The Infinite Zenith

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

Star Wars Battlefront II: A Reflection of Starfighter Assault and Space Gameplay in the Open Beta

“It’s no good, I can’t manoeuvre!”
“Stay on target.”
“We’re too close!”
“Stay on target!”
“Loosen up!”

–Gold Leader and Gold Five, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

If I had been active as a blogger back during the early 2000s, Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader would certainly have been featured as a game I would write about. Featuring ten single player missions and several bonus missions spanning the original triology, Rogue Leader boasted some of the most sophisticated visual and gameplay effects that could be run on the Nintendo GameCube, allowing players to relive the most famous moments in Star Wars. From the first attack on the Death Star to the Battle of Hoth and the Rebel Alliance’s final attack on the Emperor’s Death Star II, the game’s technical sophistication and enjoyment factor led many critics to remark that this game alone was worth buying the GameCube for, and indeed, even fifteen years after its launch, only Pandemic’s Star Wars: Battlefront II in 2005 can even hold a candle to Rouge Leader. However, this year’s reinterpretation of Battlefront II comes the closest to bringing back the sort of magic that was available in Rogue Leader, for in Battlefront II, there is the Starfighter Assault game mode that pits players against one another in beautifully written space battles. In the Battlefront II open beta, players are assigned to the Rebel Alliance or Galactic Empire over the shipyards of Fondor. In a multi-stage battle reminiscent of the Rush and Operations game modes of Battlefield, Imperial pilots must deplete the Rebels of reinforcement tickets and defend a Star Destroyer in dry dock, while the Rebels aim to take down the Star Destroyer. Players get their pick of three different classes of starships: the balanced all-rounder fighter, high-speed dogfighter interceptors and the slower but durable bombers, each of which can be customised with star cards to fit a player’s style.

The epic scale of ship-to-ship combat in Starfighter Assault is quite unlike the infantry-focused Galactic Conquest: the space battles of Battlefront II were developed by Criterion, of Burnout and Need For Speed fame. I jumped into a game and attempted to steer my X-Wing with my mouse, but promptly crashed. After switching over to the keyboard, I began learning my way around the controls, and within minutes, was pursing Imperial TIE fighters and firing on objectives. Unlike Battlefront, where starships had the manoeuvrability of a refrigerator, the controls in Battlefront II are responsive and crisp. As I became more familiar with the ships available, I began climbing scoreboards, shooting down more enemy starships and playing objectives more efficiently. The sheer scope of Starfighter Assault and the easy-to-pick-up-but-difficult-to-master design of this game mode makes it incredibly fun and with nearly unlimited replay value. While playing the Imperials, I focused on shooting down Rebel ships, and as a Rebel, there was the challenge of finishing the objectives without being shot down. Regardless of which team I played for, there was always a great satisfaction in landing killing shots on enemy starfighters and going on kill-streaks that I never was able to manage in Galactic Assault. It got to the point where I improved sufficiently to have the chance of making use of three of the four Hero ships. Automatically locking onto an enemy starfighter à la Battlefront is gone – aiming and leading shots is entirely a skill-based endeavour now, and while Criterion provides a helpful reticule to assist in aiming, it ultimately falls on players to learn how to best move their ships around. These elements come together to provide a game mode that is exceptionally entertaining to play, rewarding skill and encouraging new-time players to try their hand at flying.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Shortly after spawning into my first Starfighter Assault match, I started to use the mouse and promptly crashed into the radar dish; there’s no option to reset or centre the reticule, so if the mouse is moved slightly, it causes the vehicle to drift in one direction. Once I left the mouse alone and began flying with the keyboard, the controls became much more simple to use. Unlike Battlefront, where vehicular handling as as stiff as molasses, the controls of Battlefront II are much smoother. It took a grand total of ten minutes to become accustomed to the system.

  • There are plenty of AI-controlled fighters flying around the map so that players have no shortage of things to shoot at, and here, a seismic charge from the Slave I goes off. They were first seen in Attack of the Clone and create a devastating shockwave that can punch through asteroids. The weapon is fantastic against starfighers, and edges out Battlefront‘s thermal imploders for having the coolest sound in Star Wars; the silence and delay before the full weight of the bass creates one of the most interesting sound effects ever engineered.

  • With their powerful blasters and high durability, bombers are balanced by their lower speeds and manoeuvrability, as well as for the fact that they require more reinforcement tickets in order to spawn into if one is playing as a Rebel. The TIE Bomber makes its first appearance in a modern Star Wars game and I use it to great effect; they’re most useful against the Blockade Runners that appear to reinforce Rebel fighters, but can most certainly hold their own against X-Wings and A-Wings.

  • TIE Bombers were first seen in The Empire Strikes Back, seen dropping proton bombs on the asteroid where the Millennium Falcon was concealed. Players do not have access to the proton bombs for assaulting ground targets, but bombers get access to dual proton torpedoes and missiles. While they have a guidance system that can lock onto enemy ships, secondary weapons can be fired dumb by double-tapping on the button, making it possible to rapidly use them against slow moving or stationary targets.

  • The Rebellion’s workhorse bomber, Y-Wings have been in operation since the Clone Wars, being acquired by the Rebel Alliance before the Empire could scrap or decommission them. The last time I flew a Y-Wing was in Rogue Leader during the “Prisoners of the Maw” mission. In Rogue Leader, the Y-Wing is equipped with proton bombs rather than guided torpedoes, and the ion cannons were forward-facing, only affecting targets in front of the Y-Wing. In Battlefront II, they’re fun to fly, but the cost of spawning in makes it imperative that one focuses on objectives rather than dogfights.

  • TIE Fighters reflect on the Empire’s adherence to Soviet military doctrine: they are inexpensive to produce and the engines are incredibly effective despite their simple design. Lacking shields, a hyperdrive, life-support systems and landing gear, TIE Fighters are incredibly lightweight, and in Star Wars, are shown to be quite fragile compared to Alliance starfighters. However, the TIE Fighters of Battlefront II have a bit more durability and can fire proton torpedoes, making them remarkably fun to fly. TIE Fighters are equipped a laser barrage function that allows the cannons to be fired rapidly to deliver a blistering hail of blaster fire.

  • The Slave I requires only 2500 battlepoints to unlock; it is armed to the teeth, as all of its abilities are offensively driven: besides a concussion missile and seismic charges, it also has access to ion cannons, which slow down enemy ships. Somewhat hard to manoeuvre, it is nonetheless quite durable, and here, I managed to get a kill using the seismic charges. The blast wave is not visible, as I’ve flown from it, but the effects are clear.

  • Light and agile, the A-Wing is the fastest starfighter available to the Rebel Alliance. It is capable of extreme speed, can maintain unbreakable locks onto enemies and is armed with concussion missiles as its secondary armament. I ended up playing the interceptor class far more than I’d expected: the speed of the A-Wing and its Imperial counterpart, the TIE Interceptor, make them incredibly effective in dogfights. Overall, each of the classes have their own merits and are fun to play: they’re versatile to be used in every role, but their abilities and unique strengths allow them to excel at particular tasks.

  • X-Wings gain access to an astromech droid for providing repairs and the power to fire all four laser cannons at once in addition to the standard proton torpedoes that Luke used to destroy the first Death Star in A New HopeBattlefront II brings back the fun I’ve had flying X-Wings in Rogue Leader: for their general all-round performance, I would choose the X-Wing as my preferred starfighter in the game.

  • The visual effects above Fondor are absolutely stunning: space battles haven’t been this immersive since the days of Rogue Leader, and with the Frostbite Engine driving Battlefront II, I find myself wishing for a remastered version of Rogue Leader more than ever. Criterion has done a fantastic job with Starfighter Assault, and looking at the other maps available, it appears that rather than re-living the most famous moments of Star Wars, players will be treated to campaigns set around familiar locations for other Starfighter Assault modes.

  • The battle around Endor will be set in the ruins of the Second Death Star, and players will have a chance to fly Republic and Separatist starfighters in battles set during the Clone Wars. As well, the skirmishes between the First Order and Resistance will also be available in Battlefront II. One of the things I’m hoping to see in Battlefront II will be the appearance of Darth Vader’s TIE/x1, whose innovative designs would lead to the development of the TIE Interceptor and TIE Bomber. One cool feature from Vader’s TIE/x1 would be the inclusion of cluster missiles seen in Rogue Leader, which can lock onto and attack multiple targets.

  • The second phase of Starfighter Assault over Fondor involves Rebel ships attempting to drop the shield generator around the Star Destroyer. Rebel players must fly into a narrow passage way where the generators are held and bombard them. Imperial forces have a simple task: prevent the Rebels from getting into this corridor and damaging the equipment. In the close quarters, I’ve had considerable fun locking onto Rebel ships and, in a manner reminiscent of A New Hope‘s trench run, blowing said Rebel ships away with the TIE Fighter.

  • It suddenly strikes me that I don’t get very much time off elsewhere in the year, making me very appreciative of the extended break. The long weekends also allows me to enjoy a quieter day at home: I spent the morning drafting this talk and reading about overflights in the Cold War, before settling down to a home-made burger with lettuce, tomato, pickles and cheese, along with freshly-made oven fries. Unlike last time, we were more careful with the cooking process, so the whole of the upstairs does not smell like grilled burger. By afternoon, the weather remained acceptable, if somewhat windy, so I spent it hanging out with a friend. After enjoying some cheesecake when I concluded the walk, I continued with my quest to get all the intel in Modern Warfare Remastered.

  • Dinner tonight was a tender and juicy prime rib au jus with mashed potatoes. The pleasant smell of prime rib persisted into the evening, which saw the Calgary Flames best the Anaheim Ducks 2-0 at the Honda Center, bringing a 25-losing streak on their ice to an end. Earlier today, in speaking with a friend, we’ve now set aside some tentative plans to watch The Last Jedi: a new trailer has come out, and I’m rather curious to see what the film will entail, for Rey, who will begin training with Luke, and also for Kylo Ren. At this blog, I don’t usually talk about Star Wars, but it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that I’ve got passable knowledge of Star Wars lore. I’m quite fond of the films even if the dialogue can be a little poor (especially in the prequel trilogy, where it was downright atrocious) and if the narratives are a bit thin: the scope and scale of the special effects are always fun to watch.

  • While they never co-existed, having disappeared while being transferred to the Jedi Council for investigation, Darth Maul’s Scimitar is included at Fondor. Its most novel ability is being able to cloak and conceal itself from all enemies: I recall shooting at a player with the Scimitar, only for them to disappear. When reappearing, its blaster cannons gain a boost in power. In the thirty seconds I flew it (the match ended shortly after with a Rebel victory), I did not make use of its abilities to shoot down any players. However, the fact that I was becoming sufficiently proficient in Starfighter Assault to acquire the top-tier Hero ships shows that the game mode had been very immersive.

  • This was probably one of the best runs I had in Starfighter Assault: after spawning in as a Y-Wing and going on a seven-kill streak, on top of helping damage the Imperial Cruisers and equipment, I amassed an obscene number of battle points. I was blown out of the sky shortly after but had accumulated enough battle points to spawn in as the legendary Millennium Falcon, Han Solo’s signature ship throughout Star Wars.

  • Being Han Solo’s highly modified freighter, the Millennium Falcon is one of the most recognisable ships from Star Wars that goes on to play a major role in helping the Rebel Alliance toppling the Empire. Besides an afterburner that proved fantastic for escaping pursuing fighters and concussion missiles, the Millennium Falcon’s other ability is called “special modifications”, which temporarily boosts weapon damage and reduces overheating. Incredibly durable and agile for its size, the main disadvantage about the Millennium Falcon is that its large profile makes it a highly visible target on the battlefield.

  • One of my favourite features about the Millennium Falcon is not its combat performance, but for the simple fact that after some kills, Han Solo will say something amusing, reflective of his hot-headed, confident personality. The planet and its shipyards were first introduced in a novel for the Extended Universe and accepted as cannon with the 2015 novel Tarkin, although the name Fondor is, amusingly enough, also a brand of German vegetable seasoning.

  • Late was the hour when I managed to spawn into Poe Dameron’s Black One, a T-70 X-Wing that acts as the successor to the T-65B that the Rebel Alliance operated. Requiring more battle points than the Millennium Falcon, I had not intended to fly this, only doing so when I realised I had enough battle points to do so and because the Millennium Falcon had already been taken. Only a few minutes remained in the match, but I made use of Poe’s X-Wing to score a few kills on other players before the game ended. Similar to the standard X-Wing, players can instantly repair with BB-8, and mirroring the T-70’s upgraded weapons, Black One has access to dual torpedoes. There’s also a Black Leader ability, but I never looked into what it does.

  • The Battlefront II open beta ended this morning: it’s a quiet Thanksgiving Monday, and while it would’ve been nice to play a few more rounds of Starfighter Assault, I ended the beta off on a high note: I’ve flown all of the Hero ships in this game mode to some extent. With the open beta now over, regular programming resumes, much as it did two years ago: there’s no GochiUsa to write about, but there is Gundam Origin‘s fifth instalment, which I greatly enjoyed. We’re also a entering the fall anime season now: with Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s Hero Chapter airing in mid-November, the only shows I really have on my radar for the presernt are Wake Up, Girls! Shin Shou and Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou. I also should write about the Call of Duty: WWII open beta, which, I should note, was note quite as enjoyable as the Battlefront II beta.

The words “pure fun” are the most suitable for describing the Starfighter Assault game mode of Battlefront II: the mode feels a great deal as though Criterion applied the lessons learned from Rogue Leader. The game modes are well-structured into distinct phases, but seamlessly woven together. Instead of purely AI opponents, players now have a chance to engage one another, adding a new degree of challenge; gone are enemy fighters that can be shot down, replaced with superior AIs and human opponents, the ultimate challengers. Because players can be assigned to different sides of the story, there is a fantastic opportunity to explore “what-if” scenarios. While I don’t think any of the most iconic missions from the trilogy or prequel appear in the full Starfighter Assault, the concept has proven remarkably fun in the open beta, coming the closest since 2005’s Battlefront II to re-creating the experience that players experienced in Rogue Leader. Coupled with authentic aural and visual elements from Star Wars, Starfighter Assault has proven to be the remastered experience of Rogue Leader that I’ve been longing to experience again since the days when I played the game on a GameCube: I am greatly looking forwards to seeing how the other maps play out, and through the open beta, it is evident that Battlefront II has made a serious effort to bring a critical component of Star Wars into the modern age. If the version we’ve seen in the open beta is an accurate representation of how the game mode will handle in the full game, this is a very compelling reason for buying this game closer to the Christmas season, when the spirit of Star Wars will be in full swing as Episode VIII: The Last Jedi premieres in theatres.

Star Wars Battlefront II: A Reflection of Galactic Assault and Infantry Gameplay in the Open Beta

“Roger roger” –Any B1 Battle Droid, Star Wars

Compared to its predecessor, Star Wars Battlefront II is said to feature substantially more maps, weapons, vehicles and a more involved progression system. In addition, Battlefront II also revisits the Clone Wars in addition to the Galactic Civil War and the latest conflicts between the Resistance and First Order. Having caught my eye back in June, the open beta became available during the Canadian Thanksgiving Long Weekend, and I’ve put in some hours into the game’s available modes during the beta. The first of this is arcade, a simple primer into the game mechanics. I subsequently jumped into the incredibly entertaining Starfighter Assault, before switching over to the two available infantry-focussed game modes, Strike, and Galatic Assault. Strike is similar to Halo’s Bomb mode, which pits two teams against one another; one team must grab an objective and carry it to a destination, while the other team must stop them. Galatic Assault is a variation of Battlefront’s Walker Assault mode: two teams slug it out in a larger, objective-based game mode. In the open beta, the Republic clones fight the Separatist droid armies. The latter are aiming to capture Theed Palace on Naboo to force Amidala to sign another trade agreement, while the Republic must stop the MTT from reaching the palace, and failing this, drive off waves of battle droids. Like its predecessor, Battlefront II possesses a different set of mechanics compared to the shooters I’m familiar with. Blasters do not handle as projectile weapons do, and their low damage results in a longer time-to-kill (TTK) than I’d like – players can duck behind cover once I open fire on them to regenerate their health, and overall, getting kills in Battlefront II feels more difficult than it did in Battlefront for folks starting out: I’ve heard that star cards can boost one’s ability to score kills immensely, but I’ve never been too fond of the system.

Looking past the difficulties I’ve had in scoring kills, Galactic Assault turned out to be much more enjoyable once I understood that kills do not seem to matter in Battlefront II compared to other shooters. In the open beta, Battlefront II certainly seems to be emphasising team play over kills, and it seems that kills are less relevant compared to helping one’s team out. In the scoreboard, the number of deaths a player accumulates over the course of a match are not shown. Assists count for as many points as kills, and the simple act of spotting can yield a large number of points, as is playing objectives. Thus, with this knowledge, I took to the specialist class regardless of which team I was with. Armed with a longer range DMR and a pair of macro-binoculars capable of revealing enemies even through physical obstructions, I settled into a pattern of starting Galactic Assault matches with the specialist class, spotting enemies for my team and picking off the occasional foes from a distance. Once the MTT reaches the Theed Palace, I would switch over to the heavy class, which is equipped with a repeating blaster that is excellent for close quarters engagements, doing my best to either push onto the capture point in the throne room (as a Separatist) or defending the throne room from the droids (as a Clone). By sticking close to my teammates and playing objectives, Battlefront II becomes significantly more fun: towards the end of the beta, I was doing much better, but I find that matches always seem to end too quickly before I can spawn in as a hero. The Strike game mode is oriented around closer-range combat, and I’ve found it modestly enjoyable, similar to drop zone in Battlefront II‘s predecessor, although the mode seems to favour the Resistance: I’ve never lost while playing the Resistance, and I’ve never won as the First Order.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • My immediate impressions of Battlefront II are that it runs surprisingly smooth: I did not configure my game and used the automatic settings, which set everything to the “ultra” preset. Even with everything on full, the game ran at around 80 FPS: considering that my machine’s four and a half years old now, this certainly isn’t bad. Like my original experience with the beta, the first few hours in the game were met with a bit of a learning curve, as I was trying to figure out the game and scoring mechanics.

  • The specialist class is Battlefront II‘s counterpart to Battlefield 1‘s scout class, equipping a semi-automatic marksman rifle and being able to spot enemies with macrobinoculars that can see through walls. These long range weapons are the only viable weapons for engagements beyond 50 metres, and Battlefront II definitely does not reward long range precision shooting over playing the objective with respect to how points can be earned.

  • On the other hand, assists are worth as much as kills, so throughout my time in the Battlefront II beta, I got numerous points for damaging an enemy that was subsequently finished off by a teammate. Battlefront II takes the “Assist counts as kill” mechanic and goes one step further: kills don’t seem to matter as much, and I recall an instance where I got 1200 points simply by helping clear one of the control rooms and then proceeding to unlock the palace doors. I got maybe one kill from it: the grenade I threw slightly damaged the players inside. Here, I sit inside the composite laser turret of the LAAT/i gunship and managed a lucky kill on someone down below: the weapon’s surprisingly challenging to use owing to the laser’s pinpoint precision.

  • I’ve long wished to fly a Naboo Starfighter in a game that isn’t the Nintendo 64 incarnation of Rogue Squadron: after taking to the skies above Theed, I saw an enemy fighter and spent a good three minutes dog-fighting with them before taking them down. The MTT reached the palace shortly after, and the game kicked me out of the Naboo Starfighter elegantly, re-spawning me as a heavy class driod.

  • I’m not sure what the powerful medium range weapon that specialist classes can equip while using infiltration mode is called, but it is quite capable of close range engagements, offering specialists a fighting chance at ranges where faster-firing blasters dominate. The only class that I did not make use of extensively was the officer class: armed with a blaster pistol and able to buff players, it’s a style of play that I’ll need more time than the open beta has available to become familiar with.

  • While providing an infinitely smoother and more enjoyable experience than the Call of Duty: WWII open beta, there are still a handful of UI issues that linger in Battlefront II. The first is that the score feed sometimes displays that I’ve killed a player twice even though I know there was only one target to shoot at, and secondly, the heat metre can sometimes persist after death and not accurately reflect the weapon’s state. Beyond these two minor issues, Battlefront II‘s open beta has been silky smooth to get into.

  • The heavy class gains access to repeating blasters (Star Wars terminology for “automatic weapon”), which are fantastic for clearing out rooms and dealing out a large amount of damage quickly. Accompanying their base loadout is an impact grenade, a turret mode that exchanges mobility for firepower, and a front-facing shield that can absorb incoming fire. It’s the perfect choice for close-quarters combat inside the palace, and the heavy class is surprisingly effective even outside the palace.

  • Here, I manage to shoot a clone trooper off the AT-RT he was piloting to bring his killstreak to an end. The Battle Point system in Battlefront II is a straight upgrade from the battle pick-ups of Battlefront by removing the random chance of finding a power up on the battlefield. Instead, playing the objectives and skill is how to get to the upgraded abilities. However, my gripe with the new system is that matches do not always last long enough for players of decent skill to get to the hero unlocks before the game ends.

  • Over Theed, the amount of detail in the cityscape is incredible, and if this is how Theed looks, I am very excited to see how the rest of the maps look: besides Naboo, Battlefront II will feature Kamino, Takodana, Yavin IV, Kashyyyk, Starkiller Base and even the Second Death Star. Returning from Battlefront are Tatooine, Endor, Hoth and Jakku. I wager that Bespin, Geonosis, Utapau and Mustafar could also come with the DLC.

  • While great for laying down destruction against the MTT and strafing infantry, air vehicles in Battlefront II move a bit too quickly to be effective in a close-air support role. It would make sense to lower the minimum speed for some starfighters to make them slightly more effective for an anti-ground role; care must be taken here to ensure that they do not become too effective, otherwise, game balance would evaporate.

  • The Strike game mode is set on Takodana in and around Maz’s castle, which was destroyed during the events of The Force Awakens. However, I’ve never been able to replicate the First Order victory in this game mode: every game I’ve played with the Resistance, I won. Here, I’m equipped with a faster-firing blaster for the assault class, which has access to a thermal detonator, shotgun and a tracer dart gun. While Battlefront II has proven enjoyable, I sorely miss Battlefront‘s thermal imploder, which has one of the coolest sounds of anything in the Star Wars universe, second only to the Slave I’s seismic charges.

  • I soon jumped over to the specialist class when it became apparent that First Order soldiers would always be coming from the woods and so, I could sit back a distance and put down pot shots. Strike is an infantry-only game mode, and battle points go towards unlocking more powerful infantry units, rather than heroes of vehicles. Like Naboo, Takodana is beautifully rendered. While fun from the Resistance perspective, Strike has been less than amusing when I’ve played as the First Order, whose white armour causes them to stand out from the forest, and whose spawns leave them open to attack from the Resistance.

  • Scope glint is still very much a thing in Battlefront II, helping players quickly ascertain the presence of an enemy sniper and duck for cover. In the long, open spaces in Theed, the specialist class is a great way to open things, allowing one to spot other players and put them on the mini-map. Overall, I’m not too fond of the way the mini-map in Battlefront II works: it highlights the general direction an enemy is in if they fire or sprint, requiring a specialist to manually spot opponents. One of the things that I succumbed to frequently in this beta and the Call of Duty: WWII beta was accidentally mashing “Q” trying to spot enemies.

  • Most players will suggest playing in third person mode, as it offers a bit of a tactical advantage with respect to spatial awareness and in allowing one to peek their corners. For the purposes of discussion, I’ve chosen to stay in first person so that the weapon models can be seen. Iconic weapons, from the Battle Droids’ E-5 blaster, to the Clone Trooper’s DC-15 series, appear in the beta, and one must marvel at the detail placed into rendering them.

  • Frustrations gave way to fun once I slowly began learning Battlefront II‘s mechanics, and what was originally an “unlikely to buy” verdict turned into a “I’ll buy it if there is plenty of content available at launch”. Looking back, I similarly had a bit of a learning curve going into Battlefront‘s beta back in 2015, and it was only after I unlocked the repeating blaster that the gameplay changed. Battlefront II is a bit more skill-based than its predecessor, and after some eight hours with the beta, I’m a bit more comfortable with all of the functions and controls.

  • The MTT assault on Theed is only one of the galactic conquest game modes, and one of the things I’, most curious to see is if iconic battles from the original trilogy and prequels made it into Battlefront II: while Battlefront was stymied by limited content and a low skill ceiling, walker assault proved to be immensely fun, allowing players to re-live the most famous battles of Star Wars in an environment that was of the same scale as those seen in the Battlefield franchise.

  • The only thing left on the schedule for tonight is chocolate cheesecake, and Thanksgiving Monday will afford me with a rare opportunity to sleep in. The Battlefront II beta ends tomorrow morning, which marks a return to Far Cry 4. For Thanksgiving this year, I give thanks for great food and family, warmth, and the fact that there is good in the world worth preserving. Things do look quite grim, but it is my aim to work my hardest and contribute in what manner that I can to things that are for our benefit.

  • With a bit more familiarity in the game, I switched over to the assault class and performed moderately well during one of my last matches, earning enough battle points to unlock Darth Maul. The match ended before I could spawn in, however, and one of the things I’ve noticed while taking on Hero classes is that they’re noticeably weaker than they were in Battlefront. In the close quarters frenzy of Theed Palace, I’ve encountered both Darth Maul and Rey before. In a blind panic, I opened fire on them along with my teammates, and they promptly died before they could retaliate: their lightsabers are no longer one-hit-kills.

  • I feel that the Heroes should have at least fifty percent more health, but the health should not regenerate, and the Heroes with lightsabers should be able to one-shot opponents since they are entering melee range (whereas Heroes like Boba Fett and Han Solo can stay back to engage in ranged combat). Overall, the Battlefront II beta’s infantry combat isn’t terribly difficult to learn, and there are some fantastic set-pieces. I look forwards to seeing what the full game will entail, and wrap up by remarking that the other game mode, Starfighter Assault, was so exhilarating that I’ve got a separate post on it.

The infantry gameplay in Battlefront II is above average on the whole: movement is quite smooth, and I’ve had fun playing in both third and first person mode, but the long time to kill and dependence on abilities over steady aim means that Battlefront II is ultimately less about good shooting and more about who can best manage their abilities, using them effectively during the right times to turn the tide of battle in their team’s favour. The larger maps and spawn system also can make getting back into combat after death a frustrating experience: one can go for long periods without seeing anyone, then die unexpectedly and be sent back to a far corner of the map, resulting in yet another long walk into things. With this in mind, the walk certainly is a visually impressive one: the graphics in Theed, from the large piles of leaves blowing about, to the fantastic architecture and colours, are breathtaking. On several occasions, I’ve wasted some of my battle points spawning in as a fighter for the sole purpose of flying over Theed just to admire the cityscape. One thing is for sure about Battlefront II: it captures the sights and sounds of Star Wars as effectively as its predecessor did. While an absolute audio-visual treat, perhaps even more so than 2015’s Battlefront, the multiplayer infantry gameplay seen so far, while entertaining, alone does not inspire a purchase of Battlefront II at launch price. However, it is still early to be making a decision – we’ve not seen some of the other modes available yet. In addition, the beta does not provide a chance to try out the campaign or single-player arcade modes; if these turn out to drive replayability to a reasonable extent, Battlefront II could very well be worth the price of admissions at launch.

An Early-Access Preview of Gochuumon wa Usagi desu ka?- Dear My Sister

“Home, more than anything, means warmth and bed.” —Vivienne Westwood

Announced a year and a half ago, Gochuumon wa Usagi desu ka? (GochiUsa for brevity) was to receive special episode taking the form of an OVA, titled Dear My Sister. Originally intended to release back in May of this year, the OVA was delayed and at present, is set to screen in over forty Japanese theatres come November 11. The cast who performed in GochiUsa‘s earlier television anime will return to reprise their roles in this OVA, but rather than White Fox, who handled the animation of the first and second seasons, the studio Production doA will step up to the plate for Dear My Sister. A newcomer with no other titles underneath their belt, it will be interesting to see whether or not Production doA will execute Dear My Sister with the same warmth and sincerity that White Fox had successfully captured in the anime’s televised run. Besides the OVA itself, the theme song will also release on November 11, while a character album will release this month ahead of the screenings. The latest trend does appear to be that specials for Manga Time Kirara anime are to be screened theatrically before being sold as home releases at a later time – Kiniro Mosiac‘s special, Pretty Days, only became available four months after the theatrical release, and being of a similar ilk, it is not unreasonable to imagine that Dear My Sister will only accessible to the world at large come March 2018, a considerable distance away from the present. I remark here that this post is structured similarly to my earlier preview posts, and below the twenty screenshots below, there will be a bit of an outline (constituting as spoilers) for what Dear My Sister will entail.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Two years ago, it was a pleasant Saturday morning, and I watched the opening episode to GochiUsa‘s second season before putting out a post about it in record time. I subsequently spent the rest of the day playing the Star Wars Battlefront open beta, and opened my journey in Crysis 3 after Thanksgiving Dinner. Four episodes into GochiUsa‘s second season, I did an episodic review, having decided that this was an anime that offered enough to talk about each and every episode. While not quite CLANNAD, GochiUsa has its own unique charms that make it an incredibly heartwarming anime to watch.

  • I have the internet’s first and most comprehensive set of high resolution screenshots with this post: the lower resolution images on Pintrest and Tumblr have nothing against the quality here. It goes without saying that the trailer and manga will give away the entire narrative to Dear My Sister, so this post is essentially one large spoiler. To take a page from Kylo Ren, if you do not already know that Dear My Sister is set in the summer and deals with fireworks, then you should leave right now. Here, Cocoa and Chiya share a tearful farewell: despite leaving for only a week, Cocoa remarks that she’ll never forget the time she’s spent with everyone. The emotional tenour of the moment leads Maya and Megu to assume that Cocoa’s leaving for good.

  • For long-time readers of this blog, it’s no secret that I am very fond of rabbits. For me, watching GochiUsa is functionally identical to watching videos of baby bunnies frolicking about, relaxing and otherwise, doing things that baby bunnies do best. Since the availability of the home release to Dear My Sister won’t be known for a while, I imagine that the videos I linked do will have to suffice for the present. Dear My Sister skips over the first and second chapters of volume five, which sees the girls work on summer uniforms to seek relief from the summer heat and attempt a test of courage.

  • In Cocoa’s absence, Rize decides to whip Maya, Chino and Megu into shape. Rize’s fiery spirit causes Chino to recall Rize’s first days at Rabbit House. Beyond her tough exterior, Chino learns that Rize is friendly and approacheable. The third chapter also reveals that, if people think I am big on Tom Clancy, Battlefield and the like, I remark that I’ve got nothing on Rize. Her character seems to be tailored towards folks like myself as far as interests go.

  • Because GochiUsa is known for scrambling the order of things, there are some scenes seen in the Dear My Sister trailer that I cannot immediately place. When I did the preview for season two based on the manga some years back, I hit some of the stories covered and missed the others. As a result, knowing the manga, while yielding spoilers, won’t mean that one won’t be pleasantly surprised when watching Dear My Sister for the first time.

  • Maya and Megu are two of Chino’s friends from middle school; after meeting out of a curiosity when Chino mentions her wish to be a barista, they’ve since grown close with one another. Maya and Megu perfectly complement one another in terms of personality, and while their presence in the first season is limited, they appear with a greater frequency in season two, joining Cocoa and the others in their adventures.

  • A joke from GochiUsa‘s first season (corresponding with the manga’s third volume) makes a return: immediately after Cocoa leaves, Chino finds herself making iced cocoas, a nod to when Chino similarly became “Cocoa-sick” after Cocoa left to study with Chiya and Sharo, Chino similarly made a bunch of milk cocoas. It’s something that Chino is likely unwilling to openly to admit to the others, that in the absence of Cocoa, she misses the warmth and energy that Cocoa brings in.

  • Located deep in the mountains, the Hot Bakery is also Cocoa’s home. There is something particularly charming, even romantic, about a good eatery in a rural or small town setting, and one of the directions that GochiUsa has yet to take in its manga is to have Chino and the others visit the Hot Bakery.

  • Back home, Cocoa’s mother and Mocha both notice a degree of change in Cocoa; this stems from her spending time with the disciplined and focused Rize, Sharo’s unparalleled eye for sales in the name of saving money, and Chiya’s uncommon way of thinking. Friends certainly can have an impact on one another, bringing to mind cases where couples begin resembling one another in terms of facial expressions over time, and when dogs look like their owner.

  • In Chinese, bread is given as “麵包” (pinyin “miàn bāo”), which translates literally to “flour package”, describing the fact that bread minimally is a small parcel of flour and water cooked together to form a cohesive unit. The Japanese word for bread is “パン” (romanised “pan”) after the French pain. In English, “bread” is derived from Germanic languages, referring to the shape of baked bread as a unit or morsel, similar to the Chinese descriptor.

  • Mocha was a welcome addition to the cast in the second season, creating new dynamics amongst the existing characters that proved most enjoyable to watch. Some folks feel Mocha’s presence to overshadow the other characters, and while this is perhaps an exaggeration, the anime became noticeably quieter after Mocha returns home. I vividly recall the seventh episode of GochiUsa, released the same date that Girls und Panzer: Der Film premiered in Japanese theatres. The weather was pleasant, and I spent the morning shopping for deals at a nearby M&M Food Market.

  • If the trailers were indeed produced by Production doA, the art style has remained quite consistent from White Fox’s: here, Chino is not particularly enjoying the protracted farewells and asks Cocoa to set off with more expedience when Cocoa delays, asking the others to look after Chino for her. This frame is almost identical to the original manga, and having seen the trailer, I’m reasonably confident of Production doA’s ability to execute. One of the possible reasons why Dear My Sister was delayed could be the unexpected change in studios.

  • After recieving a request to make a delivery, Cocoa decides to take her bike, as town is a ways away. However, while Cocoa’s learned to ride a bike, Mocha’s taken things one step further and has gotten her introductory operator’s license, allowing her to drive a moped around. Essentially bikes with small engines, the requirements to operate one are not steep. Apparently, the naming is a portmanteau of “motor velocipede”, although I somehow always read it as the past tense of “mope”.

  • I don’t think Megu and Maya sharing a bath with Chino occurs within the same chapter, but the animated adaptation of GochiUsa has always presented a coherent, enjoyable flow of events despite the liberties it takes. The page quote deals with home this time: while the official GochiUsa website gives the plot as dealing with Chino asking her friends to watch the summer fireworks with her, the trailer suggests that Dear My Sister is going to be about more than just the fireworks, rather similar to how Pretty Days ended up being about more than Shinobu working hard to finish all of her tasks ahead of their class play at the school cultural festival.

  • The manga reveals that everyone’s gotten Cocoa-sick to some extent: Sharo starts speaking in a highly flowery, optimistic manner while meeting up with Rize, Chiya begins naming various food items after Cocoa, and Rize herself loses her cool after smiling the warmest smile ever, outright begging Cocoa to come back. One of the main themes of the second season was just how much of an impact Cocoa’s had on those around her, and even if it’s not quite the same as Yoshino Koharu had on Manoyama in Sakura, the second season’s strength really lay in illustrating the magic that a single individual can have.

  • In light of troubling events around the world as of late, I think that it’s important that people never lose sight of what’s important, doing what’s right for others and taking the time to step back and relax in a manner appropriate for them. This is the reason that I am particularly fond of GochiUsa and anime of its class: it helps me relax and take my mind off challenges from the real world: anime that engages too many neurons are not my cup of tea despite their narrative and technical excellence, and I further consider it a folly to take relaxing anime such as these too seriously.

  • One of the questions I’ve seen floating around on Reddit is the unusual syntax of “Dear My Sister”: in English, referring to one’s beloved takes the form “My Dear Sister”, but in this case, the title is intended to denote “Dear, My Sister”: the OVA is intended to act as a letter of sorts, and while the trailers do not show this, it is possible that the OVA could be presented in such a format. Armed with the manga and using Pretty Days as a precedent,

  • While modelled after Colmar, France, the town in GochiUsa also derives elements from Hungary from an architectural perspective, while elements of Japanese and German culture are quite prevalent, as well. To the best of my knowledge, Colmar does have a summer music festival, Festival international de musique classique de Colmar, but it’s not structured in the same manner as Japanese summer festivals – as per its name, the Colmar festival is a classical music festival. The town in GochiUsa is the ultimate combination of cultures, and it is with a mark of pride that I can say that I live somewhere where such cultural diversity is a given.

  • In Japan, I saw folks wearing yukata while visiting the Kinkakuji. Being modelled after the Japanese Yamato Nadeshiko, Chiya is seen wearing a yukata in the Deak My Sister trailer, and it is only in the likes of something like GochiUsa where one can have a Japanese-style summer festival amidst the Alsace area. In the manga, the summer festival ended up being quite short, but the biggest advantage about the animated medium is that things like fireworks and visuals of the town under festival lighting can be rendered in exceptional detail.

  • Like the quiet Saturday morning two years ago, the weather today is looking quite pleasant, although I’ve heard reports that things could darken later on. However, unlike last time, there are several differences: first, I will be heading off to lift weights in a few moments. Further, Thanksgiving dinner will be tomorrow evening. It goes without saying that I’m absolutely excited about Dear My Sister, but unless there’s an ARIA-level miracle, I won’t be watching or writing about this for quite some time. Thus, for the present, it’s time to get this day started, and here’s to hoping I can get some good experiences out of the beta today.

Dear My Sister will cover the third to sixth chapters from the fifth volume of GochiUsa: Cocoa is leaving town and spending a week with her family out in the mountains. While Chino appears unperturbed by Cocoa’s absence, in contrast with Chiya, who visibly misses her already, Chino unconsciously expresses her longing for Cocoa. To take their mind off things, Rize tasks Chino, Maya and Megu with cleaning up Rabbit House. Chino begins reminiscing when she first met Rize, and later, they work to patch up a stuffed rabbit that Rize had given to Chino when they’d first met. Back in the mountains, Cocoa is spending quality time with her mother and older sister, Mocha. She returns to find Rabbit House a very lively place, and later, Chino asks everyone to attend the summer festival with her. Before they can do so, they must help Aoyama finish her manuscript ahead of a deadline, only for her to accidentally spill coffee on it. Even though Cocoa’s forgotten to finish her summer assignments, the girls enjoy the summer festival to their fullest, culminating with the fireworks that Chino’s wished to bring everyone together to see. This is about the scope of what I imagine Dear My Sister will cover. There are other chapters in the fifth volume that remained uncovered, and a third season is not outside the realm of possibility, as well. However, before we reach that bridge, there is quite a distance separating the present from the point where I will have an opportunity to write about Dear My Sister. As such, it is appropriate for me to step off and enjoy this Thanksgiving Long Weekend – while Thanksgiving dinner might be happening tomorrow, this time, there’s going to be cheesecake.

On The Hillside Path Where The Cherry Blossoms Flutter: Beginning The Journey in CLANNAD at the Ten Year Anniversary

“You think you’re living in color, until completely by chance you meet someone who changes your world, and suddenly everything is so alive, and everything inside you is awakened.” —Ab imo pectore

While CLANNAD officially had its ten year anniversary back in April 2014, a time I better recall for other matters, today marks the ten year milestone to when the anime adaptation of the visual novel began airing. The first episode follows Tomoya Okazaki, a delinquent who whiles away his days, skipping classes with Youhei Sunohara and resenting the relationship he has with his father. While wondering if his life could possibly change on the way to school one day, he runs into a girl speaking with herself. Speaking with her in greater detail during lunch, Tomoya learns that she’s Nagisa Furukawa, and her dream is to resurrect the high school’s drama club. She’s a year older than he is, and that an illness has kept her from attending the previous year. Later, he is invited over to dinner at the Furukawas, meeting Sanae and Akio. CLANNAD‘s ordinary-seeming start belies an anime so moving, the medium has not seen anything quite matching its calibre: the first episode eases viewers into the intricate world that is CLANNAD, introducing some of the major characters and helping audiences connect with them by means of humour. The establishment of characters, presentation of each of their stories and Tomoya’s kindheartedness creates a tangible emotional impact, and the sum of the elements in CLANNAD means that even now, very few anime can come close to moving its viewers quite to the same extent as CLANNAD.

CLANNAD‘s opening moments serve to establish the story’s direction, firmly setting down the foundation for the beginnings of Tomoya’s journey. The use of colour and lighting immediately informs viewers that for the longest time, Tomoya views the world in a dull monochrome; despite slacking off with Kouhei and cutting classes ostensibly for fun, Tomoya is not satisfied with his world, where existence itself is a monotony lacking any value. When ascending a familiar walk to school, he runs into Nagisa. As he talks to her and offers encouragement despite not fully understanding who she is, the world flashes into the warm colours of a spring morning. The vegetation becomes verdant and full of life, while the cherry blossoms lightly flutter about in a gentle shade of pink. This transition can only be described as a fateful meeting, the sort that I’ve longed to experience and have felt precisely once; falling in love is powerful enough to give the world a newfound dimensionality, and while Tomoya here finds Nagisa little more than a curious individual, it marks the beginning of an incredible journey of effort, love, sorrow and togetherness for Tomoya. Quite simply, if there was a way to describe what falling in love might feel like, then through CLANNAD‘s first moments, Kyoto Animation has wholly captured it, and with it, my very own journey in CLANNAD was initiated.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I might be minus one now after the events many years ago, but I’m still here and still doing what I do best. A part of strength is being able to look back on the more painful things and learn from them, rather than being consumed by them: reviewing CLANNAD is going to bring up some old memories for me, speaking to the strength of the narrative in both the visual novel and the game. For this post, I’ll stick to the manageable number of twenty screenshots, which is the norm for single-episode reviews.

  • The page quote comes from a former colleague and friend, describing falling in love as seeing the world properly for the first time. The metaphor certainly applies in CLANNAD; Tomoya’s world is flipped inside out and he begins appreciating it from a new perspective after meeting Nagisa, but unlike most narratives, CLANAND takes the time to develop the relationship between Nagisa and Tomoya. They begin with Tomoya interested in helping her out to stave off boredom, and the two eventually become friends before releasing the extent of their feelings for one another, finally becoming a couple.

  • The opening of CLANNAD is surprisingly similar to the first episode of The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi. I admit that I was not a fan of the series until I heard about The Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi, and subsequently, I’m glad I took the time to watch it (even Endless Eight). Both Haruhi and CLANNAD open with a monochrome colour scheme that transitions to colour once their series’ respective protagonist meets the girl who changes their lives forever. The signs in Haruhi are rather more subtle, but strictly speaking, Kyon and Haruhi are very well-suited for one another: he’s practical and grounded, while she’s a creative visionary. Together, he is able to reign in her plans and make them a reality, while she forces him out of his comfort zone to experience more. Tomoya and Nagisa have a different, but equally rewarding dynamic.

  • Looking back, my experiences will likely tell me that this is the world’s finest example of confirmation bias: I began watching CLANNAD roughly at the same time my heart was being swayed, and it is more than likely CLANNAD acted as a catalyst of sorts for this. That’s enough reminiscing; it’s time to return to what’s happening in CLANNAD itself, and here is an after school scene as Tomoya makes to hang out with Youhei. The artwork and animation in CLANNAD far surpasses anything of its time, and Kyoto Animation’s craft generally is comparable to Makoto Shinkai, Studio Ghibli and P.A. Works’ best.

  • The comedic aspects of CLANNAD means that the anime is immediately accessible for folks who were unfamiliar with the visual novel, and back in 2007, Steam would not have had it for sale, as it released in 2015. I picked up CLANNAD during a discount a ways back, but I’ve yet to actually open it and play it. I’ve heard it’s got fantastic replay value comparable to Skyrim and GTA V, but with the slew of awesome titles upcoming (Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus comes to mind), I don’t think there’s enough hours in the day to get everything in.

  • Although their interactions might suggest otherwise, Youhei Sunohara and Tomoya are best friends. Tomoya is particularly adept at deceiving Youhei or otherwise landing him in hot water for his own amusement, but when the moment calls for it, both Tomoya and Kouhei genuinely do care for one another. Here, Tomoya trolls members of the rugby team: of all the characters, Youhei defies biological and physical constraints with the greatest frequency. He is tossed around like a ragdoll but can take as much damage as the Doom Slayer.

  • After Ryou Fujibayashi attempts to read Tomoya’s fortune and succumbs to nerves, her more assertive twin sister, Kyou, appears. Both have feelings for Tomoya, but in the visual novel, players only have the option of playing Kyou’s route (and Tomoya ends up with Ryou if sub-optimal decisions are made). Some have considered Kyou to be a suitable match for Tomoya – supplementary materials and the progression of her route in the game tend to support this. Here’s a surprise for me: Kyou is voiced by Ryō Hirhashi, of Tamayura‘s Komachi Shinoda and Aria‘s very own Alice Caroll.

  • Voiced by Mai Nakahara of Higurashi: When They Cry‘s Rena Ryugu fame, Nagisa quickly became my favourite character on CLANNAD. Sweet, sensitive and gentle, her disposition happens to be what I would fancy about a person. In conjunction with commitment and trust, these attributes happen to be the very things that I value in a relationship.

  • This screenshot illustrates the transformations that have yet to occur: at this point in CLANNAD, Tomoya and Nagisa are quite unfamiliar with one another and refer to one another by their surnames, considering one another as little more than fellow students. One of my favourite moments in my undergraduate career was working on a project for Japanese class, only for one of my colleagues from health sciences to ask if I were in a relationship, as they’d seen us practising for a skit. At this point, I regarded the comment as little more than a light-hearted joke. Another colleague made a similar remark a year later, and leading me to wonder what would happen if I Reached into Infinity and see where things would take me.

  • Resolute, determined and forward, Tomoyo Sakagami has a well-known streak of violence and is shown to be capable of fighting as effectively as Donnie Yen. Despite this, her main goal is to become the student council president with the goal of saving the sakura trees that she longs to see with her family with the hopes of mending past ills. Early in CLANNAD, she’s present primarily to lay the ultra-beatdowns on Youhei for comedic effect. As impressive as her martial arts are, what is more impressive is Youhei’s resilience.

  • Nagisa’s wish to resurrect the drama club stems from a longstanding desire to act; long denied the opportunity as a result of her illness, Nagisa wishes to do something in her final year as a high school student. I’ve never been a particularly good actor, being very stoic in most situations that may elicit responses from those around me, but on the flipside, I’m okay with presentations and speaking to an extent, lending my unusual sense of humour to draw in audiences before proceeding with my main content.

  • Reaching into Infinity ended up causing a bit of hurt, but also imparted on me life experiences I’ll carry with me and value forever owing to their instructive value. With that being said, I do miss the warmth of a smile and words encouragement prior to undertaking something difficult: throughout CLANNAD, Nagisa and Tomoya constantly support one another even as they find themselves entangled within their own challenges, and for Tomoya, he always manages to make time to help Nagisa out with the drama club even as other characters require his attention.

  • Tomoya is voiced by Yūichi Nakamura (Gundam 00‘s Graham Aker), and the surname Okazaki brings to mind Okazaki fragments, which are formed on the lagging strand of DNA during replication. They were discovered in the 1960s in experiments on E. coli by Reiji and Tsuneko Okazaki along with their colleagues: in eukaryotes, the fragments are a few hundred base pairs in length, and later, DNA Ligase seals off the strand. My memories of biochemistry are strong: I finished my introductory biochemistry course shortly before beginning CLANNAD mere months before.

  • After running into Tomoya on the way home, Nagisa asks if he’s interested in having dinner with her family. Within nothing else to do in the evenings besides return home, Tomoya accepts. Shortly after I finished CLANNAD and its sequel, I wrote a combined review for the anime, delving into the thematic elements and covering briefly what aspects of the anime I felt to have made it worthwhile. During this time, I still primarily wrote to my website, with this blog being more of a support resource; it was not until later that I made the transition, accounting for why I have not covered CLANNAD to any extent here until now.

  • A long-running joke in CLANNAD is the fact that any criticisms (real or perceived) of Sanae Furukawa’s bread will immediately lead her to run off in tears, forcing Akio to run off after her and declare that said bread is in fact delicious, even if it is composed of uncommon or unusual ingredients. While done frequently enough to elicit the occasional laugh, this particular action is shown to serve another purpose later on.

  • Akio is very protective of his wife and daughter, to the point of threatening Tomoya physical harm with a baseball bat. However, all of this is done for comedy, and under his hot-blooded exterior, Akio is deeply caring about his family and those around him. During my original run of CLANNAD, I heard assertions that Akio was voiced by the same person who played G Gundam‘s Domon Kash, but that’s not true. One can hardly blame people for this assumption, as their personalities and spirits share commonalities.

  • The lighting inside the Furukawa residence is bright and inviting, standing against the dark, unkempt interior of the Okazaki residence. The contrast and normalcy in the Furukawa compels Tomoya to continue visiting even in light of Akio’s manner later in CLANNAD. Here, notice the Furukawa’s CRT television – such screens were widespread until the early 2000s, when LED screens began displacing them. One of the joys about the bulky CRT computer screens of old is demonstrated in the mockumentary Pure Pwnage.

  • Tonight is the Mid-Autumn Festival; as per Chinese custom, we celebrated with a fantastic dinner of chicken, roasted pork with crispy skin, shrimps and dong gu mushrooms. The weather’s been remarkably pleasant today, a far cry from Monday, when a snowfall and 90km/h winds hammered the area: it’s a full moon, and while it’s the perfect time to have a bit of mooncake, dinner proved to be superb, leaving no room for desert. Mooncake will therefore be partaken in the upcoming days leading up to Thanksgiving. While multi-yolk mooncakes are an indicator of better luck, I prefer my mooncake without the yolk.

  • This post ended up being a lot more introspective and personal than usual, which is saying something. In upcoming CLANNAD posts, I will aim to stay on mission and explore what each arc contributes to the story overall. It is a journey that will lead us into March 2018. I’m not sure if I’ll have the time to write about CLANNAD ~After Story~ in this manner, but this is something that will be addressed when the time comes.

  • Tomoya later sees Nagisa performing under a street lamp. In CLANNAD, the Illusionary World is presented with a non-trivial frequency; its significance in CLANNAD is that it forms the basis for Nagisa’s play, and in CLANNAD ~After Story~, it takes on a much greater significance. This brings the opening post of my CLANNAD revisitation to a close, and the fall anime season has finally begun. There are three shows on my radar right now: Yūki Yūna is a Hero: Hero ChapterWake Up! Girls Shin Shou and Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou. I am certain to write about Hero Chapter, and with the breathing room available from the blogging front, I have two special topics posts I will be looking to work on before this month is out.

CLANNAD would go on to impact my world view, particularly in matters of the heart and also led me the furtherest I’d been in a relationship. Of course, the real world is simultaneously more kind and more cruel than CLANNAD – my journey in matters of the heart closed a year later, during the visual novel’s ten year anniversary. However, CLANNAD itself remains perhaps the best anime series I’ve seen, and I’ve long felt that it’s time I went back through CLANNAD to explore what precisely made the anime the emotional powerhouse that it is. To this end, I’m going to be writing about CLANNAD in a retrospective format, similar to what I’ve done for Sora no Woto. However, because CLANNAD is a gargantuan series, spanning forty-nine episodes (forty-four of which constitute the actual story) over two season, I will not be revisiting CLANNAD on an episodic basis. Instead, I will explore each arc of CLANNAD. In this format, CLANNAD will have four posts excluding this one, one each for Fuko, Kotomi, Kyou and Ryou, and finally, Nagisa herself. I’ve not seen CLANNAD since I wrote the MCAT in 2012 – armed with five years more of life experience since then, I admit that I’m curious to see how my thoughts on this excellent anime have endured and shifted with the passage of time.

New Game!!- Final Review and Reflections

“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.” —Benjamin Franklin

Tsubame is faced with challenges after presenting her mini-game, and is given additional features to implement, while Nene pushes on with her own assignment to build a physics game prototype. Impressed that Nene has satisfied the minimum requirements and went the extra mile, Umiko encourages Nene to continue exploring, assigning her to a debugging and testing role. Later, Rin and Kō share an evening together at the office. Later, Nene learns from Momiji that Tsubame’s determination to make it as a programmer stems from her background and a desire to step away from the family business. When Umiko and her team discover bugs in Tsubame’s work, Nene decides to help with the process and they manage to debug things fully before the deadline. The two reconcile and participate in a demonstration of the final product prior to shipping it. Rin becomes dismayed to learn that Kō has plans to leave Eagle Jump. After their promotional event, where Kō gives credit to Aoba for her role in making the artwork possible, she reveals to the company that she intends to leave for France to further her skills, inspired by Aoba’s drive to improve. On the day of departure, the entire art department, with Umiko, Nene and Tsubame, come to bid Kō farewell. When Eagle Jump’s latest title goes on sale, it is well-received, inspiring Aoba to continue working harder. This is the gist of what happens in New Game!!‘s final quarter; with a solid conclusion, the second season comes to a close. With its depiction of interpersonal and intrapersonal conflicts, New Game!! manages to differentiate itself from its first season, which had a heavier emphasis on comedy. This is in keeping with anime adaptations of Manga Time Kirara works: after establishment in the first season, the anime can take a new direction in allowing characters to explore a more diverse set of interactions to ensure that the continuation is novel.

In New Game!!, the overarching theme is improvement. Complacency leads to a lack of innovation, which is essential in an ever-shifting market, and as such, New Game!! aims to show the importance of striving to further one’s craft, whether it be through Aoba, whose determination to better her skills as an artist to have the same impact on customers that Kō had, or through Nene, who is constantly working to become a better programmer and pursue her dreams of working alongside Aoba someday. Through long hours, conversations with their seniors and taking a step back to keep the big picture in mind when things get tough, their spirits have a profound impact on those around them. Aoba, despite being the junior, inspires Kō to develop her skills and talents by travelling overseas to learn: watching Aoba’s persistence leads her to feel that she’s become complacent, and that Eagle Jump might no longer allow her to reach further. This constant drive of betterment is an admirable one, being a mindset that can create new opportunity, and through its combination of more serious moments with the light-hearted ones, New Game!! captures this particular message in a succinct and approachable manner. The second season certainly presents a more tangible idea than its predecessor, and on the whole, this was a fantastic series to watch for portraying the sort of journey people might take while pursuing their goals.

“I also dabble in empathy, and if you think you can even consider denying Tsubame with your sad, maladjusted caveman beliefs and a few seconds of conversation, you’re the reason this species is a failure, and it makes me angry!” —Rick Sanchez, Morty’s Mind-Blowers, Rick and Morty

A secondary theme in New Game!! is related to Tsubame and Nene: while Momoji and Aoba end up being friendly rivals early on, with Momiji becoming reluctantly admiring of Aoba’s work and work ethic, Tsubame is initially hostile to Nene. While Nene takes this as a sign to further her own skill in programming, the relationship between Nene and Tsubame take an immediate turn once Nene learns about Tsubame’s background, and when Tsubame fails in her assignment, Nene is more than understanding, reaching out to give her a hand. Tsubame, for her earlier perceptions of Nene, realises that Nene isn’t an enemy, and the two work together to complete a shared goal. By the end of New Game!!, the journey that these two share towards a common objective also allow them to better understand one another; they’re certainly on cordial terms, if not friends, by the finale. Through Nene and Tsubame, New Game!! shows one possible path in conflict resolution, as well as how situations make it necessary for people to work with one another for the team’s sake, and how in doing so, people can set aside personal differences to succeed together. The message here is consistent with the overall objectives and directions in New Game!!, reinforcing how working with an established group of characters and introducing a small number of new characters can give sequels an exciting new direction, allowing them to differentiate themselves from their predecessors. Consequently, when I hear assertions that Tsubame is somehow unfit to be an Eagle Jump employee or similar, I am inclined to dismiss these claims. One of the more blatant offenders has gone so far as to say that, in Nene’s place, they would “would have take adventage[sic] of the mistake and finish of [sic] destroy you”. The individual is plainly lacking in basic human decency and patience: this is most certainly not a team-oriented behaviour; to hire folks with this sort of attitude would be detrimental to the team and company, and it is unlikely people who act out these beliefs would find success. The quote above, sourced from Rick and Morty, mirrors my perspectives on such individuals. Conversely, what occurs in New Game!! is precisely in keeping with the themes the anime has sought to present: Nene puts aside her personal differences to help Tsubame out because it’s for the company’s benefit, and there’s the bonus of her reconciling with Tsubame in the process, reinforcing themes established within the second season.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The reality of things is that requirements continue to shift as a project advances, and it’s up to project managers and team leaders to determine how to best accommodate the changes without compromising the programmers. In New Game!!, such moments are intentionally played for humour, and one of the aspects about the second season that I particularly enjoyed was the frequent switches between more serious and relaxed moments. Overall, New Game!! retains the lighter tones of its predecessor, but expands upon character interactions and conflicts to keep things entertaining.

  • One of the things about New Game!! is that, while the anime itself is of a high standard and enjoyable on all counts, there are some parts of the community discussing the anime that hold themselves in too high of regards. In my previous New Game!! post, where I presented my thoughts on why Tsubame’s actions are appropriate from a narrative perspective, an individual countered that Tsubame should continue to be regarded as “worst girl” on virtue that their conflict was inconsistent with the themes in New Game!!. The individual further asserts that it’s possible for a few seconds to ruin an entire anime.

  • I’ve not heard from them since, but the events of New Game!! have shown that my assertions, not theirs, ended up being true. This demonstrates that New Game!!‘s writers understand how to go about presenting themes that span across a series; conversely, people who contend that “a few minutes (or even seconds) can potentially ruin a show” are narrow-minded to be making a judgement before the entire series of events is presented. Back in New Game!!, in exchange for a nabe at Yun’s place, Hajime gives her a toy sword for one of Yun’s siblings.

  • After hours, Aoba and Nene go out for dinner. The finale for New Game!! came out a little less than a week ago, but on my end, things have been quite busy. Between work, a growing cold, the Battlefield 1 BattleFest event and the Call of Duty: WWII Open Beta, there’s been precious little time to put a discussion together. However, I figured that I should probably roll mine out the gates so that I do not get inundated with incomplete drafts once October comes full-swing – while the Call of Duty: WWII Open Beta is running until October 2, I’ve found the Call of Duty-style mechanics and map design not to my liking compared to the approaches seen in Battlefield 1.

  • I’ll discuss my full thoughts on Call of Duty: WWII in a separate post. After everyone’s left, Rin and Kō share a moment together, with Kō giving Rin a gift under soft candlelight. Kō prepares to spend the night and begins stripping down, leading to much embarrassment from Rin when she sees Kō in her pantsu, but owing to my limited desire to make another 40-image post, I’ve omitted that moment from this discussion: this final impressions talk on New Game!! will have the standard of thirty images.

  • After palatable tensions lead Nene to work in the canteen, she runs into Momiji and Kō. It is here that she learns of Tsubame’s background; she’d taken up programming and is intent on excelling so she can find employment such that she is not relegated to taking up a post at the family inn. Nene understands the situation Tsubame is in, and all irritation with her evaporates. With this evaporation comes evaporation of all remarks from the individual in my comments earlier – I’m genuinely curious to hear their thoughts on developments.

  • Later, Nene is recalled to the office after Umiko learns that Tsubame’s work is riddled with bugs. Tsubame reveals that in the name of speed, she only tested more obvious cases, leaving boundary conditions untested. One of the more arrogant viewers have said “that was too newbie of a mistake for [them] to take when [they were] at Tsubame’s age”, and I find myself disappointed with some parts of the community again – the individual in question has no experience in programming or software development (akin to if I start talking about statically indeterminate structures despite having no engineering knowledge). Conversely, I feel that the reason why this occurs is because of Tsubame’s ego coming ahead of her judgement, done to advance the narrative rather than because Tsubame “deserved it”. In this moment, she realises the scope of what’s happened and fears the worst, that her career ends here.

  • Nene steps up to the plate and resolves to help Tsubame fix things; when Tsubame asks why Nene is doing this, Nene responds that while she did hate Tsubame, learning of her story and helping the team out is what prompts her decision. Ultimately, it is this moment that handily disproves assertions that “Tsubame is worst girl” or similar: she turns around and accepts Nene’s kindness, understanding that her own actions and decisions must be for the team’s, rather than her own, benefit. This growth from Tsubame contributes to the messages that New Game!! aims to convey.

  • With no time to lose, Umiko gives Nene and Tsubame their assignment. With their newfound resolve to work on the necessary fixes and plenty of Red Bull, they work late into the evening. It is here that I note that every developer and programmer has their own preferred stress-management measures for working under pressure. While my coworkers enjoy their Kurigs, I personally dislike coffee for its effects on my renal system and for the fact it makes me jittery long after the boost has allowed me to finish a task. Instead, I prefer a good tea and a ultra-sonic humidifier in my face to keep me refreshed. Red Bull is not an option for me, being a concoction of concentrated caffeine and sugar that would be akin to drinking coffee with worse side effects, and because I do not agree with their marketing methodology.

  • After much sweat and tears (this isn’t a war, so there’s no blood), Nene and Tsubame submit clean code with no bugs. The term is often thrown around by people whose expertise lie outside of the term, but strictly speaking, “bug free code” is code that does not exist and is not written. Instead, a good developer knows that any piece of non-trivial software, while never truly be bug-free, can and should be tested, updated and improved so that the end-user has a good experience. Nene and Tsubame will continue down this path of improvement as they continue to work together, and while Nene longs to become a developer, her role in software QA is no less important.

  • With ten days left to deployment, the entire art and programming team gather to test the deployment version of PECO out. In this moment, a lava lamp is visible; back when I was with the university, I brought in a lava lamp to act as decoration for my work area. I would stare at it while contemplating features or required bug fixes for the Giant Walkthrough Brain. The lamp inspired one of my colleagues to get a little USB-powered plasma globe.

  • Nene and Aoba watch during a demonstration of their final deployment version of PECO. I’ve not mentioned the game by name until now primarily because the nature of PECO has not been relevant to discussions; for completeness’ sake, PECO is an RPG where the goal is to infiltrate a world of plushies and liberate it from an evil sorceress, brutally ripping apart plushies with the same violence as the Doom Slayer does to Hell’s Dæmons, to gain their powers and blend in with the environment.

  • At a press conference, Kō is asked to take centre stage and recount her experiences with the art in the game. At Eagle Jump, it would appear that there is no dedicated department for handling the story and world-building of the game; we’ve seen each of Aoba, Hajime and the others contribute in their own way to the story within PECO. Is PECO the sort of game that I would buy and play? Aoba and the Eagle Jump team’s efforts notwithstanding, the answer is “maybe, during a sale”: PECO is not of the genre I typically enjoying playing, and to buy it at full price without understanding what the game entails is not how I typically roll.

  • During presentations such as E3, gameplay is typically demonstrated, but in New Game!!, none is shown. The E3 of this year was quite exciting: I’m most looking forwards to Wolfenstein II: The New ColossusFar Cry 5Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown and Metro: Exodus, and with the release date on Wolfenstein II coming this month, I’m looking forwards to seeing if the game is worth the price of admissions close to launch. I’ve seen some new footage as of late, and the game itself looks stunning.

  • The magic moment of Kō’s speech comes when she asks Aoba to join her on stage. Appreciative and understanding of the efforts that Aoba put in to make PECO happen, even though Aoba was never credited with the original ideas or allowed to submit promotional artwork for the game, Kō decides to express her thanks and acknowledge Aoba’s contributions in front of an audience. It’s the recognition that Kō feels Aoba deserves, and illustrates the extent that Kō cares for Aoba and her development as a professional character artist.

  • It is clever and appropriate that Aoba’s efforts come back in the finale to their fullest; many viewers felt vindicated after seeing this, as they’d felt shafted when publishers adamantly refused to have Aoba’s work or name mentioned anywhere, fearing that sales might take a hit if a new designer were to be named as in charge of the project. Of course, with the media aware of Aoba now, the market’s confidence in a game bearing Aoba’s name in the credits is slightly stronger, marking the beginning of growth in her career.

  • While New Game!! could have ended here and now, there is one more thing on the table: Kō had revealed to Rin her intents to leave Eagle Jump prior to their press conference. Looking back, Kō’s decision to have Hifumi act as team lead and giving Aoba a chance to drive character designs, were made to determine if her team could function on their own without her, indicating that Kō has been interested in pursuing a career elsewhere for some time. It’s the final conflict in New Game!!, disrupting the status quo and forces the entire art team to grow into Kō’s shoes, now that their leading talent has decided to seek new opportunities.

  • It turns out that Kō is leaving for a company in France. The name is not explicitly mentioned, but the one company where Kō can develop her skills further is Ubisoft, a veritable giant behind Tom Clancy branded games, as well as the Far Cry and Assassin’s Creed franchises. The sheer diversity of games they publish, plus the fact that they have their own in-house development team means that Kō is likely working with Ubisoft in Rennes, rather than for one of their subsidiaries. While visibly saddened by this announcement, Shizuku decides to drive things ahead and plans a combined launch-and-farewell party. In the final half of New Game!!‘s finale, the mood changes between the maudlin and irreverent at the drop of a hat: the sudden transitions can be a bit jarring and brings to mind Futurama‘s iHawk, who had an actual switch that allowed him to go from being saddened by warfare in one moment to cracking jokes the next.

  • In spite of Kō’s impending departure, she’s rather ill-prepared, leaving it to Rin to pick up after her. They’re celebrating at a nabe place here, bringing to mind the nabe place I visited in Kyoto back in May after touring the Kinkakuji. One of the challenges was sitting down on the floor to eat, and since my joints don’t move that way, seiza is out of the question for me, leaving me with the agura position instead. I imagine that here, Aoba and the others are sitting normally, since the restaurant has a sunken floor below the low table. I am much more familiar with conventional tables, if only for the fact that I can eat more while sitting upright: despite an insane cold, I was able to fully enjoy dinner last night at a restaurant I’d not visited for quite some time. Their dishes are seasoned and cooked well, incredibly flavourful and in large portions: we had 金沙蝦, duck in a savoury sauce, pea-shoots with abalone, fresh fish, one of the absolute best 小炒王 dishes I’ve ever had, 咕噜肉 and 乾燒伊麵.

  • After dinner concludes, half of the characters are hammered: Hajime is supporting Yun, and Christina has devolved into a drunken rant of sorts. Television as a whole depicts ours as a drinking society; I’ve noticed that beers come out pretty frequently in New Game!!, as well as in the likes of Sakura QuestFuturamaSimpsonsRick and Morty and the like. I’ve never really had any problems with avoiding drinks at social gatherings: the unique combination of being the designated driver and a biologically-valid explanation is sufficient to get people to understand why I don’t drink. Of course, there are exceptions: I won’t mind cracking a champaign, cuba libre or lemon daiquiri on special occasions.

  • Rin’s feelings and longing finally come out in full force; she tearfully asks Kō not to leave. From a certain perspective, it is possible to simply say that Rin’s very fond of Kō as a friend and is not mentally prepared to deal with a world where she’s not there to look after Kō. However, my perspective seems to be the minority; most folks find that Rin sees Kō in a romantic light. New Game!! certainly does seem to convey this through Rin’s reactions of jealousy and bashfulness where Kō is involved, but on my end, I’ve never been too concerned with this sort of thing because of its limited impact on the narrative as a whole.

  • There’s probably a detailed, technical explanation from an evolutionary biology perspective as to why male members of a mammalian species find female interactions to be more interesting; if it exists, I’ve not learned about it yet. Apparently, this pattern extends beyond H. sapiens, if the book “Fish That Fake Orgasms and Other Zoological Curiosities” is to be believed. However, to explore that would be going well outside of what is within the realm of what New Game!! is about, so I’ll return things to the point where Rin and Kō reach an understanding with the arrangements in the days coming.

  • To clasp hands as Rin and Kō are doing is probably a sign of trust: in Gōjū-ryū, there’s an arm lock technique that involves interlocking someone’s fingers in a similar position, with the result that any application of force can prove very persuasive. Our seniors joke that there’s hardly any application for the move, except when one might have an incapacitated opponent and no hand-cuffs on hand. Right when things between Kō and Rin begin to get a little more interesting, Shizuku and Christina march off into the night, shattering any mood that has accumulated during Rin and Kō’s conversation. Careful inspection of this screenshot will find that Rin is blushing through her hair somehow;

  • Aoba is rather similar to K-On!‘s Azusa Nakano in appearance and manner, as well as for being viewed as kitten-like in their presence. Unlike Azusa, Aoba is a bit more truthful about how she feels with respect to those around her. When running into Momiji the next day at work, Momiji coaxes out of Aoba that the latter has many unsaid things on her mind, once the waterworks start coming out when Aoba begins stroking Mozuku, and on the spur of the moment, decides to go to the airport to see Kō off.

  • One of the things about Japan and Hong Kong that I am particularly envious about is the extent and efficiency of their mass transit infrastructure. In Hong Kong, the Airport Express MTR line (機場快綫) makes it possible to go from Central out to the airport in no time at all, and I imagine that there are efficient train lines in Tokyo, as well. By comparison, the LRT line does not even reach the airport; folks travelling between the Core and the airport are dependent on a dedicated bus line, and the existing bus services only cover the city’s northern end. On the plus side, Calgary is not so obscenely large yet that travelling from one side of the city to the other requires more than an hour.

  • The last time I made mention of this was back during the Someone’s Gaze talk: four years may have elapsed since I wrote that post, and while I might be a bit more well-travelled now compared to my self of four years ago, my old assertion still holds true – airports really are places where tears may be shed for sadness surrounding a departure and happiness from a reunion. In New Game!!, it is the former, and despite her initial hesitancy, Aoba finally lets out how she feels about Kō. Conversely, all Momiji can think about is how Kō will order food once she’s in France.

  • Despite all of Kō’s shortcomings as a person, from her sloppy manner and casual attitude, Aoba has learned more from Kō over the past year than she’d ever anticipated and has come to see Kō as a role model. Aoba even takes a leaf from Tom Clancy’s playbook, calling Kō a “ばかやろう” out of frustration that she’s departing to fulfil her own dreams at the expense of leaving everyone behind. Moved by Aoba, Kō explains to Aoba that it is actually seeing Aoba’s ceaseless determination to improve that led her to decide to seek new pastures; while Kō’s enjoyed working at Eagle Jump greatly, seeing the same scenery means she’s reached a sort of plateau with respect to what she can improve upon as a character artist, and a completely different environment is likely what it will take for Kō to further her skills.

  • Some folks wonder why Kō has chosen France and western games, believing that working on Rainbow Six Siege or Far Cry character models might “ruin” her skill, but I argue that this is a suitable change of scenery, since some western elements can feed back into the anime art style and bolster Kō’s ability to work with different character designs. Western art is certainly not “dropped drastically in these recent 5-10 years” to the point where there’s “nothing to learn from them anymore”: the number of counterexamples are limitless, including the work that DICE and Machine Games produce. If anything, Western games are far more sophisticated from a mechanical and technical perspective than Japanese games, which tend to have more involved narratives and memorable art styles. I argue that both Japanese and Western games can learn from one another, taking advances and innovations to produce games that are increasingly enjoyable to experience.

  • The entire party shows up after Kō shares a final conversation with Aoba to see her off, and this departure is one of optimism, as everyone wishes Kō the best of luck in her new endeavours. It’s a fitting end to New Game!!, and with it, comes the ending of this post. It means I can go back to sleeping it off: the signs of a cold started on Thursday, but I figured it was minor right up until yesterday, when I began aching all around. I’m hoping that fluids and sleep will be sufficient to fight it off, but this cold’s been pretty strong, even closing off my airways. While being sick is unpleasant, I’m glad that I got sick now, as opposed to next week, which is Thanksgiving and when the Star Wars Battlefront II open beta is available.

  • I can’t believe it’s October already: my review of New Game! last year was posted in September. When New Game!‘s first season ended, I remarked that it was a fun series that was unexpectedly entertaining. The first season would probably earn a B+ on my grading system. The second season earns an A for taking a familiar concept and successfully treading new ground with it, strengthening the sort of themes that are conveyed throughout the anime. With both seasons in the books, my new verdict is that the first season is now worth watching because it sets the stage for the second.

With New Game!! over, I am going to miss watching Aoba, Nene and the others work towards their goals. However, one thing I definitely won’t miss will be the parts of the community that take the fun out of New Game!. On the whole, New Game!! proved to be very entertaining for crafting new character dynamics and exploring aspects of Eagle Jump that audiences did not see in the first season. It’s easy to recommend this anime for folks who enjoyed the first season; the second season does not disappoint in its execution. For those who’ve been on the fence about New Game! as a whole, the build-up in season one yields a payoff in the second season, and it is worthwhile to get acquainted with New Game!’s characters before dropping into the more thematically solid second season. I’ve read that New Game!! covers events right up until the sixth volume, which released a mere three months ago. With this in mind, a continuation of New Game!!, in the form of a third season, is unlikely to materialise until there’s more material to adapt. Having said this, there is a spin-off of volume five, which leads to the possibility of there being an OVA at some point in the future. For the time being, New Game!! ends on a high note, and it’s certainly been an enjoyable ride to see Aoba and the others work on games and continue growing as they move further in their careers.