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General

[Review] Steins;Gate: My Darling’s Embrace (Nintendo Switch)

De surpresa, STEINS;GATE: My Darling's Embrace é disponibilizado para o  Switch no ocidente – Switch Brasil

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Developer: 5pb
Release: Dec 10, 2019 (for Western markets)
Price: $40 USD

Steins;Gate: My Darling’s Embrace is a spin-off of the popular Steins;Gate series of visual novels. This spin-off in particular, focuses on pure dating sim / romantic comedy elements and takes the Steins;Gate universe in a very light-hearted direction, so be warned that if you are looking for the same sort of tension that you usually found in Steins;Gate then this spin-off is not for you. Also, it is highly advised that you play either Steins;Gate or Steins;Gate 0 before going into this spinoff, just to get a better introduction and background to most of the characters. There’s no true bad endings or game overs in this game.

Kurisu invites Rintaro over...
Kurisu invites Rintaro over…

Plot: The main protagonist, Okabe Rintaro, has found himself in a new Delta attractor field, which seemingly does not have any world shattering consequences like the Alpha or Beta attractor fields do. This is a relatively peaceful attractor field, and several new gadgets have been made by the Lab members. There’s notably a gadget that cuffs two lovers together, zaps them if they argue or try to get away and will only let them break free if they have the same thoughts together. Another gadget displays the thoughts of a person and transmits it to a video display, and yet another gadget broadcasts video publicly for the whole world to see. Clearly, all these gadgets work together to much embarrassing effect for the Lab members. In particular Rintaro finds himself with one of 6 possible Lab members to be in romantic subplot with.

In this Delta timeline, Moe's the lead singer of the Lab band
In this Delta timeline, Moe’s the lead singer of the Lab’s band

Gameplay: Like other Steins;Gate games, it uses the D-Mail system. So the different routes are affected by when (or if) you open your phone at certain times, which people you contact, and which emails you send (or don’t send). The rest is standard visual novel reading as this series is not point and click or investigative in nature.

Faris and Mayuri with their typical cafe greeting
Faris and Mayuri with their typical cafe greeting

Characters: Steins;Gate has fairly memorable characters, and all of them are represented here with no new additions.

-Okabe Rintaro: the protagonist of Steins;Gate who is a self described mad genius, who comes across as both eccentric and self-loathing at times. 

-Daru: Okabe’s closest male friend, a pervert and a prodigal programmer and hacker who can bypass almost any security system. 

-Kurisu Makise: the heroine of the original series, a tsundere, a scientific prodigy, and canonically Okabe’s main lover. Of course, she is presented as a romantic option here.

-Mayuri Shiina: Okabe’s closest female friend, cute, innocent, a bit ditzy but always there in need for her friends. Another romantic option here.

-Suzuha Amane: A time traveler from the future, usually a very serious personality from the other series, she’s a bit more light hearted here, and thus appears as another romantic option here.

-Faris NyanNyan: A cosplaying catgirl who comes from a well to do background and owner of a popular maid cafe. Available as another romantic option here.

-Luka Urushiba: Biologically a male, but always appears and acts very feminine, leading many to mistake his gender. He’s one of Mayuri’s close friends, and – despite his gender – also available as a romantic option in this game 😉

-Moeka Kiryu: Nicknamed ‘Shining Finger’ for her preference for and speed at texting, a very introverted girl who – unlike the original series – does not pose any kind of threat in this game, and thus is available as another romantic option.

A rare visual of Moeka
A rare visual of Moeka

Graphics: Steins;Gate has always had a signature graphical style with pastel-looking backgrounds and characters and if you enjoyed that style, then nothing changes here. I personally do like this style as well.

Music: Again, I’ve always enjoyed Steins;Gate’s background music which I think have always matched the mood of the scene. In this game since it’s so lighthearted it’s mostly that kind of music as well, which is fine by me.

Conclusion: 7/10. It’s definitely not as engrossing as the original Steins;Gate (10/10) or Steins;Gate 0 (9/10) for me, since it focuses mostly on romantic comedy here, which is a tried and true genre for visual novels. Since I reference Muv-Luv a lot (a great visual novel series for those of you who haven’t played it), I’ll continue with the analogy that if Steins;Gate and Steins;Gate 0 were the Muv-Luv Unlimited/Alternative then this spin off must be the Muv-Luv Extra of Steins;Gate. I.e it’s really light-hearted, relatively short, and if you are just looking for a visual novel to lighten up your mood then this will do it. If you’ve always wondered what the Steins;Gate universe could be like if the characters didn’t have to deal with the impending doom or SERN/WWIII/Mayuri/Kurisu’s death and wanted a more light hearted ‘fun’ take on the universe, or maybe wanted to ship Rintaro with one of the main cast, then this one is it. Otherwise I consider this one a fairly average visual novel; it’s not a must get or anything, but it will help you unwind after a long day at work.

Categories
Sports

Is LeBron James the most polarizing NBA athlete of all-time?

It’s possible.

Lebron has in my experience, surpassed Kobe as the most polarizing NBA player of all time – measured by the amount of people who idolize him vs the amount that hate him.

I would say that while Kobe has many haters, there are still way more fans than haters, judging from the amount of Kobe worship on social media. Basically any time is Kobe is not brought up in any conversation, their fans will say ‘the disrespect to Kobe! but what about Kobe! Did y’all forget about the Mamba!???’ etc so while Kobe is polarizing, I would say he’s still a net positive athlete in his image. His death earlier this year (RIP) just reflected how idolized he was around the world. Kobe’s positive traits (his 5 rings, scoring accolades, “mamba mentality”, work ethic) tends to be much more well remembered than his negative ones (most missed shots all time, not the easiest teammate to get along with, missing the playoffs in his prime, losing a series while up 3–1 etc).

Another example of how much more net positive Kobe is viewed than Lebron is seen in the fact that Lebron gets blamed for not meeting Kobe in the Finals – because he lost in 2009 to the Orlando Magic – despite that team being completely carried by Lebron and nowhere near a Finals caliber team. Whereas Kobe gets absolutely no blame for getting swept in 2011 to the same Dallas Mavs team – and FYI guarded by Jason Terry (who actually guarded Kobe, not Lebron since he’s an SG) – that people criticized Lebron for losing to in 6 games. Kobe could have met Lebron in the Finals that year – and he was the defending champ that year – and no one ever brings this up but brings up Lebron’s 2009 loss to the Magic.

Lebron on the other hand – seems to have more haters than idols. I’m in several basketball social media groups, I’m active on Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc and let me tell you the amount of people that hate on him is just ridiculous. There’s literally people on social media who dedicate each and every day to making some kind of hate meme or post about him. Then they will call anyone who defends Lebron a ‘bronsexual’ which is both immature and childish. And it’s always about the exact same reasons too, “Lebron joined a superteam” “Lebron needed help to win” “Lebron is soft, whines and is a crybaby” “Lebron is 3–6 in the Finals and is the biggest loser ever” “Lebron choked in the 2011 Finals” etc like a broken record.

Contrary to Kobe, these people focus on Lebron’s negative traits and never his positive ones, never ever praise him when he wins, and always blames him when he loses. When Lebron wins, it’s always his teammates carrying him. When Lebron loses, it’s always his fault. For Kobe, it’s the opposite – whenever he wins, it’s all Kobe and his mamba mentality doing the work. Whenever he loses, it’s because his teammates didn’t step up or were crap (Smush Parker and Kwame Brown always get brought up despite the fact that Lamar Odom was a pretty good player as well).

Heck the Finals record as a measuring stick, came into being because of Lebron. Prior to 2014, no one on social media ever talked about Finals record for any other player. Not Kareem, not Magic, not Bird. But because of Lebron, now they start talking about Finals records – the reason being that they can take an accomplishment that is uniquely Lebron’s – going to more Finals than any other player in recent history – and turn it into a negative. And it’s one that Lebron can never win, because his teams were always outmatched in the Finals, and his own teams always overachieved, it’s a way the haters can turn something that would be celebrated for any other player (for example, Iverson’s lone Finals appearance is considered the crowning achievement of his career despite him losing), and turn it into a point to criticize. It’s also implying that losing before the Finals would actually be better in order to preserve the Finals record – but that idea is blatantly ridiculous, as anyone who has played sports knows. You play to win and in order to win you have to reach the Finals. Only one team can win, so there’s of course a chance to lose. But to focus on Finals records implies that missing the playoffs would actually be better. That makes no sense.

There’s literally nothing Lebron can do to better his image with these haters. If Lebron himself didn’t do well, then it’s because he choked and lacked ‘killer instinct’. If Lebron’s teammates didn’t do well, it’s because Lebron is a toxic teammate and didn’t make them better. If Lebron does well, it’s because he flopped and referees favored him and he ‘stat padded’. If his teammates do well, it’s because Lebron needed to form a ‘superteam’ to win and they ‘saved his legacy’. It’s a lose-lose situation whatever Lebron does.

Why do so many people on social media spend their every waking moment to hate on him? If I had to guess there’s a few reasons:

-Lebron gets too much media attention, and people get annoyed by that
-Lebron’s too successful, and that makes people envious of him
-They don’t like Lebron’s fanbase and thus they don’t like Lebron either for creating that fanbase
-Lebron is threatening their favorite idol (usually Jordan or Kobe) and they don’t like that Lebron has a chance or is currently surpassing their idol’s legacy
-Lebron habitually beat their favorite teams (usually the Raptors or Celtics but pretty much any team since Lebron has a winning record against almost every team)
-Recency bias. Lebron is fresh in people’s memories, and whatever he does on the court (or even off the court – I even read some posts where people blamed Lebron for Nike’s sweatshops, said he was a communist sympathizer and letting his son smoke weed which is ridiculous) is scrutinized unlike any other player before. Jordan played in an era without social media, and Kobe’s era was when social media was just starting. They never had the microscope of billions of users like Lebron does.

I can’t explain any other reason why these people would spend so much time to make hate memes and posts every day, it’s not like Lebron ever did anything to them personally or anything, and perhaps it’s proof of how successful Lebron is that he has so many haters. For example nobody hates on John Paxson or Kyle Korver – because they are not superstars. Only successful athletes become hated.

Categories
General

[Review] Aokana: Four Rhythms (Nintendo Switch)

Aokana - Four Rhythms Across the Blue on Steam

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Developer: Sprite
Release: Aug 21, 2020
Price: $60 USD

Aokana: Four Rhythms Across the Blue (not sure why they named it that) is a visual novel with a premise that’s a bit different than most visual novels – instead of being a typical dating sim or investigative type visual novel, it focuses on a competitive sport.

Plot: In Aokana’s universe, there’s an invention called Anti-Gravity Shoes which like the name implies, allows its wearers to fly in the sky. There’s a popular sport in the game called Flying Circus which makes use of the shoes. 
The sport is deceptively simple: it’s a one on one sport where the players have to stay within a square, and a player scores a point either by touching the outer posts of the square consecutively before the other player, or by touching the other player’s back. The player with the most points at the end of regulation wins.

Masaya typically commentates on a match
Masaya typically commentates on a match

Of course, there’s more to it than that. There’s different playing styles – Fighter (focuses on touching the opponent’s back), Speeder (focuses on touching the posts before the other player), and All-Rounder (can do either, but does not specialize as much as the other two). There’s lots of basic and advanced moves shown in the game. There’s also different types of Anti-Grav Shoes and different settings for them. Honestly, the sport and the strategies they explain are fairly well detailed for a visual novel like this and sometimes I felt myself getting sucked into this fictional sport and rooting for different teams as if it actually existed.

The protagonist, Masaya Hinata, was a former top FC (Flying Circus) player, who quit the sport due to a traumatic event, and is now tasked with coaching a team of 3 girls and 1 guy to lead their school to the FC championship. 

Shindou demolishes Misaki in an FC dogfight
Shindou demolishes Misaki in an FC dogfight

Gameplay: Ok, it’s not entirely focused on the sport, there are some dating sim and eroge elements in the game – but they happen mostly towards the end of the game and are very light by visual novel standards and nothing too shocking occurs. Hinata can date/focus on one of 4 girls in the game, depending on which options you select in the game, but the options don’t come up very often, so the majority of this game is basically just reading. 

One of the more dating sim type moments in the game
Dating sim elements are in the game but they are rather uncommon

Characters: I love the characters. They’re probably the strong point of this game. Masaya Hinata is not that pervy compared to most visual novel protagonists, and mostly focuses on the tasks at hand. He’s a relatively serious protagonist, despite the harlem of girls around him, and that’s a welcome change of pace from all those perverted protagonists from other visual novels I’ve played. 

-Asuka is the main and default girl in the game, she’s a very cheerful type that’s hard to dislike, a bit ditzy sometimes, but also an FC prodigy and the school’s best player. 
-Misaki is Hinata’s close female friend, an academic genius, has an odd sense of humor and a bit of a tomboy. I have no problems with Misaki, I think she’s pretty cool.
-Mashiro. I personally don’t really like this character. She’s a borderline lesbian stalker with her one sided obsession with Misaki, and honestly doesn’t really have many redeeming qualities unlike the other characters. Still, she’s in here as a ‘cute/dorky’ type.
-Rika is Hinata’s next door neighbor and unlike the other 3 girls she’s the only dateable option that’s not from the same school. She has a pretty serious personality that makes it hard for me to get into her, but some players may like her.
-Madoka is the FC club’s manager and a very silly girl with a lot of funny comments sometimes. Honestly it makes her charming and I wish she was a dateable option, but alas she is not.
-Shion is Madoka’s older brother and president of the FC club, the only guy Hinata coaches, and has an obsession with muscles and working out.
-Aoi is Hinata’s homeroom teacher, his former mentor, a former FC superstar player and the FC Club advisor. 
-Shirase is the Grav Shoe’s store owner and drops by sometimes for advice.
-Satouin is a typical princessy-type girl who is one of the regular opponents for the FC Club
-Shindou is the initial antagonist in the game, a top FC player and a big opponent for the FC club
-Saki and Irina are the final antagonists in the game, and behave (and play) in a manner that suits that title

The characters overall are very fleshed out and the humor plays out pretty well sometimes between them, I think the fact that the characters are interesting also makes the FC matches fun to get into as well. 

the whole gang

The Whole Gang
The FC Club and the whole gang

Graphics: I have no complaints about the graphics in this game, they are high quality modern Anime style graphics and I’m not surprised that just like Steins Gate, Yu-No, Muv-Luv and others – that this game has been adapted into an Anime series. There’s sometimes characters moving in the background or animations but those scenes are relatively uncommon. The chapters are even split into ‘episodes’ making it feel more like an Anime.

Senran Kagura Peach Beach Splash got nothing on this
Senran Kagura Peach Beach Splash got nothing on this

Music: The background music is very fitting to the scenes, and sometimes during certain eventful scenes, jpop music will start playing, making this game feel even more like an Anime sometimes. I have no problems with that.

Conclusion: 9/10 from me. I really enjoyed this visual novel more than I expected. I usually play dating sims, sci-fi and investigative type visual novels, so it’s kind of refreshing to play a title that focuses on a competitive sport and coaching these girls instead of just romance. Sure there IS romance, but it’s very sparse and light compared to other visual novels. The characters are very easy to get into and that makes the FC sport and matches themselves very interesting to get into too. Had no complaints about the graphics or music either. The only thing is people who are expecting a visual novel with more gameplay should probably look elsewhere – this visual novel is very heavy on reading with very little gameplay elements. There’s a few choices here and there but that’s about it. Overall I do recommend this title if you are ok with mostly reading instead of clicking options.