Monthly Recommendations – Reading Week Binge

Hello my friends! it is February, and for those of you younger than myself, that may mean that you have a nice break coming up in the near future. Whether it be Reading Week, Spring Break, or something else… a break is a great time to binge. So this month, even though I am not blessed with such a break anymore in my old age, I’m going to offer you suggestions for how to spend your time during your breaks!

These recommendations are going to focus on titles that offer a great ‘sit down and enjoy from start to finish’ type experience. On the anime front, we’re not talking the longest experiences. I want you to have the time to enjoy them in all their glory after all. The games will be fairly complete single experiences, and will all include something you can just sit down for hours and indulge in.

Sabagebu

Our first binge watch will be a show that is one of the best comedies I’ve ever seen in my life. It lasted a single season, and every episode felt more extreme than the last… and yet it never felt like it pushed the mark too far. But to take a step back, Sabagebu is a show about a group of girls who form an airsoft club, engaging in glorious fake gunplay. We view events through the lens of these young ladies’ rather hilarious imaginations, and this takes things to the next level. We get to watch as these airsoft battles explode into violent and deadly firefights, cross-country chases, and more. The gunplay is fantastic given its imaginary nature, and helps to keep things lively.

Momoka

But Sabagebu is, first and foremost, a comedy… and the circumstances create some of the best laughs you’ll find anywhere. The characters are fantastic too, especially our star. She is one of the best stars I’ve ever seen, with her intense selfishness and vicious cruelty. Seeing her interact with these unsuspecting (and in one case, indulgent) characters adds to the fantastic humour. We’re not talking top notch character development, just great characters who clash in such fantastic ways. And since there is such an immense variety of situations these girls find reasons to engage in gunplay, you’ll never be bored.

Atelier Shallie

The Atelier series has fast become one of my not-so-guilty pleasures. As strange as it may seem to see a 30 year old dude playing what looks to be a game targeted at little girls… the game’s depth in story, combat, and especially crafting make it so appealing. And it is that last point that makes this such a great binge game… the crafting. Atelier Shallie takes all of the shackles off of crafting and lets you spend as much time as you could possibly want creating the perfect item. In previous entries, the series has frequently featured time limits… but Shallie allows you to craft as much as you like without fear of running out of time. While I do have questions about this decision overall, it does make Shallie a fantastic binge game.

Alchemy Interface

You see, Atelier crafting systems are a game-long affair allowing you to gradually accumulate items, recipes, and components and use them to craft consistently better items. The pursuit of perfection becomes almost an obsession… you’ll get a reagent in an early zone and hold on to it for chapters until you get a recipe that calls for exactly that combination. Or you’ll use good materials to make a weapon… then when you’re done with it, you’ll try to use it to salvage the amazing attributes you added to it by turning it into some form of crafting reagent or solution so you can keep them for the next armor or weapon you find. I vividly recall looking for items that were exactly the right type and stat that I was after so I could turn that stat into the reagent used for making a certain type of bomb, a robe, or whatever else I needed. And sometimes the path was not direct at all. Sometimes you had to go through a lot of reagents to get exactly what you’re after but that just helped to make it all the more satisfying when you succeeded. And that pursuit of perfection… that is what makes such a great binge game.

Final Fantasy 9

Currently the frontrunner in the vote for my upcoming Saturday Selubration, Final Fantasy 9 is one of those classic JRPGs that stands the test of time. It is one of very few PSOne classics that I constantly find time in my schedule to go back and play again and again… not only to relive the engaging story, amazing combat animations, and stellar soundtrack, but also to spend hours and hours delving deeper and deeper into the game’s two endless minigames. And it is these minigames that make FF9 such a great binge game.

Chocobo Hot and Cold

While Tetra Master doesn’t have the mainstream popularity of the earlier Triple Triad, the slightly random element and consistent rules made Tetra Master my preferred choice of card game minigames. I sank so many hours into it trying to figure out the many intricacies within, and as such it will always hold a special place in my heart. I also loved the fact that cards could get better with use, and trying to grow my cards to make my favourites just that little bit stronger was a very rewarding time investment.

That being said though, the real binge target in Final Fantasy 9 is the best minigame any game has ever had: Chocobo Hot and Cold. This game-long minigame is just perfectly designed. It offers tangible rewards, a feeling of progression, lively music and utterly addictive gameplay. I have lost countless hours engaging in the Chocobo-driven treasure hunt – both the timed version and the overworld map puzzles that the timed version unlocks.

Kill la Kill

I would’ve been remiss if we’d talked ‘binge’ without talking about the reigning queen of anime excess: Ryuko Matoi. Kill la Kill is a show that manages to tell an interesting and cohesive story without feeling the need to be burdened by ‘making sense’. Our heroine becomes stronger by destroying the superpowered garments worn by her opponents using half of a pair of scissors.

Kill la Kill

Kill la Kill is hard to describe because its myriad scenes are so disparate that if I tried to tell you about a few different scenes you’d begin to question one of three things: my sanity, my honesty, or the sanity of the show’s creators… but despite that, they manage to keep the show consistent with itself, which is hard in a show that makes sense. I cannot fathom how difficult it must’ve been to do in a show that is this crazy.

As to why it is great to binge… ridiculous outfits, action that simultaneously makes no sense and perfect sense, and a hilarious degree of excess. How could you go wrong?

Catherine

Catherine is, as many of you know, one of the best games I’ve ever played. I’m sure some of you are sick of me recommending it, but it’s a game I just keep going back to. The game’s puzzles are fantastic, a perfect mixture of planning and reactions and with a variety of difficulties to appeal to almost anyone. But what we’re here to talk about is the game’s challenge mode: Babel.

After completing the game, and unlocking the Gold Prize in the game’s stages, you will be granted access to the 4 stages of Babel. Now, sadly, there is a bug that makes one of them nearly impossible to complete in English versions… but don’t worry: Altar, Menhir, and Obelisk will be more than enough game to keep you occupied for as long as you need. Each of these stages offers distinct block types, patterns, and timings in order to test you in different ways. Altar is by far the most precise of the three stages… since it features the fewest mechanics. It tests your ability to execute quickly and your understanding of the basic block mechanics, but taken to the absolute extreme. You might think a puzzle with just regular and cracked blocks would be easy, but trust me… Altar is far from it. There’s a reason it is the stage I have the lowest rank on.

Stages

Menhir is probably the hardest of the three in terms of raw difficulty. While adding trap blocks may not be a huge change, the extremely narrow – and relatively unstable – tower you have to deal with for most of the run makes for its own level of challenges. It’s my least favourite stage to run, but it is still a fantastic stage. I can, and have, spent hours beating my head against it. The third stage, Obelisk, is a lesson in patience. It will humble you, it might even seem like its going to break you. But it will teach you how to adapt and how to recover. It teaches you these things because it is literally the very definition of trolling. And when you eventually overcome it, you’ll feel like a god. And you’ll want to jump back in and do it again.

Ano Hana: The Flower We Saw That Day

Binging doesn’t have to necessarily mean excitement. Sometimes the rollercoaster ride of a good drama can trump any other form of binge. And Ano Hana is a fantastic drama… one of the best anime drama around. You get introduced to some characters that are kind of hard to like at first glance… but don’t worry, just focus on our resident ghost Menma and in time you’ll begin to see all of these strange characters in a whole new light.

And that is the real power of a good drama… building characters and storylines into something fantastic and moving. The unusual story behind this strange ghost will keep your eyes glued to the screen, and the tale of this group of estranged friends – and their unfortunate history – will move you to emotions you’d never expect. Happiness, satisfaction, sadness, concern, even pity… they’re all a part of this wonderful story.

Menma

And at the end of it all, when you finally reach the show’s ending… prepare for tears. But don’t worry, all your preparation will be for naught… for no matter how prepared you are, you’ll still cry more than you expected. And that’ll be such a wonderful end to a great binge, won’t it?

Angel Beats

Angel Beats is the type of show that manages to create real character interest in an environment that can only be described as absurd. The show takes place in some variant on the afterlife, and all of our characters are dead. Yet this isn’t heaven or hell, and these characters are the only ‘real’ people there. Most of the ‘people’ you see are essentially NPCs – some clever AI meant to simulate students at this strange school.

Angel Beats

It is in this weird environment that we find our cast, rebelling against God and the ‘Angel’ who tries to impose order upon this school. The characters are so extreme to be almost caricatures and yet somehow they make them relatable. It’s a crazy realization you’ll come to about halfway through the show… but inevitably it’ll hit you: “I care about these ridiculous characters”.

As to why you might want to binge this show… it really does have everything. It has great music, good action, hilarious characters, and some amazingly touching scenes. Over the course of a ~5 hour binge, you can run the gamut of emotions and find yourself wanting more.

DMC

The Devil May Cry reboot is a controversial game. There’s no denying that: the language, Dante’s redesign, the accessibility improvements to the combat all received lukewarm reception depending on how loyal a person was to the original. But there is one thing I think is pretty safe to say that the game’s combat is absurdly addictive and fun. The accessible nature of the combat ensures you’re able to do some pretty awesome stuff early on, but some of the more complex combos can require an absurd amount of practice to pull off against real enemies.

Combat

Between trying to perfect the game’s chapters using stylish and varied combos, trying out the game’s harder difficulties to push yourself, and doing the game’s various challenges… this is a great experience to binge due to the combination of repeated success, the visual stimuli, and the frenetic action of the game. If you choose to spend a few hours on the battlefields this game offers, you’ll experience excess and excitement, and possibly an excess of excitement. And as you start to get better, you’ll find yourself pulling off some insane techniques, things you never thought you’d be able to accomplish.

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