Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Get Schooled

Three schools. Four classes. One terrified nation. You decide your fate.

Ran Online is a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG) with a scholarly twist, apocalyptic atmospheres, and hell-yeah combats. This dark yet fresh diversion from the bubbly-happy-bright MMORPGs of fantasy flight and bouncing Porings emphasizes the small shred of hope left for mankind in an era of death and doom.

An immensely destructive phenomenon called The Omen descended and plagued the Asian nations 18 years ago, spreading mayhem and causing disaster to spread like wildfire through a terrible solar eclipse that shrouded the skies in death and darkness. Cruel meteors showered mercilessly onto the earth, and as chaos and paranoia engulfed mankind, the world isolated Asia, a poor quarantined land leading itself to damnation.

Two years after this apocalypse, the mysterious institution calling itself the Sacred Financial Group founded four schools in what seemed to be hopes of rebuilding the torn land by honing the brightest and most talented students in the nation. However, beneath Sacred Gate's serene epitome of Eastern calm, Mystic Peak's picturesque classrooms and lush green fields of blooming flowers, Phoenix Campus' expansive libraries and scientific facilities, and Leonair's mystical atmosphere, lies a secret no one dares to delve deep into. The students are being trained at their hardest, taught the most dangerous combat skills, and raised to become killers and survivors in this cold and harsh world. It is apparent that these students are somehow being trained to prepare for something...an ominous doom that is merely lurking in the dark corners of the land...awaiting its time to unleash a terror far greater and more horrific than before. Extraordinary force fields built around the schools cannot protect them forever; already the Leonair Campus has fallen mysteriously in a blink of an eye, all its students and faculty devoured by this imminent evil overnight. Many have ventured to this graveyard, but none have returned. It is only a matter of time now before the rest of the schools fall one after the next...unless you do something about it.

In this game of teamwork and survival, you choose among four major courses. For the females, there is Archery, the expertise of which lies in pinpoint accuracy and perfect dexterity. Shamanism requires mastery of the ancient art of merging the physical and the psychic, harnessing the true power of the human Qi to master Zen and destructive magic at the same time. Men, on the other hand, have two other courses to choose to enroll into. Swordsmanship reinstates the basics of skill, strength, and agility to battle out the darkness beyond. Brawling releases the untapped powers of students, awakening the beast within their physical core through the use of martial arts. Through these courses, a student can choose his or her school and bravely be one of the final defenses mankind has against the descent of doom.

Filled with quests and tasks given by the school faculty, personnel, staff, and other civilians, Ran Online promises to be an exciting play as opposed to the usual hack-and-slash games that have nothing but levelling-up to do. Ran also proves to be one of the more difficult games to play, as mere power levelling will not get a player very far in terms of experience, strength, and money. Gold is a rare resource in the game and weapons, equipments, and skills are acquired when certain levels and status points are achieved, making this game something not that appropriate for novice gamers. The fact that gameplay is COMPLETELY FREE, however, makes it extremely addicting, especially since the Game Masters (GMs) make it a point to give 2x experience points every midnight. High-end graphics, full map rotation, and kick-ass rock music pump gameplay up even more, and emoticons are portrayed by sprites exactly as they are as oppsed to thought balloons or other symbols. Controls ala-Diablo make combat readily available, especially in club wars (think fraternities) and school fights. The game also has a Player Kill system, which, when activated, allows all students to fight and battle it out beyond campuses, giving each student the opportunity to defend his/her school against the other students. Way to show school spirit, huh?

The only drawback to this otherwise completely awesome game is that in order to become stronger and affluent, one needs to purchase items and change of costumes from the Ran online item shop at www.ranonline.com.ph through e-points, which can be bought at any network gaming store. And since, like I said, the game is highly addicting and is free to play, an average gamer actually spends more money buying e-points for enhancements rather than buying load for a regular paid-for MMORPG without even realizing it. Smart move for E-Games, don't you think?

Overall, Ran Online is another game you definitely won't want to miss out on. It is a breath of fresh air from all the usual MMORPGs, and the tasks themselves can keep you occupied without mind-numbingly hacking and slashing away all the time. So pick up your course syllabi and get ready to defend your school in this game of epic choices and battles. After all, when your parents ask you what you are up to, you can always say it's for "schoolwork"^.~

your humble co-mod,
FuJinGrL (Love and Peace!)

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Care for a little StoryImageFigure?

(pictures taken from http://www.popcultureshock.com/reviews.php?id=5031

Welcome to the month of July! After all those anime series that have been featured here, we've decided to feature and review something else to divert a little bit from your watching tastes. For this month, Cyber-Anime is going to review six figure models from one of the most well-loved and kick-ass anime series of all time, the legendary TRIGUN. Yes, StoryImageFigure! has decided to release six high-quality collectibles so that die-hard fans of the immortal action series can relive and preserve the coolness factor of TRIGUN MAXIMUM forever...plus, own a little something else aside from the posters, cards, and the series itself. These six highly-detailed figures can more than measure up to the "angas" level of the show and bring back that futuristic wild wild west feeling that was definitely much missed after the 26 episodes.

The Trigun StoryImageFigure EX! series zones in on Vash the Stampede's expertise and skills as he faced off with the impeccable Gung-Ho Guns, and it features awesome action poses that really brings out the exquisite battle scenes that ensued in the show. The figures were detailed by the Japanese group called "Cerberus Project", and are all fully-detailed and painted, complete with appropriate stands and accessories, in a 5-inch figure package.

The toy series is available here in the Philippines in a set of six, or can be individually bought if you don't want to spend a big heck of money (because yes, the price is a little bit shocking) all in one blow. But the biggest drawback to buying them individually is that the boxes come fully sealed and without any windows, so it's impossible to find out which of the figures are what you want to buy. And what's worse, if you've already bought a couple, the next time you buy the rest, you would have to take the risk of buying the same thing you already have. This wouldn't be such a problem if each figure were just worth a cheap amount of money, but since it's the contrary, buying them individually would really suck. I had to resort to shaking the boxes one by one and determining by sheer sound (hanep!) whose figure I was buying, but that didn't work so I decided to just buy them as a set. I suggest you cash up a bit before you decide to buy the figures, so that you can buy 'em all in one go.

Another drawback to this kind of packaging is that once you open the package, you can't put it back inside and just keep it that way, because the box would be all ruined. And what would be the point of re-storing it inside the box if there's no window for the figure itself to be displayed while inside the box? That's why it's also suggested that you have a glass cabinet (or in my case, an ordinary cabinet wrapped carefully with stretched plastic cover) so that you can have your figures on display while keeping the dust at bay.

Vash the Stampede was designed to be in his uber-cool I-can-kick-ass look, as opposed to his usual I'm-all-for-love-and-peace-(and-donuts) look. His blond hair spikes up in all the right places, and his bangs flop on his forehead in all the right ways. You can totally tell how well-detailed it is, because even underneath the bangs, you can see the serious face extremely detailed even to the little dot that is Vash's adorable mole under his eye. Vash sports his red trench coat which is flying in all directions due to his action pose, which is leaning backward with his knees bent, his pistol (carved and painted to the last detail) pointed at eye level. The strips of his coat are separated and we are given the privilege to see the black wraps and buckles beneath the shiny red exterior. Despite the seemingly imbalanced position, the figure stands perfectly well. This is because he comes complete with a stand of weathered rocks to top off the coolness factor of the lead in this series.

The most peculiar (and therefore the hottest) preacher man in the whole of anime history, Nicholas D. Wolfwood, stands just as perfect as Vash in this figure series. Made to be displayed back-to-back with Vash, Wolfwood leans against the direction of Vash's back, his dark blue suit caught in mid-swing as the bottom parts are flung by the wind. The perfect details of his angry face give justice to the bad-ass weapon that this figure series didn't fail to pay homage to. Wolfwood clutches the handle of his humongous Cross Punisher, and every detail of the big shiny weapon merits a loud and awestruck "wow". His stand similarly themed with Vash's, Wolfwood too stands proud and balanced and ready to fight off the demons of his past.

The bad guys, of course, aren't to be beaten that easily. Raidei the Blade gives the perfect samurai feel by showing off his long blade and having his ponytailed hair and clothes ala-Kenshin swishing in action. Details down to the last fold in his outfit are incredible, and he stands on sandy puffs of cloud that make him seem, individually, not quite part of the Trigun scenario, but nonetheless as cool.

Midvalley the Hornfreak comes in his usual classy and sassy demeanor even in the middle of a battle scene, his black suit twisting perfectly and his musical weapon shining in its deadly glory. I personally find his stand weird, though, because it's some sort of musical score (or train track) I suppose, making it a bit difficult to stand him up. Zazie the Beast is made to look more mature in this figure series, and everything about him just screams "cowboy". From his bright orange scarf to his white vest, black shirt, and ammunition belt, he is the epitome of Trigun's cowboy atmosphere. He kneels on one knee with one hand raised, and his stand is some sort of round object that I can't seem to figure out what. Compared to the others in this figure series, Zazie the Beast is, to me, the least showy and the one which merits the lowest coolness factor. Still, if viewed as an individual figure, he is still pretty good, with all the details and the paint fitting in nicely to all his parts. Nevertheless, I don't think he is "Trigun angas" material.

The last of the Gung-Ho guns that I'm going to feature, is of course not the least. Legato Bluesummers stands in a pose of fearsome composure, his face and his manic eyes showing off an expression of deathly calm. Legato's white coat sways magnificently, all the details of his costume evident and complete down to the last skull and spike. His straight posture and his hand over his face makes him the least battle-y of all the figures, but that doesn't mean he isn't ready to intoxicate his enemies with death. My only complaint about Legato's figure is his stand--a scary-ass big ol' skull crushed a bit so that it's leaning on its side. Legato, thus, is leaning on one side as well, making balancing this figure a big pain in the ass. It really is too bad; Legato has all the right to be displayed up front and center. But due to this drawback, I personally had to stuff him to the side, where I could lean him against the cabinet wall. Boo. But of course, if you can stomach having him superglued, then he won't be falling down from time to time anymore, now would he?

The six lovely figures can be bought at any Kidz Station outlet, for the price of Php 499.00 each. However, if you want to get some good bargains, I highly suggest the anime and hobby shops located in Shoppesville Plus in Greenhills, where you can buy the whole set and haggle with the price you want. Also, you can get your pick of stores to choose from. I personally suggest 2Rats, as it's one of the most popular anime collectibles shop due to its variety of sales and its reasonable prices. I bought my set there, and after haggling with prices, I opted to buy the loose (meaning, out-of-the-box) set because of its cheaper price. The quality was still great, so it was a bargain for me at Php 2,100, meaning each figure was only worth Php 350!

So, if you're a die-hard fan of Trigun like I am, then this figure series will definitely not disappoint.

Til next time,
FuJinGrL, co-mod

Monday, June 05, 2006

Verbrechen, Strafe, and Gluhen

If you're wondering what in the world I am blabbing about in the title of this post, then you probably haven't heard of the infamous bishounen assassins who work as florists by day and hunters by night (I'm not kidding!). No, anime friends, I am not having a seizure, nor am i being driven on the edge of insanity due to my anime addiction. That title is not some nonsense mumbo-jumbo I just cooked up to catch your attention--they're actually the titles of the sequels to everyone's favorite team of four: the unconquerable Weiss Kreuz.

Their team name is German for "White Cross", and is pronounced "Vice Kroitz". After the pulse-racing action, tragic past revelations, doomed fates, forlorn and hopeless hearts, forbidden love, uber-cool rivals, and heart-wrenching angst of the first season, the cold yet incredibly hottie killers are back with an OVA and a second season...with matching new appearances! Yes; Fujimiya Aya, Hidaka Ken, Kudou Yohji, and Tsukiyono Omi are slashing back to your screens by posing as kind florists during the day and as brutal murderers by night. The two-part OVA is a stand-alone episode, but it supposedly comes after the first season. A new mission makes the Weiss team carry upon their shoulders once again the cross and burden of having to assassinate, and this time, they soon find themselves faced off against each other. Why is Weiss fighting each other to the death? The assassins slay the dark beasts untouchable by justice, but have they finally found the punishment for their own crime of killing? Seeing that "vebrechen" is German for "crime" and "strafe" means "punishment", this just might be what the Weiss have to face. The battlefield is bloody and the smell of death is in the asphyxiating air, intoxicating them. The prologue before the opening of the first episode, Verbrechen, shows a scene where our humorus womanizer Yohji is pierced badly by Omi's darts, and childlike Omi in turn is wrapped around in Yohji's deadly strings. Reckless and wacky Ken is terribly injured by Aya's katana, and the cold steel of Ken's bugnuks have dug deep into the skin of the harsh and indifferent Aya. In the prologue, Omi cries out, "Why is this happening...Why? Stop it, everyone...! We...We're--" and SLASH! he spews out tons of blood because of Yohji's strings, barely able to speak now, his tears welling up. What a plea!!! It will really spark anyone's interest as to how things turned out this way and make any audience crave for more. Add a little cliffhanger here and there, with various plot twists and some interesting new characters; it's a shame that the OVA only runs on 60 minutes. This OVA is also a treat to Ken fans out there, because he gets a lot more action here than he did in the first series. Brutal and bloody with superior animation in comparison to the first season, this OVA is definitely one thrilling ride fans and non-fans alike should not miss. (Note to younger audience: The gory scenes of this OVA are not for you!)

The second season, introduces to us a new Weiss team, with fresh new appearances. "Persia" makes Aya go undercover as a professor at Koua Academy, where instead of bright minds being developed, students are being driven to commit suicide for some unknown reason. The unfortunate events that have transpired in the school have become so common, so normal, so ordinary, that the students no longer consider the suicide phenomenon as alarming. What is behind these mysterious events, linked to the terrorism overhwleming the country? It's up to the deadly assassins to find out! The four killers make a stylish new comeback, with two new members as well: the Omi-like Izumi Sena and the athletic Aguri Kyo. Changes didn't come only to the team's appearances, but also to their personalities. Omi, with a shocking revelation I dare not spoil you with, has become more matured having undergone lots of emotional challenges, Aya is now mellowed-down and no longer hell-bent on the sole purpose of revenge, Ken becomes even more loyal like the reckless friend that he is, and Yohji comes with a good ol' story that might just spoil you if I told it. And if that isn't enough, the villains we love to hate, Schwarz, are also back with new looks and the same evilly hotness! Do we hear an old rivalry brewing? Yes, you definitely won't want to miss out on the head-tohead combat between the two groups. Gluhen (which is German for "glowing") has far superior animation compared to both the original series and the OVA because it is now digitally animated. Combine that with the same--if not more--stomach-churning action and perfect music accompaniment, and the thirteen episodes of Weiss Kreuz Gluhen will most definitely satisfy that craving you got after watching the first season.

Here are some sites where I got info and pics from. They're available for future reference:D


your humble co-mod,
FuJinGrL (Love and Peace!)