the characters’ beliefs and values. Sometimes, these insights can be quite surprising, which is why I enjoy looking at OVAs and seeing what new perspectives they can provide viewers with about characters in a given show.

  • Yun, Hajime and Aoba relax in the outdoor bath with Kō and Rin. At the Hotel Heritage, there were indoor and outdoor baths, although the outdoor bath was for mixed use and required purchase of a special swimsuit. That evening was modestly warm, certainly more comfortable than the sub-zero conditions of New Game!, but despite being of the True North Strong and correspondingly accustomed to cold, I could not bring myself to go outside out of fear that I would catch the chills. The indoor bath, on the other hand, allows for folks to bathe without any sort of bating attire.

  • I stepped into the indoor bath only after thoroughly cleaning myself; the day had, after all, included a lightning tour of Tokyo, and we’d been rained on at some points. The bath was surprisingly quiet, and save for two other fellows, I had the place to myself. Back home, I’m quite bashful about walking around without clothes despite being modestly fit (a reminder of social norms in North America), but at the onsen, those reservations disappeared pretty quickly. Any more information and this post will become R-rated, so I will leave readers with an aesthetically pleasing view of Hifumi resting in the onsen.

  • Having recovered from her cold, Kō is back in business and challenges Umiko to a drinking contest even as they order different dishes at the hotel restaurant, including sea urchin and sashimi, which Kō enjoys tremendously. While a Japanese delicacy, and a part of dinner during my stay at Hotel Heritage, I was still in the early stage of my vacation and had no intention of taking the risk, however minor, of contracting food-borne illnesses — being the wet blanket that I am, I dipped the sashimi into the nabe pot and soon had myself some cooked fish that tasted delicious, on top of giving the broth a bit of extra kick.

  • If there were to be a single image in this entire post that captures how I felt while immersed in the soothing warmth of the onsen, Aoba’s expression here would be it. The indoor bath at Hotel Heritage, compared to New Game! and most anime, differ greatly; the particle density is lower (i.e. less steam) and water details are much greater (the water is clear, having no obscuring properties). Having Frostbite or CryEngine-level visual effects in anime dealing with hot springs is typically reserved for BD releases, and with this in mind, while New Game! is certainly playing it safe in its OVA, I would not have minded seeing this OVA (and Hifumi) on ultra settings. 

  • Whil Aoba plays with a snowman and simulates killing it, Hifumi partakes in some sake. I speak strictly for myself when I say that I would not have done this; I’m already pretty bad with alcohol, and after some ten minutes of sitting in the onsen, I was beginning to feel a little light-headed. Sake would have almost certainly kicked my ass, although Hifumi is plainly enjoying hers. Closer inspection of this image finds that Aoba’s snowman has become a pile of mush from prolonged exposure to the warmth, a clever touch; I now understand why folks are depicted drinking a glass of milk after leaving the onsen. Feeling thoroughly content but a little dizzy after my soak, I took a bottle of cold water after returning to my hotel room.

  • In this post, I have taken advantage of the events of the New Game! OVA to recount one of my experiences while on my trip to Japan. Naturally, there were numerous others, and this will be the subject of a future post (most likely, soon, before I forget everything) — it was a thrilling journey, and I wish to do it justice. Here, as we near the end of the post, I remark that discussion on the New Game! OVA has been surprisingly minimal: even Tango-Victor-Tango’s self-appointed 3D modelling and computer hardware expert seems to have little to say about the OVA. Having said that, I am certain that things will change, and discussions will grow more lively, in the very near future.

  • Umiko recovers from her drunkenness rather abruptly, all the while insisting that she’s fine, after having one drink too many following Kō’s challenge to up the ante and take on something more potent. Contrary to what might be imagined, I never feel left out when I am at a social gathering and choose a soft drink over something like a beer: for one, the taste is better, and with ever-conflicting research about whether or not alcohol has health benefits or increases the risk of cancer, I think that trading in my ale for a ginger ale isn’t all that bad.

  • The New Game! OVA is in the books, and this means I’m fully back, both to work and to routine. For the folks who were hoping for my demise, I must apologise, today is not it: coming on the horizon will be a talk on the second Hai-Furi OVA, which released today, and before May draws to a close, I will be aiming to wrap up Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. Koe no Katachi is also out now, and I will be watching that as I make the time to. It feels great to return, and for folks who are wondering what else my vacation entailed, I will (probably) write about it in due course.

With the OVA finished, there is a second season of New Game! in the works, set for release in the summer 2017 anime season. Continuing on with where the first season left off, four new characters will be introduced. I enjoyed New Game!‘s first season for being able to capture the eccentricities of a game company’s artistic team; the anime exceeded expectations in being able to strike a balance between humour and character growth, as well as for integrating minor details to enhance the authenticity surrounding the 3D modelling and asset creation process. While I was less pleased with some aspects of the community for taking the anime a bit more seriously than warranted (driving discussions down a drier path, debating minutiae about whether or not Eagle Jump was using Dell computers, for instance), on the whole, New Game! itself was solid, and it is a most pleasant surprise to learn that a second season would be coming out so soon. For me, the anime does not need to be realistic to succeed, and so, looking ahead to the second season, I enter with an open mind and the expectation of more humour as the four new characters interact with the existing team.

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare- Review and Impressions ¾ Mark

“He’s one of us! Ethan! What’s the Navy’s official policy for a gunfight?”
“Send in the Marines!”

–Staff Sergeant Usef Omar and ETH.3n

Reyes is recovered by the Tigris and returns to the Retribution, mopping up SDF operations over the dwarf planet Pluto and restores control of a salvage site to SATO, returns to Titan to decimate SDF vessels while they are refueling and proceeds to intercept a chemical weapons vessel in orbit over Venus. Subsequently, Reyes receives word that there is a disturbance at a SATO facility in an asteroid mining station near Mercury. Fighting both hostile robots and extremities of temperatures, Reyes and his team narrowly miss incineration and only just escape the facility, although Staff Sergeant Omar dies when Salter takes off early before their window to evacuate closes. Upon returning to the Retribution, Reyes and the others learn that this operation had been a diversion: the SDF destroy the Tigris, leaving no survivors. Reyes later devises a plan involving the beacon that Riah is carrying; this is a signal that will prompt a full SDF invasion, and in theory, cutting off the beacon will lead the SDF to assume the time is appropriate for a full-scale assault. Before returning to Earth, Reyes engages a remaining SDF operation in orbit around the sun, where the blistering temperatures only confers his Jackals limited time before they malfunction. Completing this task, the Retribution’s crew gear up for a final shot at the SDF fleet and recovering control of the solar system. This is where I am in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare after some eleven hours of play – with all of the side missions complete, I turn my attention towards the final two missions left in this game.

While very much a corridor shooter in the vein of its predecessors, Infinite Warfare provides a very uncommon approach towards its gameplay – the side missions have proven to be quite enjoyable despite their similarities with one another. This is not too surprising, as the side missions come in two varieties: Jackal strike missions are purely space combat driven, involving dogfights and attacks on SDF vessels, while infiltration missions involve boarding SDF vessels to recover high value articles or carrying out acts of sabotage. While these missions play identically, they offer additional insights into the SDF, which is by this point, very nearly comical in its portrayal. A militaristic, totalitarian regime, one must wonder if Infinite Warfare is willfully presenting a satire of such governments, indirectly mocking both Gundam‘s Principality of Zeon and Aldnoah.Zero‘s VERS Empire for their methods and principles. Developing secret weapons stolen from SATO and resorting to WMD, the SDF are unquestionably appalling, an entity that is very difficult to garner sympathy for: this makes it easy to provide a backdrop and justification for the diverse locations seen in Infinite Warfare. While the narrative might be quite thin on closer inspection, it is successful in giving players a chance to experience combat operations set in different locations around the Solar System, and while there is a degree of repetitiveness in the side missions, they are intended to supplement the relatively small number of main missions, which are rather more diverse in terms of design and atmosphere.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • In 2006, the IAU formalised its definition of a planet after the discovery of several objects in the Kepler Belt with similar masses to Pluto: it has since been re-designated a dwarf planet, although scientists are still in debate as to whether or not the new IAU definition is satisfactory. The definition is seen as pure matter of semantics, and under the IAU terms, Earth would not qualify as a planet for having failed to “cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit”, which is given as becoming a gravitationally dominant entity in its area, although this is loosely defined and consequently, is considered inadequate a criteria.

  • In Rick and Morty, Jerry Smith argues that “If [Pluto] can be a planet, it can be a planet again”. It’s not quite as eloquent as a formal argument, and from a personal perspective, I argue that the third criteria is indeed open to semantics: in a hypothetical young star system with several gas giants several times the mass and radius of Earth, these would not be considered planets if they are surrounded by a debris field under the “cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit” constraint. This makes very little sense, and the suggested, simpler definition encompasses two criteria, which makes rather more sense: a planet should be a sufficiently large body orbiting the sun that is of a sufficient size to maintain a spherical structure, and where the size exceeds a certain threshold (e.g. a diameter of 2000 kilometers or greater). Any smaller object with a spherical shape is then counted as a dwarf planet.

  • The object of one of the boarding missions around Pluto is to infiltrate an SDF vessel and execute high value targets belonging to the SDF command: crippling their leadership will weaken their ability to strike the SATO forces. Donning a SDF uniform and equipment, Reyes manages to sneak through the vessel undetected and deactivates the life support system, leading to near total casualties.

  • I’ve now said two controversial things in this Infinite Warfare post, and while I do wonder what readers think of these topics (both of my perspective on Zeon and Pluto’s state as dwarf planet), I note that this is a gaming post intended to detail my run through a futuristic first person shooter. Hence, comments that deviate too greatly from the scope of discussion will likely not be answered in full because a proper response will be quite wordy. Returning back to Infinite Warfare, here, I participate in a mission to engage and destroy SDF fighters, as well as vessels, in a salvage yard over Pluto.

  • Very much cut and dried, the Jackal strike missions turned out to be quite enjoyable despite being repetitive owing to the different locales they are set above. By this point in the game, I’ve become very comfortable with the handling of a Jackal, which is unlike the jets of Battlefield 3 and Battlefield 4 and Ace Combat. In fact, the controls are more similar to the Banshee of Halo and Halo 2. As well, I’ve unlocked all of the weapons and specialisations for the Jackal. I usually sortie with the default loadout, which offers a nice balance between firepower and firing rate.

  • The skies of Titan are moodier as I return to wreck havoc on the SDF A-Jak Cutters, smaller warships with vulnerable panels near their engines that can be destroyed quickly, dealing massive damage to the Cutter. The larger destroyers take a much longer period to engage: my preferred strategy is to hit it from the sides and rear, eliminating the cannons and missiles as required. After sustaining enough damage, the destroyers will explode spectacularly, although I do find it interesting that a single Jackal can do that much damage to an entire destroyer.

  • Flying above Venus’s noxious atmosphere of sulfuric acid and carbon dioxide in this mission, Reyes and the Retribution prepare to board the Hellas, which is suspected to be housing chemical weapons. That there is no “boots-on-the-ground” mission on Venus makes sense: despite being considered Earth’s sister planet, the surface is shrouded in a heavy atmosphere that exerts ninety-four times the pressure relative to Earth’s. Simply, explorers on the surface would be exposed to an unpleasant combination of extreme heat caused by the runaway greenhouse effect and corrosive elements that, in conjunction with the pressure, would make combat and movement near-impossible. Conversely, telemetry has found that the upper atmosphere, some sixty kilometers above the surface, has a similar composition to Earth’s atmosphere.

  • It is up here that the events of Operation D-CON are set. I start with the recommended loadout of a Mauler LMG and Reaver shotgun, both projectile weapons. Having an LMG is useful for situations where there is a large number of enemies, while the shotgun is well-suited for the tighter corridors of the SDF destroyer. It’s business as usual, then: make one’s way to a part of the warship, do something and then get out. While the side missions are unremarkable from a gameplay perspective, they provide additional information on the war between the UNSA and SDF, as well as unlocking attachments and upgrades for players.

  • The side missions also reuse a great many assets: it’s actually quite convenient, since the SDF warships likely have a standardised interior, it should be no surprise that all of the warships look the same from the inside. Here, I have swapped over to the Reaver for close-quarters combat, and note that the weapons of Infinite Warfare‘s campaign can be customised to an incredible extent: while there is a default recommended loadout, players can set up their initial loadout to be anything they wish (even spawning into a mission with the F-SpAr torch if they so wished). By default, the Reaver of Operation D-CON is equipped with smart shot that guides the pellets along their trajectories to an extent.

  • After reaching the weapons room, it’s a matter of clearing out the SDF, waiting for a proximity hack to complete and holding off attacking SDF while the hack is progressing. The LMG becomes useful here, and after the weapon is acquired, it’s time to get out. That the SDF are willing to resort to chemical weapons is indicative of their extremism, bringing to mind Zeon, who similarly used chemical weapons to completely depopulate a colony cylinder before attempting to drop it on Jaburo base during Mobile Suit Gundam‘s Operation British.

  • With the side missions largely finished save for one, I resume the main campaign and set out for an asteroid base Vesta 3 orbiting Mercury; by the time Reyes arrives to investigate the site for any survivors, its orbit has destablised, and the asteroid itself is rotating erratically as a result of the SDF Olympus Mons having fired on the asteriod: day and night cycles are minutes in length, with blistering heat by day that makes movement particularly hazardous. It’s a fantastic set-piece mission, and players can only move in shadows or during the dark.

  • The interior of the Vesta 3 base is eerily quiet, bringing to mind the sort of environments I saw in Alien Isolation. I began Alien Isolation nearly a year ago, a few days into June after delivering my department seminar presentation in preparation for the thesis defense. By this point, my paper was largely finished, and I had picked up Alien Isolation on a fantastic sale that saw the game go for 75 percent off. It was quite unlike anything I’d experienced before and also a highly enjoyable one, save the mission in the reactor core.

  • It took me a week to summon up the courage to attempt the reactor basement mission in Alien Isolation, and by the time I finsihed the game, it was late August. Returning to Infinite Warfare, I continue making my way through the base here, which as thus far been devoid of any human opponents. In the quiet, I shop to look around the level’s designs and notice that, like Titanfall 2, one can find hanzi (Chinese characters) in some parts of the settings that players go through. I’ve not read or written much Chinese as of late, so my recognition of more complex characters has decayed over the past several years.

  • It turns out that the deaths at the facility were caused by the SDF hacking into the security robots and having them kill off the station’s inhabitants. These robots are now hostile to all humans and will kill them on sight, hence the wisdom of having good energy weapons: they are particularly effective, in conjunction with shock grenades, against robots.

  • Once the sunlight has passed and gives way to darkness, it’s time to move on to the next area. During one transition, the sun re-appears and begins burning Reyes – flames can be seen burning on the surface his suit, only to extinguish themselves as Reyes returns to cover. I’m not actually sure how this would work, since fires are the result of a fuel source undergoing combustion, but in the moment, this was the last thing on my mind: the only goal was to get to some cover. When the door is reached, a horde of robots appear, and Reyes must fight them off while the proximity hack is executing.

  • I manage to find an F-SpAr torch at the base, and decided to save it, feeling that it would come in handy later on. While the casualties are extensive, Reyes and his team manage to save some of the miners. In news quite unrelated to Infinite Warfare, first person shooters and games in general, the owner of the file sharing site, nyaa.se, scuttled the site out of concern that the EU’s new anti-piracy laws could land them in legal trouble. It’s been one of the bigger events in the anime community, and while my opinions on internet privacy and information sharing are my own, these events is an ominous indicator of the decline of freedom in electronic communications in the near future.

  • The deletion of nyaa.se and its associated domains leaves viewers of anime unable to acquire older shows, OVAs or movies effectively. One may then wonder if this would affect this blog in any way, and the answer to this is that I largely remain unaffected by this news – my discussions for anime series, OVAs and movies should still come out as scheduled. The next anime post will be Hai-Furi‘s second OVA, continuing with Kōko Nosa’s experiences as she struggles to deal with news that the Harekaze will be scrapped, and this is coming out near May 24. Back in Infinite Warfare, I make my way through the asteriod’s molten interior in a perilous catwalk, and here, I wield a Volk that I found.

  • A veritable army of robots awaits Reyes and the others at the extraction point. The wisdom of having held onto the F-SpAr comes into play here, and it is an indispensable asset that, when used in conjunction with the shock grenades, allows players to clear out the area quickly. The Volk is a modestly effective fall-back weapon, but its slower firing rate made its use a bit of a challenge. After eliminating the robots, Salter lands, but the heat forces her to take off, leading Staff Sergeant Omar to die in the process. I was sad to see him go, especially after seeing him warm up to Ethan. After a heated discussion on the Retribution’s bridge, the officers decide that they must now prepare to deal a death blow to the SDF by luring them into a trap. Before this can happen, there is one final side mission to complete.

  • The final side mission unlocked is a timed mission close to the sun – prolonged exposure to the extreme temperatures (exceeding 700ºC) will damage the Jackal’s components, so Reyes only has six minutes (on standard difficulty) to clear out the SDF forces guarding vital resources belonging to the UNSA. It’s a spectacular mission, although eliminating all of the SDF Skelters and Ace pilots can be a little tricky.

  • In the end, I finished the mission with around twenty seconds to spare, having spent most of my time trying to find the Ace pilots. This brings my Infinite Warfare post to a conclusion, and I note that the reason why I am suspending my writing for the next two weeks is because I am set to go on vacation quite soon. This is why the next major post dealing with anime will be the Hai-Furi OVA, and in the meantime, I will need to get to packing and carrying out preparations for this trip. I will return after my trip, before the month ends, to wrap up my thoughts on Infinite Warfare, and depending on how scheduling works, I might also do a post on the upcoming movie Koe no Katachi before May draws to a close.

The topic of Zeon brings to mind a conversation I’ve shared with a friend about Mobile Suit Gundam: despite being intended to fulfill a similar role in Gundam as the SDF do in Infinite Warfare, there are some individuals who believe that Zeon’s cause is just in spite of all of their atrocities. Their argument is that Zeon was born of noble origins, even if their methods are disagreeable. My friend thus argues that this support is to suggest a deep-seated belief within these individuals that power should be concentrated in the hands of the few, that might is right. Inspection of Gundam finds that Zeon is generally dealt the short stick: its leadership consists of fanatical bigots who view the citizenry as disposable, a means to an end, and while the citizens might be people with their own stories, the leaders of Zeon certainly are intended to be viewed as no different than history’s most infamous despots. This is meant to challenge black and white viewpoints of warfare, and consequently, the extremities in Infinite Warfare might be intended to satirise these figures, fictional and real, as well as make it clear that the SDF are antagonists, not to be sympathised with, but a force threatening freedom and liberty. It certainly simplifies the amount of discussion that can be had about the nature of warfare from Infinite Warfare, but also drives home a different theme that will become apparent as Infinite Warfare enters its final chapter.

Titanfall 2: Campaign Final Impressions and Reflections

“Protect the Pilot.” —BT-7274

Taking into the skies after the Draconis, Milita forces pursue the Ark weapon, but find themselves hampered by Viper, a mercenary. Cooper manages to take control of an IMC vessel, disable its guns and defeats Viper before pressing on to the Draconis. BT sustains heavy damage and surrenders the Ark to Blisk, before being destroyed by Sloane. In his final moments, BT gives Cooper the SERE Kit containing the MK-5 Smart Pistol, a knife and his own computer core. Cooper makes his way to a drop point, where he is provided with a new Vanguard chassis equipped with the Legion setup. Reunited with BT, the pair fight their way through the IMC forces and reach the Ark. In the process, Sloane is defeated, and Blisk complements Cooper on his resilience, remarking that strictly speaking, the Apex Predator’s contract never extended to taking Cooper out. He leaves Cooper with his business card before leaving. BT flies himself into the Ark’s core and ejects Cooper at the last moment, citing his third protocol. The Ark Weapon is destroyed and destabilises Typhon: reaching the extraction point, Cooper escapes Typhon before the planet is annihilated. In the aftermath, Cooper is formally admitted as a Titan pilot into the Marauder Corps, and it appears that BT’s AI has survived, running from within Cooper’s helmet. This brings Titanfall 2‘s campaign to an end; despite its short length, Titanfall 2 managed to create a compelling narrative for the world of Titanfall: the most distinct feature about the campaign in this title, besides the fact that there was a campaign to begin with, is that no two missions were similar.

In Titanfall 2‘s campaign, the central theme is about trust: despite BT and Cooper being unfamiliar with one another, the journeys and experiences they share to uphold Lastimosa’s mission allows the two to develop a strong bond with one another, to the extent where Cooper is comfortable with entrusting his life to BT during challenging situations. This bond between man and machine is what allows a pilot to be such an effective force on the battlefield. When Titanfall 2 first opens, Cooper narrates the incredibly powerful presence a pilot has on the battlefield: this power is almost supernatural, at least until players see, from Cooper’s perspective, what a pilot and Titan pair are capable of after they’ve become attuned to one another. Central to this syngery is trust: a pilot must trust their Titan to assist them with difficult choices, and Titans likewise will look after their pilots, giving them a very human-like nature. In its narrative, Titanfall 2 also suggests at the extent and scale that the IMC-militia conflict has been occurring, indicating that this is a universe with its won stories to explore. With nine distinct missions, Titanfall 2‘s campaign was a breath of fresh air, combining smooth platforming with shooting and mechanised combat through the Titans. Superbly fun and presenting the Militia as a sympathetic cause, it was very pleasant to play from the perspective of the resistance group, allowing Titanfall 2 to contrast Infinite Warfare, where players assume the role of a government military force working against insurgents. The different perspectives often serve to remind players that conflicts are fought not without reason, and it is such an interesting juxtaposition to go through both games.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The penultimate mission is one of the most visually impressive of Titanfall 2: set over the mountains and forests of Typhon, the goal is to reach the Draconis and stop it from delivering the Ark to the Fold Weapon. Undaunted by the fact that the Draconis has taken off, Militia forces manage to seize another IMC vessel and take off. Despite some of the jumps over the valley below being quite terrifying, these are scripted events that have a known outcome. Once Cooper is tossed to a nearby IMC vessel, his job is to stop its guns and create a space for Militia forces to catch up.

  • The abundance of weapons and ammunition here means that there’s really no concern for running dry mid-battle. The close quarters engagements and large number of enemies meant that I would personally find a shotgun and LMG to be well-suited for the firefights ahead, although an assault rifle is also useful for taking out enemies at range. The weapons diversity in Titanfall 2‘s campaign is impressive, although there are some weapons that I gravitate towards more than the others.

  • Immensely fun, one of the only gripes I have about Trial By Fire is that Cooper cannot take control of the large guns on the IMC vessel’s flank side. Strictly speaking, there’s no reason to actually use them, since it’s Militia forces in the air. Disabling the guns is a reasonably simple task: the weapons are controlled by an IMC soldier, and they can be disposed of very quickly. Once the guns stop firing, Militia pilots will board to assist Cooper with taking control of the vessel.

  • In one of the more cinematic moments in Titanfall 2, a Militia vessel flies close to the IMC ship, providing an impromptu wall that allows the pilots to wall run across to the main hanger leading to the bridge. This jump requires coordination and timing to complete: it took me several attempts to actually make it because I kept doing the double jump too early after leaving the Militia vessel, failing to land. On successful landing, it’s directly into a heavy firefight with the IMC soldiers and robots.

  • The wisdom of having an LMG is useful, as is making use of the cloak to conceal myself from enemies. One of the things about this mission that strikes me as impressive is how the sense of travelling through one of Typhon is captured: even though the ground is shifting continuously, players won’t actually reach the Ark and can take the time they need to clear areas out. If I had to guess, I would imagine that the terrain below is moved around the vessel and is procedurally generated, only generating certain assets once checkpoints in-game are reached.

  • Some IMC soldiers encountered throughout Titanfall 2 are equipped with shields that can absorb a considerable amount of damage, and while they can be bested with the traditional “shoot until they die” methodology, but the more effective means of dealing with them is to engage the cloak, sneak behind them and fire, or else drop some explosives behind them to quickly deal with them. Yesterday’s post on Your Name‘s home release came out of the blue, but this one does not. Now that there’s a release date, I begin counting down the days to when I can finally roll out my talk on Your Name, but with a shade less than three months to go, there’s quite a bit to do in the interim with respect to games and other modes of recreation.

  • This is because over the past weekend, I developed a minor cold and spent most of yesterday sleeping it off: this cold signals that warmer weather is returning soon, and I look forwards to being able to walk around without the need for a heavy coat and scarf. We return to Titanfall 2, where I found that the graphics, while perhaps not quite as exceptional of those seen in Battlefield 1 or Crysis 3, nonetheless remain highly impressive. In spite of all of the things that Titanfall 2 has going for it, however, I’ve heard that the playerbase is not particularly large, even though the game’s initial sales figures were quite good, and Titanfall 2 does everything from Titanfall better, including addition of a fantastic campaign.

  • Up until now, there’s been little use for the MGL, but I figured that with the game drawing to a close, the time was ripe for me to give the weapon a shot. This is an anti-Titan weapon, but there aren’t very many moments in the campaign where Cooper will face Titans while on foot. These weapons thus become extra-powerful options for taking out infantry, and here, I unload grenades into the bridge of the IMC vessel to commandeer it.

  • Cooper will then take control of the IMC vessel and position it so that it is directly behind the Draconis, with the aim of boarding it mid-air. Cooper uses a data knife to  override the controls and maneouver the vessel: this tool is not actually a melee weapon and is intended to be placed into a slot in an enemy Spectre or turret. When a hack is complete, the enemy unit will fight for the player. Closer inspection of the data knife finds that it resembles a lightsabre handle in design. After what seems to be an eternity, Cooper is finally in position and heads out onto the deck. However, it’s not a simple walk in the park: the Mercenary Viper shows up in a Northstar-class Titan.

  • Viper is one of the trickier bosses in the campaign: his Northstar has nearly unlimited flight core duration, and he earlier shoots down half of the attacking Militia forces on his own. Owing to Viper’s mobility, the Expedition loadout or Tone loadout are the best choices for taking him on: lock-on missiles allow Cooper to whittle his health down, while having powerful shields prevent Viper’s missiles from dealing too much damage. Viper is accompanied by two Scorch-class Titans, and when defeated the first time, will come back a second time. Finishing him off will allow players to reach the Draconis and secure the Ark.

  • Cooper and BT’s actions come to an abrupt halt when they are met with the Apex Predators: refusing to give up the Ark, Cooper orders BT to never surrender it, but with the situation dire, BT asks Cooper to trust him, creating an opening that prevents Cooper’s death but also leads to BT’s destruction. Before powering down, BT unlocks the SERE Kit that provides gear to assist Cooper’s survival, evasion, resistance and extraction. In this kit is a data knife, BT’s data core and a much-welcomed return of the MK5 Smart Pistol.

  • Long considered overpowered and being a no-skill weapon to use in the original Titanfall, the MK5 has been modified in the multiplayer so that it is a boost rather than a standard weapon. It also is limited to a magazine size of twelve rounds with one reserve magazine, lock-on speed is dictated by distance to target and placement of the target relative to the reticle. Finally, players will receive a warning if a user is locking onto them with the MK5 to provide them a chance to evade. In the single player campaign, the MK5 is supremely powerful, being able to easily decimate scores of IMC infantry and has unlimited ammunition in reserve.

  • The Militia have one final surprise for Cooper: a brand-new Vanguard Titan equipped with the Legion loadout. A heavy weapons platform based off the Ogre chassis in the multiplayer, the Legion is fantastic for heavy breakthrough tactics with its ability to take and deal out damage. Its speed is its biggest liability: speedier Titans can flank around it and deal massive damage. In the campaign, the Vanguard’s solid all-around performance means that it’s really a matter of equipment that changes: the Predator cannon is a rotary machine gun that has an incredibly high rate of fire and can destroy lighter enemy Titans in seconds.

  • The Predator cannon can be configured to fire a spread of rounds similar to a shotgun, or else charge up for a longer range shot for damaging distant opponents. The Legion’s defensive ability is a shield mounted onto its cannon, which can absorb some incoming damage. Against the waves of other IMC Titans, the firepower conferred by the Legion loadout comes across as being highly entertaining: even the heavier Scorch class Titans are shredded by the sheer volume of firepower. I imagine that the Predator cannon is firing 20mm rounds.

  • The boss fight against Sloane is on par with Viper in terms of difficulty: she’s armed with the Ion loadout, and her laser core can deal massive damage in a very short period of time even if players have a shield up. The only way to survive is use of cover, dash and returning fire once the laser core runs out. The cronies that assist Sloane can also be a bit of a problem: as soon as Sloane sustains enough damage, she’ll retreat. Taking the other Titans out correspond to fewer guns on Cooper, which simplifies the fight.

  • Some of the remarks that Sloane makes throughout the boss fight are hilarious when juxtaposed: she initially states that she’ll take out Cooper for free, then mentions that defeating Cooper could land her a nice bonus. Here, I make use of the Smart Core to pummel Sloane: the Legion’s Smart Core turns the Titan into a walking cheat code. All rounds fired will automatically arc towards any enemies and weak spots on Titans, making it a powerful way of dealing with a large number of enemies or quickly whittling down the health of a boss.

  • With Sloane’s Titan nearly destroyed, I move in for the execution: Titan executions are quite brutal, and once Sloane is done, it’s time for the classic endgame events where Cooper must stop the Ark before the Militia planet of Harmony is destroyed. The ensuing act of opening the Ark up disables BT, and in a terrifying moment, Blisk appears. However, he says that killing Cooper was never a part of his contract, that the IMC should’ve included it in their scope of work, and that he’s rather impressed with Cooper’s skills and tenacity.

  • Leaving his business card behind, he takes off to see other folks with money, leaving Cooper and BT to stop the Fold Weapon. BT decides that the only way to stop the weapon now is to destroy it by overloading his reactor, and citing his final protocol, to protect the pilot, he ejects Cooper at the last moment. The Fold Weapon is destroyed and begins destabilising the planet: the last sections of Titanfall 2 involve some of the most exhilerating parkour as Cooper must move over a bottomless pit en route to the extraction point.

  • Cooper makes it to a dropship with moments to go, and it jumps into Typhon’s lower orbit just as the planet begins disintegrating. The devastation to Typhon is reminiscent of the results of firing the Death Star in Rogue One: not quite the explosive display seen in A New Hope, the slower decimation of a planet becomes a little more frightening when considering the size of a planet and the forces keeping it together.

  • With Titanfall 2‘s campaign in the books now, I found myself impressed at just how smoothly everything came together. It’s a shame that there aren’t more Titanfall 2 players around, and one will wonder if the upcoming Star Wars Battlefront II will suffer a similar fate; being superior to their predecessor in gameplay and design, as well as featuring a full campaign, the consumer base’s disappointment with the first title might dissuade them from buying the game, keeping player counts low. I’m very excited to see what Battlefront II will be like, although my decision in picking the game up will largely be driven by what impressions I gain of it post-launch, when I watch some gameplay footage. This also means that in October, there will likely be an open beta.

Having now finished the Titanfall 2 campaign in its entirety, I can say that the game was very much deserving of being counted as one of the best shooters in 2016. In my books, it’s a draw between Titanfall 2 and DOOM for the strength of each game’s respective campaigns: with a strong narrative and diverse gameplay, Titanfall 2 never became dull or repetitive. Of course, I may go back through in the future and collect the pilot helmets as time permits, but with Titanfall 2‘s campaign in the books, I may take a look at the multiplayer: I’m not sure how long it would take to rank up, and I’ve heard the learning curve is quite steep, but there are private servers that I can use to grow accustomed to the controls, and also for learning the best routes through a map. With this being said, there is quite a bit on the future horizon on my plate with respect to games: Battlefield 1 Premium is offering no shortage of things to do as I aim to reach rank ten for my assault and scout class, and there are assignment weapons to unlock, and of course, I still need to complete Infinite Warfare. Thus, my discussions of Titanfall 2 will end for the present, although one should not rule out the possibility that I may return at a later date to provide some impressions of my experiences in the multiplayer.