The Infinite Zenith

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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.

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.

Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata ♭: Review and Reflection After Three

“Interesting fun fact: Moynihan and Piece of Toast hate each other. Apparently they’ve got some real creative differences.” —Rick Sanchez, Rick and Morty

Following their sojourn to the hotel, Tomoya and the others resume their development cycle, to typical results: Utaha and Eriri find themselves at odds again. It is revealed that their enmity with one another stems from a combination of their feelings for Tomoya, as well as their own creative differences and raison d’être for creating. In spite of these differences, both begrudgingly hold respect for one another, and back in the present day, both reluctantly agree to sign autographs for both Tomoya and Megumi. Later, Utaha asks Tomoya to spend a day with her, before presenting an alternative ending to their game. Deeply moved by the alternative ending, Tomoya finds himself at an impasse. He later meets up with Iori and Izumi; Izumi reveals that she’s throwing her weight behind Rouge en rogue with the aim of competing mano-a-mano with Eriri. Later, Tomoya tackles the problem of choosing an ending for the game, enlisting Michiru’s band-mates to help out with the grunt work of developing the software. When he looks through the finished result, he realises that the endings will not work for the game and requests a re-write, conveniently avoiding to implicitly choose between Megumi or Utaha. This is what Saekano ♭ has presented thus far after three episodes, being a combination of both amusing to watch for the back-and-forth between the characters, especially Megumi, who’s a bit more colourful than might initially be apparent. With this in mind, however, Saekano ♭ also conveys the sense that the narrative is going to take itself more seriously than in the first season: the biggest draw about Saekano was that it remained light hearted, with Tomoya’s over-the-top antics driving the humour in some areas to remind audiences that their journey is intended to be a fun one.

With the increasing threat presented by Rougu en rogue and Tomoya’s determination to make his game successful ostensibly driving him to decide on an alternative ending, the attendant conflict that may likely arise will put Blessing Software through one of its more difficult challenges yet: on top of denying Utaha a straight answer, it also means additional work that Utaha and Eriri must go through. When everything is said and done, it is quite surprising that Tomoya has maintained an attrition rate of zero with his development team. Having said this, shifting requirements and schedules are par the course in reality, and it is up to the individual to deal with these challenges as they are encountered. That Utaha, Eriri, Michiru and Megumi have stuck it out for this long despite their own differences suggests that everyone has a stake in this project, and their dedication to both their own values, plus a respect (or even unspoken feelings) for Tomoya contribute to their staying. Moving forward, the question that remains is how the internal dynamics in Blessing Software will continue to impact their development cycle and Tomoya’s goals. In addition, the biggest questions on most viewers’ minds is who Tomoya ends up with and what happens to the others with this choice: the light novels are on-going, and it will be interesting to see just how far Saekano ♭ goes. All of these points in consideration, it would be preferable if Saekano ♭ were to stick to a lighter route — striking a balance between comedy and drama would be a superior fit for Saekano ♭ compared to drama alone.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • What better way to kick off Saekano ♭ than to have Utaha and Eriri tearing at each other’s throats while Tomoya and Megumi look on? That was a rhetorical question, by the way: jokes notwithstanding, we’re now formally past the three episode mark of Saekano ♭, and in this post, I will have the twenty usual screenshots detailing elements that would not otherwise fit with the discussions above. Having said this, I do not agree that there is a deeper philosophy to the characters that is worthy of an exercise: the dynamics between Utaha and Eriri form the basis for the first episode, and despite the appearance of complexity, is ultimately a simple result of yin and yang.

  • Utaha and Eiri’s first meeting is dramatised, taking place in a stairwell by the evening’s light. Surprised that Utaha is Metronome of Love‘s author, Eriri initially cannot believe it that such a loathsome individual could generate something so moving. Later, Utaha decides to drop by Eriri’s personal studio and learns of the latter’s talents in producing artwork. The two definitely respect one another’s skills in an unspoken manner, and it is the fact that both have feelings for Tomoya that lead to their conflict.

  • This conflict manifests in the form of each trying to dismiss the others’ skill as being motivated by the wrong reasons (Utaha feels that Eriri’s artwork is an act of revenge against the world for having separated her and Tomoya’s path, while Eriri finds that Utaha’s writing is purposefully manipulating the audiences and aimed at pleasing Tomoya). These differences form the motivation for the page quote, again, sourced from Rick and Morty. This particular quote comes from the first season, where Rick explains to Morty that in the alternate dimension where their television signal is coming from, the two mentioned figures have a significant creative differences but presumably work together to create the fictionalised work featured in Rick and Morty.

  • The balance between their animosity and respect is what prevents Blessing Software from outright disintegrating; the first episode draws to an end with Tomoya and Megumi requesting autographed works from both Utaha and Eriri. Despite her quiet nature, Megumi has a very sharp tongue and will not hesitate to speak her mind when required, adding an edge to her character that is quite far removed from how she was presented during Saekano‘s first several episodes – one of the elements that is making Saekano ♭ worthwhile is to see different aspects of Megumi’s character.

  • With the game’s full script finished, Utaha asks to spend time with Tomoya in what is a date in all but name. They spend some time at a bookstore on their first stop; I am quite fond of bookstores, doubly so now that the public libraries in my area appear to have diminished with respect to the number of interesting books they have that are worth checking out. On several weekends, I’ve found myself visiting the local bookstores, which have a solid selection of books that I can lose myself in. I’ve long enjoyed reading, and this is only matched by my enjoyment of writing, although unlike Utaha, I’m better suited to writing discussions rather than fiction.

  • Eriri, ever-jealous that Tomoya is spending so much time with Utaha, decides to tail them and pulls Megumi into things. Here, they unwind at a café following a movie that was so moving, it led Eriri to tears. It takes considerable effort to make mine eyes water: Ah! My Goddess The Movie, Chobits and Inside Out are the only titles to have done so. When Marnie Was There did the same, but it counts not because I was on a flight to Cancún last year; apparently, the lessening of psychological stressors, coupled with the realisation that this was my first ever time travelling completely alone, and the stimulus in the form of a movie culminated in my shedding a single tear, followed by several more individual tears, during my flight.

  • Utaha reveals that she’s to attend post-secondary quite far from here, which would invariably lead to the end of Blessing Software as they now lack a writer. Her choice of words and delivery serve to probe Tomoya to see where is genuine feelings lie, being very direct, stand in sharp contrast with how someone disinterested might respond and, were it not apparent previously, makes it clear that she’s interested in Tomoya.

  • If one ever were to require counter-surveillance measures to throw off a persistent tail, they need not fancy field-craft or evasion techniques. All one really needs is Megumi Katō, who’s well aware of Eriri’s intentions and cleverly becomes distracted along the way, throwing them further and further off mission. Here, Megumi manages to convince Eriri to try out clothing at a retailer, and even openly remarks that their actions might be considered those of a stalker if they were to continue. Of the girls in the group, Megumi seems the best suited for dealing with Eriri, and the two have become friends over the course of the first season.

  • Understanding that Tomoya is indecisive and lacks the will to do what is necessary where romance is concerned, as were his counterparts in almost all other anime of Saekano‘s category, Utaha decides to make Tomoya’s decision on his behalf by means of a subtle choice: he can either pick the new ending and implicitly show his desire to be with her, leading her to choose a nearby university for her studies, or he can choose the original ending, showing that he prefers Megumi. In order to make a fresh start, Utaha would then attend a faraway university. The moment is quite clear about how Utaha feels, but Tomoya seems quite unaware of the decision’s implications.

  • No game has ever made me cry before. While seemingly a mark of my own imperturbability, the truth is that my game library largely consists of first person shooters, puzzle games and simulators. It is perhaps the constant exposure to death in fiction that I never felt much in the way of strong emotion when Harry Potter‘s Sirius Black or Dumbledore died, nor did I react substantially to the death of various characters in anime. My tears usually arise as a result of watching characters reach profound understanding as a result of their experiences, so deaths in fiction alone do not elicit much from me.

  • After they enter his house, Megumi and Eriri find Tomoya blubbering in front of his computer. She’s beating him with her twin-tails here out of frustration – it’s an aspect of her personality that can be seen in Saekano‘s first season, and she’s often rendered with some amusing facial expressions whenever flustered.

  • A highly dramatic meeting with Rouge en Rogue’s staff, the siblings Iori and Izumi, leads Tomoya to wonder what kind of competition that Blessing is going up against in the Winter Comiket. From the words exchanged, it seems that Rouge en Rogue is further ahead in development than Tomoya’s crew, and it is here that Izumi’s rivalry with Eriri comes out in full force after the more lighthearted presentation during the season opener. Things blow over in a one-on-one fight that sees Eriri exchange blows with Izumi.

  • Utaha and Megumi share a conversation here, with Utaha all but declaring that Megumi should stand down. Her minimal but reliable presence in Saekano means that Megumi would fulfil the role of a support character who assists and enables the main characters on their activities, but Saekano ♭ presents her as being much more multi-faceted than viewers are initially allowed to see. This chance meeting unearths yet another side to her character.

  • That Megumi is so intently pursuing the script suggests that she’s picked up on Utaha’s feelings for him, as well as her own doubts in what would happen if Utaha actually reached home base. Unsure of whether or not this would be good, Megumi seizes the initiative and suggests to Tomoya that he ought to implement both endings to see which one would move him the most, sufficiently to make it into their final product as an ending. Despite her quiet demenour, Megumi has always shown very subtle signs of accepting Tomoya for who he is beyond his hobbies and interests, valuing the determination and spirit underneath; while she’s stated that she’s not interested in a relationship with him, the things that she likes about him also happen to be the foundations that a meaningful relationship is built upon.

  • I’ve heard that Tomoya simply shifts his mind elsewhere whenever Michiru kicks his ass in suggestive ways, as opposed to being completely ignorant or unaware of the implications. One of the disadvantages for readers who are interested in seeing my views on Saekano ♭ will be that, in each post, there should be at least one image of Michiru doing funny things to Tomoya simply because 1) these moments can be fun to write for and 2) at least some readers are probably wondering what I think of said moments.

  • Tomoya asks Michiru for a favour, bringing her band mates to assist with hastily implementing the new route in the game. Apparently, everyone has some background in computers, although from the subtitled descriptions, no one has (or can be reasonably expected to have) familiarity with scripting languages or the fundamentals of programming. With their reluctant help, the project is under way, with the girls running into difficulties in both the scripting logic and common computer errors such as a non-responsive program. On my end, I’ve been remarkably busy with work, doing as much as I can before I leave for a two-week vacation: this is the big event I’ve alluded to vaguely in earlier posts: I am going to Japan in early May and visiting Hong Kong after. Consequently, I’ve been going pedal to the metal with my iOS development work.

  • Even hardcore programming merits a break of sorts: the break took the form of poutine, motivated by the fact that tomorrow marks the end of Poutine Week. Excitement had built around the office for a second poutine day since Sunday, so we had planned to visit another nearby restaurant participating in Poutine Week. The Kensington Pub was our destination, offering a creation dubbed “KP Yolo Fries”. This poutine featured their house fries are covered with a uniquely-flavoured cheese-gravy of double smoked cheddar and Whistler Black Tusk Ale, with succulent chunks of ham hock on top and a side of horseradish aioli. A hearty lunch, this poutine reminds me distinctly of well-made macaroni and cheese. I enjoyed it thoroughly for the rich flavours and the tang the aioli offers — it was most welcoming to know that the proceeds will be going towards the Mealshare organisation, and with this, my Poutine Week participation doubles from last year. 

  • The coding party also shows that Megumi, for all of her other positive attributes, has a sharp eye and at this point, a reasonable knowledge of the scripting language, enough to debug something that Tomoya’s missed. This is, incidentally, a common way that bugs are detected: a peer or coworker might be able to find the logic errors that we miss. Back in Saekano ♭, it is always pleasant to see Megumi supporting Tomoya in whatever ways possible – she’s a true jack-of-all-trades, being able to help technically, support the others and handle the other characters whenever they fly off the handle.

  • I’ll conclude the coding party with a rather pleasant image of Michiru dozing off. After a full weekend’s efforts, Tomoya and the others succeed in implementing a full version of the ending. He reaches the conclusion that neither ending are appropriate for release, suggesting that by the events of Saekano♭, he’s slowly beginning to understand the perspective of a creator rather than that of a consumer. This shift is a profound one and is something that software developers face: designing, implementing, testing and deploying software is significantly more involved than merely being an end-user who might have suggestions for improving the app.

  • The third episode leaves Utaha’s reaction unknown, meaning it will be in the upcoming week that audiences learn of what will happen as a consequence of Tomoya’s decision. With this final figure caption finished, I also wrap up the Saekano♭ after-three talk. Rounding out April will be a talk on Titanfall 2, and as we enter May, things will probably slow down a little until my vacation is over, and I get back into the flow of things.

The intensity of Saekano ♭ has certainly picked up, and with three episodes in the books, Saekano ♭ has certainly drawn my attention and leads me to wonder where things will go. I’ve received suggestions to check out the light novels for myself, but there is a caveat: when translated into English, the flow of the narrative in the light novels seem choppy, disorganised compared to novels written natively in English. Consequently, I find it much more difficult to read light novels than standard novels, and the Saekano novels look to be a bit of a challenge. This is not to say that light novels are poor, but rather, that their style makes them a little less immersive for me. Hence, when I am watching the anime adaptation of Saekano, I am coming in with limited previous background and knowledge. With this in mind, my expectations are that Saekano ♭ follows through with the situations that Tomoya finds himself facing: either he finds a plausible way to address his problems, or else he must fail in a manner befitting of his experience and personality. It will be interesting to see where exactly Saekano ♭ goes in this season, and if things proceed in a credible fashion, Saekano ♭ could prove to be quite amusing to watch. As a closing remark, I will not be looking through the more technical aspects of making a game, besides noting that visual novels, being text-based branching game with scripted sequences, are nowhere near as complex as even a basic app that uses REST API calls in its implementation. If I can use ResearchKit to build full-functioned, complex branching questionnaires and store that data within a few hours, Tomoya should have been able to finish his assignment independently without any assistance over a weekend.