Sunday, May 31, 2015

Short white hair. Blue-green eyes. As tiny as can be.

Short white hair.  Blue-green eyes.  As tiny as can be.
Vs.
the Old Gods.

When confronted with character creation tools, I always produce the same woman.  A woman as petite as can be, with a short shock of white hair and pale blue-green eyes.  She has, in various incarnations, been my avatar since I rolled a Rogue in World of Warcraft, and endures to this day.

It's might just be pure habit, at this point, but she is my hero.  Her name is Chance, and last fall, for example, she made an appearance in Dragon Age Inquisition.

Short white hair, blue-green eyes, as tiny as can be.
Vs.
immortal demon-wizards from beyond the veil.

Perhaps it began as creating the most pleasing Night Elf I could back in WoW, but now she's just My Hero.  No matter what, she always looks a bit... foreign and innocent and unprepared for whatever world-changing gambits she's forced in to.  Is her hair white because she's seen too many horrors?  She's occasionally sassy, usually quite kind-hearted, and is invariably the scrawny-looking too-short figure who walks calmly towards the catastrophe when everyone else is running away, dwarfed beside the impossibly large weapon she carries.

She's so short it sometimes messes with in-engine cutscenes.  Huge events occur and her face will be obscured behind a tankard of ale or someone's shoulder because the developers didn't anticipate the player producing someone two inches taller than a midget.

I don't know why she's so short - but she is.  There is something lovely about being two heads shorter than everyone else and also the most feared, powerful creature in any given scenario.  It's more interesting to have a little five-foot-nothing hero surrounded by a bunch of cackling, bloodthirsty highwaymen than it would be to have a seven-foot-tall bull-shaped man in her place.

Short white hair, blue-green eyes, as tiny as can be.
Vs.
random engram drops.

She's always a she, as well.  I know it's a hot-button issue, and it's true that rare is the triple-A game with a female protagonist (Remember Me, Mirror's Edge, Final Fantasy XIII-3) while legion are those with a handsome white man at the helm - but her gender isn't a statement.

It's just... more interesting, to me, than another male hero.  We've seen men saving the day against impossible scenarios for aeons.  There's nothing curious or surprising or even very interesting about that, to me - but as soon as you snap your fingers and re-cast the Space Trucker Who Finds Their Inner Badass and Survives Against All Odds as a woman, you've just made a given scenario much more intriguing.  You've created Ellen Ripley.  Something iconic and...

Well, interesting.  We instantly buy that Mad Max has survived the apocalypse and roams the wastes in his awesome car - we need no further explanation - but the very existence of Imperator Furiosa is fascinating.  What did this woman do to earn her place in Immortan Joe's terrible army, and the right to drive a War Rig?


To our culture, she is instantly a far more interesting character than Max - for a distressing reason.  We comfortably, thoughtlessly accept that Max is such a badass, but the fact that a woman could be equally badass still - twenty-five years after Ellen Ripley blew the Xeno out the airlock - still feels novel to us, and makes her more interesting than she would be, if she had a penis.  Her gender evokes questions and makes us more curious about - and more invested in - her.

Which is a statement.

But you don't often see my heroes.  You create whichever ones you want, and mine is invariably a woman with short white hair, blue-green eyes, as tiny as can be - not because I'm making a statement about women in games - and it may simply be due to force of habit, but I feel it's also because I am, still, subject to that unconscious surprise at a heroic woman.  It's because I'm aware that, to me, a female silhouette holding a colossal weapon somehow becomes invested with more meaning and import that a man would, in her place.

I am, essentially, leveraging my own culturally-bred prejudice to make my video game experience more meaningful.

Short white hair, blue-green eyes, as tiny as can be.
Vs. 
dystopian rule at the end of days.

Game Diary - Freedom Wars.

New header wooo!

I really appreciate that the degree of character variation in Freedom Wars makes my petite platinum's features really stand out.  She's a full foot shorter than her towering Accessory, her best friend and worst enemy.

Freedom Wars is a Monster Hunter clone, and there've been a few of them in recent years.  Toukiden, God Eater, Soul Sacrifice - they all stick to the same basic palette - but I was never able to get in to them.  Never tried a Monster Hunter game, the demo for Toukiden didn't sell me and I actually own a physical copy of Soul Sacrifice, but its world never captured me and its tiny little arenas, so disconnected from each other, never coalesced into a meaningful whole.

I think some part of my brain was aware of Freedom Wars' genre when I snagged it on sale last week, but it has done so much to overcome my defenses, I find myself really captured by this little portable action-RPG.

Its world, for example, is terribly imaginative and interesting.


You wake in a cell - a tiny, concrete room with nothing but a bed, a screen on one wall and your Accessory standing between you and the door.  Your Accessory informs you, in its expressionless artificial voice, that you are a Sinner, guilty of the unforgivable crime of losing your memory.  Your collected experience and skills, it advises, were considered very important resources of your Panopticon - a post-apocalyptic city-state - and you have thus been stripped of all your freedoms and sentenced to one million years of service

One.  Million.

The number floats above your head.  You pace back and forth in your cell - what the hell is going on?  The screen flashes red.  You are guilty of pacing in your cell.  You have not been granted that freedom.  Twenty years have been added to your sentence, your Accessory explains.

Goddamnit.

Your Accessory notices that you seem pretty exhausted, and says you won't be able to meaningfully contribute to your Panopticon in such a state.  It suggests you get some sleep.  You lay down, stretch out, and red flashes across the screen.

Oh for...

You have not been given the right to recline in your cell.  Thirty years have been added to your sentence.

Fucking Accessory.


You acquire the right to pace in your cell, to recline on your bed, to exit your cell, by purchasing Entitlement Certificates from your Panopticon.  Entitlement points are earned by meaningfully contributing to your chosen city-state, both through assigned or elected combat operations and by donating the materials you're permitted to keep from the field.

When you begin, all the best stuff will be immediately seized by your 'Con, because you haven't earned the right to keep level-2 rarity weapons, you waste-of-skin Sinner.  In Freedom Wars, simply being born carries a million-year sentence, because your very existence is considered and unforgivable drain on your 'Con's resources.

Now... you can withhold choice items... if you're okay with a few more years getting slapped on your sentence.  I nabbed myself a fucking sweet level-4 rarity rocket pod, for the low-low price of just eighty years.  Worth it.

I've moved my way up to a Code 3 Sinner, with a few more freedoms.  I can actually run for more than ten straight seconds without getting more time added to my sentence!  I've bought - that is to say, I've earned - the right to not only speak to other Sinners, but to speak to other Sinners of the opposite sex.

It's kind of a big deal.

Mattias is such a dumbass.
There's very little to do in the 'Con except hang out with other Sinners, go on missions and visit the Cell Garden and the Warren.  The Warren is the lowest level of the Panopticon, home to the only restaurant I've ever seen and a store that sells mediocre goods for terribly high prices.  I think the guy who runs the shop may be the leader of all organized crime, but he seems chill enough.

As you wander from your cell, through colossal nondescript concrete canyons in which football fields could comfortably stretch out, you meet some very experienced Sinners.  Old, combat-hardened war dogs who've survived long enough in combat operations to shave one or two hundred thousand years off their sentences.

You'll meet the 'Con's criminal element - folks who've accepted their lot, under the boot of this awful future, and have taken it upon themselves to get as comfortable as possible while skirting as many rules as they can.  "1,503,785" hovers above their head, as they grift you for supplies before parting with a shred of precious, subversive information.

You eat ice cream.



The world around the game's combat is rich and curious and I want to know more.  Its details and rules are threaded in to actual RPG-esque game mechanics, as you level up your character by purchasing the right to wear a jaunty beret, or oversee a tier-3 production facility, which may turn out a cutting weapon that will outdo your current arsenal.

And then, of course, there's the combat.


What separates Freedom Wars from every other Monster Hunter clone is the thorn, which permits you mobility across the vertical axis.  There are three types of thorns - ones that are good for dragging enemies to their knees and ensnaring them, ones that permit you to heal your teammates, and ones that provide defensive benefits - but all of them allow you to zip around the environment sort-of-but-not-really like Spider-Man.

You can fire your thorn into a wall and launch yourself to it, hanging above the fray below, spraying machinegun fire into a crowd of enemy Sinners.  You can use it to zip across the landscape faster than you can run, smacking into a wall, leaping atop it and flying off the other side as a colossal Abductor thrashes about behind you, and you can use it to climb right up on to the thing's head, point your machinegun at its face and unleash a clip's worth of pain.


Each Abductor type comes equipped with various armaments - be that shield generators which render gunplay ineffective or rocket launchers or lazer cannons or just great, grotesque limbs for punchin' - and you can cut them all off.

Smaller melee weapons are all designed for cutting, and when you latch on to an Abductor you can land on its lazer cannon, tap triangle and start sawing the thing off.  Once you cut all the way through, there's this nice explosion and you leap away as the pieces go flying.  The shards of the cannon crash into the field below and you dash up to them to snag the precious resources.

With these, I may be able to build a bigger sword.

There are chainsaws and greatswords, clubs and chainguns, net launchers, flame throwers, giant Uchigatanas and nine-barreled machineguns to discover.  You can equip two weapons at any given time - a little one-hander machinegun for using while grappling, for example, and a rocket pod for more generalized DPS - and the weapons you choose have a major impact on what role you can play, when it comes down to a scrap with the hulking Abductors.

They're your spec, basically.


You and your merry band of Sinners are constantly accompanied by your Accessories - who you can also kit out with awesome weapons.  You choose your three bestest buds, pick a mission, and throw down with colossal weirdo creatures for the good of your society.

The degree of tactical choice in the combat, the pretty-goddamned-excellent production values, the rich world, the speed and freedom of movement, and the game's very-Japanesey sense of style have all let Freedom Wars get under my skin, and denied The Witcher III any more of my time.

Really quite unexpected.

I've got my sentence down to nine hundred and eighty thousand years, so far.



 

New XCOM? Bloodstained on Vita?



The 'Advent' teaser that 2K fired off last week has been cracked.  Long story short, if you go digging deep enough to you discover two prominent, nonsensical words in two different places - GFIIOLID and NCOVO.

The thing is, if you rearrange the letters you get "Vigilo Confido" - the motto of that adorns the X-COM shield in Enemy Within.

New XCOM?  Yes please.

Oh God imagine if it landed on Vita.  I mean, it's a western property - that'll never happen without Sony's Third Party Productions wing stepping in - but that would be awesome.

In other Vita news,


Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night hit its Wii U port stretch goal overnight, and two more stretch goals were revealed - 3.25 million for asynchronous multiplayer and 3.5 for a Vita port... handled by a developer named Armature.  Who are Armature?

They're a porting house who've actually handled some pretty respectable Vita games.
 "We are especially grateful to be able to help out on this, as most of Armature’s games have been released on the PS Vita—that would be Metal Gear Solid HD Collection, Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate, Injustice, and The Unfinished Swan, in case you’re counting. Our team knows the PS Vita platform inside and out, and we’ll do it justice as we bring you Bloodstained, running on UE4, to the PS Vita. Help us bring Bloodstained where -vania games belong – your hands!"
-source-
I... suddenly find myself terribly curious about whether or not Unreal Engine 4 can actually run on the Vita.  I will be very surprised if that actually works out... but here's the thing...

Bloodstained still has almost two weeks to go on its Kickstarter.  Between now and three hours ago when I woke up, they went from 3.02 mil to 3.029.  It's totally possible for them to get another 500K between now and the start of E3 - and most Kickstarter games see a spike in the last three days of the campaign anyway.

This could totally happen.  Ahem.  Woo.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Game Diary.


Freedom Wars.  I've actually been playing Freedom Wars on my Vita, and it feels downright odd to be playing something akin to a triple-A release on the thing.

This is why I bought the Vita, of course.  Because it could handle games like Gravity Rush and Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Freedom Wars - but the platform's lackluster sales in North America ensure the only high-production-value releases come from Japan, where it's doing quite well, thank you very much.

Freedom Wars was the Vita's last big exclusive.  It dropped in late 2014 to decent reviews, had a lot of players for a while, and now we've all but forgotten it.  I picked it up on the sale a week or two ago, and it is... satisfying.  So far.  It's nice-looking, its dystopia is smotheringly bleak, and it's incredibly stylish.

I was stumbling my way through Act 2 of Broken Age, but its puzzles had just become too damned obtuse, and I had turned to a walkthrough more often than I care to admit.  This was not, I decided, how the game should be enjoyed, so I zipped out to the Vita's home screen and browsed through my recent acquisitions... ah... Freedom Wars.

I'd almost forgotten I'd snagged it, and now I don't want to stop playing it.


Like everyone else in the world (it seems), I'm also playing The Witcher III: Wild Hunt.  It's... solid.  Some of it is downright excellent. Yes, the world is huge and rich and yes, it feels pretty badass to ride into town with the severed head of a griffin dangling from your saddle - but it is, unfortunately, the next RPG I'm playing after Bloodborne.

It's certainly not a ten out of ten, no matter what GameSpot has to say on the subject - and it just... does not quite seize upon my imagination.  It has its moments.

Ooh, y'know what I found out today?  I don't have to upload PS4 screens to Twitter to save them!  I can, finally - fiiinally - just pop a USB drive into my PS4 and pull lossless screens directly from the system.

Seriously.  I cannot tell you how much the artefacting on the Twitter shares has annoyed me over the last two years.  To a blogger this is a serious boon.

Here, have some lossless Bloodborne screens.  In fact, direct feed Bloodborne screens for everyone!


Even with the UI in there, this is my favorite screenshot.










Also in the Good News category,


17-Bit's Skulls of the Shogun will finally land on PS4 on June 2nd.  Fiiinally.


17-Bit (who are, currently, hard at work on Galak-Z) had been pretty quiet about the game's PS4 release, for a while.  It was "coming soon" last spring, and we hadn't heard much since - I kind of assumed it had slipped into NeverComingLand, like the Vita version of Mercenary Kings.

...which reminds me, I should bug Tribute Games about the Vita version of Mercenary Kings.  One moment...

Okay, bugged.

Also in good news is Skulls of the Shogun will be free to PS+ members when it launches!  Woo!  Along with Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes (not bad!), Super Exploding Zoo (which I was already interested in) and Futuridium EP Deluxe for PS4 and Vita, and two games for PS3 but who cares about PS3 any more.

Not me.  Unless we're talking about Dragon's Crown.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Mad Max - fury road... I mean savage road trailer.



Wouldn't it be nice if Mad Max turned out to be this year's Arkham Asylum or Darksiders?

Let us hope.

What Remains of Edith Finch - house introduction trailer.



Wow... a mediocre voice over can really kill a trailer.

PS4 story-horror Until Dawn drops August 25th.



Truth be told, Until Dawn has never precisely blown my skirt up.  If you're doing a game that is entirely narrative-driven, with player interaction limited to slight exploration and quicktime events, your game better be fucking gorgeous.  This is why the Quantic Dream titles are always so stunning - they pretty much have to be, because if you're asking someone to play a game in which gameplay comes last, it had better be a visual feast.

I don't find Until Dawn all that gorgeous.  Nothing, graphically, really impresses after bearing witness to The Order: 1886, and it was also a cover-based shooter.

So myeh.  I might give it a miss.

'Course, I do want to try it.  And I feel the butterfly representing the narrative branches is a pretty smart choice.


That's kinda' clever.

Also, points for Peter Stromare.  Best Devil Ever.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

There are still more P4: Dancing All Night trailers.

Ohoh, swimsuit DLC for the game's principal ladies?  Oh Japan - when will you address casual objectification in your games?

That said, Chie does look super-cute in her shorts and I appreciate that Naoto's suit is so practical and conservative.



Ohoh, crossdressing DLC for the game's dudes?  Oh Japan.  I'm not sure if that evens anything out.



But I like it.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Hellraid on hold. Nuts.


Techland, one if the lights of my gamer life - masters of first-person melee combat and makers of Dead Island, Riptide and Dying Light - has put their sword-and-sorcery open-world first-person co-op brawler/RPG Hellraid "on hold."

Now... Hellraid was supposed to come out last summer.  Then last fall.  Then this year - so it's not shocking that the game just didn't come together - but it is also to cry.  It is to cry.  Official statement!

"Dear Hellraid fans,

We would like to officially announce that our dark fantasy FPP game Hellraid will not be released this year as previously planned, and the development of the game has been put on hold.

In the recent months we conducted an internal analysis and came to the conclusion that Hellraid, in its current shape and form, is not meeting our own expectations for this project. Therefore, we decided the best course of action would be to send it back to the drawing board and invent our dark fantasy title anew.

In the meantime, we will consolidate our development resources and focus on further expansion of our Dying Light franchise.

We wish to thank all our fans for your support – you’re the best!"
 -source-
So, more Dying Light.  That's cool.  I mean, Dying Light is easily the best thing the studio's made, so more of that is cool... I'll just pretend I wasn't super-hyped for swinging broadswords into skeleton faces in first person...

It's... it's not like I loved the idea or anything...

That said, isn't it just nice when developers come out with it and just talk turkey?  I really appreciate that - like when CD Projekt talked about the engine switch The Witcher III went though this week.

That's cool, man.  It's cool when devs talk like actual people, and not like a press release.  It's more polite

It would have been awful for Techland to go on for another year not talking about Hellraid and giving me hope...

'Cause yeah.

...fuck hope.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Shu Yoshida: Bloodborne expansion is coming.

-source-

Fuck.

Yes.


Man, Twitter is a gold mine today.

"Danganronpa-like story with Valkyria Chronicles style combat."


I've been aware of JRPG Lost Dimension for a while, now.  I heard about it when it was announced, I heard about the need to suss out the traitor in your party, that it's a strategy RPG, and I heard that Atlus announced the PS3/Vita title for localization (it drops in North America on July 28th).

What I'd never heard was the phrase - "Danganronpa-like story with Valkyria Chronicles style combat."  Which is... potent - and it's what GameTrailers dropped on me today.



So naturally I clicked the link and listened to Ben Moore explain the game.

Click the link.  Listen to Ben Moore explain the game.

Dooo ittt.  But if not, here's some point form.

  • It's an SRPG in that each character has a pool of action points for movement and attack.  There doesn't appear to be any cover, and combat is a mix of guns, magic and melee. 
  • Friendly fire is always on.
  • Interestingly, if you're not using up one character's action points, you can transfer the balance to another - which lowers the first character's sanity. 
  • Sanity is lowered by being attacked, et cetera, and when they snap you lose all control of them, but they give and receive double damage. 
  • You're trying to guide your party up a tower, but at the end of each floor you must decide which one of them is plotting against you.  If you guess wrong, that character will be waiting for you at the final boss to fight against you. 
  • If you accuse correctly and kill the traitor, they drop materia (yes, materia) which can imbue you with some of their powers.  Had to off your caster?  Well cheers, now you can throw fireballs. 
  • Each character has different gifts - the main character's gift is being psychic and can thus mind-dive into their comrades to suss out the truth in a weird minigame. 
  • Who is and who is not the traitor is randomized on each playthrough. 
  • Every character feels differently about every other character - including you - and this can be turned to your advantage, or downfall. 
  • When it's time to accuse, if you haven't maintained good enough relationships with your comrades, they can accuse you, kill you, and that's all she wrote - bam - game over. 

The game he's describing is absolutely a game I want to play.

God of War III Remastered - the Hades fight 60fps and 1080p.

Enjoy!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Game Diary - PC master race.


Short on time, but let's chat.  I mucked around in Race the Sun the other day.  It's okay.  It's certainly not bad.  I don't really understand much about it - you race through a minimalist environment, attempting to keep up with the ever-setting sun, which powers your solar vehicle - and I was just getting to the point where it was unlocking things and making my ship cooler annnd... meh.

I opened up Muramasa and started a new game on chaos difficulty.


It remains one of my favorite games of all time.  The word I often apply to Vanillaware games - which they invariably live up to - is luxurious.  It's beautiful and comfortable and delicious in all ways, and it's always a bit edifying to return to a game I've proclaimed wonderful and find that Future Me agrees with Past Me's zeal.

In other news, Darkest Dungeon is finally going to get its first major update at the end of the month.  There've been a ton of little updates where they balance the characters and add nice little UI tweaks - there've probably been dozens since I've been away from it - but on May 28th, there's a biggun.


The Fiends & Frenzy update will finally add new classes to the game, in the form of the military-hardened Man-at-Arms (mace, shield and buffs!) and the Arbalest, a ranged attacker with "some field medic abilities."  The update also adds three new bosses to the game, who will now appear in the currently-available dungeons.

Perhaps most exciting is the promise of "new special rewards" for those who explore larger dungeons "in a state of darkness."

This is music to my ears, as my strategy has long been to camp immediately upon entering a dungeon to buff my heroes, and then let the light disappear to increase my loot spoils and crit chance - which makes a huge difference.  Of course, you also get ambushed more and enemies do far more damage to you, but it's not called Brightest Dungeon, is it?

So yeah.  I really want to get back into Darkest Dungeon, but... there's a new kid on the PC block, and she's just my type.


Invisible Inc, Klei's latest long-in-development effort, got its full release this week.  Its system spec requirements on Steam are, effectively, written in Greek.  They're likely meant to explain something very specific, but I have no idea what my computer is actually built from and whether or not it can run the game.  Purchasing it, then, was a bit of a risk - especially given that it's coming to PS4 eventually - but patience has never been my strong suit.

I gave them twenty dollars.  I waited.  I installed.  I updated.  I ran the game.

My PC can run Invisible Inc.  It is a beautiful day.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Good Smile 1/8 scale Ultimate Madoka.


So yeah, I totally ordered Good Smile’s Ultimate Madoka 1/8 scale for Kayla on the sixth.  I wanted it to be a surprise.  I’d signed up for a Mandarake account months ago – when I was this close to grabbing Cyril Brooklyn for myself.

Back then, I stopped short when it came time to fire in my payment info, but on the 6th, I punched it in and finalized the purchase.  I was then immediately taken to a suspicious little page that said it was my credit card company wanting a bunch of additional information to verify my purchase... but the URL looked legit... so I held my breath and plunged in.  I signed up for Extra Super Additional Security or whatever it is, and... finalized the purchase?

Nope.  Error code, unable to make a charge against the card. 

I tried again.  Error code.

Tried again.  Error code.  Oh come on


At this point, my sweetie was complaining from the living room that I was not at her side, prepared to watch a movie with her as promised.  I assured her I’d be there in just a minute, and called my credit card company. 

The lady on the phone walked me through re-signing up for Extra Super Additional Security (which, it turns out, was legit), and told me to attempt the purchase again.
Error code.

She then confirmed the company and the amount, and put me on hold to go have a conversation with their security department.  I went outside, smoked a cigarette, waited... and she told me to try again. 

Purchase confirmed.  We sat down and watched Jupiter Ascending.  It was meh, with very nice special effects.


Now, Mandarake is a major blessing and a minor curse.  The high-end Japanese figure industry is an odd duck.  Often, a figure is only produced to meet its pre-ordered needs, be that through end-use consumers like me, or stores or whathaveyou.  After that initial run?  Poof – they’re gone – and certain figures can command two, three, five times their original price, depending on the rarity, quality and post-release demand.  That’s some event-exclusive Nendoroids that can command over fifty thousand yen on the aftermarket, and why my Selvaria was ¥42,000.

Well, that and the fact that I went through Amazon, and not Mandarake.  Amazon’s prices will always be higher than a dedicated seller like Mandarake or Amiami, but it’s ultra-convenient when you’re in the market for a figure which doesnt have a bootlegged version.

Toy manufacturers in China will almost-instantly reproduce popular figures, sometimes before they’re even released, and the difference can sometimes be profound.  Luckily, Myfigurecollection exists – and for pretty much any Japanese figure in existence, it will be able to tell you whether or not a bootleg exists for it.   You’ll often, even, get pictures of the fake to compare yours to, to confirm it’s the real deal.  It’s a terribly handy resource!

A counterfeit Good Smile Ultimate Madoka.

Now, occasionally, rarely, a particularly popular figure will get a re-print after its initial run – but for the most part, it’s one and done.  If the figure you desire doesn’t suffer a bootleg, you can go through Amazon just for the sake of convenience – there’s no risk of receiving a fake if one doesn’t exist – but when the shadow of a possible bootleg looms over your prospective figure purchase, as one does with the Good Smile 1/8 Ultimate Madoka, you need Amiami or Manda.

Both Amiami and Mandarake sell used figures, and you are essentially guaranteed to receive the genuine article when going through these sites.  Amiami’s preowned section empties almost-instantly when it’s updated, but where Amiami is often your one-stop shop for pre-ordering new figs, all Manda does is preowned.   They always have a massive number of figures in stock, and simply by keeping your eye on the site, the object of your affection will eventually pop up.

While it does have an English version – which certainly helps – Mandarake is a Japanese site, and important stuff (like, say, the unique description of the item you want, and its quality or problems) will always be written in Japanese.  You need to fire it into Google Translate to understand any of it, and any subtleties are lost in the process.  Each will, often, have a disclaimer saying “this thing may be a bit screwed,” because they’re not allowed to say it will absolutely, definitely be perfect.  

Additionally, because it probably isn’t perfect – so you’re paying two hundred bucks for something that may show up broken, with no way to know what, precisely, might be broken.


Still – a probably-perfect but definitely-authentic figure from Manda for a semi-reasonable price is better than a possibly-counterfeit item from the much-more-expensive Amazon – and I knew that, if left to her own devices, Kayla would put in an order on Amazon one day.  Really, I was doing the most responsible thing possible.

Kayla’s Good Smile 1/8 Ultimate Madoka arrived on Wednesday, in a box large enough to comfortably house a pair of standing collies.  I had told her we were picking up the God Eater Alisa Nendoroid I’d ordered (tragically, breaking my own rule of never ordering a fig that didn’t represent a game or anime I love), but once she saw the box it had to be pretty obvious. 

She tells me she kept on trying to squash the little voice in her head calling out “he bought you Madoka!” on the ride home.  I laid into the box with a paring knife, removed the packing, turned around and gave her Madoka’s (colossal) box. 

She cried.  It was awesome. 

The figure is... well, spectacular.  Her dress alone is spectacular.


The look of (adorable) determination on her face as she (SPOILERS!) launches the wish that ends the world is perfect.  Her incredible wings that actually become glass-clear as they join with her shoulders... phenomenal.


She comes with two bows – one that shows off the elegantly organic design of her rose weapon and one that sports the rippling blossom of her reality-shattering power.  It’s really cool – her pink power actually sprouts from the soul gems embedded in the bow, and shards of light sprouting from each bloom of energy suggest the ethereal string she draws to her cheek.

The bows come in two parts, and you join them inside her hand.  She has a helluva grip on her left hand, and that – I suspect – is what caused the previous owner to snap the lower half of the bow. 

I mean, the plain bow is cool and all – but this figure should clearly be permitted the full extent of its awesomeness.  Luckily, the break in the lower half was clean and the seller had included both parts.  After consulting the sage counsel of the FigureGAF crew, I picked up some super glue at a gas station, and joined the halves. 

And here’s Kayla’s Good Smile 1/8 scale Ultimate Madoka.  


I remarked that she really should be on the top shelf. 


Kayle agreed, and has decided to purchase her own Detolf.  We are currently in negotiations on where said Detolf should appear, and I am lobbying strongly for the living room. Books and movies can go anywhere, but a display must be displayed.

I’ll be honest – and this is likely far too much information, but – Kayla procuring herself an army of Nendoroids, and shopping for a Detolf for her figures..?