It has happened! When I kept seeing posts about this game, I kept thinking to myself “Oh, I won’t get tagged… unless John Sato tags people. Then I probably will.” I was right! Nobody tagged me until John Sato thought up questions and tagged people. I was, as I predicted, among the five he tagged. Instead of reading this post, you should go read some of his posts. It’s a scientifically proven fact that they will be more interesting than this.

I’m not gonna repost all the rules here (and I’m going to break them anyway), so just read them here if you want to know them or want to know where this whole thing started. Now, get ready for walls of text. You know me, loving my walls of text.

1) What is one of your favorite video games of all time? If you can, explain why it’s special.

This question killed me. It was extremely difficult for me to actually narrow it down to one. But after much thinking, I have decided! Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria. One of the reasons I tend to play Japanese games more than western ones is because of this tendency (actually I probably shouldn’t call it a tendency since most JRPGs are stuck in the mindset that Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest are the best games ever, making these types of games a definite minority) to make combat systems with odd combinations of elements and to make the systems themselves very complex. There’s a ton of strategy elements in VP2, but at its core the gameplay is focused on making awesome combos. I like both of these things, so stick them together and of course I’ll fall in love instantly.

You also have a lot of options for making a big difference in battle, and I like that. I like options, and I like it when there are other ways to get by That One Boss than just grinding for levels or buying new equipment. I mean, equipment is extremely important in VP2, but if I really had to I could just as easily use the environment or party-splitting tactics to make tough battles easier, or just mess with my skills, sealstones, or even attacks. They all make a big difference and I think that’s beautiful.

Anyway, it’s not just the combat that I’m in love with, either. The photon puzzles in dungeons are great fun to solve, even now after I’ve played the game enough times that I’ve memorized how to solve all of them, and even the exact timing for some of the more ridiculous ones. They just feel so rewarding to solve, too. Even the treasure you get for solving them is usually worth it. I also like the story (though it’s really not that special, admittedly) and how NPCs have interesting things to say and actually say different things as the game goes on. NPCs like that are great for world-building, immersion, and even setting the atmosphere. I’ll, um, stop talking now.

I felt bad for not choosing Zangeki no Reginleiv so here’s fanart of it instead of Valkyrie Profile 2. They’re both all up in that Norse mythology stuff anyway, so you probably won’t notice the difference unless you’ve actually played one anyway. And why is it so huge? I haven’t seen any hats anywhere don’t ask me any more questions.

2) (As with the first question, only with anime instead of video games).

This is much easier for me. Cowboy Bebop. The most unoriginal answer, but an undeniable fact. There is one thing that often makes me hesitant about trying to explain why it’s so special to me, though. I’ve explained it in a different post, but I just have a really difficult time isolating… well, anything in Cowboy Bebop. I’m really good at that with other series, but I just can’t seem to do it with this one. As I said in the post I explained it in, “I love their entirety. If I try to point out individual aspects of these it feels, to me, like playing a single note from a song rather than playing the full song just because I liked how that note sounded at one part. It’s not right. It’s out of place. It’s not where it belongs and it can’t be alone or I won’t be able to love it anymore.”

3) What video game has the best soundtrack (in your opinion)? Bonus points if you can name the person that composed it.

Either Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles (composer is Kumi Tanioka) or Eternal Poison/Poison Pink (composer is Takashi Okamoto, so now I get alll the bonus points). The answer probably depends on whether we’re talking about the soundtrack standalone, or how the soundtrack integrates with the game.

FFCC’s soundtrack had some really great music, and used a lot of old instruments that nobody uses anymore even though they should because they have unique sounds to them. Like the hurdy gurdy. Except everyone who isn’t me probably secretly hates hurdy gurdies. Oh well. Its music also worked extremely well with the game. The thing I enjoyed most about this game was actually its amazing atmosphere… and 70% of that atmosphere was probably from the musc itself. I just love it.

But I’m not sure if I love it more than Eternal Poison’s soundtrack. FFCC had a lot of prominent use of woodwind instruments, which I’m not really a fan of (although I do like the crumhorn, which I’m sure everyone else not-so-secretly hates). Eternal Poison’s all about the strings and piano, the first of which will forever be my first love. There’s also more variety in its soundtrack. There are great orchestral pieces, there are some that are clearly part of some sort of electronica-inspired genre, and it has a lot of more jazzy pieces too. The type of thing I could imagine hearing if I was sitting in some sort of classy bar (except these don’t exist). I love it, and it’s one of the few soundtracks where I can take nearly any song, put that one song on repeat, and never actually get tired of listening to it.

4) What video game have you beaten/anime have you watched (completely) the most times? (You can answer one or both.)

Answering both because this post is already far too long. What’s a few hundred more words going to hurt?

Anime: I actually don’t know. The series I’ve seen the most have been ones that I saw while they were airing on TV back when I actually watched TV for TV shows instead of just for movies. But because I saw them while they were airing on TV, I doubt there was even one situation where I actually saw all the episodes in order, without skipping anything. I’ve never been capable of maintaining a normal sleeping schedule and I’ve never been one to have decent memory, so I would always forget when a show is airing and miss so many episodes.

Cowboy Bebop and Zoids seem the most likely candidates, but again, it’s impossible to say. Ghost Stories throws a wrench in everything, too. I have no idea how many times I’ve seen it completely. After I saw it all the way through for the second time, well… I literally just use a random number generator to decide which episode to watch when I feel like watching it. So, long story short:

Nice anime fanart.

Games: Yggdra Union or Valkyrie Profile 2. Definitely one of those two, but which of them it is is hard to say, and for different reasons. I’ve done a lot of really speedy runthroughs of VP2, but I’ve also owned (and played through, multiple times each) all versions of Yggdra Union. That is, both Japanese and English versions of both the original GBA version and the enhanced PSP port. Whichever one it is, I’ve played enough of both of these to lose count of how many times I’ve actually played them.

5) Have you ever found any music artists through anime (or video games) that you listen to as a “fan” (i.e. you listen to more than just their anime/VG stuff)?

As a matter of fact, yes. Actually, as far as video games go, unless I include composers (which would make this post ridiculous and I don’t actually listen to non-anime/video game stuff from the composers I like anyway) video games have introduced me to only one artist that I’ve really checked out and become a fan of. And that is Poets of the Fall, thanks to Max Payne 2 using Late Goodbye as the ending credits song. Anime is different story, though. Very different.

One dark night beneath clouds that were incapable of rhyming with the word “clout”, I was a wee lass with eyes starry like the sky would be had it not been covered by clouds and light pollution, getting into anime for the first time; and as a person whose life inevitably finds a way to revolve around music, I wanted to get into Japanese music too.

When I told those who seemed familiar with Japanese music what type of music I liked, they always suggested X Japan. And I was disappointed every single time. Then I stopped listening to people and stopped caring about Japanese music for a long time, too depressed by the thought that the only artists anyone cared about were X Japan and [insert generic popular J-pop artist who isn’t bad but isn’t special so I might as well just keep listening to Spice Girls and Pink]. Eventually, I started seeing anime that had opening, ending, and insert songs that I really enjoyed. It took quite a while, though, before I encountered a song I liked enough to want to hear more from the artist.

There have only been a couple that I’ve really become a fan of. But they are Yousei Teikoku (first heard in Kurokami… hey, nobody said it had to be from a good anime), Kalafina (first heard in Kara no Kyoukai), CASCADE (first heard in Ghost Stories), FictionJunction (mostly because of Sacred Seven and then later discovering those glorious live versions of various Yuki Kajiura songs), and finally, BUCK-TICK (first heard in Shiki). BUCK-TICK is great why didn’t anybody tell me to listen to them? They’re my favourite Japanese band, and they’ve managed to wrestle their way through a ton of high-quality competition to reach that promised place of “Sandra’s Top Five Favourite Bands Ever.”

Here’s another accomplishment. They’re one of the few bands (excluding younger bands who haven’t had time to do the inevitable) that 1. Didn’t start out making music I don’t like and 2. Didn’t end up making music I don’t like. Like, what other bands are like that for me? Formerly Anathema was one of the few, but then after their 2003 album their style shift reached such ridiculous levels, became so entrenched in a genre I’m incapable of enjoying, that I’ve only liked a single song (Summernight Horizon) they’ve released since then. So now it’s just Subway to Sally and BUCK-TICK, sitting up there with me admiring every single album they’ve produced since they began existing. That’s special.

In short: Thank you, Shiki.

And I will tag no one! And nobody will question this, because I am a cow and must fill up my four stomach compartments. That takes time when all you eat is grass, so you’ll have to forgive me. Farewell, my friends, until Friday!

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