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By Charles On 17 Oct, 2011 At 09:40 PM | Categorized As Animation, Editorials, Tales of Real Otaku | With 2 Comments

No GravatarA few weeks ago, I wrote an article on the games that changed my life. Not the best games, or the most popular ones, just the games that held specific meaning for me as a person and a gamer, and how they shaped my gaming life. Today, I wanted to write a second installment to that, a sort of follow-up piece for another major force in my fandom participation. Because gaming, while it is a big part of my life, is not the only part of my life. I take part in a lot of activities and interests, all of which shape and form who I am, and influence where I go.

So, for today, I am once more listing influential things in my life. This time around, I’m focusing on the anime that made me who I am.

It all started here, sub not dub.

I got into anime way back in 1997, when a friend of mine lent me a copy of “Dragonball Z: The Dead Zone.” Prior to this, I had an inkling of what anime was, but aside from unintentionally watching shows like Voltron back in the 80s, I hadn’t given it much thought. Dragonball Z changed that. I can’t say how many times I watched “Dead Zone” over the next few months, but it was enough to wear out to VHS I had copied it to. I spent a good 3 years waking up extra early to watch the Dragonball Z and Sailor Moon dubs in syndication. I remember actually paying attention in Spanish class so I could stumble through the Telemundo broadcast of “Duragonball Zeto.” And for maybe 2 years, this was all the anime I knew. And I fell into it hard.

Dragonball Z was the first, the gateway into the wide world of anime. And that is the last time I will mention it in this list, because while it was my first, I also outgrew it very fast. The repetitive nature of the episodes, the constant theme of “get stronger, defeat opponent, find stronger one” got old fast, especially as I entered college and found other fans like me. Dragonball opened the door, and after I ran through, I left it behind. There was so much more to discover out there, and I had all the time in the world (at least theoretically) to find it.

Some of the entries on this list are new. Some are movies. Some contain multiple titles. There is a reason for this: sometimes its not the individual series that impacted me, but how it related to others I was watching at the time. Sometimes it’s the animation studio or director that holds the power. So there are definitely more than 10 anime listed on here, but in the end, all of them managed to do the same thing- they shaped who I am today. And, as always, ignore the numbering system. I didn’t rank them in any particular order.

1: Rurouni Kenshin- This was the first show I discovered after Dragonball. Much like its predecessor, this was loaned to me in subtitled VHS format. But the similarities end there. Whereas DBZ is a beat-em-up shounen fight show, Kenshin was so much more. An introduction to the tumultuous Meiji era, when Japan modernized itself rapidly. A study in psychology and the creation of heroes and villains. A moral drama about penitence and forgiveness. It contained a lot of elements DBZ lacked, but which make anime so unique, and enjoyable. And that made me want to watch it more. I recall marathoning the entire Kyoto arc in a weekend. I remember quite vividly discussing the historical accuracy of one Hajime Saito. I also know I spent a lot of money buying a few volumes of this on DVD at the end of Freshman year in college.

These days, I tend to avoid the show. Kenshin the anime lacks a lot of what Kenshin the manga contained. Indeed, the manga had the same impact on my written consumption as the anime did on my viewing. I don’t own any volumes or DVDs anymore, long traded away to make room for new series. But the mark left by Rurouni Kenshin on my anime viewing remains. Had I not started watching this show, Dragonball might have been both the first, and last, anime I ever watched.

And yes, Ed Elric is indeed short.

2: Fullmetal Alchemist- This is without a doubt the biggest anime of the past decade. It has one of the largest, most devoted fandoms attached to it. Two series and an amazing manga title later and people still talk about the misadventures of Edward Elric and Roy Mustang. It made Vic Mignogna famous. And Travis Willingham too. FMA’s impact stretches past that of any others, crossing boundaries and pulling more fans in all the time.

None of this mattered to me in 2007, when I bought the DVDs after Anime Boston. It was an Anime Music Video that introduced me, and while I was aware that the show had nothing to do with the trailer it was attached to, I wanted to see what this interesting show was about. So, on my way home from work, I stopped by the anime shop and grabbed the entire series. I think it lasted me a week.

Fullmetal Alchemist taught me to have fun. Unlike the Gundam series I was used to watching at the time, I didn’t need to deconstruct it. Watching 4-5 episodes before going to sleep every night wasn’t a drain on my brain, as they moved fast, were paced perfectly, and practically begged for advancement. FMA was easily the most accessible show I had seen at the time, and was deep enough to hold my interest, but open enough not to linger past my watching time. It was the first show in a long time I could pick up and put down easily, but still enjoyed enough to re-watch later on. It embodied the notion that anime, first and foremost, has to be fun, or its not worth watching.

And, like Kenshin, the manga is better.

I want this to be me.

3: Usagi Drop- This show ended maybe a month ago. It’s the most recent one on this list. But why is it on here? Simple- it showed me that anime is more than just “kid’s stuff.”

Now I am not saying that anime as a medium is childish, because it’s not. Unlike Western animation, anime crosses boundaries and appeals to a wide range of people, from children to teens to professional adults. But out of all the series I have watched, Usagi Drop might be the most mature. Not in terms of subject matter or content, but in terms of story, and how that story related to me.

I just turned 30 this year. And with that came a lot of new conflicts and questions about where I’m going in my life. Like a flipped switch, suddenly the things that never bothered me before suddenly seem more important. Things like family, work, moving on and being an adult- I spent my 20s ignoring them, and now I feel like I can’t afford to.

Which is exactly where Usagi Drop comes in. The same issues I ponder over are the ones 30 year old protagonist Daikichi does. Only he has a “daughter” thrown into the mix. Growing up and becoming a real family man are major issues for him. Responsibility to more than just himself is a major theme, revisited every time he encounters a new conflict with little Rin. This show gave me the chance to look at myself, both from inside and outside, and see that life might be complicated, but not overwhelmingly so. And when one needs to finally put away childish things and be an adult, it’s not so bad.

It also makes me want to have a daughter, but that’s a whole other story…

Es unos ganador, or whatever…

4: BECK Mongolian Chop Squad- Not a lot of people know this, but for a good chunk of my 20s, I worked in the music industry, as a DJ, promoter and eventually a talent scout for a small independent record label in New York. And during that time, music was the be all and end all of my life. I bought 2-3 albums a week, went to at least one live show every Friday night and spoke at a lot of music conferences. Also during that time my love of music, and my influences and tastes changed wildly.

The reason I mention this is because when I started watching BECK earlier this year, a lot of those memories and emotions came back in droves. Watching Koyuki grow from awkward teen into musician was something I was privy to many times, and I recognized a lot of the pitfalls he and the band were going through trying to break in an increasingly more competitive business. While I did not see myself in Koyuki, Chiba, Ryusuke and the others, I understood what they were going through, and it made the series all the more real to me. The inspirations for their songs, and the chosen songs themselves, added to the experience, and made BECK a show I watched through three times in quick succession.

While this series did not alter my life in any way, it did remind me of a time when my life was changing and growing by leaps and bounds, and made the lessons I learned then even more potent and memorable.

Best. Anime. Ever.

5: Monster- Whenever I get the chance, I tell people about this series.  In an age when half the scripted shows on television are crime procedurals, Monster stands both with them, and above them, telling a story full of suspense, intrigue, philosophy and the nature of righteousness. And it tells itself better than any live-action American show can.

Monster redefined what anime meant to me. I was used to these shows being fantastical, set in implausible locations and full of unlikely creatures. Monster is none of these. It is a story with believable characters, perfect pacing and enough meat to keep it going for 74 episodes without a “clip show” or bit of “filler” at all. It showed me that anime itself is a medium, but one just as varied and capable as any other. The fact that this show could have been scripted and been just as good shows through repeated veiwings. It is a drama on par with anything “real,” and perhaps far better.

By otakuman5000 On 12 Oct, 2011 At 10:34 PM | Categorized As Conventions, Editorials, Featured, Otaku Events, Tales of Real Otaku, Videos | With 0 Comments

No GravatarSo New York Comic Con and Chibi-Pa Moto are right around the corner. Much like every year, people need to know how to approach the idea of going to a convention. So to help everyone out there who may be Convention NOOBS, I have just the thing for you. Our CON Survival Guide will help you out and answer just about any questions somebody may have about attending a con. There are plenty of helpful tips about planning, waiting, mingling, discovering, and conquering any anime, sci-fi, comic, or video game convention. So check it out and enjoy. It’s all right here for you. It’s ONLY THE EPIC TRUTH.


Don’t forget to check out my videos on my Youtube channel for more cool videos and tons of convention footage.






No GravatarI’ve been a gamer for a very long time. So long, in fact, I can’t even remember exactly when I started. I know it was in the late 1980s, when my parents gave me an NES for Christmas, and progressed through hand-me-down Atari systems and a scavenged SEGA Genesis. It played out in arcades and at the houses of friends until I finally bought my own PlayStation. It continues to this day in portable form, and on the internet. Gaming runs in my blood, and has been a powerful force on my life.

So it comes as no surprise that some games have had such influence on myself that they have, in their own ways, pushed my life off one course and onto another. That might seem a bit extreme, but it’s true. There’s a lot in my life I owe to games, be they stress release, “moral” support, academic achievement or just plain entertainment. What follows is a list of ten games that have had more impact than most others, but by no means the only ones that have resonated with me. These were there at the right time and hit me in the right way to change something and set me down a new path.

Everyone has their own list. This one just happens to be mine.

1: Final Fantasy VII: This one will always stick with me. While I had cut my proverbial teeth on Final Fantasy back in the late 80s or early 90s, it wasn’t until I played Final Fantasy VII that I knew what a quality game truly was. As used to sprites and spinach green screens, the fact that fully 3D polygonal characters existed blew me away. I was a Sephiroth fanboy, I had a crush on Aerith and Tifa. I played this game three times in the span of a year, and it was the main reason I bought a PlayStation (because the PC version kept crashing at the Crater).

Now this game was hardly flawless, I see that more and more as time goes by. And it does not hold up as well as other games in the series do, despite what the fandom might insist. And the “Compendium” wasn’t much more than fan-service without the interaction that other “fan-servicy” installments in the series have had. But that doesn’t change the fact that this game did change my life. It was my gateway into the wide world of RPGs. It was the first game I ever debated and analyzed. It formed the core of a lot of what I do today. Which, for me, is more important that the replay value.

Plus the music was kind of awesome. And still is.

2: Chrono Cross: Yes, that’s right, Chrono CROSS. Because while I admit that Trigger is, was, and always will be, a superior game, I never would have played it if not for this one.

Chrono Cross was the game I played after beating Final Fantasy VII for the third time. I had bought it because of the rave reviews and the lush environment and colorful graphics the game possessed. Indeed, Chrono Cross is one of the loveliest games ever,  even today, and it still has what I consider to be the best soundtrack of any game I’ve ever played. But much like Final Fantasy VII changed my perception of what a console RPG could do, Chrono Cross changed me opinion of what a GAME could do.

I loved everything about the mechanics in this game. I loved how you could avoid enemies, how you only really needed to down bosses, how you had a huge pool of characters to choose from (even though I only ever used Serge, Kid and Glenn). This game embodied the pinnacle of what Squaresoft could create if it wanted to. Few have even come close to providing the enjoyment and satisfaction that Chrono Cross did. Even fewer have made me go misty-eyed at the ending. And even fewer than that have been sequels to games that were amazing in the first place. This game saved a Spring Break during the most stressful period of my life, and while I haven’t played it since, I can still recall it with perfect clarity.

That, and it did force me to play Trigger…

3: Final Fantasy IX: I played this game over the course of Winter break in 2001, and on the first run through, I didn’t think it was anything special. The characters were entertaining, the story was more developed than the previous two installments in the series, and I appreciated the philosophy that was sprinkled about four discs.

But what made me truly appreciate this game was the foundation it laid. See, this was the game that got me to think deeper about the media I enjoyed. More than just talking about gameplay, this was the game I first started ruminating over. As I’ve previously written, I loved the ties to existentialism present in the game. I loved how the actions and reactions of the party were less idealistic and more based in primal fears. I loved how the world interacted with itself. Final Fantasy IX for me was less a game than an experience, and one that I needed to repeat. It wasn’t until those future plays that I realized how much depth the game had. And I had no idea the direction it would send me in the future.

4: Super Mario Bros 3: The original love/hate game. I loved the world design. I loved the different “suits” a player could wear (even if all you really needed was Raccoon). I loved the scope and depth of the story, which for a platformer was something rare. You weren’t just looking for the Princess or beating up everything on screen, you actually had a quest, one that got progressively more challenging with each successive world. It made all those enemies you were stomping on or hurling fireballs at seem to mean something more than points or coins. It redefined what a platform action game could be.

It also made me throw my controller in despair. How were you supposed to beat some of those levels (especially in worlds 6 and 7, and most of 8). Doors to nowhere, running down the clock? Happened a lot. Enemies jumping out of the water to eat you? Yep. Mini-bosses that were almost impossible to hit? Check and mate. SMB3 was as infuriating as it was enjoyable. And while I never did beat it (at least, not without a Game Genie), that never stopped me from trying.

Oh, and don’t forget to hold “up” after beating Bowser.

5: Rival Schools: The entire game can be summed up as a 3D Street Fighter set in High School. The game never reached the same level as some other fighters in it’s generation, but for me, this remains the ONLY fighting game I was ever any good at. And for good reason- I spent every single day after school at the one arcade that had it (really more of a game store with the machine in the back), dumping in quarters and sampling every team until I had seen all the stories, downed the secret final boss a hundred times, and gained the respect of having beaten all comers over the course of the summer. It was the one, and only, time I ever could brag about my skills in a fighting game, and when summer was over, so was my tenure as champion.

At least until I got a Playstation, and it started all over again.

6: Megaman 2: I was supposed to buy Mario 2, but the store was out of it. Then I looked at Dr. Mario, but something didn’t feel right. In my 10 year old head (at least I THINK I was 10), I wanted to buy a game, but which one? I was too impatient to wait for more copies of the game I came in for, and all the others just didn’t click. And then I saw Megaman 2. It was a full $5 more than I had with me. But it looked interesting. Some other kids said it was a good game. And my mom, God bless her, gave me the extra cash. I wish she hadn’t.

Megaman 2 was my original frustration. I loved this game, so much that I would play it for hours each day. And mostly play the same 3 levels. Megaman 2 was ridiculously hard for me, with my bad reaction time and low patience. The number of times I threw my controller for this game was higher than any other two games combined (Mario 3 included). And yet I couldn’t stop playing. Cheat codes warped me to the final level, and even when that was too much, I kept playing. Grinding extra lives on the Metalman stage became routine. Obsessively hoarding Energy tanks for later was my only way of surviving half the time. But unlike Mario 3, which I never finished, this one I did. Once. And only once. And then I never played it again. Because I really didn’t need to.

But every now and then I hear the music from the opening part of Dr Wily’s Castle, and I think “maybe…”

7: World Of Warcraft: What can I say about this game that others haven’t? It’s a way of life. It’s more addictive than drugs. It’s gobbled up 4 years of my life. It beat television, three console systems and even hanging out with friends (especially on Lich King raid nights). For something so simple, it’s been a force in my life that has impacted me more than any game ever could.

I didn’t want to start playing. The idea of subscription gaming seemed wrong to me- spend a lot of money for a game, then keep spending money for the right to play it. Something just didn’t add up. And then a friend let me borrow his account. 22 levels on a Night Elf Druid was all it took. I loved the non-linear gameplay. I loved the interaction. I loved my guild. I spent four to five hours a night playing it, and full days when I wasn’t at work (and then eventually while I was AT work too).

And then it got boring. And my guildmates stopped playing on my server. And in October 2008 I left it behind, convinced I was done and that I could move on. Until a year later, and Wrath of the Lich King pulled me back in. Collectively, I’ve played this game more than any other game I own. I might have even played it more than all my other games combined. And while I’ve finally quit yet again, I still feel that I will be back with the next expansion. Maybe.

8: Portable Castlevania: This was the reason I bought a GBA. And a DS. And, if tradition holds, will probably be the reason I by a 3DS. While I was a longtime fan of Castlevania 3 on the NES, I skipped out on pretty much every iteration of the game until Circle of the Moon came out, and I discovered somewhere along the line that they had all turned into action RPGs. Circle of the Moon was THE game I played in summer 2001. It was the only GBA game I even owned until late that year, and I adored every second, right down to the painful grinding and almost impossible difficulty of Dracula himself (hint- summon the bloodsucker to death).

In June 2002, I came by an import copy of Harmony of Dissonance, and like Circle, it became THE game of those hot months, stealing me away from my job and forcing me to complete “just one more stage” before moving onto anything. The fact I didn’t understand any of the dialogue was of no consequence, as I blazed through the game more than once that year, then went back and played Circle for good measure.

And in 2003, Aria of Sorrow repeated the process. I once told a friend that “it’s not summer without a Castlevania,” so used to the games as I had become. Even when no new game was released in 2004, I just took the time to play the old ones again, and remember those good old days. While the series lost a lot of its luster after the transition to the DS, and gave me a few ultimately forgettable experiences (only Portrait of Ruin got replayed. Once.), I still recall the anticipation I had for the next year and the next game as June approaches.

9: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic- The reason I bought an Xbox. I’m not quite the Star Wars fan I once was, but the idea that I could choose my side in the game, and do whatever I wanted over the course of the story was very appealing. I wanted to be the bad guy. I wanted to take my lightsaber and carve up anything in my path. So I went and did it. Fulfilling fantasies I had for almost 10 years, KotOR is still the best Star Wars franchise game I’ve every played. The attention to detail and mechanics that BioWare put into crafting a truly open-ended console game that had a better morality system than Fable could dream of was also the first game I ever beat, then immediately restarted (and I mean immediately, as in a minute or two after defeating Malak) and played through again. Not even Final Fantasy can boast that, despite it being the most played series of games I own.

This game has such strong appeal to me, I can even forgive the debacle that was KotOR 2.

10: Shin Megami Tensei Devil Survivor- There are game addictions, and then there are games that BREAK addictions. Devil Survivor is one of the latter. And the addiction it broke was Pokemon. Specifically, the Platinum version.

Pokemon was the addiction that replaced Warcraft. After a few months of casual gaming (which included LeafGreen, if anyone is interested), I read some stellar reviews of Pokemon Platinum, and decided to give it a shot. Day one, after buying a new copy from the local Gamestop, I spent 10 hours catching and leveling Pokemon. Day two was little better. By the middle of summer (specifically, Anime Mid Atlantic weekend 2009), I had broken the 100 hour mark, setting a new record in single play on a game for me. And I had no intention of stopping anytime soon. Until Devil Survivor.

It was my first MegaTen game. It remains my favorite MegaTen game. I logged at least any many hours in it as I did in Pokemon. I fused all the demons. I saw all the endings. I restarted the game a dozen times, playing through the same early stories just to get the extra endings. I fought, then fused, Lucifer himself. And then, having done everything one could do, I put it away and haven’t played it since. Nothing wrong with the game at all- I loved the story and the characters, and the heavy reliance on mythology and religion. The battle system was tactical, but not too tactical. Strategy was simple to formulate and execute. New Game + made the future plays extremely easy, and gave me a huge power-trip.

But what I love the most about this game was it knew when to end. It had a point where you were finally done, and were satisfied. No way to develop an addiction, but by mimicking the methods of other similar games (read- Pokemon), gave enough to help break one naturally.

I will never play this game again. I don’t need to. But I also will never sell it.

So there you have it: my list. What’s yours?

By otakuman5000 On 3 Jul, 2011 At 05:58 AM | Categorized As Best Game Ever, Featured, Old School Otaku, Reviews, Tales of Real Otaku | With 2 Comments

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My tastes in games have changed many times over the years. There are times when I obsessively play fighting games. At other times, I will want to dig into an RPG. And still other times, a hack-and-slash game is just what I need to get my gaming fix.

But throughout the years, since 1997 there has been one constant: my all time favorite video game, Final Fantasy VII.

There is no game out there which has meant more to me than Final Fantasy VII, not by a long shot. I have spent more time, on this one game, by far, than on any other game I’ve ever played, exploring its secrets inside and out. There is no game which has so profoundly influenced my identity as a gamer. There is no other game that immersed me so fully in its world and the characters that inhabit it.

Final Fantasy VII has been one of the most polarizing games ever made. No other video game has been so fiercely debated in magazine articles and on Internet forms. Its supporters, myself included, love the very same things its detractors hated about it.

Final Fantasy VII truly defined me as a gamer. Final Fantasy VII was not the first RPG I’d ever played, nor was it the first JRPG I’d ever played. It was not even the first Final Fantasy game I’d ever played (that was Final Fantasy VI, three years earlier). But Final Fantasy VII represented a paradigm shift in my gaming habits, getting me hooked on not just RPGs, but SRPGs and even survival horror as well.

That I even bought a PS1 at all was itself a profound change of direction for me. Although I also played arcade and PC games, ever since the mid-80’s I’d always accepted Nintendo’s iron grip on video gaming without question, even though I disliked Nintendo of America’s “we know best” attitude towards gamers enough to pass on the Super NES until 1994, when Nintendo finally stopped bowdlerizing SNES games.

I got a Nintendo 64 and Super Mario 64 for Christmas in 1996. Super Mario 64 was the most impressive game I’d ever seen at that time, and I played the hell out of it. Unfortunately, it became clear that the N64 was essentially a TV plug-in for Super Mario 64 that just happened to have a few other games, most of them terrible. Even Rare wasn’t doing it for me. Meanwhile, FFVII looked better and better with every passing month, and Nintendo’s attempts to prop up the N64’s anemic library looked more and more hollow. Sony’s over-the-top ads for FFVII, ran in magazines and on TV shows where video games had never before appeared, only piqued my interest further.

I admired the sheer ambition and scope of Final Fantasy VII. From the very beginning, Mr. Sakaguchi, Mr, Kitase, and Mr. Nomura had big dreams for Final Fantasy VII. They wanted to create the greatest spectacle ever seen in a video game, and one which would be remembered long after the initial glow of its release had faded. But Nintendo’s decision to stick with cartridges left them cold. They did not want FFVII fettered by the computational and memory limitations of the Nintendo 64… or by Nintendo’s heavy-handed paternalism. It is for these reasons that Square severed its long-time relationship with Nintendo in favor of Sony, which promised better support and greater artistic freedom for everyone, even going so far as to close down their original US office in Washington and moving to California, where SCEA is headquartered.

The environment that created Final Fantasy VII was a developer’s dream, combining a bottomless budget with a relatively liberal creative environment. The sky was the limit, and FFVII’s developers threw everything but the kitchen sink into FFVII, both creatively and artistically. You journeyed through glitzy cities, squalid yet festive slums, quaint villages and through savage, beautiful forests, caves, and snowy mountains. You visited an amusement park which was almost a video game in itself. FFVII’s ambitious design is summed up by iconic images of the game’s first location, the vast, sprawling city of Midgar. The battle effects were exaggerated and spectacular, and the summons were impressive, nor were they overly long as in later games. Beyond the traditional RPG, Square offered simple arcade-style minigames. I could tell the designers had a lot of fun making this game, and it showed.

With Final Fantasy VII, Square succeeded where Sega, Atari, SNK, NEC, and other competitors had failed: they broke Nintendo’s iron grip on the video game industry. Nintendo’s stock plunged the day Square announced Final Fantasy VII’s platform as the PS1. Until then, Sony had been struggling just to compete against the Saturn, despite offering more developer support and better royalties than either Nintendo or Sega. However, the Saturn, even though it was leading in Japan at that time, was still not selling well enough to prove itself an adequate alternative to the Nintendo 64 for most companies, and the Saturn’s weak US sales further deterred developers. Shortly after Square made the PS1 FFVII announcement, its rival Enix likewise moved development of Dragon Quest VII to the PS1 from the Super Famicom. Sales of the PS1 rose rapidly after this announcement, and the PS1 suddenly became a viable, attractive alternative to Nintendo, which had angered developers by choosing to stick with expensive, low-capacity cartridges over the cheaper, higher-capacity CD-ROM format.  As a result, Nintendo spent the 5th generation largely alienated from the rest of the industry.

Final Fantasy VII was an expression of the anxieties of the times. In place of all the medieval kingdoms trying to conquer the world typical of traditional fantasy RPGs, Final Fantasy VII offered something that was quite new at the time for an antagonist organization: the Shinra Electric Power Company. On the surface, Shinra was yet another “evil empire”, but an examination of the times that produced Shinra showed that the corporation was very much a commentary on the economic environment in both Japan and the United States.

At the time Final Fantasy VII was being made, the Japanese economy, after thirty years of robust growth, had gone bust thanks to the price asset bubble that at its peak had for one day in 1995 made Japan’s economy larger than the American economy for the first time since the 1870s. The ensuing market correction resulted in a period of economic stagnation known in Japan as the “Lost Decade.”

The Japanese economy, and to a large degree its political system, are dominated by massive business consortiums known as keiretsu, although Americans popularly call them by their pre-WWII term, zaibatsu. A legacy of the Tokugawa shogunate, the keiretsu have huge operations in multiple industries and control all the means of production and distribution of their products. These business operations are financed by huge banks – and even today, many of the world’s largest banks are Japanese banks. Examples of keiretsu are Mitsubishi, Mitsui, Sumitomo, and Sony. Because of the size of the banks funding them, almost nothing was out of reach for a keiretsu, including exerting a remarkable degree of control over the Japanese government. One of the most telling signs of how pervasive corporate culture is in Japanese society is in Japan’s professional baseball league. Japanese baseball teams are usually named not after their host cities, but their corporate owners, such as the Yomiuri (Japan’s largest newspaper) Giants in Tokyo, the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks, the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, and others. Think about having sports teams in the USA like the Microsoft Seahawks, Nintendo Mariners, Kraft Patriots, or Turner Braves!

In the US, anxiety over certain large corporations was growing as well. Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, was becoming notorious for moving into rural American communities, driving out local competitors, and then closing up shop due to poor sales, leaving whole counties economically devastated. Microsoft’s near-absolute control of the PC market, illustrated by the battle between Netscape and MS’s Internet Explorer, was subjecting it to scrutiny from the US Department of Justice and European regulators, culminating in United States vs. Microsoft Corporation. Prior to this was the specter of high-profile industrial disasters like Three Mile Island and Love Canal. Corporations have created powerful lobbies to ensure continued cooperation from Congress, often over the will of the voting public.

President Shinra – the villain behind the villain

By using a cheap, easily exploited source of energy, Mako energy, Shinra had become so pervasive in the lives of the people that conventional governments had ceased to exist. Shinra took over all functions of government, including legislation, finance, as well as police and military operations. All of this came at terrible cost to the environment, as Shinra’s Mako energy was the very life force of all creation, and Shinra was in reality burning human souls in order to create electrical power. Shinra also carried out unethical scientific and social experiments on the populace, showing no regard for human life, including the Jenove Project that ultimately produced Sephiroth.  Despite this, Shinra’s power was largely unchallenged. Mako energy had made people’s lives very easy, giving the contented population little reason to go against their perceived benefactor. Dissenters like AVALANCHE were swiftly punished by Shinra’s police and military services, and portrayed in the Shinra-owned media as terrorists to ensure public support for Shinra.

Shinra was probably most closely modeled on the Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO – the same company which operates the Fukushima nuclear power complex damaged by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, which is known to have wide influence in the Japanese government. Several of Final Fantasy VII’s cities, including Corel and Gongaga, were laid to waste by explosions at Shinra’s Mako reactors.  It’s also possible that Shinra was a jab at Nintendo, which was experiencing a huge backlash from the Japanese development community over its decision to use cartridges as well as years of heavy-handed policies towards third parties.

I loved the Materia system. Though not everyone liked it, I felt like it added a lot to the game experience. It let me customize my characters any way I wanted, plus unlocking the high-end spells and abilities was rewarding.  It felt like a real treasure hunt. One of the recent trends in RPGs I have never cared for is the ongoing trend towards vendor trash collect-a-thons, and it gets frustrating constantly trying to scavenge ten lizard skins and eight dragon hearts from random drops in battle.

The Materia system was designed for old-school players and beginners alike. The broad customization and ability to mix and match abilities with the Command materia was designed for the Japanese fanbase, for whom FFV was much more popular than FFVI. Since abilities beyond physical attacks and limit breaks were keyed to the Materia instead of to the characters, you could experiment with different combinations to see what you liked. The “linking” Materia system seemed underutilized at first, with only the “All” materia available during the first couple of chapters in the game, but later on, if you understood how to use blue materia, you could create some very effective gambits in battle that would be godsends against the game’s tougher enemies.

Furthermore, the Materia system was set up in such a way as to make power come with a price. The materia, weapons, and armor all tended to be double-edged swords, as Cloud himself says. Magic and summon materia gave you a lot of spells, but also carried penalties to the user’s HP and strength – and the more powerful the materia, the heavier the stat penalty. Stat penalties also stacked. A character loaded down with magic and summons would become a “glass cannon” – able to deal a lot of damage but unable to withstand a lot of damage. The materia system also caused me to rethink my approach to upgrading weapons and armor. Simply upgrading attack and defense is not always the surest path to success. A weapon or armor might be weak stat-wise but give double or triple bonuses for any AP received to any materia placed in its slots. A piece of equipment might have more materia slots, but none of them linked so as to disable support materia. A seemingly powerful weapon could be crippled by having no AP growth for any materia placed in it. A weapon or armor that would have been a great find in any other Final Fantasy game might be rendered worthless by not having any materia slots at all, severely limiting the character’s magic and command capabilities. The game’s most powerful weapons all offered eight linked slots in addition to their attack abilities (which were modified by various visible and hidden states), but zero materia growth, while double- and triple-growth weapons tended to have fewer slots and fewer linked slots.

Final Fantasy VII’s difficulty and rewards were very well-balanced. Prior to FFVII, Square had struggled to find the right balance of challenge and reward for Final Fantasy. For the first five games, they tended to err on the side of challenge. However, this resulted in punishing bosses as well as sharp spikes in difficulty, where inadvertently journeying into a new area of the world map could result in the party being wiped out by random monsters which were too powerful.  This was most infamously evident in FFII with its unusual system of leveling and the fact that it was impossible to escape from more powerful random enemies, but was present in all of the first five games to a degree. Japanese fans liked this level of challenge, but Americans were frustrated by some of the harder fights as well as the grinding required to get up to speed. In Japan, FFIV released in a “hardtype” for series veterans and a heavily stripped-down “easytype” for children. The US version was a port of the “easytype” version.  Final Fantasy VI, by contrast, was a bit too easy, with heavily overpowered player characters, gold given so generously as to be as worthless as Monopoly money, and powerful spells and weapons being given out very early. Japanese FF fans were displeased by FFVI’s difficulty.

With Final Fantasy VII, Square aimed to reconcile the story/cinematic approach that Americans liked with the degree of challenge and customizability that the Japanese wanted. The difficulty curve was reasonable, with the monsters growing in power proportionate to your party’s expected progress and none of the sudden difficulty spikes that plagued pre-VI games. Materia and more powerful weapons were parcelled out at a reasonable pace; monsters yielded enough gold to ensure you could buy basic staples, but not so much as to make money seem worthless.  AP was doled out at a rate which allowed your materia to grow powerful enough to match your enemies. The game was reasonably challenging,  yet no grinding is necessary unless you’re like me and absolutely have to unlock every possible spell and special ability in the game.  For the real masochists, FFVII also offered two optional super-bosses with a million HP, a bonus that was initially offered only to Americans before being added to an “International” version released in Japan a year or so later.

The battle system still entertains me after all this time. Square decided to show off their newfound technological prowess in Final Fantasy VII’s battles, and at the time, FFVII battles were among the best pieces of video game technology around. This showed to greatest effect in summons and limit breaks. While Square would be criticized for making spell and summon animations too long in later games, particularly FFVIII, FFVII’s spells and summons were just of the right length to be impressive without being annoying, and the game didn’t rely on summons and limit breaks as heavily as later games did. But it wasn’t just the summons that were awesome. The game also had more subtle touches like enemies that would just make threatening gestures at party members, which was something not seen in a lot of games of that time.

Final Fantasy VII’s soundtrack brought international recognition to composer Nobuo Uematsu. Mr. Uematu’s compositions were as much a part of Final Fantasy VII’s narrative as the visuals and the dialogue. He intimately understood how his music helped set the mood for every scene in the game. FFVII’s soundtrack is a major departure from Uematsu’s traditional, high-fantasy RPG soundtracks inspired by Dragon Quest composer Koichi Sugiyama. He chose to infuse many modern musical influences into FFVII’s soundtrack, including rock and roll and jazz, to fit with the game’s more contemporary theme compared to the medieval settings of the first six games. Uematsu’s single most famous composition is “One-Winged Angel”, the song that, complete with vocals, plays during the final battle with Sephiroth.

Final Fantasy VII had some of the most memorable heroes and villains in video gaming history. As with other aspects of this game, FFVII’s main characters tended to polarize gamers. But whether you loved them or hated them, there is no doubt of the impact the main FFVII cast had not only on video games, but on popular culture in both Japan and the United States.

FFVII is often credited, somewhat unfairly, for starting a trend in RPGs for super-powered teenagers and leather clothes with too many zippers. FFVII had neither of these things. All of its main characters were save for Yuffie (and maybe Red-XIII, if you believe Bugenhagen’s assessment of relative ages) were adults old enough to drink legally. All of them were either former military or police officers, or were street fighters hardened by life on the mean streets of Midgar.

Cloud, with his oversized Buster Sword, striking blue eyes, and wild, unmanageable hair – a trait specifically designed into him by illustrator Tetsuya Nomura for the technology available to Square at the time – was a memorable hero. Seemingly uncaring about anything except his next paycheck, Cloud is deeply conflicted inside, and this internal conflict is masterfully played by Sephiroth in order to weaken Cloud’s will and make him a willing slave of Sephiroth. As he comes to terms with the conflict within him, between the cocky, aloof persona he projects to the outside world and the scared boy longing for acceptance within him, Cloud becomes a much stronger person and a great leader for AVALANCHE as they battle Sephiroth and Shinra.

Tifa is one of the best-known video game heroines ever, both for her strong personality and her status as a video gaming sex symbol. She is the biggest badass in the game, kind of like the female equivalent of Chuck Norris.  She demolishes her enemies with 7-hit chain combos. She threatens to neuter the local pimp. She’s not afraid to get up in anyone’s face. Even in a rare moment of vulnerability, she’s still Cloud’s rock of solidarity, believing in him when everyone else has pegged him as a lost cause.


Barrett, the series’ first black main character, was probably the most complex character in the game. His characterization by FFVII localization specialist Richard Honeywood is the fore-runner of that of Augustus “Cole Train” Cole from Gears of War. He is a capable leader of AVALANCHE and a loving father to Marlene. Barrett believes in the cause he’s fighting for, even though he is aware of his grudge against Shinra for the loss of his family. Towards the end, however, Barrett also realizes the potential consequences of his sometimes rash actions on people and that Shinra, whatever its faults, has also done a lot of good for people. He also reminds me fondly of one of my oldest and closest friends.

Red XIII, real name Nanaki, is a wolf-like creature with flaming red fur who serves as a source of knowledge about the workings of the planet’s spiritual energy owing to his tribe’s intimate connection with the planet. Although he is the oldest of the party members and is very quiet and thoughtful, due to the longevity of his tribe, he is still considered an adolescent and has much growing up to do, physically and emotionally.

Cait Sith, a Puss-n-Boots doll riding atop a giant stuffed Moogle, was a somewhat baffling choice of character… until you played though a lot of the story.  It turns out he’s a spy for Shinra, but seeing Cloud, Tifa, Barrett, and Aerith risk their lives to help a population that will never see them as heroes makes him question his already shaken faith in his employer. Eventually, the player will learn exactly what Cait Sith’s role in Shinra is and how it relates to them.

Cid Highwind, the series’ Cid, was probably one of the more controversial aspects of the game. Like all FF games, he is an airship pilot. Embittered by Shinra closing down its space program after an aborted launch, which would have made Cid the first human in space, he swears and drinks to excess. Shera, the engineer whom he blames for the failure of his maiden space voyage, seeks penance by devoting her life to Cid, but he treats her like dirt, until he discovers that she probably saved him from being killed in an explosion in space.  He was one of the first real attempts at making a less-than-perfect video game hero.


Yuffie serves as the party’s comic relief, a young materia-stealing ninja (or so she claims), who eventually robs the party blind of all of its materia. The reason she wants the materia, it turns out, is so she can restore her homeland of Wutai to its former glory after the town was devastated in a war with SOLDIER (detailed in FF: Crisis Core on PSP). One of the running gags of the series is her tendency to get motion sickness on ships and aircraft. Along with Vincent, she is one of the game’s two optional “secret” characters, one who will not automatically join the party by following the story.


Vincent, a former member of the Turks, FF7’s recurrent “Team Rocket” bad guys, has sealed himself from the outside world, torturing himself of memories of the woman he loved, whom he believes (mistakenly) that he sacrificed to Shinra’s Jenova Project that ultimately produced Sephiroth. Though he was a secret character, he became one of the most popular characters in the series, enough to warrant his own game. His limit breaks allow him to transform into monsters who are callbacks to the previous games in the Final Fantasy series, including Chaos, the villain of the very first Final Fantasy game.

Aerith, the heroine of the game. Cloud meets her at the outset while she is selling flowers in the slums of Midgar, and fate brings him together with her later on. Aerith seems to have a rather frivolous nature, and her attentions to Cloud inflame the jealousy of Tifa. It turns out her flighty nature masks her anxieties over a mission that she knows will almost certainly cost her her life, yet is a sacrifice she must make for the good of humanity, similar to a later FF heroine, Yuna.


Sephiroth… a devil with very human motivations

And finally, the villain of the piece, Sephiroth. A product of Shinra’s twisted genetic engineering, Sephiroth is as much a victim as a villain. He went into SOLDIER with the best of intentions, but fell victim to the influence of the blood of Jenova coursing in his veins, causing him to do terrible things. Sephiroth is my favorite villain of all time, not just because of who he is, but because of the way Square presented him. Every time he showed up, you knew bad things were about to happen.  He was portrayed as a malevolent supernatural force with very human, if very twisted, motivations. As a game player, I felt fully the psychological torture Sephiroth inflicted upon Cloud, to the point where he made Cloud doubt his very humanity. Among the best moments in the game are Sephiroth walking through the flames of Nibelheim, which he burned to the ground in a fit of insanity, and of course, the famous scene of Aerith’s death. To me, that was the single most powerful scene I’ve ever seen in a video game – the cinematography, music, and sounds were perfect. I wouldn’t even want this scene remade in HD.

The distinctive looks of the heroes and villains made them iconic video game characters. Not only that, but their popularity transcended both shores of the Pacific. There are few among American and Japanese gamers from the 1990’s who do not recognize Cloud Strife, his famous Buster Sword, or the silver-haired, green-eyed Sephiroth. For all intents and purposes, Cloud was the true mascot of Sony’s upstart PlayStation game console.

A more personal reason why Final Fantasy VII is my favorite video game of all time: Now that I think of it, this part reads a lot like Tifa restoring Cloud’s memories midway through Disc 2. But I digress.

I’ve suffered from anxiety disorders for a long time, and still do. When I was a teenager, I was pretty unsocial because of this. The only time I felt at ease around people other than family was at the video arcade, in fact. My anxiety problems even led me to drop out of school. My folks didn’t know how to help me, and I sure didn’t know how to help myself. I made money doing odd jobs but was otherwise stuck without any clear sense of direction or purpose.

When Final Fantasy VII came out, I saw the TV ads and the store demos and I was hooked. Only problem was, I had no PlayStation to play it on. I bought the game anyway. This provided me with some much needed motivation and direction.

I went out and secured a job at Wendy’s. I promised myself that if I stuck it out, the first thing I’d buy with my first paycheck would be a PlayStation to play FFVII on. Two weeks later I had my brand-new PS1 in hand and was driving home so fast I’m surprised I wasn’t leaving flaming tire marks on Interstate 35. Never had I enjoyed opening up a new video game console so much. For the next couple of weeks, I would come into work very sleepy. I deemed sleep a necessary sacrifice for the greater good of exploring all of Final Fantasy VII’s secrets late into the night.

I’d made it. I held onto my job even once I had my PS1, and spent the next year amassing a very fine collection of PS1 games I still own now while failing to accumulate any kind of significant savings secondary to said PS1 collection. Eventually, I went to college (starting my freshman year with what was technically a ninth grade education!), became a nurse, got married, and started writing about gaming.  Someday, I will hopefully be able to build my own big, beautiful RPG. All of this because I wanted to experience an adventure that “could never be done in a major motion picture,” to quote one of Sony’s overly enthusiatic ads for FFVII.

Don’t get me wrong. Even without this little bit of emotional attachment, Final Fantasy VII would still be my favorite game, for all the reasons I listed above. This is the one game I will pull out and play once a year. I’ll still have just as much fun with it as I did way back whem, and ever once in awhile, I’ll manage to find something new, that I haven’t seen before. Final Fantasy VII’s place on this list, and in my heart, was secured before I recalled these memories of playing a video game I earned for myself all those years ago.

So there you have it. After nearly a year, my list of all-time video game favorites is completed with Square’s 1997 masterpiece. I doubt that there will ever be a game that comes close to Final Fantasy VII in the sheer enjoyment I’ve gotten (and still get) from this title, let alone a game that surpasses it. I replay FFVII once a year, and for 2 weeks of every year, I become the fresh-faced kid I was back then, lost in the wonder and spectacle that Square spent three years and millions’ of dollars making. I also look at the little blurb from GameFan magazine that is printed on FFVII’s back cover, as enthusiastic and bombastic as everything else Sony did to promote FFVII.

“Quite possibly the greatest game ever made.” For me, it still is.


By calanagear On 28 Jun, 2011 At 02:42 AM | Categorized As Featured, Interviews, Tales of Real Otaku | With 2 Comments

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There are many girl gamers in the world, but none are like the one and only AngelEena. A bibliophile, polymath, and major geek, she is a regular gem over at Destructoid, where she blogs on gaming and life.
I have had the privilege to call AngelEena my friend, ever since she found my games list on Amazon. Since then, she visited us in South Korea, along with her wonderful husband Jonathan. I pride myself on being a dork and mock techie, but in reality she surpasses me in every respect.

I decided to hit her up for an interview, as she has much to say about the gaming world.


CA: OK so when did you begin gaming, and what consoles/games were you into?

A: First game system I ever played was an Atari 2600 when I was 4. I have only vague memories of grabbing the joystick and making my own sound effects. When I was right about 5 my family got a Super NES for Christmas that came with The Legend of Zelda: A link to the past. My life changed forever. I would spend hours watching my brothers play. Memorizing dungeon puzzles. Playing it when they were asleep and getting them rupees. I had notebooks full of pictures of special items. Notes on where to find them.  I made my own interpretations of the 7 maidens. Ideas on why Ganon wanted a dark world.
On the weekends when I visited my cousin I got my first real exposures to Role Playing Games. Secret of Mana, Breath of Fire, Earthbound, Final Fantasy 3. He had them all. (Or rather his friend from up the road did lol) Hours of stories at my fingertips. New art styles. Wholly different worlds from what I was familiar with. It was astounding. Later on I went through another phase of PSone RPGs by myself where I really grew as a gamer. I’ve never looked back!

CA: You said in one interview on Destructoid how gaming provided you with so much during hard times, alternate worlds that were vivid and adventures that lifted you up. Can you expound on this?

A: Well. When you grow up like I did. It was really easy to lose hope. I was terribly poor. I was hungry. My body hurt all the time. My siblings were all older enough and could get away from the house. My parents had substance abuse problems and we lived in a very rural area. I had no one to talk to once my siblings got old enough. It got to the point that I could never see a future. When you’re a child and you have no hope. You believe that nothing gets better. Sometimes you even hope the sun doesn’t come up.

But when you can play a game where there’s a world in which fantastic things happen. And even children can go on adventures. They can help someone. You can save that world. Well, you don’t want to give up. Just on the off chance you could save someone else. Help another world. Help another person lost and stuck like yourself. Just the idea that you could be someone’s hero can make you want the sun to come up.

CA: Yes I agree completely. Now you are a designer. How has gaming affected your work?

A: Of course! Gaming pushes me to do better. To try the fantastic! To branch and grow. It’s not really that gaming effects my designs, but really my entire outlook. Gaming should inspire you. Like any adventure.

CA: so what games specifically inspire you?
A:  Well everyone has favorites. I would say Secret of Mana. Silent Hill. Final Fantasy 3/6. Suikoden 2. Mother 3. Definitely on the top.
Final Fantasy 8 has a special inspiration in my marriage. And the more current inspirations would be Enslaved and Nier.

CA: Why the love of survival horror? I think some gamers don’t understand the beauty of Silent Hill and Silent Hill games. What do you find inspiring about them?
A:  What isn’t? It’s about the human spirit distilled to its genuine core.  It’s about surviving. It’s what we’re all made to do, but never have to. It’s an amazing concept. It pulls you to your knees and makes you fight again. With Silent Hill the art direction, sound direction, and isolation increases that strong sense of loss.  Make you fight back harder even though the world seems bleaker.

CA: What are your favorite Soundtracks?
A: Hmmmmm. Final Fantasy 8. Legend of Mana. Silent Hill 3. Mother 3. Nier. Final Fantasy 7. Bioshock. I could go on and ON and ON.

CA: Moving on to other forms of geek… what are your favorite movies?

A: Oh. I like a ton. Camp to Serious and So on. Let’s see. Dr. Phibes Rises Again. Moon. Blackbeard’s Ghost. Super (2010), Event Horizon. The Descent. Yeah, I like a lot.

CA: I didn’t know you like horror movies Angel, you keep giving me more reasons to abduct you…
A:  No I love horror. I used to write a lot of reviews on 70s horror. From the super gory to the camp to the odd supernatural. 80’s horror and I disagree sometimes, but there’s some GREAT campy gems in there.


CA: Tell me about what music gets you off
A: Like music I love or music that literally gets me off?
CA:  both
A: Hah. Some of my favorite groups include David Bowie, Seawolf, Crystal Castles, Garbage, Daft Punk, Andrew Bird, The Beatsteaks. She Wants Revenge, Moby, The Postal Service, La Roux, Chromeo. I could go on and on once again.
As far as the latter is concerned, I put some bands in there that do.

CA: Talk Star Trek to me.
A: What do you want to know? I love it. I’m a blue shirt. Deep Space 9 is my favorite series. The Borg are my favorite bad guys. Andorians are my favorite race.
CA: I still haven’t seen any of them. I want to badly.

A:Well they’re big. The original series is fine if you go into it knowing it’s campy. Next Generation is where I would start if you haven’t seen it. Deep Space 9 is all about characters. It’s not for everyone, but it is by far my favorite. Voyager’s lost out in space against horrible odds. And has some awesomely campy characters. It’s my 2nd favorite.
People hate on Enterprise but I like it. It’s nice and essentially a modern update of the original. And there’s Andorians and Jeffrey Combs is one of them and that makes it all worth it.


CA: where would you like to be in ten years, and doing what?
A: In ten years. Hmmm I’ll be 33. And but of course. I’d really like to be working on my own ideas. I’d love to be publishing my own comics. And working on my own latex designs. See I”m a body painter at heart. But body paint doesn’t last. But with latex. I can take that second skin that latex makes. Applique my designs onto it and have a painting last forever.

Check out AngelEena’s blog to get to know her better, or follow her on twitter.



By otakuman5000 On 22 Feb, 2011 At 08:37 AM | Categorized As Editorials, Featured, Tales of Real Otaku | With 2 Comments

No GravatarThis is the story of a young man with a passion…A passion for being an Otaku. A boy and his slime.

Video games have literally been a part of my entire life. Every significant event/moment in my life has had a video game associated with it, whether directly or indirectly. Although my interest in games is subject to periods of waxing and waning, there is no doubt that for me, video gaming has been the defining entertainment medium of my life.

Even when I was a kid growing up in Arizona in the 1980’s, I grew up in a gamer household. The first video games I ever played were Donkey Kong and Pac-Man. I would stare entranced at the colorful animated characters for as long as I was allowed. While video gaming is taken for granted these days, being available on a plethora of consoles, PCs, handhelds, and even cell phones, back then it was indescribably awesome to be able to manipulate images on a TV screen. It was with my mother that I shared an early love of computer/video gaming. At home, we had a TRS-80 computer and then an Atari XE computer. With arcade games ported from the under-appreciated 5200 as well as tailor-made games, the XE was my main gaming appliance, and I’d head for it every day after homework was done.

At the age of 10, my best friend at the time got a Nintendo Entertainment System for Christmas, with Super Mario Bros/Duck Hunt, Metroid, and The Legend of Zelda, which came on a bright golden cartridge packed with colorful manuals and maps. We played Zelda with a fierce obsession. Every day after school I’d head for his house and we’d play. We even had an ongoing Zelda pen and paper RPG. One day, during an art lesson, I drew a picture of a scene from Zelda and handed it in. Instead of being annoyed, my fourth-grade teacher told me that she and her husband were playing through Zelda and had gotten stuck. Since I was further along than they were, would I mind making them up some maps and giving them clues on how to find the game’s treasures? I happily obliged. I was proud that I was teaching my teacher, for a change.

It was on the NES that I played the first examples of what has become my favorite genre of game, the RPG. Dragon Warrior introduced me to the world of Japanese RPGs, while Ultima: Exodus introduced me to American-made RPGs, albeit with a Japanese face-lift. I was enthralled with these imaginary worlds, and eagerly sought out more such experiences on consoles and on the PC. However, it would not be until several years later that I would find myself fully immersed in RPG culture. It was also through the NES and through RPGs that I was introduced to Japanese animation, in the form of the little-known Dragon Warrior anime that ran for about 10 episodes in the US before contractual disputes between Akira Toriyama and the anime’s US licensee canceled it. The anime characters looked very much like Link and Zelda, which made me an instant fan. Since then, I have always associated video games with anime, and vice versa.  My favorite anime are Ranma 1/2, Project A-Ko, Spirited Away, and Ah! My Goddess.

My favorite T-shirt

For Christmas of 1989, I was the proud owner of Nintendo’s revolutionary new handheld Game Boy. I thought the Game Boy, with its monochrome-green screen, was the greatest toy in the world, because I could now play Super Mario Land and Tetris anywhere I wanted to, as long as I had batteries. For my birthday two weeks later, my mother got me a rechargeable battery pack, which probably paid for itself in less than a week.  I still have my original Game Boy.

After my friend and I had a falling-out, I stopped playing console games for several years. My only source of home gaming was my Game Boy, and I turned to the arcade scene for my gaming fix. Konami’s licensed beat-em-ups were my passion at first, as they allowed me to play two of my favorite TV shows, TMNT and The Simpsons. Then one day, I saw Street Fighter II and was entranced with the eight selectable fighters, including the green beastman, Blanka and Chun-Li, the first widely popular feminine video game character.  Mortal Kombat proved even more entertaining, and for two years, any spare change I could get would quickly get plugged into a MK machine. Ultimately, the difficulty of being able to play arcade fighting games on demand got the best of me. I petitioned my parents for a 16-bit console for Christmas, and was rewarded with a SNES. Even better than MK, the SNES came bundled with The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. I don’t have to tell you I was hooked from the word go. Christmas 1994 was one of the happiest ever.

I was back in the thick of the console gaming world. I eagerly watched the launches of the Sega Saturn and the PlayStation. My 1996 Christmas gift was a Nintendo 64 with Super Mario 64, an absolute marvel of technology. But something was missing.

And I found that missing something in the fall of 1997: Final Fantasy VII.

Final Fantasy VII was an obsession even before I finally played it. My life was going pretty rough at the time, and I was running on neutral, to say the least. I made money doing odd jobs, but lacked any kind of ambition. Final Fantasy VII’s fantastic visuals and epic story entranced me. Indeed, I credit FFVII with being the game that changed my life. I bought the game first, with nothing to play it on. That was my motivation. I got out, got my first 9-5 job at Wendy’s, and motivated myself during those first couple of weeks by promising myself that the first thing I would buy with my first real paycheck was a PlayStation to play FFVII on.

This self-imposed incentive worked wonderfully, to the relief of myself and my folks. While I cherished the game systems I got as gifts,  my PlayStation was a gift I earned for myself, and I was proud. For the next year, I bought a game every paycheck – Resident Evil, FF Tactics, Parasite Eve, Lunar, and countless others. I still own these cherished classics today.

When my nephew came to live with us, I babysat him a lot and we’d watch the Pokemon cartoon. By the time he was 3 he could clearly identify favorite Pokemon. Today, his love of gaming is as strong as mine. He still loves Pokemon, but I’ve also introduced him to classics like the Final Fantasy series and Lunar. When I see him immersing himself in the games I enjoyed in my youth, it’s almost like playing them again for the first time.

It was Final Fantasy VIII that saw me into college, and given the game’s “school” theme, quite fitting. During a rough patch in my life following college, I drowned my sorrows in Tales of Symphonia.

It was with Dragon Quest VIII that I bonded with my future wife and my stepdaughter. We played that game together for several months. I hadn’t had that much fun with a game in a long time. I also played Resident Evil 4 with my stepdaughter. Every time she heard a chainsaw she’d shriek! When Pokemon Diamond/Pearl came out, I bought my wife a DS and Pearl, while I had Diamond. We both enjoyed this immensely.

Video games have always been an important part of my life, and always will be. I am grateful to be surrounded by a gaming family with which I can appreciate this wonderful medium called video games. Even my 71-year-old father is in on it. He bought himself a PS3 and is currently playing Resident Evil 5.  He says he’s catching up on what he missed.

Portrait of a hardcore gamer for life

My name is Andrew, and I am a Real Otaku Gamer from a Real Otaku Gaming Family.

By otakuman5000 On 4 Jan, 2011 At 02:22 AM | Categorized As Tales of Real Otaku | With 0 Comments

Ben discusses what it’s like to be an Otaku gamer with nostalgic gusto!

By otakuman5000 On 3 Jan, 2011 At 01:23 AM | Categorized As Featured, Tales of Real Otaku | With 1 Comment

Hey, what’s up everyone! I’m going to tell you the fascinating story of a kid with absolutely no childhood! Are you ready? No? Okay, if you stay and read..I’ll give you a dollar. Still not satisfied huh? Well, I got you to read my whole introductory paragraph so, you probably should just finish the whole thing (HA! I WIN).

By otakuman5000 On 29 Nov, 2010 At 04:55 AM | Categorized As Tales of Real Otaku | With 1 Comment

No GravatarHello everyone! My name is Tion. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. You can say that I pretty much came out the womb as an Otaku! I owe my ‘Otakuness’ to my mom. She may not look like a geek (she’s far too beautiful), but deep down she is one. My mom exposed me to Marvel comics, anime, and video games at a very young age. I started playing video games when I was two years old. The first system that I owned was the NES. Most of time I played Super Mario/Duck Hunt, Final Fantasy I, Dragon Quest I, and Tetris.

Draining HP:  I would switch  from Final Fantasy to Dragon Quest or vise versa, every time I got stuck on a story ark. Talk about living (wasting) my life!

My favorite genre of video games (if you haven’t already take the hint) are JRPG’s; Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest are my favorite JRPG series. Final Fantasy II, IV, VI, VII and  Dragon Quest III, V, VI, and IX are my favorite entries. I’m not a fan of new-school Final Fantasy  games. I hated everything from FFVIII, and beyond with the exception of FFXII.

Final Fantasy VII had the BIGGEST impact on me. It changed my way of thinking, actions, and my attitude towards the people around me. I’ve been told by friends that I am  “dark and gloomy”, and  “too serious”  like Cloud at times. However, deep down I ‘m a funny and down to earth person to talk to. As for Cloud, I don’t mind the comparison. I admired the REAL Cloud, those who have played FFVII know what I’m talking about. He has gone through a lot like I have, so I can easily relate to him.

Artwork by Final Fantasy veteran character designer Yoshitaka Amano, who also worked on the Gatchman TV show.

It wasn’t until I was in middle school that I really got into anime and manga. At that time I was into the popular, “bubble-gum” manga like Ranma 1/2, Bleach, and Dragon Ball. Naturally, over the years my tastes have evolved. As I got older, I gravitated torward superhero-type manga like Devilman, and Akumetsu. The very first, and my personal favorite, anime that I watched was Science Ninja Team Gatchman. What I found unique about it is that the superhero genre in manga and anime is not that popular in Japan.

Hahaha, that’s me at Anime Expo ’04.

Aside from anime, I like to watch a lot of movies. I’m a HUGE horror, or should I say slasher-horror, sci-fi, and fantasy film fan.  Star Wars (the original trilogy), and Halloween (the original film; the Rob Zombie remakes aren’t that bad to take a glance at) are some of my favorite all time movies.

When I’m not writing for Real Otaku Gamer, I attend college majoring in Art and Japanese. Anyone who wants to practice, learn, or teach me something that I don’t even know, feel free to contact me by leaving a comment below.

It has been a blast! Cheers!

By Charles On 1 Nov, 2010 At 08:02 PM | Categorized As Featured, Tales of Real Otaku | With 0 Comments

No GravatarI can specifically remember the first time I ever saw an anime, and knew what it was. I had watched Voltron as a child, knew it was awesome, but had no idea what I was seeing was actually Japanese. I remember television commercials for “Kiki’s Delivery Service” and “My Neighbor Totoro,” and thinking they looked rather odd, but again, no idea they would eventually become such a huge part of my life.

My First Steps

No, my first real “anime” moment came in 1998, when I first saw “Dragonball Z: The Dead Zone” movie. It has just been released on DVD and VHS with an “all-new translation.” Well, I didn’t see that one. Rather, my friend at the time gave me a copy of his direct-to-Chinatown bootleg of the original, and I was hooked. I remember watching that tape over a dozen times in the span of a week, then going out and blowing a ton of cash on the “Ani-Mayhem: Dragonball Z” card game, along with a few exorbitantly priced anime VHS tapes from the Virgin Megastore.

Anime for me was sort of a trickle that became a deluge. For the first few years, I had to satisfy myself with old copies of MIXX-zine for my manga needs, Cartoon Network (and wicked early mornings) for my DBZ fix, and relying on others to get me shows. It all changed in college when a good friend gave me two things that would forever chart my destiny: Rurouni Kenshin, and the location of the anime shop on Canal St. For the first time I had seen an anime that wasn’t DBZ, and my mind was blown. I remember finding the NY location for Kinokuniya one day, finding the Kenshin comics, and buying up about $100 worth (along with some expensive game music soundtracks), and a solid Japanese dictionary so I could translate them. Anime was still expensive at the time, so I made do…until the same friend showed me the hole-in-the-wall where he got his tapes from. Another quick $100 later and I had all of Gundam Wing, Magic Knights Rayearth and an even bigger craving for more.

These days I’ve gone from desperately seeking more to almost drowning under the weight of what I own, but haven’t seen. Looking back on the past 10 years of my life, I see more and more distinctly how my devotion to fandom has changed, and how, at east for me, fandom isn’t directed at just one series or just one medium, but at the experience of being a fan. Be it my early obsessions with Power Rangers and Ghost Writer, my years as a die-hard Trekkie, the glorious summers I spent watching the classic Star Wars movies while building decks for the CCG, my delves into the worlds of Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons and Dragons, or my more modern pursuits of anime, manga, J-culture and gaming (and my desire to study it as much as possible), for me fandom was always that friend I had that I might have taken for granted, but who stuck by me when I needed help, and opened me up to worlds I never knew existed. And for that, I am glad.

My name is Charles, I am the “Anime Anthropologist” and I am an otaku/gamer/writer/philosopher/academic/scholar…but above all, I am a fan.

Welcome to my world.