A DTA Valentine's Day Special by Christopher Kinsey
Ah St. Valentines’ day. Hailed by many as the most crass commercialism move in all the card and candy scams. We call those people ‘dateless losers’. For the rest of us we’re required to get our wives and significant others some sort of gesture on February 14th and that’s all there is to it.
But over in the land of the rising sun, things are different. You’re soaked twice! On February 14th all the guys have to run around and get chocolates for the ladies they wish to say “Hey, I think I like you” and then other, less spectacular chocolates for those women you just know like your mom and office friends. Then one month later the ladies are supposed to favor their guy by getting them white chocolates.
But then the problem goes deeper than Japan’s quirks about Valentines day. Love and sex in Japan is a confusing and horrible place. On the outside sexuality is repressed and downplayed in all parts of life save advertising and legalized prostitution. Oh, and drawn pornography. But with this they let themselves go wild! But if you know anything about anime beyond kid’s shows… you already know of the horrors.
So let’s instead focus once again on one of the most popular type of erotic Japanese stimulation, the erotic game. These games have been popular since the VGA monitor could get the color of a nipple correct, and are little more than choose your own adventure novels where some of the pages give you a piece of cartoon porn. This has been big business for many anime companies when they first started out. Gainax began some of it’s big productions using money from selling lots of games first.
It’s become so big that now of days the artwork and storyline has become the main focus. You find more and more people not coming to the table for the porn, but for the characters and their favorite artwork. It’s become so popular that many fledgling production companies can get some good bank if they produce an erotic game that’s loved for it’s art and story, providing spin offs in fighting games, anime, and lots and lots of merchandise.
Somewhere along the way a bright little company decided to ride this wave. Anime geeks loved the erotic games, why not clean a few up for wider audiences? This company was known as “Anime Play”. They made these games, took out all the “Naughty bits”, left the story and other artwork. They produced about a dozen titles for the American market and actually sold pretty well for a time. And then people played the games…
But the best way to tell you about that experience is to tell you about the DVD game, “Phantom of Inferno”. It has stunning artwork, an action filled romance, and worked on just about any DVD player in the states. Wait, how is that a selling point?
I guess we’ll start with the packaging. It looks really good, the character artist really knew his stuff. And then you jump to the back and see the blurbs.
An Interactive DVD that defines the ANIME generation.
Um, OK? I’m pretty sure what defines the “ANIME” generation is a penchant for wearing stupid cute hats, stealing anime on torrents, and eating fistfuls of Pocky.
English and Japanese Subtitles!
You’ve marketed this DVD for Americans. Why would you include and tout the fact you have subtitles in a language most anime fans can’t read? Are people playing this to teach themselves Japanese?
Over 20 Hours of enjoyment and Interactive fun!
I’ll get into this more in the meat of the review. Let’s just say there in indeed over 20 hours of content. Of those hours that are “Interactive” I’d probably measure in minutes.
An abundance of interactive points with multiple endings!
True, to a point. There is some interactivity, and there are indeed multiple endings. But after playing through the game you wonder if the other endings are worth it.
A mind blowing action thriller combining 3D movie with still anime images!
Much like “Golgo 13”, just because you can do some 3D rendering doesn’t mean it’s worth using. I know the animation is dated, but a lot of it just doesn’t work with the rest of the artwork.
So then we open the thing to get our instruction manual… and a list. This is the list of the DVD players that this game has been tested on and work with. They also make note that in order to work on a Playstation 2, you have to have the DVD upgrade installed. Quality software, this.
There is also an instruction booklet that tells us once again how screwed you are if you use a PS2 without an upgrade. Also the standard Japanese “seizure warning” that has been included with every Japanese product since the “Pokemon” incident back in the 90s. It also tells you how to use the menus in game. This is all normal stuff, configuration, start game, extra content. But being that it’s a DVD instead of a game, you have a password feature. That means you have to play this game with a pad of paper next to you for those rare moments when the game will give you a saving point. This won’t happen when you make decisions, oh no! They do it when the story breaks a chapter which can go on for hours on end depending on what decisions you make. If you’re going to have such a feature, then make it so you can pause at any time and nab a password, that way you’re not slaved to the DVD player for hours on end.
And let’s talk for a second about the “Interactivity” that was promised us. Around every hour or so you’re given an option in the story. Simple thongs like “Go with her” or “Continue your training”. Many times these choices can land you an endgame, but many times you’re jerked around a lot until you get to a horrible endgame instead, and you weren’t given a password before that feature. So you have to backtrack a lot. Ohho, I see what you did there. Lots more play time if I have to go back and sit through all that dialogue again.
But enough about the horrible game play feature. Let’s go to the meat of this game, the fantastic story filled with guns, babes, double crosses and intrigue.
You are an unnamed 15 year old Japanese who witnesses the murder of a reporter. You are quickly kidnapped and have your memory erased, only to be given the choice to join the group known as “Inferno” or die. Obviously if you want a longer game you say “Yes” and start your training as a killing machine. You’re given the codename “Zwei” and are introduced to your partner, “Ein”. Ein is an emotionless moppet with short hair and is the most skilled assassin in the organization, known as the “Phantom”.
The first story arc pretty much is you routinely getting your ass kicked by Ein and some back-story with Scythe Master, the scientist who’s in charge of creating these assassins. After about an hour or so you’re only give a few choices. One is what kind of gun you want to train with, and another is declaring your allegiance with either Ein or another character in the Inferno organization, Claudia.
And why wouldn’t you want to go with Claudia? She’s hot, mature, and has a smoking car she teaches you to drive. She also wants to get you out of the hell that’s become your life. Ultimately though this chapter ends the same way with or without your input. All you can do is go back to Japan, and that ends the story.
So instead we should press on to the next chapter of our story. Scythes Master escapes the plot to scrap the brainwashed assassin’s program, Ein is presumed dead, and Zwei working his way up in the Inferno organization with Claudia. Together you plot to add a new group to Inferno while Scythes Master plots his revenge. Along the way you find a young girl living on the streets named Cal. Somewhere in your cold killer heart you decide to do a bit of charity and help her out, vowing to shed yourself of Inferno and keep her safe. Being the “The Empire Strikes Back” of our chapters, this doesn’t work out too well.
Most of the time you’ll end the game in this chapter. Either you’ll screw up big time with Cal and get yourself killed, or you’ll do fine with Cal and start a new life together, or you’ll become Claudia’s beeyotch and lick her boots forever.
But if you're earnest, good, pray to the spirits of “Pink Lady” and follow a specific set of events you’ll get to go to one more chapter! This is the culmination of all the events, where you not only find Ein alive, bit convince her to run away with you to a Catholic-ish school in Japan where you pose as students. Huh? By this chapter you’re supposed to have aged a bit. OK, perhaps as Seniors you could pass in this school, but then “Drei” shows up for yet more vengeance from Scythes Master! And in short order you find that “Drei” is “Cal” from before, and she looks as old as both of you. Now, Cal was about 8-10 when you found her… so if she looks 17 now… genetic engineering? OK, skip it. So all we have is the final showdown where Ein tries to kill Drei, and Master sends in his army of reprogrammed women in masks to kill you.
Well, the ending I got when I went through it had Ein getting killed and Cal and myself making a new life in Mexico, “Desperado” style.
There are lots of other endings, but I didn’t feel like getting them all. I recall getting one where I just gave up and went to let Ein kill me, another where my loft was blown up and I thought Cal had dies, and I went Schizoid and killed the hell out of everyone in Inferno.
And there are lots of other characters, but most of them are pointless in the overall scheme of things because this game isn’t as interactive as it claims to be. For hours and hours you sit and read as people talk, and talk, and talk. Any time there is an animated scene it’s a horrible fusion of CG and cel animation. The only reason to even play this thing is for the original artwork which you can’t even access via the special features after you’ve played the game and got the codes. Your only reward for playing this game is getting codes that let you see the CG animation scenes.
Here is an example on how the anime masses are screwed over. We’re told we’re going to be treated to an anime fest where you’re in charge of the action only there’s no action, little animation, and hours upon hours of you looking at static images of characters while listening to a glorified book on tape. Anime Play, I’m kind of glad you’re out of business.
Let’s leave this anime off with the thrills of Japanese CG animation circa 2001!