Little Things: The Falcom Bounce

Video games diverge when it comes to falling. A harsh, semi-realistic adventure like Dark Souls shows no mercy to anyone who drops too far a distance. A cute side-scroller like Super Mario Bros. 3 or Dino City lets you plummet from great heights unharmed, provided there’s a place to land and you’re not just tumbling into a bottomless pit. There’s not much to it: if you fall, you either take damage or walk away cartoonishly unscathed.

Some games from Falcom put a little more thought into this. Characters don’t just fall. They bounce.

A good example appears in Legacy of the Wizard for the NES. It’s technically part of Falcom’s Dragon Slayer series, and it sends an adventurous family (and their pet) through a ludicrously complex maze. The gameplay resembles a side-scroller, so the members of the clan can jump, climb ladders, and, of course, fall from great heights.

Observe this example with Pochi, the family’s loyal monster pet. I’m using him because he's a dog in the family portrait and a dino-dragon in the game and therefore the best character.

Gravity Rush Now Even More of a Cartoon

Gravity Rush 2 is little under a month away, and I prefer to pretend it’s already here. I’m running a Gravity Rush contest for a few more days, and I’m busy playing the demo that went up on the PlayStation Network last week. And just today, Sony released the two-part Gravity Rush: The Animation – Overture. Sure, you can watch it for free on Sony’s YouTube Channel, but why do that when instead you can read my opinion of it?

Or maybe I'll just use a picture.

A bridge between the first game and the sequel, Overture answers at least one important question about Gravity Rush: what do the characters like to eat?

Yes, it goes all of two minutes before trotting out a harmless but tiresome cliché: the heroine flying into a violent fury when a precious, newly acquired snack is destroyed. Floating around a market, Kat buys a kabob, loses it, and trashes bug-eyed Nevi shadow creatures, whereupon Raven, her less cheerful rival, shows up and lends a hand. This occupies half of Overture’s running time.

The second half jumps back a short while and finds Kat and Raven eating snacks (of course) and discussing a recent spate of disappearances in their home city of Hekseville. They’re suddenly sent to a mysterious floating island where a HAL-like computer holds children hostage in little power cels. Two half-masked, mummy-like antagonists appear, and then everyone ends up warped to the strange new city we’ll see in Gravity Rush 2.

Overture is an enjoyable gap-filler, all things considered. I can't imagine it swaying those with no interest whatsoever in Gravity Rush, but it brings up the game's best points. The animation is vibrant and mostly fluid, capturing the details of the floating city and Kat’s bubbly personality—which fortunately develops beyond “I like to eat” in the second half. It also keeps the fictional language from the games, as the characters all use the same melodious semi-French, semi-Japanese tone (in which Kat and Raven’s names sound the same as they do in English). I’m a sucker for made-up languages. I’d watch Barb Wire if everyone talked like they were speaking Italian and Swahili backwards.

 Short as it is, Overture stokes my Gravity Rush 2 interest, which was, of course, crazily high already. I’m gonna go play the demo another dozen times.

The Best of Anime...Music

America’s anime fans were pretty busy in the late 1990s. We weren't satisfied just watching Robotech reruns on Toonami; we fervently devoured favorite series, wrote letters to keep Sailor Moon on the air, and went to conventions in numbers previously unseen. We also spent lots of money on anime and its ancillary merchandise. So great was our hunger that some of us thought it a momentous privilege to pay thirty bucks for the imported soundtrack to a movie or series we enjoyed.

In that light, The Best of Anime seemed like a great deal. Rhino Records released it in 1998 at the same price as a new album from Weezer or Neutral Milk Hotel, and it settled the question of anime's finest music for all time.

The Best of Anime aimed itself as much at new fans as it did at old-timers, and it shows in the cover choices. The CD comes with an illustration of either Cutey Honey or Speed Racer, and the art itself is a thin cel-like sheet posed before the booklet’s cover image of a Silent Mobius cityscape. I was a teenage boy at the time, and despite Speed Racer’s ironic cred, I went with the Cutey Honey cover. And then I tucked the cel inside the booklet before anyone could see it on my shelf.

Despite the title, this isn't an authoritative collection of the finest music spawned in Japan’s animation circuit. If it were, it’d have the Orguss 02 opening.

No, this is less a Top-40 countdown and more an educational sampling from three decades of popular anime series, and it might be more accurate to call it The Best of Anime That We Could Afford to License. It’s helped by some nice liner notes from Fred Patten, who introduces each series and explains just how it fits into the broader vein of anime. He also provides a brief rundown of just how certain shows and the attendant fandom took off in America—starting with an anecdote about the heroine of Brave Raideen kicking an enemy soldier in the crotch.

And the songs themselves? The Best of Anime is a hodgepodge of corny opening tunes and disposable puffery surrounding a few genuinely good numbers. In other words, it’s a perfect encapsulation of anime music.