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Japan Reviews Wrestling

Ice Ribbon 1/3/17 Live Thoughts

January 3, 2017 in Tokyo, Japan

Like last year, my last Ice Ribbon event during my trip was their New Year’s show. The show itself though this year was a bit different, as I was lucky enough to see one of IR’s most interesting themed shows.

 

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Photo op with the roster from this show. 🙂

 

The opening segment set up this show as Survival Ribbon (YAY!), with teams led by Tsukasa Fujimoto and Ice Cross Infinity Champion Risa Sera respectively. It was pointed out to me by a friend that the teams were divided by time in Ice Ribbon, with Tsukka heading up the veterans and Risa leading the less experienced competitors.

So it split up as Tsukasa Fujimoto, Miyako Matsumoto, Hamuko Hoshi, Mochi Miyagi, Tsukushi, & Kurumi on one team and Risa Sera, Uno Matsuya, Tequila Saya, Kyuri, Maruko Nagasaki, & Maya Yukihi.

The rules were as follows:

  1. There would be six matches between randomly paired opposing team members.
  2. All winners would advance to the main event, which would be a tag match between whoever won the preliminary matches to determine the overall winning team.

All the undercard matches had five minute time limits, leading to a quick pace and a sense of urgency.

 

The entirety of each team came out to start things out and remained at ringside to cheer each other on, leading to an incredible atmosphere for all six initial matches. Everyone on the outside was highly invested and constantly provided encouragement to those in the ring. It made such a difference and  showed how important it is the have competitors care about the stakes, even if it’s “only” bragging rights.

 

 

 

1) Uno Matsuya vs Mochi Miyagi

Good choice for an opener, with the least experienced member of the roster against a larger, formidable opponent. This match introduced the previously mentioned frantic pace and electric atmosphere, and both were kept up throughout the show. Uno plays a great underdog and looked good here, taking the fight to Mochi at times and persevering to force a time limit draw. Neither wrestler moves on to the main event.

 

 

2) Tequila Saya vs Kurumi

Saya was announced first, and she entered the ring enthusiastically until her opponent was announced, at which point she collapsed in the corner in realization of the task in front of her. Totally put Kurumi over as a monster in five seconds flat before any contact was even made.

The story was similar to the first match, yet the personalities and styles involved made this something distinctly different. Saya survives the assault long enough for time to run out, forcing another 5 minute draw.

 

 

3) Maya Yukihi vs Hamuko Hoshi

This is the point at which IR gives a master class in the theory that predictable is perfectly compelling when done right (as opposed to my complaints about how they handled Ribbonmania’s main). I had an inkling here, and by the end of this match I was 99% sure I knew where everything was going. But between good matchup choices, great action, and logical progression the ride was just as satisfying as if they’d pulled out surprises.

The story for this match was Maya being the equal to former IR champion Hammy, and while both had close calls neither was able to put the other away and once again time runs out without a winner. So halfway through and so far neither team has any representatives in the main event, with both captains left to compete.

 

 

4) Kyuri vs Tsukasa Fujimoto

So Kyuri is the one who draws the opposing team captain. I never get tired of this matchup, pitting IR’s biggest up and coming star against its ace. They have incredible chemistry, and they made the most of the available time to put on an a phenomenal contest. Kyuri matches Tsukka all the way and we have another time limit draw. The teams outside are getting desperate, again adding to the tension and conveying a real sense that these matches are important.

 

 

5) Risa Sera vs Tsukushi

So Tsukushi’s the one who gets to face the reigning champion, in a matchup of the title tournament winner against the one semi-finalist she didn’t have to go through. These are two of IR’s top stars at the moment and like the previous match they make the absolute most of their allotted time. Tsukushi hangs in with the champ and this ends in yet another 5 minute draw.

These preliminary matches needed to be action packed and show desire on the part of all competitors to push as hard as possible to get a win for all these time limit draws to avoid falling flat, and all of them definitely were.

 

 

6) Maruko Nagasaki vs Miyako Matsumoto

And it all comes down to Maruko and Miyako, with whoever wins this being the only person to advance to the finals and thus winning for her team by default. As such the wrestlers on the outside are going INSANE cheering their representative on. On one side is the perennially overmatched underdog Maruko, and on the other the overconfident and mistake prone Miyako. Wonderfully amusing choice for the all important final preliminary contest.

Playing off the urgency, theres a fun part in the middle that’s classic Miyako as she takes her sweet time firing up the crowd and slowly striking Maruko as her teammates flip out over the clock running down. This was a little off formula from the earlier matches, as Miyako just couldn’t stop being Miyako despite the time pressure. Good story to pull out at the end.

The crowd had been seriously engaged throughout each match and as things wound down here the anticipation was palpable. But this too ended in a time limit draw (to the exasperation of both team on the floor), and the ref announced no one had advanced and thus there would be no main event. Risa quickly decided this wasn’t acceptable, and set up a tag match involving the full teams against each other. Logical and well done.

 

As everyone had been at ringside or wrestling for the entirety of all six preliminary matches, they all needed time to go into the back and prepare for / take a momentary break before the “impromptu” main event. So the injured Akane Fujita came out an talked/stalled for a bit until it was time. The crowd seemed engaged with whatever Akane was saying, and it’s nice to see her involved with IR as much as she can be while she recovers.

 

Main Event) 12-Women Tag: Risa, Maya, Kyuri, Maruko, Uno, & Saya vs Tsukka, Hammy, Mochi, Miyako, Kurumi, & Tsukushi

To everyone’s credit, they managed to match the level of engagement and excitement of the earlier matches and provide a fun, fast paced main event. My memory wouldn’t do justice to the details of twelve wrestlers flying around. Was great though, and the champ’s team was victorious when Kyuri rolled up Miyako for the pin. Between wrestling Tsukka to a draw and getting the win for her team here Kyuri came out of this show looking like a million bucks, which makes me very happy.

 

 

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Just a fantastic show overall from IR. Loved the concept, execution, and energy they kept up from start to finish.

Categories
Reviews Video Games

Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma Review

The Zero Escape trilogy comes to a close with a departure from the Nonary Game. Life and death are on the line again, but this time in a deadly Decision Game…

Zero Time Escape is a direct continuation of VLR, features numerous characters from first two games, and ties up plot threads running through all three games. While ZTE does a good job of summarizing important points from previous games I feel a ridiculous amount of important context would be lost without having played the others first, so I highly recommend not starting with this one.

In an effort to remain as spoiler free as I can while still getting into detail about what I liked and didn’t about the game, I will avoid using character names as I discuss things to prevent spoiling elements of 999 and VLR.

 

 

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9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors remains one of my favorite games of all time, and I was pleasantly surprised that while not quite up to 999 its sequel Virtue’s Last Reward was still an excellent game that continued in the vein of the first in fine fashion.

 

I mentioned in my review of VLR that I wasn’t sure I liked where everything was going storywise, and while I couldn’t possibly predict what I was in store for here I was in some respects both right and wrong to be trepidatious. In classic form ZTE’s greatest strength is also its biggest weakness: its ambition. In attempting to be more mysterious and mind bending than 999 and VLR, tie up three games worth of reality twisting plot,  AND introduce no less than FOUR major shake ups to the gameplay formula it was bound to collapse under its own weight at points.

Let’s start with the changes to gameplay. Changing the nature of the game our protagonists play is expected and needed, and the specifics of the Decision Game are reasonable enough (if contrived at times).

Two of the other big changes go hand in hand. The group of nine this time is divided into subgroups of three people. These divisions are preset, so the player has no control over who gets paired with whom. The player will jump from one group leader to another throughout the game, temporarily controlling that character for the duration of the chosen “segment.”

The concept of segments is the other big change that ties into this structure. The Zero in control of this game gasses the characters after each game and erases their memories. So things do not unfold chronologically. The player chooses one of the segments available for the team they feel like playing and get a chunk of the story (with appropriate decisions and puzzles) which could be anywhere in the timeline flowchart. The flowchart is filled in as these are completed so long term you can see how things are coming together, but between playing things out of order and jumping between different point of view characters constantly the flow and immersion of the game is severely hampered.

Another drawback of having three isolated teams is the timelines being traversed are no longer a full exploration of the various combinations of choices made. The first two games used choices made by a single character as branching points, and as such were able to fully consider the consequences of those choices. Here it simply can’t be done due to the unwieldy number of combinations. So as the chart gets filled in there are particular combinations that are simply not represented. Now the story is certainly big and complicated enough as it is, but having “gaps” surprisingly makes the game feel more “linear” and out of the player’s control in a way despite the looser structure of choosing fragments.

With all that said, everything from the amnesia approach to the point of view jumping has an in-game, story based explanation and reason. That makes it all more understandable looking back once finished with the game, but it doesn’t necessarily make these aspects more enjoyable while playing.

 

Which brings us to the last major shakeup in gameplay. Progression from certain branch points are determined by chance. That’s right, there are points in the game that have to be played over and over until the game chooses to give you the result you need to get on the other branch and proceed. This is beyond ridiculous and annoying. Again, there is a important story related reason they needed to be there, but there had to be a better way to address and implement them.

Having to explain these complicated points in such detail to properly convey my issues with them likely gives the impression that I didn’t like the game (and that impression will no doubt grow when I start dissecting the story). But that’s not the case. The mysteries are compelling, the atmosphere appropriately tense and harrowing, and the puzzles and gameplay decisions interesting.

As for the story, it’s insane in scope and yet still manages to come together nicely and ties up the trilogy rather neatly in the end. The philosophical aspects get more and more captivating as things go along, and the numerous different threads intersect in jaw dropping ways.

The biggest problem with the scope is some important things invariably end up being underexplained. I have particular problems with the characterization of one person from the previous games whose actions and reasoning are inconsistent and inadequately justified. Things with this character happen for the sake of the plot of VLR, and result in erratic, unlikeable behavior. The writers also try way too hard to be clever, and at least one of the many shocking reveals is more groan inducing than interesting.

Yet everything is internally consistent (both within ZTE and with what has come before), most of the characters have good depth and are suitably intriguing, and some of the reveals are legitimately brilliant and engrossing. It’s harder to talk about what I liked in the story without spoilers, but there was more than enough here to keep me engaged until the end.

 

So I have major mixed feelings about Zero Time Escape. It’s easily the weakest in the series, most of the changes attempted fell flat for me, and I wasn’t happy with some of the story choices. On the other hand it juggled an insanely complicated plot reasonably well, felt like a Zero Escape game with all the puzzles and mind bending mysteries that go along with it, and had some legitimately compelling characters and twists.

Definitely worth playing to close out the series, but it wears its flaws on its sleeve much more apparently than 999 and VLR.