Watson & Holmes Review (First Impressions)

 

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Watson & Holmes is kind of a competitive, tighter version of things like Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective. For each case, a set of cards is laid out representing places of interest. Each turn, players visit different locations and read/take notes on the information on the other side of the card in an attempt to be the first to correctly answer three questions presented at the beginning of the case.

There are token based mechanics via which players jockey for position (only one person can visit each location per turn), attempt to block each other, etc. After the first case character roles are introduced that give players special powers, and there are also methods for gaining information about eliminated players’ failed guesses.

The structure and gameplay elements are incredibly well integrated with the mystery solving aspect. There’s a real sense of exploration and immersion, the scope and length of the game feels right, and the cases themselves (I’ve played two of ) are interesting. In one game no one was actually able to solve the case due to not quite having enough detail in one of our answers, but everyone still had fun and having a better idea of what the game’s looking for I don’t think it’ll be an issue going forward.

I love that they found a way to keep the story and mystery aspects of cooperative type Holmes’ games in a competitive, compelling, mechanics driven game. The overall balance and way everything comes together is fantastic, and I loved what I’ve played of this thus far.

Japan Trip Fall 2018: Top 10 Matches (Live)

This past Fall I was in Tokyo for a week and change in a visit largely planned around Aoi Kizuki’s retirement. I’d like to take one more look back and spotlight some of the matches that really stood out to me.

 

This time I saw 12 shows from 7 promotions (considering Aoi and Shida’s self produced shows on their own) with 53 matches featuring 96 different wrestlers. As usual the vast majority of what I saw was exceptional, and given the timing and impetuous for the trip there are trends and themes running throughout the list even more so than usual. So even there are still numerous of worthy wrestlers and matches that won’t be mentioned here, and the order is highly subject to change.

Match reviews copied/modified from my show specific blogs when appropriate.

 

Here’s a breakdown of matches I saw by company: Aoi Kizuki’s Retirement Show: 5 matches, Gatoh Move: 13 matches,  Hikaru Shida’s 10th Anniversary Show: 5 matches,  Ice Ribbon (including P’s Party): 16 matches, Pro Wrestling Wave: 5 matches, Pure-J:  4 matches, and TJPW: 5 matches.

 

 

Honorable mention

 Aoi Last Ribbon – Ice Ribbon 9/29/18

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Aoi’s last Ice Ribbon match was a gauntlet style contest they occasionally do for special events. Aoi wrestled everyone previously on the card (twelve opponents) in a series of 1-minute time limit encounters. In order, she faced Tsukushi, Karen DATE, Nao DATE, Tequila Saya, Kyuri, Giulia, Totoro Satsuki, Miyako Matsumoto, Mochi Miyagi, Hamuko Hoshi, Tsukasa Fujimoto, and Ibuki Hoshi.

This was a suitable send off and there were plenty of great little touches. Tsukushi came out in Aoi’s old costume, Guilia’s section consisted of a full minute of running dropkicks, Aoi got the best of Miyako at her own game and pinned the Dancing Queen with her own version of the Mama Mia, Aoi and Hammy spent half their time crying goodbye, etc. The end which saw Aoi just barely outlast the current champion’s assault and be laid out as time expired by the Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex, then nearly picked off by rookie Ibuki in a frantic final period. Aoi survived though and ended with a record of 2-0-10 (she beat Miyako and Kyuri, and had time limit draws with everyone else). I love this type of special event match, and this was an emotional, engaging one.

 

 

Misaki Ohata, KAROU, & Sakura Hirota vs Yumi Ohka, Cherry, & Kaori Yoneyama Wave 10/1/18 

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This main event was focused around another upcoming retiree, in this case one of Wave’s top stars in Misaki Ohata. She’s engaged to DDT’s Makoto Oishi, and this match was a 6-woman tag that seemed to be a pro-marriage team of Ohata, Sakura Hirota, & KAROU against the anti-marriage team of Cherry, Yumi Ohka, & Kaori Yoneyama.

Now THIS was my type of comedy. Even without understanding the verbal exchanges the intent and attitudes of the participants came through and I was highly amused. There was also great action mixed in (particularly from Yumi & Misaki) to anchor the match and its humor. This was a blast.

 

 

Reika Saiki & Azusa Takigawa vs Shoko Nakajima & Hyper Misao Tokyo Joshi Pro 9/29/18

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Azusa was winding down her career and back in her regular persona after her brainwashed “Azusa Christie” phase. Her opponents came out with signs apparently protesting Azusa’s retirement, and Reika joined in the protest for a bit. Seeing the tiny kaiju enthusiastically copying Misao was highly amusing. Azusa eventually attacked her opponents and slapped her partner upside the head to get things started.

This was really the best of both worlds of TJP’s match types. Reika and Shoko absolutely tore it down action-wise, then when things slowed down/stopped for the sake of the story it was well done. A lot of that was thanks to attention to detail and the wrestlers themselves being heavily invested, such as when Reika and Shoko got so caught up in Misao’s apparent selfless act in the ring that they stopped fighting on the outside and watched, as captivated as the audience.

Misao offered to take Azusa’s second rope elbow to end the match, giving the latter a win as a retirement gift. Then she kicked out instead. Reika, angered by Misao not following through on her word, got involved but Azusa begged off saying it was reflex and offered to do it again. This time Misao countered the elbow into a backslide for a close 2 to try and steal the match. At that point even Shoko’s pissed, and she joined her opponents in a series of finishers and a three person dogpile to put Misao away.

The way Azusa, Reika, and even the ref went ahead and celebrated with Shoko as if it was a 3 vs 1 all along and Shoko’s excitement at “winning” were fantastic. Everyone made up afterwards, Misao tearfully congratulated Azusa, and they all left together. Far and away the most I’ve ever enjoyed Misao’s antics, precisely because there was a strong framework for them and they were supported by an exciting match, with Reika and Shoko being their usual exceptional selves.  I talk a lot about Reika, Maki Itoh, and Yuka Sakazaki in terms of incredible presence and charisma, but Shoko is right up there too and is perhaps TJP’s most underrated performer. Loved this.

 

 

Top 10:

10. Asahi & Misaki Ohata vs Karen DATE & Arisa Nakajima – Ice Ribbon 10/8/18

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As Misaki Ohata’s career wound down this year I really enjoyed her involvement in P’s Party, particularly her matches / interactions with Asahi. So it was a real treat for me to see them team here against Arisa Nakajima & Karen DATE. I loved this, as beyond just great action it also had several interesting undercurrents being played off of throughout the match.

Arisa and Misaki’s mutual resentment was palpable, and Misaki’s strained patience with Asahi yet being rabidly protective when Arisa mocked the rookie was pitch perfect character work. Great stuff all around.

With all of the DATEs currently absent from Ice Ribbon’s shows this seems like it was my last time seeing Karen live for the foreseeable future (if ever). A high note to go out on at least.

 

9.  Tequila Saya vs Maya Yukihi – Ice Ribbon 10/6/18

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Maya vs Saya was incredibly well structured, with Saya fighting tooth and nail for her big move (a reverse pedigree) and Maya desperately countering several times before Saya finally hit it. Maya appropriately sold like it molten death. While I understand Saya was never winning this match, I wish they had at least done the foot on the rope escape for that. But Maya did kick out at the LAST possible second and made it look fearsome. This was top notch work from both, and a great example of how a simple focal point to build a story around can really enhance a match.

 

8.  Hikaru Shida vs Naomichi Marufuji – Hikaru Shida’s 10th Anniversary Show

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In the main event of Shida’s 10th Anniversary show she seemed to be setting out to exorcise a personal demon. She’d faced Marufuji had faced earlier in the year, with Shida getting knocked out in under two minutes. I could feel the pressure weighing on her as she looked to prove herself by at least putting up a better fight here. The right story, well worked, makes all the difference and they built off of that feeling of insecurity to craft an excellent match in both story and action.

Marufuji looked great, and it was nice to see him wrestle live again many years after seeing him in ROH. While testing Shida he certainly wasn’t holding back, and his onslaught of chops left Shida’s chest a painful to look at vivid red bruise.

This was really well done, and one of the best matches I’ve ever seen from Shida. She gave Marufuji a real challenge in a believable way and battled for eighteen minutes, but eventually came up short and Marufuji emerged victorious.

Marufuji looked great, and it was nice to see him wrestle live again many years after seeing him in ROH. While testing Shida he certainly wasn’t holding back, and his onslaught of chops left Shida’s chest a painful to look at vivid red bruise.

This was really well done, and one of the best matches I’ve ever seen from Shida. She gave Marufuji a real challenge in a believable way and battled for eighteen minutes, but eventually came up short and Marufuji emerged victorious.

 

7.  Kyuri & Totoro Satsuki vs Maika Ozaki & Nao DATE – Ice Ribbon 10/8/18

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Shortly before this show Maika had temporarily broken up her GEKOKU team with Kyuri in a case of tough love because she thought the latter wasn’t as upset by losing matches as she should be. Here they were pitted against each other in tag action, teaming with Nao DATE and Totoro Satsuki respectively.

I adore the fact that they were teaming with two wrestlers who were regular partners themselves (as Novel Tornado), as it created several interesting parallels between the team who was ok facing each other in a competitive environment and the team who was being torn apart by it. Kyuri wanted NO PART of fighting Maika, looking absolutely miserable during the ring entrances and only lightening up when in the ring against Nao. She wouldn’t even lock up with Maika at first, but later in the match when pushed far enough she completely went off on her usual partner in spectacular, crowd popping fashion.

Maika, perhaps partially proving her point about Kyuri’s priorities, eventually prevails and pins her regular partner with the Muscle Buster. A dejected, depressed Kyuri then slinks off with Totoro in tow as Maika desperately tries to call her back and explain. Great interweaving of stories in a great match. Between this and the ActWres feud Gekoku has been the center of some of the best storytelling Ice Ribbon did all year, and of course the story wasn’t over yet.

Like Karen, Nao has also apparently stopped wrestling for now (?) since I saw this show. She’s one of my absolute favorites among Ice’s rookies and I hope to see her back someday.

 

6.  Risa Sera & Hagane Shinnou vs Aja Kong & TARU – Hikaru Shida’s 10th Anniversary Show

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I swear I’ve seen Madoka (here Hagane Shinnou) announced under like five different names in various matches, and a quick search shows he has like ten. No illusions about what kind of match this would be, as Risa was bloody in under two minutes. They fought all over, inside and outside the ring and right by me a few times, spreading chaos all over the arena.

This was all about Risa & Madoka trying to survive the monsters, and as such it had a fire absent from some of the other hardcore matches I’ve seen recently. Easily the most compelling performance I’ve seen from Risa all year. Risa can be incredible in this kind of match, often in my opinion when she’s more the underdog, and was both here. This was a “the journey is as important as the destination” type of match, and going to a draw with the monsters made Risa & Madoka look like stars.

 

 

5. The Lovely Butchers (Hamuko Hoshi & Mochi Miyagi), Azure Revolution (Maya Yukihi & Risa Sera), & Ibuki Hoshi vs Tsukasa Fujimoto, This is Ice Ribbon (Tsukushi & Kurumi Hiragi), Asahi, & Miyako Matsumoto –  Aoi Kizuki’s Retirement Show

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Aoi spent the vast majority of her career in Ice Ribbon before going freelance in her last couple of years, so it was great to see a majority of the current IR roster wrestle on this show. This 10-woman tag was really fun, and Tsukka breaking out the “partners as steps” spot always make me wonderfully happy.  In a cap to the running joke of Aoi not letting Tsukka do her “Youth Pyramid” pose because of her age, Tsukka finally managed to do it uninterrupted here and Aoi even did it with her during the after show ceremony.

The two rookies in the match (Asahi and Ibuki) became the focal point towards the end, end despite Asahi desperately struggling to prove herself she eventually fell victim to a trio of Hamuko Rolls from the Butchers & Ibuki and pinned by the latter.

 

4. Aoi Kizuki vs Emi Sakura – Gatoh Move 10/4/18

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In what was originally supposed to be Aoi’s last Gatoh Move match, she faced her trainer and mentor Emi Sakura in the main event. This was another great match in Aoi’s goodbye tour, and at the time I would have been hard pressed to imagine a more appropriate way for Gatoh Move to say goodbye to her. Aoi defeated her mentor after thirteen minutes of back and forth, emotional, captivating wrestling with the Happy Clutch.

 

3. Aoi Kizuki vs Mei Sugura – Gatoh Move 10/5/18

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Aoi Kizuki facing her recent tag partner and protege of sorts in Gaoth Move’s newest rookie Mei Sagura in a match that was supposed to happen the previous Sunday at Gatoh’s cancelled Greenhall show was the main reason this show happened at all. In a bit of a parallel with Aoi’s mentor Emi putting her over in their final singles match the day prior, Aoi put Mei over here giving the rookie a huge win.

The match itself was excellent, and I certainly understand all the hype arising around Mei. As I mentioned about the very first time I saw her wrestle (at Pure-J days prior to this), she very clearly “gets it” and seems to have natural instincts for wrestling in terms of drawing the audience into her matches and making maximum use of her skills and charisma. This was just as fitting a Gatoh Move goodbye to Aoi as her match with Emi would have been, and was a wonderful “passing the torch” moment.

 

 

2. Aoi Kizuki, Mei Sugura, & Riho vs Emi Sakura, Makoto, & Hikaru Shida –  Aoi Kizuki’s Retirement Show

It a perfect endcap to Aoi’s career, she teamed with Gatoh Move’s Riho, & Mei Sagura against Gatoh (and Ice Ribbon) founder Emi Sakura with freelancers Makoto & Hikaru Shida in the main event.  It was a nice tribute to her trainer (Sakura) and other wrestlers she had a long history with. The sole exception was Mei, a rookie who became Aoi’s tag partner and seemingly something of  protege since her debut this spring. Mei’s already incredible for her experience level and seems to have big things ahead of her. As mentioned in the previous entry the fact that Aoi ended up having her final singles match against Mei (and put the rookie over to boot) and included her in this main event illustrates how close they became.

In a particularly sweet gesture, Aoi gave Mei her rainbow “wings” from her entrance gear. Mei’s excitement about it as she wore them not only for this match but at Gatoh Move later in the day was clear and contagious. Aoi herself came out for this match in special white gear that included an incredible, light up version of her wings.

The match was fantastic and an appropriate goodbye to Aoi. The traditional spot with everyone one the show and more (including Aoi’s best friend Jenny Rose, who came to Japan to be ringside) splashing Aoi in the corner was of course a lot of fun.

Emi, bad back and all, gave 110% to give her former trainee a proper farewell throughout the match and busted out a freakin’ 450 to pin Aoi to end it. All of Aoi’s trademarks were also on display, including one more glimpse of her rare, incredible spinning top rope splash. Fun, emotional stuff from bell to bell, and an absolute privilege to be at live.

 

1. Emi Sakura vs Mei Sugura  – Gatoh Move 10/7/18

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In a bit of a completion thematically of the main events from 10/4 and 10/5 (as well as being appropriate for the day), Aoi’s two opponents from those days, her partner protege Mei and her trainer Emi, faced off here. This was incredible, with the fiery Mei rising to the challenge and giving Gatoh’s lynchpin everything she could handle until Emi weathered the storm long enough and experience won out. Fantastic.

Even more impressively, Sakura had to be helped out of the ring during Aoi’s show and limped into this one, but you’d never know it from her work during the matches. Her performances were amazing, and a admittedly a little worrisome as I really hope she’s not overdoing it. She’s one of the very best in the world.

 

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That does it for this time. Hope you enjoyed reading about these great matches. Everything I’ve mentioned is well worth seeking out if possible.

 

Gatoh Move 1/1 & 1/2/19 Live Thoughts

January 1 and 2, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan

Third and fourth days in a row (and my fourth and fifth shows of the trip) for Gatoh Move at Ichigaya to ring in the new year (also see my thoughts on 12/30 and 12/31).

 

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As I like to explain to start my Gatoh Move reviews, the Ichigaya events are held in a small room with no ring and two large windows on one wall which are removed for the shows. The crowd itself is effectively the “rope break” marker and the wrestlers will sometimes use the front row to bounce off of for “running the ropes” and the windowsills to jump off of for high risk maneuvers. The limitations of the venue restrict the action in ways compared to “normal” matches, but also provide opportunities for creative variations on standard wrestling elements.

Pictures are not allowed during the show but can be taken afterward, so my pics here won’t contain anything from the matches and will only be of the roundtable and dancing following the shows (as well as of some souvenirs).

 

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Gravure model An-cham had another decent showing in singles action to open against Yuna Mizumori until the latter’s size and power led her to victory. Yuna looks like a monster when she gets serious in the best way and combines it with an infectious charisma. She wrestles quite a bit beyond her experience level.

 

 

Next up was an amusing tag team match between Antonio Honda & Mei Sugura and Saki & Baliyan Akki. Mei trying to copy Honda’s mannerisms and moves was hilariously awesome, and watching  Aoi Kizuki’s protege of sorts team with Honda after enjoying “Happy Rhodes” as a team in 2018’s Go Go Green Curry Cup was fun. Saki & Akki complement each other well and it’s always nice to see them team.

 

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In the main event Riho & Mitsuru Konno faced Emi Sakura & Masahiro Takanashi. I adore the pairings involved as well as any chance to see Mitsuru in with Gatoh’s veterans, so was really excited for this one. In a great bit to start, Emi was dismissive of Mitsuru just before the bell rung, at which point a fired up Mitsuru beat Emi across the venue. Great intensity, and beyond the normal excellent tag work in Gatoh this had a good feel of varying things up a little to nice effect, including things like brawling through the crowd a bit. Loved it overall. Emi eventually isolated and pinned Mitsuru to give her and Takanashi the win.

 

1/2/19:

This show opened with Mitsuru Konno vs Baliyan Akki in Akki’s first ever intergender singles match (although the two had been on opposite sides of several tag matches). Good match with a well told story, with a steady stream of aggression from the smaller Mitsuru forcing the slightly overconfident Akki to dig a bit deep to pull out the win. While Akki has been wrestling longer overall, Mitsuru is his senior both in Gatoh Move and in experience in this kind of match, and they both played their roles well.

 

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Like Cho-un vs Takanashi on 12/31, another yearly tradition around this time has become seeing Antonio Honda v Sayaka Obihiro v Jaki in a comedy deathmatch. Every time someone gets a 2-count they get to perform a “comedy routine” using  provided box of props and are awarded a point by the referee if it’s funny. Most points at the end of the fifteen minute time limit wins.

I’ve seen this four years in a row now and between the language barrier, Obi doing intentional poor comedy for effect, and the “wrestling” sequences being pretty much just a bridge to the jokes, I personally find these really hit or miss. Honestly this year’s didn’t really connect with me, and was my least favorite of the four.

 

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The main event was a 6-person tag of Emi Sakura, Masahiro Takanashi, & Yuna Mizumori vs Mei Sugura & Gatoh Move’s reigning Tag Team Champions Riho & Makoto. At the beginning of the show Emi mentioned she was annoyed with Mei today, and tension between the two provided a strong undercurrent to build certain elements of the match around. This was yet another of Gatoh’s excellent 6-person tags in Ichigaya, with a ton of fun triple teams. Riho of course is a master of the environment, and had a particularly jaw dropping spot here from the window vaulting off other wrestlers to deliver her diving knees. Great work from all involved.

 

 

I always enjoy Gatoh Move at Ichigaya and its unique atmosphere and environment. But this time if possible I was even more impressed with what felt like an extra layer of creativity on display in a lot of the matches. The rookies are all coming along quickly and developing incredible instincts, and seeing Gatoh back at “full strength” so to speak with said rookies all mixing it up with Gatoh’s ring generals was a real treat. This was another pair of fantastic shows over all. 

 

Beautiful Dreams 3: More Art of Juri the Dreamer

It’s been a year and change since my last spotlight on the work of my favorite artist, and I’d like to share and talk about more of her incredible work and some of the inspirations behind the pieces. See Beautiful Dreams and Beautiful Dreams 2 for more about Juri H. Chinchilla’s art, including past pieces I’ll be mentioning in this write up.

 

 

Juri’s Personal Sketch Cards (PSCs) have been a great opportunity to request particular subjects and design elements. One of the more unique requests I’ve made was a card featuring one of my favorite professional wrestlers, and I adored it so much that I’ve followed up with several more since. Juri’s done an AMAZING job depicting these previously unfamiliar to her subjects and these are in many ways the pride of my entire art collection. See Another Wonderful Way Pro-Wrestling is Art 2 for more about the above works featuring WWE’s reigning Smackdown Women’s Champion Asuka, Sendai Girls’ phenomenal high flyer Dash Chisako, and the recently retired Happy Maker Aoi Kizuki.

 

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Misaki Ohata PSC by Juri H. Chinchilla.

 

Another favorite of mine also retired in 2018, and Juri’s strikingly posed Misaki Ohata with a wonderful background of venue lights is a great keepsake.

 

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Reika Saiki PSC by Juri Chinchilla.

 

Tokyo Joshi Pro’s Reika Saiki is known as the “Muscle Idol,” and all aspects of her strength and charisma as a wrestler, idol, and body builder are gloriously highlighted in Juri’s drawing.

 

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Mitsuru Konno PSC by Juri Chinchilla.

 

The last wrestler in this batch was also the first of all. Juri’s first rendition of Mitsuru Konno from Gatoh Move for me featured a great action pose capturing and combining Mitsuru’s strength, determination, grace, and beauty in a remarkable rendition. Equally wonderful is Juri’s quite different recent depiction, featuring Mitsuru in her newer wrestling outfit with a palpable sense of celebration and excitement captured.

With the exception of Dash doing her trademark frog splash, I didn’t specify poses and the layouts, details, and way Juri captured each subject are just wonderful. I couldn’t be happier with how these all turned out.

 

 

Juri’s work have are as diverse in creation method as they can be in subject matter. I’ve added a pair of wonderful paintings of hers to my collection, including a striking abstract and an atmospheric, haunting image of night in Rainy Gotham.

Another unique piece is Aquatica, which shows off Juri’s wonderful use of color in a gorgeous image of an original character.

 

 

As always Juri’s work for Perna Studios‘ high quality card sets is pitch perfect for the subject matter. I was lucky enough to get some Artist Proofs (APs)  from her for their most recent sets. For Witchcraft, I requested a female grim reaper from several artists, and I adore the delicate yet powerful feel Juri brought to her version. In the past I got a witch from Juri with some amazing ravens, so loved the idea of getting Celtic goddess Morrigan for her Classic Mythology III metal AP. Rounding out this group is a graceful moonlight scene featuring my favorite Greek goddess, Artemis, with just a touch of lurking menace as she hunts.

 

A very different Morrigan was part of one of the Personal Sketch Cards I got previously from Juri, an incredible depiction of the Darkstalkers character with her “sister” Lilith. Morrigan’s an old favorite and one of my most played fighting game characters ever, so I was thrilled to add this larger, equally amazingly done drawing of her to my collection.

 

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Continuing the video game theme are three new PSCs from some of my favorite game series. Makoto from Persona 5 joins my previous PSC of Elizabeth from the third game in that series, with a bold red background complimenting the deep blues of the other card. The wonderful balance of a sense of motion while still posing is a wonderful touch not only in the two Persona cards, but also accentuates Juri’s drawings of Fire Emblem’s Tharja, and Valkyria Chronicles 4’s Riley, as well as the Bombshells version of DC’s Raven and Clare from the manga/anime Claymore. Finally for this time around is a beautiful depiction of two of Juri’s original characters. The cards are all excellent and unique works showcasing Juri’s attention to detail and mastery of color in their own different ways

 

 

More information about Juri’s art can be found on her artist page. I hope to continue to follow and collect her wonderous creations for a long time to come. 🙂

 

 

 

The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince Review

Just your everyday fairy tale about a singing wolf monster who makes a deal with a witch to transform into a princess in order to help try to get a caring prince she accidentally blinded his sight back.

 

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The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince has a whimsical story with just the right amount of emotional beats at its center. The wolf’s anxiety of being discovered while trying to do the right thing despite the lies she thinks she needs to maintain is a compelling framework for the puzzle platforming core. There were admittedly a couple of spots where imprecise mechanics were frustrating, but generally the gameplay is solid and engaging as the player switches between the wolf’s forms to guide and protect the prince as they venture through a dangerous forest. A well done storybook aesthetic completes the package nicely, and overall I found this game extremely engrossing.

 

Ice Ribbon 12/31/18 (RibbonMania) Live Thoughts

December 31, 2018 in Tokyo, Japan

As always for my holiday wrestling trips one of my most anticipated events was Ice Ribbon’s biggest of the year, and there were a lot of interesting things happening on this card.

 

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The opening contest saw an official debut for Suzu Suzuki against fellow rookie Asahi. Suzu’s debut had been delayed by a bicycle accident injury, and in a display of sheer, glorious chutzpah she rides one out for her entrance.

 

 

Really good showing for both here, with Suzu getting a strong start with a victory in her debut and Asahi getting more desperate in search of a win. They both have good instincts and bright futures ahead of them.

 

 

Teams This is Ice Ribbon (Hiragi Kurumi & Tsukushi), Saori Anou, & Tae Honma and Akane Fujita, Ibuki Hoshi, Satsuki Totoro, & Himeka Arita made the most of what could have been a throwaway 8 woman tag match for an exciting encounter. It had lots of cool little multi-person spots, and while the occasional one went a little off, most of this was clever, energetic, and flat out fun. Saori in particular looked like she was having a blast here.

 

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The Tequila Saya and Giulia feud I’d seen glimpses of two days prior at the 12/29 dojo show came to a head as they faced in mixed tag action with partners Hideki Suzuki and Shinya Aoki respectively.

 

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A year ago I was amused at the beginning of Hideki’s involvement in Ice Ribbon, but unfortunately it was all downhill from there, with constantly changing and forgotten stipulations and lackluster matches. But the building resentment of the Ice roster to him has been a lone bright spot, and the parts of this where everyone (often including his own partner Saya) swarmed him for revenge in and out of the ring were a lot of fun.

Also, the parts where Saya and Giulia faced off were nicely heated and really well worked. But honestly there wasn’t much bringing it all together and the match as a whole did feel a bit disjointed to me. Giulia eventually picked up the win on a shocked Saya, then the two reconciled as the men slinked off together.

 

 

Uno Matsuya’s shot at Triangle Ribbon Champion Cho-un Shiryu was derailed from the start when fellow challenger Miyako Matsumoto objected to referee Banny* Oikawa, and brought in a ringer in the form of Frank Atsushi. Everyone, including the President of Ice Ribbon sitting at the time keeper’s table, eventually agrees to Miyako’s ridiculous request and Banny leaves the ring.

 

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This match was all about Miyako, and unfortunately not in a particularly enjoyable way. They spent much too long belaboring the one note biased referee stuff, until Banny eventually gets tired of it and comes back out to neutralize Atsushi. She gets into it with Miyako too and crossbodies her, at which point a dazed Atsushi counts 3.  The decision stands, and Banny is new Triangle Ribbon champion.

It’s actually quite interesting where this ended up, and I’m intrigued at seeing Banny (who played her role here extremely well) eventually transition into wrestling. But the path taken to get there was a chore and poor Uno was a complete afterthought here, which is a shame. She deserves better.

 

 

Ex-Ice Ribbon roster member and now hated outsider Hikaru Shida returned to face her former trainee Risa Sera once more, in Risa’s preferred match type to boot. Given the story I wanted more fire out of this and there was a little too much “spots for spots sake” as opposed to a smooth, logically escalating match, but it still hit the right high notes and was decent overall. I have seen better hardcore matches out of both though. Risa prevailed and the two finally showed each other respect afterwards to presumably end Shida’s story with Ice Ribbon for now.

 

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Past their difficulties as a team Gekoku (Maika Ozaki & Kyuri) was reunited in their pursuit of the International Tag Ribbon Championships held by The Lovely Butchers (Hamuko Hoshi & Mochi Miyagi).

Extremely good match, capped off by a well deserved, long time coming reign for Kyuri & Maika. Beyond excited and happy for the two of them. In a nice touch their former enemies and now semi-regular teammates Saori and Tae celebrated with the new champions ringside post show.

 

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Last August Ice Cross Infinity Champion Tsukasa Fujimoto successfully defended against Maya Yukihi in a heralded match that would eventually win Ice Ribbon’s fan voted match of the year honors for 2018.

 

 

Maya won a tournament for another shot at Tsukka in this main event match, and it was fantastic. Maya has evolved into an extremely well rounded wrestler and has great chemistry with IR’s ace. She’s an excellent choice to dethrone Tsukka and this was the right time. Wonderful way to finish up the show and the year.

 

 

The vast majority of this time’s Ribbonmania was good to great, with strong action, good booking, and fresh faces holding their titles. Excellent and highly recommended show overall.

 

 

 

* I don’t generally (ever, really) footnote things in this blog, but wanted to talk for a minute about language and didn’t want to bring the discussion of the show itself to a screeching halt above. Banny’s name is based on the English word “bunny” and is supposed to have that connection. But when foreign words are brought into Japanese they are spelled with a particular phonetic alphabet. The adapted words are then sometimes reconverted into English letters (at least partially) based on romanization rules / how Japanese speakers would pronounce the sounds, as in this case. Regardless of the origin of the name and as much as I’d prefer to avoid the confusion, she spells her name as “Banny” when using English letters so that is the spelling I’ll be using.

 

Top Ten “New to Me” Games early-2019

As in the past, I’d again like to look at some of the best games that I’ve tried for the first time (relatively) recently.

 

Ground rules:

  • The only qualification for this list is that I personally played the game for the first time since my late-2017 list.
  • It’s been over a year since my last list, so I’m doing a top 10 this time instead of 5, and there are STILL great games that didn’t make the cut. Honorable Mentions include, but aren’t limited to Argoat, Dark Moon, and Herbalism.

 

Special mention: Trickerion has been featured here before, but I played it for the first time with more than 2 players recently and really loved it in that manner as well, so wanted to give it another shout out.

 

 

10. Sentient

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Sentient perhaps looks a little more complicated than it is at first glance (and sadly any use of mathematical symbols immediately scares away some players). The mechanics are actually really straightforward and clever, with chosen cards changing the dice values on a player’s mat when played and the final values of the dice determining points scored based on the formulas on the cards. The balancing act gives rise to interesting choices in this unique, great little game.

Further thoughts here.

 

 

9. Gloomhaven

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Gloomhaven has massive setup and a million bits and pieces, but it all allows for a level of flexibility and depth that make it an extremely compelling dungeon crawler. It’s a bit cumbersome, but really well done and engrossing overall.

 

 

8. Unicornus Knights

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Unicornus Knights is a cooperative game with a wonderfully ridiculous premise. A “throw-caution-to-the-wind” princess wants to reclaim her lost kingdom, and the players are the various knights and retainers trying to keep her alive as she marches straight towards her goal. It’s hampered a bit by a rather poor rulebook and some odd graphic design choices made when bringing the game to the US, but once everything is sorted and settled this is a unique, highly engaging group game.

 

 

7. Spirit Island

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Spirit Island is a challenging co-op with a real sense of entropy and things getting out of hand as players take the role of spirits trying to protect/reclaim their island from colonists building towns and cities. The mechanics that govern the progression of what players are fighting against are ingenious, including an interesting, natural mechanic where the victory condition gets less stringent as the game goes on. This is something that really feels different among all the games I play, to great effect.

 

 

6. Raiders of the North Sea

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Raiders of the North Sea is a highly thematic game that captures a nice rhythm of building up in preparation for a specific action (in this case making raids of the surrounding area), executing, then doing it again, all without things ever feeling stagnant. I’ve only played with two players so far and there are aspects I think might be better with more players, but overall I really enjoyed this.

Further thoughts here.

 

 

5. Minerva

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I didn’t know anything about this before my friend brought it to the table, and it ended up being a wonderful surprise. It’s the first tile laying game in ages I’ve gotten excited about, with an interesting and unique activation mechanic that leads to meaningful choices with an eye towards balancing needing straight lines for optimal use of tile abilities with “blocks” for maximum scoring. This is a great game that made an excellent first impression and is something I anticipate adding to my collection in the future.

 

 

4. Shadows in Kyoto

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Shadows in Kyoto is a two player game of hidden information and strategic movement. The imaginative new take it brings to classic gameplay elements seen in games like Stratego and the depth arising from the hand management and asymmetric power aspects combine to something really fun and engaging. I loved this accessible, intriguing game immediately.

Full review.

 

 

3. Exit: Sinister Mansion, Dead Man on the Orient Express

 

It’s hard to know how to treat the Exit series in lists like this, as the new installments aren’t expansions or remakes but are generally similar enough to be treated as such. But I felt these two pushed new boundaries with the format and puzzle types and they are perhaps my two favorite of the entire series. So I’m featuring/recommending them both in this single entry.

More thoughts on the series.

 

 

2. Watson & Holmes

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Watson & Holmes is kind of a competitive, tighter version of things like Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective. The structure and gameplay elements are incredibly well integrated with the mystery solving aspect as players visit different location cards and take notes on the information they find trying to answer three key questions asked at the start of each case. The overall balance and way all the various elements come together is fantastic, and I loved the two games of this I’ve played thus far.

(Review to follow.)

 

1. Detective

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Simply incredible. Full review on the way once I get to finish up with the final case, but Detective is a wonderfully compelling cooperative campaign game that feels like doing actual detective work in a fun and captivating way. Each session/case does require a bit of time (~3 hrs each), but it doesn’t feel it at all. The way information is gathered is key, and between the decisions on what leads to follow, incorporation of a special website, and historical connotations this really knocks things out of the park in terms of creating an engrossing experience.

 

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That’s it for now. It continues to be a great time for gaming, and everything here is well worth at least giving a try.

What are everyone else’s new favorites?