Liar Game Review

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Deathmote and DBZ are titles that come to mind when asked about which manga to recommend to people. If they are looking for something deep and thought provoking then they end up going for Death Note. It is very accessible to all readers, but the manga that we are looking at today is just as accessible and I dare say that it may even be more thorough and complicated than the former. Liar Game goes all out with complex rules and several things going on at once much like Hunter X Hunter. The ending may be a bit sudden, but it was a fairly clever way to wrap up and will go down as one of the more satisfying titles. I would definitely be open to a sequel.

This adventure starts off with an unassuming Japanese citizen (Nao) who receives a black letter inviting her to the Liar Game contest. In the first round she is to be paired against her teacher. Each player starts out with one million dollars and the objective is to steal as much as possible before the round ends. Whoever has the most in the end will win. The main character doesn’t want to play this game though and she is also super gullible. Luckily, she enlists the help of a criminal genius (Akiyama) who single handily took down a large company. He agrees to help her put, but the rounds continue to get more and more difficult. Not to mention that Akiyama isn’t the only genius around. For the most part, quitting is not an option although the whole thing seems pretty illegal so I’m a little skeptical. The Liar Game officials told Nao that the cops wouldn’t help, but they can’t be trusted. Regardless, Nao ultimately declines all offers to leave anyway since she wants to save everyone.

While good Seinen titles are a little harder to find than Shonen ones, they can certainly pay off in big ways. For example, this title has no fanservice in it and very little animal violence. These two qualities can help quite a bit especially when coupled with the fact that the story is so good and well written. There are really no negatives to be found here. The threat of what may happen to the participants who lose is rather dark, but luckily it never happens and that part would also be quite the stretch as you would assume that the cops would prevent this. (Gotta factor in the plot twist as well)

While it gets very low screen time, the animal violence is definitely regrettable. It really wasn’t needed and Mice always getting the short end of a stick certainly got old a long time ago. It is hard to find the villain likable at all after pulling a stunt like this. I suppose that the art isn’t very good. Akiyama always looks dead tired and Nao tends to always have her eyes extremely wide open. These traits can be a little humorous at times and the art is never hard to read, but it could still be a lot better. This isn’t exactly Bleach level art but I wouldn’t call it much of a negative either. At the very least, it’s not hard to read. The series does have some pretty fun splash pages and exaggerated heads for when the characters are panicking as well.

What really separates Liar Game from other thrillers is how detailed and thorough all of the rounds are. There are a lot of rules and each of them build off of each other. There is always a way to win the game though so you just have to really apply yourself and think it through. Liar Game also has fun giving you incorrect solutions via the side characters which sound really good until Akiyama crushes it. Even Akiyama will occasionally get tricked as every good plan can also have a counter and he isn’t the only genius around. The plans which are not full proof can still work so long as you don’t happen to be surrounded by geniuses. A game as simple as musical chairs can quickly become very strategic as the characters analyze every aspect of it.

As with Hunter x Hunter, the characters do seem to overthink things to an extent though. After a while, you are over thinking the opponent to the point where you are just assuming that they are following your train of thought. Several of Akiyama’s plans revolve around concepts of human nature, but those don’t always hold true. His plans could have been foiled at times if more headstrong characters had shown up although most of those were weeded out early on.

As you may have surmised by now, Akiyama makes for a very good main character. Surprisingly we never get a long flashback to take a look at why he destroyed a large company. The company was corrupt, but a few lines on the subject is all that you will ever get here. That works for me to be honest since flashbacks can be annoying to read through at times. It’s good in the long run for universe building, but it can hurt the flow of a manga. Flashbacks and origin stories should be put in the back of a manga volume as opposed to being seen as normal chapters that interrupt the story. Granted, this flashback probably would have been a lot of fun since the writing has been on point for the rest of the adventure. It was not needed to cement Akiyama as a great lead though. He has no gimmicks or negative traits. He simply hatches a plan to defeat the puzzle and moves on. He has a subtle character arc as Akiyama initially makes all of his moves based on logic and calculations, but eventually starts to put a little stock into emotions. Playing on someone’s emotions is a strategy, but I don’t mean it in that way. It’s more that Nao gets him to believe in people a little more when he didn’t think much of them at first. Akiyama is very serious for 99% of the series so it is very rare to see him having any fun, but he doesn’t mind gloating a little as he explains how he won. He is pretty much a perfect main character.
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On the other hand, Nao can be very annoying at times. It is great that she chooses to believe in people, but the sad truth is that a lot of people cant be trusted. Seeing her tell a bunch of strangers Akiyama’s plan was quite sad. Luckily, Akiyama is great at adapting on the fly and eventually he probably even considered the chance that she could make a mistake into his ideas. Nao is also one of the only characters I can think of at the moment to be betrayed by the same character on multiple occasions. Her naivety at the beginning is very extreme to be sure. Her character arc is about how she learns to be a little smarter and more cunning. She finally lays some traps down. She doesn’t like to use underhanded tactics and prefers not to lie, but she stops being manipulated by the rest of the cast, which was a huge improvement. I definitely think that she was a little too extreme in the beginning, but Nao does stand for all the right things. She wants to help everyone rather than just winning and escaping this tournament. Nao is definitely a nice person and now she has learned that this does not have to be synonymous with being a pushover. Nao from the end of the series is a really good character so in the end I’d say that she is likable. She is nowhere near Akiyama, but few are.

I’d also like to take a moment to give the series some major kudos for not squeezing in a romance here. Akiyama and Nao were partners from the beginning of the series to the end. They had a good dynamic and helped each other out when one of them ran into a hole. A lesser series would have immediately decided to run with this and make them lovers, but Liar Game had more restraint than that. The two are close friends, but nothing more.

Harimoto is one of the two big villains in the series. I would definitely put him under Akiyama and Yokoya when it comes to raw intelligence, but he certainly is skilled. There is a big plot twist about him towards the very end which nullifies this to an extent. It was surprising and I wouldn’t say that it was necessary, but it did make another character become more compelling. Harimoto is old so he is lucky that most of the games are not physical. One of his followers gets a large role as Nao tries to convince her to leave Harimoto. That was a subplot that I would definitely take out. It dragged on quite a bit and the follower never became a likable character.

Yokoya is the main villain and he is certainly very smart. I’d say that Akiyama is smarter as he has to win with more limitations. Yokoya is rich and he is willing to use his fellow contestants. That automatically gives him a leg up on Akiyama so when he loses, it is that much more impressive for the hero. While Yokoya makes for a very imposing villain, I wouldn’t call him a likable one. As mentioned earlier, he does go for animal violence a few times which doomed him from the start. I also didn’t really buy his final moments as it felt out of character. I suppose that he had to choose his words carefully at that moment though. He needed to save some face and this may have been the best way to do it.

Fukunaga is one of the first villains who ultimately ends up helping the heroes. He is a fan favorite judging from the comments. He is decently a smart character, but can never seem to back up his tough talk. He is constantly conceding defeat before the round is actually over and serves as the voice of doom. He resorts to being physical a lot more than the other main characters and also messes with the villains through mind games. I can’t really say that Fukunaga is my kind of character, but he’s an interesting one. At the very least, he does help Nao quite a lot during her more gullible days. There are several other supporting characters in the series, but most of them aren’t all that important aside from their roles within the game.

As there were quite a few games in the series, I thought that I should go in depth with at least one of them. There were a lot of solid ones like the Musical Chairs and the 4 Way Tower Fight, but those are actually some of the weaker ones when placed next to the other rounds. One of the best games was definitely the “Airport Showdown” level! It’s a classic game of bluffing. There are two teams, one is security and the other acts as the smugglers. Each team switches roles after each turn and the game typically has a lot of turns so there is room for the mental battles. You can choose to smuggle a maximum of 100 million or nothing. The inspector must guess how much money is in the suitcase without opening it. If there is less money than what he/she guessed, then it is all captured. If there is more money than the guess, the security team must let it through. Also, if security guesses an amount and there is no money being smuggled, then they have to reimburse the smuggler. Naturally, these rules encourage you to simply not smuggle anything so there is no chance that you will take a penalty, but it will be difficult to win that way if the other team has the same idea. This is the game where Yokoya first showed up as well.

Another wrinkle to this is the fact that there is one more way to move money around. You can take it out of your safe and hide is behind or to the side of it. That way, the money isn’t counted in your collection and you can use some more mind games on the opponent. You also have to take great care not to let the other team snag your credit card through shenanigans or the game could be lost. There are probably another 5-10 rules that I haven’t listed here so it all gets pretty overwhelming. Not to mention that you can never trust anyone in this series as they all look out for themselves first and foremost. Betrayals are one of the few constants that you can count on in this title. Most of the games are so long that they stretch out over the course of multiple days. You can imagine how taxing that can be as you have to stay alert for many hours in a row. Luckily, violence is forbidden so you don’t have to worry about being attacked while you’re asleep or anything like that. Only intelligence and wit can be used as weapons in this tournament.

There is a big twist at the end of the series, which leads into the cliff hanger that will never be resolved. It definitely comes out of nowhere and you’ll look at all the rounds in a different light. Was it a good twist? Welllllllll, I would say yes just because it creates a cool cliffhanger. The sequel series would have definitely been hype had they gone along with it. It may be a little hard to buy the fact that the author had this planned out from the get go, but nothing in the series that I can recall discredits the twist so it is plausible. I do love the fact that the twist really does ensure that calling the cops would have helped. I won’t let you readers forget this fact. Logically though, the twist is a bit of a mess as I don’t see how it would not have leaked by then. The twist wasn’t really needed and the series could have had a more exciting climax without it. The cliffhanger could have still been squeezed in.
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Overall, Liar Game is definitely an all star title. The great mind games and extremely complex matches that the characters play make for an incredibly engaging read. I don’t expect that I will ever read such a complex story again. It’s the kind of title that I would have liked to have seen reach 50 or more volumes, but I realize that thinking up that many games would be difficult. Not to mention that the reasons for having more and more people show up to the rounds would probably get contrived after a while. If you have not checked this title out yet, then I would certainly recommend doing so. One thing’s for sure, you will never look at musical chairs the same way as you once did!

Overall 9/10

All Star Karate Review

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It’s been a while since I stopped by the 5 dollar bin at Gamestop right? Yeah, I had that thought as well so I quickly snagged All Star Karate on my next trip over there! It’s definitely worth the 400 or so pennies that I had to launch in order to secure this title. It’s a pretty long game and there are tons of unlockables and other bonus content to really make this a heartwarming experience. Was All Star Karate the best game that I’ve ever played? In a sense…it was the best Karate game that I’ve ever played!

The plot centers around a teenager who loves to watch movies and eat ice cream. I forgot his name since he’s just that forgettable, but the important thing is that this guy never gives up when he’s in a pinch! One day, he comes across an old man who teaches him how to fight. The hero’s relationship with his friends starts to get pretty strained as a result of this and what about the ninjas from his dreams? The main character is definitely going to have a lot to deal with as he tries to become a black belt!

It’s easy to be proud of this game considering how much content is involved. As I mentioned earlier, this game is pretty massive! There must be at least 50-70 levels in this game, but I’ll know the real amount once I plug it into my stats and records post. There are also bonus levels that are around apart from the mandatory ones and we even get challenge mode versions of several stages. You unlock things based on your rank at the end of the level and it gives you a real incentive to keep on playing. (If you really like the game) Of course, the gameplay needs to be good if you’re going to be playing all of those levels so let’s see how it did.

This is a Wii game so you can expect that you’ll need to move your arms a lot. This is really where the game crashes and burns. Due to the nature of the game, it may not have been too much better on another console, but it would have been a lot easier on the arms. This is the kind of game that you have to play in batches since it really does end up hurting your arm a lot. I don’t remember playing a game that painful since Barrel Blast for the Wii!

Back to the actual gameplay. It’s sort of like dance dance revolution for most of the game. You have to match the symbols on the screen. One may signal you to punch out with your right arm and the other one will motion to your left. There are around 21 moves that you can pull off and you just have to keep on doing them. This accurately describes most of the minigames since they are just variations of each other. Tying up the belt, Mimicking, Follow the Sensei, and Learning the Kata are examples of this kind of minigame. From the 50-70+ levels, I’d say that they make up at least 60 of them. If you don’t like the sound of this gameplay, you’re definitely going to find the game very repetitive.

Luckily, there is one mode that is a whole lot more fun than those other ones. This is the sparring mode where you actually get to fight your opponents! You have to use the moves from the other modes, but you can do them at your own pace so it feels like a fighting game. The moves can be a little limited, but I’ll take what I can get at this point! This certainly helped the game and it was my favorite part! (There’s also a 3D mini game where you fight ninjas, but it barely appears and the whole FPA (First Person Attack) mode didn’t do any wonders for the game.

I do give the game props for trying to develop the characters a lot. (Even if it didn’t really make them very likable) The sensei is one of the main characters and his character development was rather odd. His sob story implies that he destroyed his mentor…although it was an accident. After that, he went on to train the main character and he disappears very mysteriously at different points in the game. The origin story just came out of left field and if it was trying to make the game more emotional…it failed. The sensei talks tough and I can tell what personality the writers were going for…but it just doesn’t work. He’s a little too mean to the main character and his big plot twists don’t really help either.

Karl is the main rival of the game, but he’s easily one of the weakest rivals a guy could have. He loses every single fight against the main character. Keep in mind that the main character fought him when Karl was a black belt and the main character was a white belt….intriguing eh? Despite his constant losses, Karl always comes back to brag and insult the main character. The humiliating part is the fact that the main character always makes sure to point this out. Karl does get the main character to engage in a street fight though and his first big plot twist is pretty epic. I guess I liked Karl in a parodyish way. I did appreciate all of the insults since the main character needed a rival, but he’s too petty and weak to take seriously. If nothing else, at least he makes the main character look good in comparison.

As for the main character….he can be a little annoying. He decides to learn karate, which is noble…but then he basically betrays his friends. He falls asleep whenever they go to watch a movie and he just acts distant in general. The friends start to get mad at the main character and vice versa so this is one of the big side plots the entire time. Every game needs a little drama I suppose, but I was actually more on the friends’ side than the main character’s. It did depend on the situation though since I was on the lead’s side when they forgot about his big tournament and didn’t stick up for him when Karl was around. The main character talks tough and he learns what it means to be a karate master. He has a solid scene where he lunges at Karl and his trash talking is good as well. Unfortunately, he does tend to get scared a lot and the danger room scenes can be a bit much. I guess you could say that he’s slightly under the average video game lead.

I do give Story Mode credit for the cutscenes as well as the length. The cutscenes aren’t really cutscenes since they’re just illustrations and text bubbles with some mild movement, but they do have voices for the lines, which helps it all feel a little more real. The length is a given as well so it’s safe to say that I was impressed with the overall format of the mode. Having a story mode in itself can be dicey for a 4 dollar game.

The graphics are naturally sub par to say the least. Everything looks pretty choppy and there is a bit of lag in between certain moves, which can look rather odd. The controls don’t always work that well either since this is the Wii Remote system. The soundtrack is decent and it reminds me of the Balls of Fury game. I’d say that this one isn’t quite as good though so both of these areas don’t help the game all that much.

One factor that helps the replay value a little is the fact that we are given a multiplayer option. Since the sparring mode is an option, that could actually be a lot of fun. This was before the online days so it’ll have to be local, but I imagine that the servers would have been down by now anyway. Including the extra levels and unlockables, this game definitely has no shortage of replay value!

Overall, All Star Karate is about as good as I thought it would be. The gameplay wasn’t great and it can get repetitive, but you don’t really mind all that much while playing. It does depend on the level as well since some will require you to do over 80 gestures while others can be beaten in a minute or two. The game is a little painful thanks to the Wii Remotes though (literally) and nothing about the game really screams “Excellent” or even “Very Good!” There is a lot of replay value in the game, but there really isn’t a lot of incentive to do everything in this game. It’s definitely a bargain for 4-5 dollars and I would definitely recommend it to those who love the Wii Remotes and want a good fighting game. If not, you’d be better off getting Street Fighter IV for around the same price as this one. This couldn’t match up to some of the other 5 dollar games that I’ve gotten, but I was still pleased to see that it was a complete game. (Unlike Casper) If you actually do get this game, make sure to let me know how you liked it!

Overall 5/10