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Super Crusaders: simple doesn’t mean poor

supercrusadersSuperheroes seem like a logical choice for a Role Playing Game; after all being a hero is a very common fantasy. However, while there have been superhero rpgs since the early days of that gaming genre, it’s been very hard to get them “right.” The problem is that Tabletop Games and Comic Books have different approaches. Most RPGs tend to be focused on rules and numbers; most comic books play it loose with facts. As a result it’s hard to adapt characters from the comics in a game, or create original ones that don’t feel somehow “off.”

Luckily, this has been addressed over the years, and currently there are some very good games that manage to both capture the spirit of superheroes while also being easy to play. Some of them, sadly, have fallen between the cracks. This is the case with Super Crusaders.

Originally created by writer Lee Walser, the game came out in 2009. It actually has had three editions, and produced several supplemental sourcebooks, including: an official setting (“Knights of St. George”); a Minions & Monsters book; an Equipment Book; a GM Screen; and a martial arts campaign book.

As explained by its creator, the aim was explicitly to recreate the more idealistic superhero themes (as opposed to the more grim-and-gritty ones) and to have a simple character creation and play system. And it succeeds in it these goals! Creating a character is a simple matter of choosing a Class (describing the character’s combat preferences) and choosing 9 powers from a list. There are other details- equipment, power modifications called Bonuses, weaknesses etc.- but they’re all optional. And the math is pretty simple- rolling a six-sided die a number of times, usually no more than four.

There are a couple of flaws, of course. Some powers are limited only to non-player characters. This makes sense for most of them- few players would want to have Self-Destruct, for example. However a few would be necessary for certain characters- you need Auto-Clone for Marvel’s Multiple Man, for example. The book does say the Game Master is free to allow these powers to the players- just to be wary of possible abuse.

The books’ real major weakness is the art, which is made by Walser himself. It is crude at best. Now, it is kind of unfair to judge a game where most of the action is happens in the players’ imaginations by the artwork, yet it cannot be denied it influences sales. Also, the game came out at a time when many other similar games were coming out or already on sale.

I also heard a rumor that some people thought the game had a “religious theme” that they found uncomfortable. After having seen most of the books I can assure you this is not true- at least, not more so than the comics themselves. The author is indeed Christian and even wrote a book about Jesus, but that’s separate from this game. You *do* have the option of giving your characters Holy abilities, but you can find such characters in the comics as well- DC’s The Spectre and Zauriel come to mind. And even in the St. George setting, which does contain some religious heroes, they’re a minority, the vast majority are more typical.

I like Super Crusaders; it’s flaws are few and are easily corrected. I hope that someday it gets the recognition it deserves.

If you are interested, you can check out these books for free (all except the Martial Arts book) at game download stores such as RPGNOW or DRIVETHRURPG.

Recommended for: fans of Super Heroes, simple RPGs, and idealistic themes.

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A Letter To Momo: dealing with loss… and the supernatural

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Losing a loved one is always hard- especially if you part on bad terms. You are left wondering, “Could we have mended our differences before the end?” yet knowing that now, you would never know.

So, imagine how hard that must be for a teenage girl. Especially when three clumsy goblins enter the picture.

OK, I admit that premise sounds weird. And yet, it somehow works.

A Letter to Momo is a 2011 animated film written and directed by Hiroyuki Okiura. Even the animation is unusual; it’s very realistic, much more than most Animes tend to be. This works in its favor, however.

In the film, Momo Miyaura is an 11-year old girl whose father recently perished in a boating accident. And yes, she was mad at him at the time, over him not taking her on a trip as promised due to his work. He tried to apologize in a letter, but never got past writing, “Dear Momo”. Now she treasures it as her last connection to him.

She and her mother move into a small island. At first she hates it- she misses the city and its too shy to befriend the local kids.

And then… weird things start to happen.

Food disappears. Momo begins to see shadows move, that no one else seem to notice.

Eventually, she is able to fully see the shadows for what they are: invisible goblins. (Actually they are likely Japanese monsters called bakemono, but the English version calls them goblins.) Naturally, Momo freaks out, but no one will believe her.

She then decides to confront the goblins, and ends up accidentally getting her hands on an amulet which is their only way to return to the Spirit World. It is now that she learns they are a trio of cowardly, clumsy idiots. Not really dangerous- just a nuisance.

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Now at an impasse, Momo and the goblins must learn to deal with each other. They claim they are here to protect her family, since they were defeated in the past by an ancestor of hers (this isn’t exactly true, but I’m not telling you the full truth as it is a major spoiler.) Also they cannot help stealing food as they are cursed with eternal hunger; Momo’s attempts to fix this leads them into trouble.

Did I mention that Momo’s mother is sick? Yeah that might count as a spoiler, except it’s just SO obvious it’s going to figure into the climax of the story. It’s the how that’s the real spoiler: all I’ll say is that I wasn’t expecting what they did- in effect, the movie switches into a different genre by the last act, and yet it still works!

A Letter To Momo is probably the most Miyazaki-like film I’ve seen NOT made by Miyazaki: the story of a girl dealing with loss and friendship, and growing up as a result… with the help of some bumbling goblins. My only complaint is that, at two hours, it’s a little too long- it seemed to drag in places. I think an hour and a half running time would have served it better.

Recommended for: fans of drama, comedy, and the supernatural.


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ETERNAL SENIA: The Little Game That Could

Eternal Senia

We live in wonderful times: the availability of game-making software has made it possible for anybody to make their own games, if they have the desire and the drive. Which doesn’t meant that every “indie” game is going to be good. But sometimes, even with the most rudimentary tools, you can get something fun and memorable. This is the case with Eternal Senia.

Made by a Korean fan who goes by “Holy Priest” (he’s a self-confessed admirer of Christian iconography, as seen in this game) Senia is about a girl who was raised by a nun called Sister Magaleta after her village was slaughtered by demons. But one day, Magaleta disappeared into the sinister Tower of Eternity without even a word of explanation. Girding herself for battle, Senia decides to go look for her. Along the way, however, she is plagued by mysterious visions that hint at Magaleta having a dark secret. What can it be? And how will Senia react when she finds out?

The Story

Without giving too much away, this is the strongest part of the game. You really feel compelled to see Senia reunited with her beloved ‘Sis’ yet fear what will happen then. I can tell you without really spoiling anything that there’s three endings to this game- and none of them are 100% happy. It’s a very dramatic story. However, there are moments of comedy thanks to a certain sidekick that Senia picks on her way up the Tower. Note: the relationship between Senia and Magaleta is so intense it might give some people lesbian vibes- I’m not sure if that’s intended or not. I don’t care either way, I just mention it for those who might.

The Gameplay

This part was average. It’s your typical dungeon-crawler- with monster slaying, puzzle-solving and a few (optional) quests. It does feature a simple item-making system and a special-attack boosting system that added some fun. There literally are optional areas specifically for helping you build up Senia. Note that some Bosses have levels of difficulty that you can change before fighting them, so if you don’t feel like leveling up or making the best equipment just to beat them, just set them to Easy. HINT FOR THE BEST ENDING: There’s a certain item that breaks on your way up; you need to find a way to get it fixed before you reach the end. That’s all I’m saying.

Graphics and Sound FX

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This is the weakest part of the game- which is understandable, given how it was made. Some of the Bosses do not even move! But don’t let the RPG Maker-style graphics fool you- they are used very cleverly and supplemented with full-sized character pictures for the story-telling segments, which look very good and help carry their intended impact. The music and sound FX were good, too. So yeah while not up to the heights of most modern games, Senia has a charm of its own. The translation has a few hiccups, but nothing major.

In Conclusion

Eternal Senia is hardly a groundbreaking game in any of the aspects mentioned above . It’s also short, even with the sidequests. But for a homemade game, it certainly is very well made and enjoyable. I recommend it to fans of Fantasy, Drama, and old-school video games Ala Legend of Zelda. You can download it For Free on STEAM.


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Roleplayers #1 & #2

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There are many rumors about role-players: that they’re unattractive, dumb nerds; that they watch Anime just for the fanservice; or that they are afraid of real women. These have mostly been proven false, thanks to the popularity of RPGs these days. Still, us geeks are pretty self-aware and tend to criticize ourselves a lot.

This is basically what Roleplayers, a new comic book by writer/artist Ernie Chua, is about. It’s been done before, but there are a couple of nice things here. First, despite the main starting players being all male, they are all playing female characters! And ridiculously endowed ones too. Well yeah that’s obviously fanservice, but in-story it is explained by the fact they are playing a game called “Damsels & Dungeons” so presumably everyone is required to be female. Hey, at least no one seems to be bothered by it.

Second, the twist of the story comes when a couple of real girls join their college’s RPG Club. Here, the artist shows he can draw realistic -but still pretty- women when he needs to. The first girl, Cassie, is nice and gets along fine with the boys; the second one, Sally- not so much. Contrary to what you might expect, at least in the first two issues, the role-playing goes pretty smoothly, and there’s only one incident due to Sally and one of the male players being mad at each other.

Which brings me to my favorite aspect of the comic: it’s very true to the tabletop role-playing experience, right down to explaining the game’s rules and having the players role dice. Stereotypes asides, this comic could serve as a good introduction to RPGs.

The art, too, is VERY good, and not just the fanservice part. I really liked how well the backgrounds, monsters etc. looked. Heck even the real world looked nice!

I hope feminist readers don’t go “Ugh! How sexist!” because the (real) female characters are good- if a bit shallow (but then, so is everyone else- but the comic is starting, and hopefully there will be character growth, especially about Sally getting to like the male players.)

You can read these issues for FREE at: https://irrationalcomics.wordpress.com/ Be sure to leave them some comments!


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Escha & Logy: Short but Sweet

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Ever seen a show you found yourself liking unexpectedly, only to be surprised when it ended so soon? Yeah, that happened to me with Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky.

To be specific: Escha & Logy is based on the game of the same name, which is part of the Atelier line of Role Playing Video Games (noted for all having a female protagonist who practices Alchemy.) Within the line, there’s a recent trilogy, known as the Dusk Trilogy, set in a world affected by a mysterious event known as “The Dusk” which caused it to slowly grow more and more arid. Escha’s game is the second in the trilogy, although you do not need to have seen the previous one (Atelier #14, known as Ayesha) at all to understand this series. (The subtitled version I saw did however, point out which characters had previously appeared in Ayesha.)

The series takes place in Corset, a town in the desert’s frontier, established to attempt to reach the mysterious Floating Ruins. Like other ruins in this world, they were left behind by a civilization with more advanced alchemy- who disappeared mysteriously. Unlike the other ruins, these float in the sky surrounded by winds and debris that makes approach by balloon impossible.

Escha is a young female alchemist who, at the beginning of the series, joins the local Research & Development Branch formally (but had already been helping them for a while.) Her dream since childhood is to be among the first people to reach the Floating Ruins. She gets paired with a newcomer, a young warrior named Logy who transferred from Central City for his own reasons (if you think he has a tragic past, you’d be right- more or less.) At first I feared he and Escha wouldn’t get along, but quite the opposite, they ended up playing the old I-like-him/her-but-cannot-say-it game. Which is usually reserved for younger characters. It was cute though.

Other characters slowly join the cast, most of them bringing quirks of their own which are used effectively. Among them, there’s Willbell, the witch-in-training whose greed often gets the others in trouble; and Lusca, the no-nonsense female warrior with a rather bizarre secret (which is actually not explained in the show- unless they are planning a second season? I hope so.)

The main mystery of the show is, of course, The Floating Ruins. Who’s in there in and why is it isolated? Actually the first question is very clearly hinted at in the credits which shows a girl with iridescent hair standing in the ruins. And once revealed, her secret isn’t that amazing- not if you are used to watching science fiction and fantasy. Still, the show manages to move you with her story.

The series does have a couple of surprises at the end, though. I’m not going to spoil them, other than to say I went “Really? That’s how they are going to end it?” Given how by the numbers the show was, I expected a more typical ending. Since I haven’t seen the games, I have no idea if this is because the story doesn’t end there. (Note: Atelier #16 stars different characters.)

Still, I can say this: for such a short (only 12 episodes) typical fantasy show, I really enjoyed E & L. Maybe because of its slice-of-life approach that focused on each character at least once. It was very funny, too- I particularly liked the episodes with the Cursed Tail and the (obligatory) Hot Springs episode!

Highly recommended for: fans of fantasy, comedy, romance, and the Atelier games.