Farewell to an Angel: Yuuka’s Retirement

During my first trip at the end of 2015 to Japan I became a huge fan of Ice Ribbon, and follow them to this day. I had my first exposure to several would-become-favorites during that time, including the then reigning Ice Cross Infinity Champion and recently retired Aoi Kizuki.

During my first Ice Ribbon show, which was also my first ever live show in Japan, there was another wrestler who really impressed me in the same tag match as Aoi. But in contrast to Aoi being a 10-year veteran, this was a relative rookie with just under 2 years in the sport.

 

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Yuuka, nicknamed the “White Angel of Ice Ribbon,” wowed me with her instincts and level of skill for her experience and 17 years of age. She presented herself in a way that made an immediate impact, including a ring style that showcased hard strikes and fierce determination in a thoroughly compelling manner.

Throughout the trip I got to see Yuuka in four other matches. On Neko Nitta’s Produced show she faced normal tag partners Risa Sera and Maya Yukihi in an interesting triple threat, and my final Ice Ribbon show of the trip saw her team with Hamuko Hoshi opposite Aoi again, this time in a 6-woman tag with Maruko Nagaski as their third and Akane Fujita & Mochi Miyagi on Aoi’s side.

 

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In between those shows were two matches I look back on particularly fondly. On Risa Sera’s 2nd Produced show Yuuka was part of a rather hilarious cell phone destruction match, and on Ice Ribbon’s biggest show of the year Yuuka got nice singles spotlight against fellow up and comer Sareee in perhaps my favorite of the live matches I saw with her.

 

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I wouldn’t return to Japan until the following holiday season, so those were my only opportunities to see Yuuka wrestle live. But the first half of 2016 held a number of other interesting things for her. She had a fun rivalry/partnership with another favorite of mine in Wave’s veteran Misaki Ohata (who also recently retired … been a rough year or so), won the Young Oh! Oh! portion of Wave’s annual Catch the Wave Tournament, then was built up to challenge Risa Sera for the Ice Cross Infinity Championship to main event Ice Ribbon’s 10th Anniversary show in what has to be considered her career highlight.

Yuuka had an energy and commitment to whatever story she was telling that was captivating. Little details in her matches, her body language and facial expressions, and the general way she carried herself added tons to her character and made her a joy to watch.

 

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Yuuka’s last match was in mid-July 2016, after which she went on hiatus for undisclosed reasons. But she was still listed as part of the Ice Ribbon roster on their webpage with an implied possibility of return until recently. On March 25, 2019 her retirement was officially announced. She was one of the young wrestlers who left a great impression on me, and I’ve mentioned before she certainly had the potential for a big career ahead of her if she continued.

 

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While it’s a shame that didn’t come to pass and I miss seeing her in the ring, I’m always happy and supportive of seeing people do what’s best for them and I wish Yuuka all the best in whatever’s next.

Sendai Girls 1/6/19 Live Thoughts

January 6, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan

 

 

Because of the timing of my trips and usually staying in Tokyo I don’t get to see a whole lot of Sendai Girls shows. But I adore several members of the roster and the opportunities I do get to attend live are always great. This is my third show of theirs, after 1/6/18 headlined by a battle of legends and 4/19/18 featuring those two legends in separate singles matches against two of today’s hottest stars. This card looked a bit different than those on paper, but no less interesting.

 

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The show opened with a short match that saw Marvelous’ rookie Mei Hoshizuki against veteran DASH Chisako. Marvelous has a strong track record training up and comers, from Maria Takeda looking good the previous day at Ice Ribbon at only two weeks experience to the absolute star Mio Momono has become, among others. Sixteen year old Mei was at about a month and a half here, and looked decent against the aggressive, dominating veteran. Dash is a favorite of mine and one of the best high flyers in the world, and it’s always a treat to see her wrestle in any capacity.

 

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From a rough welcome for a visiting rookie we go to absolute ridiculousness in a 4-way between Eiger, Sakura Hirota, Hikaru Shida, and KAORU. Exactly the type of match one would expect from a pair of comedy wrestlers in with two weapon wielding opponents, and was quite amusing and held together with some creative spots and the occasional flash of wrestling prowess. Eiger surprisingly won by pinning everyone, including reigning Oz Academy champion Shida. Bonus amusement was had in the form of Eiger going over to the concentrated Chihiro cheering section (more on them later) a few times to spook them.

 

 

Aja Kong, Hiroyo Matsumoto, Alex Lee & Mikoto Shindo vs Meiko Satomura, Cassandra Miyagi, Mika Iwata, & Minami was an exciting 8-woman tag with a solid central story and various nice undercurrents.

 

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Minami was absolutely fed to wolves here, including a point at which she went for a tag and Meiko told her in no uncertain terms to get back to the center of the ring to face her monstrous opponents some more. It didn’t seem like she had been in for too short a time, but Meiko was clearly pushing the rookie (and perhaps teaching some match pacing at the same time). They all also played it up well (Meiko spun to the crowd and see to dare them to defy her judgement in a great moment), and with the specters of Hiroyo and Kong bearing down on the Minami throughout it ending up getting the crowd behind her even more. Which lead to a great finish that saw her eventually getting the win for her team to a strong pop. There was also tension between former partners Alex Lee and Mika Iwata, my last time seeing Cassandra Miyagi in Sendai Girls, and general strong work from all involved.

 

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I was not familiar with rookie Ayame Sasamura prior to this trip, and was impressed with what I saw from her at SEAdLINNNG on 12/28 in a triple threat against Sakura Hirota and Ayame’s own reigning SEAdLINNNG Tag Team Championship partner Arisa Nakajima. That isn’t the only title she held either, and here she defended her Sendai Girls Junior Championship against Millie McKenzie (who I saw at Tokyo Joshi Pro two days prior). Excellent work here from two wrestlers with under a year and half experience each. Both have a lot of potential and bright futures ahead of them (not to dismiss what each has already accomplished of course). Millie scores a bit of an upset and becomes the new SG Jr Champion in a great match.

Since this show Ayame was injured and required foot surgery (forfeiting her SEAdLINNNG tag title as a result). I really hope to see here recover in full and make a return to the ring when able.

 

 

I also tend to get too few opportunities to see DIANA’s Sareee wrestle, so I was really excited for this main event. She was particularly fantastic here, going tooth and nail with the dominant Sendai Girl’s Champion Chihiro Hashimoto in a surprisingly visceral title match. Incredibly impressed with the performances of both wrestlers here, which was no surprise. Chihiro is an incredible wrestler with equally incredible presence, and it’s a joy to hear her dedicated cheering section go wild for her during her matches. Sareee pushed the champs limits, but Chihiro persevered and kept her title. Would love to see a rematch down the line.

 

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Another really fun, engrossing show from Sendai Girls. My next opportunity to see them live can’t come soon enough.

Tokyo Joshi Pro 1/4/19 Live Thoughts

January 4, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo Joshi Pro’s biggest show of the year helped start off 2019, and had three really intriguing matches scheduled for the top of the card.

 

 

A year to the day after their quadruple debut in a tag match against each other the Up Up Girls, sporting brand new gimmicks and names (kind of), teamed together in an 8-woman tag against Haruna Neko, Marika Kobashi, Mina Shirakawa & Pom Harajuku

The Up Up Girls are now Hikari Noa, Miu Watanabe, Pinano Pipipipi & Raku. The new names and looks were unveiled at a concert a few days prior. For the most part the new gear stuck to the established color scheme for each but now varies by their individual tastes and personalities. I kind of feel like the one who most needed a new direction changed the least (including leaving her name the same with just a different Japanese spelling), but overall all the new looks are good, nicely unique, and complimentary. The way Hinano fully embraced repackaging is great (she’s the only one who really changed her name, not just adding a last name or changing the spelling, and she also went multi color in her gear and changed her distinctive pigtails), and Hikari’s goth tendencies coming through is awesome.

 

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Back to the match, it was an ok affair with a fair bit of the expected awkwardness given seven of the eight competitors had a year or less experience. It went a bit too long for what it was, but the effort was there, a few wrestlers stood out, and the Up Up Girls felt like a nicely unified unit on their way to a victory.

I will admit that Pom’s wrestling tends to grate on my nerves a bit. For example I’ve never seen her even so much as feint anything other than the shin kicks when rushing people in the corner. So instead of Pom looking like she outsmarts her opponents or something by kicking the shins as a response when her opponents throw their hands up to block their faces, her opponents always look like complete morons for blocking their faces in the first place. She has potential and we’ll see how things go, but everyone has their own preferences and pet peeves and her act’s not coming together that well for me so far.

 

 

The second match was a triple threat “Queen of USA match” with Hyper Misao vs Yuna Manase vs Veda Scott. The three fought over a star spangled hat (which eventually became three star spangled hats), danced when they managed to wear the hats, and Veda won when she was able to dance long enough uninterrupted. Meh. Not my thing, but it was short enough and the rest of the crowd was highly amused.

 

 

With a bit of buzz about her departure from Actwres Girlz, Maki Natsumi made her TJP debut teaming with Millie McKenzie against the BAKURETSU Sisters (Nodoka Tenma & Yuki Aino). Really good match, with Maki and Millie both looking impressive and having great chemistry as a team. While I’m still waiting for a bit more momentum to be built for the repackaged Nodoka Temna, Maki & Millie going over here was definitely the right call.

 

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My first look at Saki Akai in a while was honestly a largely forgettable affair. She teamed with rookie YUMI to defeat Himawari Unagi & Yuki Kamifuku, and my only recollection of this match is leaving it wanting to see more from Yumi in the future.

 

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Ever since seeing Meiko Satomura come to TJP in August 2017 I’ve been dying to see my personal favorite from the promotion, the Muscle Idol Reika Saiki, get a shot at the legend. Reika just keeps getting better and better, utilizing her incredible power in wonderful ways and really strives to excel at everything she does. Meiko is quite simply the greatest wrestler in the world. I certainly wasn’t disappointed with this battle. Reika went toe-to-toe with the 23-year veteran at several points, and had an excellent, hard hitting, back and forth showing before Meiko put down the upstart. My match of the night.

 

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In an interesting parallel, the Tokyo Princess Tag Team Title Match involved the same four wrestlers as the prior year’s event, but in different pairs. Yuka Sakazaki now held the titles with Mizuki, and her former championship partner Shoko Nakajima challenged alongside Gatoh Move’s Riho (who teamed with Mizuki to challenge Yuka & Shoko the prior year).

I found the previous year’s match just a touch better overall, but that’s slight criticism and this was still an excellent, high energy example of tag team wrestling. Again all four’s jaw dropping athleticism was on display in innovative double teams and exciting action. Down the stretch this became about Shoko trying to prove herself against her former partner, and she looked absolutely emotionally wrecked afterwards about coming up short and being pinned by Yuka.

 

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The main event for the Tokyo Princess of Princess Championship saw the company’s ace versus the overachieving rebel as Miyu Yamashita defended against Maki Itoh 

Itoh’s limitations in the ring meant this wasn’t a technical masterpiece, but that was never the point. She grown into being a decent wrestler through force of willpower, and that journey and her incredible charisma make her impossible not to root for. This was always going to be a battle of the champion outclassing the brash upstart punching above her weight, who would then either refuse to die long enough to wear down Miyu and score the upset, or eventually succumb to the champ’s assault.

 

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Between Itoh’s unique moveset (including spots like blocking an axe kick with a headbutt) and the story and limitations I mentioned, this match might not be terribly accessible to new viewers in isolation. But for those who have been following Itoh’s quest it was captivating and exactly what it should have been, and the crowd was into it the whole time. It was not quite Itoh’s time it seems, and Miyu would emerge with her title intact.

 

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Decent, crowd pleasing show from Tokyo Joshi Pro to kick off the new year. A little hit or miss in the undercard but still quite fun overall, with a pair of excellent matches plus an appropriately worked main event closing out the show in a strong way.

 

Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game Review (Spoiler Free)

Given the mystery based nature of the game let me state up front that this review will be spoiler free.

 

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I’m a big fan of immersive storytelling experiences in games like T.I.M.E Stories, and a huge mystery buff, so was extremely intrigued by the concept of a modern style investigation in the form of a game.

Players are agents of a special investigative agency in current times, and that’s pretty much all the background needed before jumping in. Cards and well implemented online features provide information as the cases proceed, and it’s all up to players to decide how to use the (in game) time they have to pursue leads and then piece together the answers needed for the particular case they’re tackling.

The rule book warns that there’s no “right answer card.” This isn’t a matter of searching for that one statement that jumps up and down saying “you win now!” There’s plenty of information to analyze, but players will never see it all and have to make choices about what to investigate and (even more importantly) make inferences from what’s discovered. A series of summary questions at the end of the case will determine if the players were successful, or if they’ll need to try that particular case again.

The feel of the game and level of immersion were incredible. Playing felt like we were doing detective work. This is a storytelling experience as much as it is a game, and each case will run around 3 hours or so. But it never felt that long.  The way research is integrated, the story elements,  a real sense of discovery and tension, and the constraints of not being able to investigate everything while still feeling like we got enough to figure things out kept us engaged and excited.

There are historical and real world connotations wonderfully tied into the fictional narrative that unfolds, and the mechanics and the way everything comes together is really clever and well done.

I played this with one other person. It went extremely well with the two of us given our level of gaming experience, etc. I think for most groups three people would be the sweet spot, although the game is listed as for 1-5. Everything is highly connected from case to case in the included campaign (five cases), so it’s highly preferable to continue the campaign with the same group from start to finish.

I’ve seen some understandable criticisms of some of the leaps of intuition needed in a couple of places and of some plot points. But I thought the mystery level overall was challenging but reasonable, and the story engrossing and well enough executed as the campaign unfolded from case to case. One case bordered on frustrating in some ways for us (and we did have to replay it), but it was still fine in the end, fit into the greater picture well, and we loved the other four.

With the length, note taking, gradually unfolding pace, and other elements I’ve mentioned, there is a rather specific target audience that will enjoy Detective. For me it was a wonderfully compelling cooperative game. Simply incredible overall.

Ice Ribbon 1/5/19 Live Thoughts

January 5, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan

The first of two Ice Ribbon shows at Yokohama Radiant Hall. This was a “regular” Ice Ribbon show while the one later in the day … well, wasn’t. 😉

 

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The opening 6-woman tag of Asahi, Tsukasa Fujimoto, & Makoto vs Totoro Satsuki, Kurumi Hiiragi, & Miyako Matsumoto had a great story of Makoto and Tsukka trying to support a desperate Asahi looking to prove her worth and earn the win anchoring the action. Unfortunately their opponents were just a bit too much for the rookie to overcome and eventually pinned Asahi for the win.

 

 

Marvelous’ rookie Maria Takeda, just a couple of weeks after debuting against then Ice Cross Infinity Champion Tsukka, got to wrestle a former champion here in the form of Risa Sera. The arena, prompted by the cheering of the wrestlers at ringside and the quasi-heel antics of Risa, were firmly behind Maria. Risa isn’t quite as good at the “bell-to-bell turn” as Tsukka (see her title defense against Uno from Vol 741 for an incredible example of this formula), but still played her role well here in a decent match. Maria held up her end and looked really impressive for two weeks experience.

 

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Speaking of Uno Matsuya, she got to shine a bit against a visiting veteran as she and Akane Fujita took on Pure-J’s Command Bolshoi & Mochi Miyagi. This was a pretty straightforward, ok tag match overall.

 

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Another opportunity to see mother vs daughter clash graced the semi main as Hamuko Hoshi faced Ibuki Hoshi. They’re great as opponents and I look forward to these matches. In my opinion Ibuki brings out the best in her mother, and this was a nicely intense battle somewhat reminiscent of the opener with the rookie desperate to prove herself and coming up just a bit short.

 

 

In the main event the newly crowned (at Ribbonmania, less than a week prior) Ice Cross Infinity and International Ribbon Tag Team Champions teamed together as Maya Yukihi, Kyuri, & Maika Ozaki took on Tequila Saya, Giulia, & Tsukushi. I was expecting a Tsukushi pin on someone to set her up in her traditional role as sacrificial first defense for the new singles champion, but Saya pinning Kyuri set up several interesting things post match and was a nice, interesting call. I really liked the direction the booking took during this trip overall, shaking things up a little in a believable way. This match was an exciting, face paced contest throughout with excellent work by all six.

 

 

To close out there was a presentation for 2018 awards. The “Rookie” of the Year award had a bit of unfortunate hilarity, as it was announced as a tie between Saya and Uno. As they celebrated Sato quickly jumped in to correct the announcement, as it was actually a tie between Saya and Giulia. Poor Uno. It was pretty much a given that some form of Tsukka vs Maya would win Best Match, it was just a matter of whether the Ribbonmania main would eclipse their encounter in August in the fans eyes. Not quite it seems, as the August match won. Tsukka also won MVP, the Butchers took Best Tag Team, Ribbonmania was Best Event, and the absent Tae Honma won Best “Enemy” (outsider).

 

Another strong show from Ice Ribbon to start the day in Yokohama, and a few hours later I’d be back for something completely different.

Dead or Alive 6 Review

It’s been a long time since the last installment of the game series as famous for its fanservice as its fighting, but at last it’s time to take a look at Dead or Alive 6.

 

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I enjoy Dead or Alive for what it is, and have always found the actual fighting game beneath DOA’s famous fanservice exterior engrossing. DOA 6 does still have those solid mechanics at its heart, so individual games are still fun and engaging.

It also looks amazing. There’s a real sense of grit and impact during the fights, and the little details are incredible. Visually the game is stunning and another leap forward.

But to be honest if the time/resources spent on battle damage and making little cuts appear on the fighters was at the expense of all the steps backwards… I could have done without.

 

Where’s My Partner?

I’ve always played these games primarily in single player, and with Playstation’s switch to needing PS+ to play online for the PS4, my intension for DOA 6 is exclusively single player. In DOA 4 and 5 survival mode, often the tag version, was far away what I spent the most time playing long term.

So the first major disappointment of DOA 6 is tag mode being completely absent. A lot of the fun of single player was to be had by trying different teams and discovering their tandem moves, how/if they interact, etc. It felt different than the solo modes and made for a nice change of pace. Thus right off the bat nearly half the content I was looking forward to in the game is gone.

Also gone is a new innovation from DOA 5, cliffhanger blows and throws. They weren’t important, but it was something new and entertaining. The main gameplay addition this time is essentially a revised/expanded version of the power blows from DOA 5 and associated elements. The returning characters, which is everyone except two newcomers (and there are of course previous characters missing to “make room” for them), play pretty much exactly the same as in previous games . This consistency is actually mostly desirable, but perhaps more should have been tweaked/added given everything what was taken away.

 

1 out of 1,000 ?! O_o

Part of the interest in continuing to play DOA is getting rewards for progressing in the form of new (admittedly often ridiculous) costumes, and that small motivation does make trying different characters and repeated plays through things like Arcade Mode more interesting and enjoyable.

Tecmo has also monetized costumes and fanservice in DOA to ridiculous degrees via DLC. The trend of DLC in fighting games hasn’t bothered me as much as other gamers as long as what was provided in the original purchase seemed a reasonable core game for the price, and that nothing was “partially” locked gameplay-wise. In DOA5 I thought the initial package was reasonable enough, and supplemented by buying a few of the costumes here and there that amused me the most. I never felt “forced” to buy extra content, or that I had an incomplete or lacking game without it. I did feel they could have included a bit more and been a tad less aggressive about the pricing and packaging of new costumes, but again, enough was provided with the initial game purchase to be reasonable.

That changed this time around. The problem isn’t so much the number of included costumes, which is similar to past iterations (although there are more simple color swaps, which is cheap), but rather the new unlocking methods.

In past games, clearing Arcade Mode (for example) with a character would generally unlock one of the included costumes for that character. Direct correlation to the character being played, reasonable amount of time/effort/achievement involved, and no extra menus/costs/etc.

Here clearing Arcade Mode gets a single digit number of “pattern parts” (unlocking points). Costumes can’t be unlocked until their pattern part threshold had been collected, and then it also requires use of ANOTHER in game currency (admittedly this one is much easier to come by). Parts cost for costume range from 100 to 1,000, meaning time spent in the parts of the game I personally enjoy and play most is USELESS for unlocking things.

Adding insult to injury, the parts earned are RANDOMLY assigned, so playing a favorite character no longer means any progress is necessarily being made towards more costumes/accessories/etc for them, nor can the player concentrate that pathetic amount of points earned into one place to hope it adds up to something semi-reasonable eventually.

The only single player mode that provides a reasonable amount of points is Quest Mode, preset matches with objectives to fulfill while playing (execute a certain number of a a particular type of move, perform combos, etc). The random point assignments are even more maddening here, as when the computer decides for example to allocate a 400 parts reward to a costume that only needs 100 (which has happened to me several times) those other 300 are lost and wasted. As quests are finite, can’t be replayed, and don’t provide enough points to unlock everything even if allocated perfectly, this is yet another design decision that’s a slap in the face of the player.

 

***NOTE: Since I’ve started playing the other single player modes have suddenly started awarding a reasonable number of pattern parts, on par with what Quest Mode provides (although still randomly assigned). A closer look indicates this is because they have decided to run a “Release Celebration” in which the earned amounts are multiplied by up to 100. Short term it fixes one big complaint. Since it’s a temporary thing, this smacks of wanting to quiet valid criticisms while the game is new, then revert to form.  ***

 

Open the Wallet

So now if a player specifically wants costumes for their favorite characters, the ONLY sure way to proceed is purchased content (or playing hundreds of hours and crossing one’s fingers). Costumes are generally bundled by theme with one for each of several included characters, so even when PAYING EXTRA it’s impossible to concentrate on exactly what one wants. The first season pass for DOA 6 DLC was made available on release day, and costs 1.5 times the cost of the game for two characters and three months worth of costume DLC (62 costumes, which may not even include all costumes released in those 3 months). Reminder, that’s just the BEGINNING of their DLC plans.

On last complaint about the DLC approach for this game. I mentioned above that beyond feeling a game is incomplete / feeling like the publishers are trying to force a purchase of extra content, I have any issue with “partially locked” content. I don’t mean locked content being on the game disc. I understand why some have an issue with this, but as I said as long as what I got seems reasonable for the price I’m fine. What I mean is content that is included in parts of the game but then needs to be paid for to be used in others. Of course DOA 6 chose to do this. Two characters are playable in the previously mentioned Quest Mode (and as the quests are preset playing those characters is required to fully complete this mode), but are locked in the rest of the game unless purchased (or unlocked with a pre-order bonus code).

 

A Story Worth Telling?

DOA 6’s Story Mode continues from the fallout of the events in DOA 5. I don’t know if it’s the translation or the original writing, but the dialog is extremely stiff and awkward. I do like the setup of parallel “episodes” in each chapter, but this potentially interesting structure is let down by breakneck, uneven pacing and ridiculous choices on what to show and what to skip. They clearly tried to keep each piece as short as possible while jumping around to feature every character exactly as little as they could get away with, and it makes all the interactions feel unnatural.

The tournament itself, built up to in many of the early segments, is a complete afterthought when it happens, with key pieces skipped (I have extensive feelings and theories about this, but will refrain from discussion due to spoilers). I will say one of the few matches actually shown/played is treated so inconsequentially they don’t even bother to mention which round it occurred in, and its participants (including the winner who presumably advanced) aren’t seen again.

I could keep going (and the absence of an important character in the entire second half of the story is another rant altogether), but the point has been made I think. Some of the plot threads are interesting and I really would have liked to see this come together better as I do like the mythos, but the story mode overall is pretty lacking this time around.

Going back to the above bonus unlocking issues, no pattern points are earned for story mode. But from what I understand it has to be completed for certain costumes to become available for points to affect, so another layer of complication for the top of the pile.

 

One last side note before I wrap up: There was even more of a … debate… about DOA’s fanservice this time around. Without getting into it too much, early on Tecmo seemed to be courting a more serious image with the added violence effects, and what some called a move towards “modest” costumes (although I’m not sure skin tight ninja outfits, etc are really all that modest per se, but more skin is covered in several of the new starting costumes for both women and men than previously). Thing is, the racy, skin bearing costumes are still in the game. They’re just not the ones unlocked to start. The computer is free to use any costumes, and of course online opponents may use anything they have unlocked or purchased, so such costumes will be seen while playing regardless. So anyone wanting a less fanservice heavy DOA isn’t going to find it, and anyone for whom the fanservice is the main draw is back to the purchase/unlocking issues I discussed above. If anything Tecmo created a bit of a false air of “changing the image” of DOA while just shuffling things a bit so they make more money off what a large portion of their established fanbase expects from the series.

 

 

Final Thoughts:

Did I enjoy playing this?

Yes, for a time. As mentioned above the mechanics are intact and individual games are still quite enjoyable.

I know the majority of this review was critical, but keep in mind this is all from the point of view of a longtime player of the series and involved discussion of several outside factors. If spending money, tag mode, unlockables, etc do not matter to a player and their only concern is “are the mechanics good and the fighting itself fun?” the answer is yes.

 

Is there anything here to keep me coming back like the previous games did? 

No. Emphatically no. I don’t personally play online, am not going to spend tons on DLC, and while I appreciate the excellent graphics they’re not the end all and be all for me. The things that made DOA games impossible to put down for me personally have largely been gutted.

 

Did/will I get my money’s worth out of it over continuing to play DOA 5 Final Round?

Debatable, leaning no.

It’s technically proficient, beautiful, and has sections heavily tailored to teaching the game, so is an easy recommendation for new players interested in DOAs brand of fighting. But it feels like an infinitesimal step in everything but graphics that it advances and a huge step back in what it offers the player in variety. More of a DOA 5 Part 2 than an actual sequel in my mind, and frustrating even in those terms.

Ice Ribbon 1/3/19 Live Thoughts

January 3, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan

First show of 2019 for Ice Ribbon, a few days after a Ribbonmania that saw new champions all around.

 

 

After a successful effort in her debut at Ribbonmania Suzu Suzuki faced Mochi Miyagi to open this dojo show. Fine rookie vs established wrestler match, although honestly I would’ve liked something more interesting from the followup to Suzu’s debut win. Suzu actually looked a little more tentative/nervous in this smaller setting than at Ribbonmania. She’s a good addition to the roster and seems to have a lot of potential.

 

 

Three days after Uno Matsuya & Miyako Matsumoto were competing challengers for the Triangle Ribbon Championship (in a match that certainly didn’t go the way either wanted) they had more success as a team Totoro Satsuki & Tsukushi. Fine, run of the mill random tag team contest here with each wrestler playing their usual role.

 

 

In contrast, Tsukasa Fujimoto’s match with Hamuko Hoshi was anything but typical. At “random” intervals Mio Shirai would play music, signaling the wrestlers had to stop what they were doing and jump rope until it stopped. Ridiculously amusing, with the participants eventually getting tired being interrupted at key moments and jumping rope in general. They went after Mio together, but she somehow twisted it into being referee (and reigning Triangle Ribbon Champion) Banny’s fault, and they attacked her instead.

 

 

As a big fan of what Tequila Saya’s being doing with P’s Party, I was thrilled to see “P’s Party vs Ice Ribbon” theme for the main event with Giulia & Asahi joining Saya to face Azure Revolution (Maya Yukihi & Risa Sera) & Akane Fujita. This was an elimination match with each wrestler being assigned a finisher before the match via ladder game, which was the only way they could score pinfalls. Eliminations could also by going over the top rope to the floor.

They had fun with the assigned finishers, such as Risa repeatedly (and unsuccessfully) trying to rope-walk, the slim Giulia bouncing off of people when she tried to throw her assigned lariats, and a posturing Saya struggling in her attempts to perform a powerbomb. Maya got “diving headbutt” and attempted several Maki Itoh style ones, while Akane and Asahi got luckiest and had the appropriate for them “bodyslam” and “schoolboy rollup” respectively.

 

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This was really well booked and executed, with a surprisingly strong showing for the “rookies” (in Japan that term generally covers any with less than three years experience). Despite everyone’s best efforts with their finishers, all the eliminations ended up being over the top rope. After Risa, Saya, and reigning Ice Cross Infinity Champion Maya were respectively eliminated, it was down to Akane vs Asahi & Giulia.

Eventually Asahi had Akane on the apron and delivered several running dropkicks to try to knock her off and win. As she set up for the (presumably) final one her partner Giulia shoved her out of the way and knocked Akane down herself to claim the victory and the glory. TEAM P’S PARTY WINS!!!

 

 

Asahi stares a HOLE through her so called partner, and then goes CRAZY trying to claw and scrape her way to at at Giulia requiring three others to hold her back and finally Tsukka comes in to calm her down. Fantastic fire from Asahi here, and there was more story and character conveyed in these 30 seconds than I’ve seen in entire shows. The match itself was creative and engaging, and done in such a way that made the rookies look good and competitive without taking anything away from the vets. Great stuff all around.

 

 

A pair of ok matches followed by a pair of unique, engrossing ones with a perfect mix of humor and action made this show a blast overall to be at live. I also really enjoyed the increased emphasis on and spotlight for newer faces on the shows this trip, something I’ve wanted for a while from Ice Ribbon.