Those Snow White Notes

ましろのおと lured me in with the sounds of shamisen and a decent first episode. Yeah, it was obvious that it’s going to be a shounen-ish anime — what else could it be if the main topic was hinted as overcoming the main character’s obsession with his granddad’s sound? Yet, I was cautiously optimistic. The first episode didn’t show any school clubs, tournaments or rivals, and instead we got something almost Nana-like. Everything went downhill after that and even thought I’m a sucker for music-themed anime — I shouldn’t have continued to watch this one.

“Those Snow White Notes” is bad. Its characters are bad — we are not provided with any reason to care about them, and their cardboard-cutout personalities are shown through a single arbitrary piece of information (“I used to be a soccer player but then I got an arrow to the knee”, “I have a grandmother. I like my grandmother”). Its plot is bad. Well, not bad — it’s pretty much non-existent. Only had I thought that we might get a shounen anime without all the accompanying tropes — and the main hero, almost like in retaliation, immediately joins a shamisen appreciation club at his school and begins training for a… wait for it… god damn tournament! Which takes place during the last 4 or so episodes. Out of 12. On top of all that we have to keep up with a stream of new and returning people who are constantly showing up from nowhere for no reason, and put up with almost Bollywood-style twists. Yeah, it’s pretty bad.

The only redeeming aspect of this anime is its music. Shamisen is a peculiar instrument but I like its sound, so I tried to enjoy the moments when the characters were just playing. That was the only reason I didn’t drop this anime. Yet, I wouldn’t have done the same again — overall, “Those Snow White Notes” is shallow, annoying and absolutely useless.

Koi to Yobu ni wa Kimochi Warui

I didn’t have any expectations when I began to watch this anime. Moreover, I checked out the first episode by accident — I confused it with Higehiro. Yet, (un)surprisingly — I liked it! Despite its questionable name, despite that fact that it deals with a topic of “forbidden love” (more probably like “frowned upon”) at the same time not offering a single new plot twist — Koikimo is a lovely show.

It’s interesting that Mondays are basically anime days this season — we’re watching 4 shows which are aired on this day. And two of them are navigating the minefield of a theme about relationships between an adult and a high-school girl =) But whereas Higehiro is kinda sorta dramatic — this show about a guy who fell in love with his sister’s classmate isn’t dark at all. It’s really cute, I loved the main couple a lot (oddly enough there’s only one couple, we thought that we might get another pairing in Rio and Masuda but no), I cheered for them for all 12 episodes and almost teared up in the last episode when they end up together. And if someone thinks that Ryo is a stalking creep — they just don’t know anything about love ^_^ (Oh boy, my wife probably had PTSD watching that)

Koikimo might not be the best comedy, although Ichika’s remarks and Ryo’s reactions on them were gold (“Can you please continue to yell at me? I like when you do that”) and it’s not a traditional romance anime — the main characters didn’t need 96 episodes to figure out their feelings, and there wasn’t much Drama and Misunderstanding. Yeah, there were a couple of rivals but their confessions were promptly turned down, calming down people like me who’d already decided on the best pairing =) Again, objectively speaking this is an average show, yet I looked forward to watching it every time.

The Outer Worlds

I genuinely wanted to like The Outer Worlds, I really did. Even though I had an urge to drop it a few times — I still continued on, hoping that the game would finally show me why it’s “Fallout 3 we wanted”. I don’t know about others but I certainly didn’t want Fallout 3 to be like this.

I loved the first and second “Post-Nuclear Role Playing Game” and spent quite a lot of time with them. In these games I felt like I was exploring a huge world where something was always about to happen and where my choices mattered. The turn-based combat system was great and role-playing mechanics were tuned really well. We all remember that magical word S.P.E.C.I.A.L, don’t we? =) Those games had so much amazing and bizarre shit! “You shot yourself in the arm, broke it and lost your rifle”, “Grampy Bone says — there’s gonna be blood!” and many, many more! Then we got Fallout 3. Which I saw once, got scared to death and swore that I was never going to play that. And I didn’t by the way! Anyway, maybe it’s just nostalgia but I believe that the first two Fallouts were fun to play. The Outer Worlds, which was supposed to live up to the fame of its spiritual predecessors, is boring.

I don’t even know how to explain why this game doesn’t click with me, because it tries to do all the right things. The universe it builds is fairly unique — corporatism dystopia where giant companies control all aspects of people’s lives. Some of the dialogues are witty and funny. You have 6 companions with their quirks and personal storylines. The skill tree on paper looks interesting and should push you to try different branches. There are dozens of guns, armors, hammers — you name it. The game is maybe not graphically breathtaking (it looks decent though, don’t get me wrong) but the planets you’re visiting have very distinct design. So why did I feel so relieved when the final credits began to roll?

If I had to pick the biggest issue — it would be the lack of a clear goal. The main character was awoken from hibernation and then is supposed to help the slightly crazy doctor who revived him or her to change the order of things in the world. Why do I need to play along with the doctor’s wishes? Because “why not” doesn’t sound like the best explanation. I guess, there must’ve been a route to just turn the doctor in, but it’s not clear why I should do that either. In Fallouts the explanation was right in front of us — you’ve been living in a vault and now your home needs you to to find a water chip (or GECK). There you go, your motivation, however simple it may be, is understandable. The same goes to Divinity: OS — you’re investigating a murder, that’s why you end up in that town and have to interact with all those people. In The Outer Worlds I never had a sense of attachment to… anything really. If the authors were hoping to re-create that confusion a person who’s spent 70 years sleeping must be feeling — then they succeeded. I was confused and was just blindly going with the flow.

The second big problem in this game is its combat. I’m not a fan of action combat in RPGs in general but sometimes it can be fun — Ys is an example. The Outer Worlds’ combat is… serviceable I guess? But every time I had an option to avoid it — I used it. I didn’t like how shooting felt, didn’t notice much difference between guns or damage types, so I skipped basically the entire part of the game where you’re supposed to be tinkering and improving your arsenal. A tangential thing but with default settings this game is pretty easy. By the end of it I had an enormous amount of junk in the inventory — stuff that improves stats and whatnot, which I had no reason to use whatsoever. Yet because I disliked the combat system I didn’t want to bump the difficulty, probably missing out on gameplay mechanics related to items.

My rant is not over yet! Now I’m going to complain about skills. As I mentioned before, on paper the skill tree looks awesome. There’s a caveat though — there’s no reason to actually choose a playstyle. It’s ridiculously easy to create a jack-of-all-trades who can shoot, hack, good at science and on top of everything else has a silver tongue (and a heart of gold). Yeah, there are instances where some ridiculous skill ranks are required and specialization would’ve helped but such situations are rare and didn’t seem to be game-changing.

Lastly, a few words about characters. A good ensemble of characters can magically transform even a bland game into something full of unicorns and happy smiles. Sadly, once again it’s not the case with The Outer Worlds. I’m thinking about it now and seems that I liked only one (1) character I met during the playthrough — SAM. Not surprisingly, he’s also the best companion, who was always ready to offer a remark on how filthy the current area is. Other companions and their individual quests are totally forgettable and don’t add much to the experience. You’re going to interact with lots of people in this game, and whereas dialogues and choices in them sometimes might inspire hope — it usually gets shattered pretty quickly, when you realize how shallow and one-dimensional all the guys and gals in Halcyon are. It was pretty ridiculous sometimes, for example when at a critical moment an apparently pretty important character begins to explain how I should’ve listened to her and now she has no other choice but to destroy me and so on and so forth — and I was like “I have no clue who she is”.

The Outer Worlds had a lot of potential — its writing sometimes clever and catchy (“It’s not the best choice — it’s Spacer’s Choice!”, “You’ve tried the best — now try the rest! Spacer’s Choice”), the idea of a world ruled by corporations is fresh in videogames, the choices in this game can make a difference. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any reason to care about aforementioned differences or pretty much anything there. On a bright side, now I want to install Fallout again and check out if it stood the test of time =)